It was night in St. Petersburg. The moon was high in the heavens, and the domes, crowned with a fresh diadem of snow, glittered with a dazzling whiteness. In the side streets the shadows were heavy, the facades of the great palaces casting strange and dark reflections upon the pavement; but the main thoroughfares were streaked as with silver, while along the quay all was bright and luminous as at noontide, the Neva asleep like a frozen Princess under a breast-plate of shimmering ice.The wind was cold, the air frosty and gay with tinkling sleigh-bells. A constant stream of people in sledges and on foot filled the Morskaia, hurrying in the one direction. The great Square of the Mariinski was alive with a moving, jostling throng, surging backwards and forwards before the steps of the Theatre like waves on a rock; a gay, well-dressed, chattering multitude, eager to present their tickets, or buy them as the case might be, and enter the gaping doors into the brilliantly lighted foyer beyond.
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