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year previously to her union with Jules; and had felt so much grieved by her rejection of him, that he fled to Italy, whence he only returned a few days prior to the celebration of the memorable ball to which I have been
alluding. His return had revived the recollection of his former attachment, and people wondered whether he could behold his former
flame, now a wedded dame, without emotion ; while others were equally anxious to learn how St. Armand would treat his wife's former
A few of the most malicious of the ladies
who bore my unlucky heroine so much ill-will, were assembled in the boudoir of one of the
clique, two days before the intended féte; when, the subject of M. de Melfort's return having been introduced, Madame de Chatannes proposed to mystify, as she designated her insidious project, “ the affected prude;" and another, equally spiteful, suggested the practice of a similar mystification with regard to M. de St. Armand.
Various were the plans furnished by each of the ladies, who displayed a most laudable invention and rivalry on the occasion. At length, it was agreed that Madame Fontanges, who was chosen on account of her not being an acquaintance of the St. Armands, should be the person to put the following plot into execution.
This lady was to narrowly watch my hero and heroine ; and, in case of their being separated during the ball, she was to approach close to Alicia, and, after asking an accomplice to point out to her Madame de St. Armand, to state that she experienced for her the utmost interest and pity, in consequence of her discovery of the craft and falsity of M. de St. Armand ; who, while basely pretending to only adore his unfortunate wife, was the devoted lover of an artful and most wicked person. This verbal poison was to be delivered loud enough for Alicia to hear it; and, if it should produce the anticipated effect upon her countenance, the skilful calumniator was then to pass near the husband, and observe how very embarrassed and agitated Madame de St. Armand appeared, in consequence of the presence of M. de Melfort, for whom she evidently retained all her old tendresse.
Can you not fancy the delight with which this malicious clique would concoct this amiable plan?
I think I can see them revelling in all the ecstasy which the expectation of its success would occasion them; and experiencing an almost insupportable impatience to inflict a deadly wound upon the peace of two persons who had never injured them, even in thought.
Eight and forty hours elapsed, and the evening of the ball arrived. Alicia and Jules sat at their dessert; and, as the wind whistled, and the sleet beat against the windows, both wished that they were not compelled to abandon their cheerful and happy fireside to mingle in scenes which no longer possessed any attractions for them.
“ I never felt so reluctant to leave home, dearest Jules,” said Alicia, “ as I do this evening.” “ And I, also,” he replied,
“« would infinitely prefer the society of our own household gods, and your comfortable bergères, to my aunt's splendid salons, and all her gay company. But, hélas ! we must go; and
you, dearest, must do honour to the ball by wearing your diamonds, the ornaments to which I am least partial, because they are more calculated to excite the admiration of others, than that of a husband. Consequently, I am more than half jealous of them - as I am, indeed, of all your grandes toilettes ; for, in my opinion, they attract a too general attention. I like you best, Alicia, in your simple home-dress with the pink ribands (which I know are worn to please me), and when no other eye than mine can rest on your loveliness.”
“ And I, as you are well aware,” Alicia replied, “ dress only to please you, and am regardless of all other approbation.” “ Yet, I confess," resumed Jules,
" that, when I see you the object of general admiration, I have not philosophy enough to resist feeling proud ; though I should be less satisfied if you appeared elated by your triumph, for I should be disposed to jealousy if you were the least coquettishly inclined.”
“ No! nothing could make me believe that you could be jealous, dearest,” said Alicia :