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A Rogue's Life

Chapter 7
I HAD spoken confidently enough, while arguing the question of Doctor Dulcifer's
respectability with the Treasurer of the D uskydale Institution; but, if my
perceptions had not been blinded by my enthusiastic admiration for Alicia, I think
I should have secretly distrusted my own opinion as soon as I was left by myself.
Had I been in full possession of my senses, I might have questioned, on
reflection, whether the doctor's method of accounting for the suspicions which
kept his neighbors aloof from him, was quite satisfactory. Love is generally
described, I believe, as the tender passion. When I remember the insidiously
relaxing effect of it on all my faculties, I feel inclined to alter the popular definition,
and to call it a moral vapor-bath.
What the Managing Committee of the Duskydale Institution thought of the
change in me, I cannot imagine. The doctor and his daughter left the town on the
day they had originally appointed, before I could make any excuse for calling
again; and, as a necessary consequence of their departure, I lost all interest in
the affairs of the ball, and yawned in the faces of the committee when I was
obliged to be present at their deliberations in my official capacity.
It was all Alicia with me, whatever they did. I read the Minutes through a soft
medium of maize-colored skirts. Notes of melodious laughter bubbled, in my
mind's ear, through all the drawling and stammering of our speech-making
members. When our dignified President thought he had caught my eye, and
made oratorical overtures to me from the top of the table, I was lost in the
contemplation of silk purses and white fingers weaving them. I meant "Alicia"
when I said "hear, hear"--and when I officially produced my subscription list, it
was all aglow with the roseate hues of the marriage-license. If any unsympathetic
male readers should think this statement exaggerated, I appeal to the ladies--
they will appreciate the rigid, yet tender, truth of it.
The night of the ball came. I have nothing but the vaguest recollection of it.
I remember that the more the perverse lecture theater was warmed the more
persistently it smelled of damp plaster; and that the more brightly it was lighted,
the more overgrown and lonesome it looked. I can recall to mind that the
company assembled numbered about fifty, the room being big enough to hold
three hundred. I have a vision still before me, of twenty out of these fifty guests,
solemnly executing intricate figure-dances, under the superintendence of an
infirm local dancing-master--a mere speck of fidgety human wretchedness
twisting about in the middle of an empty floor. I see, faintly, down the dim vista of
the Past, an agreeable figure, like myself, with a cocked hat under its arm, black
tights on its lightly tripping legs, a rosette in its buttonhole, and an engaging smile
on its face, walking from end to end of the room, in the character of Master of the
 
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