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Orpheus in Mayfair and Other Short Stories

Fete Galante
To Cecilia Fisher
"The King said that nobody had ever danced as I danced to-night," said
Columbine. "He said it was more than dancing, it was magic."
"It is true," said Harlequin, "you never danced like that before."
But Pierrot paid no heed to their remarks, and stared vacantly at the sky. They
were sitting on the deserted stage of the grass amphitheatre where they had
been playing. Behind them were the clumps of cypress trees which framed a
vista of endless wooden garden and formed their drop scene. They were sitting
immediately beneath the wooden framework made of two upright beams and one
horizontal, which formed the primitive proscenium, and from which little coloured
lights had hung during the performance. The King and Queen and their lords and
ladies who had looked on at the living puppet show had all left the amphitheatre;
they had put on their masks and their dominoes, and were now dancing on the
lawns, whispering in the alleys and the avenues, or sitting in groups under the tall
dark trees. Some of them were in boats on the lake, and everywhere one went,
from the dark boscages, came sounds of music, thin, tinkling tunes played on
guitars by skilled hands, and the bird-like twittering and whistling of flageolets.
"The King said I looked like a moon fairy," said Columbine to Pierrot. Pierrot only
stared in the sky and laughed inanely. "If you persist in slighting me like this," she
whispered in his ear, in a whisper which was like a hiss, "I will abandon you for
ever. I will give my heart to Harlequin, and you shall never see me again." But
Pierrot continued to stare at the sky, and laughed once more inanely. Then
Columbine got up, her eyes flashing with rage; taking Harlequin by the arm she
dragged him swiftly away. They danced across the grass semi-circle of the
amphitheatre and up the steps away into the alleys. Pierrot was left alone with
Pantaloon, who was asleep, for he was old and clowning fatigued him. Then
Pierrot left the amphitheatre also, and putting a black mask on his face he joined
the revellers who were everywhere dancing, whispering, talking, and making
music in subdued tones. He sought out a long lonely avenue, in one side of
which there nestled, almost entirely concealed by bushes and undergrowth, a
round open Greek temple. Right at the end of the avenue a foaming waterfall
splashed down into a large marble basin, from which a tall fountain rose, white
and ghostly, and made a sobbing noise. Pierrot went towards the temple, then he
turned back and walked right into the undergrowth through the bushes, and lay
down on the grass, and listened to the singing of the night-jar. The whole garden
that night seemed to be sighing and whispering; there was a soft warm wind, and
a smell of mown hay in the air, and an intoxicating sweetness came from the
bushes of syringa. Columbine and Harlequin also joined the revellers. They
passed from group to group, with aimless curiosity, pausing sometimes by the
artificial ponds and sometimes by the dainty groups of dancers, whose satin and
whose pearls glimmered faintly in the shifting moonlight, for the night was cloudy.
At last they too were tired of the revel, they wandered towards a more secluded
place and made for the avenue which Pierrot had sought. On their way they