I Returned to Paris With The Corticelli, Now Countess Lascaris — The Hypostasis Fails — Aix-la-Chapelle — Duel — Mimi d’Ache — The Corticelli Turns Traitress to Her Own Disadvantage — Journey to Sulzbach
“Why did you allow your mother to call herself my wife, little simpleton? Do you think that’s a compliment to my judgment? She might have given herself out for your governess, as she wishes to pass you off as my daughter.”
“My mother is an obstinate old woman who had rather be whipped at the cart-tail than call herself my governess. She has very narrow ideas, and always thinks that governess and procuress mean the same thing.”
“She’s an old fool, but we will make her hear reason either with her will or in spite of it. But you look well dressed, have you made your fortune?”
“At Prague I captivated the affections of Count N— — and he proved a generous lover. But let your first action be to send back M. Month. The worthy man has his family at Prague to look after; he can’t afford to stay long here.”
“True, I will see about it directly.”
The coach started for Frankfort the same evening, and summoning Month I thanked him for his kindness and paid him generously, so he went off well pleased.
I had nothing further to do at Metz, so I took leave of my new friends, and in two days time I was at Nancy, where I wrote to Madame d’Urfe that I was on my way back with a virgin, the last of the family of Lascaris, who had once reigned at Constantinople. I begged her to receive her from my hands, at a country house which belonged to her, where we should be occupied for some days in cabalistic ceremonies.
She answered that she would await us at Pont-Carre, an old castle four leagues distant from Paris, and that she would welcome the young princess with all possible kindness.
“I owe her all the more friendship,” added the sublime madwoman, “as the family of Lascaris is connected with the family of d’Urfe, and as I am to be born again in the seed of the happy virgin.”
I felt that my task would be not exactly to throw cold water on her enthusiasm, but to hold it in check and to moderate its manifestations. I therefore explained to her by return of post that she must be content to treat the virgin as a countess, not a princess, and I ended by informing her that we should arrive, accompanied by the countess’s governess, on the Monday of Holy Week.
I spent twelve days at Nancy, instructing the young madcap in the part she had to play, and endeavouring to persuade her mother that she must content herself with being the Countess Lascaris’s humble servant. It was a task of immense difficulty; it was not enough to shew her that our success depended on her submitting; I had to threaten to send her back to Bologna by herself. I had good reason to repent of my perseverance. That woman’s obstinacy was an inspiration of my good angel’s, bidding me avoid the greatest mistake I ever made.
On the day appointed we reached Pont-Carre. Madame d’Urfe, whom I had advised of the exact hour of our arrival, had the drawbridge of the castle lowered, and stood in the archway in the midst of her people, like a general surrendering with all the honours of war. The dear lady, whose madness was but an excess of wit, gave the false princess so distinguished a reception that she would have shewn her amazement if I had not warned her of what she might expect. Thrice did she clasp her to her breast with a tenderness that was quite maternal, calling her her beloved niece, and explaining the entire pedigrees of the families of Lascaris and d’Urfe to make the countess understand how she came to be her niece. I was agreeably surprised to see the polite and dignified air with which the Italian wench listened to all this; she did not even smile, though the scene must have struck her as extremely laughable.
As soon as we got into the castle Madame d’Urfe proceeded to cense the new-comer, who received the attention with all the dignity of an opera queen, and then threw herself into the arms of the priestess, who received her with enthusiastic affection.
At dinner the countess was agreeable and talkative, which won her Madame d’Urfe’s entire favour; her broken French being easily accounted for. Laura, the countess’s mother, only knew her native Italian, and so kept silence. She was given a comfortable room, where her meals were brought to her, and which she only left to hear mass.
The castle was a fortified building, and had sustained several sieges in the civil wars. As its name, Pont-Carre, indicated, it was square, and was flanked by four crenelated towers and surrounded by a broad moat. The rooms were vast, and richly furnished in an old-fashioned way. The air was full of venomous gnats who devoured us and covered our faces with painful bites; but I had agreed to spend a week there, and I should have been hard put to it to find a pretext for shortening the time. Madame d’Urfe had a bed next, her own for her niece, but I was not afraid of her attempting to satisfy herself as to the countess’s virginity, as the oracle had expressly forbidden it under pain or failure. The operation was fixed for the fourteenth day of the April moon.
On that day we had a temperate supper, after which I went to bed. A quarter of an hour afterwards Madame d’Urfe came, leading the virgin Lascaris. She undressed her, scented her, cast a lovely veil over her body, and when the countess was laid beside me she remained, wishing to be present at an operation which was to result in her being born again in the course of nine months.
The act was consummated in form, and then Madame d’Urfe left us alone for the rest of the night, which was well employed. Afterwards, the countess slept with her aunt till the last day of the moon, when I asked the oracle if the Countess Lascaris had conceived. That well might be, for I had spared nothing to that intent; but I thought it more prudent to make the oracle reply that the operation had failed because the small Count d’Aranda had watched us behind a screen. Madame d’Urfe was in despair, but I consoled her by a second reply, in which the oracle declared that though the operation could only be performed in France in April, it could take place out of that realm in May; but the inquisitive young count, whose influence had proved so fatal, must be sent for at least a year to some place a hundred leagues from Paris. The oracle also indicated the manner in which he was to travel; he was to have a tutor, a servant, and all in order.
The oracle had spoken, and no more was wanted. Madame d’Urfe thought of an abbe she liked for his tutor, and the count was sent to Lyons, with strong letters of commendation to M. de Rochebaron, a relation of his patroness. The young man was delighted to travel, and never had any suspicion of the way in which I had slandered him. It was not a mere fancy which suggested this course of action. I had discovered that the Corticelli was making up to him, and that her mother favoured the intrigue. I had surprised her twice in the young man’s room, and though he only cared for the girl as a youth cares for all girls, the Signora Laura did not at all approve of my opposing her daughter’s designs.
Our next task was to fix on some foreign town where we could again attempt the mysterious operation. We settled on Aix-la-Chapelle, and in five or six days all was ready for the journey.
The Corticeili, angry with me for having thwarted her in her projects, reproached me bitterly, and from that time began to be my enemy; she even allowed herself to threaten me if I did not get back the pretty boy, as she called him.
“You have no business to be jealous,” said she, “and I am the mistress of my own actions.”
“Quite right, my dear,” I answered; “but it is my business to see that you do not behave like a prostitute in your present position.”
The mother was in a furious rage, and said that she and her daughter would return to Bologna, and to quiet them I promised to take them there myself as soon as we had been to Aix-la-Chapelle.
Nevertheless I did not feel at ease, and to prevent any plots taking place I hastened our departure.
We started in May, in a travelling carriage containing Madame d’Urfe, myself, the false Lascaris, and her maid and favourite, named Brougnole. We were followed by a coach with two seats; in it were the Signora Laura and another servant. Two men-servants in full livery sat on the outside of our travelling carriage. We stopped a day at Brussels, and another at Liege. At Aix there were many distinguished visitors, and at the first ball we attended Madame d’Urfe presented the Lascaris to two Princesses of Mecklenburg as her niece. The false countess received their embraces with much ease and modesty, and attracted the particular attention of the Margrave of Baireuth and the Duchess of Wurtemberg, his daughter, who took possession of her, and did not leave her till the end of the ball.
I was on thorns the whole time, in terror lest the heroine might make some dreadful slip. She danced so gracefully that everybody gazed at her, and I was the person who was complimented on her performance.
I suffered a martyrdom, for these compliments seemed to be given with malicious intent. I suspected that the ballet-girl had been discovered beneath the countess, and I felt myself dishonoured. I succeeded in speaking privately to the young wanton for a moment, and begged her to dance like a young lady, and not like a chorus girl; but she was proud of her success, and dared to tell me that a young lady might know how to dance as well as a professional dancer, and that she was not going to dance badly to please me. I was so enraged with her impudence, that I would have cast her off that instant if it had been possible; but as it was not, I determined that her punishment should lose none of its sharpness by waiting; and whether it be a vice or a virtue, the desire of revenge is never extinguished in my heart till it is satisfied.
The day after the ball Madame d’Urfe presented her with a casket containing a beautiful watch set with brilliants, a pair of diamond ear-rings, and a ring containing a ruby of fifteen carats. The whole was worth sixty thousand francs. I took possession of it to prevent her going off without my leave.
In the meanwhile I amused myself with play and making bad acquaintances. The worst of all was a French officer, named d’Ache, who had a pretty wife and a daughter prettier still. Before long the daughter had taken possession of the heart which the Corticelli had lost, but as soon as Madame d’Ache saw that I preferred her daughter to herself she refused to receive me at her house.
I had lent d’Ache ten Louis, and I consequently felt myself entitled to complain of his wife’s conduct; but he answered rudely that as I only went to the house after his daughter, his wife was quite right; that he intended his daughter to make a good match, and that if my intentions were honourable I had only to speak to the mother. His manner was still more offensive than his words, and I felt enraged, but knowing the brutal drunken characteristics of the man, and that he was always ready to draw cold steel for a yes or a no, I was silent and resolved to forget the girl, not caring to become involved with a man like her father.
I had almost cured myself of my fancy when, a few days after our conversation, I happened to go into a billiard-room where d’Ache was playing with a Swiss named Schmit, an officer in the Swedish army. As soon as d’Ache saw me he asked whether I would lay the ten Louis he owed me against him.
“Yes,” said I, “that will make double or quits.”
Towards the end of the match d’Ache made an unfair stroke, which was so evident that the marker told him of it; but as this stroke made him the winner, d’Ache seized the stakes and put them in his pocket without heeding the marker or the other player, who, seeing himself cheated before his very eyes, gave the rascal a blow across the face with his cue. D’Ache parried the blow with his hand, and drawing his sword rushed at Schmit, who had no arms. The marker, a sturdy young fellow, caught hold of d’Ache round the body, and thus prevented murder. The Swiss went out, saying,
“We shall see each other again.”
The rascally Frenchman cooled down, and said to me,
“Now, you see, we are quits.”
“Very much quits.”
“That’s all very well; but, by God! you might have prevented the insult which has dishonoured me.”
“I might have done so, but I did not care to interfere. You are strong enough to look after yourself. Schmit had not his sword, but I believe him to be a brave man; and he will give you satisfaction if you will return him his money, for there can be no doubt that you lost the match.”
An officer, named de Pyene, took me up and said that he himself would give me the twenty louis which d’Ache had taken, but that the Swiss must give satisfaction. I had no hesitation in promising that he would do so, and said I would bring a reply to the challenge the next morning.
I had no fears myself. The man of honour ought always to be ready to use the sword to defend himself from insult, or to give satisfaction for an insult he has offered. I know that the law of duelling is a prejudice which may be called, and perhaps rightly, barbarous, but it is a prejudice which no man of honour can contend against, and I believed Schmit to be a thorough gentleman.
I called on him at day-break, and found him still in bed. As soon as he saw me, he said,
“I am sure you have come to ask me to fight with d’Ache. I am quite ready to burn powder with him, but he must first pay me the twenty Louis he robbed me of.”
“You shall have them to-morrow, and I will attend you. D’Ache will be seconded by M. de Pyene.”
“Very good. I shall expect you at day-break.”
Two hours after I saw de Pyene, and we fixed the meeting for the next day, at six o’clock in the morning. The arms were to be pistols. We chose a garden, half a league from the town, as the scene of the combat.
At day-break I found the Swiss waiting for me at the door of his lodgings, carolling the ‘ranz-des-vaches’, so dear to his fellow- countrymen. I thought that a good omen.
“Here you are,” said he; “let us be off, then.”
On the way, he observed, “I have only fought with men of honour up to now, and I don’t much care for killing a rascal; it’s hangman’s work.”
“I know,” I replied, “that it’s very hard to have to risk one’s life against a fellow like that.”
“There’s no risk,” said Schmit, with a laugh. “I am certain that I shall kill him.”
“How can you be certain?”
“I shall make him tremble.”
He was right. This secret is infallible when it is applied to a coward. We found d’Ache and de Pyene on the field, and five or six others who must have been present from motives of curiosity.
D’Ache took twenty louis from his pocket and gave them to his enemy, saying,
“I may be mistaken, but I hope to make you pay dearly for your brutality.” Then turning to me he said,
“I owe you twenty louis also;” but I made no reply.
Schmit put the money in his purse with the calmest air imaginable, and making no reply to the other’s boast placed himself between two trees, distant about four paces from one another, and drawing two pistols from his pocket said to d’Ache,
“Place yourself at a distance of ten paces, and fire first. I shall walk to and fro between these two trees, and you may walk as far if you like to do so when my turn comes to fire.”
Nothing could be clearer or more calmly delivered than this explanation.
“But we must decide,” said I, “who is to have the first shot.”
“There is no need,” said Schmit. “I never fire first, besides, the gentleman has a right to the first shot.”
De Pyene placed his friend at the proper distance and then stepped aside, and d’Ache fired on his antagonist, who was walking slowly to and fro without looking at him. Schmit turned round in the coolest manner possible, and said,
“You have missed me, sir; I knew you would. Try again.”
I thought he was mad, and that some arrangement would be come to; but nothing of the kind. D’Ache fired a second time, and again missed; and Schmit, without a word, but as calm as death, fired his first pistol in the air, and then covering d’Ache with his second pistol hit him in the forehead and stretched him dead on the ground. He put back his pistols into his pocket and went off directly by himself, as if he were merely continuing his walk. In two minutes I followed his example, after ascertaining that the unfortunate d’Ache no longer breathed.
I was in a state of amazement. Such a duel was more like a combat of romance than a real fact. I could not understand it; I had watched the Swiss, and had not noticed the slightest change pass over his face.
I breakfasted with Madame d’Urfe, whom I found inconsolable. It was the full moon, and at three minutes past four exactly I ought to perform the mysterious creation of the child in which she was to be born again. But the Lascaris, on whom the work was to be wrought, was twisting and turning in her bed, contorting herself in such a way that it would be impossible for me to accomplish the prolific work.
My grief, when I heard what had happened, was hypocritical; in the first place because I no longer felt any desire for the girl, and in the second because I thought I saw a way in which I could make use of the incident to take vengeance on her.
I lavished consolations on Madame d’Urfe; and on consulting the oracle I found that the Lascaris had been defiled by an evil genius, and that I must search for another virgin whose purity must be under the protection of more powerful spirits. I saw that my madwoman was perfectly happy with this, and I left her to visit the Corticelli, whom I found in bed with her mother beside her.
“You have convulsions, have you, dearest?” said I.
“No, I haven’t. I am quite well, but all the same I shall have them till you give me back my jewel-casket.”
“You are getting wicked, my poor child; this comes of following your mother’s advice. As for the casket, if you are going to behave like this, probably you will have it.”
“I will reveal all.”
“You will not be believed; and I shall send you back to Bologna without letting you take any of the presents which Madame d’Urfe has given you.”
“You ought to have given me back the casket when I declared myself with child.”
Signora Laura told me that this was only too true, though I was not the father.
“Who is, then?” I asked.
“Count N— — whose mistress she was at Prague.”
It did not seem probable, as she had no symptoms of pregnancy; still it might be so. I was obliged to plot myself to bring the plots of these two rascally women to nought, and without saying anything to them I shut myself up with Madame d’Urfe to enquire of the oracle concerning the operation which was to make her happy.
After several answers, more obscure than any returned from the oracular tripod at Delphi, the interpretation of which I left to the infatuated Madame d’Urfe, she discovered herself — and I took care not to contradict her — that the Countess Lascaris had gone mad. I encouraged her fears, and succeeded in making her obtain from a cabalistic pyramid the statement that the reason the princess had not conceived was that she had been defiled by an evil genius — an enemy of the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross. This put Madame d’Urfe fairly on the way, and she added on her own account that the girl must be with child by a gnome.
She then erected another pyramid to obtain guidance on our quest, and I so directed things that the answer came that she must write to the moon.
This mad reply, which should have brought her to her senses, only made her more crazy than ever. She was quite ecstatic, and I am sure that if I had endeavoured to shew her the nothingness of all this I show have had nothing for my trouble. Her conclusion would probably have been that I was possessed by an evil spirit, and was no longer a true Rosy Cross. But I had no idea of undertaking a cure which would have done me harm and her no ‘good. Her chimerical notions made her happy, and the cold naked truth would doubtless have made her unhappy.
She received the order to write to the moon with the greater delight as she knew what ceremonies were to be observed in addressing that planet; but she could not dispense with the assistance of an adept, and I knew she would reckon on me. I told her I should always be ready to serve her, but that, as she knew herself, we should have to wait for the first phase of the new moon. I was very glad to gain time, for I had lost heavily at play, and I could not leave Aix-la-Chapelle before a bill, which I had drawn on M. d’O. of Amsterdam, was cashed. In the mean time we agreed that as the Countess Lascaris had become mad, we must not pay any attention to what she might say, as the words would not be hers but would proceed from the evil spirit who possessed her.
Nevertheless, we determined that as her state was a pitiable one, and should be as much alleviated as possible, she should continue to dine with us, but that in the evening she was to go to her governess and sleep with her.
After having thus disposed of Madame d’Urfe to disbelieve whatever the Corticelli cared to tell her, and to concentrate all her energies on the task of writing to Selenis, the intelligence of the moon, I set myself seriously to work to regain the money I had lost at play; and here my cabala was no good to me. I pledged the Corticelli’s casket for a thousand louis, and proceeded to play in an English club where I had a much better chance of winning than with Germans or Frenchmen.
Three or four days after d’Ache’s death, his widow wrote me a note begging me to call on her. I found her in company with de Pyene. She told me in a lugubrious voice that her husband had left many debts unsettled, and that his creditors had seized everything she possessed; and — that she was thus unable to pay the expenses of a journey, though she wanted to take her daughter with her to Colmar, and there to rejoin her family.
“You caused my husband’s death,” she added, “and I ask you to give me a thousand crowns; if you refuse me I shall commence a lawsuit against you, for as the Swiss officer has left, you are the only person I can prosecute.”
“I am surprised at your taking such a tone towards me,” I replied, coldly, “and were it not for the respect I feel for your misfortune, I should answer as bitterly as you deserve. In the first place I have not a thousand crowns to throw away, and if I had I would not sacrifice my money to threats. I am curious to know what kind of a case you could get up against me in the courts of law. As for Schmit, he fought like a brave gentleman, and I don’t think you could get much out of him if he were still here. Good-day, madam.”
I had scarcely got fifty paces from the house when I was joined by de Pyene, who said that rather than Madame d’Ache should have to complain of me he would cut my throat on the spot. We neither of us had swords.
“Your intention is not a very flattering one,” said I, “and there is something rather brutal about it. I had rather not have any affair of the kind with a man whom I don’t know and to whom I owe nothing.”
“You are a coward.”
“I would be, you mean, if I were to imitate you. It is a matter of perfect indifference to me what opinion you may have on the subject.
“You will be sorry for this.”
“Maybe, but I warn you that I never go out unattended by a pair of pistols, which I keep in good order and know how to use.” So saying I shewd him the pistols, and took one in my right hand.
At this the bully uttered an oath and we separated.
At a short distance from the place where this scene had occurred I met a Neapolitan named Maliterni, a lieutenant-colonel and aide to the Prince de Condo, commander-in-chief of the French army. This Maliterni was a boon companion, always ready to oblige, and always short of money. We were friends, and I told him what had happened.
“I should be sorry,” said I, “to have anything to do with a fellow like de Pyene, and if you can rid me of him I promise you a hundred crowns.”
“I daresay that can be managed,” he replied, “and I will tell you what I can do to-morrow!”
In point of fact, he brought me news the next day that my cut- throat had received orders from his superior officer to leave Aix- la-Chapelle at day-break, and at the same time he gave me a passport from the Prince de Conde.
I confess that this was very pleasant tidings. I have never feared to cross my sword with any man, though never sought the barbarous pleasure of spilling men’s blood; but on this occasion I felt an extreme dislike to a duel with a fellow who was probably of the same caste as his friend d’Ache.
I therefore gave Maliterni my heartiest thanks, as well as the hundred crowns I had promised him, which I considered so well employed that I did not regret their loss.
Maliterni, who was a jester of the first water, and a creature of the Marshal d’Estrees, was lacking neither in wit nor knowledge; but he was deficient in a sense of order and refinement. He was a pleasant companion, for his gaiety was inexhaustible and he had a large knowledge of the world. He attained the rank of field- marshal in 1768, and went to Naples to marry a rich heiress, whom he left a widow a year after.
The day after de Pyene’s departure I received a note from Mdlle. d’Ache, begging me, for the sake of her sick mother, to come and see her. I answered that I would be at such a place at such a time, and that she could say what she liked to me.
I found her at the place and time I appointed, with her mother, whose illness, it appeared, did not prevent her from going out. She called me her persecutor, and said that since the departure of her best friend, de Pyene, she did not know where to turn; that she had pledged all her belongings, and that I, who was rich, ought to aid her, if I were not the vilest of men.
“I feel for your condition,” I replied, “as I feel your abuse of me; and I cannot help saying that you have shewn yourself the vilest of women in inciting de Pyene, who may be an honest man for all I know, to assassinate me. In fine, rich or not, and though I owe you nothing, I will give you enough money to take your property out of pawn, and I may possibly take you to Colmar myself, but you must first consent to my giving your charming daughter a proof of my affection.”
“And you dare to make this horrible proposal to me?”
“Horrible or not, I do make it.”
“I will never consent.”
“Good day, madam.”
I called the waiter to pay him for the refreshments I had ordered, and I gave the girl six double louis, but her proud mother forbade her to accept the money from me. I was not surprised, in spite of her distress; for the mother was in reality still more charming than the daughter, and she knew it. I ought to have given her the preference, and thus have ended the dispute, but who can account for his whims? I felt that she must hate me, for she did not care for her daughter, and it must have humiliated her bitterly to be obliged to regard her as a victorious rival.
I left them still holding the six double louis, which pride or scorn had refused, and I went to the faro-table and decided in sacrificing them to fortune; but that capricious deity, as proud as the haughty widow, refused them, and though I left them on the board for five deals I almost broke the bank. An Englishman, named Martin, offered to go shares with me, and I accepted, as I knew he was a good player; and in the course of eight or ten days we did such good business that I was not only able to take the casket out of pledge and to cover all losses, but made a considerable profit in addition.
About this period, the Corticelli, in her rage against me, had told Madame d’Urfe the whole history of her life, of our acquaintance, and of her pregnancy. But the more truthfully she told her story so much the more did the good lady believe her to be mad, and we often laughed together at the extraordinary fancies of the traitress. Madame d’Urfe put all her trust in the instructions which Selenis would give in reply to her letter.
Nevertheless, as the girl’s conduct displeased me, I made her eat her meals with her mother, while I kept Madame d’Urfe company. I assured her that we should easily find another vessel of election, the madness of the Countess Lascaris having made her absolutely incapable of participating in our mysterious rites.
Before long, d’Ache’s widow found herself obliged to give me her Mimi; but I won her by kindness, and in such a way that the mother could pretend with decency to know nothing about it. I redeemed all the goods she had pawned, and although the daughter had not yet yielded entirely to my ardour, I formed the plan of taking them to Colmar with Madame d’Urfe. To make up the good lady’s mind, I resolved to let that be one of the instructions from the moon, and this she would not only obey blindly but would have no suspicions as to my motive.
I managed the correspondence between Selenis and Madame d’Urfe in the following manner:
On the day appointed, we supped together in a garden beyond the town walls, and in a room on the ground floor of the house I had made all the necessary preparations, the letter which was to fall from the moon, in reply to Madame d’Urfe’s epistle, being in my pocket. At a little distance from the chamber of ceremonies I had placed a large bath filled with lukewarm water and perfumes pleasing to the deity of the night, into which we were to plunge at the hour of the moon, which fell at one o’clock.
When we had burnt incense, and sprinkled the essences appropriate to the cult of Selenis, we took off all our clothes, and holding the letter concealed in my left hand, with the right I graciously led Madame d’Urfe to the brink of the bath. Here stood an alabaster cup containing spirits of wine which I kindled, repeating magical words which I did not understand, but which she said after me, giving me the letter addressed to Selenis. I burnt the letter in the flame of the spirits, beneath the light of the moon, and the credulous lady told me she saw the characters she had traced ascending in the rays of the planet.
We then got into the bath, and the letter, which was written in silver characters on green paper appeared on the surface of the water in the course of ten minutes. As soon as Madame d’Urfe saw it, she picked it up reverently and got out of the bath with me.
We dried and scented ourselves, and proceeded to put on our clothes. As soon as we were in a state of decency I told Madame d’Urfe that she might read the epistle, which she had placed on a scented silk cushion. She obeyed, and I saw sadness visibly expressed on her features when she saw that her hypostasis was deferred till the arrival of Querilinthus, whom she would see with me at Marseilles in the spring of next year. The genius also said that the Countess Lascaris could not only do her harm, and that she should consult me as to the best means of getting rid of her. The letter ended by ordering her not to leave at Aix a lady who had lost her husband, and had a daughter who was destined to be of great service to the fraternity of the R. C. She was to take them to Alsace, and not to leave them till they were there, and safe from that danger which threatened them if they were left to themselves.
Madame d’Urfe, who with all her folly was an exceedingly benevolent woman, commended the widow to my care enthusiastically, and seemed impatient to hear her whole history. I told her all the circumstances which I thought would strengthen her in her resolution to befriend them, and promised to introduce the ladies to them at the first opportunity.
We returned to Aix, and spent the night in discussing the phantoms which coursed through her brain. All was going on well, and my only care was for the journey to Aix, and how to obtain the complete enjoyment of Mimi after having so well deserved her favours.
I had a run of luck at play the next day, and in the evening I gave Madame d’Ache an agreeable surprise by telling her that I should accompany her and her Mimi to Colmar. I told her that I should begin by introducing her to the lady whom I had the honour to accompany, and I begged her to be ready by the next day as the marchioness was impatient to see her. I could see that she could scarcely believe her ears, for she thought Madame d’Urfe was in love with me, and she could not understand her desire to make the acquaintance of two ladies who might be dangerous rivals.
I conducted them to Madame d’Urfe at the appointed hour, and they were received with a warmth which surprised them exceedingly, for they could not be expected to know that their recommendation came from the moon. We made a party of four, and while the two ladies talked together in the fashion of ladies who have seen the world, I paid Mimi a particular attention, which her mother understood very well, but which Madame d’Urfe attributed to the young lady’s connection with the Rosy Cross.
In the evening we all went to a ball, and there the Corticelli, who was always trying to annoy me, danced as no young lady would dance. She executed rapid steps, pirouetted, cut capers, and shewed her legs; in short, she behaved like a ballet-girl. I was on thorns. An officer, who either ignored, or pretended to ignore, my supposed relation to her, asked me if she was a professional dancer. I heard another man behind me say that he thought he remembered seeing her on the boards at Prague. I resolved on hastening my departure, as I foresaw that if I stayed much longer at Aix the wretched girl would end by costing me my life.
As I have said, Madame d’Ache had a good society manner, and this put her in Madame d’Urfe’s good graces, who saw in her politeness a new proof of the favour of Selenis. Madame d’Ache felt, I suppose, that she awed me some return after all I had done for her, and left the ball early, so that when I took Mimi home I found myself alone with her, and at perfect liberty to do what I liked. I profited by the opportunity, and remained with Mimi for two hours, finding her so complaisant and even passionate that when I left her I had nothing more to desire.
In three days time I provided the mother and daughter with their outfit, and we left Aix gladly in an elegant and convenient travelling carriage which I had provided. Half an hour before we left I made an acquaintance which afterwards proved fatal to me. A Flemish officer, unknown to me, accosted me, and painted his destitute condition in such sad colours that I felt obliged to give him twelve louis. Ten minutes after, he gave me a paper in which he acknowledged the debt, and named the time in which he could pay it. From the paper I ascertained that his name was Malingan. In ten months the reader will hear the results.
Just as we were starting I shewed the Corticelli a carriage with four places, in which she, her mother, and the two maids, were to travel. At this she trembled, her pride was wounded, and for a moment I thought she was going out of her mind; she rained sobs, abuse, and curses on me. I stood the storm unmoved, however, and Madame d’Urfe only laughed at her niece’s paroxysms, and seemed delighted to find herself sitting opposite to me with the servant of Selenis beside her, while Mimi was highly pleased to be so close to me.
We got to Liege at nightfall on the next day, and I contrived to make Madame d’Urfe stay there the day following, wishing to get horses to take us through the Ardennes, and thus to have the charming Mimi longer in my possession.
I rose early and went out to see the town. By the great bridge, a woman, so wrapped up in a black mantilla that only the tip of her nose was visible, accosted me, and asked me to follow her into a house with an open door which she shewed me.
“As I have not the pleasure of knowing you,” I replied, “prudence will not allow me to do so.”
“You do know me, though,” she replied, and taking me to the corner of a neighbouring street she shewed me her face. What was my surprise to see the fair Stuart of Avignon, the statue of the Fountain of Vaucluse. I was very glad to meet her.
In my curiosity I followed her into the house, to a room on the first floor, where she welcomed me most tenderly. It was all no good, for I felt angry with her, and despised her advances, no doubt, because I had Mimi, and wished to keep all my love for her. However, I took three louis out of my purse and gave them to her, asking her to tell me her history.
“Stuart,” she said, “was only my keeper; my real name is Ranson, and I am the mistress of a rich landed proprietor. I got back to Liege after many sufferings.”
“I am delighted to hear that you are more prosperous now, but it must be confessed that your behaviour at Avignon was both preposterous and absurd. But the subject is not worth discussing. Good day, madam.”
I then returned to my hotel to write an account of what I had seen to the Marquis Grimaldi.
The next day we left Liege, and were two days passing through the Ardennes. This is one of the strangest tracts in Europe: a vast forest, the traditions of which furnished Ariosto with some splendid passages.
There is no town in the forest, and though one is obliged to cross it to pass from one country to another, hardly any of the necessaries of life are to be found in it.
The enquirer will seek in vain for vices or virtues, or manners of any kind. The inhabitants are devoid of correct ideas, but have wild notions of their own on the power of men they style scholars. It is enough to be a doctor to enjoy the reputation of an astrologer and a wizard. Nevertheless the Ardennes have a large population, as I was assured that there were twelve hundred churches in the forest. The people are good-hearted and even pleasant, especially the young girls; but as a general rule the fair sex is by no means fair in those quarters. In this vast district watered by the Meuse is the town of Bouillon — a regular hole, but in my time it was the freest place in Europe. The Duke of Bouillon was so jealous of his rights that he preferred the exercise of his prerogatives to all the honours he might have enjoyed at the Court of France. We stayed a day at Metz, but did not call on anyone; and in three days we reached Colmar, where we left Madame d’Ache, whose good graces I had completely won. Her family, in extremely comfortable circumstances, received the mother and daughter with great affection. Mimi wept bitterly when I left her, but I consoled her by saying that I would come back before long. Madame d’Urfe seemed not to mind leaving them, and I consoled myself easily enough. While congratulating myself on having made mother and daughter happy, I adored the secret paths and ways of Divine Providence.
On the following day we went to Sulzbach, where the Baron of Schaumburg, who knew Madame d’Urfe, gave us a warm welcome. I should have been sadly boared in this dull place if it had not been for gaming. Madame d’Urfe, finding herself in need of company, encouraged the Corticelli to hope to regain my good graces, and, consequently, her own. The wretched girl, seeing how easily I had defeated her projects, and to what a pass of humiliation I had brought her, had changed her part, and was now submissive enough. She flattered herself that she would regain the favour she had completely lost, and she thought the day was won when she saw that Madame d’Ache and her daughter stayed at Colmar. But what she had more at heart than either my friendship or Madame d’Urfe’s was the jewel-casket; but she dared not ask for it, and her hopes of seeing it again were growing dim. By her pleasantries at table which made Madame d’Urfe laugh she succeeded in giving me a few amorous twinges; but still I did not allow my feelings to relax my severity, and she continued to sleep with her mother.
A week after our arrival at Sulzbach I left Madame d’Urfe with the Baron of Schaumburg, and I went to Colmar in the hope of good fortune. But I was disappointed, as the mother and daughter had both made arrangements for getting married.
A rich merchant, who had been in love with the mother eighteen years before, seeing her a widow and still pretty, felt his early flames revive, and offered his hand and was accepted. A young advocate found Mimi to his taste, and asked her in marriage. The mother and daughter, fearing the results of my affection, and finding it would be a good match, lost no time in giving their consent. I was entertained in the family, and supped in the midst of a numerous and choice assemblage; but seeing that I should only annoy the ladies and tire myself in waiting for some chance favour if I stayed, I bade them adieu and returned to Sulzbach the next morning. I found there a charming girl from Strasburg, named Salzmann, three or four gamesters who had come to drink the waters, and several ladies, to whom I shall introduce the reader in the ensuing chapter.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07