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HOME > Inspiring Novel > Miss Pat at School > CHAPTER IX THE ACADEMY BALL
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 "What a crowd!" exclaimed Elinor, as they pushed their way to the cloak room. "I hope the floor won't be too full for dancing!"  
"Don't give way to despair so soon—lots of these are maids and chaperones. Naskowski told me when we squeezed past him at the door that the rooms upstairs weren't half filled yet," said Patricia, hopefully. "Here, Miss Jinny, squeeze in before me—there's a chance to get inside if we form a flying wedge."
"Mercy sakes, we'll be torn to tatters!" cried Miss Jinny from behind her veil. "Good thing we're done up good and tight. Lands! There goes my whisk—no, they don't either, it's only the veil. Oh, for pity's sake, woman, let me through without any palaver! Can't you tell I'm a female?" The attendant, who at the sight of Miss Jinny's bushy beard had thrust a sturdy arm across the door, dropped the barrier with a snort of laughter, and they were inside the swinging door of the cloak room, with a flushed maid waiting for their wraps, and an edge line of muffled newcomers pushing at their backs.
"It's a blessing we finished ourselves up to the last notch at home," said Patricia, with wide eyes of dismay for the throngs at the two mirrors. "We haven't a chance to get a peep here, unless we stay all night. Is my headpiece on all right, Elinor? I feel all askew after that crush."
"You're as sweet as can be," answered Elinor, with a fond pride in voice and eyes. "You make the dearest Fairy Banou, with these filmy scarfs and draperies! Doesn't she, Miss Jinny?"
Miss Jinny, who was still enshrouded save for the torn veil, gave the last pat to Patricia's gauzes, and handed the pink silk cloak to the admiring maid, before she spoke. Then she looked Patricia over thoroughly and gave her husky chuckle.
"I declare if I ain't a firm believer in fairies after this," she said with frank affection. "There isn't anything prettier nor sweeter in the whole ball, I'll warrant!"
Patricia laughed and blushed with pleasure, preening herself a little and stretching on tiptoe to try to catch a glimpse in the crowded mirror; there was a movement as a sultana who had been carmining her full lips gave place to a dark beggar maid, and Patricia caught the vision of a slender, airy figure, glittering beneath its gauzy draperies with the sparkle of bright gold, and with the glint and shimmer of rosy clanking bracelets and anklets, and the spangled glory of the rose-crowned headpiece stirring a magical memory of Persia.
"Why, I am awfully nice!" she cried, delighted with the picture. "I'll never know myself! Do get off your things, Norn, I'm crazy to see how you look."
Elinor, helped by Miss Jinny, shed her wrappings and stood revealed as a lovely Princess of China, with billowing draperies and flashing glass jewels and a tiny filet sparking on her dark hair. Some of the swarm about the mirrors turned at Patricia's exclamation, and with generous admiration pressed back upon themselves so that for a moment the dark, serious beauty of the Princess of China flashed out at Elinor from the long oblong of the glass, filling her lovely eyes with a gratified light and flushing her tinted cheeks a deeper pink.
"How sweet of you to let me see!" she cried impulsively to the houris and queens and beggar-maids that had given her the brief tribute. "I don't believe I know any of you, but I'm just as much obliged as——"
She broke off in amazement at the familiar grin of one of the most glittering queens. "Griffin, of all people!" she cried, delightedly, and held out an eager hand.
The sultana, speaking with decidedly un-oriental diction, came shimmering over to them, and shook hands with occidental heartiness.
"This is what I call luck," she said, genially. "I'm going to steer you two peaches right into the thick of the tumult, and if you don't have the time of your sad young lives, my name's not—well, here, you'd better pronounce it for me," and she handed out a card on which was printed in clear black letters,
Patricia and Elinor puckered their brows over it, but Miss Jinny, craning her head over their shoulders, gave a snort.
"Pooh, that's as easy as rolling off a log," she said, with a toss of her turban. "If you'd added acetylene and alcohol you'd made it a bit longer."
Griffin grinned amiably at the whiskered countenance. "Good for you, old top," she responded, cheerfully. "You ought to go into the Sunday puzzle department. You'd be hung all over with gold-filled watches. Where did you blow in from?"
Miss Jinny had been quietly removing her outer coverings and as Griffin spoke she dropped her last concealing wrap, and stepped out in turban and embroidered jacket, vermillion girdle and wide, baggy blue trousers whose voluminous folds almost hid the vermillion and gold tips of her curling slippers. A simitar was thrust fiercely through the flaming girdle, and a gaudy hookah cuddled in the crook of her arm, while the bristling whiskers and encarmined cheeks and nose of the weather-beaten seafarer proclaimed a strong masculine personality in striking contrast to the pretty young men Turks and Persians that tittered in feminine fashion all about her.
"Upon my soul!" cried the sultana of the inflammable name. "You're a corker! Do you mean to say, Miss Pat, that this buccaneer is the lady from the rural districts you were spouting about?"
Miss Jinny gave her husky chuckle.
"I'm the only original Sinbad," she declared with a very un-Persian hitch to her flowing trousers. "I've got tales that'll make you creep, and as for hairbreadth escapes—why, I'm so full of 'em that I can't see a tumbler of water but that I make a noise like a shipwreck."
"Come along upstairs with me!" cried the sultana, excitedly, hooking her arm in that of the embroidered jacket. "You're too good to waste! I need you in my business."
Patricia and Elinor followed, rejoicing in Miss Jinny's instant success, for, as Elinor whispered to Patricia, if Griffin took Miss Jinny about, she would be one of the features of the evening.
They went slowly up the palm-banked, stately stairway, through a dim ante-chamber where a line of twinkling barbaric lamps led to the great curtained arch of the entrance to the main assembly room.
"Isn't it lovely and mysterious?" murmured Elinor, pausing to enjoy the sense of isolation that the obscurity of the blurred lamps emphasized. "I almost hate to lift the curtain. It may be so disappointing."
Patricia set her spangled roses twinkling with a nod of comprehension, but she did not pause.
"This is nice enough," she said incisively. "It takes away the taste of the jumbled dressing room, but it makes me all the readier for the real thing—the people and the lights and the dancing. I simply can't waste another instant," and she parted the heavy fold and they slipped into the radiant Arabian land of fairy.
Lights were flashing everywhere, and everywhere silks and jewels shimmered in oriental profusion, striking the eye with a bewildering medley of color.
Patricia drew in her breath with a sharp little sigh of satisfied anticipation, but had no more than a murmur for Elinor's rapturous exclamations, so busy was she with the brilliant scene before her.
Among the palms and costly rugs that backgrounded a marvelous regal dais occupying one long end of the great room, sat the glittering figure of the portly Haroun-al-Raschid, Sultan of Bagdad and husband of many lovely wives, whose multi-colored costumes made a glowing garden on the rugs at the foot of the dais, while on the embroidered cushions at the side of the monarch a lovely Scheherazade in shimmering white satin with strings of glistening gems in her hair, on her breast, on her arms and ankles, made an alluring picture of the new-made bride. Tall palms reared their stately fronds above the group and slave girls, with fierce Nubians in attendance, waited in mute homage at either side of the throne. Lamps of brass glittered in the alcoves back of the great dais, and above it all the roofs and minarets of the ancient city gloomed in the moonlight of the thousand and second night.
All about the spacious hall were groups of Arabians, of fair Circassians, of dusky Nubians and turbaned Turks, while the rustle of costly fabrics and the odor of heavy Eastern perfumes floated in the air; the modern city outside in the wintry electric lights was well forgot in the enchantment of the moment, and Patricia lost count of time and sense of self in the pageant that swept across the lofty chamber to make its obeisance at the imperial divan.
"Look, Norn, look," she whispered, as Aladdin and his mother, in rustling native embroidered silks, led another Princess of China in bridal procession across the center of the scene, their rich dresses making a bright spot in the shifting medley of color. "She's not half so lovely as you, for all her things are so fine. I wonder who—why, it's Doris Leighton! She never told us what she was going to be; and she knew you were to be the Princess. Isn't it queer?"
"We didn't many of us tell, you know," returned Elinor absently, with her eyes on Morgiana meekly following her master with the basket of fruit which was to be such a feature in her triumphant dance after the robbers had been boiled alive in their own panniers. "There's Margaret Howes. Isn't she lovely in that pomegranate and gold? What queer slippers she has—just like the ballet dancers. And there's Ali Baba with the forty thieves, all the portrait class men in a bunch."
"And the young king of the Black Isles and his wife!" cried Patricia, giggling. "That's Jeffries, the modeling-room pet, and Miss Green. She'll exercise the black art in earnest. Did you ever see such paralyzing expressions as she can call up! That pastry cook is Peacock, the assistant in the antique. I know him by his red hair."
As the procession wound to its finish the Sultan arose and with many courteous speeches in the eastern phraseology welcomed the company to the night's entertainment, explaining that the first half would be employed in various acts by those who had appeared in the procession, with an intermission when refreshments would be served by slaves, after which there would be a general dance followed by supper in the antechamber.
A space was cleared in the center of the room, and th............
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