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             THE YELLOW MASK.


ABOUT a century ago, there lived in the
ancient city of Pisa a famous Italian milliner,
who, by way of vindicating to all customers
her familiarity with Paris fashions, adopted
a French title, and called herself the Demoiselle
Grifoni. She was a wizen little woman,
with a mischievous face, a quick tongue, a
nimble foot, a talent for business, and an
uncertain disposition. Rumour hinted that
she was immensely rich; and scandal
suggested that she would do anything for money.

The one undeniable good quality which
raised Demoiselle Grifoni above all her rivals
in the trade was her inexhaustible fortitude.
She was never known to yield an inch under
any pressure of adverse circumstances. Thus
the memorable occasion of her life on which
she was threatened with ruin was also the
occasion on which she most triumphantly
asserted the energy and decision of her
character. At the height of the demoiselle's
prosperity, her skilled forewoman and cutter-out
basely married and started in business as a
rival. Such a calamity as this would have
ruined an ordinary milliner; but the invincible
Grifoni rose superior to it almost with-out
an effort, and proved incontestably that it
was impossible for hostile Fortune to catch
her at the end of her resources. While the
minor milliners were prophesying that she
would shut up shop, she was quietly carrying
on a private correspondence with an agent in
Paris. Nobody knew what these letters were
about until a few weeks had elapsed, and
then circulars were received by all the ladies
in Pisa, announcing that the best French
forewoman who could be got for money was
engaged to superintend the great Grifoni
establishment. This master-stroke decided
the victory. All the demoiselle's customers
declined giving orders elsewhere until the
forewoman from Paris had exhibited to the
natives of Pisa the latest fashions from the
metropolis of the world of dress.

The Frenchwoman arrived punctual to the
appointed day,—glib and curt, smiling and
flippant, tight of face and supple of figure.
Her name was Mademoiselle Virginie, and
her family had inhumanly deserted her. She
was set to work the moment she was inside
the doors of the Grifoni establishment. A
room was devoted to her own private use;
magnificent materials in velvet, silk, and
satin, with due accompaniment of muslins,
laces, and ribbons, were placed at her disposal;
she was told to spare no expense, and to
produce, in the shortest possible time, the finest
and newest specimen-dresses for exhibition in
the show-room. Mademoiselle Virginie under-took
to do everything required of her,
produced her portfolios of patterns and her
book of coloured designs, and asked for one
assistant who could speak French enough to
interpret her orders to the Italian girls in
the work-room.

"I have the very person you want," cried
Demoiselle Grifoni. "A workwoman we call
Brigida herethe idlest slut in Pisa, but as
sharp as a needlehas been in France, and
speaks the language like a native. I'll send
her to you directly."

Mademoiselle Virginie was not left long
alone with her patterns and silks. A tall
woman, with bold black eyes, a reckless
manner, and a step as firm as a man's, stalked
into the room with the gait of a tragedy-queen
crossing the stage. The instant her
eyes fell on the French forewoman, she
stopped, threw up her hands in astonishment,
and exclaimed, "Finette!"

"Teresa!" cried the Frenchwoman, casting
her scissors on the table, and advancing a few

"Hush! call me Brigida."

"Hush! call me Virginie."

These two exclamations were uttered at.
the same moment, and then the two women
scrutinised each other in silence. The swarthy
cheeks of the Italian turned to a dull yellow,
and the voice of the Frenchwoman trembled
a little when she spoke again.

"How, in the name of Heaven, have you
dropped down in the world as low as this?"
she asked. "I thought you were provided for

"Silence!" interrupted Brigida. "You
see I was not provided for. I have had my
misfortunes; and you are the last woman
alive who ought to refer to them."

"Do you think I have not had rny
misfortunes, too, since we met " (Brigida's
face brightened maliciously at those words.)
"You have had your revenge," continued