My name is Gilbert. I am comptroller of the Duc d'Elbeuf's household."
I promised to be at the wedding, and the young lady gave a skip of joy which made me think her prettier than ever.
On Sunday I repaired to the house, but I could neither eat nor drink. The fair Mdlle. Gilbert kept me in a kind of enchantment which lasted while I was in company with her friends, for whom I did not care. They were all officials in noblemen's houses, with their wives and daughters, who all aped the manners of their betters in the most ridiculous way; nobody knew me and I was known to nobody, and I cut a sorry figure amongst them all, for in a company of this sort the wittiest man is the greatest fool. Everybody cracked his joke to the bride, she answered everybody, and people laughed at nothing.
Her husband, a thin and melancholy man, with a rather foolish expression, was delighted at his wife's keeping everybody amused. Although I was in love with her, I pitied rather than envied him. I guessed that he had married for monetary considerations, and I knew pretty well what kind of a head-dress his handsome, fiery wife would give her husband, who was plain-featured, and seemed not to be aware of his wife's beauty. I was seized with the desire of asking her some questions, and she gave me the opportunity by coming to sit next to me after a quadrille. She thanked me again for my kindness, and said that the beautiful dress I had supplied had won her many compliments.
"All the same," I said, "I know you are longing to take it off. I know what love is and how impatient it makes one."
"It's very funny that everyone persists in thinking that I am in love, though I saw M. Baret for the first time only a week ago. Before then I was absolutely unconscious of his existence."
"But why are you getting married in such a hurry without waiting till you know him better?"
"Because my father does everything in a hurry."
"I suppose your husband is a very rich man?"
"No, but he may become rich. We are going to open a shop for silk stockings at the corner of the Rue St. Honore and the Rue des Prouveres, and I hope that you will deal with us, as we would serve you with the best."
"I shall certainly do so--nay, I will be your first customer, if I have to wait at the door."
"You are kind! M. Baret," said she to her husband, who was standing close by, "this gentleman promises to be our first customer."
"The gentleman is very good," said the husband, "and I am sure he will be satisfied, as my stockings are genuine silk."
Next Tuesday at day-break I began to dance attendance at the corner of the Rue des Prouveres, and waited there till the servant came out to take dow