I Send The Corticelli to Turin — Helen is Initiated Into The Mysteries of Love I Go to Lyons — My Arrival at Turin
One of the ladies, Madame Saxe, was intended by nature to win the devotion of a man of feeling; and if she had not had a jealous officer in her train who never let her go out of his sight, and seemed to threaten anyone who aspired to please, she would probably have had plenty of admirers. This officer was fond of piquet, but the lady was always obliged to sit close beside him, which she seemed to do with pleasure.
In the afternoon I played with him, and continued doing so for five or six days. After that I could stand it no longer, as when he had won ten or twelve louis he invariably rose and left me to myself. His name was d’Entragues; he was a fine-looking man, though somewhat thin, and had a good share of wit and knowledge of the world.
We had not played together for two days, when one afternoon he asked if I would like to take my revenge.
“No, I think not,” said I, “for we don’t play on the same principle. I play for amusement’s sake and you play to win money.”
“What do you mean? Your words are offensive.”
“I didn’t mean them to be offensive, but as a matter of fact, each time we have played you have risen after a quarter of an hour.”
“You ought to be obliged to me, as otherwise you would have lost heavily.”
“Possibly; but I don’t think so.”
“I can prove it to you:”
“I accept the offer, but the first to leave the table must forfeit fifty Louis.”
“I agree; but money down.”
“I never play on credit.”
I ordered a waiter to bring cards, and I went to fetch four or five rolls of a hundred Louis each. We began playing for five Louis the game, each player putting down the fifty Louis wagered.
We began to play at three, and at nine o’clock d’Entragues said we might take some supper.
“I am not hungry,” I replied, “but you can go if you want me to put the hundred Louis in my pocket.”
He laughed at this and went on playing, but this lacy fair scowled at me, though I did not care in the least for that. All the guests went to supper, and returned to keep us company till midnight, but at that hour we found ourselves alone. D’Entragues saw what kind of man he had got hold of and said never a word, while I only opened my lips to score; we played with the utmost coolness.
At six o’clock the ladies and gentlemen who were taking the waters began to assemble. We were applauded for our determination, in spite of our grim look. The Louis were on the table; I had lost a hundred, and yet the game was going in my favour.
At nine the fair Madame Saxe put in an appearance, and shortly after Madame d’Urfe came in with M. de Schaumburg. Both ladies advised us to take a cup of chocolate. D’Entragues was the first to consent, and thinking that I was almost done he said —
“Let us agree that the first man who asks for food, who absents himself for more than a quarter of an hour, or who falls asleep in his chair, loses the bet.”
“I will take you at your word,” I replied, “and I adhere to all your conditions.”
The chocolate came, we took it, and proceeded with our play. At noon we were summoned to dinner, but we both replied that we were not hungry. At four o’clock we allowed ourselves to be persuaded into taking some soup. When supper-time came and we were still playing, people began to think that the affair was getting serious, and Madame Saxe urged us to divide the wager. D’Entragues, who had won a hundred louis, would have gladly consented, but I would not give in, and M. de Schaumburg pronounced me within my rights. My adversary might have abandoned the stake and still found himself with a balance to the good, but avarice rather than pride prevented his doing so. I felt the loss myself, but what I cared chiefly about was the point of honour. I still looked fresh, while he resembled a disinterred corpse. As Madame Saxe urged me strongly to give way, I answered that I felt deeply grieved at not being able to satisfy such a charming woman, but that there was a question of honour in the case; and I was determined not to yield to my antagonist if I sat there till I fell dead to the ground.
I had two objects in speaking thus: I wanted to frighten him and to make him jealous of me. I felt certain that a man in a passion of jealousy would be quite confused, and I hoped his play would suffer accordingly, and that I should not have the mortification of losing a hundred louis to his superior play, though I won the fifty louis of the wager.
The fair Madame Saxe gave me a glance of contempt and left us, but Madame d’Urfe, who believed I was infallible, avenged me by saying to d’Entragues, in a tone of the profoundest conviction —
“O Lord! I pity you, sir.”
The company did not return after supper, and we were left alone to our play. We played on all the night, and I observed my antagonist’s face as closely as the cards. He began to lose his composure, and made mistakes, his cards got mixed up, and his scoring was wild. I was hardly less done up than he; I felt myself growing weaker, and I hoped to see him fall to the ground every moment, as I began to be afraid of being beaten in spite of the superior strength of my constitution. I had won back my money by day-break, and I cavilled with him for being away for more than a quarter of an hour. This quarrel about nothing irritated him, and roused me up; the difference of our natures produced these different results, and my stratagem succeeded because it was impromptu, and could not have been foreseen. In the same way in war, sudden stratagems succeed.
At nine o’clock Madame Saxe came in, her lover was losing.
“Now, sir,” she said to me, “you may fairly yield.”
“Madam,” said I, “in hope of pleasing you, I will gladly divide the stakes and rise from the table.”
The tone of exaggerated gallantry with which I pronounced these words, put d’Entragues into a rage, and he answered sharply that he would not desist till one of us was dead.
With a glance at the lady which was meant to be lovelorn, but which must have been extremely languid in my exhausted state, I said —
“You see, Madam, that I am not the more obstinate of the two.”
A dish of soup was served to us, but d’Entragues, who was in the last stage of exhaustion, had no sooner swallowed the soup than he fell from his chair in a dead faint. He was soon taken up, and after I had given six louis to the marker who had been watching for forty-eight hours, I pocketed the gold, and went to the apothecary’s where I took a mild emetic. Afterwards I went to bed and slept for a few hours, and at three o’clock I made an excellent dinner.
D’Entragues remained in his room till the next day. I expected a quarrel, but the night brings counsel, and I made a mistake. As soon as he saw me he ran up to me and embraced me, saying —
“I made a silly bet, but you have given me a lesson which will last me all my days, and I am much obliged to you for it.”
“I am delighted to hear it, provided that your health has not suffered.”
“No, I am quite well, but we will play no more together.”
“Well, I hope we shan’t play against each other any more.”
In the course of eight or ten days I took Madame d’Urfe and the pretended Lascaris to Bale. We put up at the inn of the famous Imhoff, who swindled us, but, all the same, the “Three Kings” is the best inn in the town. I think I have noted that noon at Bale is at eleven o’clock — an absurdity due to some historic event, which I had explained to me but have forgotten. The inhabitants are said to be subject to a kind of madness, of which they are cured by taking the waters of Sulzbach; but they ‘get it again as soon as they return.
We should have stayed at Bale some time, if it had not been for an incident which made me hasten our departure. It was as follows:
My necessities had obliged me to forgive the Corticelli to a certain extent, and when I came home early I spent the night with her; but when I came home late, as often happened, I slept in my own room. The little hussy, in the latter case, slept also alone in a room next to her mother’s, through whose chamber one had to pass to get to the daughter’s.
One night I came in at one o’clock, and not feeling inclined to sleep, I took a candle and went in search of my charmer. I was rather surprised to find Signora Laura’s door half open, and just as I was going in the old woman came forward and took me by the arm, begging me not to go into her daughter’s room.
“Why?” said I.
“She has been very poorly all the evening, and she is in need of sleep.”
“Very good; then I will sleep too.”
So saying I pushed the mother to one side, and entering the girl’s room I found her in bed with someone who was hiding under the sheets.
I ‘gazed at the picture for a moment and then began to laugh, and sitting down on the bed begged to enquire the name of the happy individual whom I should have the pleasure of throwing out of the window. On a chair I saw the coat, trousers, hat, and cane of the gentleman; but as I had my two trusty pistols about me I knew I had nothing to fear; however, I did not want to make a noise.
With tears in her eyes, and trembling all over, the girl took my hand and begged me to forgive her.
“It’s a young lord,” said she, “and I don’t even know his name.”
“Oh, he is a young lord, is he? and you don’t know his name, you little hussy, don’t you? Well, he will tell me himself.”
So saying, I took a pistol and vigorously stripped the sheets off the cuckoo who had got into my nest. I saw the face of a young man whom I did not know, his head covered with a nightcap, but the rest perfectly naked, as indeed was my mistress. He turned his back to me to get his shirt which he had thrown on the floor, but seizing him by the arm I held him firmly, with my pistol to his forehead.
“Kindly tell me your name, fair sir.”
“I am Count B— — canon of Bale.”
“And do you think you have been performing an ecclesiastical function here?”
“No sir, no, and I hope you will forgive me and the lady too, for I am the only guilty party.”
“I am not asking you whether she is guilty or not.”
“Sir, the countess is perfectly innocent.”
I felt in a good temper, and far from being angry I was strongly inclined to laugh. I found the picture before me an attractive one; it was amusing and voluptuous. The sight of the two nudities on the bed was a truly lascivious one, and I remained contemplating it in silence for a quarter of an hour, occupied in resisting a strong temptation to take off my clothes and lie beside them. The only thing which prevented my yielding to it was the fear that I might find the canon to be a fool, incapable of playing the part with dignity. As for the Corticelli, she soon passed from tears to laughter, and would have done it well, but if, as I feared, the canon was a blockhead, I should have been degrading myself.
I felt certain that neither of them had guessed my thoughts, so I rose and told the canon to put on his clothes.
“No one must hear anything more of this,” said I, “but you and I will go to a distance of two hundred paces and burn a little powder.”
“No, no, sir,” cried my gentleman, “you may take me where you like, and kill me if you please, but I was not meant for a fighting man.”
“Yes, sir, and I only became a priest to escape the fatal duty of duelling.”
“Then you are a coward, and will not object to a good thrashing?”
“Anything you like, but it would be cruelty, for my love blinded me. I only came here a quarter of an hour ago, and the countess and her governess were both asleep.”
“You are a liar.”
“I had only just taken off my shirt when you came, and I have never seen this angel before.”
“And that’s gospel truth,” said the Corticelli.
“Are you aware that you are a couple of impudent scoundrels? And as for you, master canon, you deserve to be roasted like St. Laurence.”
In the meanwhile the wretched ecclesiastic had huddled on his clothes.
“Follow me, sir,” said I, in a tone which froze the marrow of his bones; and I accordingly took him to my room.
“What will you do,” said I, “if I forgive you and let you go without putting you to shame?”
“I will leave in an hour and a half, and you shall never see me here again; but even if we meet in the future, you will find me always ready to do you a service.”
“Very good. Begone, and in the future take more precautions in your amorous adventures.”
After this I went to bed, well pleased with what I had seen and what I had done, for I now had complete power over the Corticelli.
In the morning I called on her as soon as I got up, and told her to pack up her things, forbidding her to leave her room till she got into the carriage.
“I shall say I am ill.”
“Just as you please, but nobody will take any notice of you.”
I did not wait for her to make any further objections, but proceeded to tell the tale of what had passed to Madame d’Urfe, slightly embroidering the narrative. She laughed heartily, and enquired of the oracle what must be done with the Lascaris after her evident pollution by the evil genius disguised as a priest. The oracle replied that we must set out the next day for Besancon, whence she would go to Lyons and await me there, while I would take the countess to Geneva, and thus send her back to her native country.
The worthy visionary was enchanted with this arrangement, and saw in it another proof of the benevolence of Selenis, who would thus give her an opportunity of seeing young Aranda once more. It was agreed that I was to rejoin her in the spring of the following year, to perform the great operation which was to make her be born a man. She had not the slightest doubts as to the reasonableness of this performance.
All was ready, and the next day we started; Madame d’Urfe and I in the travelling carriage, and the Corticelli, her mother, and the servants in another conveyance.
When we got to Besancon Madame d’Urfe left me, and on the next day I journeyed towards Geneva with the mother and daughter.
On the way I not only did not speak to my companions, I did not so much as look at them. I made them have their meals with a servant from the Franche Comte, whom I had taken on M. de Schaumburg’s recommendation.
I went to my banker, and asked him to get me a good coachman, who would take two ladies of my acquaintance to Turin.
When I got back to the inn I wrote to the Chevalier Raiberti, sending him a bill of exchange. I warned him that in three or four days after the receipt of my letter he would be accosted by a Bolognese dancer and her mother, bearing a letter of commendation. I begged him to see that they lodged in a respectable house, and to pay for them on my behalf. I also said that I should be much obliged if he would contrive that she should dance, even for nothing, at the carnival, and I begged him to warn her that, if I heard any tales about her when I came to Turin, our relations would be at an end.
The following day a clerk of M. Tronchin’s brought a coachman for me to see. The man said he was ready to start as soon as he had had his dinner. I confirmed the agreement he had made with the banker, I summoned the two Corticellis, and said to the coachman,
“These are the persons you are to drive, and they will pay you when they reach Turin in safety with their luggage. You are to take four days and a half for the journey, as is stipulated in the agreement, of which they have one copy and you another.” An hour after he called to put the luggage in.
The Corticelli burst into tears, but I was not so cruel as to send her away without any consolation. Her bad conduct had been severely enough punished already. I made her dine with me, and as I gave her the letter for M. Raiberti, and twenty-five Louis for the journey, I told her what I had written to the gentleman, who would take good care of them. She asked me for a trunk containing three dresses and a superb mantle which Madame d’Urfe had given her before she became mad, but I said that we would talk of that at Turin. She dared not mention the casket, but continued weeping; however, she did not move me to pity. I left her much better off than when I first knew her; she had good clothes, good linen, jewels, and an exceedingly pretty watch I had given her; altogether a good deal more than she deserved.
As she was going I escorted her to the carriage, less for politeness’ sake than to commend her once more to the coachman. When she was fairly gone I felt as if a load had been taken off my back, and I went to look up my worthy syndic, whom the reader will not have forgotten. I had not written to him since I was in Florence, and I anticipated the pleasure of seeing his surprise, which was extreme. But after gazing at me for a moment he threw his arms round my neck, kissed me several times, and said he had not expected the pleasure of seeing me.
“How are our sweethearts getting on?”
“Excellently. They are always talking about you and regretting your absence; they will go wild with joy when they know you are here.”
“You must tell them directly, then.”
“I will go and warn them that we shall all sup together this evening. By the way, M. de Voltaire has given up his house at Delices to M. de Villars, and has gone to live at Ferney.”
“That makes no difference to me, as I was not thinking of calling on him this time. I shall be here for two or three weeks, and I mean to devote my time to you.”
“You are too good.”
“Will you give me writing materials before you go out? I will write a few letters while you are away.”
He put me in possession of his desk, and I wrote to my late housekeeper, Madame Lebel, telling her that I was going to spend three weeks at Geneva, and that if I were sure of seeing her I would gladly pay a visit to Lausanne. Unfortunately, I also wrote to the bad Genoese poet, Ascanio Pogomas, or Giaccomo Passano, whom I had met at Leghorn. I told him to go to Turin and to wait for me there. At the same time I wrote to M. F— — to whom I had commended him, asking him to give the poet twelve Louis for the journey.
My evil genius made me think of this man, who was an imposing- looking fellow, and had all the air of a magician, to introduce him to Madame d’Urfe as a great adept. You will see, dear reader, in the course of a year whether I had reason to repent of this fatal inspiration.
As the syndic and I were on our way to our young friend’s house I saw an elegant English carriage for sale, and I exchanged it for mine, giving the owner a hundred Louis as well. While the bargain was going on the uncle of the young theologian who argued so well, and to whom I had given such pleasant lessons in physiology, came up to me, embraced me, and asked me to dine with him the next day.
Before we got to the house the syndic informed me that we should find another extremely pretty but uninitiated girl present.
“All the better,” said I, “I shall know how to regulate my conduct, and perhaps I may succeed in initiating her.”
In my pocket I had placed a casket containing a dozen exquisite rings. I had long been aware that such trifling presents are often very serviceable.
The moment of meeting those charming girls once more was one of the happiest I have ever enjoyed. In their greeting I read delight and love of pleasure. Their love was without envy or jealousy, or any ideas which would have injured their self-esteem. They felt worthy of my regard, as they had lavished their favours on me without any degrading feelings, and drawn by the same emotion that had drawn me.
The presence of the neophyte obliged us to greet each other with what is called decency, and she allowed me to kiss her without raising her eyes, but blushing violently.
After the usual commonplaces had passed and we had indulged in some double meanings which made us laugh and her look thoughtful, I told her she was pretty as a little love, and that I felt sure that her mind, as beautiful as its casket, could harbour no prejudices.
“I have all the prejudices which honour and religion suggest,” she modestly replied.
I saw that this was a case requiring very delicate treatment. There was no question of carrying the citadel by sudden assault. But, as usual, I fell in love with her.
The syndic having pronounced my name, she said —
“Ah! then, you, sir, are the person who discussed some very singular questions with my cousin, the pastor’s niece. I am delighted to make your acquaintance.”
“I am equally pleased to make yours, but I hope the pastor’s niece said nothing against me.”
“Not at all; she has a very high opinion of you.”
“I am going to dine with her to-morrow, and I shall take care to thank her.”
“To-morrow! I should like to be there, for I enjoy philosophical discussions though I never dare to put a word in.”
The syndic praised her discretion and wisdom in such a manner that I was convinced he was in love with her, and that he had either seduced her or was trying to do so. Her name was Helen. I asked the young ladies if Helen was their sister. The eldest replied, with a sly smile, that she was a sister, but as yet she had no brother; and with this explanation she ran up to Helen and kissed her. Then the syndic and I vied with each other in paying her compliments, telling her that we hoped to be her brothers. She blushed, but gave no answer to our gallantries. I then drew forth my casket, and seeing that all the girls were enchanted with the rings, I told them to choose which ones they liked best. The charming Helen imitated their example, and repaid me with a modest kiss. Soon after she left us, and we were once more free, as in old times.
The syndic had good cause to shew for his love of Helen. She was not merely pleasing, she was made to inspire a violent passion. However, the three friends had no hope of making her join in their pleasures, for they said that she had invincible feelings of modesty where men were concerned.
We supped merrily, and after supper we began our sports again, the syndic remaining as usual a mere looker-on, and well pleased with his part. I treated each of the three nymphs to two courses, deceiving them whenever I was forced by nature to do so. At midnight we broke up, and the worthy syndic escorted me to the door of my lodging.
The day following I went to the pastor’s and found a numerous party assembled, amongst others M. d’Harcourt and M. de Ximenes, who told me that M. de Voltaire knew that I was at Geneva and hoped to see me. I replied by a profound bow. Mdlle. Hedvig, the pastor’s niece, complimented me, but I was still better pleased to see her cousin Helen. The theologian of twenty-two was fair and pleasant to the eyes, but she had not that ‘je ne sais quoi’, that shade of bitter-sweet, which adds zest to hope as well as pleasure. However, the evident friendship between Hedvig and Helen gave me good hopes of success with the latter.
We had an excellent dinner, and while it lasted the conversation was restricted to ordinary topics; but at dessert the pastor begged M. de Ximenes to ask his niece some questions. Knowing his worldwide reputation, I expected him to put her some problem in geometry, but he only asked whether a lie could be justified on the principle of a mental reservation.
Hedvig replied that there are cases in which a lie is necessary, but that the principle of a mental reservation is always a cheat.
“Then how could Christ have said that the time in which the world was to come to an end was unknown to Him?”
“He was speaking the truth; it was not known to Him.”
“Then he was not God?”
“That is a false deduction, for since God may do all things, He may certainly be ignorant of an event in futurity.”
I thought the way in which she brought in the word “futurity” almost sublime. Hedvig was loudly applauded, and her uncle went all round the table to kiss her. I had a very natural objection on the tip of my tongue, which she might have found difficult to answer, but I wanted to get into her good graces and I kept my own counsel.
M. d’Harcourt was urged to ask her some questions, but he replied in the words of Horace, ‘Nulla mihi religio est’. Then Hedvig turned to me and asked me to put her some hard question, “something difficult, which you don’t know yourself.”
“I shall be delighted. Do you grant that a god possesses in a supreme degree the qualities of man?”
“Yes, excepting man’s weaknesses.”
“Do you class the generative power as a weakness?”
“Will you tell me, then, of what nature would have been the offspring of a union between a god and a mortal woman?”
Hedvig looked as red as fire.
The pastor and the other guests looked at each other, while I gazed fixedly at the young theologian, who was reflecting. M. d’Harcourt said that we should have to send for Voltaire to settle a question so difficult, but as Hedvig had collected her thoughts and seemed ready to speak everybody was silent.
“It would be absurd,” said she, “to suppose that a deity could perform such an action without its having any results. At the end of nine months a woman would be delivered a male child, which would be three parts man and one part god.”
At these words all the guests applauded, M. de Ximenes expressed his admiration of the way the question had been solved, adding —
“Naturally, if the son of the woman married, his children would be seven-eighths men and one-eighth gods.”
“Yes,” said I, “unless he married a goddess, which would have made the proportion different.”
“Tell me exactly,” said Hedvig, “what proportion of divinity there would be in a child of the sixteenth generation.”
“Give me a pencil and I will soon tell you,” said M. de Ximenes.
“There is no need to calculate it,” said I; “the child would have some small share of the wit which you enjoy.”
Everybody applauded this gallant speech, which did not by any means offend the lady to whom it was addressed.
This pretty blonde was chiefly desirable for the charms of her intellect. We rose from the table and made a circle round her, but she told us with much grace not to pay her any more compliments.
I took Helen aside, and told her to get her cousin to choose a ring from my casket, which I gave her, and she seemed glad to execute the commission. A quarter of an hour afterwards Hedvig came to shew me her hand adorned with the ring she had chosen. I kissed it rapturously, and she must have guessed from the warmth of my kisses with what feelings she had inspired me.
In the evening Helen told the syndic and the three girls all about the morning’s discussion without leaving out the smallest detail. She told the story with ease and grace, and I had no occasion to prompt her. We begged her to stay to supper, but she whispered something to the three friends, and they agreed that it was impossible; but she said that she might spend a couple of days with them in their country house on the lake, if they would ask her mother.
At the syndic’s request the girls called on the mother the next day, and the day after that they went off with Helen. The same evening we went and supped with them, but we could not sleep there. The syndic was to take me to a house at a short distance off, where we should be very comfortable. This being the case there was no hurry, and the eldest girl said that the syndic and I could leave whenever we liked, but that they were going to bed. So saying she took Helen to her room, while the two others slept in another room. Soon after the syndic went into the room where Helen was, and I visited the two others.
I had scarcely been with my two sweethearts for an hour when the syndic interrupted my erotic exploits by begging me to go.
“What have you done with Helen?” I asked.
“Nothing; she’s a simpleton, and an intractable one. She hid under the sheets and would not look at my performance with her friend.”
“You ought to go to her direct.”
“I have done so, but she repulsed me again and again. I have given it up, and shall not try it again, unless you will tame her for me.”
“How is it to be done?”
“Come to dinner to-morrow. I shall be away at Geneva. I shall be back by supper-time. I wish we could give her too much to drink!”
“That would be a pity. Let me see what I can do.”
I accordingly went to dine with them by myself the next day, and they entertained me in all the force of the word. After dinner we went for a walk, and the three friends understanding my aims left me alone with the intractable girl, who resisted my caresses in a manner which almost made me give up the hope of taming her.
“The syndic,” said I, “is in love with you, and last night . . .
“Last night,” she said, “he amused himself with his old friend. I am for everyone’s following their own tastes, but I expect to be allowed to follow mine.”
“If I could gain your heart I should be happy.”
“Why don’t you invite the pastor and my cousin to dine with you? I could come too, for the pastor makes much of everyone who loves his niece.”
“I am glad to hear that. Has she a lover?”
“I can scarcely believe it. She is young, pretty, agreeable, and very clever.”
“You don’t understand Genevan ways. It is because she is so clever that no young man falls in love with her. Those who might be attracted by her personal charms hold themselves aloof on account of her intellectual capacities, as they would have to sit in silence before her.”
“Are the young Genevans so ignorant, then?”
“As a rule they are. Some of them have received excellent educations, but in a general way they are full of prejudice. Nobody wishes to be considered a fool or a blockhead, but clever women are not appreciated; and if a girl is witty or well educated she endeavors to hide her lights, at least if she desires to be married.”
“Ah! now I see why you did not open your lips during our discussion.”
“No, I know I have nothing to hide. This was not the motive which made me keep silence, but the pleasure of listening. I admired my cousin, who was not afraid to display her learning on a subject which any other girl would have affected to know nothing about.”
“Yes, affected, though she might very probably know as much as her grandmother.”
“That’s a matter of morals, or rather of prejudices.”
“Your reasoning is admirable, and I am already longing for the party you so cleverly suggested:”
“You will have the pleasure of being with my cousin.”
“I do her justice. Hedvig is certainly a very interesting and agreeable girl, but believe me it is your presence that will constitute my chief enjoyment.”
“And how if I do not believe you?”
“You would wrong me and give me pain, for I love you dearly.”
“In spite of that you have deceived me. I am sure that you have given marks of your affection to those three young ladies. For my part I pity them.”
“Because neither of them can flatter herself that you love her, and her alone.”
“And do you think that your delicacy of feeling makes you happier than they are?”
“Yes, I think so though of course, I have no experience in the matter. Tell me truly, do you think I am right?”
“Yes, I do.”
“I am delighted to hear it; but you must confess that to associate me with them in your attentions would not be giving me the greatest possible proof of your love.”
“Yes, I do confess it, and I beg your pardon. But tell me how I should set to work to ask the pastor to dinner.”
“There will be no difficulty. Just call on him and ask him to come, and if you wish me to be of the party beg him to ask my mother and myself.”
“Why your mother?”
“Because he has been in love with her these twenty years, and loves her still.”
“And where shall I give this dinner?”
“Is not M. Tronchin your banker?”
“He has a nice pleasure house on the lake; ask him to lend it you for the day; he will be delighted to do so. But don’t tell the syndic or his three friends anything about it; they can hear of it afterwards.”
“But do you think your learned cousin will be glad to be in my company?”
“More than glad, you may be sure.”
“Very good, everything will be arranged by tomorrow. The day after, you will be returning to Geneva, and the party will take place two or three days later.”
The syndic came back in due course, and we had a very pleasant evening. After supper the ladies went to bed as before, and I went with the eldest girl while the syndic visited the two younger ones. I knew that it would be of no use to try to do anything with Helen, so I contented myself with a few kisses, after which I wished them good night and passed on to the next room. I found them in a deep sleep, and the syndic seemed visibly bored. He did not look more cheerful when I told him that I had had no success with Helen.
“I see,” said he, “that I shall waste my time with the little fool. I think I shall give her up.”
“I think that’s the best thing you could do,” I replied, “for a man who languishes after a woman who is either devoid of feeling or full of caprice, makes himself her dupe. Bliss should be neither too easy nor too hard to be won.”
The next day we returned to Geneva, and M. Tronchin seemed delighted to oblige me. The pastor accepted my invitation, and said I was sure to be charmed with Helen’s mother. It was easy to see that the worthy man cherished a tenderness for her, and if she responded at all it would be all the better for my purposes.
I was thinking of supping with the charming Helen and her three friends at the house on the lake, but an express summoned me to Lausanne. Madame Lebel, my old housekeeper, invited me to sup with her and her husband. She wrote that she had made her husband promise to take her to Lausanne as soon as she got my letter, and she added she was sure that I would resign everything to give her the pleasure of seeing me. She notified the hour at which she would be at her mother’s house.
Madame Lebel was one of the ten or twelve women for whom in my happy youth I cherished the greatest affection. She had all the qualities to make a man a good wife, if it had been my fate to experience such felicity. But perhaps I did well not to tie myself down with irrevocable bonds, though now my independence is another name for slavery. But if I had married a woman of tact, who would have ruled me unawares to myself, I should have taken care of my fortune and have had children, instead of being lonely and penniless in my old age.
But I must indulge no longer in digressions on the past which cannot be recalled, and since my recollections make me happy I should be foolish to cherish idle regrets.
I calculated that if I started directly I should get to Lausanne an hour before Madame Lebel, and I did not hesitate to give her this proof of my regard. I must here warn my readers, that, though I loved this woman well, I was then occupied with another passion, and no voluptuous thought mingled with my desire of seeing her. My esteem for her was enough to hold my passions in check, but I esteemed Lebel too, and nothing would have induced me to disturb the happiness of this married pair.
I wrote in haste to the syndic, telling him that an important and sudden call obliged me to start for Lausanne, but that I should have the pleasure of supping with him and his three friends at Geneva on the following day.
I knocked at Madame Dubois’s door at five o’clock, almost dying with hunger. Her surprise was extreme, for she did not know that her daughter was going to meet me at her house. Without more ado I gave her two louis to get us a good supper.
At seven o’clock, Madame Lebel, her husband, and a child of eighteen months, whom I easily recognized as my own, arrived. Our meeting was a happy one indeed; we spent ten hours at table, and mirth and joy prevailed. At day-break she started for Soleure, where Lebel had business. M. de Chavigni had desired to be remembered most affectionately to me. Lebel assured me that the ambassador was extremely kind to his wife, and he thanked me heartily for having given such a woman up to him. I could easily see that he was a happy husband, and that his wife was as happy as he.
My dear housekeeper talked to me about my son. She said that nobody suspected the truth, but that neither she nor Lebel (who had faithfully kept his promise, and had not consummated the marriage for the two months agreed upon) had any doubts.
“The secret,” said Lebel to me, “will never be known, and your son will be my sole heir, or will share my property with my children if I ever have any, which I doubt.”
“My dear,” said his wife, “there is somebody who has very strong suspicions on the subject, and these suspicions will gain strength as the child grows older; but we have nothing to fear on that score, as she is well paid to keep the secret.”
“And who is this person?” said I.
“Madame ——. She has not forgotten the past, and often speaks of you.”
“Will you kindly remember me to her?”
“I shall be delighted to do so, and I am sure the message will give her great pleasure.”
Lebel shewed me my ring, and I shewed him his, and gave him a superb watch for my son.
“You must give it him,” I said, “when you think he is old enough.”
We shall hear of the young gentleman in twenty-one years at Fontainebleau.
I passed three hours in telling them of all the adventures I had during the twenty-seven months since we had seen one another. As to their history, it was soon told; it had all the calm which belongs to happiness.
Madame Lebel was as pretty as ever, and I could see no change in her, but I was no longer the same man. She thought me less lively than of old, and she was right. The Renaud had blasted me, and the pretended Lascaris had given me a great deal of trouble and anxiety.
We embraced each other tenderly, and the wedded pair returned to Soleure and I to Geneva; but feeling that I wanted rest I wrote to the syndic that I was not well and could not come till the next day, and after I had done so I went to bed.
The next day, the eve of my dinner party, I ordered a repast in which no expense was to be spared. I did not forget to tell the landlord to get me the best wines, the choicest liqueurs, ices, and all the materials for a bowl of punch. I told him that we should be six in number, for I foresaw that M. Tronchin would dine with us. I was right; I found him at his pretty house ready to receive us, and I had not much trouble in inducing him to stay. In the evening I thought it as well to tell the syndic and his three friends about it in Helen’s presence, while she, feigning ignorance, said that her mother had told her they were going somewhere or other to dinner.
“I am delighted to hear it,” said I; “it must be at M. Tronchin’s.”
My dinner would have satisfied the most exacting gourmet, but Hedvig was its real charm. She treated difficult theological questions with so much grace, and rationalised so skilfully, that though one might not be convinced it was impossible to help being attracted. I have never seen any theologian who could treat the most difficult points with so much facility, eloquence, and real dignity, and at dinner she completed her conquest of myself. M. Tronchin, who had never heard her speak before, thanked me a hundred times for having procured him this pleasure, and being obliged to leave us by the call of business he asked us to meet again in two days’ time.
I was much interested during the dessert by the evident tenderness of the pastor for Helen’s mother. His amorous eloquence grew in strength as he irrigated his throat with champagne, Greek wine, and eastern liqueurs. The lady seemed pleased, and was a match for him as far as drinking was concerned, while the two girls and myself only drank with sobriety. However, the mixture of wines, and above all the punch, had done their work, and my charmers were slightly elevated. Their spirits were delightful, but rather pronounced.
I took this favourable opportunity to ask the two aged lovers if I might take the young ladies for a walk in the garden by the lake, and they told us enthusiastically to go and enjoy ourselves. We went out arm in arm, and in a few minutes we were out of sight of everyone.
“Do you know,” said I to Hedvig, “that you have made a conquest of M. Tronchin?”
“Have I? The worthy banker asked me some very silly questions.”
“You must not expect everyone to be able to contend with you.”
“I can’t help telling you that your question pleased me best of all. A bigoted theologian at the end of the table seemed scandalized at the question and still more at the answer.”
“He says I ought to have told you that a deity could not impregnate a woman. He said that he would explain the reason to me if I were a man, but being a woman and a maid he could not with propriety expound such mysteries. I wish you would tell me what the fool meant.”
“I should be very glad, but you must allow me to speak plainly, and I shall have to take for granted that you are acquainted with the physical conformation of a man.”
“Yes, speak as plainly as you like, for there is nobody to hear what we say; but I must confess that I am only acquainted with the peculiarities of the male by theory and reading. I have no practical knowledge. I have seen statues, but I have never seen or examined a real live man. Have you, Helen?”
“I have never wished to do so.”
“Why not? It is good to know everything.”
“Well, Hedvig, your theologian meant to say that a god was not capable of this.”
“What is that?”
“Give me your hand.”
“I can feel it, and have thought it would be something like that; without this provision of nature man would not be able to fecundate his mate. And how could the foolish theologian maintain that this was an imperfection?”
“Because it is the result of desire, Hedvig, and it would not have taken place in me if I had not been charmed with you, and if I had not conceived the most seducing ideas of the beauties that I cannot see from the view of the beauties I can see. Tell me frankly whether feeling that did not give you an agreeable sensation.”
“It did, and just in the place where your hand is now. Don’t you feel a pleasant tickling there, Helen, after what the gentleman has been saying to us?”
“Yes, I feel it, but I often do, without anything to excite me.”
“And then,” said I, “nature makes you appease it . . . thus?”
“Not at all.”
“Oh, yes!” said Hedvig. “Even when we are asleep our hands seek that spot as if by instinct, and if it were not for that solace I think we should get terribly ill.”
As this philosophical discourse, conducted by the young theologian in quite a professional manner, proceeded, we reached a beautiful basin of water, with a flight of marble steps for bathers. Although the air was cool our heads were hot, and I conceived the idea of telling them that it would do them good to bathe their feet, and that if they would allow me I would take off their shoes and stockings.
“I should like to so much,” said Hedvig.
“And I too,” said Helen.
“Then sit down, ladies, on the first step.”
They proceeded to sit down and I began to take off their shoes, praising the beauty of their legs, and pretending for the present not to want to go farther than the knee. When they got into the water they were obliged to pick up their clothes, and I encouraged them to do so.
“Well, well,” said Hedvig, “men have thighs too.”
Helen, who would have been ashamed to be beaten by her cousin, was not backward in shewing her legs.
“That will do, charming maids,” said I, “you might catch cold if you stayed longer in the water.”
They walked up backwards, still holding up their clothes for fear of wetting them, and it was then my duty to wipe them dry with all the handkerchiefs I had. This pleasant task left me at freedom to touch and see, and the reader will imagine that I did my best in that direction. The fair theologian told me I wanted to know too much, but Helen let me do what I liked with such a tender and affectionate expression that it was as much as I could do to keep within bounds. At last, when I had drawn on their shoes and stockings, I told them that I was delighted to have seen the hidden charms of the two prettiest girls in Geneva.
“What effect had it on you?” asked Hedvig.
“I daren’t tell you to look, but feel, both of you.”
“Do you bathe, too.”
“It’s out of the question, a man’s undressing takes so much trouble.”
“But we have still two hours before us, in which we need not fear any interruption.”
This reply gave me a foretaste of the bliss I had to gain, but I did not wish to expose myself to an illness by going into the water in my present state. I noticed a summer-house at a little distance, and feeling sure that M. Tronchin had left the door open, I took the two girls on my arm and led them there without giving them any hint of my intentions. The summer-house was scented with vases of pot-pourri and adorned with engravings; but, best of all, there was a large couch which seemed made for repose and pleasure. I sat down on it between my two sweethearts, and as I caressed them I told them I was going to shew them something they had never seen before, and without more ado I displayed to their gaze the principal agent in the preservation of the human race. They got up to admire it, and taking a hand of each one I procured them some enjoyment, but in the middle of their labours an abundant flow of liquid threw them into the greatest astonishment.
“That,” said I, “is the Word which makes men.”
“It’s beautiful!” cried Helen, laughing at the term “word.”
“I have a word too,” said Hedvig, “and I will shew it to you if you will wait a minute.”
“Come, Hedvig, and I will save you the trouble of making it yourself, and will do it better.”
“I daresay, but I have never done it with a man.”
“No more have I,” said Helen.
Placing them in front of me I gave them another ecstacy. We then sat down, and while I felt all their charms I let them touch me as much as they liked till I watered their hands a second time.
We made ourselves decent once more, and spent half an hour in kisses and caresses, and I then told them that they had made me happy only in part, but that I hoped they would make my bliss complete by presenting me with their maidenheads. I shewed them the little safety-bags invented by the English in the interests of the fair sex. They admired them greatly when I explained their use, and the fair theologian remarked to her cousin that she would think it over. We were now close friends, and soon promised to be something more; and we walked back and found the pastor and Helen’s mother strolling by the side of the lake.
When I got back to Geneva I went to spend the evening with the three friends, but I took good care not to tell the syndic anything about my victory with Helen. It would only have served to renew his hopes, and he would have had this trouble for nothing. Even I would have done no good without the young theologian; but as Helen admired her she did not like to appear her inferior by refusing to imitate her freedom.
I did not see Helen that evening, but I saw her the next day at her mother’s house, for I was in mere politeness bound to thank the old lady for the honour she had done me. She gave me a most friendly reception, and introduced me to two very pretty girls who were boarding with her. They might have interested me if I had been stopping long in Geneva, but as if was Helen claimed all my attraction.
“To-morrow,” said the charming girl, “I shall be able to get a word with you at Madame Tronchin’s dinner, and I expect Hedvig will have hit on some way for you to satisfy your desires.”
The banker gave us an excellent dinner. He proudly told me that no inn-keeper could give such a good dinner as a rich gentleman who has a good cook, a good cellar, good silver plate, and china of the best quality. We were twenty of us at table, and the feast was given chiefly in honour of the learned theologian and myself, as a rich foreigner who spent money freely. M. de Ximenes, who had just arrived from Ferney was there, and told me that M. de Voltaire was expecting me, but I had foolishly determined not to go.
Hedvig shone in solving the questions put to her by the company. M. de Ximenes begged her to justify as best she could our first mother, who had deceived her husband by giving him the fatal apple to eat.
“Eve,” she said, “did not deceive her husband, she only cajoled him into eating it in the hope of giving him one more perfection. Besides Eve had not been forbidden to eat the fruit by God, but only by Adam, and in all probability her woman’s sense prevented her regarding the prohibition as serious.”
At this reply, which I found full of sense and wit, two scholars from Geneva and even Hedvig’s uncle began to murmur and shake their heads. Madame Tronchin said gravely that Eve had received the prohibition from God himself, but the girl only answered by a humble “I beg your pardon, madam.” At this she turned to the pastor with a frightened manner, and said —
“What do you say to this?”
“Madam, my niece is not infallible.”
“Excuse me, dear uncle, I am as infallible as Holy Writ when I speak according to it.”
“Bring a Bible, and let me see.”
“Hedvig, my dear Hedvig, you are right after all. Here it is. The prohibition was given before woman was made.”
Everybody applauded, but Hedvig remained quite calm; it was only the two scholars and Madame Tronchin who still seemed disturbed. Another lady then asked her if it was allowable to believe the history of the apple to be symbolical. She replied —
“I do not think so, because it could only be a symbol of sexual union, and it is clear that such did not take place between Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.”
“The learned differ on this point.”
“All the worse for them, madam, the Scripture is plain enough. In the first verse of the fourth chapter it is written, that Adam knew his wife after they had been driven from the Garden, and that in consequence she conceived Cain.”
“Yes, but the verse does not say that Adam did not know her before and consequently he might have done so.”
“I cannot admit the inference, as in that case she would have conceived; for it would be absurd to suppose that two creatures who had just left God’s hands, and were consequently as nearly perfect as is possible, could perform the act of generation without its having any result.”
This reply gained everyone’s applause, and compliments to Hedvig made the round of the table.
Mr. Tronchin asked her if the doctrine of the immortality of the soul could be gathered from the Old Testament alone.
“The Old Testament,” she replied, “does not teach this doctrine; but, nevertheless, human reason teaches it, as the soul is a substance, and the destruction of any substance is an unthinkable proposition.”
“Then I will ask you,” said the banker, “if the existence of the soul is established in the Bible.”
“Where there is smoke there is always fire.”
“Tell me, then, if matter can think.”
“I cannot answer that question, for it is beyond my knowledge. I can only say that as I believe God to be all powerful, I cannot deny Him the power to make matter capable of thought.”
“But what is your own opinion?”
“I believe that I have a soul endowed with thinking capacities, but I do not know whether I shall remember that I had the honour of dining with you to-day after I die.”
“Then you think that the soul and the memory may be separable; but in that case you would not be a theologian.”
“One may be a theologian and a philosopher, for philosophy never contradicts any truth, and besides, to say ‘I do not know’ is not the same as ‘I am sure’”
Three parts of the guests burst into cries of admiration, and the fair philosopher enjoyed seeing me laugh for pleasure at the applause. The pastor wept for joy, and whispered something to Helen’s mother. All at once he turned to me, saying —
“Ask my niece some question.”
“Yes,” said Hedvig, “but it must be something quite new.”
“That is a hard task,” I replied, “for how am I to know that what I ask is new to you? However, tell me if one must stop at the first principle of a thing one wants to understand.”
“Certainly, and the reason is that in God there is no first principle, and He is therefore incomprehensible.”
“God be praised! that is how I would have you answer. Can God have any self-consciousness?”
“There my learning is baffled. I know not what to reply. You should not ask me so hard a thing as that.”
“But you wished for something new. I thought the newest thing would be to see you at a loss.”
“That’s prettily said. Be kind enough to reply for me, gentlemen, and teach me what to say.”
Everybody tried to answer, but nothing was said worthy of record. Hedvig at last said —
“My opinion is that since God knows all, He knows of His own existence, but you must not ask me how He knows it.”
“That’s well said,” I answered; and nobody could throw any further light on the matter.
All the company looked on me as a polite Atheist, so superficial is the judgment of society, but it did not matter to me whether they thought me an Atheist or not.
M. de Ximenes asked Hedvig if matter had been created.
“I cannot recognize the word ‘created,’” she replied. “Ask me whether matter was formed, and I shall reply in the affirmative. The word ‘created’ cannot have existence, for the existence of anything must be prior to the word which explains it.”
“Then what meaning do you assign to the word ‘created’?”
“Made out of nothing. You see the absurdity, for nothing must have first existed. I am glad to see you laugh. Do you think that nothingness could be created?”
“You are right.”
“Not at all, not at all,” said one of the guests, superciliously.
“Kindly tell me who was your teacher?” said M. de Ximenes.
“My uncle there.”
“Not at all, my dear niece. I certainly never taught you what you have been telling us to-day. But my niece, gentlemen, reads and reflects over what she has read, perhaps with rather too much freedom, but I love her all the same, because she always ends by acknowledging that she knows nothing.”
A lady who had not opened her lips hitherto asked Hedvig for a definition of spirit.
“Your question is a purely philosophical one, and I must answer that I do not know enough of spirit or matter to be able to give a satisfactory definition.”
“But since you acknowledge the existence of Deity and must therefore have an abstract idea of spirit, you must have some notions on the subject, and should be able to tell me how it acts on matter.”
“No solid foundation can be built on abstract ideas. Hobbes calls such ideas mere fantasms. One may have them, but if one begins to reason on them, one is landed in contradiction. I know that God sees me, but I should labour in vain if I endeavoured to prove it by reasoning, for reason tells us no one can see anything without organs of sight; and God being a pure spirit, and therefore without organs, it is scientifically impossible that He can see us any more than we can see Him. But Moses and several others have seen Him, and I believe it so, without attempting to reason on it.”
“You are quite right,” said I, “for you would be confronted by blank impossibility. But if you take to reading Hobbes you are in danger of becoming an Atheist.”
“I am not afraid of that. I cannot conceive the possibility of Atheism.”
After dinner everybody crowded round this truly astonishing girl, so that I had no opportunity of whispering my love. However, I went apart with Helen, who told me that the pastor and his niece were going to sup with her mother the following day.
“Hedvig,” she added, “will stay the night and sleep with me as she always does when she comes to supper with her uncle. It remains to be seen if you are willing to hide in a place I will shew you at eleven o’clock tomorrow, in order to sleep with us. Call on my mother at that hour to-morrow, and I will find an opportunity of shewing you where it is. You will be safe though not comfortable, and if you grow weary you can console yourself by thinking that you are in our minds.”
“Shall I have to stay there long?”
“Four hours at the most. At seven o’clock the street door is shut, and only opened to anyone who rings.”
“If I happen to cough while I am in hiding might I be heard?”
“Yes, that might happen.”
“There’s a great hazard. All the rest is of no consequence; but no matter, I will risk all for the sake of so great happiness.”
In the morning I paid the mother a visit, and as Helen was escorting me out she shewed me a door between the two stairs.
“At seven o’clock,” said she, “the door will be open, and when you are in put on the bolt. Take care that no one sees you as you are entering the house.”
At a quarter to seven I was already a prisoner. I found a seat in my cell, otherwise I should neither have been able to lie down or to stand up. It was a regular hole, and I knew by my sense of smell that hams and cheeses were usually kept there; but it contained none at present, for I fell all round to see how the land lay. As I was cautiously stepping round I felt my foot encounter some resistance, and putting down my hand I recognized the feel of linen. It was a napkin containing two plates, a nice roast fowl, bread, and a second napkin. Searching again I came across a bottle and a glass. I was grateful to my charmers for having thought of my stomach, but as I had purposely made a late and heavy meal I determined to defer the consumption of my cold collation till a later hour.
At nine o’clock I began, and as I had neither a knife nor a corkscrew I was obliged to break the neck of the bottle with a brick which I was fortunately able to detach from the mouldering floor. The wine was delicious old Neuchatel, and the fowl was stuffed with truffles, and I felt convinced that my two nymphs must have some rudimentary ideas on the subject of stimulants. I should have passed the time pleasantly enough if it had not been for the occasional visits of a rat, who nearly made me sick with his disgusting odour. I remembered that I had been annoyed in the same way at Cologne under somewhat similar circumstances.
At last ten o’clock struck, and I heard the pastor’s voice as he came downstairs talking; he warned the girls not to play any tricks together, and to go to sleep quietly. That brought back to my memory M. Rose leaving Madame Orio’s house at Venice twenty-two years before; and reflecting on my character I found myself much changed, though not more reasonable; but if I was not so sensible to the charms of the sex, the two beauties who were awaiting me were much superior to Madame Orio’s nieces.
In my long and profligate career in which I have turned the heads of some hundreds of ladies, I have become familiar with all the methods of seduction; but my guiding principle has been never to direct my attack against novices or those whose prejudices were likely to prove an obstacle except in the presence of another woman. I soon found out that timidity makes a girl averse to being seduced, while in company with another girl she is easily conquered; the weakness of the one brings on the fall of the other. Fathers and mothers are of the contrary opinion, but they are in the wrong. They will not trust their daughter to take a walk or go to a ball with a young man, but if she has another girl with her there is no difficulty made. I repeat, they are in the wrong; if the young man has the requisite skill their daughter is a lost woman. A feeling of false shame hinders them from making an absolute and determined resistance, and the first step once taken the rest comes inevitably and quickly. The girl grants some small favour, and immediately makes her friend grant a much greater one to hide her own blushes; and if the seducer is clever at his trade the young innocent will soon have gone too far to be able to draw back. Besides the more innocence a girl has, the less she knows of the methods of seduction. Before she has had time to think, pleasure attracts her, curiosity draws her a little farther, and opportunity does the rest.
For example, I might possibly have been able to seduce Hedvig without Helen, but I am certain I should never have succeeded with Helen if she had not seen her cousin take liberties with me which she no doubt thought contrary to the feelings of modesty which a respectable young woman ought to have.
Though I do not repent of my amorous exploits, I am far from wishing that my example should serve for the perversion of the fair sex, who have so many claims on my homage. I desire that what I say may be a warning to fathers and mothers, and secure me a place in their esteem at any rate.
Soon after the pastor had gone I heard three light knocks on my prison door. I opened it, and my hand was folded in a palm as soft as satin. All my being was moved. It was Helen’s hand, and that happy moment had already repaid me for my long waiting.
“Follow me on tiptoe,” she whispered, as soon as she had shut the door; but in my impatience I clasped her in my arms, and made her feel the effect which her mere presence had produced on me, while at the same time I assured myself of her docility. “There,” she said, “now come upstairs softly after me.”
I followed her as best I could in the darkness, and she took me along a gallery into a dark room, and then into a lighted one which contained Hedvig almost in a state of nudity. She came to me with open arms as soon as she saw me, and, embracing me ardently, expressed her gratitude for my long and dreary imprisonment.
“Divine Hedvig,” I answered, “if I had not loved you madly I would not have stayed a quarter of an hour in that dismal cell, but I am ready to spend four hours there every day till I leave Geneva for your sake. But we must not lose any time; let us go to bed.”
“Do you two go to bed,” said Helen; “I will sleep on the sofa.”
“No, no,” cried Hedvig, “don’t think of it; our fate must be exactly equal.”
“Yes, darling Helen,” said I, embracing her; “I love you both with equal ardour, and these ceremonies are only wasting the time in which I ought to be assuring you of my passion. Imitate my proceedings. I am going to undress, and then I shall lie in the middle of the bed. Come and lie beside me, and I’ll shew you how I love you. If all is safe I will remain with you till you send me away, but whatever you do do not put out the light.”
In the twinkling of an eye, discussing the theory of shame the while with the theological Hedvig, I presented myself to their gaze in the costume of Adam. Hedvig blushed and parted with the last shred of her modesty, citing the opinion of St. Clement Alexandrinus that the seat of shame is in the shirt. I praised the charming perfection of her shape, in the hope of encouraging Helen, who was slowly undressing herself; but an accusation of mock modesty from her cousin had more effect than all my praises. At last this Venus stood before me in a state of nature, covering her most secret parts with her hand, and hiding one breast with the other, and appearing woefully ashamed of what she could not conceal. Her modest confusion, this strife between departing modesty and rising passion, enchanted me.
Hedvig was taller than Helen; her skin was whiter, and her breasts double the size of Helen’s; but in Helen there was more animation, her shape was more gently moulded, and her breast might have been the model for the Venus de Medicis.
She got bolder by degrees, and we spent some moments in admiring each other, and then we went to bed. Nature spoke out loudly, and all we wanted was to satisfy its demands. With much coolness I made a woman of Hedvig, and when all was over she kissed me and said that the pain was nothing in comparison with the pleasure.
The turn of Helen (who was six years younger than Hedvig) now came, but the finest fleece that I have ever seen was not won without difficulty. She was jealous of her cousin’s success, and held it open with her two hands; and though she had to submit to great pain before being initiated into the amorous mysteries, her sighs were sighs of happiness, as she responded to my ardent efforts. Her great charms and the vivacity of her movements shortened the sacrifice, and when I left the sanctuary my two sweethearts saw that I needed repose.
The alter was purified of the blood of the victims, and we all washed, delighted to serve one another.
Life returned to me under their curious fingers, and the sight filled them with joy. I told them that I wished to enjoy them every night till I left Geneva, but they told me sadly that this was impossible.
“In five or six days time, perhaps, the opportunity may recur again, but that will be all.”
“Ask us to sup at your inn to-morrow,” said Hedvig; “and maybe, chance will favour the commission of a sweet felony.”
I followed this advice.
I overwhelmed them with happiness for several hours, passing five or six times from one to the other before I was exhausted. In the intervals, seeing them to be docile and desirous, I made them execute Aretin’s most complicated postures, which amused them beyond words. We kissed whatever took our fancy, and just as Hedvig applied her lips to the mouth of the pistol, it went off and the discharge inundated her face and her bosom. She was delighted, and watched the process to the end with all the curiosity of a doctor. The night seemed short, though we had not lost a moment’s time, and at daybreak we had to part. I left them in bed and I was fortunate enough to get away without being observed.
I slept till noon, and then having made my toilette I went to call on the pastor, to whom I praised Hedvig to the skies. This was the best way to get him to come to supper at Balances the next day.
“We shall be in the town,” said I, “and can remain together as long as we please, but do not forget to bring the amiable widow and her charming daughter.”
He promised he would bring them both.
In the evening I went to see the syndic and his three friends, who naturally found me rather insensible to their charms. I excused myself by saying that I had a bad headache. I told them that I had asked the young theologian to supper, and invited the girls and the syndic to come too; but, as I had foreseen, the latter would not hear of their going as it would give rise to gossip.
I took care that the most exquisite wines should form an important feature of my supper. The pastor and the widow were both sturdy drinkers, and I did my best to please them. When I saw that they were pretty mellow and were going over their old recollections, I made a sign to the girls, and they immediately went out as if to go to a retiring-room. Under pretext of shewing them the way I went out too, and took them into a room telling them to wait for me.
I went back to the supper-room, and finding the old friends taken up with each other and scarcely conscious of my presence, I gave them some punch, and told them that I would keep the young ladies company; they were looking at some pictures, I explained. I lost no time, and shewed them some extremely interesting sights. These stolen sweets have a wonderful charm. When we were to some extent satisfied, we went back, and I plied the punch-ladle more and more freely. Helen praised the pictures to her mother, and asked her to come and look at them.
“I don’t care to,” she replied.
“Well,” said Helen, “let us go and see them again.”
I thought this stratagem admissible, and going out with my two sweethearts I worked wonders. Hedvig philosophised over pleasure, and told me she would never have known it if I had not chanced to meet her uncle. Helen did not speak; she was more voluptuous than her cousin, and swelled out like a dove, and came to life only to expire a moment afterwards. I wondered at her astonishing fecundity; while I was engaged in one operation she passed from death to life fourteen times. It is true that it was the sixth time with me, so I made my progress rather slower to enjoy the pleasure she took in it.
Before we parted I agreed to call on Helen’s mother every day to ascertain the night I could spend with them before I left Geneva. We broke up our party at two o’clock in the morning.
Three or four days after, Helen told me briefly that Hedvig was to sleep with her that night, and that she would leave the door open at the same time as before.
“I will be there.”
“And I will be there to shut you up, but you cannot have a light as the servant might see it.”
I was exact to the time, and when ten o’clock struck they came to fetch me in high glee.
“I forgot to tell you,” said Helen, “that you would find a fowl there.”
I felt hungry, and made short work of it, and then we gave ourselves up to happiness.
I had to set out on my travels in two days. I had received a couple of letters from M. Raiberti. In the first he told me that he had followed my instructions as to the Corticelli, and in the second that she would probably he paid for dancing at the carnival as first ‘figurante’. I had nothing to keep me at Geneva, and Madame d’Urfe, according to our agreement, would be waiting for me at Lyons. I was therefore obliged to go there. Thus the night that I was to pass with my two charmers would be my last.
My lessons had taken effect, and I found they had become past mistresses in the art of pleasure. But now and again joy gave place to sadness.
“We shall be wretched, sweetheart,” said Hedvig, “and if you like we will come with you.”
“I promise to come and see you before two years have expired,” said I; and in fact they had not so long to wait.
We fell asleep at midnight, and waking at four renewed our sweet battles till six o’clock. Half an hour after I left them, worn out with my exertions, and I remained in bed all day. In the evening I went to see the syndic and his young friends. I found Helen there, and she was cunning enough to feign not to be more vexed at my departure than the others, and to further the deception she allowed the syndic to kiss her. I followed suit, and begged her to bid farewell for me to her learned cousin and to excuse my taking leave of her in person.
The next day I set out in the early morning, and on the following day I reached Lyons. Madame d’Urfe was not there, she had gone to an estate of hers at Bresse. I found a letter in which she said that she would be delighted to see me, and I waited on her without losing any time.
She greeted me with her ordinary cordiality, and I told her that I was going to Turin to meet Frederic Gualdo, the head of the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross, and I revealed to her by the oracle that he would come with me to Marseilles, and that there he would complete her happiness. After having received this oracle she would not go to Paris before she saw us. The oracle also bade her wait for me at Lyons with young d’Aranda; who begged me to take him with me to Turin. It may be imagined that I succeeded in putting him off.
Madame d’Urfe had to wait a fortnight to get me fifty thousand francs which I might require on my journey. In the course of this fortnight I made the acquaintance of Madame Pernon, and spent a good deal of money with her husband, a rich mercer, in refurnishing my wardrobe. Madame Pernon was handsome and intelligent. She had a Milanese lover, named Bono, who did business for a Swiss banker named Sacco. It was through Madame Peron that Bono got Madame d’Urfe the fifty thousand francs I required. She also gave me the three dresses which she had promised to the Countess of Lascaris, but which that lady had never seen.
One of these dresses was furred, and was exquisitely beautiful. I left Lyons equipped like a prince, and journeyed towards Turin, where I was to meet the famous Gualdo, who was none other than Ascanio Pogomas, whom I had summoned from Berne. I thought it would be easy to make the fellow play the part I had destined for him, but I was cruelly deceived as the reader will see.
I could not resist stopping at Chamberi to see my fair nun, whom I found looking beautiful and contented. She was grieving, however, after the young boarder, who had been taken from the convent and married.
I got to Turin at the beginning of December, and at Rivoli I found the Corticelli, who had been warned by the Chevalier de Raiberti of my arrival. She gave me a letter from this worthy gentleman, giving the address of the house he had taken for me as I did not want to put up at an inn. I immediately went to take possession of my new lodging.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52