**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

by [?]

The dinner had been unusually long and the summer evening warm. During the wait before the dancing began I must have dropped asleep in the dark corner of the piazza where I had installed myself, to smoke my cigar, away from the other men and their tiresome chatter of golf and racing. Through the open window groups of women could be seen in the ball-room, and the murmur of their conversation floated out, mingling with the laughter of the men.

Suddenly, in that casual way peculiar to dreams, I found myself conversing with a solemn young Turk, standing in all the splendor of fez and stambouline beside my chair.

“Pardon, Effendi,” he was murmuring. “Is this an American ball? I was asked at nine o’clock; it is now past eleven. Is there not some mistake?”

“None,” I answered. “When a hostess puts nine o’clock on her card of invitation she expects her guests at eleven or half-past, and would be much embarrassed to be taken literally.”

As we were speaking, our host rose. The men, reluctantly throwing away their cigars, began to enter the ball-room through the open windows. On their approach the groups of women broke up, the men joining the girls where they sat, or inviting them out to the lantern-lit piazza, where the couples retired to dim, palm-embowered corners.

“Are you sure I have not made a mistake?” asked my interlocutor, with a faint quiver of the eyelids. “It is my intention, while travelling, to remain faithful to my harem.”

I hastened to reassure him and explain that he was in an exclusive and reserved society.

“Indeed,” he murmured incredulously. “When I was passing through New York last winter a lady was pointed out to me as the owner of marvellous jewels and vast wealth, but with absolutely no social position. My informant added that no well-born woman would receive her or her husband.

“It’s foolish, of course, but the handsome woman with the crown on sitting in the centre of that circle, looks very like the woman I mean. Am I right?”

“It’s the same lady,” I answered, wearily. “You are speaking of last year. No one could be induced to call on the couple then. Now we all go to their house, and entertain them in return.”

“They have doubtless done some noble action, or the reports about the husband have been proved false?”

“Nothing of the kind has taken place. She’s a success, and no one asks any questions! In spite of that, you are in a society where the standard of conduct is held higher than in any country of Europe, by a race of women more virtuous, in all probability, than has yet been seen. There is not a man present,” I added, “who would presume to take, or a woman who would permit, a liberty so slight even as the resting of a youth’s arm across the back of her chair.”

While I was speaking, an invisible orchestra began to sigh out the first passionate bars of a waltz. A dozen couples rose, the men clasping in their arms the slender matrons, whose smiling faces sank to their partners’ shoulders. A blond mustache brushed the forehead of a girl as she swept by us to the rhythm of the music, and other cheeks seemed about to touch as couples glided on in unison.

The sleepy Oriental eyes of my new acquaintance opened wide with astonishment.

“This, you must understand,” I continued, hastily, “is quite another matter. Those people are waltzing. It is considered perfectly proper, when the musicians over there play certain measures, for men to take apparent liberties. Our women are infinitely self-respecting, and a man who put his arm around a woman (in public) while a different measure was being played, or when there was no music, would be ostracized from polite society.”