The Quest of the Silver Fleece eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 317 pages of information about The Quest of the Silver Fleece.

It was—­the other ball.  For Washington is itself, and something else besides.  Along beside it ever runs that dark and haunting echo; that shadowy world-in-world with its accusing silence, its emphatic self-sufficiency.  Mrs. Cresswell at first demurred.  She thought of Elspeth’s cabin:  the dirt, the smell, the squalor:  of course, this would be different; but—­well, Mrs. Cresswell had little inclination for slumming.  She was interested in the under-world, but intellectually, not by personal contact.  She did not know that this was a side-world, not an under-world.  Yet the imposing building did not look sordid.

“Hired?” asked some one.

“No, owned.”

“Indeed!”

Then there was a hitch.

“Tickets?”

“Where can we buy them?”

“Not on sale,” was the curt reply.

“Actually exclusive!” sneered Cresswell, for he could not imagine any one unwelcome at a Negro ball.  Then he bethought himself of Sam Stillings and sent for him.  In a few minutes he had a dozen complimentary tickets in his hand.

They entered the balcony and sat down.  Mary Cresswell leaned forward.  It was interesting.  Beneath her was an ordinary pretty ball—­flowered, silked, and ribboned; with swaying whirling figures, music, and laughter, and all the human fun of gayety and converse.

And then she was impressed with the fact that this was no ordinary scene; it was, on the contrary, most extraordinary.

There was a black man waltzing with a white woman—­no, she was not white, for Mary caught the cream and curl of the girl as she swept past:  but there was a white man (was he white?) and a black woman.  The color of the scene was wonderful.  The hard human white seemed to glow and live and run a mad gamut of the spectrum, from morn till night, from white to black; through red and sombre browns, pale and brilliant yellows, dead and living blacks.  Through her opera-glasses Mary scanned their hair; she noted everything from the infinitely twisted, crackled, dead, and grayish-black to the piled mass of red golden sunlight.  Her eyes went dreaming; there below was the gathering of the worlds.  She saw types of all nations and all lands swirling beneath her in human brotherhood, and a great wonder shook her.  They seemed so happy.  Surely, this was no nether world; it was upper earth, and—­her husband beckoned; he had been laughing incontinently.  He saw nothing but a crowd of queer looking people doing things they were not made to do and appearing absurdly happy over it.  It irritated him unreasonably.

“See the washer-woman in red,” he whispered.  “Look at the monkey.  Come, let’s go.”

They trooped noisily down-stairs, and Cresswell walked unceremoniously between a black man and his partner.  Mrs. Vanderpool recognized and greeted the girl as Miss Wynn.  Mrs. Cresswell did not notice her, but she paused with a start of recognition at the sight of the man.

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The Quest of the Silver Fleece from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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