DAMON AND PYTHIAS AT THE THEATRE
Once, long before the beginning of this story, Damon and Pythias were sitting in a theatre together, with the wonderful overture just beginning to steal through their senses.
Ah, violins, whither would you take their souls? You call to them like the voice of one waiting by the sea, bathed in sunset. What are these wonderful things you are whispering to their souls? You promise—ah, what things you promise, strange voices of the string!
Oh, sirens, have pity! Their hearts are pure, their bodies sweet as apples. Oh, be faithful, betray them not, beautiful voices of the wondrous world!
The overture had succeeded. Their souls had followed it over the footlights, and, floating in the limelight, shone there awaiting the fulfilment of the promise.
The play was “Pygmalion and Galatea,” and at the appearance of Galatea they knew that the overture had not lied. There, in dazzling white flesh, was all it had promised; and when she called “Pyg-ma-lion!” how their hearts thumped!—for they knew it was really them she was calling.
It was as though Cleopatra called them from the tomb.
Their hands met. They could hear each other’s blood singing. And was not the play itself an allegory of their coming lives? Did not Galatea symbolise all the sleeping beauty of the world that was to awaken, warm and fragrant, at the kiss of their youth? And somewhere, too, shrouded in enchanted quiet, such a white white woman waited for their kiss. In a vision they saw life like the treasure cave of the Arabian thief; and they said to their beating hearts that they had the secret of the magic word, that the “open Sesame” was youth.
No fall of the curtain could hide the vision from their young eyes. It transfigured the faces of their fellow-playgoers, crowding from the pit; it made another stage of the embers of the sunset, a distant bridge of silver far down the street. Then they took it with them to the tavern; and to write of the solemn libations of that night would be to laugh or cry. Only youth can be so radiantly ridiculous.
They had found their own corner. Turning down the gas, the fire played at day and night with their faces. Imagine them in one of the flashes, solemnly raising their glasses, hands clasped across the table, earnest gleaming eyes holding each other above it.
“Old man, some day, somewhere, a woman like that!”
But there was still a sequel. At home at last and in bed, how could Damon sleep! It seemed as if he had got into a rosy sunset cloud in mistake for his bed. The candle was out, and yet the room was full of rolling light.