The Midnight Queen (Chapter 6, page 2 of 13)


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Chapter 6

I can't say whether the adage! "Faint heart never won fair lady!" was
extant in his time; but the spirit of it certainly was, and Ormiston
determined to prove it. He wanted to see La Masque, and try his fate
once again; and see her he would, if he had to stay there as a sort of
ornamental prop to the house for a week. He knew he might as well look
for a needle in a haystack as his whimsical beloved through the streets
of London--dismal and dark now as the streets of Luxor and Tadmor in
Egypt; and he wisely resolved to spare himself and his Spanish leathers
boots the trial of a one-handed game of "hide-and-go-to-seek." Wisdom,
like Virtue, is its own reward; and scarcely had he come to this
laudable conclusion, when, by the feeble glimmer of the house-lamps, he
saw a figure that made his heart bound, flitting through the night-gloom
toward him. He would have known that figure on the sands of Sahara, in
an Indian jungle, or an American forest--a tall, slight, supple figure,
bending and springing like a bow of steel, queenly and regal as that of
a young empress. It was draped in a long cloak reaching to the ground,
in color as black as the night, and clasped by a jewel whose glittering
flash, he saw even there; a velvet hood of the same color covered the
stately head; and the mask--the tiresome, inevitable mask covered the
beautiful--he was positive it was beautiful--face. He had seen her a
score of times in that very dress, flitting like a dark, graceful ghost
through the city streets, and the sight sent his heart plunging against
his side like an inward sledge-hammer. Would one pulse in her heart stir
ever so faintly at sight of him? Just as he asked himself the question,
and was stepping forward to moot her, feeling very like the country
swain in love--"hot and dry like, with a pain in his side like"--he
suddenly stopped. Another figure came forth from the shadow of an
opposite house, and softly pronounced her name. It was a short figure--a
woman's figure. He could not see the face, and that was an immense
relief to him, and prevented his having jealousy added to his other
pains sad tribulations. La Masque paused as well as he, and her soft
voice softly asked: "Who calls?"

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