The Midnight Queen (Chapter 8, page 2 of 8)


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Chapter 8

Was he sane--was he sleeping? Had he drank too much wine at the Golden
Crown, and had it all gone to his head? Was it a scene of earnest
enchantment, or were fairy-tales true? Like Abou Hasson when he awoke
in the palace of the facetious Caliph of Bagdad, he had no notion of
believing his own eyes and ears, and quietly concluded it was all an
optical illusion, as ghosts are said to be; but he quietly resolved to
stay there, nevertheless, and see how the dazzling phantasmagoria would
end. The music was certainly ravishing, and it seemed to him, as he
listened with enchanted ears, that he never wanted to wake up from so
heavenly a dream.

One thing struck him as rather odd; strange and bewildered as everything
was, it did not seem at all strange to him, on the contrary, a vague
idea was floating mistily through his mind that he had beheld precisely
the same thing somewhere before. Probably at some past period of his
life he had beheld a similar vision, or had seen a picture somewhere
like it in a tale of magic, and satisfying himself with this conclusion,
he began wondering if the genii of the place were going to make their
appearance at all, or if the knowledge that human eyes were upon them
had scared them back to Erebus.

While still ruminating on this important question, a portion of the
tapestry, almost beneath him, shriveled up and up, and out flocked a
glittering throng, with a musical mingling of laughter and voices. Still
they came, more and more, until the great room was almost filled, and
a dazzling throng they were. Sir Norman had mingled in many a brilliant
scene at Whitehall, where the gorgeous court of Charles shown in all its
splendor, with the "merry monarch" at their head, but all he had ever
witnessed at the king's court fell far short of this pageant. Half
the brilliant flock were ladies, superb in satins, silks, velvets and
jewels. And such jewels! every gem that ever flashed back the sunlight
sparkled and blazed in blending array on those beautiful bosoms and
arms--diamonds, pearls, opals, emeralds, rubies, garnets, sapphires,
amethysts--every jewel that ever shone. But neither dresses nor gems
were half so superb as the peerless forms they adorned; and such an army
of perfectly beautiful faces, from purest blonde to brightest brunette,
had never met and mingled together before.

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