"Try this on. It may need some adjustment."

She called for her maid and carefully took the dress from its stand, where it occupied the workroom like a resident; too many times she had passed the open door, late at night, and been startled by the pale apparition, as though it were a portent of her fate. It was, in a sense, precisely such an apparition.

Later, she gazed at herself in the full-length mirror. She was pale, even for an aristocrat, and the dress seemed to pull the color from her eyes and hair. It made her look like a ghost. There was a quiet rap upon the dressing-room door, and without a thought she called, "Enter."

In the mirror, she could see Stephan approaching, smoothing his moustache apprehensively. Her hand trembled at the hair-ribbon that she had been adjusting, but she made no other sign that she had noticed that someone who was not her maid had entered the room.

He made no sound, but she felt his hand upon the clasp of the white dress that he had made for her to wear. In the mirror, she could see a questioning expression on his face. She was aware only of a desire and an obligation, and she realized that it was hardly a choice at all; because of who she was, there was only one of the two that she could possibly select.


A Lace Dress