English sweets. Five francs, ten francs. All for a footstool and a fan and the box being kept empty. For believing but not telling. For her secret.
There is a beauty to her yet, in her taffeta dress, in her bonnet, dignified but girlish (she is like an apricot, wrinkled and small and old-like but sweet). His voice is soft and gentle as he thanks her, and she cannot think of a single childhood sweetheart who sounded the same.
She imagined the lady who brought the fan and needed the footstool; that was for him, the fan was his, was from Persia, smelled of Persia. The roses he pretended to leave behind, for they were meant to be hers.
Perhaps she is a little lonely. Her daughter is growing up.
He offers her a little romance, not out of pity but from a strange kind of love. A little romance, wrinkled and sweet, dignified and old-like, an apricot romance; and she, a little beautiful yet, presses and dries the roses he leaves behind. He smiles behind his mask when she tucks them in her bonnet, and blows her a kiss which she does not see through the dark.