Marie de Rougemont fanned herself petulantly, her tiny foot stamping impatiently against the hard ballroom floor, as her eyes scanned the crowd for any sign of her escort. Though she had sent him off to fetch her a glass of punch nearly a quarter of an hour ago, he had not yet returned, and she was starting to get irritated. How dare he keep a lady waiting for so long! Didn't he know that he was to stay by her side for the duration of the entire evening, unless he was specifically told to fetch her a glass of punch? And didn't he realize that when he was told to fetch her a glass a punch that he was to return immediately and present to her the aforementioned refreshment with a flourish and a kiss on her delicate hand? What a child! What an imbecile! Marie rolled her eyes and sighed angrily. Where could he be?


Marie whirled around, her green eyes flashing with rage. "Prouvaire!" she snapped. "Where have you been?"

"My darling, I am so sorry!" he apologized. "I would have returned sooner, but I was distracted by all of the beautifulcostumes. Did you see the woman dressed as a butterfly? Simply-" He was cut off by an exasperated huff, which seemed to remind him of something. "Oh yes! I almost forgot." Prouvaire leaned forward and took one of Marie's tiny white hands. After gently kissing it, he placed the crystal glass of punch inside, and said, "For you, Marie."

She looked at it distastefully, and without a second thought turned the glass upside down and poured the contents all over her consort's shoes. Tossing the empty tumbler over her shoulder, she sighed, "Well, I don't want it now."

Prouvaire looked crushed.

With a belated sense of self-reproach, Marie thought to save face, and cooed to Prouvaire, "Oh, Jehan, please forgive me my temper! You know how I can be impatient, don't you?"

Brightening, Prouvaire answered, "Oh, of course, my darling! It was my fault anyhow. I should have come sooner."

Still oozing a despicable sort of sweetness, Marie took Jehan's arm, and suggested, "Why don't the two of us walk around for a few moments? I think it would help me clear my head."

"Of course!" Prouvaire immediately rejoined, beaming up at her. "We shall do whatever you would like!"

Marie smiled smugly, and led her date away into the crowd.

"That one, there, do you see how low the cut of her gown is?" Courfeyrac indiscreetly pointed to a buxom brunette in a daring teal dress. The woman looked insulted and swirled away with an angry huff. "Ah, if only her seamstress had taken a few more inches!" Courfeyrac sighed. "And that one there!" He inclined his head in the direction of an attractive older woman with a large brown hat and a cat mask. "I'm sure she's had a bit of experience dealing with men!" He threw back his head and laughed heartily, causing several people to turn about to look and see where all of the noise was coming from.

"Courfeyrac, for the last time, will you please stop that?" Marius hissed. "People can hear you!"

"My. Name. Is. Ma-rie!" Courfeyrac snapped. "Now use it before you blow my damn cover!"

"You're blowing your own cover!"

"I am not," Courfeyrac muttered sulkily. "Besides, it's not like it matters anyhow. You won't let me talk to any of the women."

"With good reason!" Marius exclaimed. "Have you any idea how ridiculous-oh dear God, someone's coming to talk to us-"

"Good evening, sir!" Courfeyrac interrupted, his voice sliding up an octave and a half.

"Good evening, miss," a tall gentleman dressed all in grey responded. "Isn't this the most splendid gala you've ever attended?"

"Oh yes," Courfeyrac agreed enthusiastically, nodding his head like an old chicken. "Simply marvellous!"

"The Prouvaires have truly outdone themselves this time," the gentleman went on. "So whom do I have the pleasure of speaking to, miss?"

Theatrically gesturing to his own breast, Courfeyrac introduced himself, "I am Marie de Courfeyrac, sir." He then rest a hand on Marius' shoulder. "My escort is Marius Pontmercy."

"de Courfeyrac, you say?" the man in grey said. "A very old name in Paris, to be certain!"

"We are members of the old aristocracy," Courfeyrac told him, infusing his voice with a note of pride that he did not feel. His wide pink hat dropped off of his head and fluttered down onto the floor. "Oh, how clumsy of me!" Courfeyrac tittered, bending over to retrieve it. Unfortunately, this action caused the front of his dress to slip down, revealing a wide patch of dark chest hair. At this, the man in grey paled noticeably.

"Oh, dear me, I'm so sorry, I must be going now, so lovely to meet you, good night!" he prattled, backing away from Courfeyrac and Marius with a curious expression on his face. A few paces away, when he judged it to be safe again, the gentleman turned around. His foot came down on a glass tumbler, and he lost his balance. Flailing wildly, he gracelessly slipped across the dance floor until a butler carrying a tray of cherry tarts caught his fall. Gentleman, butler and tarts all toppled forward into a dancing couple dressed as an admiral and a mermaid. The mermaid hit the floor first, with the other three men crashing down on top of her. Several guests let out yelps of surprise as they were showered with stray cherry tarts.

Confused, Courfeyrac turned away from the carnage and asked Marius, "Now, what was that all about?"

Marius rolled his eyes. "Come on, Marie. Let's go get some punch."