“My God!” he said at last, under his breath. “Can it be possible that I love this woman?”
Within the ball-room the tide of gayety was rising to its height. It may be a very trivial matter, yet it is certain that fancy dress gives a peculiar charm, freedom, and brightness to festivities of the kind; and men who in the ordinary mournful black evening-suit would be taciturn of speech and conventional in bearing, throw off their customary reserve when they find themselves in the brilliant and becoming attire of some picturesque period when dress was an art as well as a fashion; and not only do they look their best, but they somehow manage to put on “manner” with costume, and to become courteous, witty, and graceful to a degree that sometimes causes their own relatives to wonder at them and speculate as to why they have grown so suddenly interesting. Few have read Sartor Resartus with either comprehension or profit, and are therefore unaware, as Teufelsdrockh was, that “Society is founded upon Cloth”—i.e. that man does adapt his manners very much to suit his clothes; and that as the costume of the days of Louis Quinze or Louis Seize inspired graceful deportment and studied courtesy to women, so does the costume of our nineteenth century inspire brusque demeanor and curt forms of speech, which, however sincere, are not flattering to the fair sex.
More love-making goes on at a fancy-dress ball than at an ordinary one; and numerous were the couples that strolled through the corridors and along the terraces of the Gezireh Palace Hotel when, after the first dozen dances were ended, it was discovered that one of the most glorious of full moons had risen over the turrets and minarets of Cairo, illumining every visible object with as clear a lustre as that of day. Then it was that warriors and nobles of mediaeval days were seen strolling with mythological goddesses and out-of-date peasants of Italy and Spain; then audacious “toreadors” were perceived whispering in the ears of crowned queens, and clowns were caught lingering amorously by the side of impossible flower-girls of all nations. Then it was that Sir Chetwynd Lyle, with his paunch discreetly restrained within the limits of a Windsor uniform which had been made for him some two or three years since, paced up and down complacently in the moonlight, watching his two “girls,” Muriel and Dolly, doing business with certain “eligibles”; then it was that Lady Fulkeward, fearfully and wonderfully got up as the “Duchess of Gainsborough” sidled to and fro, flirted with this man, flouted that, giggled, shrugged her shoulders, waved her fan, and comported herself altogether as if she were a hoyden of seventeen just let loose from school for the holidays. And then the worthy Dr. Maxwell Dean, somewhat exhausted by vigorous capering in the “Lancers,” strolled forth to inhale the air, fanning himself with his cap as he walked, and listening keenly to every