The Golden Slipper HTML version
Problem 4. The Grotto Spectre
Miss Strange was not often pensive--at least not at large functions or when under the
public eye. But she certainly forgot herself at Mrs. Provost's musicale and that, too,
without apparent reason. Had the music been of a high order one might have understood
her abstraction; but it was of a decidedly mediocre quality, and Violet's ear was much too
fine and her musical sense too cultivated for her to be beguiled by anything less than the
Nor had she the excuse of a dull companion. Her escort for the evening was a man of
unusual conversational powers; but she seemed to be almost oblivious of his presence;
and when, through some passing courteous impulse, she did turn her ear his way, it was
with just that tinge of preoccupation which betrays the divided mind.
Were her thoughts with some secret problem yet unsolved? It would scarcely seem so
from the gay remark with which she had left home. She was speaking to her brother and
her words were: "I am going out to enjoy myself. I've not a care in the world. The slate is
quite clean." Yet she had never seemed more out of tune with her surroundings nor
shown a mood further removed from trivial entertainment. What had happened to
becloud her gaiety in the short time which had since elapsed?
We can answer in a sentence.
She had seen, among a group of young men in a distant doorway, one with a face so
individual and of an expression so extraordinary that all interest in the people about her
had stopped as a clock stops when the pendulum is held back. She could see nothing else,
think of nothing else. Not that it was so very handsome--though no other had ever
approached it in its power over her imagination--but because of its expression of haunting
melancholy,--a melancholy so settled and so evidently the result of long-continued
sorrow that her interest had been reached and her heartstrings shaken as never before in
her whole life.
She would never be the same Violet again.
Yet moved as she undoubtedly was, she was not conscious of the least desire to know
who the young man was, or even to be made acquainted with his story. She simply
wanted to dream her dream undisturbed.
It was therefore with a sense of unwelcome shock that, in the course of the reception
following the programme, she perceived this fine young man approaching herself, with
his right hand touching his left shoulder in the peculiar way which committed her to an
interview with or without a formal introduction.
Should she fly the ordeal? Be blind and deaf to whatever was significant in his action,
and go her way before he reached her; thus keeping her dream intact? Impossible. His eye