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The Night of the French Ball

by Portland Wentforth


A detective is well used to the unusual and to meeting as cold facts what, when told, seems a tissue of the wildest improbabilities. During my experience I had one case which for certain strange features I have never had surpassed. It seemed to make itself into my hand as clear as a first lesson in reading for a child, until almost the end, and then came points which are hard enough to unravel.

It occurred years ago, on the evening of the French Ball. I was free, and attended it. It was the usual thing. The Academy of Music was filled with gay women and young fellows about town. By twelve o'clock the wanton hilarity was beginning to get well under way. The women were leaning heavily on their partners' arms and indulging in loud laughter, while the steps were more vigorous than decorous. The high-kicking had begun. My attention had been particularly drawn to one young woman. She was not very tall, but was beautifully made. She was dressed like a Columbine. Her short, pointed skirt of yellow silk and blue velvet came hardly to her knees, and the waist was quite décolleté. On her blond hair was perched a conical cap with tiny silver bells on it. Around her face was wound a piece of white lace to serve as a mask. I noticed her because she was such an exquisitely graceful dancer. Her small feet, cased in gold shoes with high heels, twinkled as prettily as possible as they lightly touched the waxed floor. The dancing was an intense pleasure to her evidently. She could hardly keep her feet still during any pause in which she had not to move. They would beat impatiently upon the floor, and she would toss one in front of the other and sway her sinuous little figure, impatiently waiting till her turn to dance came again.

As I was standing near the door looking at her a party… Read More