Agatha promised to dance all the quadrilles with me, and to return to Turin with Madame Dupre.
On the day fixed for the ball I stayed to dinner at the Dupre's to be present at Agatha's toilette. Her dress was a rich and newly- made Lyons silk, and the trimming was exquisite Alencon point lace, of which the girl did not know the value. Madame R----, who had arranged the dress, and Madame Dupre, had received instructions to say nothing about it to her.
When Agatha was ready to start, I told her that the ear-rings she was wearing were not good enough for her dress.
"That's true," said Madame Dupre, "and it's a great pity."
"Unfortunately," said the mother, "my poor girl hasn't got another pair."
"I have some pretty imitation pendants, which I could lend you," said I; "they are really very brilliant."
I had taken care to put the ear-rings which Madame d'Urfe had intended for the Countess Lascaris in my pocket. I drew them out, and they were greatly admired.
"One would swear they were real diamonds," said Madame Dupre.
I put them in Agatha's ears. She admired them very much, and said that all the other girls would be jealous, as they would certainly take them for real stones.
I went home and made an elaborate toilette, and on arriving at the ball I found Agatha dancing with Lord Percy, a young fool, who was the son of the Duke of Northumberland, and an extravagant spendthrift.
I noticed several handsome ladies from Turin, who, being merely onlookers, might be thinking that the ball was given for their amusement, like the fly on the chariot wheel. All the ambassadors were present, and amongst others M. de Chauvelin, who told me that to make everything complete my pretty housekeeper at Soleure was wanting.
The Marquis and Marchioness de Prie were there also. The marquis did not care to dance, so was playing a little game of quinze with a rude gamester, who would not let the marquis's mistress look over his cards. She saw me, but pretended not to recognize me; the trick I had played her at Aix being probably enough to last her for some time.
The minuets came to an end, and Dupre announced the quadrilles, and I was glad to see the Chevalier Ville-Follet dancing with the Corticelli. My partner was Agatha, who had great difficulty in getting rid of Lord Percy, though she told him that she was fully engaged.
Minuets and quadrilles followed each other in succession, and refreshments began to make their appearance. I was delighted to see that the refreshment counter was furnished with the utmost liberality. The Piedmontese, who are great at calculations, estimated that Dupre must lose by it, the firing of champagne corks was continuous.
Feeling tired I asked Agatha to sit down, and I was telling her how I loved her when Madame de Chauvelin and another lady interrupted us. I rose to give them place, and Agatha imitated my example; but Madame de Chauvelin made her sit down beside her, and praised her dress, and above all the lace trimming. The other lady said how pretty her ear-rings were, and what a pity it was that those imitation stones would lose their brilliance in time. Madame de Chauvelin, who knew something about precious stones, said that they would never lose their brilliance, as they were diamonds of the first water.
"It is not so?" she added, to Agatha, who in the candour of her heart confessed that they were imitation, and that I had lent them to her.
At this Madame de Chauvelin burst out laughing, and said,--
"M. de Seingalt has deceived you, my dear child. A gentleman of his caste does not lend imitation jewellery to such a pretty girl as you are. Your ear-rings are set with magnificent diamonds."
She blushed, for my silence confirmed the lady's assertion, and she felt that the fact of my having lent her such stones was a palpable proof of the great esteem in which I held her.
Madame de Chauvelin asked me to dance a minuet with Agatha, and my partner executed the dance with wonderful grace. When it was over Madame de Chauvelin thanked me, and told me that she should always remember our dancing together at Soleure, and that she hoped I would dance again with her at her own house.