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The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Raven Edition Volume 3
I revolved in my mind a thousand schemes by which I might obtain, hereafter, an introduction to the elder lady, or, for the present, at all events, a more distinct view of her beauty. I would have removed my position to one nearer her own, but the crowded state of the theatre rendered this impossible; and the stern decrees of Fashion had, of late, imperatively prohibited the use of the opera-glass in a case such as this, even had I been so fortunate as to have one with me -- but I had not -- and was thus in despair.
At length I bethought me of applying to my companion.
"Talbot," I said, "you have an opera-glass. Let me have it."
"An opera -- glass! -- no! -- what do you suppose I would be doing with an opera-glass?" Here he turned impatiently toward the stage.
"But, Talbot," I continued, pulling him by the shoulder, "listen to me will you? Do you see the stage -- box? -- there! -- no, the next. -- did you ever behold as lovely a woman?"
"She is very beautiful, no doubt," he said.
"I wonder who she can be?"
"Why, in the name of all that is angelic, don't you know who she is? 'Not to know her argues yourself unknown.' She is the celebrated Madame Lalande -- the beauty of the day par excellence, and the talk of the whole town. Immensely wealthy too -- a widow, and a great match -- has just arrived from Paris."
"Do you know her?"
"Yes; I have the honor."
"Will you introduce me?"
"Assuredly, with the greatest pleasure; when shall it be?"
"To-morrow, at one, I will call upon you at B--'s.
"Very good; and now do hold your tongue, if you can."
In this latter respect I was forced to take Talbot's advice; for he remained obstinately deaf to every further question or suggestion, and occupied himself exclusively for the rest of the evening with what was transacting upon the stage.
In the meantime I kept my eyes riveted on Madame Lalande, and at length had the good fortune to obtain a full front view of her face. It was exquisitely lovely -- this, of course, my heart had told me before, even had not Talbot fully satisfied me upon the point -- but still the unintelligible something disturbed me. I finally concluded that my senses were impressed by a certain air of gravity, sadness, or, still more properly, of weariness, which took something from the youth and freshness of the countenance, only to endow it with a seraphic tenderness and majesty, and thus, of course, to my enthusiastic and romantic temperment, with an interest tenfold.
While I thus feasted my eyes, I perceived, at last, to my great trepidation, by an almost imperceptible start on the part of the lady, that she had become suddenly aware of the intensity of my gaze. Still, I was absolutely fascinated, and could not withdraw it, even for an instant. She turned aside her face, and again I saw only the chiselled contour of the back portion of the head. After some minutes, as if urged by curiosity to see if I was still looking, she gradually brought her face again around and again encountered my burning gaze. Her large dark eyes fell instantly, and a deep blush mantled her cheek. But what was my astonishment at perceiving that she not only did not a second time avert her head, but that she actually took from her girdle a double eyeglass -- elevated it -- adjusted it -- and then regarded me through it, intently and deliberately, for the space of several minutes.
Had a thunderbolt fallen at my feet I could not have been more thoroughly astounded -- astounded only -- not offended or disgusted in the slightest degree; although an action so bold in any other woman would have been likely to offend or disgust. But the whole thing was done with so much quietude -- so much nonchalance -- so much repose- with so evident an air of the highest breeding, in short -- that nothing of mere effrontery was perceptible, and my sole sentiments were those of admiration and surprise.
I observed that, upon her first elevation of the glass, she had seemed satisfied with a momentary inspection of my person, and was withdrawing the instrument, when, as if struck by a second thought, she resumed it, and so continued to regard me with fixed attention for the space of several minutes -- for five minutes, at the very least, I am sure.