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The Lure of the Mask   By: (1871-1932)

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The LURE OF THE MASK

By HAROLD MAC GRATH

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY HARRISON FISHER AND KARL ANDERSON

INDIANAPOLIS THE BOBBS MERRILL COMPANY PUBLISHERS COPYRIGHT 1908

PRESS OF BRAUN WORTH & CO. BOOKBINDERS AND PRINTERS BROOKLYN, N.Y.

TO MY FELLOW TRAVELER AND GENTLE CRITIC

CONTENTS

I THE VOICE IN THE FOG

II OBJECT, MATRIMONY

III MADAME ANGOT

IV BLINDFOLDED

V THE MASK

VI INTO THE FOG AGAIN

VII THE TOSS OF A COIN

VIII WHAT MERRIHEW FOUND

IX MRS. SANDFORD WINKS

X CARABINIERI

XI THE CITY IN THE SEA

XII A BOX OF CIGARS

XIII KITTY ASKS QUESTIONS

XIV GREY VEILS

XV MANY NAPOLEONS

XVI O'MALLY SUGGESTS

XVII GIOVANNI

XVIII THE ARIA FROM IL TROVATORE

XIX TWO GENTLEMEN FROM VERONA

XX KITTY DROPS A BANDBOX

XXI AN INVITATION TO A BALL

XXII TANGLES

XXIII THE DÉNOUEMENT

XXIV MEASURE FOR MEASURE

XXV FREE

XXVI THE LETTER

XXVII BELLAGGIO

THE LURE OF THE MASK

CHAPTER I

THE VOICE IN THE FOG

Out of the unromantic night, out of the somber blurring January fog, came a voice lifted in song, a soprano, rich, full and round, young, yet matured, sweet and mysterious as a night bird's, haunting and elusive as the murmur of the sea in a shell: a lilt from La Fille de Madame Angot , a light opera long since forgotten in New York. Hillard, genuinely astonished, lowered his pipe and listened. To sit dreaming by an open window, even in this unlovely first month of the year, in that grim unhandsome city which boasts of its riches and still accepts with smug content its rows upon rows of ugly architecture, to sit dreaming, then, of red tiled roofs, of cloud caressed hills, of terraced vineyards, of cypresses in their dark aloofness, is not out of the natural order of things; but that into this idle and pleasant dream there should enter so divine a voice, living, feeling, pulsing, this was not ordinary at all.

And Hillard was glad that the room was in darkness. He rose eagerly and peered out. But he saw no one. Across the street the arc lamp burned dimly, like an opal in the matrix, while of architectural outlines not one remained, the fog having kindly obliterated them.

The Voice rose and sank and soared again, drawing nearer and nearer. It was joyous and unrestrained, and there was youth in it, the touch of spring and the breath of flowers. The music was Lecocq's, that is to say, French; but the tongue was of a country which Hillard knew to be the garden of the world. Presently he observed a shadow emerge from the yellow mist, to come within the circle of light, which, faint as it was, limned in against the nothingness beyond the form of a woman. She walked directly under his window.

As the invisible comes suddenly out of the future to assume distinct proportions which either make or mar us, so did this unknown cantatrice come out of the fog that night and enter into Hillard's life, to readjust its ambitions, to divert its aimless course, to give impetus to it, and a directness which hitherto it had not known.

"Ah!"

He leaned over the sill at a perilous angle, the bright coal of his pipe spilling comet wise to the area way below. He was only subconscious of having spoken; but this syllable was sufficient to spoil the enchantment. The Voice ceased abruptly, with an odd break. The singer looked up. Possibly her astonishment surpassed even that of her audience. For a few minutes she had forgotten that she was in New York, where romance may be found only in the book shops; she had forgotten that it was night, a damp and chill forlorn night; she had forgotten the pain in her heart; there had been only a great and irresistible longing to sing... Continue reading book >>




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