10. CHAPTER TEN
THE MASKED MARRIAGE
(A Tale Of Venice)
Gondola after gondola swept up to the marble
steps, and left its lovely load to swell the
brilliant throng that filled the stately halls of Count
Adelon. Knights and ladies, elves and pages, monks
and flower girls, all mingled gaily in the dance.
Sweet voices and rich melody filled the air, and so
with mirth and music the masquerade went on.
"Has your Highness seen the Lady viola tonight?"
asked a gallant troubadour of the fairy queen who
floated down the hall upon his arm.
"Yes, is she not lovely, though so sad! Her
dress is well chosen, too, for in a week she weds
Count Antonio, whom she passionately hates."
"By my faith, I envy him. Yonder he comes,
arrayed like a bridegroom, except the black mask.
When that is off we shall see how he regards the
fair maid whose heart he cannot win, though her
stern father bestows her hand," returned the troubadour.
"Tis whispered that she loves the young English
artist who haunts her steps, and is spurned by the
old Count," said the lady, as they joined the dance.
The revel was at its height when a priest
appeared, and withdrawing the young pair to an alcove,
hung with purple velvet, he motioned them to kneel.
Instant silence fell on the gay throng, and not a
sound, but he dash of fountains or the rustle of
orange groves sleeping in the moonlight, broke the
hush, as Count de Adelon spoke thus:
"My lords and ladies, pardon the ruse by which
I have gathered you here to witness the marriage of
my daughter. Father, we wait your services."
All eyes turned toward the bridal party, and a
murmur of amazement went through the throng, for
neither bride nor groom removed their masks. Curiosity
and wonder possessed all hearts, but respect restrained
all tongues till the holy rite was over. Then the
eager spectators gathered round the count, demanding
"Gladly would I give it if I could, but I only
know that it was the whim of my timid Viola, and I
yielded to it. Now, my children, let the play end.
Unmask and receive my blessing."