My Victory Over the Deputy Chief of Police — My Departure — Chamberi — Desarmoises’s Daughter — M. Morin — M *** M *** — At Aix — The Young Boarder — Lyons — Paris
This citation, which did not promise to lead to anything agreeable, surprised and displeased me exceedingly. However, I could not avoid it, so I drove to the office of the deputy- superintendent of police. I found him sitting at a long table, surrounded by about a score of people in a standing posture. He was a man of sixty, hideously ugly, his enormous nose half destroyed by an ulcer hidden by a large black silk plaster, his mouth of huge dimensions, his lips thick, with small green eyes and eyebrows which had partly turned white. As soon as this disgusting fellow saw me, he began —
“You are the Chevalier de Seingalt?”
“That is my name, and I have come here to ask how I can oblige you?”
“I have summoned you here to order you to leave the place in three days at latest.”
“And as you have no right to give such an order, I have come here to tell you that I shall go when I please, and not before.”
“I will expel you by force.”
“You may do that whenever you please. I cannot resist force, but I trust you will give the matter a second thought; for in a well- ordered city they do not expel a man who has committed no crimes, and has a balance of a hundred thousand francs at the bank.”
“Very good, but in three days you have plenty of time to pack up and arrange matters with your banker. I advise you to obey, as the command comes from the king.”
“If I were to leave the town I should become accessory to your injustice! I will not obey, but since you mention the king’s name, I will go to his majesty at once, and he will deny your words or revoke the unjust order you have given me with such publicity.”
“Pray, does not the king possess the power to make you go?”
“Yes, by force, but not by justice. He has also the power to kill me, but he would have to provide the executioner, as he could not make me commit suicide.”
“You argue well, but nevertheless you will obey.”
“I argue well, but I did not learn the art from you, and I will not obey.”
With these words I turned my back on him, and left without another word.
I was in a furious rage. I felt inclined to offer overt resistance to all the myrmidons of the infamous superintendent. Nevertheless I soon calmed myself, and summoning prudence to my aid I remembered the Chevalier Raiberti, whom I had seen at his mistress’s house, and I decided on asking his advice. He was the chief permanent official in the department of foreign affairs. I told the coachman to drive to his house, and I recounted to him the whole tale, saying, finally, that I should like to speak to the king, as I was resolved that I would not go unless I was forced to do so. The worthy man advised me to go to the Chevalier Osorio, the principal secretary for foreign affairs, who could always get an audience of the king. I was pleased with his advice, and I went immediately to the minister, who was a Sicilian and a man of parts. He gave me a very good reception, and after I had informed him of the circumstances of the case I begged him to communicate the matter to his majesty, adding that as the superintendent’s order appeared horribly unjust to me I was resolved not to obey it unless compelled to do so by main force. He promised to oblige me in the way I wished, and told me to call again the next day.
After leaving him I took a short walk to cool myself, and then went to the Abbe Gama, hoping to be the first to impart my ridiculous adventure to him. I was disappointed; he already knew that I had been ordered to go, and how I had answered the superintendent. When he saw that I persisted in my determination to resist, he did not condemn my firmness, though he must have thought it very extraordinary, for the good abbe could not understand anybody’s disobeying the order of the authorities. He assured me that if I had to go he would send me the necessary instructions to any address I liked to name.
The next day the Chevalier Osorio received me with the utmost politeness, which I thought a good omen. The Chevalier Raiberti had spoken to him in my behalf, and he had laid the matter before the king and also before the Count d’Aglie, and the result was that I could stay as long as I liked. The Count d’Aglie was none other than the horrible superintendent. I was told that I must wait on him, and he would give me leave to remain at Turin till my affairs were settled.
“My only business here,” said I, “is to spend my money till I have instructions from the Court of Portugal to attend the Congress of Augsburg on behalf of his most faithful majesty.”
“Then you think that this Congress will take place?”
“Nobody doubts it.”
“Somebody believes it will all end in smoke. However, I am delighted to have been of service to you, and I shall be curious to hear what sort of reception you get from the superintendent.”
I felt ill at ease. I went to the police office immediately, glad to shew myself victorious, and anxious to see how the superintendent would look when I came in. However, I could not flatter myself that he looked ashamed of himself; these people have a brazen forehead, and do not know what it is to blush.
As soon as he saw me, he began —
“The Chevalier Osorio tells me that you have business in Turin which will keep you for some days. You may therefore stay, but you must tell me as nearly as possible how long a time you require.”
“I cannot possibly tell you that.”
“Why? if you don’t mind telling me.”
“I am awaiting instructions from the Court of Portugal to attend the Congress to be held at Augsburg, and before I could tell you how long I shall have to stay I should be compelled to ask his most faithful majesty. If this time is not sufficient for me to do my business, I will intimate the fact to you.”
“I shall be much obliged by your doing so.”
This time I made him a bow, which was returned, and on leaving the office I returned to the Chevalier Osorio, who said, with a smile, that I had caught the superintendent, as I had taken an indefinite period, which left me quite at my ease.
The diplomatic Gama, who firmly believed that the Congress would meet, was delighted when I told him that the Chevalier Osorio was incredulous on the subject. He was charmed to think his wit keener than the minister’s; it exalted him in his own eyes. I told him that whatever the chevalier might say I would go to Augsburg, and that I would set out in three or four weeks.
Madame R. congratulated me over and over again, for she was enchanted that I had humiliated the superintendent; but all the same we thought we had better give up our little suppers. As I had had a taste of all her girls, this was not such a great sacrifice for me to make.
I continued thus till the middle of May, when I left Turin, after receiving letters from the Abbe Gama to Lord Stormont, who was to represent England at the approaching Congress. It was with this nobleman that I was to work in concert at the Congress.
Before going to Germany I wanted to see Madame d’Urfe, and I wrote to her, asking her to send me a letter of introduction to M. de Rochebaron, who might be useful to me. I also asked M. Raiberti to give me a letter for Chamberi, where I wanted to visit the divine M—— M—— (of whom I still thought with affection) at her convent grating. I wrote to my friend Valenglard, asking him to remind Madame Morin that she had promised to shew me a likeness to somebody at Chamberi.
But here I must note down an event worthy of being recorded, which was extremely prejudicial to me.
Five or six days before my departure Desarmoises came to me looking very downcast, and told me that he had been ordered to leave Turin in twenty-four hours.
“Do you know why?” I asked him.
“Last night when I was at the coffee-house, Count Scarnafis dared to say that France subsidised the Berne newspapers. I told him he lied, at which he rose and left the place in a rage, giving me a glance the meaning of which is not doubtful. I followed him to bring him to reason or to give him satisfaction; but he would do nothing and I suspect he went to the police to complain. I shall have to leave Turin early to-morrow morning.”
“You’re a Frenchman, and as you can claim the protection of your ambassador you will be wrong to leave so suddenly.”
“In the first place the ambassador is away, and in the second my cruel father disavows me. No, I would rather go, and wait for you at Lyons. All I want is for you to lend me a hundred crowns, for which I will give you an account.”
“It will be an easy account to keep,” said I, “but a long time before it is settled.”
“Possibly; but if it is in my power I will shew my gratitude for the kindnesses you have done me.”
I gave him a hundred crowns and wished him a pleasant journey, telling him that I should stop some time at Lyons.
I got a letter of credit on an Augsburg house, and three days after I left Turin I was at Chamberi. There was only one inn there in those days, so I was not much puzzled to choose where I would go, but for all that I found myself very comfortable.
As I entered my room, I was struck by seeing an extremely pretty girl coming out of an adjacent room.
“Who is that young lady?” said I to the chambermaid who was escorting me.
“That’s the wife of a young gentleman who has to keep his bed to get cured of a sword-thrust which he received four days ago on his way from France.”
I could not look at her without feeling the sting of concupiscence. As I was leaving my room I saw the door half open, and I stopped short and offered my services as a neighbour. She thanked me politely, and asked me in. I saw a handsome young man sitting up in bed, so I went up to enquire how he felt.
“The doctor will not let him talk,” said the young lady, “on account of a sword-thrust in the chest he received at half a league from here. We hope he will be all right in a few days, and then we can continue our journey.”
“Where are you going, madam?”
Just as I was leaving, a maid came to ask me if I would take supper in my own room or with the lady. I laughed at her stupidity, and said I would sup in my own apartment, adding that I had not the honour of the lady’s acquaintance.
At this the young lady said it would give her great pleasure if I would sup with her, and the husband repeated this assurance in a whisper. I accepted the invitation gratefully, and I thought that they were really pleased. The lady escorted me out as far as the stairs, and I took the liberty of kissing her hand, which in France is a declaration of tender though respectful affection.
At the post-office I found a letter from Valenglard, telling me that Madame Morin would wait on me at Chamberi if I would send her a carriage, and another from Desarmoises dated from Lyons. He told me that as he was on his way from Chamberi he had encountered his daughter in company with a rascal who had carried her off. He had buried his sword in his body, and would have killed them if he had been able to stop their carriage. He suspected that they had been staying in Chamberi, and he begged me to try and persuade his daughter to return to Lyons; and he added that if she would not do so I ought to oblige him by sending her back by force. He assured me that they were not married, and he begged me to answer his letter by express, for which purpose he sent me his address.
I guessed at once that this daughter of his was my fair neighbour, but I did not feel at all inclined to come to the aid of the father in the way he wished.
As soon as I got back to the inn I sent off Le Duc in a travelling carriage to Madame Morin, whom I informed by letter that as I was only at Chamberi for her sake I would await her convenience. This done, I abandoned myself to the delight I felt at the romantic adventure which fortune had put in my way.
I repeated Mdlle. Desarmoises and her ravisher, and I did not care to enquire whether I was impelled in what I did by virtue or vice; but I could not help perceiving that my motives were of a mixed nature; for if I were amorous, I was also very glad to be of assistance to two young lovers, and all the more from my knowledge of the father’s criminal passion.
On entering their room I found the invalid in the surgeon’s hands. He pronounced the wound not to be dangerous, in spite of its depth; suppuration had taken place without setting up inflammation — in short, the young man only wanted time and rest. When the doctor had gone I congratulated the patient on his condition, advising him to be careful what he ate, and to keep silent. I then gave Mdlle. Desarmoises her father’s letter, and I said farewell for the present, telling them that I would go to my own room till supper-time. I felt sure that she would come and speak to me after reading her father’s letter.
In a quarter of an hour she knocked timidly at my door, and when I let her in she gave me back the letter and asked me what I thought of doing.
“Nothing. I shall be only too happy, however, if I can be of any service to you.”
“Ah! I breathe again!”
“Could you imagine me pursuing any other line of conduct? I am much interested in you, and will do all in my power to help you. Are you married?”
“Not yet, but we are going to be married when we get to Geneva.”
“Sit down and tell me all about yourself. I know that your father is unhappily in love with you, and that you avoid his attentions.”
“He has told you that much? I am glad of it. A year ago he came to Lyons, and as soon as I knew he was in the town I took refuge with a friend of my mother’s, for I was aware that I could not stay in the same house with my father for an hour without exposing myself to the most horrible outrage. The young man in bed is the son of a rich Geneva merchant. My father introduced him to me two years ago, and we soon fell in love with each other. My father went away to Marseilles, and my lover asked my mother to give me in marriage to him; but she did not feel authorized to do so without my father’s consent. She wrote and asked him, but he replied that he would announce his decision when he returned to Lyons. My lover went to Geneva, and as his father approved of the match he returned with all the necessary documents and a strong letter of commendation from M. Tolosan. When my father came to Lyons I escaped, as I told you, and my lover got M. Tolosan to ask my hand for him of my father. His reply was, ‘I can give no answer till she returns to my house!’
“M. Tolosan brought this reply to me, and I told him that I was ready to obey if my mother would guarantee my safety. She replied, however, that she knew her husband too well to dare to have us both under the same roof. Again did M. Tolosan endeavour to obtain my father’s consent, but to no purpose. A few days after he left Lyons, telling us that he was first going to Aix and then to Turin, and as it was evident that he would never give his consent my lover proposed that I should go off with him, promising to marry me as soon as we reached Geneva. By ill luck we travelled through Savoy, and thus met my father. As soon as he saw us he stopped the carriage and called to me to get out. I began to shriek, and my lover taking me in his arms to protect me my father stabbed him in the chest. No doubt he would have killed him, but seeing that my shrieks were bringing people to our rescue, and probably believing that my lover was as good as dead, he got on horseback again and rode off at full speed. I can chew you the sword still covered with blood.”
“I am obliged to answer this letter of his, and I am thinking how I can obtain his consent.”
“That’s of no consequence; we can marry and be happy without it.”
“True, but you ought not to despise your dower.”
“Good heavens! what dower? He has no money!”
“But on the death of his father, the Marquis Desarmoises . . . ”
“That’s all a lie. My father has only a small yearly pension for having served thirty years as a Government messenger. His father has been dead these thirty years, and my mother and my sister only live by the work they do.”
I was thunderstruck at the impudence of the fellow, who, after imposing on me so long, had himself put me in a position to discover his deceit. I said nothing. Just then we were told that supper was ready, and we sat at table for three hours talking the matter over. The poor wounded man had only to listen to me to know my feelings on the subject. His young mistress, as witty as she was pretty, jested on the foolish passion of her father, who had loved her madly ever since she was eleven.
“And you were always able to resist his attempts?” said I.
“Yes, whenever he pushed things too far.”
“And how long did this state of things continue?”
“For two years. When I was thirteen he thought I was ripe, and tried to gather the fruit; but I began to shriek, and escaped from his bed stark naked, and I went to take refuge with my mother, who from that day forth would not let me sleep with him again.”
“You used to sleep with him? How could your mother allow it?”
“She never thought that there was anything criminal in his affection for me, and I knew nothing about it. I thought that what he did to me, and what he made me do to him, were mere trifles.”
“But you have saved the little treasure?”
“I have kept it for my lover.”
The poor lover, who was suffering more from the effects of hunger than from his wounds, laughed at this speech of hers, and she ran to him and covered his face with kisses. All this excited me intensely. Her story had been told with too much simplicity not to move me, especially when I had her before my eyes, for she possessed all the attractions which a woman can have, and I almost forgave her father for forgetting she was his daughter and falling in love with her.
When she escorted me back to my room I made her feel my emotion, and she began to laugh; but as my servants were close by I was obliged to let her go.
Early next morning I wrote to her father that his daughter had resolved not to leave her lover, who was only slightly wounded, that they were in perfect safety and under the protection of the law at Chamberi, and finally that having heard their story, and judging them to be well matched, I could only approve of the course they had taken. When I had finished I went into their room and gave them the letter to read, and seeing the fair runaway at a loss how to express her ‘gratitude, I begged the invalid to let me kiss her.
“Begin with me,” said he, opening his arms.
My hypocritical love masked itself under the guise of paternal affection. I embraced the lover, and then more amorously I performed the same office for the mistress, and skewed them my purse full of gold, telling them it was at their service. While this was going on the surgeon came in, and I retired to my room.
At eleven o’clock Madame Morin and her daughter arrived, preceded by Le Duc on horseback, who announced their approach by numerous smacks of his whip. I welcomed her with open arms, thanking her for obliging me.
The first piece of news she gave me was that Mdlle. Roman had become mistress to Louis XV., that she lived in a beautiful house at Passi, and that she was five months gone with child. Thus she was in a fair way to become queen of France, as my divine oracle had predicted.
“At Grenoble,” she added, “you are the sole topic of conversation; and I advise you not to go there unless you wish to settle in the country, for they would never let you go. You would have all the nobility at your feet, and above all, the ladies anxious to know the lot of their daughters. Everybody believes in judicial astrology now, and Valenglard triumphs. He has bet a hundred Louis to fifty that my niece will be delivered of a young prince, and he is certain of winning; though to be sure, if he loses, everybody will laugh at him.”
“Don’t be afraid of his losing.”
“Is it quite certain?”
“Has not the horoscope proved truthful in the principal particular? If the other circumstances do not follow, I must have made a great mistake in my calculations.”
“I am delighted to hear you say so.”
“I am going to Paris and I hope you will give me a letter of introduction to Madame Varnier, so that I may have the pleasure of seeing your niece.”
“You shall have the letter to-morrow without fail.”
I introduced Mdlle. Desarmoises to her under the family name of her lover, and invited her to dine with Madame Morin and myself. After dinner we went to the convent, and M—— M—— came down very surprised at this unexpected visit from her aunt; but when she saw me she had need of all her presence of mind. When her aunt introduced me to her by name, she observed with true feminine tact that during her stay at Aix she had seen me five or six times at the fountain, but that I could not remember her features as she had always worn her veil. I admired her wit as much as her exquisite features. I thought she had grown prettier than ever, and no doubt my looks told her as much. We spent an hour in talking about Grenoble and her old friends, whom she gladly recalled to her memory, and then she went to fetch a young girl who was boarding at the convent, whom she liked and wanted to present to her aunt.
I seized the opportunity of telling Madame Morin that I was astonished at the likeness, that her very voice was like that of my Venetian M—— M— — and I begged her to obtain me the privilege of breakfasting with her niece the next day, and of presenting her with a dozen pounds of capital chocolate. I had brought it with me from Genoa.
“You must make her the present yourself,” said Madame Morin, “for though she’s a nun she’s a woman, and we women much prefer a present from a man’s than from a woman’s hand.”
M—— M—— returned with the superior of the convent, two other nuns, and the young boarder, who came from Lyons, and was exquisitely beautiful. I was obliged to talk to all the nuns, and Madame Morin told her niece that I wanted her to try some excellent chocolate I had brought from Genoa, but that I hoped her lay-sister would make it.
“Sir,” said M—— M— — “kindly send me the chocolate, and to- morrow we will breakfast together with these dear sisters.”
As soon as I got back to my inn I sent the chocolate with a respectful note, and I took supper in Madame Morin’s room with her daughter and Mdlle. Desarmoises, of whom I was feeling more and more amorous, but I talked of M—— M—— all the time, and I could see that the aunt suspected that the pretty nun was not altogether a stranger to me.
I breakfasted at the convent and I remember that the chocolate, the biscuits, and the sweetmeats were served with a nicety which savoured somewhat of the world. When we had finished breakfast I told M—— M—— that she would not find it so easy to give me a dinner, with twelve persons sitting down to table, but I added that half the company could be in the convent and half in the parlour, separated from the convent by a light grating.
“It’s a sight I should like to see,” said I, “if you will allow me to pay all expenses.”
“Certainly,” replied M—— M— — and this dinner was fixed for the next day.
M—— M—— took charge of the whole thing, and promised to ask six nuns. Madame Morin, who knew my tastes, told her to spare nothing, and I warned her that I would send in the necessary wines.
I escorted Madame Morin, her daughter, and Mdlle. Desarmoises back to the hotel, and I then called on M. Magnan, to whom I had been recommended by the Chevalier Raiberti. I asked him to get me some of the best wine, and he took me down to his cellar, and told me to take what I liked. His wines proved to be admirable.
This M. Magnan was a clever man, of a pleasant appearance, and very comfortably off. He occupied an extremely large and convenient house outside the town, and there his agreeable wife dispensed hospitality. She had ten children, amongst whom there were four pretty daughters; the eldest, who was nineteen, was especially good-looking.
We went to the convent at eleven o’clock, and after an hour’s conversation we were told that dinner was ready. The table was beautifully laid, covered with a fair white cloth, and adorned with vases filled with artificial flowers so strongly scented that the air of the parlour was quite balmy. The fatal grill was heavier than I had hoped. I found myself seated to the left of M—— M— — and totally unable to see her. The fair Desarmoises was at my right, and she entertained us all the time with her amusing stories.
We in the parlour were waited on by Le Duc and Costa, and the nuns were served by their lay-sisters. The abundant provision, the excellent wines, the pleasant though sometimes equivocal conversation, kept us all merrily employed for three hours. Mirth had the mastery over reason, or, to speak more plainly, we were all drunk; and if it had not been for the fatal grill, I could have had the whole eleven ladies without much trouble. The young Desarmoises was so gay, indeed, that if I had not restrained her she would probably have scandalised all the nuns, who would have liked nothing better. I was longing to have her to myself, that I might quench the flame she had kindled in my breast, and I had no doubt of my success on the first attempt. After coffee had been served, we went into another parlour and stayed there till night came on. Madame Morin took leave of her niece, and the hand- shakings, thanks, and promises of remembrance between me and the nuns, lasted for a good quarter of an hour. After I had said aloud to M—— M—— that I hoped to have the pleasure of seeing her before I left, we went back to the inn in high good humour with our curious party which I still remember with pleasure.
Madame Morin gave me a letter for her cousin Madame Varnier, and I promised to write to her from Paris, and tell her all about the fair Mdlle. Roman. I presented the daughter with a beautiful pair of ear-rings, and I gave Madame Morin twelve pounds of good chocolate which M. Magnan got me, and which the lady thought had come from Genoa. She went off at eight o’clock preceded by Le Duc, who had orders to greet the doorkeeper’s family on my behalf.
At Magnan’s I had a dinner worthy of Lucullus, and I promised to stay with him whenever I passed Chamberi, which promise I have faithfully performed.
On leaving the gourmand’s I went to the convent, and M—— M—— came down alone to the grating. She thanked me for coming to see her, and added that I had come to disturb her peace of mind.
“I am quite ready, dearest, to climb the harden wall, and I shall do it more dexterously than your wretched humpback.”
“Alas! that may not be, for, trust me, you are already spied upon. Everybody here is sure that we knew each other at Aix. Let us forget all, and thus spare ourselves the torments of vain desires.”
“Give me your hand.”
“No. All is over. I love you still, probably I shall always love you; but I long for you to go, and by doing so, you will give me a proof of your love.”
“This is dreadful; you astonish me. You appear to me in perfect health, you are prettier than ever, you are made for the worship of the sweetest of the gods, and I can’t understand how, with a temperament like yours, you can live in continual abstinence.”
“Alas! lacking the reality we console ourselves by pretending. I will not conceal from you that I love my young boarder. It is an innocent passion, and keeps my mind calm. Her caresses quench the flame which would otherwise kill me.”
“And that is not against your conscience?”
“I do not feel any distress on the subject.”
“But you know it is a sin.”
“Yes, so I confess it.”
“And what does the confessor say?”
“Nothing. He absolves me, and I am quite content:”
“And does the pretty boarder confess, too?”
“Certainly, but she does not tell the father of a matter which she thinks is no sin.”
“I wonder the confessor has not taught her, for that kind of instruction is a great pleasure.”
“Our confessor is a wise old man.”
“Am I to leave you, then, without a single kiss?”
“May I come again to-morrow? I must go the day after.”
“You may come, but I cannot see you by myself as the nuns might talk. I will bring my little one with me to save appearances. Come after dinner, but into the other parlour.”
If I had not known M—— M—— at Aix, her religious ideas would have astonished me; but such was her character. She loved God, and did not believe that the kind Father who made us with passions would be too severe because we had not the strength to subdue them. I returned to the inn, feeling vexed that the pretty nun would have no more to do with me, but sure of consolation from the fair Desarmoises.
I found her sitting on her lover’s bed; his poor diet and the fever had left him in a state of great weakness. She told me that she would sup in my room to leave him in quiet, and the worthy young man shook my hand in token of his gratitude.
As I had a good dinner at Magnan’s I ate very little supper, but my companion who had only had a light meal ate and drank to an amazing extent. I gazed at her in a kind of wonder, and she enjoyed my astonishment. When my servants had left the room I challenged her to drink a bowl of punch with me, and this put her into a mood which asked for nothing but laughter, and which laughed to find itself deprived of reasoning power. Nevertheless, I cannot accuse myself of taking an advantage of her condition, for in her voluptuous excitement she entered eagerly into the pleasure to which I excited her till two o’clock in the morning. By the time we separated we were both of us exhausted.
I slept till eleven, and when I went to wish her good day I found her smiling and as fresh as a rose. I asked her how she had passed the rest of the night.
“Very pleasantly,’ said she, “like the beginning of the night.”
“What time would you like to have dinner?”
“I won’t dine; I prefer to keep my appetite for supper.”
Here her lover joined in, saying in a weak voice —
“It is impossible to keep up with her.”
“In eating or drinking?” I asked.
“In eating, drinking, and in other things,” he replied, with a smile. She laughed, and kissed him affectionately.
This short dialogue convinced me that Mdlle. Desarmoises must adore her lover; for besides his being a handsome young man, his disposition was exactly suitable to hers. I dined by myself, and Le Duc came in as I was having dessert. He told me that the door- keeper’s daughters and their pretty cousin had made him wait for them to write to me, and he gave me three letters and three dozen of gloves which they had presented me. The letters urged me to come and spend a month with them, and gave me to understand that I should be well pleased with my treatment. I had not the courage to return to a town, where with my reputation I should have been obliged to draw horoscopes for all the young ladies or to make enemies by refusing.
After I had read the letters from Grenoble I went to the convent and announced my presence, and then entered the parlour which M—— M—— had indicated. She soon came down with the pretty boarder, who feebly sustained my part in her amorous ecstacies. She had not yet completed her twelfth year, but she was extremely tall and well developed for her age. Gentleness, liveliness, candour, and wit were united in her features, and gave her expression an exquisite charm. She wore a well-made corset which disclosed a white throat, to which the fancy easily added the two spheres which would soon appear there. Her entrancing face, her raven locks, and her ivory throat indicated what might be concealed, and my vagrant imagination made her into a budding Venus. I began by telling her that she was very pretty, and would make her future husband a happy man. I knew she would blush at that. It may be cruel, but it is thus that the language of seduction always begins. A girl of her age who does not blush at the mention of marriage is either an idiot or already an expert in profligacy. In spite of this, however, the blush which mounts to a young girl’s cheek at the approach of such ideas is a puzzling problem. Whence does it arise? It may be from pure simplicity, it may be from shame, and often from a mixture of both feelings. Then comes the fight between vice and virtue, and it is usually virtue which has to give in. The desires — the servants of vice — usually attain their ends. As I knew the young boarder from M—— M——‘s description, I could not be ignorant of the source of those blushes which added a fresh attraction to her youthful charms.
Pretending not to notice anything, I talked to M—— M—— for a few moments, and then returned to the assault. She had regained her calm.
“What age are you, pretty one?” said I.
“I am thirteen.”
“You are wrong,” said M—— M— — “you have not yet completed your twelfth year.”
“The time will come,” said I, “when you will diminish the tale of your years instead of increasing it.”
“I shall never tell a lie, sir; I am sure of that.”
“So you want to be a nun, do you?”
“I have not yet received my vocation; but even if I live in the world I need not be a liar.”
“You are wrong; you will begin to lie as soon as you have a lover.”
“Will my lover tell lies, too?”
“Certainly he will.”
“If the matter were really so, then, I should have a bad opinion of love; but I do not believe it, for I love my sweetheart here, and I never conceal the truth from her.”
“Yes, but loving a man is a different thing to loving a woman.”
“No, it isn’t; it’s just the same.”
“Not so, for you do not go to bed with a woman and you do with your husband.”
“That’s no matter, my love would be the same.”
“What? You would not rather sleep with me than with M—— M——?”
“No, indeed I should not, because you are a man and would see me.”
“You don’t want a man to see you, then?”
“Do you think you are so ugly, then?”
At this she turned to M—— M—— and said, with evident vexation, “I am not really ugly, am I?”
“No, darling,” said M—— M— — bursting with laughter, “it is quite the other way; you are very pretty.” With these words she took her on her knee and embraced her tenderly.
“Your corset is too tight; you can’t possibly have such a small waist as that.”
“You make a mistake, you can put your hand there and see for yourself.”
“I can’t believe it.”
M—— M—— then held her close to the grill and told me to see for myself. At the same moment she turned up her dress.
“You were right,” said I, “and I owe you an apology;” but in my heart I cursed the grating and the chemise.
“My opinion is,” said I to M—— M— — “that we have here a little boy.”
I did not wait for a reply, but satisfied myself by my sense of touch as to her sex, and I could see that the little one and her governess were both pleased that my mind was at rest on the subject.
I drew my hand away, and the little girl looked at M—— M— — and reassured by her smiling air asked if she might go away for a moment. I must have reduced her to a state in which a moment’s solitude was necessary, and I myself was in a very excited condition.
As soon as she was gone I said to M—— M— —
“Do you know that what you have shewn me has made me unhappy?”
“Has it? Why?”
“Because your boarder is charming, and I am longing to enjoy her.”
“I am sorry for that, for you can’t possibly go any further; and besides, I know you, and even if you could satisfy your passion without danger to her, I would not give her up to you, you would spoil her.”
“Do you think that after enjoying you she would care to enjoy me? I should lose too heavily by the comparison.”
“Give me your hand.”
“Stay, one moment.”
“I don’t want to see anything.”
“Not a little bit?”
“Nothing at all.”
“Are you angry with me, then?”
“Not at all. If you have been pleased I am glad, and if you have filled her with desires she will love me all the better.”
“How pleasant it would be, sweetheart, if we could all three of us be together alone and at liberty!”
“Yes; but it is impossible.”
“Are you sure that no inquisitive eye is looking upon us?”
“The height of that fatal grill has deprived me of the sight of many charms.”
“Why didn’t you go to the other parlour it is much lower there.”
“Let us go there, then.”
“Not to-day; I should not be able to give any reason for the change.”
“I will come again to-morrow, and start for Lyons in the evening.”
The little boarder came back, and I stood up facing her. I had a number of beautiful seals and trinkets hanging from my watch- chain, and I had not had the time to put myself in a state of perfect decency again.
She noticed it, and by way of pretext she asked if she might look at them.
“As long as you like; you may look at them and touch them as well.”
M—— M—— foresaw what would happen and left the room, saying that she would soon be back. I had intended to deprive the young boarder of all interest in my seals by shewing her a curiosity of another kind. She did not conceal her pleasure in satisfying her inquisitiveness on an object which was quite new to her, and which she was able to examine minutely for the first time in her life. But soon an effusion changed her curiosity into surprise, and I did not interrupt her in her delighted gaze.
I saw M—— M—— coming back slowly, and I lowered my shirt again, and sat down. My watch and chains were still on the ledge of the grating, and M—— M—— asked her young friend if the trinkets had pleased her.
“Yes,” she replied, but in a dreamy and melancholy voice. She had learnt so much in the course of less than two hours that she had plenty to think over. I spent the rest of the day in telling M—— M—— the adventures I had encountered since I had left her; but as I had not time to finish my tale I promised to return the next day at the same time.
The little girl, who had been listening to me all the time, though I appeared to be only addressing her friend, said that she longed to know the end of my adventure with the Duke of Matelone’s mistress.
I supped with the fair Desarmoises, and after giving her sundry proofs of my affection till midnight, and telling her that I only stopped on for her sake, I went to bed.
The next day after dinner I returned to the convent, and having sent up my name to M—— M—— I entered the room where the grating was more convenient.
Before long M—— M—— arrived alone, but she anticipated my thoughts by telling me that her pretty friend would soon join her.
“You have fired her imagination. She has told me all about it, playing a thousand wanton tricks, and calling me her dear husband. You have seduced the girl, and I am very glad you are going or else you would drive her mad. You will see how she has dressed herself.”
“Are you sure of her discretion?”
“Perfectly, but I hope you won’t do anything in my presence. When I see the time coming I will leave the room.”
“You are an angel, dearest, but you might be something better than that if you would —”
“I want nothing for myself; it is out of the question.”
“You could —”
“No, I will have nothing to do with a pastime which would rekindle fires that are hardly yet quenched. I have spoken; I suffer, but let us say no more about it.”
At this moment the young adept came in smiling, with her eyes full of fire. She was dressed in a short pelisse, open in front, and an embroidered muslin skirt which did not go beyond her knees. She looked like a sylph.
We had scarcely sat down when she reminded me of the place where my tale had stopped. I continued my recital, and when I was telling them how Donna Lucrezia shewed me Leonilda naked, M—— M—— went out, and the sly little puss asked me how I assured myself that my daughter was a maid.
I took bold of her through the fatal grating, against which she placed her pretty body, and shewed her how assured myself of the fact, and the girl liked it so much that she pressed my hand to the spot. She then gave me her hand that I might share her pleasure, and whilst this enjoyable occupation was in progress M—— M—— appeared. My sweetheart said hastily —
“Never mind, I told her all about it. She is a good creature and will not be vexed.” Accordingly M—— M—— pretended not to see anything, and the precocious little girl wiped her hand in a kind of voluptuous ecstacy, which shewed how well she was pleased.
I proceeded with my history, but when I came to the episode of the poor girl who was ‘tied’, describing all the trouble I had vainly taken with her, the little boarder got so curious that she placed herself in the most seducing attitude so that I might be able to shew her what I did. Seeing this M—— M—— made her escape.
“Kneel down on the ledge, and leave the rest to me,” said the little wanton.
The reader will guess what she meant, and I have no doubt that she would have succeeded in her purpose if the fire which consumed me had not distilled itself away just at the happy moment.
The charming novice felt herself sprinkled, but after ascertaining that nothing more could be done she withdrew in some vexation. My fingers, however, consoled her for the disappointment, and I had the pleasure of seeing her look happy once more.
I left these charming creatures in the evening, promising to visit them again in a year, but as I walked home I could not help reflecting how often these asylums, supposed to be devoted to chastity and prayer, contain in themselves the hidden germs of corruption. How many a timorous and trustful mother is persuaded that the child of her affection will escape the dangers of the world by taking refuge in the cloister. But behind these bolts and bars desires grow to a frenzied extreme; they crave in vain to be satisfied.
When I returned to the inn I took leave of the wounded man, whom I was happy to see out of danger. In vain I urged him to make use of my purse; he told me, with an affectionate embrace, that he had sufficient money, and if not, he had only to write to his father. I promised to stop at Lyons, and to oblige Desarmoises to desist from any steps he might be taking against them, telling them I had a power over him which would compel him to obey. I kept my word. After we had kissed and said good-bye, I took his future bride into my room that we might sup together and enjoy ourselves till midnight; but she could not have been very pleased with my farewell salute, for I was only able to prove my love for her once, as M—— M——‘s young friend had nearly exhausted me.
I started at day-break, and the next day I reached the “Hotel du Parc,” at Lyons. I sent for Desarmoises, and told him plainly that his daughter’s charms had seduced me, that I thought her lover worthy of her, and that I expected him out of friendship for me to consent to the marriage. I went further, and told him that if he did not consent to everything that very instant I could no longer be his friend, and at this he gave in. He executed the requisite document in the presence of two witnesses, and I sent it to Chamberi by an express messenger.
This false marquis made me dine with him in his poor house. There was nothing about his younger daughter to remind me of the elder, and his wife inspired me with pity. Before I left I managed to wrap up six Louis in a piece of paper, and gave it to her without the knowledge of her husband. A grateful look shewed me how welcome the present was.
I was obliged to go to Paris, so I gave Desarmoises sufficient money for him to go to Strasburg, and await me there in company with my Spaniard.
I thought myself wise in only taking Costa, but the inspiration came from my evil genius.
I took the Bourbonnais way, and on the third day I arrived at Paris, and lodged at the Hotel du St. Esprit, in the street of the same name.
Before going to bed I sent Costa with a note to Madame d’Urfe, promising to come and dine with her the next day. Costa was a good-looking young fellow, and as he spoke French badly and was rather a fool I felt sure that Madame d’Urfe would take him for some extraordinary being. She wrote to say that she was impatiently expecting me.
“How did the lady receive you, Costa?”
“She looked into a mirror, sir, and said some words I could make nothing of; then she went round the room three times burning incense; then she came up to me with a majestic air and looked me in the face; and at last she smiled very pleasantly, and told me to wait for a reply in the ante-chamber.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07