The dare-devil wildness and the cool quietude that were so intimately and intricately mingled in his natare could alone have prompted and projected such a thought and such an action as suggested themselves to him now; in the moment of his direst extremity, of his utter hopelessness, of his most imminent peril, he went—to take a last look at his mistress! Baden, for aught he knew, might be but one vast network to mesh in and to capture him; yet he ran the risk with the dauntless temerity that had ever lain underneath the indifferentism and the indolence of his habits.
Keeping always in the shadow, and moving slowly, so as to attract no notice from those he passed, he made his way deliberately, straight toward the blaze of light where all the gayety of the town was centered; he reckoned, and rightly, as it proved, that the rumor of his story, the noise of his pursuit, would not have penetrated here as yet; his own world would be still in ignorance. A moment, that was all he wanted, just to look upon a woman’s beauty; he went forward daringly and tranquilly to the venture. If any had told him that a vein of romance was in him, he would have stared and thought them madmen; yet something almost as wild was in his instinct now. He had lost so much to keep her honor from attainder; he wished to meet the gaze of her fair eyes once more before he went out to exile.
In one of the string of waiting carriages he saw a loose domino lying on the seat; he knew the liveries and the footmen, and he signed them to open the door. “Tell Count Carl I have borrowed these,” he said to the servant, as he sprang into the vehicle, slipped the scarlet-and-black domino on, took the mask, and left the carriage. The man touched his hat and said nothing; he knew Cecil well, as an intimate friend of his young Austrian master. In that masquerade guise he was safe; for the few minutes, at least, which were all he dared take.
He went on, mingled among the glittering throng, and pierced his way to the ballroom, the Venetian mask covering his features; many spoke to him, by the scarlet-and-black colors they took him for the Austrian; he answered none, and treaded his way among the blaze of hues, the joyous echoes of the music, the flutter of the silk and satin dominoes, the mischievous challenge of whispers. His eyes sought only one; he soon saw her, in the white and silver mask-dress, with the spray of carmine-hued eastern flowers, by which he had been told, days ago, to recognize her. A crowd of dominoes were about her, some masked, some not. Her eyes glanced through the envious disguise, and her lips were laughing. He approached her with all his old tact in the art d’arborer le cotillon; not hurriedly, so as to attract notice, but carefully, so as to glide into a place near her.
“You promised me this waltz,” he said very gently in her ear. “I have come in time for it.”
She recognized him by his voice, and turned from a French prince to rebuke him for his truancy, with gay raillery and much anger.