The dancing was scheduled to continue at the ball until nearly four o'clock in the morning, but Prinzessin Sophie-Vittoria was too agitated to dance another set. Retiring to the cloakroom to collect herself, she was able, en route, to encounter her cousin, the Prinzessin Maria-Aurora of Sachsen-Veldenz. Most of the adult members of the Sachsen-Veldenz family had travelled to participate in Sophie-Vittoria's debut, both as a gesture of familial and political solidarity with their inlaws, united both in marriage and in suspicion of the ambitions of the von Waldreck family vis-à-vis their own possessions along the Mosel. Prinzessin Maria-Aurora, though, was a particular friend of Sophie-Vittoria, being a few months older, and the two had exchanged frequent extended visits throughout their childhood.
Taking Maria-Aurora by the arm, Sophie-Vittoria pleaded some excuse for assistance with her habit in the cloakroom, and detached her from her conversation with the dashing Oberst von Scheurebe of the von Kostenwand dragoons. Somewhat sulkily, the Saxon Prinzessin whispered on the way to the cloakroom, "All very well for you to strike up associations with gatecrashers, but let poor me talk to a dragoon and you whisk me off to exile. Can I hope to see at least one last set, before you completely finish my night?"
"He wasn't a gatecrasher; he's a French count--de St. Germain, I think. He says he has evidence of a plot against both our fathers, but cannot approach them directly because of some affair to do with Grandmother. There's something in the choirloft in the chapel left behind by Herr Volker which is supposed to shed light on this, locked in the bellows-works of the organ--to which he says this is the key," said Sophie-Vittoria, displaying to her cousin the small trilobate key secreted into her hand before the Comte's abrupt departure from the ball.
"I need your help to make an excuse and retire upstairs without undue notice, so that I can escort you. Otherwise, if I leave formally--it's my party--everyone will start to leave, and the Comte told me that conspirators against your father and mine are in attendance at the ball."
"Very well, then," replied Maria-Aurora. "One vapourous swoon as you wish, but you must be in my debt at the next ball."
The Saxon Prinzessin's performance was masterful; returning to the main ball room after a suitable application of rouge to simulate a over-cinched corset-flush, she fanned herself conspicuously and settled herself in a chaise in one corner of the ballroom between the dowager Duchess of Pfalz-Birkenstock and Graf Ernst von Kostenwand, Duke Ignaz's chamberlain, who were engaged in a debate at some length with the Prinzessin von Florshein and Countess of Altberg on the best means of securing reliable tutors for their households. Feigning interest in the conversation, Maria-Aurora gradually increased the frequencies of her sighs and sudden inhalations, fanning herself more and more vigorously, until at last she folded her fan, slumped back on the chaise, and lolled her head back with a fluttering of eyelashes and a soft moan.
Sophie-Vittoria seized her cue and descended immediately to her assistance, begging apologies, along with the murmured protestations of Maria-Aurora, and both detached themselves from the assembly, begging the Countess of Altberg to convey to their parents their temporary retirement to the upper chambers.