I was a good deal puzzled by the effects of this powder, never having heard of the like before, and as soon as I left the countess I went to an apothecary to enquire about it, but Mr. Drench was no wiser than I. He certainly said that euphorbia sometimes produced bleeding of the nose, but it was not a case of sometimes but always. This small adventure made me think seriously. The lady was Spanish, and she must hate me; and these two facts gave an importance to our blood-letting which it would not otherwise possess.
I went to see the two charming cousins, and I found the young officer with Mdlle. F---- in the room by the garden. The lady was writing, and on the pretext of not disturbing her I went after Mdlle. Q----, who was in the garden. I greeted her politely, and said I had come to apologize for a stupid blunder which must have given her a very poor opinion of me.
"I guess what you mean, but please to understand that my brother gave me your message in perfect innocence. Let him believe what he likes. Do you think I really believed you capable of taking such a step, when we barely knew each other?"
"I am glad to hear you say so."
"I thought the best thing would be to give a matrimonial turn to your gallantry. Otherwise my brother, who is quite a young man, might have interpreted it in an unfavourable sense."
"That was cleverly done, and of course I have nothing more to say. Nevertheless, I am 'grateful to your brother for having given you to understand that your charms have produced a vivid impression on me. I would do anything to convince you of my affection."
"That is all very well, but it would have been wiser to conceal your feelings from my brother, and, allow me to add, from myself as well. You might have loved me without telling me, and then, though I should have perceived the state of your affections, I could have pretended not to do so. Then I should have been at my ease, but as circumstances now stand I shall have to be careful. Do you see?"
"Really, marchioness, you astonish me. I was never so clearly convinced that I have done a foolish thing. And what is still more surprising, is that I was aware of all you have told me. But you have made me lose my head. I hope you will not punish me too severely?"
"Pray inform me how it lies in my power to punish you."
"By not loving me."
"Ah! loving and not loving; that is out of one's power. Of a sudden we know that we are in love, and our fate is sealed."
I interpreted these last words to my own advantage, and turned the conversation. I asked her if she was going to the ball.
"Perhaps you are going incognito?"
"We should like to, but it is an impossibility; there is always someone who knows us."
"If you would take me into your service, I would wager anything that you would not be recognized."
"You would not care to trouble yourself about us."
"I like you to be a little sceptical, but put me to the proof. If you could manage to slip out unobserved, I would engage to disguise you in such a manner that no one would know you."
"We could leave the house with my brother and a young lady with whom he is in love. I am sure he would keep our counsel."
"I shall be delighted, but it must be for the ball on Sunday. I will talk it over with your brother. Kindly warn him not to let Barbaro know anything about it. You will be able to put on your disguise in a place I know of. However, we can settle about that again. I shall carry the matter through, you may be sure, with great secrecy. Permit me to kiss your hand."
She gave it me, and after imprinting a gentle kiss I held it to my heart, and had the happiness of feeling a soft pressure. I had no particular disguise in my head, but feeling sure of hitting on something I put off the consideration of it till the next day; the present belonged to Irene. I put on my domino, and went to the "Three Kings," where I found Irene waiting for me at the door. She had run down as soon as she had seen my carriage, and I was flattered by this mark of her eagerness.