Masquerade Secrets

By: Janelle Daniels

“I think I shall never be sick of coming here,” Charlotte declared, looking out the window at the people running around in a frenzy.

The smell of smoke filled the air in the carriage, along with the unpleasant tang from horse droppings. “I think the stench would be enough to keep anyone away,” Aubrey said dryly.

Charlotte arched a brow at her before returning her attention out of the carriage.

Madam Devereaux’s shop wasn’t flamboyant, but rather subdued in high-class taste. Unlike their American counterparts, the English preferred clean, uncluttered lines.

Exiting the carriage, Charlotte sighed at the display window. “Isn’t that deep plum silk heavenly?”

“Yes.” Aubrey looked at it from a different angle. “It might just be the fabric for your costume. I think the deep purple tones would work well for a butterfly.”

Almost screeching her excitement, Charlotte gripped Aubrey’s hand. “You are absolutely right. Let’s make haste. I want to secure it before someone else sees it.”

Charlotte marched into the modiste’s shop, clearly on a mission.

“Lady Aubrey, Lady Charlotte. Welcome. What brings you into my shop so early?” Madam Devereaux asked with a knowing wink. “A masquerade perhaps?”

The modiste was rather young for someone with such success. She wore a dress of deep rose muslin. The fabric was of the highest quality, attesting to her wealth. Not every dressmaker had the luxury of wearing their best fabrics.

Charlotte took an excited step forward. “Exactly. We’ve come early so we could arrive before any others.”

“Well you certainly have.” Madam Devereaux gestured toward the pedestal. “We shall take your measurements first. If you please, Lady Charlotte.”

After the modiste received a measuring device from her assistant, Charlotte stepped up on the round platform.

The tape measured Charlotte’s waist. “Have you thought of a costume yet?”

“Yes, actually.” Charlotte made sure to stand still while she spoke. “I thought I would dress as a butterfly. I think the plum silk in your window would be perfect.”

Nodding shrewdly, Madam Devereaux continued to take her measurements. “I agree. The color would do wonders for you.” Pausing a moment, the modiste jotted down some numbers, before continuing. “And have you thought of something for yourself, Lady Aubrey?”

“I thought I would leave that up to you. I think you would have a better idea of which costume would suit me best.”

At hearing this, Madam Devereaux turned with a small wink. “I have just the thing. You will have men eating out of the palm of your hand.”

“I should very much like to see that,” Charlotte said, giggling before returning to her statuesque pose.

The modiste nodded. “And you certainly will. I have just the thing for your sister.”

Aubrey blushed slightly as the modiste took another long look at Aubrey’s curves. What did the modiste have in mind? On second thought, perhaps she shouldn’t have given the final say to the modiste. Aubrey had no intention of going to a ball dressed in something that made her feel uncomfortable in mixed company.

“Do not worry, Lady Aubrey. You will love it.” With a reassuring smile, she continued, “It will not be something that will make you wish you had stayed at home because of the scandal it will cause,” she said, effectively reading Aubrey’s mind. “In fact, I will even add a little magic to this one.”

“Magic? Can you do that?” Charlotte asked, completely drawn in by the thought of a dress containing magic.

“Certainly. Just you wait and see.”

Aubrey smiled at the excited grin her sister threw at her before heaving a sigh. It would have to be some substantial magic to have men fawning all over her. In the few years she had been out into society, she had never come close to a feat such as that.

After Aubrey had her measurements taken, and the plum silk was pulled from the display window, Madam Devereaux whisked them out of the shop. “I will have these gowns delivered to your home before the masquerade. And don’t worry about a thing Lady Aubrey, it will be perfect.” The modiste gave one last wink before turning back into her shop.

The month before the masquerade flew by. The parties were the same, the people were the same. The only thing different was that she was sitting along the wall by herself. Sera had still not arrived home from the continent, and her younger sister had taken society by storm. With her popularity, it was rare that Charlotte ever got a moment to sit along the fringe of the room.

The masquerade this evening would no doubt be another triumph for her.

“Right on time, my lady.” Bitsy laid the wrapped gown on her bed. “Oh, and this note was delivered with it,” she said, pulling a folded piece of paper out of her pocket.

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