When William Came HTML version

The Event Of The Season
In the first swelter room of the new Osmanli Baths in Cork Street four or five recumbent
individuals, in a state of moist nudity and self-respecting inertia, were smoking cigarettes
or making occasional pretence of reading damp newspapers. A glass wall with a glass
door shut them off from the yet more torrid regions of the further swelter chambers;
another glass partition disclosed the dimly-lit vault where other patrons of the
establishment had arrived at the stage of being pounded and kneaded and sluiced by
Oriental-looking attendants. The splashing and trickling of taps, the flip-flap of wet
slippers on a wet floor, and the low murmur of conversation, filtered through glass doors,
made an appropriately drowsy accompaniment to the scene.
A new-comer fluttered into the room, beamed at one of the occupants, and settled himself
with an air of elaborate languor in a long canvas chair. Cornelian Valpy was a fair young
man, with perpetual surprise impinged on his countenance, and a chin that seemed to
have retired from competition with the rest of his features. The beam of recognition that
he had given to his friend or acquaintance subsided into a subdued but lingering simper.
“What is the matter?” drawled his neighbour lazily, dropping the end of a cigarette into a
small bowl of water, and helping himself from a silver case on the table at his side.
“Matter?” said Cornelian, opening wide a pair of eyes in which unhealthy intelligence
seemed to struggle in undetermined battle with utter vacuity; “why should you suppose
that anything is the matter?”
“When you wear a look of idiotic complacency in a Turkish bath,” said the other, “it is
the more noticeable from the fact that you are wearing nothing else.”
“Were you at the Shalem House dance last night?” asked Cornelian, by way of explaining
his air of complacent retrospection.
“No,” said the other, “but I feel as if I had been; I’ve been reading columns about it in the
“The last event of the season,” said Cornelian, “and quite one of the most amusing and
lively functions that there have been.”
“So the Dawn said; but then, as Shalem practically owns and controls that paper, its
favourable opinion might be taken for granted.”
“The whole idea of the Revel was quite original,” said Cornelian, who was not going to
have his personal narrative of the event forestalled by anything that a newspaper reporter
might have given to the public; “a certain number of guests went as famous personages in
the world’s history, and each one was accompanied by another guest typifying the
prevailing characteristic of that personage. One man went as Julius Cæsar, for instance,