The Ghost: A Modern Fantasy (Chapter 2)

 
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Chapter 2 : Page 1 of 15

It was with a certain nervousness that I mentioned Sullivan's name to
the gentleman at the receipt of tickets--a sort of transcendantly fine
version of Keith Prowse's clerk--but Sullivan had not exaggerated his
own importance. They did look after me. They looked after me with such
respectful diligence that I might have been excused for supposing that
they had mistaken me for the Shah of Persia in disguise. I was
introduced into Sullivan's box with every circumstance of pomp. The
box was empty. Naturally I had arrived there first. I sat down, and
watched the enormous house fill, but not until I had glanced into the
mirror that hung on the crimson partition of the box to make sure that
my appearance did no discredit to Sullivan and the great lady, his
wife.

At eight o'clock, when the conductor appeared at his desk to an
accompaniment of applauding taps from the musicians, the house was
nearly full. The four tiers sent forth a sparkle of diamonds, of silk,
and of white arms and shoulders which rivalled the glitter of the vast
crystal chandelier. The wide floor of serried stalls (those stalls of
which one pair at least had gone for six pound ten) added their more
sombre brilliance to the show, while far above, stretching away
indefinitely to the very furthest roof, was the gallery (where but for
Sullivan I should have been), a mass of black spotted with white
faces.

Excitement was in the air: the expectation of seeing once again
Rosetta Rosa, the girl with the golden throat, the mere girl who, two
years ago, had in one brief month captured London, and who now, after
a period of petulance, had decided to recapture London. On ordinary
nights, for the inhabitants of boxes, the Opera is a social
observance, an exhibition of jewels, something between an F.O.
reception and a conversazione with music in the distance. But to-night
the habitués confessed a genuine interest in the stage itself,
abandoning their rôle of players. Dozens of times since then have I
been to the Opera, and never have I witnessed the candid enthusiasm
of that night. If London can be naïve, it was naïve then.

 
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