Page:Twice-Told Tales (1851) vol 2.djvu/18

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buffoonery, stood this stern old figure, the best sustained character in the masquerade, because so well representing the antique spirit of his native land. The other guests affirmed that Colonel Joliffe's black puritanical scowl threw a shadow round about him; although in spite of his sombre influence, their gaiety continued to blaze higher, like—(an ominous comparison)—the flickering brilliancy of a lamp which has but a little while to burn. Eleven strokes, full half an hour ago, had pealed from the clock of the Old South, when a rumor was circulated among the company that some new spectacle or pageant was about to be exhibited, which should put a fitting close to the splendid festivities of the night.

'What new jest has your Excellency in hand?' asked the Reverend Mather Byles, whose Presbyterian scruples had not kept him from the entertainment. 'Trust me, sir, I have already laughed more than beseems my cloth, at your Homeric confabulation with yonder ragamuffin General of the rebels. One other such fit of merriment, and I must throw off my clerical wig and band.'

'Not so, good Doctor Byles,' answered Sir William Howe; 'if mirth were a crime, you had never gained your doctorate in divinity. As to this new foolery, I know no more about it than yourself; perhaps not so much. Honestly now, Doctor, have you not stirred up the sober brains of some of your countrymen to enact a scene in our masquerade?'

'Perhaps,' slyly remarked the grand-daughter of Colonel Joliffe, whose high spirit had been stung by many taunts against New England—'perhaps we