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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
A Ball in the Upper Circles
By William Edmondstoune Aytoun (1813–1865)
 
From “The Modern Endymion”

’TWAS a hot season in the skies. Sirius held the ascendant, and under his influence even the radiant band of the Celestials began to droop, while the great ball-room of Olympus grew gradually more and more deserted. For nearly a week had Orpheus, the leader of the heavenly orchestra, played to a deserted floor. The élite would no longer figure in the waltz. Juno obstinately kept her room, complaining of headache and ill-temper. Ceres, who had lately joined a dissenting congregation, objected generally to all frivolous amusements; and Minerva had established, in opposition, a series of literary soirées, at which Pluto nightly lectured on the fine arts and phrenology, to a brilliant and fashionable audience. The Muses, with Hebe and some of the younger deities, alone frequented the assemblies; but with all their attractions there was still a sad lack of partners. The younger gods had of late become remarkably dissipated, messed three times a week at least with Mars in the barracks, and seldom separated sober. Bacchus had been sent to Coventry by the ladies, for appearing one night in the ballroom, after a hard sederunt, so drunk that he measured his length upon the floor after a vain attempt at a mazurka; and they likewise eschewed the company of Pan, who had become an abandoned smoker, and always smelt infamously of cheroots. But the most serious defection, as also the most unaccountable, was that of the beautiful Diana, par excellence the belle of the season, and assuredly the most graceful nymph that ever tripped along the halls of heaven. She had gone off suddenly to the country, without alleging any intelligible excuse, and with her the last attraction of the ball-room seemed to have disappeared. Even Venus, the perpetual lady patroness, saw that the affair was desperate.  1
  “Ganymede, mon beau garcon,” said she, one evening at an unusually thin assembly, “we must really give it up at last. Matters are growing worse and worse, and in another week we shall positively not have enough to get up a tolerable gallopade. Look at these seven poor Muses sitting together on the sofa. Not a soul has spoken to them to-night, except that horrid Silenus, who dances nothing but Scotch reels.”  2
  “Pardieu!” replied the young Trojan, fixing his glass in his eye. “There may be a reason for that. The girls are decidedly passées, and most inveterate blues. But there’s dear little Hebe, who never wants partners, though that clumsy Hercules insists upon his conjugal rights, and keeps moving after her like an enormous shadow. ’Pon my soul, I’ve a great mind— Do you think, ma belle tante, that anything might be done in that quarter?”  3
  “Oh fie, Ganymede—fie for shame!” said Flora, who was sitting close to the Queen of Love, and overheard the conversation. “You horrid, naughty man, how can you talk so?”  4
  “Pardon, ma chère!” replied the exquisite with a languid smile. “You must excuse my badinage; and indeed, a glance of your fair eyes were enough at any time to recall me to my senses. By the way, what a beautiful bouquet you have there. Parole d’honneur, I am quite jealous. May I ask who sent it?”  5
  “What a goose you are!” said Flora, in evident confusion: “how should I know? Some general admirer like yourself, I suppose.”  6
  “Apollo is remarkably fond of hyacinths, I believe,” said Ganymede, looking significantly at Venus. “Ah, well! I see how it is. We poor detrimentals must break our hearts in silence. It is clear we have no chance with the preux chevalier of heaven.”  7
  “Really, Ganymede, you are very severe this evening,” said Venus with a smile; “but tell me, have you heard anything of Diana?”  8
  “Ah! la belle Diane? They say she is living in the country somewhere about Caria, at a place they call Latmos Cottage, cultivating her faded roses—what a color Hebe has!—and studying the sentimental.”  9
  “Tant pis! She is a great loss to us,” said Venus. “Apropos, you will be at Neptune’s fête champêtre to-morrow, n’est ce pas? We shall then finally determine about abandoning the assemblies. But I must go home now. The carriage has been waiting this hour, and my doves may catch cold. I suppose that boy Cupid will not be home till all hours of the morning.”  10
  “Why, I believe the Rainbow Club does meet to-night, after the dancing,” said Ganymede significantly. “This is the last oyster-night of the season.”  11
  “Gracious goodness! The boy will be quite tipsy,” said Venus. “Do, dear Ganymede! try to keep him sober. But now, give me your arm to the cloak-room.”  12
  “Volontiers!” said the exquisite.  13
  As Venus rose to go, there was a rush of persons to the further end of the room, and the music ceased. Presently, two or three voices were heard calling for Æsculapius.  14
  “What’s the row?” asked that learned individual, advancing leisurely from the refreshment table, where he had been cramming himself with tea and cakes.  15
  “Leda’s fainted!” shrieked Calliope, who rushed past with her vinaigrette in hand.  16
  “Gammon!” growled the Abernethy of heaven, as he followed her.  17
  “Poor Leda!” said Venus, as her cavalier adjusted her shawl. “These fainting fits are decidedly alarming. I hope it is nothing more serious than the weather.”  18
  “I hope so, too,” said Ganymede. “Let me put on the scarf. But people will talk. Pray heaven it be not a second edition of that old scandal about the eggs!”  19
  “Fi donc! You odious creature! How can you? But after all, stranger things have happened. There now, have done. Good-night!” and she stepped into her chariot.  20
  “Bon soir,” said the exquisite, kissing his hand as it rolled away. “’Pon my soul, that’s a splendid woman. I’ve a great mind— but there’s no hurry about that. Revenons à nos œufs. I must learn something more about this fainting fit.” So saying, Ganymede re-ascended the stairs.  21
 
 
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