Her lottery ticket had got her five hundred sequins.
"And that makes you happy, does it?" said I.
"It does, not because of the gain in money, though I am by no means rich, but for the beauty of the idea and for the thought that I owe it all to you. These two things speak volumes in your favour."
"What do they say?"
"That you deserve to be loved."
"And also that you love me?"
"No, but my heart tells me as much."
"You make me happy, but does not your heart also tell you that you should prove your love?"
"Dearest, can you doubt it?"
With these words she gave me her hand to kiss for the first time.
"My first idea," she added, "was to put the whole forty sequins on the 'ambe'."
"You hadn't sufficient courage?"
"It wasn't that, I felt ashamed to do it. I was afraid that you might have a thought you would not tell me of--namely, that if I gave you the forty sequins to risk on the lottery, you would think I despised your present. This would have been wrong, and if you had encouraged me I should have risked all the money."
"I am so sorry not to have thought of it. You would have had ten thousand sequins, and I should be a happy man."
"We will say no more about it."
"Your brother tells me that we are going to the masqued ball under the direction of the marquis, and I leave you to imagine how glad I feel at the thought of spending a whole night with you. But one thought troubles me."
"What is that?"
"I am afraid it will not go off so well as before."
"Don't be afraid, the marquis is a man of much ingenuity, and loves my cousin's honour as herself. He is sure to get us disguises in which we shall not be recognized."
"I hope so. He wants to pay for everything, including the supper."
"He cannot do better than imitate your example in that respect."
On the evening of the ball I went at an early hour to the pastry- cook's, where I found the marquis well pleased with the progress that had been made. The dressing room was shut. I asked him in a suggestive manner if he was satisfied with Zenobia.
"Yes, with her work," he answered; "I did not ask her to do anything else for me."
"Oh! of course I believe it, but I am afraid your sweetheart will be rather sceptical."
"She knows that I cannot love anyone besides herself."
"Well, well, we will say no more about it."
When the guests came the marquis said that as the costumes would amuse us we had better put them on before supper.
We followed him into the next room, and he pointed out two thick bundles.
"Here, ladies, are your disguises," said he; "and here is your maid who will help you while we dress in another room."
He took the larger of the two bundles, and when we were shut up in our room he undid the string, and gave us our dresses, saying,--
"Let us be as quick as we can."
We burst out laughing to see a set of women's clothes. Nothing was wanting, chemises, embroidered shoes with high heels, superb garters, and, to relieve us of the trouble of having our hair done, exquisite caps with rich lace coming over the forehead. I was surprised to find that my shoes fitted me perfectly, but I heard afterwards that he employed the same bootmaker as I did. Corsets, petticoats, gowns, kerchief, fans, work-bags, rouge- boxes, masks, gloves-all were there. We only helped each other with our hair, but when it was done we looked intensely stupid, with the exception of the young officer, who really might have been taken for a pretty woman; he had concealed his deficiency in feminine characteristics by false breasts and a bustle
We took off our breeches one after the other.
"Your fine garters," said I, to the marquis, "make me want to wear some too."
"Exactly," said the marquis; "but the worst of it is nobody will take the trouble to find out whether we have garters or not, for two young ladies five feet ten in height will not inspire very ardent desires."
I had guessed that the girls would be dressed like men, and I was not mistaken. They were ready before us, and when we opened the door we saw them standing with their backs to the fireplace.