Part 35 out of 70
"From Roche," said I. "I should have been very sorry to leave
Switzerland without seeing the famous Haller. In my travels I render
homage to my learned contemporaries, and you come the last and best."
"You must have liked Haller."
"I spent three of the happiest days of my life with him."
"I congratulate you. He is a great man and worthy of all honour."
"I think as you do, and I am glad to hear you doing him justice; I am
sorry he was not so just towards you."
"Well, you see we may be both of us mistaken."
At this reply, the quickness of which constituted its chief merit,
everybody present began to laugh and applaud.
No more was said of literature, and I became a silent actor till
M. de Voltaire retired, when I approached Madame Denis, and asked her
if she had any commands for me at Rome. I went home well pleased at
having compelled the giant of intellect to listen to reason, as I
then thought foolishly enough; but there was a rankling feeling left
in my heart against him which made me, ten years later, criticise all
he had written.
I am sorry now for having done so, though on reading my censures over
again I find that in many places I was right. I should have done
better, however, to have kept silence, to have respected his genius,
and to have suspected my own opinions. I should have considered that
if it had not been for those quips and cranks which made me hate him
on the third day, I should have thought him wholly sublime. This
thought alone should have silenced me, but an angry man always thinks
himself right. Posterity on reading my attack will rank me among the
Zoyluses, and the humble apology I now make to the great man's shades
may not be read.
If we meet in the halls of Pluto, the more peccant parts of our
mortal nature purged away, all will be made up; he will receive my
heartfelt apologies, and he will be my friend, I his sincere admirer.
I spent part of the night and the whole of the following day in
writing down my conversations with Voltaire, and they amounted nearly
to a volume, of which I have only given a mere abridgment. Towards
the evening my Epicurean syndic called on me, and we went to sup with
the three nymphs, and for five hours we indulged in every species of
wantonness, in which I had a somewhat fertile imagination. On
leaving I promised to call on them again on my return from Rome, and
I kept my word. I set out the next day, after dining with the
syndic, who accompanied me as far as Anneci, where I spent the night.
Next day I dined at Aix, with the intention of lying at Chamberi, but
my destiny ordered otherwise.
Aix is a villainous hole where the mineral waters attract people of
fashion towards the end of the summer--a circumstance of which I was
then ignorant. I dined hastily, wishing to set out immediately for
Chamberi, when in the middle of my repast a crowd of fashionable
people burst into the room. I looked at them without stirring,
replying with an inclination of the head to the bows which some of
them made me. I soon discovered from their conversation that they
had all come to take the waters. A gentleman of a fine presence came
up to me and asked if I were going to Turin; I answered that my way
was to Marseilles.
Their dinner was served, and everybody sat down. Among them I
noticed several pleasant-looking ladies, with gentlemen who were
either their husbands or their lovers. I concluded that I might find
some amusement with them, as they all spoke French with that easy
tone of good society which is so attractive, and I felt that I should
be inclined to stay without much pressing, for that day at all
I finished my dinner before the company had come to the end of their
first course, and as my coach could not go for another hour I went up
to a pretty woman, and complimented her on the good the waters of Aix
seemed to have done her, for her appetite made all who looked at her
"I challenge you to prove that you are speaking the truth," said she,
with a smile. I sat down next to her, and she gave me a nice piece
of the roast which I ate as if I had been fasting.
While I was talking with the lady, and eating the morsels she gave
me, I heard a voice saying that I was in the abbe's place, and
another voice replying that the abbe had been gone for half an hour.
"Why has he gone?" asked a third, "he said he was going to stay here
for another week." At this there was some whispering, but the
departure of an abbe had nothing interesting in it for me, and I
continued eating and talking. I told Le Duc, who was standing behind
my chair, to get me some champagne. I offered the lady some, she
accepted, and everyone began to call for champagne. Seeing my
neighbour's spirits rising, I proceeded to make love to her, and
asked her if she were always as ready to defy those who paid their
court to her.
"So many of them," she answered, "are not worthy the trouble."
She was pretty and quick-witted, and I took a fancy to her, and
wished for some pretext on which I could put off my departure, and
chance came to my aid.
"The place next to you was conveniently empty," said a lady to my
neighbour who was drinking with me.
"Very conveniently, for my neighbour wearied me."
"Had he no appetite?" said I.
"Gamesters only have an appetite for money."
"Usually, but your power is extraordinary; for I have never made two
dinners on one day before now."
"Only out of pride; as I am sure you will eat no supper."
"Let us make a bet on it."
"We will; we will bet the supper."
All the guests began to clap, and my fair neighbour blushed with
pleasure. I ordered Le Duc to tell my coachman that I should not be
going till the next day.
"It is my business," said the lady, "to order the supper."
"Yes, you are right; for he who pays, orders. My part will be to
oppose you to the knife, and if I eat as much as you I shall be the
At the end of dinner, the individual who had addressed me before
called for cards, and made a small bank of faro. He put down twenty-
five Piedmontese pistoles, and some silver money to amuse the ladies
--altogether it amounted nearly to forty louis. I remained a
spectator during the first deal, and convinced myself that the banker
played very well.
Whilst he was getting ready for the second deal, the lady asked me
why I did not play. I whispered to her that she had made me lose my
appetite for money. She repaid this compliment with a charming
After this declaration, feeling myself entitled to play, I put down
forty louis, and lost them in two deals. I got up, and on the banker
saying very politely that he was sorry for my loss, I replied that it
was a mere nothing, but that I always made it a rule never to risk a
sum of money larger than the bank. Somebody then asked me if I knew
a certain Abbe Gilbert.
"I knew a man of that name," said I, "at Paris; he came from Lyons,
and owes me a pair of ears, which I mean to cut off his head when I
My questioner made no reply to this, and everybody remained silent,
as if nothing had been said. From this I concluded that the abbe
aforesaid must be the same whose place I had occupied at dinner. He
had doubtless seen me on my arrival and had taken himself off. This
abbe was a rascal who had visited me at Little Poland, to whom I had
entrusted a ring which had cost me five thousand florins in Holland;
next day the scoundrel had disappeared.
When everybody had left the table, I asked Le Duc if I were well
"No," said he; "would you like to see your room?"
He took me to a large room, a hundred paces from the inn, whose sole
furniture consisted of its four walls, all the other rooms being
occupied. I complained vainly to the inn-keeper, who said,
"It's all I can offer you, but I will have a good bed, a table, and
chairs taken there."
I had to content myself with it, as there was no choice.
"You will sleep in my room," said I to Le Duc, "take care to provide
yourself with a bed, and bring my baggage in."
"What do you think of Gilbert, sir?" said my Spaniard; "I only
recognized him just as he was going, and I had a lively desire to
take him by the back of his neck."
"You would have done well to have satisfied that desire."
"I will, when I see him again."
As I was leaving my big room, I was accosted politely by a man who
said he was glad to be my neighbour, and offered to take me to the
fountain if I were going there. I accepted his offer. He was a tall
fair man, about fifty years old; he must once have been handsome, but
his excessive politeness should have made me suspect him; however, I
wanted somebody to talk to, and to give me the various pieces of
information I required. On the way he informed me of the condition
of the people I had seen, and I learnt that none of them had come to
Aix for the sake of the waters.
"I am the only one," said he, "who takes them out of necessity. I am
consumptive; I get thinner every day, and if the waters don't do me
any good I shall not last much longer."
So all the others have only come here for amusement's sake?"
"And to game, sir, for they are all professional gamesters."
"Are they French?"
"They are all from Piedmont or Savoy; I am the only Frenchman here."
"What part of France do you come from?"
"From Lorraine; my father, who is eighty years old, is the Marquis
Desarmoises. He only keeps on living to spite me, for as I married
against his wishes he has disinherited me. However, as I am his only
son, I shall inherit his property after his death, in spite of him.
My house is at Lyons, but I never go there, as I have the misfortune
to be in love with my eldest daughter, and my wife watches us so
closely as to make my courtship hopeless."
"That is very fine; otherwise, I suppose, your daughter would take
pity on her amorous papa?"
"I daresay, for she is very fond of me, and has an excellent heart."
My Adventures at Aix--My Second M. M.--Madame Zeroli
This man, who, though he did not know me, put the utmost confidence
in me, so far from thinking he was horrifying me by the confession of
such wickedness, probably considered he was doing me a great honour.
While I listened to him I reflected that though depraved he might
have his good points, and that his weakness might have a pitiable if
not a pardonable side. However, wishing to know more of him, I
"In spite of your father's sternness, you live very well."
"On the contrary, I live very ill. I enjoy a pension from the
Government, which I surrender to my wife, and as for me I make a
livelihood on my travels. I play black gammon and most other games
perfectly. I win more often than I lose, and I live on my winnings."
"But is what you have told me about your daughter known to the
"Everybody knows it; why should I hide it? I am a man of honour and
injure no one; and, besides, my sword is sharp."
"Quite so; but would you tell me whether you allow your daughter to
have a lover?"
"I should have no objection, but my wife is religious."
"Is your daughter pretty?"
"Very; if you are going to Lyons, you can go and see her; I will give
you a letter of introduction for her." "Thank you, but I am going to
Italy. Can you tell me the name of the gentleman who kept the bank?"
"That is the famous Parcalier, Marquis de Prie since the death of his
father, whom you may have known as ambassador at Venice. The
gentleman who asked you if you knew the Abbe Gilbert is the Chevalier
Zeroli, husband of the lady you are to sup with. The rest are
counts, marquises, and barons of the usual kind, some from Piedmont
and some from Savoy. Two or three are merchants' sons, and the
ladies are all their friends or relations. They are all professional
gamblers and sharp-witted. When a stranger comes here they know how
to get over him, and if he plays it is all up with him, for they go
together like pickpockets at a fair. They think they have got you,
so take care of yourself."
In the evening we returned to the inn, and found all the company
playing, and my companion proceeded to play with a Count de
The Chevalier Zeroli offered to play faro with me for forty sequins,
and I had just lost that sum when supper was served. My loss had not
affected my spirits, and the lady finding me at once hungry and gay
paid the bet with a good grace. At supper I surprised her in certain
side-glances, which warned me that she was going to try to dupe me; I
felt myself safe as far as love was concerned, but I had reason to
dread fortune, always the friend of those who keep a bank at faro,
especially as I had already lost. I should have done well to go, but
I had not the strength; all I could do was to promise myself that I
would be extremely prudent. Having large sums in paper money and
plenty of gold, it was not difficult for me to be careful.
Just after supper the Marquis de Prie made a bank of about three
hundred sequins. His staking this paltry sum shewed me that I had
much to lose and little to win, as it was evident that he would have
made a bank of a thousand sequins if he had had them. I put down
fifty Portuguese crowns, and said that as soon as I had lost them I
should go to bed. In the middle of the third deal I broke the bank.
"I am good for another two hundred louis," said the marquis.
"I should be glad to continue playing," I replied, "if I had not to
go at day-break"; and I thereupon left the room.
Just as I was going to bed, Desarmoises came and asked me to lend him
twelve louis. I had expected some such request, and I counted them
out to him. He embraced me gratefully, and told me that Madame
Zeroli had sworn to make me stay on at least for another day. I
smiled and called Le Duc, and asked him if my coachman knew that I
was starting early; he replied that he would be at the door by five
"Very good," said Desarmoises, "but I will wager that you will not go
for all that."
He went out and I went to bed, laughing at his prophecy.
At five o'clock next morning the coachman came to tell me that one of
the horses was ill and could not travel. I saw that Desarmoises had
had an inkling of some plot, but I only laughed. I sent the man
roughly about his business, and told Le Duc to get me post-horses at
the inn. The inn-keeper came and told me that there were no horses,
and that it would take all the morning to find some, as the Marquis
de Prie, who was leaving at one o'clock in the morning, had emptied
his stables. I answered that in that case I would dine at Aix, but
that I counted on his getting me horses by two o'clock in the
I left the room and went to the stable, where I found the coachman
weeping over one of his horses stretched out on the straw. I thought
it was really an accident, and consoled the poor devil, paying him as
if he had done his work, and telling him I should not want him any
more. I then went towards the fountain, but the reader will be
astonished by a meeting of the most romantic character, but which is
yet the strict truth.
At a few paces from the fountain I saw two nuns coming from it. They
were veiled, but I concluded from their appearance that one was young
and the other old. There was nothing astonishing in such a sight,
but their habit attracted my attention, for it was the same as that
worn by my dear M---- M----, whom I had seen for the last time on
July 24th, 1755, five years before. The look of them was enough, not
to make me believe that the young nun was M---- M----, but to excite
my curiosity. They were walking towards the country, so I turned to
cut them off that I might see them face to face and be seen of them.
What was my emotion when I saw the young nun, who, walking in front,
and lifting her veil, disclosed the veritable face of M---- M----.
I could not doubt that it was she, and I began to walk beside her;
but she lowered her veil, and turned to avoid me.
The reasons she might have for such a course passed in a moment
through my mind, and I followed her at a distance, and when she had
gone about five hundred paces I saw her enter a lonely house of poor
appearance that was enough for me. I returned to the fountain to see
what I could learn about the nun.
On my way there I lost myself in a maze of conjectures.
"The too charming and hapless M---- M----," said I to myself, "must
have left her convent, desperate--nay, mad; for why does she still
wear the habit of her order? Perhaps, though, she has got a
dispensation to come here for the waters; that must be the reason why
she has a nun with her, and why she has not left off her habit. At
all events the journey must have been undertaken under false
pretences. Has she abandoned herself to some fatal passion, of which
the result has been pregnancy? She is doubtless perplexed, and must
have been pleased to see me. I will not deceive her expectations; I
will do all in my power to convince her that I am worthy of her."
Lost in thought I did not notice I had arrived at the fountain, round
which stood the whole host of gamesters. They all crowded round me,
and said how charmed they were to see me still there. I asked the
Chevalier Zeroli after his wife, and he told me she was still abed,
and that it would be a good thing if I would go and make her get up.
I was just going when the doctor of the place accosted me, saying,
that the waters of the Aix would increase my good health. Full of
the one idea, I asked him directly if he were the doctor in
attendance on a pretty nun I had seen.
"She takes the waters," he replied, "but she does not speak to
"Where does she come from?"
"Nobody knows; she lives in a peasant's house."
I left the doctor, and instead of going towards the inn, where the
hussy Zeroli was doubtless waiting for me, I made my way towards the
peasant's house, which already seemed to me the temple of the most
blissful deities, determined to obtain the information I required as
prudently as might be. But as if love had favoured my vows, when I
was within a hundred paces of the cottage I saw the peasant woman
coming out to meet me.
"Sir," said she, accosting me, "the young nun begs you to return this
evening at nine o'clock; the lay-sister will be asleep then, and she
will be able to speak freely to you."
There could be no more doubt. My heart leapt with joy. I gave the
country-woman a louis, and promised to be at the house at nine
With the certainty of seeing my dear M---- M---- again I returned to
the inn, and on ascertaining which was Madame Zeroli's room I entered
without ceremony, and told her that her husband had sent me to make
her get up.
"I thought you were gone?"
"I am going at two."
I found her still more enticing in bed than at table. I helped her
to put on her stays, and the sight of her charms inflamed my ardour,
but I experienced more resistance than I had anticipated. I sat down
at the foot of the bed, and told her how fervently I loved her, and
how unhappy I was at not being able to give her marks of my love
before I left.
"But," said she, laughing, "you have only got to stay."
"Give me some hope, and I will stay till to-morrow."
"You are in too much of a hurry, take things more quietly."
I contented myself with the few favours she granted me, pretending as
usual only to yield to violence, when I was obliged to restrain
myself on the appearance of her husband, who took the precaution of
making a noise before he carne in. As soon as she saw him, she said,
without the slightest perturbation, "I have persuaded the gentleman
to stay tell the day after to-morrow."
"I am all the more pleased to hear it, my dear," said the chevalier,
"as I owe him his revenge."
With these words he took up a pack of cards, which came as readily to
his hands as if they had been placed there on purpose, and seating
himself beside his wife, whom he made into the table, he began to
I could not draw back, and as my thoughts were distracted I kept on
losing till they came to tell me dinner was ready.
"I have no time to dress," said the lady, "so I will have my dinner
in bed, if you gentlemen will keep me company."
How could I refuse? The husband went out to order the dinner, and
feeling myself authorized by the loss of twenty Louis, I told the
hussy that if she would not give me a plain promise to make me happy
that afternoon I should go away when I had had my dinner.
"Breakfast with me to-morrow morning. We shall be alone."
After receiving from her certain earnests of her promise, I promised
to stay on.
We dined by her bedside, and I told Le Duc that I should not be going
till the afternoon of the next day, which made the husband and wife
radiant. When we had done, the lady said she would like to get up;
and I went out, promising to return and play piquet with her. I
proceeded to reline my purse, and I met Desarmoises, who said,
"I have found out the secret; they gave her coachman two Louis to
substitute a sick horse for his own."
"It's a matter of give and take," said I; "I am in love with the
chevalier's wife, and I am putting off my departure till I have got
all I want out of her."
"I am afraid you will have to pay pretty dearly for your pleasure.
However, I will do what I can for your interests."
I thanked him smilingly, and returned to the lady, whom I left at
eight o'clock under pretext of a violent headache, after having lost
ten louis to her. I reminded her of her promise for next morning at
nine o'clock, and I left her in the midst of the company.
It was a fine moonlight night as I walked towards the peasant's
house, where I was to see my dear M---- M---- once more. I was
impatient to see what the visit, on which the rest of my life might
depend, would bring forth.
I had taken the precaution to provide myself with a pair of pistols,
and my sword hung at my side, for I was not wholly devoid of
suspicion in this place, where there were so many adventurers; but at
twenty paces from the cottage I saw the woman coming towards me. She
told me that the nun could not come down, so I must be content to
enter through the window, by means of a ladder which she had placed
there for the purpose. I drew near, and not seeing any light I
should not have easily decided on going up, if I had not heard the
voice I thought I knew so well, saying, "Fear nothing; come."
Besides, the window was not very high up, and there could not be much
danger of a trap. I ascended, and thought for certain that I held my
dear M---- M---- in my arms, as I covered her face with my ardent
"Why," said I, in Venetian, "have you not a light? I hope you are
going to inform me of an event which seems wonderful to me; quick,
dearest, satisfy my impatience."
The reader will guess my surprise when he learns that on hearing her
voice close to me I found that she was not M---- M----. She told me
that she did not understand Venetian, and that I did not require a
light to tell her what M. de Coudert had decided on doing to save
her from her peril.
"You surprise me; I do not know M. de Coudert. What! Are you not a
Venetian? Are you not the nun I saw this morning?"
"Hapless one! I have made a mistake. I am the nun you saw this
morning, but I am French. In the name of God keep my counsel and
begone, for I have nothing to say to you! Whisper, for if the lay-
sister woke up I should be undone."
"Do not be afraid of my discretion. What deceived me was your exact
likeness to a nun of your order who will be always dear to me: and if
you had not allowed me to see your features I should not have
followed you. Forgive the tenderness I shewed towards you, though
you must think me very audacious."
"You astonished me very much, but you did not offend me. I wish I
were the nun in whom you are interested. I am on the brink of a
"If ten louis are any good to you, it will be an honour for me to
give you them."
"Thank you, I have no need of money. Allow me to give you back the
louis you sent me this morning."
"The louis was for the country-woman. You increase my surprise; pray
tell me what is the misfortune under which you labour, for which
money can do nothing."
"Perhaps God has sent you to my aid. Maybe you will give me good
advice. Listen to what I am about to tell you."
"I am at your service, and I will listen with the greatest attention.
Let us sit down."
"I am afraid there is neither seat nor bed."
"Say on, then; we will remain standing."
"I come from Grenoble. I was made to take the veil at Chamberi. Two
years after my profession, M. de Coudert found means to see me. I
received him in the convent garden, the walls of which he scaled, and
at last I was so unfortunate as to become pregnant. The idea of
giving birth to a child at the convent was too dreadful--I should
have languished till I died in a terrible dungeon--and M. de Coudert
thought of a plan for taking me out of the convent. A doctor whom he
gained over with a large sum of money declared that I should die
unless I came here to take the waters, which he declared were the
only cure for my illness. A princess whom M. de Coudert knew was
partly admitted to the secret, and she obtained the leave of absence
for three months from the Bishop of Chamberi, and the abbess
consented to my going.
"I thus hoped to be delivered before the expiration of the three
months; but I have assuredly made a mistake, for the time draws to an
end and I feel no signs of a speedy delivery. I am obliged to return
to the convent, and yet I cannot do so. The lay-sister who is with
me is a perfect shrew. She has orders not to let me speak to
anybody, and never to let my face be seen. She it was who made me
turn when she saw you following us. I lifted my veil for you to see
that I was she of whom I thought you were in search, and happily the
lay-sister did not notice me. She wants me to return with her to the
convent in three days, as she thinks I have an incurable dropsy. She
does not allow me to speak to the doctor, whom I might, perhaps, have
gained over by telling him the truth. I am only twenty-one, and yet
I long for death."
"Do not weep so, dear sister, and tell me how you expect to be
delivered here without the lay-sister being aware of it?"
"The worthy woman with whom I am staying is an angel of goodness. I
have confided in her, and she promised me that when I felt the pangs
coming on she would give that malicious woman a sporific, and thus we
should be freed from all fears of her. By virtue of the drug she now
sleeps soundly in the room under this garret."
"Why was I not let in by the door?"
"To prevent the woman's brother seeing you; he is a rude boor."
"What made you think that I had anything to do with M. de Coudert?"
"Ten or twelve days ago, I wrote to him and told him of my dreadful
position. I painted my situation with such lively colours that I
thought he must do all in his power to help me. As the wretched
cling to every straw, I thought, when I saw you following me, that
you were the deliverer he had sent."
"Are you sure he got your letter?"
"The woman posted it at Anneci."
"You should write to the princess."
"I dare not."
"I will see her myself, and I will see M. de Coudert. In fine, I
will move heaven and earth, I will even go to the bishop, to obtain
an extension of your leave; for it is out of the question for you to
return to the convent in your present situation. You must decide,
for I can do nothing without your consent. Will you trust in me?
If so, I will bring you a man's clothes to-morrow and take you to
Italy with me, and while I live I swear I will care for you."
For reply, I only heard long-drawn sobs, which distressed me beyond
words, for I felt acutely the situation of this poor creature whom
Heaven had made to be a mother, and whom the cruelty of her parents
had condemned to be a useless nun.
Not knowing what else to say, I took her hand and promised to return
the next day and hear her decision, for it was absolutely necessary
that she should decide on some plan. I went away by the ladder, and
gave a second louis to the worthy woman, telling her that I should be
with her on the morrow at the same hour, but that I should like to be
able to enter by the door. I begged her to give the lay-sister a
stronger dose of opium, so that there should be no fear of her
awaking while I talked with the young nun.
I went to bed glad at heart that I had been wrong in thinking that
the nun was M---- M----. Nevertheless the great likeness between
them made me wish to see her nearer at hand, and I was sure that she
would not refuse me the privilege of looking at her the next day. I
smiled at the thought of the ardent kisses I had given her, but I
felt that I could not leave her to her fate. I was glad to find that
I did not need any sensual motive to urge me to a good deed, for as
soon as I found that it was not M---- M---- who had received those
tender kisses I felt ashamed of having given them. I had not even
given her a friendly kiss when I left her.
In the morning Desarmoises came and told me that all the company, not
seeing me at supper, had been puzzling itself to find out what had
become of me. Madame Zeroli had spoken enthusiastically about me,
and had taken the jests of the two other ladies in good part,
boasting that she could keep me at Aix as long as she remained there
herself. The fact was that I was not amorous but curious where she
was concerned, and I should have been sorry to have left the place
without obtaining complete possession of her, for once at all events.
I kept my appointment, and entered her room at nine o'clock exactly.
I found her dressed, and on my reproaching her she said that it
should be of no consequence to me whether she were dressed or
undressed. I was angry, and I took my chocolate without so much as
speaking to her. When I had finished she offered me my revenge at
piquet, but I thanked her and begged to be excused, telling her that
in the humour in which she had put me I should prove the better
player, and that I did not care to win ladies' money. So saying I
rose to leave the room.
"At least be kind enough to take me to the fountain."
"I think not. If you take me for a freshman, you make a mistake, and
I don't care to give the impression that I am pleased when I am
displeased. You can get whomsoever you please to take you to the
fountain, but as for me I must beg to be excused. Farewell, madam."
With these words I went out, paying no attention to her efforts to
I found the inn-keeper, and told him that I must leave at three
o'clock without a fail. The lady, who was at her window, could hear
me. I went straight to the fountain where the chevalier asked me
what had become of his wife, and I answered that I had left her in
her room in perfect health. In half an hour we saw her coming with a
stranger, who was welcomed by a certain M. de St. Maurice. Madame
Zeroli left him, and tacked herself on to me, as if there had been
nothing the matter. I could not repulse her without the most
troublesome consequences, but I was very cold. After complaining of
my conduct she said that she had only been trying me, that if I
really loved her I should put off my departure, and that I should
breakfast with her at eight o'clock the next day. I answered coolly
that I would think it over. I was serious all dinner-time, and said
once or twice that I must go at three o'clock, but as I wanted to
find some pretext for staying on account of the nun, I let myself be
persuaded into making a bank at faro.
I staked all the gold I had, and I saw every face light up as I put
down about four hundred louis in gold, and about six hundred francs
in silver. "Gentlemen," said I, "I shall rise at eight o'clock
precisely." The stranger said, with a smile, that possibly the bank
might not live so long, but I pretended not to understand him. It
was just three o'clock. I begged Desarmoises to be my croupier, and
I began to deal with due deliberation to eighteen or twenty punters,
all professional gamblers. I took a new pack at every deal.
By five o'clock I had lost money. We heard carriage wheels, and they
said it was three Englishmen from Geneva, who were changing horses to
go on to Chamberi. A moment after they came in, and I bowed. It was
Mr. Fox and his two friends, who had played quinze with me. My
croupier gave them cards, which they received gladly, and went ten
louis, playing on two and three cards, going paroli, seven and the
'va', as well as the 'quinze', so that my bank was in danger of
breaking. However, I kept up my face, and even encouraged them to
play, for, God being neutral, the chances were in my favour. So it
happened, and at the third deal I had cleared the Englishmen out, and
their carriage was ready.
While I was shuffling a fresh pack of cards, the youngest of them
drew out of his pocket-book a paper which he spewed to his two
companions. It was a bill of exchange. "Will you stake the value of
this bill on a card, without knowing its value?" said he.
"Yes," I replied, "if you will tell me upon whom it is drawn, and
provided that it does not exceed the value of the bank."
After a rapid glance at the pile of gold before me, he said, "The
bill is not for so large a sum as your bank, and it is payable at
sight by Zappata, of Turin."
I agreed, he cut, and put his money on an ace, the two friends going
half shares. I drew and drew and drew, but no ace appeared. I had
only a dozen cards left.
"Sir," said I, calmly to the punter, "you can draw back if you like."
"No, go on."
Four cards more, and still no ace; I had only eight cards left.
"My lord," said I, "it's two to one that I do not hold the ace, I
repeat you can draw back."
"No, no, you are too generous, go on."
I continued dealing, and won; I put the bill of exchange in my pocket
without looking at it. The Englishmen shook me by the hand and went
off laughing. I was enjoying the effect this bold stroke had made on
the company, when young Fox came in and with a roar of laughter
begged me to lend him fifty Louis. I counted them out with the
greatest pleasure, and he paid me them back in London three years
Everyone was curious to know the value of the bill of exchange, but I
was not polite enough to satisfy their curiosity. It was for eight
thousand Piedmontese francs, as I saw as soon as I was alone.
The Englishmen had brought me good luck, for when they had gone
fortune declared for the bank. I rose at eight o'clock, some ladies
having won a few louis, all the others were dried up. I had won more
than a thousand louis, and I gave twenty-five to Desarmoises, who
jumped for joy. I locked up my money, put my pistols in my pocket,
and set out towards the meeting-place.
The worthy peasant woman brought me in by the door, telling me that
everybody was asleep, and that she had not found it necessary to
renew the lay-sister's dose, as she was still asleep.
I was terrified. I went upstairs, and by the light of a single
candle I saw the wretched, veiled figure of the nun, extended upon a
sack which the peasant woman had placed along the wall instead of a
sofa. The candle which lighted this dreary place was fixed in a
"What have you decided on doing?" said I.
"I have decided on nothing, for an unforeseen incident has confounded
us. The lay-sister has been asleep for eighteen hours."
"She will die of convulsions or of an apoplectic fit to-night if you
do not call a doctor, who may possibly restore her to life with a
dose of castor oil."
"We have thought of that, but we did not dare to take that step for
fear of consequences; for whether he restores her or not, he will say
that we have poisoned her."
"I pity you, upon my soul! Indeed, I believe that it is too late,
and that a doctor could do nothing. One must obey the laws of
prudence and let her die. The mischief is done, and I see no
"At any rate, we ought to think of her soul and send for a priest."
"A priest would do her no good, as she is in a perfect lethargy; her
soul is safe enough. Besides, an ignorant priest would find out too
much, and would tell the whole story either through malice or
stupidity. It will be time to call a priest when she has ceased to
breathe. You must tell him that she died very suddenly; you must
weep a great deal, and give him a fee, and he will think only of
calming your grief, and nothing about the sudden death."
"Then we must let her die?"
"We must leave her to nature."
"If she dies I will send a messenger to the abbess, who will dispatch
"Yes, and that will give you another ten days. During that time you
may be delivered, and you will confess that every cloud has a silver
lining. Do not grieve so, but let us endeavour to submit to the will
of God. Send for the country-woman, for I must give her some hints
as to her conduct in this delicate matter, on which the honour and
life of all three may depend. For instance, if it were discovered
that I had come here, I might be taken for the poisoner."
The woman came, and I shewed her how necessary it was for her to be
prudent and discreet. She understood me perfectly, perceived her own
dangerous position, and promised that she would not send for the
priest till she was certain of the sister's death. I then made her
accept ten louis in case of need.
Seeing herself made rich by my liberality, she kissed my hands, knelt
down, and bursting into tears promised to follow my advice carefully.
When she had left us, the nun began to weep bitterly, accusing
herself of the murder of the lay-sister, and thinking that she saw
hell opening beneath her feet. I sought in vain to calm her; her
grief increased, and at last she fell in a dead faint on the sack. I
was extremely distressed, and not knowing what to do I called to the
woman to bring some vinegar, as I had no essences about me. All at
once I remembered the famous hellebore, which had served me so well
with Madame and, taking the little box, I held it to her nostrils.
It took effect just as the woman brought the vinegar. "Rub her
temples," said I. She took off her cap, and the blackness of her
hair was the only thing that convinced me it was not my fair
Venetian. The hellebore having brought her to her senses, she opened
her large black eyes, and from that moment I fell madly in love with
her. The peasant woman, seeing that she was herself again and out of
danger, went away, and taking her between my arms I covered her with
fiery kisses, in spite of her continuous sneezes.
"Please let me put on my veil again," said she, "or else I shall be
I laughed at her fears, and continued to lavish my burning kisses on
"I see you do not believe me, but I assure you that the abbess
threatened me with excommunication if I let myself be seen by a man."
"Fear these bolts no longer, dear, they cannot hurt you."
But she sneezed more violently than ever, and fearing lest her
efforts might bring on her delivery I called the woman again, and
left the nun in her care, promising to return at the same hour on the
It would not have been like me to leave this interesting creature in
her distress, but my devotion to her cause had no merit, since I was
madly in love with this new M---- M---- with black eyes; and love
always makes men selfish, since all the sacrifices they make for the
beloved object are always ultimately referable to their own desires.
I had determined, then, to do all in my power for her, and certainly
not to allow her to return to the convent in the state she was in.
I concluded that to save her would be an action pleasing to God,
since God alone could have made her so like my beloved, and God had
willed that I should win a good deal of money, and had made me find
the Zeroli, who would serve as a shield to my actions and baffle the
curiosity of spies. The philosophers and the mystics may perhaps
laugh at me, but what do I care? I have always delighted in
referring all the actions of my life to God, and yet people have
charged me with Atheism!
Next morning I did not forget the Zeroli, and I went to her room at
eight and found her asleep. Her maid begged me to go in quietly for
fear of awakening her, and then left me and shut the door. I knew my
part, for I remembered how, twenty years before, a Venetian lady,
whose sleep I had foolishly respected, had laughed at me and sent me
about my business. I therefore knew what to do; and having gently
uncovered her, I gave myself up to those delicate preliminary
delights which sweeten the final pleasure. The Zeroli wisely
continued to sleep; but at last, conquered by passion, she seconded
my caresses with greater ardour than my own, and she was obliged to
laugh at her stratagem. She told me that her husband had gone to
Geneva to buy a repeating watch, and that he would not return till
next day, and that she could spend the night with me.
"Why the night, dearest, while we have the day before us? The night
is for slumber, and in the day one enjoys double bliss, since the
light allows all the senses to be satisfied at once. If you do not
expect anybody, I will pass the whole morning with you."
"Very good; nobody will interrupt us."
I was soon in her arms, and for four hours we gave ourselves up to
every kind of pleasure, cheating each other the better to succeed,
and laughing with delight each time we convinced each other of our
love. After the last assault she asked me, in return for her
kindness, to spend three more days at Aix.
"I promise you," I said, "to stay here as long as you continue giving
me such marks of your love as you have given me this morning."
"Let us get up, then, and go to dinner."
"In company, dearest? Look at your eyes."
"All the better. People will guess what has happened, and the two
countesses will burst with envy. I want everybody to know that it is
for me alone that you are remaining at Aix."
"I am not worth the trouble, my angel, but so be it; I will gladly
oblige you, even though I lose all my money in the next three days."
"I should be in despair if you lost; but if you abstain from punting
you will not lose, though you may let yourself be robbed."
"You may be sure that I know what I am about, and that I shall only
allow ladies to rob me. You have had some money out of me yourself."
"Yes, but not nearly so much as the countesses, and I am sorry you
allowed them to impose on you, as they no doubt put it down to your
being in love with them."
"They are quite wrong, poor dears, for neither would have kept me
here a day."
"I am delighted to hear it. But let me tell you what the Marquis of
St. Maurice was saying about you yesterday."
"Say on. I hope he did not allow himself any offensive remarks."
"No; he only said that you should never have offered the Englishman
to be off at eight cards, as you had as much chance as he, and if he
had won he might have thought that you knew the card was there."
"Very good, but tell the marquis that a gentleman is incapable of
such a thought, and besides I knew the character of the young
nobleman, and I was almost sure he would not accept my offer."
When we appeared in the dining-room we were received with applause.
The fair Zeroli had the air of regarding me as her property, and I
affected an extremely modest manner. No one dared to ask me to make
a bank after dinner; the purses were too empty, and they contented
themselves with trente-quarante, which lasted the whole day, and
which cost me a score of louis.
I stole away as usual towards evening, and after having ordered Le
Duc not to leave my room for a moment during my stay at Aix, I went
towards the cottage where the unfortunate nun was no doubt expecting
me anxiously. Soon, in spite of the darkness, I thought I made out
somebody following me. I stopped short, and some persons passed me.
In two or three minutes I went on again, and I saw the same people,
whom I could not have caught up if they had not slackened their pace.
It might all be accidental, but I wanted to be sure about it. I left
the road without losing my reckoning, feeling quite sure of finding
my way when I ceased to be followed; but I soon felt sure that my
steps were dogged, as I saw the same shadowy figures at a little
distance off. I doubled my speed, hid behind a tree, and as soon as
I saw the spies fired a pistol in the air. I looked round shortly
after, saw no one, and went on my way.
I went upstairs and found the nun in bed, with two candles on the
"Are you ill?"
"I was ill for a time, but praised be God! I am now quite well,
having given birth to a fine boy at two o'clock this morning."
"Where is the child?"
"Alas! I did but kiss him once, and my good hostess carried him away
I know not where. The Holy Virgin heard my prayers, for my pains,
though sharp, were soon over, and a quarter of an hour after my
delivery I was still sneezing. Tell me whether you are a man or an
angel, for I fear lest I sin in adoring you."
"This is good news indeed. And how about the lay-sister?"
She still breathes, but we have no hope that she will recover. Her
face is terribly distorted. We have sinned exceedingly, and God will
punish me for it."
"No, dearest, God will forgive you, for the Most Holy judges by the
heart, and in your heart you had no evil thoughts. Adore Divine
Providence, which doeth all things well."
"You console me. The country-woman assures me that you are an angel,
for the powder you gave me delivered me. I shall never forget you,
though I do not know your name."
The woman then came, and I thanked her for the care she had taken of
the invalid. I again warned her to be prudent, and above all to
treat the priest well when the lay-sister breathed her last, and thus
he would not take notice of anything that might involve leer in
"All will be well," said she, "for no one knows if the lay-sister is
well or ill, or why the lady does not leave her bed."
"What have you done with the child?"
"I took him with my own hands to Anneci, where I bought everything
necessary for the well-being of this lady and for the death of the
"Doesn't your brother know anything about it?"
"Lord preserve us--no! He went away yesterday, and will not be back
for a week. We have nothing to fear."
I gave her another ten louis, begging her to buy some furniture, and
to get me something to eat by the time I came next day. She said she
had still plenty of money left, and I thought she would go mad when I
told her that whatever was over was her own. I thought the invalid
stood in need of rest, and I left her, promising to return at the
same hour on the following day.
I longed to get this troublesome matter safely over, and I knew that
I could not regard myself as out of the wood till the poor lay-sister
was under the sod. I was in some fear on this account, for if the
priest was not an absolute idiot he must see that the woman had been
Next morning I went to see the fair Zeroli, and I found her and her
husband examining the watch he had bought her. He came up to me,
took my hand, and said he was happy that his wife had the power to
keep me at Aix. I replied that it was an easy task for her, and a
"bravo" was all he answered.
The chevalier was one of those men who prefer to pass for good-
natured than foolish husbands. His wife took my arm, and we left him
in his room while we proceeded to the fountain. On the way she said
she would be alone the next day, and that she would no longer indulge
her curiosity in my nocturnal excursions.
"Oh! it is you who have had me followed, is it?"
"No, it is I who followed you, but to no effect. However, I did not
think you were so wicked. You frightened me dreadfully! Do you
know, sir, you might have killed me if your shot had not luckily
"I missed on purpose, dearest; for though I did not suspect that it
was you, I fired in the air, feeling certain that that would be
enough to scare off the spies."
"You won't be troubled with them any more."
"If they like to follow me, perhaps I shall let them, for my walk is
quite innocent. I am always back by ten."
While we were at table we saw a travelling carriage and six horses
drawn up. It was the Marquis de Prie, with a Chevalier de St. Louis
and two charming ladies, of whom one, as the Zeroli hastened to
inform me, was the Marquis's mistress. Four places were laid, and
while the newcomers were waiting to be served, they were told the
story of my bet with the Englishman.
The marquis congratulated me, telling me that he had not hoped to
find me at Aix on his return; and here Madame Zeroli put in her word,
and said that if it had not been for her he would not have seen me
again. I was getting used to her foolish talk, and I could only
agree with a good grace, which seemed to delight her intensely
although her husband was present, but he seemed to share her triumph.
The marquis said that he would make a little bank for me, and feeling
obliged to accept I soon lost a hundred louis. I went to my room to
write some letters, and at twilight I set out to see my nun.
"What news have you?"
"The lay-sister is dead, and she is to be buried tomorrow. To-morrow
is the day we were to have returned to the convent. This is the
letter I am sending to the abbess. She will dispatch another
laysister, unless she orders the country-woman to bring me back to
"What did the priest say?"
"He said the lay-sister died of a cerebral lethargy, which super-
induced an attack of apoplexy."
"Very good, very good."
"I want him to say fifteen masses for her, if you will let me?"
"Certainly, my dear, they will serve as the priest's reward, or
rather as the reward of his happy ignorance."
I called the peasant woman, and gave her the order to have the masses
said, and bade her tell the priest that the masses were to be said
for the intention of the person who paid for them. She told me that
the aspect of the dead sister was dreadful, and that she had to be
guarded by two women who sprinkled her with holy water, lest witches,
under the form of cats, should come and tear her limb from limb. Far
from laughing at her, I told her she was quite right, and asked where
she had got the laudanum.
"I got it from a worthy midwife, and old friend of mine. We got it
to send the poor lay-sister to sleep when the pains of child-birth
should come on."
"When you put the child at the hospital door, were you recognized?"
"Nobody saw me as I put it into the box, and I wrote a note to say
the child had not been baptized."
"Who wrote the note?"
"You will, of course, see that the funeral is properly carried out?"
"It will only cost six francs, and the parson will take that from two
louis which were found on the deceased; the rest will do for masses
to atone for her having had the money."
"What! ought she not to have had the two louis?"
"No," said the nun, "we are forbidden to have any money without the
knowledge of the abbess, under pain of excommunication."
"What did they give you to come here?"
"Ten Savoy sols a day. But now I live like a princess, as you shall
see at supper, for though this worthy woman knows the money you gave
her is for herself she lavishes it on me."
"She knows, dear sister, that such is my intention, and here is some
more to go on with."
So saying I took another ten louis from my purse, and bade the
country-woman spare nothing for the invalid's comfort. I enjoyed the
worthy woman's happiness; she kissed my hands, and told me that I had
made her fortune, and that she could buy some cows now.
As soon as I was alone with the charming nun, whose face recalled to
my memory the happy hours I had passed with M---- M----, my
imagination began to kindle, and drawing close to her I began to talk
of her seducer, telling her I was surprised that be had not helped
her in the cruel position in which he had placed her. She replied
that she was debarred from accepting any money by her vow of poverty
and obedience, and that she had given up to the abbess what remained
of the alms the bishop had procured her.
"As to my state when I was so fortunate as to meet you, I think he
cannot have received my letter."
"Possibly, but is he a rich or handsome man?"
"He is rich but certainly not handsome. On the contrary, he is
extremely ugly, deformed, and over fifty."
"How did you become amorous of a fellow like that?"
"I never loved him, but he contrived to gain my pity. I thought he
would kill himself, and I promised to be in the garden on the night
he appointed, but I only went there with the intention of bidding him
begone, and he did so, but after he had carried his evil designs into
"Did he use violence towards you, then?"
"No, for that would have been no use. He wept, threw himself on his
knees, and begged so hard, that I let him do what he liked on the
condition that he would not kill himself, and that he would come no
more to the garden."
"Had you no fear of consequences?"
"I did not understand anything about it; I always thought that one
could not conceive under three times at least."
"Unhappy ignorance! how many woes are caused by it! Then he did not
ask you to give him any more assignations?"
"He often asked me, but I would not grant his request because our
confessor made me promise to withstand him thenceforth, if I wished
to be absolved."
"Did you tell him the name of the seducer?"
"Certainly not; the good confessor would not have allowed me to do
so; it would have been a great sin."
"Did you tell your confessor the state you were in?"
"No, but he must have guessed it. He is a good old man, who
doubtless prayed to God for me, and my meeting you was, perhaps, the
answer to his prayers."
I was deeply moved, and for a quarter of an hour I was silent, and
absorbed in my thoughts. I saw that this interesting girl's
misfortune proceeded from her ignorance, her candour, her perfect
innocence, and a foolish feeling of pity, which made her grant this
monster of lubricity a thing of which she thought little because she
had never been in love. She was religious, but from mere habit and
not from reflection, and her religion was consequently very weak.
She abhorred sin, because she was obliged to purge herself of it by
confession under pain of everlasting damnation, and she did not want
to be damned. She had plenty of natural common sense, little wit,
for the cultivation of which she had no opportunities, and she was in
a state of ignorance only pardonable in a nun. On weighing these
facts I foresaw that I should find it a difficult task to gain those
favours which she had granted to Coudert; her repentance had been
too bitter for her to expose herself to the same danger over again.
The peasant woman returned, laid the table for two, and brought us
our supper. Everything was new--napkins, plates, glasses, spoons,
knives, etc., and everything was exquisitely clean. The wines were
excellent, and the dishes delightful in their simplicity. We had
roast game, fish, cheese with cream, and very good fruit. I spent an
hour and a half at supper, and drank two bottles of wine as I talked
to the nun, who ate very little.
I was in the highest spirits, and the woman, delighted with my praise
of her provision, promised I should be served the same way every
When I was alone with the nun, whose face filled me with such burning
recollections, I began to speak of her health, and especially of the
inconveniences attached to child-birth. She said she felt quite
well, and would be able to return to Chamberi on foot. "The only
thing that troubles me is my breasts, but the woman assures me that
the milk will recede to-morrow, and that they will then assume their
"Allow me to examine them, I know something about it."
She uncovered her bosom, not thinking it would give me any pleasure,
but wishing to be polite, without supposing I had any concealed
desires. I passed my hands over two spheres whose perfect shape and
whiteness would have restored Lazarus to life. I took care not to
offend her modesty, but in the coolest manner possible asked her how
she felt a little lower down, and as I put the question I softly
extended my hand. However, she kept it back gently, telling me not
to go any further as she still felt a little uneasy. I begged her
pardon, and said I hoped I should find everything quite right by the
"The beauty of your bosom," I added, "makes me take a still greater
interest in you."
So saying I let my mouth meet hers, and I felt a kiss escape as if
involuntarily from her lips. It ran like fire through my veins, my
brain began to whirl, and I saw that unless I took to a speedy flight
I should lose all her confidence. I therefore left her, calling her
"dear daughter" as I bade her farewell.
It poured with rain, and I got soaked through before I reached my
lodging. This was a bath well fitted to diminish the ardour of my
passion, but it made me very late in rising the next morning.
I took out the two portraits of M---- M----, one in a nun's dress,
and the other nude, as Venus. I felt sure they would be of service
to me with the nun.
I did not find the fair Zeroli in her room, so I went to the
fountain, where she reproached me with a tenderness I assessed at its
proper value, and our quarrel was made up in the course of our walk.
When dinner was over the Marquis the Prie made a bank, but as he only
put down a hundred louis I guessed that he wanted to win a lot and
lose a little. I put down also a hundred louis, and he said that it
would be better sport if I did not stake my money on one card only.
I replied that I would stake a louis on each of the thirteen.
"You will lose."
"We will see. Here is my hand on the table, and I stake a louis on
each of the thirteen cards."
According to the laws of probability, I should certainly have lost,
but fate decided otherwise and I won eighty louis. At eight o'clock
I bowed to the company, and I went as usual to the place where my new
love dwelt. I found the invalid ravishing. She said she had had a
little fever, which the country-woman pronounced to be milk fever,
and that she would be quite well and ready to get up by the next day.
As I stretched out my hand to lift the coverlet; she seized it and
covered it with kisses, telling me that she felt as if she must give
me that mark of her filial affection. She was twenty-one, and I was
thirty-five. A nice daughter for a man like me! My feelings for her
were not at all of a fatherly character. Nevertheless, I told her
that her confidence in me, as shewn by her seeing me in bed,
increased my affection for her, and that I should be grieved if I
found her dressed in her nun's clothes next day.
"Then I will stop in bed," said she; "and indeed I shall be very glad
to do so, as I experience great discomfort from the heat of my
woollen habit; but I think I should please you more if I were
decently dressed; however, as you like it better, I will stop in
The country-woman came in at that moment, and gave her the abbess'
letter which her nephew had just brought from Chamberi. She read it
and gave it to me. The abbess told her that she would send two lay-
sisters to bring her back to the convent, and that as she had
recovered her health she could come on-foot, and thus save money
which could be spent in better ways. She added that as the bishop
was away, and she was unable to send the lay-sisters without his
permission, they could not start for a week or ten days. She ordered
her, under pain of the major excommunication, never to leave her
room, never to speak to any man, not even to the master of the house,
and to have nothing to do with anybody except with the woman. She
ended by saying that she was going to have a mass said for the repose
of the departed sister's soul.
"I am obliged to you for having shewn me this letter, but be pleased
to tell me if I may visit you for the next week or ten days, without
doing hurt to your conscience; for I must tell you I am a man. I
have only stopped in this place because of the lively interest with
which you have inspired me, but if you have the least objection to
receive me on account of the singular excommunication with which you
are threatened, I will leave Aix tomorrow. Speak."
"Sir, our abbess is lavish of these thunders, and I have already
incurred the excommunication with which she threatens me; but I hope
it will not be ratified by God, as my fault has made me happy and not
miserable. I will be sincere with you; your visits are my only joy,
and that joy is doubled when you tell me you like to come. But if
you can answer my question without a breach of confidence, I should
like to know for whom you took me the first time you saw me; you
cannot imagine how you astonished and frightened me. I have never
felt such kisses as those you lavished on me, but they cannot
increase my sin as I was not a consenting party, and you told me
yourself that you thought you were kissing another."
"I will satisfy your curiosity. I think I can do so as you are aware
by this time that the flesh is weak, or rather stronger than the
spirit, and that it compels the strongest intellects to commit faults
against right reason. You shall hear the history of an amour that
lasted for two years with the fairest and the best of all the nuns of
"Tell me all, sir. I have fallen myself, and I should be cruel and
unjust if I were to take offence at anything you may tell me, for you
cannot have done anything with her that Coudert did not do to me."
"I did much more and much less, for I never gave her a child. If I
had been so unfortunate I should have carried her off to Rome, where
we should have fallen at the feet of the Holy Father, who would have
absolved her from her vows, and my dear M---- M---- would now be my
"Good heavens M---- M---- is my name."
This circumstance, which was really a mere coincidence, rendered our
meeting still more wonderful, and astonished me as much as it did
her. Chance is a curious and fickle element, but it often has the
greatest influence on our lives.
After a brief silence I told her all that had taken place between the
fair Venetian and myself. I painted our amorous combats in a lively
and natural manner, for, besides my recollections, I had her living
picture before my eyes, and I could follow on her features the
various emotions aroused by my recital. When I had finished she
"But is your M---- M---- really so like me, that you mistook me for
Drawing from my pocket-book the portrait in which M---- M---- was
dressed as a nun, I gave it to her, saying,
"Judge for yourself."
"She really is; it might pass for my portrait. It is my dress and my
face; it is wonderful. To this likeness I owe all my good fortune.
Thanks be to God that you do not love me as you loved her, whom I am
glad to call my sister. There are indeed two M---- M----s. Mighty
Providence, all Thy least ways are wonderful, and we are at best
poor, weak, ignorant mortals."
The worthy country-woman came up and have us a still better supper
than on the previous night. The invalid only ate soup, but she
promised to do better by the following evening.
I spent an hour with her after supper, and I convinced her by my
reserve that she had made a mistake in thinking that I only loved her
as a daughter. Of her own accord she shewed me that her breast had
regained its usual condition. I assured myself of the fact by my
sense of touch, to which she made no opposition, not thinking that I
could be moved by such a trifle. All the kisses which I lavished on
her lips and eyes she put down to the friendship for her. She said,
smiling, that she thanked God she was not fair like her sister, and I
smiled myself at her simplicity.
But I could not keep up this sort of thing for long, and I had to be
extremely careful. As soon as I felt that passion was getting the
upper hand, I gave her a farewell kiss and went away. When I got
home Le Duc gave me a note from Madame Zeroli, who said she would
expect me at the fountain, as she was going to breakfast with the
I slept well, but in my dreams I saw again and again the face of the
new M---- M----. Next day, as soon as I got to the fountain, Madame
Zeroli told me that all the company maintained that I ought to have
lost in playing on thirteen cards at once, as it was not true that
one card won four times in each deal; however, the marquis, though he
agreed with the rest, had said that he would not let me play like
"I have only one objection to make to that--namely, that if I wanted
to play in the same way again he could only prevent me by fighting
"His mistress swears she will make you play in the usual way."
I smiled, and thanked her for her information.
When I got back to the inn I played a game of quinze with the
marquis, and lost fifty louis; afterwards I let myself be persuaded
to hold a bank. I put down five hundred louis, and defied fortune.
Desarmoises was my croupier, and I warned the company that every card
must have the stake placed on it, and that I should rise at half-past
seven. I was seated between two ladies. I put the five hundred
louis on the board, and I got change from the inn-keeper to the
amount of a hundred crowns, to amuse the ladies with. But something
happened. All the cards before me were loose packs, and I called for
new ones. The inn-keeper said he had sent to Chamberi for a hundred
packs, and that the messenger would be back soon.
"In the meanwhile," said he, "you can use the cards on the table,
which are as good as new."
"I want them new, not as good as new. I have my prejudices, and they
are so strong as to be invincible. In the meanwhile I shall remain a
spectator, though I am sorry to keep the ladies waiting."
Nobody dared say a word, and I rose, after replacing my money in my
cash-box. The Marquis de Prie took the bank, and played splendidly.
I stood beside Madame Zeroli, who made me her partner, and gave me
five or six Louis the next day. The messenger who was to be back
soon did not return till midnight, and I thanked my stars for the
escape I had had, for in such a place, full of professional
gamesters, there are people whose eyes are considerably sharper than
a lynx's. I put the money back in my room, and proceeded on my usual
I found my fair nun in bed, and asked her,
"How do you feel to-day, madam?"
"Say daughter, that name is so sweet to me that I would you were my
father that I might clasp you in my arms without fearing anyone."
"Well, my dear daughter, do not fear anything, but open your arms to
"I will; we will embrace one another."
"My little ones are prettier than they were yesterday let me suck
"You silly papa, you are drinking your daughter's milk."
"It is so sweet, darling, and the little drop I tasted has made me
feel so happy. You cannot be angry at my enjoying this harmless
"Of course I am not angry; you delighted me. But I shall have to
call you baby, not papa."
"How glad I am to find you in better spirits to-night!"
"You have 'given me back my happiness, and I feel at peace once more.
The country-woman told me that in a few days I should be just the
same as if I had never seen Coudert."
"That is not quite true; how about your stomach, for instance?"
"Be quiet; you can't know anything about such things, and I am quite
"Let me see."
"Oh, no; you mustn't see, but you may feel."
"Oh! please don't go there."
"Why not? You can't be made differently from your sister, who would
be now about thirty. I want to shew you her portrait naked."
"Have you got it with you? I should so like to see it."
I drew it out and gave it to her. She admired it, kissed it, and
asked me if the painter had followed nature in all respects.
"Certainly," said I. "She knew that such a picture would give me
"It is very fine. It is more like me than the other picture. But I
suppose the long hair is only put in to please you?"
"Not at all. Italian nuns are allowed to wear their hair as long as
they please, provided they do not shew it.
"We have the same privilege. Our hair is cut once, and then we may
let it grow as long as we like."
"Then you have long hair?"
"As long as in the picture; but you would not like my hair as it is
"Why, black is my favourite colour. In the name of God, let me see
"You ask me in God's name to commit a sin; I shall incur another
excommunication, but I cannot refuse you anything. You shall see my
hair after supper, as I don't want to scandalize the countrywoman."
"You are right; I think you are the sweetest of your sex. I shall
die of grief when you leave this cottage to return to your sad
"I must indeed return and do penance for my sins."
"I hope you have the wit to laugh at the abbess's silly
"I begin not to dread them so much as I used to."
"I am delighted to hear it, as I see you will make me perfectly happy
The country-woman came up, and I gave her another ten louis; but it
suddenly dawned upon me that she took me for a madman. To disabuse
her of this idea I told her that I was very rich, and that I wanted
to make her understand that I could not give her enough to testify my
gratitude to her for the care she had taken of the good nun. She
wept, kissed my hand, and served us a delicious supper. The nun ate
well and drank indifferently, but I was in too great a hurry to see
the beautiful black hair of this victim to her goodness of heart, and
I could not follow her example. The one appetite drove out the
As soon as we were relieved of the country-woman's presence, she
removed her hood, and let a mass of ebon hair fall upon her alabaster
shoulders, making a truly ravishing contrast. She put the portrait
before her, and proceeded to arrange her hair like the first M----
"You are handsomer than your sister," said I, "but I think she was
more affectionate than you."
"She may have been more affectionate, but she had not a better
"She was much more amorous than you."
"I daresay; I have never been in love."
"That is strange; how about your nature and the impulse of the
"We arrange all that easily at the convent. We accuse ourselves to
the confessor, for we know it is a sin, but he treats it as a
childish fault, and absolves us without imposing any penances."
"He knows human nature, and makes allowances for your sad position."
"He is an old man, very learned, and of ascetic habits, but he is all
indulgence. It will be a sad day when we lose him."
"But in your amorous combats with another nun, don't you feel as if
you would like her to change into a man?"
"You make me laugh. To be sure, if my sweetheart became a man I
should not be sorry, but we do not desire such a miracle."
"That is, perhaps, through a coldness of temperament. In that your
sister was better, for she liked me much more than C---- C----, and
you do not like me as well as the sweetheart you left behind you at
"Certainly not, for with you I should violate my own chastity and
expose myself to consequences I tremble to think of."
"You do not love me, then?"
"What are you saying? I adore you, and I am very sorry you are not a
"I love you too, but your desire makes me laugh; for I would rather
not be turned into a woman to please you, especially as I expect I
should not think you nearly as beautiful. Sit down, my dear, and let
me see your fine hair flowing over your beautiful body."
"Do you want me to take off my chemise?"
"Of course; how handsome you look without it. Let me suck your
pretty breasts, as I am your baby."
She granted me this privilege, and looking at me with a face full of
pleasure, she allowed me to press her naked body to my breast, not
seeing, or pretending not to see, the acuteness of my enjoyment. She
"If such delights as these were allowed friendship, I should say it
is better than love; for I have never experienced so great pleasure
as when you put your lips to my bosom. Let me do the same to you."
"I wish you could, but you will find nothing there."
"Never mind; it will amuse us."
After she had fulfilled her desire, we spent a quarter of an hour in
mutual embraces, and my excitement was more than I could bear.
"Tell me truly," said I, "amidst our kisses, amidst these ecstacies
which we call child-like, do you not feel a desire for something
"I confess that I do, but such desires are sinful; and as I am sure
that your passions are as high as mine, I think we had better stop
our agreeable employment; for, papa dear, our friendship is becoming
burning love, is it not?"
"Yes, love, and love that cannot be overcome."
"I know it."
"If you know it, let us perform to love the sweetest of all
"No, no; on the contrary, let us stop and be more prudent in the
future, lest we become the victims of love. If you love me, you
should say so too."
With these words she slipped gently from my arms, put back her
beautiful hair under her cap, and when I had helped her on with her
chemise, the coarseness of which horrified me, I told her she might
calm herself. I told her how sorry I felt to see her delicate body
frayed by so coarse a stuff, and she told me it was of the usual
material, and that all the nuns wore chemises of the same kind.
My mind was in a state of consternation, for the constraint I had
imposed on myself seemed much greater than the utmost pleasure I
could have gained. I neither determined on persevering in nor on
abandoning the pursuit; all I wanted was to be sure that I should not
encounter the least resistance. A folded rose-leaf spoilt the repose
of the famous Smindyrides, who loved a soft bed. I preferred,
therefore, to go away, than to risk finding the rose-leaf which
troubled the voluptuous Sybarite. I left the cottage in love and
unhappy, and as I did not go to bed till two o'clock in the morning I
slept till mid-day.
When I woke up Le Duc gave me a note which he should have given me
the night before. He had forgotten it, and I was not sorry. The
note came from Madame Zeroli, who said she would expect me at nine
o'clock in the morning, as she would be alone. She told me that she
was going to give a supper-party, that she was sure I would come, and
that as she was leaving Aix directly after, she counted on my coming
too--at any rate, as far as Chamberi. Although I still liked her,
her pretensions made me laugh. It was too late now to be with her at
nine, I could not go to her supper-party because of my fair nun, whom
I would not have left just then for the seraglio of the Grand Turk;
and it was impossible for me to accompany her to Chamberi, as when I
came back I might no longer find the only object which kept me at
However, as soon as I had finished dressing, I went to see her and
found her furious. I excused myself by saying that I had only had
her letter for an hour, but she went away without giving me time to
tell her that I could not sup with her or go to Chamberi with her.
She scowled at me at table, and when the meal was over the Marquis de
Prie told me that they had some new cards, and that everybody was
longing to see me make a bank. I went for my money, and I made a
bank of five hundred louis. At seven o'clock I had lost more than
half that sum, but for all that I put the rest in my pocket and rose
from the table.
After a sad glance in the direction of Madame Zeroli I went to the
cottage, where I found my angel in a large new bed, with a small but
pretty bed beside it which was meant for me. I laughed at the
incongruity of these pieces of furniture with our surroundings, but
by way of thanking the thoughtful country-woman I drew fifty louis
from my purse and gave them to her, telling her it was for the
remainder of the time the lady was with her, and I told her to spend
no more money in furniture.
This was done in true gamester fashion. I had lost nearly three
hundred louis, but I had risked more than five hundred, and I looked
on the difference as pure profit. If I had gained as much as I had
lost I should probably have contented myself with giving her ten
louis, but I fancied I was losing the fifty louis on a card. I have
always liked spending money, but I have never been careless with it
except in gaming.
I was in an ecstasy to see the face of my M---- M----light up with
delight and astonishment.
"You must be very rich," said she.
"Don't think it, dearest, but I love you passionately; and not being
able to give you anything by reason of your unfortunate vow of
poverty, I lavish what I possess on this worthy woman, to induce her
to spare nothing for your comfort while you are here. Perhaps, too--
though it is not a definite thought--I hope that it will make you
love me more."
"How can I love you more than I do? The only thing that makes me
unhappy is the idea of returning to the convent."
"But you told me yesterday that it was exactly that idea which made
"I have changed my mind since yesterday. I passed a cruel night, for
as soon as I fell asleep I was in your arms, and I awoke again and
again on the point of consummating the greatest of crimes."
"You did not go through such a struggle before committing the same
crime with a man you did--not love."
"It is exactly because I did not love him that my sin struck me as
venial. Do you understand what I mean?"
"It's a piece of superstitious metaphysics, but I understand you
"You have made me happy, and I feel very grateful to you, and I feel
glad and certain of conquering when I reflect that your situation is
different to mine."
"I will not dispute it with you, although I am sorry for what you
"Because you think yourself in duty bound to refuse caresses which
would not hurt you, and which would give me new life and happiness."
"I have thought it over."
"Are you weeping?"
"Yes, and what is more, these tears are dear to me."
"I do not understand."
"I have two favours to ask of you."
"Say on, and be sure you will obtain what you ask."
End of My Adventure with the Nun from Chamberi--My Flight from Aix
"Yesterday," said the charming nun, "you left in my hands the two
portraits of my Venetian sister. I want you to give them to me."
"They are yours."
"I thank you. My second favour is, that you will be good enough to
take my portrait in exchange; you shall have it to-morrow."
"I shall be delighted. It will be the most precious of all my
jewels, but I wonder how you can ask me to take it as a favour,
whereas you are doing me a favour I should never have dared to
demand. How shall I make myself worthy of giving you my portrait?"
"Ah, dearest! it would be a dear possession, but God preserve me
from having it at the convent!"
"I will get myself painted under the costume of St. Louis of Gonzaga,
or St. Anthony of Padua."
"I shall be damned eternally."
"We will say no more about it."
She had on a dimity corset, trimmed with red ribbon, and a cambric
chemise. I was surprised, but politeness did not allow me to ask
where they came from, so I contented myself with staring at them.
She guessed my thoughts, and said, smilingly, that it was a present
from the countrywoman.
"Seeing her fortune made, the worthy woman tries every possible way
to convince her benefactor that she is grateful to him. Look at the
bed; she was certainly thinking of you, and look at these fine
materials. I confess I enjoy their softness extremely. I shall
sleep better to-night if I am not plagued by those seductive dreams
which tormented me last night."
"Do you think that the bed and the fine linen will deliver you from
the dreams you fear?"
"No doubt they will have a contrary effect, for softness irritates
the passions. I shall leave everything with the good woman. I do
not know what they would say if I took them with me to the convent."
"You are not so comfortable there?"
"Oh, no! A straw bed, a couple of blankets, and sometimes, as a
great favour, a thin mattress and two coarse sheets. But you seem
sad; you were so happy yesterday."
"How can I be happy when I can no longer toy with you without making
"You should have said without giving me the greatest delight."
"Then will you consent to receive pleasure in return for that which
you give me?"
"But yours is innocent and mine is not."
"What would you do, then, if mine and yours were the same?"
"You might have made me wretched yesterday, for I could not have
refused you anything."
"Why wretched? You would have had none of those dreams, but would
have enjoyed a quiet night. I am very sorry the peasant woman has
given you that corset, as otherwise I might at least have seen my
little pets without fear of bad dreams."
"But you must not be angry with the good woman, for she knows that a
corset is easy to unlace. And I cannot bear to see you sad."
With these words she turned her ardent gaze upon me, and I covered
her with kisses which she returned with interest. The country-woman
came up to lay the pretty new table, just as I was taking off her
corset without her offering the least resistance.
This good omen put me in high spirits, but as I looked at her I saw a
shadow passing across her face. I took care not to ask her the
reason, for I guessed what was the matter, and I did not wish to
discuss those vows which religion and honour should have made
inviolable. To distract her mind from these thoughts, I made her eat
by the example I set, and she drank the excellent claret with as much
pleasure as I, not thinking that as she was not used to it it would
put her in a frame of mind not favourable to continence. But she did
not notice this, for her gaiety made her look prettier than before,
and aroused her passions.
When we were alone I congratulated her on her high spirits, telling
her that my sadness had fled before her gaiety, and that the hours I
could spend with her would be all too short.
"I should be blithe," said she, "if it were only to please you."
"Then grant me the favour you accorded me yesterday evening."
"I would rather incur all the excommunications in the world than run
the risk of appearing unjust to you. Take me."
"So saying, she took off her cap, and let down her beautiful hair.
I unlaced her corset, and in the twinkling of an eye I had before me
such a siren as one sees on the canvas of Correggio. I could not
look upon her long without covering her with my burning kisses, and,
communicating my ardour, before long she made a place for me beside
herself. I felt that there was no time for thinking, that nature had
spoken out, and that love bade me seize the opportunity offered by
that delicious weakness. I threw myself on her, and with my lips
glued to hers I pressed her between my amorous arms, pending the
moment of supreme bliss.
But in the midst of these joys, she turned her head, closed her
eyelids, and fell asleep. I moved away a little, the better to
contemplate the treasures that love displayed before me. The nun
slept, as I thought; but even if her sleep was feigned, should I be
angry with her for the stratagem? Certainly not; true or feigned,
the sleep of a loved one should always be respected by a delicate
lover, although there are some pleasures he may allow himself. If
the sleep is real there is no harm done, and if it is put on the
lover only responds to the lady's desires. All that is necessary is
so to manage one's caresses that they are pleasant to the beloved
object. But M---- M---- was really asleep; the claret had numbed her
senses, and she had yielded to its influence without any ulterior
motives. While I gazed at her I saw that she was dreaming. Her lips
uttered words of which I could not catch the meaning, but her
voluptuous aspect told me of what she dreamt. I took off my clothes;
and in two minutes I had clasped her fair body to mine, not caring
much whether she slept on or whether I awoke her and brought our
drama to a climax, which seemed inevitable.
I was not long uncertain, for the instinctive movements she made when
she felt the minister that would fain accomplish the sacrifice at the
door of the sanctuary, convinced me that her dream still lasted, and
that I could not make her happier than by changing it into reality.
I delicately moved away all obstacles, and gently and by degrees
consummated this sweet robbery, and when at last I abandoned myself
to all the force of passion, she awoke with a sigh of bliss,
"Ah! it is true then."
"Yes, my angel! are you happy?"
For all reply she drew me to her and fastened her lips on mine, and
thus we awaited the dawn of day, exhausting all imaginable kinds of
pleasure, exciting each other's desires, and only wishing to prolong
"Alas!" said she, "I am happy now, but you must leave me till the
evening. Let us talk of our happiness, and enjoy it over again."
"Then you do not repent having made me a happy man?"
"No; it is you who have made me happy. You are an angel from heaven.
We loved, we crowned our love; I cannot have done aught to offend
God. I am free from all my fears. We have obeyed nature and our
destinies. Do you love me still?"
"Can you ask me? I will shew you to-night."
I dressed myself as quickly as possible while we talked of our love,
and I left her in bed, bidding her rest.
It was quite light when I got home. Le Duc had not gone to bed, and
gave me a letter from the fair Zeroli, telling me that it had been
delivered at eleven o'clock. I had not gone to her supper, and I had
not escorted her to Chamberi; I had not had time to give her a
moment's thought. I was sorry, but I could not do anything. I
opened her letter which consisted of only six lines, but they were
pregnant ones. She advised me never to go to Turin, for if I went
there she would find means to take vengeance on me for the dastardly
affront I had put upon her. She reproached me with having put her to
public shame, said I had dishonoured her, and vowed she would never
forgive me. I did not distress myself to any great extent; I tore up
the friendly missive, and after I had had my hair done I went to the
Everybody flew at me for not having been at Madame Zeroli's supper.
I defended myself as best I could, but my excuses were rather tame,
about which I did not trouble myself. I was told that all was known,
and this amused me as I was aware that nothing was known. The
marquis's mistress took hold of my arm, and told me, without any
circumlocution, that I had the reputation of being inconstant, and by
way of reply I observed politely that I was wrongfully accused, but
that if there was any ground for the remark it was because I had
never served so sweet a lady as herself. She was flattered by my
compliment, and I bit my lip when I heard her ask in the most
gracious manner why I did not breakfast sometimes with the marquis.
"I was afraid of disturbing him," said I.
"How do you mean?"
"I should be interrupting him in his business."
"He has no business, and he would be delighted to see you. Come to-
morrow, he always breakfasts in my room"
This lady was the widow of a gentleman of quality; she was young,
undoubtedly pretty, and possessing in perfection the jargon of good
society; nevertheless, she did not attract me. After recently
enjoying the fair Zeroli, and finding my suit with the fair nun at
the height of its prosperity, I was naturally hard to please, and in
plain words--I was perfectly contented with my situation. For all
that, I had foolishly placed myself in such a position that I was
obliged to give her to understand that she had delighted me by her
She asked the marquis if she could return to the inn.
"Yes," said he, "but I have some business in hand, and cannot come
"Would you be kind enough to escort me?" said she to me. I bowed in
On the way she told me that if Madame Zeroli were still there she
would not have dared to take my arm. I could only reply by
equivocating, as I had no wish to embark in a fresh intrigue.
However, I had no choice; I was obliged to accompany her to her room
and sit down beside her; but as I had had no sleep the night before I
felt tired and began to yawn, which was not flattering for the lady.
I excused myself to the best of my ability, telling her that I was
ill, and she believed me or pretended to believe me. But I felt
sleep stealing upon me, and I should have infallibly dropped off if
it had not been for my hellebore, which kept me awake by making me
The marquis came in, and after a thousand compliments he proposed a
game of quinze. I begged him to excuse me, and the lady backed me
up, saying I could not possibly play in the midst of such a sneezing
fit. We went down to dinner, and afterwards I easily consented to
make a bank, as I was vexed at my loss of the day before. As usual I
staked five hundred louis, and about seven o'clock, though two-thirds
of the bank had gone, I announced the last deal. The marquis and two
other heavy gamesters then endeavoured to break the bank, but fortune
turned, and I not only got back my losses but won three hundred Louis
besides. Thereupon I rose, promising the company to begin again next
day. All the ladies had won, as Desarmoises had orders to let them
play as they liked up to a certain limit.
I locked up my money, and warning my faithful Spaniard that I should
not be coming back, I went to my idol, having got wet through on the
way, and being obliged to undress as soon as I arrived. The good
woman' of the house took care to dry my clothes.
I found the fair nun dressed in her religious habit, and lying on the
"Why are you not in your own bed, dearest?"
"Because I feel quite well again, my darling, and I wished to sup
with you at table. We will go to bed afterwards, if that will give
you any pleasure."