All eyes stared at the handsome young man as he entered the doorway. There was something strange and mystical, almost ethereal about his presence. His tall, lean figure graced the door while his black hair shone in the light cast by the flickering candles on the chandelier. His piercing blue eyes under long lashes glanced around the ballroom. Even the musicians stopped as he crossed the room.
Women smiled. The girls, the belles of the ball, dressed in colorful dresses, high hairdos and lace gloves, fanned themselves and giggled as he glided past them. They fluttered their eyelashes attempting to get his attention. Older men grinned with mischievous glints in their eyes, while the young men, dressed to the nines in high collars and tails, smirked and scowled.
The beauties all gasped as the young man approached a seated young lady with her head lowered. He extended his hand, and the lady, gaping with eyes wide and cheeks afire, obliged. He led her to the dance floor; she stumbled on his arm. Ladies giggled as the conductor a-hemmed and the music resumed.
The handsome stranger and the young lady began their dance while all other couples stood and watched. The young lady, plain and clumsy, spun and swirled like a princess on his arm. Her face glowed with her beaming smile, while her dull eyes sparkled with delight. She became the most beautiful lady in the room.
When the piece ended, he thanked her, led her back to her seat and bowed. He then approached the young lady seated in a corner by the drapes. She was a chubby girl with the unfortunate body of a barrel. Her heel caught her dress as she stood, and ripped the hem. She stomped to the dance floor, clinging to his arm.
The dance began and once again his grace and charm turned a bumbling wretch into the most gorgeous girl in the ballroom. Dance after dance, plain girl after plain girl, each uglier than the last, for a few shining moments became the most radiant beauty of the night.
The natural beauties squirmed and smirked. It seemed when he danced he drained them of their beauty and, as long as the music played, their features contorted into ugliness. One old man, the grandfather of the first dancing partner, noticed this enchantment also befell the young men. The handsome grimaced and raged out of jealousy, while the plain gentlemen, delighted by the occurrence, shone with dignity and composure. While the music played, beauties and beasties learned how the other half lived.
The clock struck midnight. Thunder boomed above the musical din and lightning flashed, casting the ballroom into an eerie blue light.
The patrons gasped, all eyes fixed on the dance floor. The young man had vanished. Only a pile of glimmering pearly feathers remained in his place.