Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/167

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

"D'avance, I am jealous both of Lilmarc and you!" cried Vane, with that easy worldly serenity to which such a normal and barbaric passion as jealousy seems wholly antagonistic and impossible. "At last I shall see her, then—your beautiful Vassalis! Shall I come with you?"

"No; better come up to the box when Lilmarc is not there. If he saw you with her he might take might and cry off; if you have an ivy spray at your button-hole she will understand and admit you, whether I be there or not. Here!" With the words he opened a small, long bonbon-box he took from his coat, and tossed Vane one of the little sprays of silver ivy that it held—the badge which all those who would be recognised by Idalia, Countess Vassalis, must wear on their dominoes that night.

"Thanks," said Victor, as he slipped it in his waistcoat-pocket. "I shall be there by one o'clock at latest. Idalia—this wonderful Idalia!—how often I have missed her, how often I have longed to see her; the fairest conspirator in Europe!"

The Bal de l'Opera was brilliant, crowded, dizzy, mad with the very insouciant and reckless gaiety of the Prince who invented it, as though the spirit of