Armadale HTML version

IV.2. The Diary Continued
"We went to the San Carlo. Armadale's stupidity showed itself, even in such a
simple matter as taking a box. He had confounded an opera with a play, and had
chosen a box close to the stage, with the idea that one's chief object at a musical
performance is to see the faces of the singers as plainly as possible! Fortunately
for our ears, Bellini's lovely melodies are, for the most part, tenderly and
delicately accompanied--or the orchestra might have deafened us.
"I sat back in the box at first, well out of sight; for it was impossible to be sure
that some of my old friends of former days at Naples might not be in the theater.
But the sweet music gradually tempted me out of my seclusion. I was so charmed
and interested that I leaned forward without knowing it, and looked at the stage.
"I was made aware of my own imprudence by a discovery which, for the moment,
literally chilled my blood. One of the singers, among the chorus of Druids, was
looking at me while he sang with the rest. His head was disguised in the long
white hair, and the lower part of his face was completely covered with the flowing
white beard proper to the character. But the eyes with which he looked at me were
the eyes of the one man on earth whom I have most reason to dread ever seeing
"If it had not been for my smelling-bottle, I believe I should have lost my senses.
As it was, I drew back again into the shadow. Even Armadale noticed the sudden
change in me: he, as well as Midwinter, asked if I was ill. I said I felt the heat, but
hoped I should be better presently; and then leaned back in the box, and tried to
rally my courage. I succeeded in recovering self-possession enough to be able to
look again at the stage (without showing myself) the next time the chorus
appeared. There was the man again! But to my infinite relief he never looked
toward our box a second time. This welcome indifference, on his part, helped to
satisfy me that I had seen an extraordinary accidental resemblance, and nothing
more. I still hold to this conclusion, after having had leisure to think; but my mind
would be more completely at ease than it is if I had seen the rest of the man's face
without the stage disguises that hid it from all investigation.
"When the curtain fell on the first act, there was a tiresome ballet to be performed
(according to the absurd Italian custom), before the opera went on. Though I had
got over my first fright, I had been far too seriously startled to feel comfortable in
the theater. I dreaded all sorts of impossible accidents; and when Midwinter and
Armadale put the question to me, I told them I was not well enough to stay
through the rest of the performance.
"At the door of the theater Armadale proposed to say good-night. But Midwinter--
evidently dreading the evening with me--asked him to come back to supper, if I
had no objection. I said the necessary words, and we all three returned together to
this house.
"Ten minutes' quiet in my own room (assisted by a little dose of eau-de-cologne
and water) restored me to myself. I joined the men at the supper-table. They
received my apologies for taking them away from the opera, with the