The marquis took possession of Scholastica, and I had to be attentive to the marchioness without seeming to be aware of the existence of Armelline, to whom the Florentine was talking earnestly.
I felt as jealous as a tiger; and having to conceal my rage under an air of perfect satisfaction, the reader may imagine how well I enjoyed the ball.
However, there was more anxiety in store for me; for presently I noticed Scholastica leave the marquis, and go apart with a middle-aged man, with whom she conversed in an intimate manner.
The minuets over, the square dances began, and I thought I was dreaming when I saw Armelline and the Florentine taking their places.
I came up to congratulate them, and asked Armelline, gently, if she was sure of the steps.
"This gentleman says I have only to imitate him, and that I cannot possibly make any mistakes."
I had nothing to say to this, so I went towards Scholastica, feeling very curious to know who was her companion.
As soon as she saw me she introduced me to him, saying timidly that this was the nephew of whom she had spoken, the same that wished to marry her.
I was surprised, but I did not let it appear. I told him that the superioress had spoken of him to me, and that I was thinking over the ways and means of obtaining a dispensation without any costs.
He was an honest-looking man, and thanked me heartily, commending himself to my good offices, as he said he was far from rich.
I left them together, and on turning to view the dance I was astonished to see that Armelline was dancing admirably, and executing all the figures. The Florentine seemed a finished dancer, and they both looked very happy.
I was far from pleased, but I congratulated them both on their performance. The Florentine had disguised himself so admirably that no one would have taken him for a man. It was the Marchioness d'Aout who had been his dresser.
As I was too jealous to leave Armelline to her own devices, I refused to dance, preferring to watch her.
I was not at all uneasy about Scholastica, who was with her betrothed. About half-past eleven the Marchioness d'Aout, who was delighted with Armelline, and possibly had her protege's happiness in view, asked me, in a tone that amounted to a command, to sup with her in company with my two companions.
"I cannot have the honour," I replied, "and my two companions know the reason."
"That is as much as to say," said the marchioness, "that he will do as you please," turning to Armelline as she spoke.
I addressed myself to Armelline, and observed smilingly that she knew perfectly well that she must be home by half-past twelve at latest.
"True," she replied, "but you can do as you please."
I replied somewhat sadly that I did not feel myself at liberty to break my word, but that she could make me do even that if she chose.
Thereupon the marchioness, her husband, the abbe, and the Florentine, urged her to use her power to make me break my supposed word, and Armelline actually began to presume to do so.
I was bursting with rage; but making up my mind to do anything rather than appear jealous, I said simply that I would gladly consent if her friend would consent also.
"Very well," said she, with a pleased air that cut me to the quick, "go and ask her."
That was enough for me. I went to Scholastica and told her the circumstances in the presence of her lover, begging her to refuse without compromising me.
Her lover said I was perfectly right, but Scholastica required no persuasion, telling me that she had quite made up her mind not to sup with anyone.
She came with me, and I told her to speak to Armelline apart before saying anything to the others.
I led Scholastica before the marchioness, bewailing my want of success.
Scholastica told Armelline that she wanted to say a few words to her aside, and after a short conversation they came back looking sorry, and Armelline told the marchioness that she found it would be impossible for them to come. The lady did not press us any longer, so we went away.