Part 33 out of 70
I rose hastily, and just as I was leaving the room I saw the dreadful
widow, who seemed full of glee, and said,--
"I thank you, sir; I thank you with all my heart. I beg to leave you
at liberty again; I am going back to Soleure."
"Wait for a quarter of an hour, we are going to breakfast with
"I can't stop a moment, I have just wished her good day, and now I
must be gone. Farewell, and remember me."
She had hardly gone before M.---- asked me if the woman was beside
"One might think so, certainly," I replied, "for she has received
nothing but politeness at my hands, and I think she might have waited
to go back with you in the evening."
We went to breakfast and to discuss this abrupt leave-taking, and
afterwards we took a turn in the garden where we found Madame Dubois.
M.---- took possession of her; and as I thought his wife looking
rather downcast I asked her if she had not slept well.
"I did not go to sleep till four o'clock this morning," she replied,
"after vainly sitting up in bed waiting for you till that time. What
unforeseen accident prevented your coming?"
I could not answer her question. I was petrified. I looked at her
fixedly without replying; I could not shake off my astonishment. At
last a dreadful suspicion came into my head that I had held within my
arms for two hours the horrible monster whom I had foolishly received
in my house. I was seized with a terrible tremor, which obliged me
to go and take shelter behind the arbour and hide my emotion. I felt
as though I should swoon away. I should certainly have fallen if I
had not rested my head against a tree.
My first idea had been a fearful thought, which I hastened to repel,
that Madame, having enjoyed me, wished to deny all knowledge of the
fact--a device which is in the power of any woman who gives up her
person in the dark to adopt, as it is impossible to convict her of
lying. However, I knew the divine creature I had thought I possessed
too well to believe her capable of such base deceit. I felt that she
would have been lacking in delicacy, if she had said she had waited
for me in vain by way of a jest; as in such a case as this the least
doubt is a degradation. I was forced, then, to the conclusion that
she had been supplanted by the infernal widow. How had she managed
it? How had she ascertained our arrangements? I could not
imagine, and I bewildered myself with painful surmises. Reason only
comes to the aid of the mind when the confusion produced by painful
thoughts has almost vanished. I concluded, then, that I had spent
two hours with this abominable monster; and what increased my
anguish, and made me loathe and despise myself still more, was that I
could not help confessing that I had been perfectly happy. It was an
unpardonable mistake, as the two women differed as much as white does
from black, and though the darkness forbade my seeing, and the
silence my hearing, my sense of touch should have enlightened me--
after the first set-to, at all events, but my imagination was in a
state of ecstasy. I cursed love, my nature, and above all the
inconceivable weakness which had allowed me to receive into my house
the serpent that had deprived me of an angel, and made me hate myself
at the thought of having defiled myself with her. I resolved to die,
after having torn to pieces with my own hands the monster who had
made me so unhappy.
While I was strengthening myself in this resolution M.---- came up to
me and asked me kindly if I were ill; he was alarmed to see me pale
and covered with drops of sweat. "My wife," said the worthy man,
"is uneasy about you, and sent me to look after you." I told him I
had to leave her on account of a sudden dizziness, but that I began
to feel better. "Let us rejoin her." Madame Dubois brought me a
flask of strong waters, saying pleasantly that she was sure it was
only the sudden departure of the widow that had put me out.
We continued our walk, and when we were far enough from the husband,
who was with my housekeeper, I said I had been overcome by what she
had said, but that it had doubtless been spoken jestingly.
"I was not jesting at all," said she, with a sigh, "tell me what
prevented your coming."
Again I was struck dumb. I could not make up my mind to tell her the
story, and I did not know what to say to justify myself. I was
silent and confused when my housekeeper's little servant came up and
gave me a letter which the wretched widow had sent her by an express.
She had opened it, and found an enclosure addressed to me inside. I
put it in my pocket, saying I would read it at my leisure. On Madame
saying in joke that it was a love-letter, I could not laugh, and made
no answer. The servant came to tell us that dinner was served, but I
could touch nothing. My abstinence was put down to my being unwell.
I longed to read the letter, but I wished to be alone to do so, and
that was a difficult matter to contrive.
Wishing to avoid the game of piquet which formed our usual
afternoon's amusement, I took a cup of coffee, and said that I
thought the fresh air would do me good. Madame seconded me, and
guessing what I wanted she asked me to walk up and down with her in a
sheltered alley in the garden. I offered her my arm, her husband
offered his to my housekeeper, and we went out.
As soon as my mistress saw that we were free from observation, she
spoke as follows,--
"I am sure that you spent the night with that malicious woman, and I
am afraid of being compromised in consequence. Tell me everything;
confide in me without reserve; 'tis my first intrigue, and if it is
to serve as a lesson you should conceal nothing from me. I am sure
you loved me once, tell me that you have not become my enemy."
"Good heavens! what are you saying? I your enemy!"
"Then tell me all, and before you read that wretched creature's
letter. I adjure you in the name of love to hide nothing from me."
"Well, divine creature, I will do as you bid me. I came to your
apartment at one o'clock, and as soon as I was in the second ante-
chamber, I was taken by the arm, and a hand was placed upon my lips
to impose silence; I thought I held you in my arms, and I laid you
gently on the sofa. You must remember that I felt absolutely certain
it was you; indeed, I can scarcely doubt it even now. I then passed
with you, without a word being spoken, two of the most delicious
hours I have ever experienced. Cursed hours! of which the
remembrance will torment me for the remainder of my days. I left you
at a quarter past three. The rest is known to you."
"Who can have told the monster that you were going to visit me at
"I can't make out, and that perplexes me."
"You must confess that I am the most to be pitied of us three, and
perhaps, alas! the only one who may have a just title to the name
"If you love me, in the name of Heaven do not say that; I have
resolved to stab her, and to kill myself after having inflicted on
her that punishment she so well deserves."
"Have you considered that the publicity of such an action would
render me the most unfortunate of women? Let us be more moderate,
sweetheart; you are not to blame for what has happened, and if
possible I love you all the more. Give me the letter she has written
to you. I will go away from you to read it, and you can read it
afterwards, as if we were seen reading it together we should have to
"Here it is."
I then rejoined her husband, whom my housekeeper was sending into
fits of laughter. The conversation I had just had had calmed me a
little, and the trustful way in which she had asked for the letter
had done me good. I was in a fever to know the contents, and yet I
dreaded to read it, as it could only increase my rage and I was
afraid of the results.
Madame rejoined us, and after we had separated again she gave me the
letter, telling me to keep it till I was alone. She asked me to give
her my word of honour to do nothing without consulting her, and to
communicate all my designs to her by means of her nurse.
"We need not fear the harpy saying anything about it," she remarked,
"as she would first have to proclaim her own prostitution, and as for
us, concealment is the best plan. And I would have you note that the
horrible creature gives you a piece of advice you would do well to
What completely tore my heart asunder during this interview was to
see great tears--tears of love and grief--falling from her beautiful
eyes; though to moderate my anguish she forced a smile. I knew too
well the importance she attached to her fair fame not to guess that
she was tormented with the idea that the terrible widow knew of the
understanding between us, and the thought added fresh poignancy to my
This amiable pair left me at seven in the evening, and I thanked the
husband in such a manner that he could not doubt my sincerity, and,
in truth, I said no more than I felt. There is no reason why the
love one feels for a woman should hinder one from being the true
friend of her husband--if she have a husband. The contrary view is a
hateful prejudice, repugnant both to nature and to philosophy. After
I had embraced him I was about to kiss the hand of his charming wife,
but he begged me to embrace her too, which I did respectfully but
I was impatient to read the terrible letter, and as soon as they were
gone I shut myself up in my room to prevent any interruptions. The
epistle was as follows:
"I leave your house, sir, well enough pleased, not that I have spent
a couple of hours with you, for you are no better than any other man,
but that I have revenged myself on the many open marks of contempt
you have given me; for your private scorn I care little, and I
willingly forgive you. I have avenged myself by unmasking your
designs and the hypocrisy of your pretty prude, who will no longer be
able to treat me with that irritating air of superiority which she,
affecting a virtue which she does not possess, has displayed towards
me. I have avenged myself in the fact that she must have been
waiting for you all the night, and I would have given worlds to have
heard the amusing conversation you must have had when she found out
that I had taken for vengeance's sake, and not for love, the
enjoyment which was meant for her. I have avenged myself because you
can no longer pretend to think her a marvel of beauty, as having
mistaken me for her, the difference between us must needs be slight;
but I have done you a service, too, as the thought of what has
happened should cure you of your passion. You will no longer adore
her before all other women who are just as good as she. Thus I have
disabused you, and you ought to feel grateful to me; but I dispense
you from all gratitude, and do not care if you choose to hate me,
provided your hatred leaves me in peace; but if I find your conduct
objectionable in the future, I warn you that I will tell all, since I
do not care for my own fame as I am a widow and mistress of my own
actions. I need no man's favour, and care not what men may say of
me. Your mistress, on the other hand, is in quite a different
"And here I will give you a piece of advice, which should convince
you of my generosity. For the last ten years I have been troubled
with a little ailment which has resisted all attempts at treatment.
You exerted yourself to such an extent to prove how well you loved me
that you must have caught the complaint. I advise you, then, to put
yourself under treatment at once to weaken the force of the virus;
but above all do not communicate it to your mistress, who might
chance to hand it on to her husband and possibly to others, which
would make a wretched woman of her, to my grief and sorrow, since she
has never done me any harm. I felt certain that you two would
deceive the worthy husband, and I wished to have proof; thus I made
you take me in, and the position of the apartment you gave them was
enough to remove all doubts; still I wanted to have proof positive.
I had no need of any help to arrive at my ends, and I found it a
pleasant joke to keep you in the dark. After passing two nights on
the sofa all for nothing, I resolved on passing the third night
there, and my perseverance was crowned with success. No one saw me,
and my maid even is ignorant of my nocturnal wanderings, though in
any case she is accustomed to observe silence. You are, then, at
perfect liberty to bury the story in oblivion, and I advise you to do
"If you want a doctor, tell him to keep his counsel, for people at
Soleure know of my little indisposition, and they might say you
caught it from me, and this would do us both harm."
Her impudence struck me so gigantic in its dimensions that I almost
laughed. I was perfectly aware that after the way I had treated her
she must hate me, but I should not have thought she would have
carried her perverse hatred so far. She had communicated to me an
infectious disease, though I did not so far feel any symptoms;
however, they would no doubt appear, and I sadly thought I should
have to go away to be cured, to avoid the gossip of malicious wits.
I gave myself up to reflection, and after two hours' thought I wisely
resolved to hold my tongue, but to be revenged when the opportunity
I had eaten nothing at dinner, and needed a good supper to make me
sleep. I sat down to table with my housekeeper, but, like a man
ashamed of himself, I dared not look her in the face.
Continuation of the Preceding Chapter--I Leave Soleure
When the servants had gone away and left us alone, it would have
looked strange if we had remained as dumb as two posts; but in my
state of mind I did not feel myself capable of breaking the silence.
My dear Dubois, who began to love me because I made her happy, felt
my melancholy react on herself, and tried to make me talk.
"Your sadness," said she, "is not like you; it frightens me. You may
console yourself by telling me of your troubles, but do not imagine
that my curiosity springs from any unworthy motive, I only want to be
of service to you. You may rely on my being perfectly discreet; and
to encourage you to speak freely, and to give you that trust in me
which I think I deserve, I will tell you what I know and what I have
learnt about yourself. My knowledge has not been obtained by any
unworthy stratagems, or by a curiosity in affairs which do not
"I am pleased with what you say, my dear housekeeper. I see you are
my friend, and I am grateful to you. Tell me all you know about the
matter which is now troubling me, and conceal nothing."
"Very good. You are the lover and the beloved of Madame----. The
widow whom you have treated badly has played you some trick which has
involved you with your mistress, and then the wretched woman has 477
left your house with the most unpardonable rudeness this tortures
you. You fear some disastrous consequences from which you cannot
escape, your heart and mind are at war, and there is a struggle in
your breast between passion and sentiment. Perhaps I am wrong, but
yesterday you seemed to me happy and to-day miserable. I pity you,
because you have inspired me with the tenderest feelings of
friendship. I did my best to-day to converse with the husband that
you might be free to talk to the wife, who seems to me well worthy of
"All that you have said is true. Your friendship is dear to me, and
I have a high opinion of your intellectual powers. The widow is a
monster who has made me wretched in return for my contempt, and I
cannot revenge myself on her. Honour will not allow me to tell you
any more, and indeed it would be impossible for you or any one else
to alleviate the grief that overwhelms me. It may possibly be my
death, but in the mean time, my dear Dubois, I entreat you to
continue your friendship towards me, and to treat me with entire
candour. I shall always attend to what you say, and thus you will be
of the greatest service to me. I shall not be ungrateful."
I spent a weary night as I had expected, for anger, the mother of
vengeance, always made me sleepless, while sudden happiness had
sometimes the same effect.
I rang for Le Duc early in the morning, but, instead of him, Madame
Dubois's ugly little attendant came, and told me that my man was ill,
and that the housekeeper would bring me my chocolate. She came in
directly after, and I had no sooner swallowed the chocolate than I
was seized with a violent attack of sickness, the effect of anger,
which at its height may kill the man who cannot satisfy it. My
concentrated rage called for vengeance on the dreadful widow, the
chocolate came on the top of the anger, and if it had not been
rejected I should have been killed; as it was I was quite exhausted.
Looking at my housekeeper I saw she was in tears, and asked her why
"Good heavens! Do you think I have a heart of stone?"
"Calm yourself; I see you pity me. Leave me, and I hope I shall be
able to get some sleep."
I went to sleep soon after, and I did not wake till I had slept for
seven hours. I felt restored to life. I rang the bell, my
housekeeper came in, and told me the surgeon of the place had called.
She looked very melancholy, but on seeing my more cheerful aspect I
saw gladness reappearing on her pretty face.
"We will dine together, dearest," said I, "but tell the surgeon to
come in. I want to know what he has to say to me."
The worthy man entered, and after looking carefully round the room to
see that we were alone, he came up to me, and whispered in my ear
that Le Duc had a malady of a shameful character.
I burst out laughing, as I had been expecting some terrible news.
"My dear doctor," said I, "do all you can to cure him, and I will pay
you handsomely, but next time don't look so doleful when you have
anything to tell me. How old are you?"
"May God help you!"
I was all the more ready to sympathize with my poor Spaniard, as I
expected to find myself in a like case.
What a fellow-feeling there is between the unfortunate! The poor man
will seek in vain for true compassion at the rich man's doors; what
he receives is a sacrifice to ostentation and not true benevolence;
and the man in sorrow should not look for pity from one to whom
sorrow is unknown, if there be such a person on the earth.
My housekeeper came in to dress me, and asked me what had been the
"He must have said something amusing to make you laugh."
"Yes, and I should like to tell you what it was; but before I do so I
must ask you if you know what the venereal disease is?"
"Yes, I do; Lady Montagu's footman died of it while I was with her"
"Very good, but you should pretend not to know what it is, and
imitate other ladies who assume an ignorance which well becomes them.
Poor Le Duc has got this disease."
"Poor fellow, I am sorry for him! Were you laughing at that?"
"No; it was the air of mystery assumed by the old doctor which amused
"I too have a confidence to make, and when you have heard it you must
either forgive me or send me away directly."
"Here is another bother. What the devil can you have done? Quick!
"Sir, I have robbed you!"
"What robbed me? When? How? Can you return me what you have
taken? I should not have thought you capable of such a thing. I
never forgive a robber or a liar."
"You are too hasty, sir. I am sure you will forgive me, as I robbed
you only half an hour ago, and I am now going to return to you the
"You are a singular woman, my dear. Come, I will vouchsafe full
forgiveness, but restore immediately what you have taken."
"This is what I stole."
"What! that monster's letter? Did you read it?"
"Yes, of course, for otherwise I should not have committed a theft,
"You have robbed me my secret, then, and that is a thing you cannot
give me back. You have done very wrong."
"I confess I have. My theft is all the greater in that I cannot make
restoration. Nevertheless, I promise never to speak a word of it all
my life, and that ought to gain me my pardon. Give it me quickly."
"You are a little witch. I forgive you, and here is the pledge of my
mercy." So saying I fastened my lips on hers.
"I don't doubt the validity of your pardon; you have signed with a
double and a triple seal."
"Yes; but for the future do not read, or so much as touch, any of my
papers, as I am the depositary of secrets of which I am not free to
"Very good; but what shall I do when I find papers on the ground, as
that letter was?"
"You must pick them up, but not read them."
"I promise to do so."
"Very well, my dear; but you must forget the horrors you have read."
"Listen to me. Allow me to remember what I have read; perhaps you
may be the gainer. Let us talk over this affair, which has made my
hair stand on end. This monster of immodesty has given you two
mortal blows--one in the body and one in the soul; but that is not
the worst, as she thinks that Madame's honour is in her keeping.
This, in my thinking, is the worst of all; for, in spite of the
affront, your mutual love might continue, and the disease which the
infamous creature has communicated to you would pass off; but if the
malicious woman carries out her threats, the honour of your charming
mistress is gone beyond return. Do not try to make me forget the
matter, then, but let us talk it over and see what can be done."
I thought I was dreaming when I heard a young woman in her position
reasoning with more acuteness than Minerva displays in her colloquies
with Telemachus. She had captured not only my esteem but my respect.
"Yes, my dear," I answered, "let us think over some plan for
delivering a woman who deserves the respect of all good men from this
imminent danger; and the very thought that we have some chance of
success makes me indebted to you. Let us think of it and talk of it
from noon to night. Think kindly of Madame ----, pardon her first
slip, protect her honour, and have pity on my distress. From
henceforth call me no more your master but your friend. I will be
your friend till death; I swear it to you. What you say is full of
wisdom; my heart is yours. Embrace me."
"No, no, that is not necessary; we are young people, and we might
perhaps allow ourselves to go astray. I only wish for your
friendship; but I do not want you to give it to me for nothing. I
wish to deserve it by giving you solid proofs of my friendship for
you. In the meanwhile I will tell them to serve dinner, and I hope
that after you have eaten something you will be quite well."
I was astonished at her sagacity. It might all be calculated
artifice, and her aim might be to seduce me, but I did not trouble
myself about that. I found myself almost in love with her, and like
to be the dupe of her principles, which would have made themselves
felt, even if she had openly shared my love. I decided that I would
add no fuel to my flames, and felt certain that they would go out of
their own accord. By leaving my love thus desolate it would die of
exhaustion. I argued like a fool. I forgot that it is not possible
to stop at friendship with a pretty woman whom one sees constantly,
and especially when one suspects her of being in love herself. At
its height friendship becomes love, and the palliative one is forced
to apply to soothe it for a moment only increases its intensity.
Such was the experience of Anacreon with Smerdis, and Cleobulus with
Badyllus. A Platonist who pretends that one is able to live with a
young woman of whom one is fond, without becoming more than her
friend, is a visionary who knows not what he says. My housekeeper
was too young, too pretty, and above all too pleasant, she had too
keen a wit, for me not to be captivated by all these qualities
conjoined; I was bound to become her lover.
We dined quietly together without saying anything about the affair we
had at heart, for nothing is more imprudent or more dangerous than to
speak in the presence of servants, who out of maliciousness or
ignorance put the worst construction on what they hear; add or
diminish, and think themselves privileged to divulge their master's
secrets, especially as they know them without having been entrusted
As soon as we were alone, my dear Dubois asked me if I had sufficient
proof of Le Duc's fidelity.
"Well, my dear, he is a rascal and a profligate, full of impudence,
sharp-witted, ignorant, a fearful liar, and nobody but myself has any
power over him. However, he has one good quality, and that is blind
obedience to my orders. He defies the stick, and he would defy the
gallows if it were far enough off. When I have to ford a river on my
travels, he strips off his clothes without my telling him, and jumps
in to see if I can across in safety."
"That will do; he is just what we want under the circumstances. I
will begin by assuring you, my dear friend, as you will have me style
you thus, that Madame's honour is perfectly safe. Follow my advice,
and if the detestable widow does not take care she will be the only
person put to shame. But we want Le Duc; without him we can do
nothing. Above all we must find out how he contracted his disease,
as several circumstances might throw obstacles in the way of my
design. Go to him at once and find out all particulars, and if he
has told any of the servants what is the matter with him. When you
have heard what he has to say, warn him to keep the matter quiet."
I made no objection, and without endeavouring to penetrate her design
I went to Le Duc. I found him lying on his bed by himself. I sat
down beside him with a smile on my face, and promised to have him
cured if he would tell me all the circumstances of the case.
"With all my heart, sir, the matter happened like this. The day you
sent me to Soleure to get your letters, I got down at a roadside
dairy to get a glass of milk. It was served to me by a young wench
who caught my fancy, and I gave her a hug; she raised no objection,
and in a quarter of an hour she made me what you see."
"Have you told anyone about it?"
"I took good care not to do so, as I should only have got laughed at.
The doctor is the only one who knows what is the matter, and he tells
me the swelling will be gone down before tomorrow, and I hope I shall
be able by that time to wait upon you."
"Very good, but remember to keep your own counsel."
I proceeded to inform my Minerva of our conversation, and she said,--
"Tell me whether the widow could take her oath that she had spent the
two hours on the sofa with you."
"No, for she didn't see me, and I did not say a word."
"Very good; then sit down at your desk and write, and tell her she is
a liar, as you did not leave your room at all, and that you are
making the necessary enquiries in your household to find out who is
the wretched person she has unwittingly contaminated. Write at once
and send off your letter directly. In an hour and a half's time you
can write another letter; or rather you can copy what I am just going
to put down."
"My dear, I see your plan; it is an ingenious one, but I have given
my word of honour to Madame to take no steps in the matter without
first consulting her."
"Then your word of honour must give way to the necessity of saving
her honour. Your love retards your steps, but everything depends on
our promptitude, and on the interval between the first and second
letter. Follow my advice, I beg of you, and you will know the rest
from the letter I am going to write for you to copy. Quick I write
letter number one."
I did not allow myself to reflect. I was persuaded that no better
plan could be found than that of my charming governess, and I
proceeded to write the following love-letter to the impudent monster:
"The impudence of your letter is in perfect accord with the three
nights you spent in discovering a fact which has no existence save in
your own perverse imagination. Know, cursed woman, that I never left
my room, and that I have not to deplore the shame of having passed
two hours with a being such as you. God knows with whom you did pass
them, but I mean to find out if the whole story is not the creation
of your devilish brain, and when I do so I will inform you.
"You may thank Heaven that I did not open your letter till after M.
and Madame had gone. I received it in their presence, but despising
the hand that wrote it I put it in my pocket, little caring what
infamous stuff it contained. If I had been curious enough to read it
and my guests had seen it, I would have you know that I would have
gone in pursuit of you, and at this moment you would have been a
corpse. I am quite well, and have no symptoms of any complaint, but
I shall not lower myself to convince you of my health, as your eyes
would carry contagion as well as your wretched carcase."
I shewed the letter to my dear Dubois, who thought it rather strongly
expressed, but approved of it on the whole; I then sent it to the
horrible being who had caused me such unhappiness. An hour and a
half afterwards I sent her the following letter, which I copied
without addition or subtraction:
"A quarter of an hour after I had sent off my letter, the village
doctor came to tell me that my man had need of his treatment for a
disease of a shameful nature which he had contracted quite recently.
I told him to take care of his patient; and when he had gone I went
to see the invalid, who confessed, after some pressure, that he had
received this pretty present from you. I asked him how he had
contrived to obtain access to you, and he said that he saw you going
by your self in the dark into the apartment of M.----. Knowing that
I had gone to bed, and having no further services to render me,
curiosity made him go and see what you were doing there by stealth,
as if you had wanted to see the lady, who would be in bed by that
time, you would not have gone by the door leading to the garden. He
at first thought that you went there with ill-intent, and he waited
an hour to see if you stole anything, in which case he would have
arrested you; but as you did not come out, and he heard no noise, he
resolved to go in after you, and found you had left the door open.
He has assured me that he had no intentions in the way of carnal
enjoyment, and I can well believe him. He tells me he was on the
point of crying for help, when you took hold of him and put your hand
over his mouth; but he changed his plans on finding himself drawn
gently to a couch and covered with kisses. You plainly took him for
somebody else, 'and,' said he, 'I did her a service which she has
done ill to recompense in this fashion.' He left you without saying
a word as soon as the day began to dawn, his motive being fear of
recognition. It is easy to see that you took my servant for myself,
for in the night, you know, all cats are grey, and I congratulate you
on obtaining an enjoyment you certainly would not have had from me,
as I should most surely have recognized you directly from your breath
and your aged charms, and I can tell you it would have gone hard with
you. Luckily for you and for me, things happened otherwise. I may
tell you that the poor fellow is furious, and intends making you a
visit, from which course I believe I have no right to dissuade him.
I advise you to hear him politely, and to be in a generous mood when
he comes, as he is a determined fellow like all Spaniards, and if you
do not treat him properly he will publish the matter, and you will
have to take the consequences. He will tell you himself what his
terms are, and I daresay you will be wise enough to grant them."
An hour after I had sent off this epistle I received a reply to my
first letter. She told me that my device was an ingenious one, but
that it was no good, as she knew what she was talking about. She
defied me to shew her that I was healthy in the course of a few days.
While we were at supper, my dear Dubois tried her utmost to cheer me
up, but all to no purpose; I was too much under the influence of
strong emotion to yield to her high spirits. We discussed the third
step, which would put an apex to the scheme and cover the impudent
woman with shame. As I had written the two letters according to my
housekeeper's instructions, I determined to follow her advice to the
end. She told me what to say to Le Duc in the morning; and she was
curious to know what sort of stuff he was made of, she begged me to
let her listen behind the curtains of my bed.
Next morning Le Due came in, and I asked if he could ride on
horseback to Soleure.
"Yes, sir," he replied, "but the doctor tells me I must begin to
"Very good. As soon as your horse is ready, set out and go to Madame
F----, but do not let her know you come from me, or suspect that you
are a mere emissary of mine. Say that you want to speak to her. If
she refuses to receive you, wait outside in the street; but I fancy
she will receive you, and without a witness either. Then say to her,
'You have given me my complaint without having been asked, and I
require you to give me sufficient money to get myself cured.' Add
that she made you work for two hours in the dark, and that if it had
not been for the fatal present she had given to you, you would have
said nothing about it; but that finding yourself in such a state (you
needn't be ashamed to shew her) she ought not to be astonished at
your taking such a course. If she resists, threaten her with the
law. That's all you have to do, but don't let my name appear.
Return directly without loss of time, that I may know how you have
"That's all very fine, sir, but if this jolly wench has me pitched
out of window, I shan't come home quite so speedily."
"Quite so, but you needn't be afraid; I will answer for your safety."
"It's a queer business you are sending me on."
"You are the only man I would trust to do it properly."
"I will do it all right, but I want to ask you one or two essential
questions. Has the lady really got the what d'you call it?"
"I am sorry for her. But how am I to stick to it that she has
peppered me, when I have never spoken to her?"
"Do you usually catch that complaint by speaking, booby?"
"No, but one speaks in order to catch it, or while one is catching
"You spent two hours in the dark with her without a word being
spoken, and she will see that she gave this fine present to you while
she thought she was giving it to another."
"Ah! I begin to see my way, sir. But if we were in the dark, how was
I to know it was she I had to do with?
"Thus: you saw her going in by the garden door, and you marked her
unobserved. But you may be sure she won't ask you any of these
"I know what to do now. I will start at once, and I am as curious as
you to know what her answer will be. But here's another question
comes into my head. She may try to strike a bargain over the sum I
am to ask for my cure; if so, shall I be content with three hundred
"That's too much for her, take half."
"But it isn't much for two hours of such pleasure for her and six
weeks of such pain for me."
"I will make up the rest to you."
"That's good hearing. She is going to pay for damage she has done.
I fancy I see it all, but I shall say nothing. I would bet it is you
to whom she has made this fine present, and that you want to pay her
"Perhaps so; but keep your own counsel and set out."
"Do you know I think the rascal is unique," said my dear Dubois,
emerging from her hiding-place, "I had hard work to keep from
laughing when he said that if he were pitched out of the window he
would not come back so soon. I am sure he will acquit himself better
than ever did diplomatist. When he gets to Soleure the monster will
have already dispatched her reply to your second letter. I am
curious to see how it will turn out."
"To you, my dear, the honour of this comedy belongs. You have
conducted this intrigue like a past master in the craft. It could
never be taken for the work of a novice."
"Nevertheless, it is my first and I hope it will be my last intrigue"
"I hope she won't defy me to 'give evidence of my health."
"You are quite well so far, I think?"
"Yes; and, by the way, it is possible she may only have leucorrhoea.
I am longing to see the end of the piece, and to set my mind at
"Will you give Madame an account of our scheme?"
"Yes; but I shall not be able to give you the credit you deserve."
"I only want to have credit in your eyes."
"You cannot doubt that I honour you immensely, and I shall certainly
not deprive you of the reward that is your due."
"The only reward I ask for is for you to be perfectly open with me."
"You are very wonderful. Why do you interest yourself so much in my
affairs? I don't like to think you are really inquisitive."
"You would be wrong to think that I have a defect which would lower
me in my own eyes. Be sure, sir, that I shall only be curious when
you are sad."
"But what can have made you feel so generously towards me?"
"Only your honourable conduct towards me."
"You touch me profoundly, and I promise to confide in you for the
"You will make me happy."
Le Duc had scarcely gone an hour when a messenger on foot came to
bring me a second letter from the widow. He also gave me a small
packet, telling me that he had orders to wait for a reply. I sent
him down to wait, and I gave the letter to Madame Dubois, that she
might see what it contained. While she was reading it I leant upon
the window, my heart beating violently.
"Everything is getting on famously," cried my housekeeper. "Here is
the letter; read it."
"Whether I am being told the truth, or whether I am the victim of a
myth arising from your fertile imagination (for which you are too
well known all over Europe), I will regard the whole story as being
true, as I am not in a position to disprove it. I am deeply grieved
to have injured an innocent man who has never done me any ill, and I
will willingly pay the penalty by giving him a sum which will be more
than sufficient to cure him of the plague with which I infected him.
I beg that you will give him the twenty-five louis I am sending you;
they will serve to restore him to health, and to make him forget the
bitterness of the pleasure I am so sorry to have procured for him.
And now are you sufficiently generous to employ your authority as
master to enjoin on your man the most absolute secrecy? I hope so,
for you have reason to dread my vengeance otherwise. Consider that,
if this affair is allowed to transpire, it will be easy for me to
give it a turn which may be far from pleasant to you, and which will
force the worthy man you are deceiving to open his eyes; for I have
not changed my opinion, as I have too many proofs of your
understanding with his wife. As I do not desire that we should meet
again, I shall go to Lucerne on the pretext of family concerns. Let
me know that you have got this letter."
"I am sorry," I said, "to have sent Le Duc, as the harpy is violent,
and I am afraid of something happening to him."
"Don't be afraid," she replied, "nothing will happen, and it is
better that they should see each other; it makes it more certain.
Send her the money directly; she will have to give it to him herself,
and your vengeance will be complete. She will not be able to
entertain the slightest suspicion, especially if Le Duc shews her her
work, and in two or three hours you will have the pleasure of hearing
everything from his lips. You have reason to bless your stars, as
the honour of the woman you love is safe. The only thing that can
trouble you is the remembrance of the widow's foul embraces, and the
certainty that the prostitute has communicated her complaint to you.
Nevertheless, I hope it may prove a slight attack and be easily
cured. An inveterate leucorrhoea is not exactly a venereal disease,
and I have heard people in London say that it was rarely contagious.
We ought to be very thankful that she is going to Lucerne. Laugh and
be thankful; there is certainly a comic touch in our drama."
"Unfortunately, it is tragi-comic. I know the human heart, and I am
sure that I must have forfeited Madame's affections."
"It is true that----; but this is not the time to be thinking of such
matters. Quick! write to her briefly and return her the twenty-five
My reply was as follows:
"Your unworthy suspicions, your abominable design of revenge, and the
impudent letter you wrote me, are the only causes of your no doubt
bitter repentance. I hope that it will restore peace to your
conscience. Our messengers have crossed, through no fault of mine.
I send you the twenty-five Louis; you can give them to the man
yourself. I could not prevent my servant from paying you a visit,
but this time you will not keep him two hours, and you will not find
it difficult to appease his anger. I wish you a good journey, and I
shall certainly flee all occasions of meeting you, for I always avoid
the horrible; and you must know, odious woman, that it isn't
everybody who endeavours to ruin the reputation of their friends.
If you see the apostolic nuncio at Lucerne, ask him about me, and he
will tell you what sort of a reputation I have in Europe. I can
assure you that Le Duc has only spoken to me of his misadventure, and
that if you treat him well he will be discreet, as he certainly has
nothing to boast of. Farewell."
My dear Minerva approved of this letter, and I sent it with the money
by the messenger.
"The piece is not yet done," said my housekeeper, "we have three
"What are they?"
"The return of your Spaniard, the appearance of the disease, and the
astonishment of Madame when she hears it all."
I counted the moments for Le Duc to return, but in vain; he did not
appear. I was in a state of great anxiety, although my dear Dubois
kept telling me that the only reason he was away so long was that the
widow was out. Some people are so happily constituted that they
never admit the possibility of misfortune. I was like that myself
till the age of thirty, when I was put under the Leads. Now I am
getting into my dotage and look on the dark side of everything. I am
invited to a wedding, and see nought but gloom; and witnessing the
coronation of Leopold, at Prague, I say to myself, 'Nolo coronari'.
Cursed old age, thou art only worthy of dwelling in hell, as others
before me have thought also, 'tristisque senectus'.
About half-past nine my housekeeper looked out, and saw Le Duc by the
moonlight coming along at a good pace. That news revived me. I had
no light in the room, and my housekeeper ran to hide in the recess,
for she would not have missed a word of the Spaniard's communication.
"I am dying of hunger," said he, as he came in. "I had to wait for
that woman till half-past six. When she came in she found me on the
stairs and told me to go about my business, as she had nothing to say
"'That may be, fair lady,' I replied; 'but I have a few words to say
to you, and I have been waiting here for a cursed time with that
"'Wait a minute,' she replied; and then putting into her pocket a
packet and a letter which I thought was addressed in your writing,
she told me to follow her. As soon as I got to her room, I saw there
was no one else present, and I told her that she had infected me, and
that I wanted the wherewithal to pay the doctor. As she said nothing
I proceeded to convince her of my infected state, but she turned away
her head, and said,--
"'Have you been waiting for me long?
"'Since eleven, without having had a bite or a sup.'
"Thereupon she went out, and after asking the servant, whom I suppose
she had sent here, what time he had come back, she returned to me,
shut the door, and gave me the packet, telling me that it contained
twenty-five Louis for my cure, and that if I valued my life I would
keep silence in the matter. I promised to be discreet, and with that
I left here, and here I am.
"Does the packet belong to me?"
"Certainly. Have some supper and go to bed."
My dear Dubois came out of her recess and embraced me, and we spent a
happy evening. Next morning I noticed the first symptoms of the
disease the hateful widow had communicated to me, but in three or
four days I found it was of a very harmless character, and a week
later I was quite rid of it. My poor Spaniard, on the other hand,
was in a pitiable case.
I passed the whole of the next morning in writing to Madame. I told
her circumstantially all I had done, in spite of my promise to
consult her, and I sent her copies of all the letters to convince her
that our enemy had gone to Lucerne with the idea that her vengeance
had been only an imaginary one. Thus I shewed her that her honour
was perfectly safe. I ended by telling her that I had noticed the
first symptoms of the disease, but that I was certain of getting rid
of it in a very few days. I sent my letter through her nurse, and in
two days' time I had a few lines from her informing me that I should
see her in the course of the week in company with her husband and
M. de Chavigni.
Unhappy I! I was obliged to renounce all thoughts of love, but my
Dubois, who was with me nearly all day on account of Le Duc's
illness, began to stand me in good stead. The more I determined to
be only a friend to her, the more I was taken with her; and it was in
vain that I told myself that from seeing her without any love-making
my sentiment for her would die a natural death. I had made her a
present of a ring, telling her that whenever she wanted to get rid of
it I would give her a hundred louis for it; but this could only
happen in time of need--an impossible contingency while she continued
with me, and I had no idea of sending her away. She was natural and
sincere, endowed with a ready wit and good reasoning powers. She had
never been in love, and she had only married to please Lady Montagu.
She only wrote to her mother, and to please her I read the letters.
They were full of filial piety, and were admirably written.
One day the fancy took me to ask to read the letters her mother wrote
in reply. "She never replies," said she, "For an excellent reason,
namely, that she cannot write. I thought she was dead when I came
back from England, and it was a happy surprise to find her in perfect
health when I got to Lausanne."
"Who came with you from England?"
"I can't credit that. Young, beautiful, well dressed, obliged to
associate casually with all kinds of people, young men and
profligates (for there are such everywhere), how did you manage to
"Defend myself? I never needed to do so. The best plan for a young
woman is never to stare at any man, to pretend not to hear certain
questions and certainly not to answer them, to sleep by herself in a
room where there is a lock and key, or with the landlady when
possible. When a girl has travelling adventures, one may safely say
that she has courted them, for it is easy to be discreet in all
countries if one wishes."
She spoke justly. She assured me that she had never had an adventure
and had never tripped, as she was fortunate enough not to be of an
amorous disposition. Her naive stories, her freedom from prudery,
and her sallies full of wit and good sense, amused me from morning
till night, and we sometimes thoued each other; this was going rather
far, and should have shewn us that we were on the brink of the
precipice. She talked with much admiration of the charms of Madame,
and shewed the liveliest interest in my stories of amorous adventure.
When I got on risky ground, I would make as if I would fain spare her
all unseemly details, but she begged me so gracefully to hide
nothing, that I found myself obliged to satisfy her; but when my
descriptions became so faithful as almost to set us on fire, she
would burst into a laugh, put her hand over my mouth, and fly like a
hunted gazelle to her room, and then lock herself in. One day I
asked her why she did so, and she answered, "To hinder you from
coming to ask me for what I could not refuse you at such moments."
The day before that on which M. and Madame and M. de Chavigni came to
dine with me, she asked me if I had had any amorous adventures in
Holland. I told her about Esther, and when I came to the mole and my
inspection of it, my charming curiosity ran to stop my mouth, her
sides shaking with laughter. I held her gently to me, and could not
help seeking whether she had a mole in the same place, to which she
opposed but a feeble resistance. I was prevented by my unfortunate
condition from immolating the victim on the altar of love, so we
confined ourselves to a make-believe combat which only lasted a
minute; however, our eyes took in it, and our excited feelings were
by no means appeased. When we had done she said, laughing, but yet
"My dear friend, we are in love with one another; and if we do not
take care we shall not long be content with this trifling."
Sighing as she spoke, she wished me good night and went to bed with
her ugly little maid. This was the first time we had allowed
ourselves to be overcome by the violence of our passion, but the
first step was taken. As I retired to rest I felt that I was in
love, and foresaw that I should soon be under the rule of my charming
M. and Madame--and M. Chavigni gave us an agreeable surprise, the
next day, by coming to dine with us, and we passed the time till
dinner by walking in the garden. My dear Dubois did the honours of
the table, and I was glad to see that my two male guests were
delighted with her, for they did not leave her for a moment during
the afternoon, and I was thus enabled to tell my charmer all I had
written to her. Nevertheless I took care not to say a word about the
share my housekeeper had had in the matter, for my mistress would
have been mortified at the thought that her weakness was known to
"I was delighted to read your letters," said she, "and to hear that
that villainous woman can no longer flatter herself upon having spent
two hours with you. But tell me, how can you have actually spent
them with her without noticing, in spite of the dark, the difference
between her and me? She is much shorter, much thinner, and ten
years older. Besides, her breath is disagreeable, and I think you
know that I have not that defect. Certainly, you could not see her
hair, but you could touch, and yet you noticed nothing! I can
scarcely believe it!"
"Unhappily, it is only too true. I was inebriated with love, and
thinking only of you, I saw nothing but you."
"I understand how strong the imagination would be at first, but this
element should have been much diminished after the first or second
assault; and, above all, because she differs from me in a matter
which I cannot conceal and she cannot supply."
"You are right--a burst of Venus! When I think that I only touched
two dangling flabby breasts, I feel as if I did not deserve to live!"
"And you felt them, and they did not disgust you!"
"Could I be disgusted, could I even reflect, when I felt certain that
I held you in my arms, you for whom I would give my life. No, a
rough skin, a stinking breath, and a fortification carried with far
too much ease; nothing could moderate my amorous fury."
"What do I hear? Accursed and unclean woman, nest of impurities!
And could you forgive me all these defects?"
"I repeat, the idea that I possessed you deprived me of my thinking
faculties; all seemed to me divine."
"You should have treated me like a common prostitute, you should even
have beaten me on finding me such as you describe."
"Ah! now you are unjust"
"That may be; I am so enraged against that monster that my anger
deprives me of reason. But now that she thinks that she had to do
with a servant, and after the degrading visit she has had she ought
to die of rage and shame. What astonishes me is her believing it,
for he is shorter than you by four inches. And how can she imagine
that a servant would do it as well as you? It's not likely. I am
sure she is in love with him now. Twenty-five louis! He would have
been content with ten. What a good thing that the poor fellow's
illness happened so conveniently. But I suppose you had to tell him
"Not at all. I gave him to understand that she had made an
appointment with me in that room, and that I had really spent two
hours with her, not speaking for fear of being heard. Then, thinking
over the orders I gave him, he came to the conclusion that on finding
myself diseased afterwards I was disgusted, and being able to disavow
my presence I had done so for the sake of revenge."
"That's admirable, and the impudence of the Spaniard passes all
belief. But her impudence is the most astonishing thing of all. But
supposing her illness had been a mere trick to frighten you, what a
risk the rascal would have run!"
"I was afraid of that, as I had no symptoms of disease whatever."
"But now you really have it, and all through my fault. I am in
"Be calm, my angel, my disease is of a very trifling nature. I am
only taking nitre, and in a week I shall be quite well again. I hope
that then . . . ."
"Ah! my dear friend."
"Don't let us think of that any more, I beseech you."
"You are disgusted, and not unnaturally; but your love cannot be very
strong, Ah! how unhappy I am."
"I am more unhappy than you. I love you, and you would be thankless
indeed if you ceased to love me. Let us love each other, but let us
not endeavour to give one another proofs of our love. It might be
fatal. That accursed widow! She is gone away, and in a fortnight we
shall be going also to Bale, where we remain till the end of
The die is cast, and I see that I must submit to your decision, or
rather to my destiny, for none but fatal events have befallen me
since I came to Switzerland. My only consoling thought is that I
have made your honour safe."
"You have won my husband's friendship and esteem; we shall always be
"If you are going I feel that I must go before you. That will tend
to convince the wretched author of my woe that there is nothing
blame-worthy in my friendship for you."
"You reason like an angel, and you convince me more and more of your
love. Where are you going?"
"To Italy; but I shall take Berne and Geneva on my way."
"You will not be coming to Bale, then? I am glad to hear it, in
spite of the pleasure it would give me to see you. No doubt your
arrival would give a handle for the gossips, and I might suffer by
it. But if possible, in the few days you are to remain, shew
yourself to be in good spirits, for sadness does not become you."
We rejoined the ambassador and M.---- who had not had time to think
about us, as my dear Dubois had kept them amused by her lively
conversation. I reproached her for the way in which she husbanded
her wit as far as I was concerned, and M. de Chavigni, seizing the
opportunity, told us it was because we were in love, and lovers are
known to be chary of their words. My housekeeper was not long in
finding a repartee, and she again began to entertain the two
gentlemen, so that I was enabled to continue my walk with Madame, who
"Your housekeeper, my dear friend, is a masterpiece. Tell me the
truth, and I promise to give you a mark of my gratitude that will
please you before I go."
"Speak; what do you wish to know?"
"You love her and she loves you in return."
"I think you are right, but so far . . . ."
"I don't want to know any more, for if matters are not yet arranged
they soon will be, and so it comes to the same thing. If you had
told me you did not love her I should not have believed you, for I
can't conceive that a man of your age can live with a woman like that
without loving her. She is very pretty and exceedingly intelligent,
she has good spirits, talents, an excellent manner, and she speaks
exceedingly well: that is enough to charm you, and I expect you will
find it difficult to separate from her. Lebel did her a bad turn in
sending her to you, as she used to have an excellent reputation, and
now she will no longer be able to get a place with ladies in the
"I shall take her to Berne."
"That is a good idea."
Just as they were going I said that I should soon be coming to
Soleure to thank them for the distinguished reception they had given
me, as I proposed leaving in a few days. The idea of never seeing
Madame again was so painful to me that as soon as I got in I went to
bed, and my housekeeper, respecting my melancholy, retired after
wishing me good-night.
In two or three days I received a note from my charmer, bidding me
call upon them the day following at about ten o'clock, and telling me
I was to ask for dinner. I carried out her orders to the letter.
M. gave me a most friendly reception, but saying that he was obliged
to go into the country and could not be home till one o'clock, he
begged me not to be offended if he delivered me over to his wife for
the morning. Such is the fate of a miserable husband! His wife was
engaged with a young girl at tambour-work; I accepted her company on
the condition that she would not allow me to disturb her work.
The girl went away at noon, and soon after we went to enjoy the fresh
air outside the house. We sat in a summer-house from which,
ourselves unseen, we could see all the carriages that approached the
"Why, dearest, did you not procure me the bliss when I was in good
"Because at that time my husband suspected that you turned yourself
into a waiter for my sake, and that you could not be indifferent
towards me. Your discretion has destroyed his suspicions; and also
your housekeeper, whom he believes to be your wife, and who has taken
his fancy to such an extent, that I believe he would willingly
consent to an exchange, for a few days at any rate. Would you
"Ah! if the exchange could be effected."
Having only an hour before me, and foreseeing that it would be the
last I should pass beside her, I threw myself at her feet. She was
full of affection, and put no obstacles in the way of my desires,
save those which my own feelings dictated, for I loved her too well
to consent to injure her health. I did all I could to replace the
utmost bliss, but the pleasure she enjoyed doubtless consisted in a
great measure in shewing me her superiority to the horrible widow.
When we saw the husband's carriage coming, we rose and took care that
the worthy man should not find us in the arbour. He made a thousand
excuses for not having returned sooner.
We had an excellent dinner, and at table he talked almost entirely of
my housekeeper, and he seemed moved when I said I meant to take her
to Lausanne to her mother. I took leave of them at five o'clock with
a broken heart, and from there I went to M. de Chavigni and told him
all my adventures. He had a right to be told, as he had done all in
his power to insure the success of a project which had only failed by
an unexampled fatality.
In admiration of my dear Dubois's wit--for I did not conceal the part
she played he said that old as he was he should think himself quite
happy if he had such a woman with him, and he was much pleased when I
told him that I was in love with her. "Don't give yourself the
trouble, my dear Casanova, of running from house to house to take
leave," said the amiable nobleman. "It can be done just as well at
the assembly, and you need not even stay to supper, if you don't want
I followed his advice, and thus saw again Madame as I thought, for
the last time, but I was wrong; I saw her ten years afterwards; and
at the proper time the reader will see where, when, how, and under
Before going away, I followed the ambassador to his room to thank him
as he deserved, for his kindness, and to ask him to give me a letter
of introduction for Berne, where I thought of staying a fortnight.
I also begged him to send Lebel to me that we might settle our
accounts. He told me that Lebel should bring me a letter for M. de
Muralt, the Mayor of Thun.
When I got home, feeling sad on this, the eve of my leaving a town
where I had but trifling victories and heavy losses, I thanked my
housekeeper for waiting for me, and to give her a good night I told
her that in three days we should set out for Berne, and that my mails
must be packed.
Next day, after a somewhat silent breakfast, she said,--
"You will take me with you, won't you?"
"Certainly, if you like me well enough to want to go."
"I would go with you to the end of the world, all the more as you are
now sick and sad, and when I saw you first you were blithe and well.
If I must leave you, I hope at least to see you happy first."
The doctor came in just then to tell me that my poor Spaniard was so
ill that he could not leave his bed.
"I will have him cured at Berne," said I; "tell him that we are
going to dine there the day after to-morrow."
"I must tell you, sir, that though it's only a seven leagues'
journey, he cannot possibly undertake it as he has lost the use of
all his limbs."
"I am sorry to hear that, doctor."
"I dare say, but it's true."
"I must verify the matter with my own eyes;" and so saying I went to
see Le Duc.
I found the poor rascal, as the doctor had said, incapable of motion.
He had only the use of his tongue and his eyes.
"You are in a pretty state," said I to him.
"I am very ill, sir, though otherwise I feel quite well."
"I expect so, but as it is you can't move, and I want to dine at
Berne the day after to-morrow."
"Have me carried there, I shall get cured."
"You are right, I will have you carried in a litter."
"I shall look like a saint out for a walk."
I told one of the servants to look after him, and to see to all that
was necessary for our departure. I had him taken to the "Falcon" by
two horses who drew his litter.
Lebel came at noon and gave me the letter his master had written for
M. de Murat. He brought his receipts and I paid everything without
objection, as I found him an entirely honest man, and I had him to
dinner with Madame Dubois and myself. I did not feel disposed to
talk, and I was glad to see that they got on without me; they talked
away admirably and amused me, for Lebel was by no means wanting in
wit. He said he was very glad I had given him an opportunity of
knowing the housekeeper, as he could not say he had known her before,
having only seen her two or three times in passing through Lausanne.
On rising from the table he asked my permission to write to her, and
she, putting in her voice, called on him not to forget to do so.
Lebel was a good-natured man, of an honest appearance, and
approaching his fiftieth year. Just as he was going, without asking
my leave, he embraced her in the French fashion, and she seemed not
to have the slightest objection.
She told me as soon as he was gone that this worthy man might be
useful to her, and that she was delighted to enter into a
correspondence with him.
The next day was spent in putting everything in order for our short
journey, and Le Duc went off in his litter, intending to rest for the
night at four leagues from Soleure. On the day following, after I
had remembered the door-keeper, the cook, and the man-servant I was
leaving behind, I set out in my carriage with the charming Dubois,
and at eleven o'clock I arrived at the inn at Berne, where Le Duc had
preceded me by two hours. In the first place, knowing the habits of
Swiss innkeepers, I made an agreement with the landlord; and I then
told the servant I had kept, who came from Berne, to take care of Le
Duc, to put him under good medical superintendence, and to bid the
doctor spare nothing to cure him completely.
I dined with my housekeeper in her room, for she had a separate
lodging, and after sending my letter to M. de Muralt I went out for a
Berne--La Mata Madame de la Saone--Sara--My Departure--Arrival at
I reached an elevation from which I could look over a vast stretch of
country watered by a little river, and noticing a path leading to a
kind of stair, the fancy took me to follow it. I went down about a
hundred steps, and found forty small closets which I concluded were
bathing machines. While I was looking at the place an honest-looking
fellow came up to me, and asked me if I would like a bath. I said I
would, and he opened one of the closets, and before long I surrounded
by a crowd of young girls.
"Sir," said the man, "they all aspire to the honour of attending you
while you bathe; you have only to choose which it shall be. Half-a-
crown will pay for the bath, the girl, and your coffee."
As if I were the Grand Turk, I examined the swarm of rustic beauties,
and threw my handkerchief at the one I liked the best. We went into
a closet, and shutting the door with the most serious air, without
even looking at me, she undressed me, and put a cotton cap on my
head, and as soon as she saw me in the water she undressed herself as
coolly as possible, and without a word came into the bath. Then she
rubbed me all over, except in a certain quarter, which I had covered
with my hands. When I thought I had been manipulated sufficiently, I
asked for coffee. She got out of the bath, opened the door, and
after asking for what I wanted got in again without the slightest
When the coffee came she got out again to take it, shut the door, and
returned to the bath, and held the tray while I was drinking, and
when I had finished she remained beside me.
Although I had taken no great notice of her, I could see that she
possessed all the qualifications a man could desire in a woman: fine
features, lively eyes, a pretty mouth, and an excellent row of teeth,
a healthy complexion, a well-rounded bosom a curved back, and all
else in the same sort. I certainly thought her hands might have been
softer, but their hardness was probably due to hard work.
Furthermore, she was only eighteen, and yet I remained cold to all
her charms. How was that? That was the question I asked myself;
and I think the reason probably was that she was too natural, too
devoid of those assumed graces and coquettish airs which women employ
with so much art for the seduction of men. We only care for artifice
and false show. Perhaps, too, our senses, to be irritated, require
woman's charms to be veiled by modesty. But if, accustomed as we are
to clothe ourselves, the face is the smallest factor in our perfect
happiness, how is it that the face plays the principal part in
rendering a man amorous? Why do we take the face as an index of a
woman's beauty, and why do we forgive her when the covered parts are
not in harmony with her features? Would it not be much more
reasonable and sensible to veil the face, and to have the rest of the
body naked? Thus when we fall in love with a woman, we should only
want, as the crown of our bliss, to see a face answerable to those
other charms which had taken our fancy. There can be no doubt that
that would be the better plan, as in that case we should only be
seduced by a perfect beauty, and we should grant an easy pardon if at
the lifting of the mask we found ugliness instead of loveliness.
Under those circumstances an ugly woman, happy in exercising the
seductive power of her other charms, would never consent to unveil
herself; while the pretty ones would not have to be asked. The plain
women would not make us sigh for long; they would be easily subdued
on the condition of remaining veiled, and if they did consent to
unmask, it would be only after they had practically convinced one
that enjoyment is possible without facial beauty. And it is evident
and undeniable that inconstancy only proceeds from the variety of
features. If a man did not see the face, he would always be constant
and always in love with the first woman who had taken his fancy. I
know that in the opinion of the foolish all this will seem folly, but
I shall not be on the earth to answer their objections.
When I had left the bath, she wiped me with towels, put on my shirt,
and then in the same state--that is, quite naked, she did my hair.
While I was dressing she dressed herself too, and having soon
finished she came to buckle my shoes. I then gave her half-a-crown
for the bath and six francs for herself; she kept the half-crown, but
gave me back the six francs with silent contempt. I was mortified; I
saw that I had offended her, and that she considered her behaviour
entitled her to respect. I went away in a bad enough humour.
After supper I could not help telling my dear Dubois of the adventure
I had had in the afternoon, and she made her own comments on the
details. "She can't have been pretty," said she, "for if she had
been, you would certainly have given way. I should like to see her."
"If you like I will take you there."
"I should be delighted."
"But you will have to dress like a man:"
She rose, went out without a word, and in a quarter of an hour
returned in a suit of Le Duc's, but minus the trousers, as she had
certain protuberances which would have stood out too much I told her
to take a pair of my breeches, and we settled to go to the bath next
She came to wake at six o'clock. She was dressed like a man, and
wore a blue overcoat which disguised her shape admirably. I rose and
went to La Mata, as the place is called.
Animated by the pleasure the expedition gave her, my dear Dubois
looked radiant. Those who saw her must have seen through her
disguise, she was so evidently a woman; so she wrapped herself up in
her overcoat as well as she could.
As soon as we arrived we saw the master of the baths, who asked me if
I wanted a closet for four, and I replied in the affirmative. We
were soon surrounded by the girls, and I shewed my housekeeper the
one who had not seduced me; she made choice of her, and I having
fixed upon a big, determined-looking wench, we shut ourselves up in
As soon as I was undressed I went into the water with my big
attendant. My housekeeper was not so quick; the novelty of the thing
astonished her, and her expression told me that she repented of
having come; but putting a good face on it, she began to laugh at
seeing me rubbed by the feminine grenadier. She had some trouble
before she could take off her chemise, but as it is only the first
step that costs, she let it fall off, and though she held her two
hands before her she dazzled me, in spite of myself, by the beauty of
her form. Her attendant prepared to treat her as she had treated me,
but she begged to be left alone; and on my following her example she
felt obliged to let me look after her.
The two Swiss girls, who had no doubt often been present at a similar
situation, began to give us a spectacle which was well known to me,
but which was quite strange to my dear Dubois.
These two Bacchantes began to imitate the caresses I lavished on my
housekeeper, who was quite astonished at the amorous fury with which
my attendant played the part of a man with the other girl. I confess
I was a little surprised myself, in spite of the transports which my
fair Venetian nun had shewn me six years before in conjunction with
I could not have imagined that anything of the kind could have
distracted my attention, holding, as I did, the woman I loved, whose
charms were sufficient to captivate all the senses; but the strange
strife of the two young Menads took up her attention as well as mine.
"Your attendant," said she, "must be a boy, not a girl."
"But," said I, "you saw her breasts."
"Yes, but she may be a boy all the same."
The big Swiss girl who had heard what we had said turned round and
shewed me what I should not have credited. There could be no
mistake, however. It was a feminine membrane, but much longer than
my little finger, and stiff enough to penetrate. I explained to my
dear Dubois what it was, but to convince her I had to make her touch
it. The impudent creature pushed her shamelessness so far as to
offer to try it on her, and she insisted so passionately that I was
obliged to push her away. She then turned to her companion and
satiated on her body her fury of lust. In spite of its disgusting
nature, the sight irritated us to such a degree that my housekeeper
yielded to nature and granted me all I could desire.
This entertainment lasted for two hours, and we returned to the town
well pleased with one another. On leaving the bath I gave a Louis to
each of the two Bacchantes, and we went away determined to go there
no more. It will be understood that after what had happened there
could be no further obstacle to the free progress of our love; and
accordingly my dear Dubois became my mistress, and we made each other
happy during all the time we spent at Berne. I was quite cured of my
misadventure with the horrible widow, and I found that if love's
pleasures are fleeting so are its pains. I will go farther and
maintain that the pleasures are of much longer duration, as they
leave memories which can be enjoyed in old age, whereas, if a man
does happen to remember the pains, it is so slightly as to have no
influence upon his happiness.
At ten o'clock the Mayor of Thun was announced. He was dressed in
the French fashion, in black, and had a manner at once graceful and
polite that pleased me. He was middle-aged, and enjoyed a
considerable position in the Government. He insisted on my reading
the letter that M. de Chavigni had written to him on my account. It
was so flattering that I told him that if it had not been sealed I
should not have had the face to deliver it. He asked me for the next
day to a supper composed of men only, and for the day after that, to
a supper at which women as well as men would be present. I went with
him to the library where we saw M. Felix, an unfrocked monk, more of
a scribbler than a scholar, and a young man named Schmidt, who gave
good promise, and was already known to advantage in the literary
world. I also had the misfortune of meeting here a very learned man
of a very wearisome kind; he knew the names of ten thousand shells by
heart, and I was obliged to listen to him for two hours, although I
was totally ignorant of his science. Amongst other things he told me
that the Aar contained gold. I replied that all great rivers
contained gold, but he shrugged his shoulders and did not seem
I dined with M. de Muralt in company with four or five of the most
distinguished women in Berne. I liked them very well, and above all
Madame de Saconai struck me as particularly amiable and well-
educated. I should have paid my addresses to her if I had been
staying long in the so-called capital of Switzerland.
The ladies of Berne are well though not extravagantly dressed, as
luxury is forbidden by the laws. Their manners are good and they
speak French with perfect ease. They enjoy the greatest liberty
without abusing it, for in spite of gallantry decency reigns
everywhere. The husbands are not jealous, but they require their
wives to be home by supper-time.
I spent three weeks in the town, my time being divided between my
dear Dubois and an old lady of eighty-five who interested me greatly
by her knowledge of chemistry. She had been intimately connected
with the celebrated Boerhaave, and she shewed me a plate of gold he
had transmuted in her presence from copper. I believed as much as I
liked of this, but she assured me that Boerhaave possessed the
philosopher's stone, but that he had not discovered the secret of
prolonging life many years beyond the century. Boerhaave, however,
was not able to apply this knowledge to himself, as he died of a
polypus on the heart before he had attained the age of perfect
maturity, which Hypocrates fixes at between sixty and seventy years.
The four millions he left to his daughter, if they do not prove that
he could make gold, certainly prove that he could save it. The
worthy old woman told me he had given her a manuscript in which the
whole process was explained, but that she found it very obscure.
"You should publish it," said I.
"Burn it, then."
"I can't make up my mind to do so."
M. de Muralt took me to see the military evolutions gone through by
the citizens of Berne, who are all soldiers, and I asked him the
meaning of the bear to be seen above the gate of the town. The
German for bear is 'bar', 'bern', and the animal has given its name
to the town and canton which rank second in the Republic, although it
is in the first place for its wealth and culture. It is a peninsula
formed by the Aar, which rises near the Rhine. The mayor spoke to me
of the power of the canton, its lordships and bailiwicks, and
explained his own powers; he then described the public policy, and
told me of the different systems of government which compose the
"I understand perfectly well," I said, "that each of the thirteen
cantons has its own government."
"I daresay you do," he replied, "but what you don't understand any
more than I do is, that there is a canton which has four separate
I had an excellent supper with fourteen or fifteen senators. There
were no jokes, no frivolous conversation, and no literature; but law,
the commonweal, commerce, political economy, speculation, love of
country, and the duty of preferring liberty to life, in abundance.
I felt as if I were in a new element, but I enjoyed the privilege of
being a man amidst men who were all in honour to our common humanity.
But as the supper went on, these rigid republicans began to expand,
the discourse became less measured, there were even some bursts of
laughter, owing to the wine. I excited their pity, and though they
praised sobriety they thought mine excessive. However, they
respected my liberty, and did not oblige me to drink, as the
Russians, Swedes, Poles, and most northern peoples do.
We parted at midnight--a very late hour in Switzerland, and as they
wished me a good night, each of them made me a sincere offer of his
friendship. One of the company at an early period of the supper,
before he had begun to get mellow, had condemned the Venetian
Republic for banishing the Grisons, but on his intellect being
enlightened by Bacchus he made his apologies.
"Every government," said he, "ought to know its own interests better
than strangers, and everybody should be allowed to do what he wills
with his own."
When I got home I found my housekeeper lying in my bed. I gave her a
hundred caresses in witness of my joy, and I assured her practically
of my love and gratitude. I considered her as my wife, we cherished
each other, and did not allow the thought of separating to enter our
minds. When two lovers love each other in all freedom, the idea of
parting seems impossible.
Next morning I got a letter from the worthy Madame d'Urfe, who begged
me to call on Madame de la Saone, wife of a friend of hers--a
lieutenant-general. This lady had come to Berne in the hope of
getting cured of a disease which had disfigured her in an incredible
manner. Madame de la Saone was immediately introduced to all the
best society in the place. She gave a supper every day, only asking
men; she had an excellent cook. She had given notice that she would
pay no calls, and she was quite right. I hastened to make my bow to
her; but, good Heavens! what a terrible and melancholy sight did I
I saw a woman dressed with the utmost elegance, reclining
voluptuously upon a couch. As soon as she saw me she arose, gave me
a most gracious reception, and going back to her couch invited me to
sit beside her. She doubtless noticed my surprise, but being
probably accustomed to the impression which the first sight of her
created, she talked on in the most friendly manner, and by so doing
diminished my aversion.
Her appearance was as follows: Madame de Saone was beautifully
dressed, and had the whitest hands and the roundest arms that can be
imagined. Her dress, which was cut very low, allowed me to see an
exquisite breast of dazzling whiteness, heightened by two rosy buds;
her figure was good, and her feet the smallest I have ever seen. All
about her inspired love, but when one's eyes turned to her face every
other feeling gave way to those of horror and pity. She was fearful.
Instead of a face, one saw a blackened and disgusting scab. No
feature was distinguishable, and her ugliness was made more
conspicuous and dreadful by two fine eyes full of fire, and by a
lipless mouth which she kept parted, as if to disclose two rows of
teeth of dazzling whiteness. She could not laugh, for the pain
caused by the contraction of the muscles would doubtless have drawn
tears to her eyes; nevertheless she appeared contented, her
conversation was delightful, full of wit and humour, and permeated
with the tone of good society. She might be thirty at the most, and
she had left three beautiful young children behind in Paris. Her
husband was a fine, well-made man, who loved her tenderly, and had
never slept apart from her. It is probable that few soldiers have
shewn such courage as this, but it is to be supposed that he did not
carry his bravery so far as to kiss her, as the very thought made one
shudder. A disorder contracted after her first child-bed had left
the poor woman in this sad state, and she had borne it for ten years.
All the best doctors in France had tried in vain to cure her, and she
had come to Berne to put herself into the hands of two well-known
physicians who had promised to do so. Every quack makes promises of
this sort; their patients are cured or not cured as it happens, and
provided that they pay heavily the doctor is ready enough to lay the
fault, not on his ignorance, but at the door of his poor deluded
The doctor came while I was with her, and just as her intelligent
conversation was making me forget her face. She had already began to
take his remedies, which were partly composed of mercury.
"It seems to me," said she, "that the itching has increased since I
have taken your medicines."
"It will last," said the son of AEsculapius, "till the end of the
cure, and that will take about three months."
"As long as I scratch myself," said she, "I shall be in the same
state, and the cure will never be completed."
The doctor replied in an evasive manner. I rose to take my leave,
and holding my hand she asked me to supper once for all. I went the
same evening; the poor woman took everything and drank some wine, as
the doctor had not put her on any diet. I saw that she would never
Her good temper and her charming conversational powers kept all the
company amused. I conceived that it would be possible to get used to
her face, and to live with her without being disgusted. In the
evening I talked about her to my housekeeper, who said that the
beauty of her body and her mental endowments might be sufficient to
attract people to her. I agreed, though I felt that I could never
become one of her lovers.
Three or four days after, I went to a bookseller's to read the
newspaper, and was politely accosted by a fine young man of twenty,
who said that Madame de la Saone was sorry not to have seen me again
"You know the lady?"
"I had the honour to sup at her house with you."
"True; I remember you."
"I get her the books she likes, as I am a bookseller, and not only do
I sup with her every evening, but we breakfast together every morning
before she gets up."
"I congratulate you. I bet you are in love with her."
"You are pleased to jest, but she is pleasanter than you think."
"I do not jest at all, but I would wager she would not have the
courage to push things to an extremity."
"Perhaps you would lose."
"Really? I should be very glad to."
"Let us make a bet."
"How will you convince me I have lost?"
"Let us bet a louis, and you must promise to be discreet."
"Come and sup at her house this evening, and I will tell you
"You shall see me there."
When I got home I told my housekeeper what I had heard.
"I am curious to know," said she, "how he will convince you." I
promised to tell her, which pleased her very much.
I was exact to my appointment. Madame de la Saone reproached me
pleasantly for my absence, and gave me a delicious supper. The young
bookseller was there, but as his sweetheart did not speak a word to
him he said nothing and passed unnoticed.
After supper we went out together, and he told me on the way that if
I liked he would satisfy me the next morning at eight o'clock. "Call
here, and the lady's maid will tell you her mistress is not visible,
but you have only to say that you will wait, and that you will go
into the ante-chamber. This room has a glass door commanding a view
of madame's bed, and I will take care to draw back the curtains over
the door so that you will be able to see at your ease all that passes
between us. When the affair is over I shall go out by another door,
she will call her maid, and you will be shewn in. At noon, if you
will allow me, I will bring you some books to the 'Falcon,' and if
you find that you have lost you shall pay me my louis." I promised
to carry out his directions, and we parted.
I was curious to see what would happen, though I by no means regarded
it as an impossibility; and on my presenting myself at eight o'clock,
the maid let me in as soon as I said that I could wait. I found a
corner of the glass door before which there was no curtain, and on
applying my eye to the place I saw my young adventurer holding his
conquest in his arms on the bed. An enormous nightcap entirely
concealed her face--an excellent precaution which favoured the
When the rascal saw that I had taken up my position, he did not keep
me waiting, for, getting up, he presented to my dazzled gaze, not
only the secret treasures of his sweetheart, but his own also. He
was a small man, but where the lady was most concerned he was a
Hercules, and the rogue seemed to make a parade of his proportions as
if to excite my jealousy. He turned his victim round so that I
should see her under all aspects, and treated her manfully, while she
appeared to respond to his ardour with all her might. Phidias could
not have modelled his Venus on a finer body; her form was rounded and
voluptuous, and as white as Parian marble. I was affected in a
lively manner by the spectacle, and re-entered my lodging so inflamed
that if my dear Dubois had not been at hand to quench my fire I
should have been obliged to have extinguished it in the baths of La
When I had told her my tale she wanted to know the hero of it, and at
noon she had that pleasure. The young bookseller brought me some
books I had ordered, and while paying him for them I gave him our bet
and a Louis over and above as a mark of my satisfaction at his
prowess. He took it with a smile which seemed to shew that he
thought I ought to think myself lucky to have lost. My housekeeper
looked at him for some time, and asked if he knew her; he said he did
"I saw you when you were a child," said she. "You are the son of M.
Mignard, minister of the Gospel. You must have been ten when I saw
"You did not care to follow your father's profession, then?"
"No madam, I feel much more inclined to the worship of the creature
than to that of the Creator, and I did not think my father's
profession would suit me."
"You are right, for a minister of the Gospel ought to be discreet,
and discretion is a restraint."
This stroke made him blush, but we did not give him time to lose
courage. I asked him to dine with me, and without mentioning the
name of Madame de la Saone he told his amorous adventures and
numerous anecdotes about the pretty women of Berne.
After he had gone, my housekeeper said that once was quite enough to
see a young man of his complexion. I agreed with her, and had no
more to do with him; but I heard that Madame de Saone took him to
Paris and made his fortune. Many fortunes are made in this manner,
and there are some which originated still more nobly. I only
returned to Madame de la Saone to take my leave, as I shall shortly
I was happy with my charmer, who told me again and again that with me
she lived in bliss. No fears or doubts as to the future troubled her
mind; she was certain, as I was, that we should never leave each
other; and she told me she would pardon all the infidelities I might
be guilty of, provided I made full confession. Hers, indeed, was a
disposition with which to live in peace and content, but I was not
born to enjoy such happiness.
After we had been a fortnight at Berne, my housekeeper received a
letter from Soleure. It came from Lebel. As I saw she read it with
great attention, I asked her what it was about.
"Take it and read it," said she; and she sat down in front of me to
read my soul by the play of my features.
Lebel asked her, in concise terms, if she would become his wife.
"I have only put off the proposition," said he, "to set my affairs in
order, and to see if I could afford to marry you, even if the consent
of the ambassador were denied us. I find I am rich enough to live
well in Berne or elsewhere without the necessity of my working;
however I shall not have to face the alternative, for at the first
hint of the matter M. de Chavigni gave his consent with the best
He went on begging her not to keep him long waiting for a reply, and
to tell him in the first place if she consented; in the second,
whether she would like to live at Berne and be mistress in her own
house, or whether she would prefer to return to Soleure and live with
the ambassador, which latter plan might bring them some profit. He
ended by declaring that whatever she had would be for her sole use,
and that he would give her a dower of a hundred thousand francs. He
did not say a word about me.
"Dearest," said I, "you are at perfect liberty to choose your own
course, but I cannot contemplate your leaving me without considering
myself as the most unhappy of men."
"And if I lose you I should be the most unhappy of women; for if you
love me I care not whether we are married or no."
"Very good; but what answer are you going to make."
"You shall see my letter to-morrow. I shall tell him politely but
plainly that I love you, that I am yours, that I am happy, and that
it is thus impossible for me to accept his flattering propositions.
I shall also say that I appreciate his generosity, and that if I were
wise I should accept him, but that being the slave of my love for you
I can only follow my inclination."
"I think you give an excellent turn to your letter. In refusing such
an offer you could not have better reasons than those you give, and
it would be absurd to try and persuade him that we are not lovers, as
the thing is self-evident. Nevertheless, my darling, the letter
"Because I have not a hundred thousand francs to offer you."
"I despise them; and if you were to offer me such a sum, I should
only accept it to lay it at your feet. You are certainly not
destined to become miserable, but if that should come to pass, be
sure that I should be only too happy to share your misery."
We fell into one another's arms, and love made us taste all its
pleasures. Nevertheless, in the midst of bliss, some tinge of
sadness gained upon our souls. Languishing love seems to redouble
its strength, but it is only in appearance; sadness exhausts love
more than enjoyment. Love is a madcap who must be fed on laughter
and mirth, otherwise he dies of inanition.
Next day my sweetheart wrote to Lebel in the sense she had decided
on, and I felt obliged to write M. de Chavigni a letter in which
love, sentiment, and philosophy were mingled. I did not conceal from
him that I loved the woman whom Lebel coveted to distraction, but I
said that as a man of honour I would rather die than deprive my
sweetheart of such solid advantages.
My letter delighted the housekeeper, for she was anxious to know what
the ambassador thought of the affair, which needed much reflection.
I got on the same day the letters of introduction I had asked Madame
d'Urfe to give me, and I determined, to the joy of my dear Dubois, to
set out for Lausanne. But we must hark back a little.
When one is sincerely in love, one thinks the beloved object full of
deserts, and the mind, the dupe of the feelings, thinks all the world
jealous of its bliss.
A. M. de F----, member of the Council of the Two Hundred, whom I had
met at Madame de la Saone's, had become my friend. He came to see me
and I introduced him to my dear Dubois, whom he treated with the same
distinction he would have used towards my wife. He had presented us
to his wife, and had come several times to see us with her and her
daughter Sara. Sara was only thirteen, but she was extremely
precocious, dark complexioned, and full of wit; she was continually
uttering naivetes, of which she understood the whole force, although
looking at her face one would have thought her perfectly innocent.
She excelled in the art of making her father and mother believe in
her innocence, and thus she enjoyed plenty of liberty.
Sara had declared that she was in love with my housekeeper, and as
her parents laughed at her she lavished her caresses on my dear
Dubois. She often came to breakfast with us, and when she found us
in bed she would embrace my sweetheart, whom she called her wife,
passing her hand over the coverlet to tickle her, telling her that
she was her wife, and that she wanted to have a child. My sweetheart
laughed and let her go on.
One day I told her jokingly that she would make me jealous, that I
thought she really was a man, and that I was going to make sure. The
sly little puss told me that I was making a mistake, but her hand
seemed rather to guide mine than to oppose it. That made me curious,
and my mind was soon set at rest as to her sex. Perceiving that she
had taken me in and got exactly what she wanted, I drew back my hand,
and imparted my suspicions to my housekeeper, who said I was right.
However, as the little girl had no part in my affections, I did not
push the thing any farther.
Two or three days after, this girl came in as I was getting up, and
said in her usual simple way,
"Now that you know I am not really a man you can not be jealous or
have objection to my taking your place beside my little wife, if she
will let me."
My housekeeper, who looked inclined to laugh, said,
In the twinkling of an eye she was undressed and in the arms of her
little wife, whom she proceeded to treat as an amorous husband. My
sweetheart laughed, and Sara, having contrived in the combat to rid
herself of her chemise and the coverlet, displayed herself to me
without any veil, while at the same time she shewed me all the
beauties of my sweetheart. This sight inflamed me. I shut the door,
and made the little hussy witness of my ardour with my sweetheart.
Sara looked on attentively, playing the part of astonishment to
perfection, and when I had finished she said, with the utmost
"Do it again:"
"I can't, my dear; don't you see I am a dead man?"
"That's very funny," she cried; and with the most perfect innocence
she came over, and tried to effect my resurrection.
When she had succeeded in placing me in the wished-for condition, she
said, "Now go in;" and I should doubtless have obeyed, but my
housekeeper said, "No, dearest, since you have effected its
resurrection, you must make it die again."
"I should like to," said she, "but I am afraid I have not got enough
room;" and so saying she placed herself in a position to shew me that
she was speaking the truth, and that if she did not make me die it
was not her fault.
Imitating her simplicity I approached her, as if I wished to oblige
her, but not to go too far; but not finding any resistance I
accomplished the act in all its forms, without her giving the
slightest evidence of pain, without any of the accidents of a first
trial, but, on the contrary, with all the marks of the utmost
Although I was sure of the contrary, I kept my self-possession enough
to tell my housekeeper that Sara had given me what can only be given
once, and she pretended to believe me.
When the operation was finished, we had another amusing scene. Sara
begged us not to say a word about it to her papa or mamma, as they
would be sure to scold her as they had scolded her when she got her
ears pierced without asking their leave.
Sara knew that we saw through her feigned simplicity, but she
pretended not to do so as it was to her own advantage. Who could
have instructed her in the arts of deceit? Nobody; only her natural
wit, less rare in childhood than in youth, but always rare and
astonishing. Her mother said her simplicities shewed that she would
one day be very intelligent, and her father maintained that they were
signs of her stupidity. But if Sara had been stupid, our bursts of
laughter would have disconcerted her; and she would have died for
shame, instead of appearing all the better pleased when her father
deplored her stupidity. She would affect astonishment, and by way of
curing one sort of stupidity she corroborated it by displaying
another. She asked us questions to which we could not reply, and
laughed at her instead, although it was evident that before putting