Part 43 out of 70
and her mother presented me to the worthy man who had accompanied
them from Prague to Metz. He was an Italian named Month, who had
lived for a long time at Prague, where he taught his native
language. I saw that M. Month and the old woman were suitably
accommodated, and I then led the young fool into my room. I found
her changed for the better; she had grown, her shape was improved,
and her pleasant manners made her a very charming girl.
I Returned to Paris With The Corticelli, Now Countess Lascaris--
The Hypostasis Fails--Aix-la-Chapelle--Duel--Mimi d'Ache--The
Corticelli Turns Traitress to Her Own Disadvantage--Journey to
"Why did you allow your mother to call herself my wife, little
simpleton? Do you think that's a compliment to my judgment? She
might have given herself out for your governess, as she wishes to
pass you off as my daughter."
"My mother is an obstinate old woman who had rather be whipped at
the cart-tail than call herself my governess. She has very narrow
ideas, and always thinks that governess and procuress mean the
"She's an old fool, but we will make her hear reason either with
her will or in spite of it. But you look well dressed, have you
made your fortune?"
"At Prague I captivated the affections of Count N----, and he
proved a generous lover. But let your first action be to send
back M. Month. The worthy man has his family at Prague to look after;
he can't afford to stay long here."
"True, I will see about it directly."
The coach started for Frankfort the same evening, and summoning
Month I thanked him for his kindness and paid him generously, so
he went off well pleased.
I had nothing further to do at Metz, so I took leave of my new
friends, and in two days time I was at Nancy, where I wrote to
Madame d'Urfe that I was on my way back with a virgin, the last of
the family of Lascaris, who had once reigned at Constantinople. I
begged her to receive her from my hands, at a country house which
belonged to her, where we should be occupied for some days in
She answered that she would await us at Pont-Carre, an old castle
four leagues distant from Paris, and that she would welcome the
young princess with all possible kindness.
"I owe her all the more friendship," added the sublime madwoman,
"as the family of Lascaris is connected with the family of d'Urfe,
and as I am to be born again in the seed of the happy virgin."
I felt that my task would be not exactly to throw cold water on
her enthusiasm, but to hold it in check and to moderate its
manifestations. I therefore explained to her by return of post
that she must be content to treat the virgin as a countess, not a
princess, and I ended by informing her that we should arrive,
accompanied by the countess's governess, on the Monday of Holy
I spent twelve days at Nancy, instructing the young madcap in the
part she had to play, and endeavouring to persuade her mother that
she must content herself with being the Countess Lascaris's humble
servant. It was a task of immense difficulty; it was not enough
to shew her that our success depended on her submitting; I had to
threaten to send her back to Bologna by herself. I had good
reason to repent of my perseverance. That woman's obstinacy was
an inspiration of my good angel's, bidding me avoid the greatest
mistake I ever made.
On the day appointed we reached Pont-Carre. Madame d'Urfe, whom I
had advised of the exact hour of our arrival, had the drawbridge
of the castle lowered, and stood in the archway in the midst of
her people, like a general surrendering with all the honours of
war. The dear lady, whose madness was but an excess of wit, gave
the false princess so distinguished a reception that she would
have shewn her amazement if I had not warned her of what she might
expect. Thrice did she clasp her to her breast with a tenderness
that was quite maternal, calling her her beloved niece, and
explaining the entire pedigrees of the families of Lascaris and
d'Urfe to make the countess understand how she came to be her
niece. I was agreeably surprised to see the polite and dignified
air with which the Italian wench listened to all this; she did not
even smile, though the scene must have struck her as extremely
As soon as we got into the castle Madame d'Urfe proceeded to cense
the new-comer, who received the attention with all the dignity of
an opera queen, and then threw herself into the arms of the
priestess, who received her with enthusiastic affection.
At dinner the countess was agreeable and talkative, which won her
Madame d'Urfe's entire favour; her broken French being easily
accounted for. Laura, the countess's mother, only knew her native
Italian, and so kept silence. She was given a comfortable room,
where her meals were brought to her, and which she only left to
The castle was a fortified building, and had sustained several
sieges in the civil wars. As its name, Pont-Carre, indicated, it
was square, and was flanked by four crenelated towers and
surrounded by a broad moat. The rooms were vast, and richly
furnished in an old-fashioned way. The air was full of venomous
gnats who devoured us and covered our faces with painful bites;
but I had agreed to spend a week there, and I should have been
hard put to it to find a pretext for shortening the time. Madame
d'Urfe had a bed next, her own for her niece, but I was not afraid
of her attempting to satisfy herself as to the countess's
virginity, as the oracle had expressly forbidden it under pain or
failure. The operation was fixed for the fourteenth day of the
On that day we had a temperate supper, after which I went to bed.
A quarter of an hour afterwards Madame d'Urfe came, leading the
virgin Lascaris. She undressed her, scented her, cast a lovely
veil over her body, and when the countess was laid beside me she
remained, wishing to be present at an operation which was to
result in her being born again in the course of nine months.
The act was consummated in form, and then Madame d'Urfe left us
alone for the rest of the night, which was well employed.
Afterwards, the countess slept with her aunt till the last day of
the moon, when I asked the oracle if the Countess Lascaris had
conceived. That well might be, for I had spared nothing to that
intent; but I thought it more prudent to make the oracle reply
that the operation had failed because the small Count d'Aranda had
watched us behind a screen. Madame d'Urfe was in despair, but I
consoled her by a second reply, in which the oracle declared that
though the operation could only be performed in France in April,
it could take place out of that realm in May; but the inquisitive
young count, whose influence had proved so fatal, must be sent for
at least a year to some place a hundred leagues from Paris. The
oracle also indicated the manner in which he was to travel; he was
to have a tutor, a servant, and all in order.
The oracle had spoken, and no more was wanted. Madame d'Urfe
thought of an abbe she liked for his tutor, and the count was sent
to Lyons, with strong letters of commendation to M. de Rochebaron,
a relation of his patroness. The young man was delighted to
travel, and never had any suspicion of the way in which I had
slandered him. It was not a mere fancy which suggested this
course of action. I had discovered that the Corticelli was making
up to him, and that her mother favoured the intrigue. I had
surprised her twice in the young man's room, and though he only
cared for the girl as a youth cares for all girls, the Signora
Laura did not at all approve of my opposing her daughter's
Our next task was to fix on some foreign town where we could again
attempt the mysterious operation. We settled on Aix-la-Chapelle,
and in five or six days all was ready for the journey.
The Corticeili, angry with me for having thwarted her in her
projects, reproached me bitterly, and from that time began to be
my enemy; she even allowed herself to threaten me if I did not get
back the pretty boy, as she called him.
"You have no business to be jealous," said she, "and I am the
mistress of my own actions."
"Quite right, my dear," I answered; "but it is my business to see
that you do not behave like a prostitute in your present
The mother was in a furious rage, and said that she and her
daughter would return to Bologna, and to quiet them I promised to
take them there myself as soon as we had been to Aix-la-Chapelle.
Nevertheless I did not feel at ease, and to prevent any plots
taking place I hastened our departure.
We started in May, in a travelling carriage containing Madame
d'Urfe, myself, the false Lascaris, and her maid and favourite,
named Brougnole. We were followed by a coach with two seats; in
it were the Signora Laura and another servant. Two men-servants
in full livery sat on the outside of our travelling carriage. We
stopped a day at Brussels, and another at Liege. At Aix there
were many distinguished visitors, and at the first ball we
attended Madame d'Urfe presented the Lascaris to two Princesses of
Mecklenburg as her niece. The false countess received their
embraces with much ease and modesty, and attracted the particular
attention of the Margrave of Baireuth and the Duchess of
Wurtemberg, his daughter, who took possession of her, and did not
leave her till the end of the ball.
I was on thorns the whole time, in terror lest the heroine might
make some dreadful slip. She danced so gracefully that everybody
gazed at her, and I was the person who was complimented on her
I suffered a martyrdom, for these compliments seemed to be given
with malicious intent. I suspected that the ballet-girl had been
discovered beneath the countess, and I felt myself dishonoured. I
succeeded in speaking privately to the young wanton for a moment,
and begged her to dance like a young lady, and not like a chorus
girl; but she was proud of her success, and dared to tell me that
a young lady might know how to dance as well as a professional
dancer, and that she was not going to dance badly to please me. I
was so enraged with her impudence, that I would have cast her off
that instant if it had been possible; but as it was not, I
determined that her punishment should lose none of its sharpness
by waiting; and whether it be a vice or a virtue, the desire of
revenge is never extinguished in my heart till it is satisfied.
The day after the ball Madame d'Urfe presented her with a casket
containing a beautiful watch set with brilliants, a pair of
diamond ear-rings, and a ring containing a ruby of fifteen carats.
The whole was worth sixty thousand francs. I took possession of
it to prevent her going off without my leave.
In the meanwhile I amused myself with play and making bad
acquaintances. The worst of all was a French officer, named
d'Ache, who had a pretty wife and a daughter prettier still.
Before long the daughter had taken possession of the heart which
the Corticelli had lost, but as soon as Madame d'Ache saw that I
preferred her daughter to herself she refused to receive me at her
I had lent d'Ache ten Louis, and I consequently felt myself
entitled to complain of his wife's conduct; but he answered rudely
that as I only went to the house after his daughter, his wife was
quite right; that he intended his daughter to make a good match,
and that if my intentions were honourable I had only to speak to
the mother. His manner was still more offensive than his words,
and I felt enraged, but knowing the brutal drunken characteristics
of the man, and that he was always ready to draw cold steel for a
yes or a no, I was silent and resolved to forget the girl, not
caring to become involved with a man like her father.
I had almost cured myself of my fancy when, a few days after our
conversation, I happened to go into a billiard-room where d'Ache
was playing with a Swiss named Schmit, an officer in the Swedish
army. As soon as d'Ache saw me he asked whether I would lay the
ten Louis he owed me against him.
"Yes," said I, "that will make double or quits."
Towards the end of the match d'Ache made an unfair stroke, which
was so evident that the marker told him of it; but as this stroke
made him the winner, d'Ache seized the stakes and put them in his
pocket without heeding the marker or the other player, who, seeing
himself cheated before his very eyes, gave the rascal a blow
across the face with his cue. D'Ache parried the blow with his
hand, and drawing his sword rushed at Schmit, who had no arms.
The marker, a sturdy young fellow, caught hold of d'Ache round the
body, and thus prevented murder. The Swiss went out, saying,
"We shall see each other again."
The rascally Frenchman cooled down, and said to me,
"Now, you see, we are quits."
"Very much quits."
"That's all very well; but, by God! you might have prevented the
insult which has dishonoured me."
"I might have done so, but I did not care to interfere. You are
strong enough to look after yourself. Schmit had not his sword,
but I believe him to be a brave man; and he will give you
satisfaction if you will return him his money, for there can be no
doubt that you lost the match."
An officer, named de Pyene, took me up and said that he himself
would give me the twenty louis which d'Ache had taken, but that
the Swiss must give satisfaction. I had no hesitation in
promising that he would do so, and said I would bring a reply to
the challenge the next morning.
I had no fears myself. The man of honour ought always to be ready
to use the sword to defend himself from insult, or to give
satisfaction for an insult he has offered. I know that the law of
duelling is a prejudice which may be called, and perhaps rightly,
barbarous, but it is a prejudice which no man of honour can
contend against, and I believed Schmit to be a thorough gentleman.
I called on him at day-break, and found him still in bed. As soon
as he saw me, he said,
"I am sure you have come to ask me to fight with d'Ache. I am
quite ready to burn powder with him, but he must first pay me the
twenty Louis he robbed me of."
"You shall have them to-morrow, and I will attend you. D'Ache
will be seconded by M. de Pyene."
"Very good. I shall expect you at day-break."
Two hours after I saw de Pyene, and we fixed the meeting for the
next day, at six o'clock in the morning. The arms were to be
pistols. We chose a garden, half a league from the town, as the
scene of the combat.
At day-break I found the Swiss waiting for me at the door of his
lodgings, carolling the 'ranz-des-vaches', so dear to his fellow-
countrymen. I thought that a good omen.
"Here you are," said he; "let us be off, then."
On the way, he observed, "I have only fought with men of honour up
to now, and I don't much care for killing a rascal; it's hangman's
"I know," I replied, "that it's very hard to have to risk one's
life against a fellow like that."
"There's no risk," said Schmit, with a laugh. "I am certain that
I shall kill him."
"How can you be certain?"
"I shall make him tremble."
He was right. This secret is infallible when it is applied to a
coward. We found d'Ache and de Pyene on the field, and five or
six others who must have been present from motives of curiosity.
D'Ache took twenty louis from his pocket and gave them to his
"I may be mistaken, but I hope to make you pay dearly for your
brutality." Then turning to me he said,
"I owe you twenty louis also;" but I made no reply.
Schmit put the money in his purse with the calmest air imaginable,
and making no reply to the other's boast placed himself between
two trees, distant about four paces from one another, and drawing
two pistols from his pocket said to d'Ache,
"Place yourself at a distance of ten paces, and fire first. I
shall walk to and fro between these two trees, and you may walk as
far if you like to do so when my turn comes to fire."
Nothing could be clearer or more calmly delivered than this
"But we must decide," said I, "who is to have the first shot."
"There is no need," said Schmit. "I never fire first, besides,
the gentleman has a right to the first shot."
De Pyene placed his friend at the proper distance and then stepped
aside, and d'Ache fired on his antagonist, who was walking slowly
to and fro without looking at him. Schmit turned round in the
coolest manner possible, and said,
"You have missed me, sir; I knew you would. Try again."
I thought he was mad, and that some arrangement would be come to;
but nothing of the kind. D'Ache fired a second time, and again
missed; and Schmit, without a word, but as calm as death, fired
his first pistol in the air, and then covering d'Ache with his
second pistol hit him in the forehead and stretched him dead on
the ground. He put back his pistols into his pocket and went off
directly by himself, as if he were merely continuing his walk. In
two minutes I followed his example, after ascertaining that the
unfortunate d'Ache no longer breathed.
I was in a state of amazement. Such a duel was more like a combat
of romance than a real fact. I could not understand it; I had
watched the Swiss, and had not noticed the slightest change pass
over his face.
I breakfasted with Madame d'Urfe, whom I found inconsolable. It
was the full moon, and at three minutes past four exactly I ought
to perform the mysterious creation of the child in which she was
to be born again. But the Lascaris, on whom the work was to be
wrought, was twisting and turning in her bed, contorting herself
in such a way that it would be impossible for me to accomplish the
My grief, when I heard what had happened, was hypocritical; in the
first place because I no longer felt any desire for the girl, and
in the second because I thought I saw a way in which I could make
use of the incident to take vengeance on her.
I lavished consolations on Madame d'Urfe; and on consulting the
oracle I found that the Lascaris had been defiled by an evil
genius, and that I must search for another virgin whose purity
must be under the protection of more powerful spirits. I saw that
my madwoman was perfectly happy with this, and I left her to visit
the Corticelli, whom I found in bed with her mother beside her.
"You have convulsions, have you, dearest?" said I.
"No, I haven't. I am quite well, but all the same I shall have
them till you give me back my jewel-casket."
"You are getting wicked, my poor child; this comes of following
your mother's advice. As for the casket, if you are going to
behave like this, probably you will have it."
"I will reveal all."
"You will not be believed; and I shall send you back to Bologna
without letting you take any of the presents which Madame d'Urfe
has given you."
"You ought to have given me back the casket when I declared myself
Signora Laura told me that this was only too true, though I was
not the father.
"Who is, then?" I asked.
"Count N----, whose mistress she was at Prague."
It did not seem probable, as she had no symptoms of pregnancy;
still it might be so. I was obliged to plot myself to bring the
plots of these two rascally women to nought, and without saying
anything to them I shut myself up with Madame d'Urfe to enquire of
the oracle concerning the operation which was to make her happy.
After several answers, more obscure than any returned from the
oracular tripod at Delphi, the interpretation of which I left to
the infatuated Madame d'Urfe, she discovered herself--and I took
care not to contradict her--that the Countess Lascaris had gone
mad. I encouraged her fears, and succeeded in making her obtain
from a cabalistic pyramid the statement that the reason the
princess had not conceived was that she had been defiled by an
evil genius--an enemy of the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross. This
put Madame d'Urfe fairly on the way, and she added on her own
account that the girl must be with child by a gnome.
She then erected another pyramid to obtain guidance on our quest,
and I so directed things that the answer came that she must write
to the moon.
This mad reply, which should have brought her to her senses, only
made her more crazy than ever. She was quite ecstatic, and I am
sure that if I had endeavoured to shew her the nothingness of all
this I show have had nothing for my trouble. Her conclusion would
probably have been that I was possessed by an evil spirit, and was
no longer a true Rosy Cross. But I had no idea of undertaking a
cure which would have done me harm and her no 'good. Her
chimerical notions made her happy, and the cold naked truth would
doubtless have made her unhappy.
She received the order to write to the moon with the greater
delight as she knew what ceremonies were to be observed in
addressing that planet; but she could not dispense with the
assistance of an adept, and I knew she would reckon on me. I told
her I should always be ready to serve her, but that, as she knew
herself, we should have to wait for the first phase of the new
moon. I was very glad to gain time, for I had lost heavily at
play, and I could not leave Aix-la-Chapelle before a bill, which I
had drawn on M. d'O. of Amsterdam, was cashed. In the mean time
we agreed that as the Countess Lascaris had become mad, we must
not pay any attention to what she might say, as the words would
not be hers but would proceed from the evil spirit who possessed
Nevertheless, we determined that as her state was a pitiable one,
and should be as much alleviated as possible, she should continue
to dine with us, but that in the evening she was to go to her
governess and sleep with her.
After having thus disposed of Madame d'Urfe to disbelieve whatever
the Corticelli cared to tell her, and to concentrate all her
energies on the task of writing to Selenis, the intelligence of
the moon, I set myself seriously to work to regain the money I had
lost at play; and here my cabala was no good to me. I pledged the
Corticelli's casket for a thousand louis, and proceeded to play in
an English club where I had a much better chance of winning than
with Germans or Frenchmen.
Three or four days after d'Ache's death, his widow wrote me a note
begging me to call on her. I found her in company with de Pyene.
She told me in a lugubrious voice that her husband had left many
debts unsettled, and that his creditors had seized everything she
possessed; and--that she was thus unable to pay the expenses of a
journey, though she wanted to take her daughter with her to
Colmar, and there to rejoin her family.
"You caused my husband's death," she added, "and I ask you to give
me a thousand crowns; if you refuse me I shall commence a lawsuit
against you, for as the Swiss officer has left, you are the only
person I can prosecute."
"I am surprised at your taking such a tone towards me," I replied,
coldly, "and were it not for the respect I feel for your
misfortune, I should answer as bitterly as you deserve. In the
first place I have not a thousand crowns to throw away, and if I
had I would not sacrifice my money to threats. I am curious to
know what kind of a case you could get up against me in the courts
of law. As for Schmit, he fought like a brave gentleman, and I
don't think you could get much out of him if he were still here.
I had scarcely got fifty paces from the house when I was joined by
de Pyene, who said that rather than Madame d'Ache should have to
complain of me he would cut my throat on the spot. We neither of
us had swords.
"Your intention is not a very flattering one," said I, "and there
is something rather brutal about it. I had rather not have any
affair of the kind with a man whom I don't know and to whom I owe
"You are a coward."
"I would be, you mean, if I were to imitate you. It is a matter
of perfect indifference to me what opinion you may have on the
"You will be sorry for this."
"Maybe, but I warn you that I never go out unattended by a pair of
pistols, which I keep in good order and know how to use." So
saying I shewd him the pistols, and took one in my right hand.
At this the bully uttered an oath and we separated.
At a short distance from the place where this scene had occurred I
met a Neapolitan named Maliterni, a lieutenant-colonel and aide to
the Prince de Condo, commander-in-chief of the French army. This
Maliterni was a boon companion, always ready to oblige, and always
short of money. We were friends, and I told him what had
"I should be sorry," said I, "to have anything to do with a fellow
like de Pyene, and if you can rid me of him I promise you a
"I daresay that can be managed," he replied, "and I will tell you
what I can do to-morrow!"
In point of fact, he brought me news the next day that my cut-
throat had received orders from his superior officer to leave Aix-
la-Chapelle at day-break, and at the same time he gave me a
passport from the Prince de Conde.
I confess that this was very pleasant tidings. I have never
feared to cross my sword with any man, though never sought the
barbarous pleasure of spilling men's blood; but on this occasion I
felt an extreme dislike to a duel with a fellow who was probably
of the same caste as his friend d'Ache.
I therefore gave Maliterni my heartiest thanks, as well as the
hundred crowns I had promised him, which I considered so well
employed that I did not regret their loss.
Maliterni, who was a jester of the first water, and a creature of
the Marshal d'Estrees, was lacking neither in wit nor knowledge;
but he was deficient in a sense of order and refinement. He was a
pleasant companion, for his gaiety was inexhaustible and he had a
large knowledge of the world. He attained the rank of field-
marshal in 1768, and went to Naples to marry a rich heiress, whom
he left a widow a year after.
The day after de Pyene's departure I received a note from Mdlle.
d'Ache, begging me, for the sake of her sick mother, to come and
see her. I answered that I would be at such a place at such a
time, and that she could say what she liked to me.
I found her at the place and time I appointed, with her mother,
whose illness, it appeared, did not prevent her from going out.
She called me her persecutor, and said that since the departure of
her best friend, de Pyene, she did not know where to turn; that
she had pledged all her belongings, and that I, who was rich,
ought to aid her, if I were not the vilest of men.
"I feel for your condition," I replied, "as I feel your abuse of
me; and I cannot help saying that you have shewn yourself the
vilest of women in inciting de Pyene, who may be an honest man for
all I know, to assassinate me. In fine, rich or not, and though I
owe you nothing, I will give you enough money to take your
property out of pawn, and I may possibly take you to Colmar
myself, but you must first consent to my giving your charming
daughter a proof of my affection."
"And you dare to make this horrible proposal to me?"
"Horrible or not, I do make it."
"I will never consent."
"Good day, madam."
I called the waiter to pay him for the refreshments I had ordered,
and I gave the girl six double louis, but her proud mother forbade
her to accept the money from me. I was not surprised, in spite of
her distress; for the mother was in reality still more charming
than the daughter, and she knew it. I ought to have given her the
preference, and thus have ended the dispute, but who can account
for his whims? I felt that she must hate me, for she did not care
for her daughter, and it must have humiliated her bitterly to be
obliged to regard her as a victorious rival.
I left them still holding the six double louis, which pride or
scorn had refused, and I went to the faro-table and decided in
sacrificing them to fortune; but that capricious deity, as proud
as the haughty widow, refused them, and though I left them on the
board for five deals I almost broke the bank. An Englishman,
named Martin, offered to go shares with me, and I accepted, as I
knew he was a good player; and in the course of eight or ten days
we did such good business that I was not only able to take the
casket out of pledge and to cover all losses, but made a
considerable profit in addition.
About this period, the Corticelli, in her rage against me, had
told Madame d'Urfe the whole history of her life, of our
acquaintance, and of her pregnancy. But the more truthfully she
told her story so much the more did the good lady believe her to
be mad, and we often laughed together at the extraordinary fancies
of the traitress. Madame d'Urfe put all her trust in the
instructions which Selenis would give in reply to her letter.
Nevertheless, as the girl's conduct displeased me, I made her eat
her meals with her mother, while I kept Madame d'Urfe company. I
assured her that we should easily find another vessel of election,
the madness of the Countess Lascaris having made her absolutely
incapable of participating in our mysterious rites.
Before long, d'Ache's widow found herself obliged to give me her
Mimi; but I won her by kindness, and in such a way that the mother
could pretend with decency to know nothing about it. I redeemed
all the goods she had pawned, and although the daughter had not
yet yielded entirely to my ardour, I formed the plan of taking
them to Colmar with Madame d'Urfe. To make up the good lady's
mind, I resolved to let that be one of the instructions from the
moon, and this she would not only obey blindly but would have no
suspicions as to my motive.
I managed the correspondence between Selenis and Madame d'Urfe in
the following manner:
On the day appointed, we supped together in a garden beyond the
town walls, and in a room on the ground floor of the house I had
made all the necessary preparations, the letter which was to fall
from the moon, in reply to Madame d'Urfe's epistle, being in my
pocket. At a little distance from the chamber of ceremonies I had
placed a large bath filled with lukewarm water and perfumes
pleasing to the deity of the night, into which we were to plunge
at the hour of the moon, which fell at one o'clock.
When we had burnt incense, and sprinkled the essences appropriate
to the cult of Selenis, we took off all our clothes, and holding
the letter concealed in my left hand, with the right I graciously
led Madame d'Urfe to the brink of the bath. Here stood an
alabaster cup containing spirits of wine which I kindled,
repeating magical words which I did not understand, but which she
said after me, giving me the letter addressed to Selenis. I burnt
the letter in the flame of the spirits, beneath the light of the
moon, and the credulous lady told me she saw the characters she
had traced ascending in the rays of the planet.
We then got into the bath, and the letter, which was written in
silver characters on green paper appeared on the surface of the
water in the course of ten minutes. As soon as Madame d'Urfe saw
it, she picked it up reverently and got out of the bath with me.
We dried and scented ourselves, and proceeded to put on our
clothes. As soon as we were in a state of decency I told Madame
d'Urfe that she might read the epistle, which she had placed on a
scented silk cushion. She obeyed, and I saw sadness visibly
expressed on her features when she saw that her hypostasis was
deferred till the arrival of Querilinthus, whom she would see with
me at Marseilles in the spring of next year. The genius also said
that the Countess Lascaris could not only do her harm, and that
she should consult me as to the best means of getting rid of her.
The letter ended by ordering her not to leave at Aix a lady who
had lost her husband, and had a daughter who was destined to be of
great service to the fraternity of the R. C. She was to take them
to Alsace, and not to leave them till they were there, and safe
from that danger which threatened them if they were left to
Madame d'Urfe, who with all her folly was an exceedingly
benevolent woman, commended the widow to my care enthusiastically,
and seemed impatient to hear her whole history. I told her all
the circumstances which I thought would strengthen her in her
resolution to befriend them, and promised to introduce the ladies
to them at the first opportunity.
We returned to Aix, and spent the night in discussing the phantoms
which coursed through her brain. All was going on well, and my
only care was for the journey to Aix, and how to obtain the
complete enjoyment of Mimi after having so well deserved her
I had a run of luck at play the next day, and in the evening I
gave Madame d'Ache an agreeable surprise by telling her that I
should accompany her and her Mimi to Colmar. I told her that I
should begin by introducing her to the lady whom I had the honour
to accompany, and I begged her to be ready by the next day as the
marchioness was impatient to see her. I could see that she could
scarcely believe her ears, for she thought Madame d'Urfe was in
love with me, and she could not understand her desire to make the
acquaintance of two ladies who might be dangerous rivals.
I conducted them to Madame d'Urfe at the appointed hour, and they
were received with a warmth which surprised them exceedingly, for
they could not be expected to know that their recommendation came
from the moon. We made a party of four, and while the two ladies
talked together in the fashion of ladies who have seen the world,
I paid Mimi a particular attention, which her mother understood
very well, but which Madame d'Urfe attributed to the young lady's
connection with the Rosy Cross.
In the evening we all went to a ball, and there the Corticelli,
who was always trying to annoy me, danced as no young lady would
dance. She executed rapid steps, pirouetted, cut capers, and
shewed her legs; in short, she behaved like a ballet-girl. I was
on thorns. An officer, who either ignored, or pretended to
ignore, my supposed relation to her, asked me if she was a
professional dancer. I heard another man behind me say that he
thought he remembered seeing her on the boards at Prague. I
resolved on hastening my departure, as I foresaw that if I stayed
much longer at Aix the wretched girl would end by costing me my
As I have said, Madame d'Ache had a good society manner, and this
put her in Madame d'Urfe's good graces, who saw in her politeness
a new proof of the favour of Selenis. Madame d'Ache felt, I
suppose, that she awed me some return after all I had done for
her, and left the ball early, so that when I took Mimi home I
found myself alone with her, and at perfect liberty to do what I
liked. I profited by the opportunity, and remained with Mimi for
two hours, finding her so complaisant and even passionate that
when I left her I had nothing more to desire.
In three days time I provided the mother and daughter with their
outfit, and we left Aix gladly in an elegant and convenient
travelling carriage which I had provided. Half an hour before we
left I made an acquaintance which afterwards proved fatal to me.
A Flemish officer, unknown to me, accosted me, and painted his
destitute condition in such sad colours that I felt obliged to
give him twelve louis. Ten minutes after, he gave me a paper in
which he acknowledged the debt, and named the time in which he
could pay it. From the paper I ascertained that his name was
Malingan. In ten months the reader will hear the results.
Just as we were starting I shewed the Corticelli a carriage with
four places, in which she, her mother, and the two maids, were to
travel. At this she trembled, her pride was wounded, and for a
moment I thought she was going out of her mind; she rained sobs,
abuse, and curses on me. I stood the storm unmoved, however, and
Madame d'Urfe only laughed at her niece's paroxysms, and seemed
delighted to find herself sitting opposite to me with the servant
of Selenis beside her, while Mimi was highly pleased to be so
close to me.
We got to Liege at nightfall on the next day, and I contrived to
make Madame d'Urfe stay there the day following, wishing to get
horses to take us through the Ardennes, and thus to have the
charming Mimi longer in my possession.
I rose early and went out to see the town. By the great bridge, a
woman, so wrapped up in a black mantilla that only the tip of her
nose was visible, accosted me, and asked me to follow her into a
house with an open door which she shewed me.
"As I have not the pleasure of knowing you," I replied, "prudence
will not allow me to do so."
"You do know me, though," she replied, and taking me to the corner
of a neighbouring street she shewed me her face. What was my
surprise to see the fair Stuart of Avignon, the statue of the
Fountain of Vaucluse. I was very glad to meet her.
In my curiosity I followed her into the house, to a room on the
first floor, where she welcomed me most tenderly. It was all no
good, for I felt angry with her, and despised her advances, no
doubt, because I had Mimi, and wished to keep all my love for her.
However, I took three louis out of my purse and gave them to her,
asking her to tell me her history.
"Stuart," she said, "was only my keeper; my real name is Ranson,
and I am the mistress of a rich landed proprietor. I got back to
Liege after many sufferings."
"I am delighted to hear that you are more prosperous now, but it
must be confessed that your behaviour at Avignon was both
preposterous and absurd. But the subject is not worth discussing.
Good day, madam."
I then returned to my hotel to write an account of what I had seen
to the Marquis Grimaldi.
The next day we left Liege, and were two days passing through the
Ardennes. This is one of the strangest tracts in Europe: a vast
forest, the traditions of which furnished Ariosto with some
There is no town in the forest, and though one is obliged to cross
it to pass from one country to another, hardly any of the
necessaries of life are to be found in it.
The enquirer will seek in vain for vices or virtues, or manners of
any kind. The inhabitants are devoid of correct ideas, but have
wild notions of their own on the power of men they style scholars.
It is enough to be a doctor to enjoy the reputation of an
astrologer and a wizard. Nevertheless the Ardennes have a large
population, as I was assured that there were twelve hundred
churches in the forest. The people are good-hearted and even
pleasant, especially the young girls; but as a general rule the
fair sex is by no means fair in those quarters. In this vast
district watered by the Meuse is the town of Bouillon--a regular
hole, but in my time it was the freest place in Europe. The Duke
of Bouillon was so jealous of his rights that he preferred the
exercise of his prerogatives to all the honours he might have
enjoyed at the Court of France. We stayed a day at Metz, but did
not call on anyone; and in three days we reached Colmar, where we
left Madame d'Ache, whose good graces I had completely won. Her
family, in extremely comfortable circumstances, received the
mother and daughter with great affection. Mimi wept bitterly when
I left her, but I consoled her by saying that I would come back
before long. Madame d'Urfe seemed not to mind leaving them, and I
consoled myself easily enough. While congratulating myself on
having made mother and daughter happy, I adored the secret paths
and ways of Divine Providence.
On the following day we went to Sulzbach, where the Baron of
Schaumburg, who knew Madame d'Urfe, gave us a warm welcome. I
should have been sadly boared in this dull place if it had not
been for gaming. Madame d'Urfe, finding herself in need of
company, encouraged the Corticelli to hope to regain my good
graces, and, consequently, her own. The wretched girl, seeing how
easily I had defeated her projects, and to what a pass of
humiliation I had brought her, had changed her part, and was now
submissive enough. She flattered herself that she would regain
the favour she had completely lost, and she thought the day was
won when she saw that Madame d'Ache and her daughter stayed at
Colmar. But what she had more at heart than either my friendship
or Madame d'Urfe's was the jewel-casket; but she dared not ask for
it, and her hopes of seeing it again were growing dim. By her
pleasantries at table which made Madame d'Urfe laugh she succeeded
in giving me a few amorous twinges; but still I did not allow my
feelings to relax my severity, and she continued to sleep with her
A week after our arrival at Sulzbach I left Madame d'Urfe with the
Baron of Schaumburg, and I went to Colmar in the hope of good
fortune. But I was disappointed, as the mother and daughter had
both made arrangements for getting married.
A rich merchant, who had been in love with the mother eighteen
years before, seeing her a widow and still pretty, felt his early
flames revive, and offered his hand and was accepted. A young
advocate found Mimi to his taste, and asked her in marriage. The
mother and daughter, fearing the results of my affection, and
finding it would be a good match, lost no time in giving their
consent. I was entertained in the family, and supped in the midst
of a numerous and choice assemblage; but seeing that I should only
annoy the ladies and tire myself in waiting for some chance favour
if I stayed, I bade them adieu and returned to Sulzbach the next
morning. I found there a charming girl from Strasburg, named
Salzmann, three or four gamesters who had come to drink the
waters, and several ladies, to whom I shall introduce the reader
in the ensuing chapter.
I Send The Corticelli to Turin--Helen is Initiated Into The
Mysteries of Love I Go to Lyons--My Arrival at Turin
One of the ladies, Madame Saxe, was intended by nature to win the
devotion of a man of feeling; and if she had not had a jealous
officer in her train who never let her go out of his sight, and
seemed to threaten anyone who aspired to please, she would
probably have had plenty of admirers. This officer was fond of
piquet, but the lady was always obliged to sit close beside him,
which she seemed to do with pleasure.
In the afternoon I played with him, and continued doing so for
five or six days. After that I could stand it no longer, as when
he had won ten or twelve louis he invariably rose and left me to
myself. His name was d'Entragues; he was a fine-looking man,
though somewhat thin, and had a good share of wit and knowledge of
We had not played together for two days, when one afternoon he
asked if I would like to take my revenge.
"No, I think not," said I, "for we don't play on the same
principle. I play for amusement's sake and you play to win
"What do you mean? Your words are offensive."
"I didn't mean them to be offensive, but as a matter of fact, each
time we have played you have risen after a quarter of an hour."
"You ought to be obliged to me, as otherwise you would have lost
"Possibly; but I don't think so."
"I can prove it to you:"
"I accept the offer, but the first to leave the table must forfeit
"I agree; but money down."
"I never play on credit."
I ordered a waiter to bring cards, and I went to fetch four or
five rolls of a hundred Louis each. We began playing for five
Louis the game, each player putting down the fifty Louis wagered.
We began to play at three, and at nine o'clock d'Entragues said we
might take some supper.
"I am not hungry," I replied, "but you can go if you want me to
put the hundred Louis in my pocket."
He laughed at this and went on playing, but this lacy fair scowled
at me, though I did not care in the least for that. All the
guests went to supper, and returned to keep us company till
midnight, but at that hour we found ourselves alone. D'Entragues
saw what kind of man he had got hold of and said never a word,
while I only opened my lips to score; we played with the utmost
At six o'clock the ladies and gentlemen who were taking the waters
began to assemble. We were applauded for our determination, in
spite of our grim look. The Louis were on the table; I had lost a
hundred, and yet the game was going in my favour.
At nine the fair Madame Saxe put in an appearance, and shortly
after Madame d'Urfe came in with M. de Schaumburg. Both ladies
advised us to take a cup of chocolate. D'Entragues was the first
to consent, and thinking that I was almost done he said,--
"Let us agree that the first man who asks for food, who absents
himself for more than a quarter of an hour, or who falls asleep in
his chair, loses the bet."
"I will take you at your word," I replied, "and I adhere to all
The chocolate came, we took it, and proceeded with our play. At
noon we were summoned to dinner, but we both replied that we were
not hungry. At four o'clock we allowed ourselves to be persuaded
into taking some soup. When supper-time came and we were still
playing, people began to think that the affair was getting
serious, and Madame Saxe urged us to divide the wager.
D'Entragues, who had won a hundred louis, would have gladly
consented, but I would not give in, and M. de Schaumburg
pronounced me within my rights. My adversary might have abandoned
the stake and still found himself with a balance to the good, but
avarice rather than pride prevented his doing so. I felt the loss
myself, but what I cared chiefly about was the point of honour. I
still looked fresh, while he resembled a disinterred corpse. As
Madame Saxe urged me strongly to give way, I answered that I felt
deeply grieved at not being able to satisfy such a charming woman,
but that there was a question of honour in the case;
and I was determined not to yield to my antagonist if I sat there
till I fell dead to the ground.
I had two objects in speaking thus: I wanted to frighten him and
to make him jealous of me. I felt certain that a man in a passion
of jealousy would be quite confused, and I hoped his play would
suffer accordingly, and that I should not have the mortification
of losing a hundred louis to his superior play, though I won the
fifty louis of the wager.
The fair Madame Saxe gave me a glance of contempt and left us, but
Madame d'Urfe, who believed I was infallible, avenged me by saying
to d'Entragues, in a tone of the profoundest conviction,--
"O Lord! I pity you, sir."
The company did not return after supper, and we were left alone to
our play. We played on all the night, and I observed my
antagonist's face as closely as the cards. He began to lose his
composure, and made mistakes, his cards got mixed up, and his
scoring was wild. I was hardly less done up than he; I felt
myself growing weaker, and I hoped to see him fall to the ground
every moment, as I began to be afraid of being beaten in spite of
the superior strength of my constitution. I had won back my money
by day-break, and I cavilled with him for being away for more than
a quarter of an hour. This quarrel about nothing irritated him,
and roused me up; the difference of our natures produced these
different results, and my stratagem succeeded because it was
impromptu, and could not have been foreseen. In the same way in
war, sudden stratagems succeed.
At nine o'clock Madame Saxe came in, her lover was losing.
"Now, sir," she said to me, "you may fairly yield."
"Madam," said I, "in hope of pleasing you, I will gladly divide
the stakes and rise from the table."
The tone of exaggerated gallantry with which I pronounced these
words, put d'Entragues into a rage, and he answered sharply that
he would not desist till one of us was dead.
With a glance at the lady which was meant to be lovelorn, but
which must have been extremely languid in my exhausted state,
"You see, Madam, that I am not the more obstinate of the two."
A dish of soup was served to us, but d'Entragues, who was in the
last stage of exhaustion, had no sooner swallowed the soup than he
fell from his chair in a dead faint. He was soon taken up, and
after I had given six louis to the marker who had been watching
for forty-eight hours, I pocketed the gold, and went to the
apothecary's where I took a mild emetic. Afterwards I went to bed
and slept for a few hours, and at three o'clock I made an
D'Entragues remained in his room till the next day. I expected a
quarrel, but the night brings counsel, and I made a mistake. As
soon as he saw me he ran up to me and embraced me, saying,--
"I made a silly bet, but you have given me a lesson which will
last me all my days, and I am much obliged to you for it."
"I am delighted to hear it, provided that your health has not
"No, I am quite well, but we will play no more together."
"Well, I hope we shan't play against each other any more."
In the course of eight or ten days I took Madame d'Urfe and the
pretended Lascaris to Bale. We put up at the inn of the famous
Imhoff, who swindled us, but, all the same, the "Three Kings" is
the best inn in the town. I think I have noted that noon at Bale
is at eleven o'clock--an absurdity due to some historic event,
which I had explained to me but have forgotten. The inhabitants
are said to be subject to a kind of madness, of which they are
cured by taking the waters of Sulzbach; but they 'get it again as
soon as they return.
We should have stayed at Bale some time, if it had not been for an
incident which made me hasten our departure. It was as follows:
My necessities had obliged me to forgive the Corticelli to a
certain extent, and when I came home early I spent the night with
her; but when I came home late, as often happened, I slept in my
own room. The little hussy, in the latter case, slept also alone
in a room next to her mother's, through whose chamber one had to
pass to get to the daughter's.
One night I came in at one o'clock, and not feeling inclined to
sleep, I took a candle and went in search of my charmer. I was
rather surprised to find Signora Laura's door half open, and just
as I was going in the old woman came forward and took me by the
arm, begging me not to go into her daughter's room.
"Why?" said I.
"She has been very poorly all the evening, and she is in need of
"Very good; then I will sleep too."
So saying I pushed the mother to one side, and entering the girl's
room I found her in bed with someone who was hiding under the
I 'gazed at the picture for a moment and then began to laugh, and
sitting down on the bed begged to enquire the name of the happy
individual whom I should have the pleasure of throwing out of the
window. On a chair I saw the coat, trousers, hat, and cane of the
gentleman; but as I had my two trusty pistols about me I knew I
had nothing to fear; however, I did not want to make a noise.
With tears in her eyes, and trembling all over, the girl took my
hand and begged me to forgive her.
"It's a young lord," said she, "and I don't even know his name."
"Oh, he is a young lord, is he? and you don't know his name, you
little hussy, don't you? Well, he will tell me himself."
So saying, I took a pistol and vigorously stripped the sheets off
the cuckoo who had got into my nest. I saw the face of a young
man whom I did not know, his head covered with a nightcap, but the
rest perfectly naked, as indeed was my mistress. He turned his
back to me to get his shirt which he had thrown on the floor, but
seizing him by the arm I held him firmly, with my pistol to his
"Kindly tell me your name, fair sir."
"I am Count B----, canon of Bale."
"And do you think you have been performing an ecclesiastical
"No sir, no, and I hope you will forgive me and the lady too, for
I am the only guilty party."
"I am not asking you whether she is guilty or not."
"Sir, the countess is perfectly innocent."
I felt in a good temper, and far from being angry I was strongly
inclined to laugh. I found the picture before me an attractive
one; it was amusing and voluptuous. The sight of the two nudities
on the bed was a truly lascivious one, and I remained
contemplating it in silence for a quarter of an hour, occupied in
resisting a strong temptation to take off my clothes and lie
beside them. The only thing which prevented my yielding to it was
the fear that I might find the canon to be a fool, incapable of
playing the part with dignity. As for the Corticelli, she soon
passed from tears to laughter, and would have done it well, but
if, as I feared, the canon was a blockhead, I should have been
I felt certain that neither of them had guessed my thoughts, so I
rose and told the canon to put on his clothes.
"No one must hear anything more of this," said I, "but you and I
will go to a distance of two hundred paces and burn a little
"No, no, sir," cried my gentleman, "you may take me where you
like, and kill me if you please, but I was not meant for a
"Yes, sir, and I only became a priest to escape the fatal duty of
"Then you are a coward, and will not object to a good thrashing?"
"Anything you like, but it would be cruelty, for my love blinded
me. I only came here a quarter of an hour ago, and the countess
and her governess were both asleep."
"You are a liar."
"I had only just taken off my shirt when you came, and I have
never seen this angel before."
"And that's gospel truth," said the Corticelli.
"Are you aware that you are a couple of impudent scoundrels? And
as for you, master canon, you deserve to be roasted like St.
In the meanwhile the wretched ecclesiastic had huddled on his
"Follow me, sir," said I, in a tone which froze the marrow of his
bones; and I accordingly took him to my room.
"What will you do," said I, "if I forgive you and let you go
without putting you to shame?"
"I will leave in an hour and a half, and you shall never see me
here again; but even if we meet in the future, you will find me
always ready to do you a service."
"Very good. Begone, and in the future take more precautions in
your amorous adventures."
After this I went to bed, well pleased with what I had seen and
what I had done, for I now had complete power over the Corticelli.
In the morning I called on her as soon as I got up, and told her
to pack up her things, forbidding her to leave her room till she
got into the carriage.
"I shall say I am ill."
"Just as you please, but nobody will take any notice of you."
I did not wait for her to make any further objections, but
proceeded to tell the tale of what had passed to Madame d'Urfe,
slightly embroidering the narrative. She laughed heartily, and
enquired of the oracle what must be done with the Lascaris after
her evident pollution by the evil genius disguised as a priest.
The oracle replied that we must set out the next day for Besancon,
whence she would go to Lyons and await me there, while I would
take the countess to Geneva, and thus send her back to her native
The worthy visionary was enchanted with this arrangement, and saw
in it another proof of the benevolence of Selenis, who would thus
give her an opportunity of seeing young Aranda once more. It was
agreed that I was to rejoin her in the spring of the following
year, to perform the great operation which was to make her be born
a man. She had not the slightest doubts as to the reasonableness
of this performance.
All was ready, and the next day we started; Madame d'Urfe and I in
the travelling carriage, and the Corticelli, her mother, and the
servants in another conveyance.
When we got to Besancon Madame d'Urfe left me, and on the next day
I journeyed towards Geneva with the mother and daughter.
On the way I not only did not speak to my companions, I did not so
much as look at them. I made them have their meals with a servant
from the Franche Comte, whom I had taken on M. de Schaumburg's
I went to my banker, and asked him to get me a good coachman, who
would take two ladies of my acquaintance to Turin.
When I got back to the inn I wrote to the Chevalier Raiberti,
sending him a bill of exchange. I warned him that in three or
four days after the receipt of my letter he would be accosted by a
Bolognese dancer and her mother, bearing a letter of commendation.
I begged him to see that they lodged in a respectable house, and
to pay for them on my behalf. I also said that I should be much
obliged if he would contrive that she should dance, even for
nothing, at the carnival, and I begged him to warn her that, if I
heard any tales about her when I came to Turin, our relations
would be at an end.
The following day a clerk of M. Tronchin's brought a coachman for
me to see. The man said he was ready to start as soon as he had
had his dinner. I confirmed the agreement he had made with the
banker, I summoned the two Corticellis, and said to the coachman,
"These are the persons you are to drive, and they will pay you
when they reach Turin in safety with their luggage. You are to
take four days and a half for the journey, as is stipulated in the
agreement, of which they have one copy and you another." An hour
after he called to put the luggage in.
The Corticelli burst into tears, but I was not so cruel as to send
her away without any consolation. Her bad conduct had been
severely enough punished already. I made her dine with me, and as
I gave her the letter for M. Raiberti, and twenty-five Louis for
the journey, I told her what I had written to the gentleman, who
would take good care of them. She asked me for a trunk containing
three dresses and a superb mantle which Madame d'Urfe had given
her before she became mad, but I said that we would talk of that
at Turin. She dared not mention the casket, but continued
weeping; however, she did not move me to pity. I left her much
better off than when I first knew her; she had good clothes, good
linen, jewels, and an exceedingly pretty watch I had given her;
altogether a good deal more than she deserved.
As she was going I escorted her to the carriage, less for
politeness' sake than to commend her once more to the coachman.
When she was fairly gone I felt as if a load had been taken off my
back, and I went to look up my worthy syndic, whom the reader will
not have forgotten. I had not written to him since I was in
Florence, and I anticipated the pleasure of seeing his surprise,
which was extreme. But after gazing at me for a moment he threw
his arms round my neck, kissed me several times, and said he had
not expected the pleasure of seeing me.
"How are our sweethearts getting on?"
"Excellently. They are always talking about you and regretting
your absence; they will go wild with joy when they know you are
"You must tell them directly, then."
"I will go and warn them that we shall all sup together this
evening. By the way, M. de Voltaire has given up his house at
Delices to M. de Villars, and has gone to live at Ferney."
"That makes no difference to me, as I was not thinking of calling
on him this time. I shall be here for two or three weeks, and I
mean to devote my time to you."
"You are too good."
"Will you give me writing materials before you go out? I will
write a few letters while you are away."
He put me in possession of his desk, and I wrote to my late
housekeeper, Madame Lebel, telling her that I was going to spend
three weeks at Geneva, and that if I were sure of seeing her I
would gladly pay a visit to Lausanne. Unfortunately, I also wrote
to the bad Genoese poet, Ascanio Pogomas, or Giaccomo Passano,
whom I had met at Leghorn. I told him to go to Turin and to wait
for me there. At the same time I wrote to M. F----, to whom I had
commended him, asking him to give the poet twelve Louis for the
My evil genius made me think of this man, who was an imposing-
looking fellow, and had all the air of a magician, to introduce
him to Madame d'Urfe as a great adept. You will see, dear reader,
in the course of a year whether I had reason to repent of this
As the syndic and I were on our way to our young friend's house I
saw an elegant English carriage for sale, and I exchanged it for
mine, giving the owner a hundred Louis as well. While the bargain
was going on the uncle of the young theologian who argued so well,
and to whom I had given such pleasant lessons in physiology, came
up to me, embraced me, and asked me to dine with him the next day.
Before we got to the house the syndic informed me that we should
find another extremely pretty but uninitiated girl present.
"All the better," said I, "I shall know how to regulate my
conduct, and perhaps I may succeed in initiating her."
In my pocket I had placed a casket containing a dozen exquisite
rings. I had long been aware that such trifling presents are
often very serviceable.
The moment of meeting those charming girls once more was one of
the happiest I have ever enjoyed. In their greeting I read
delight and love of pleasure. Their love was without envy or
jealousy, or any ideas which would have injured their self-esteem.
They felt worthy of my regard, as they had lavished their favours
on me without any degrading feelings, and drawn by the same
emotion that had drawn me.
The presence of the neophyte obliged us to greet each other with
what is called decency, and she allowed me to kiss her without
raising her eyes, but blushing violently.
After the usual commonplaces had passed and we had indulged in
some double meanings which made us laugh and her look thoughtful,
I told her she was pretty as a little love, and that I felt sure
that her mind, as beautiful as its casket, could harbour no
"I have all the prejudices which honour and religion suggest," she
I saw that this was a case requiring very delicate treatment.
There was no question of carrying the citadel by sudden assault.
But, as usual, I fell in love with her.
The syndic having pronounced my name, she said,--
"Ah! then, you, sir, are the person who discussed some very
singular questions with my cousin, the pastor's niece. I am
delighted to make your acquaintance."
"I am equally pleased to make yours, but I hope the pastor's niece
said nothing against me."
"Not at all; she has a very high opinion of you."
"I am going to dine with her to-morrow, and I shall take care to
"To-morrow! I should like to be there, for I enjoy philosophical
discussions though I never dare to put a word in."
The syndic praised her discretion and wisdom in such a manner that
I was convinced he was in love with her, and that he had either
seduced her or was trying to do so. Her name was Helen. I asked
the young ladies if Helen was their sister. The eldest replied,
with a sly smile, that she was a sister, but as yet she had no
brother; and with this explanation she ran up to Helen and kissed
her. Then the syndic and I vied with each other in paying her
compliments, telling her that we hoped to be her brothers. She
blushed, but gave no answer to our gallantries. I then drew forth
my casket, and seeing that all the girls were enchanted with the
rings, I told them to choose which ones they liked best. The
charming Helen imitated their example, and repaid me with a modest
kiss. Soon after she left us, and we were once more free, as in
The syndic had good cause to shew for his love of Helen. She was
not merely pleasing, she was made to inspire a violent passion.
However, the three friends had no hope of making her join in their
pleasures, for they said that she had invincible feelings of
modesty where men were concerned.
We supped merrily, and after supper we began our sports again, the
syndic remaining as usual a mere looker-on, and well pleased with
his part. I treated each of the three nymphs to two courses,
deceiving them whenever I was forced by nature to do so. At
midnight we broke up, and the worthy syndic escorted me to the
door of my lodging.
The day following I went to the pastor's and found a numerous
party assembled, amongst others M. d'Harcourt and M. de Ximenes,
who told me that M. de Voltaire knew that I was at Geneva and
hoped to see me. I replied by a profound bow. Mdlle. Hedvig, the
pastor's niece, complimented me, but I was still better pleased to
see her cousin Helen. The theologian of twenty-two was fair and
pleasant to the eyes, but she had not that 'je ne sais quoi', that
shade of bitter-sweet, which adds zest to hope as well as
pleasure. However, the evident friendship between Hedvig and
Helen gave me good hopes of success with the latter.
We had an excellent dinner, and while it lasted the conversation
was restricted to ordinary topics; but at dessert the pastor
begged M. de Ximenes to ask his niece some questions. Knowing his
worldwide reputation, I expected him to put her some problem in
geometry, but he only asked whether a lie could be justified on
the principle of a mental reservation.
Hedvig replied that there are cases in which a lie is necessary,
but that the principle of a mental reservation is always a cheat.
"Then how could Christ have said that the time in which the world
was to come to an end was unknown to Him?"
"He was speaking the truth; it was not known to Him."
"Then he was not God?"
"That is a false deduction, for since God may do all things, He
may certainly be ignorant of an event in futurity."
I thought the way in which she brought in the word "futurity"
almost sublime. Hedvig was loudly applauded, and her uncle went
all round the table to kiss her. I had a very natural objection
on the tip of my tongue, which she might have found difficult to
answer, but I wanted to get into her good graces and I kept my own
M. d'Harcourt was urged to ask her some questions, but he replied
in the words of Horace, 'Nulla mihi religio est'. Then Hedvig
turned to me and asked me to put her some hard question,
"something difficult, which you don't know yourself."
"I shall be delighted. Do you grant that a god possesses in a
supreme degree the qualities of man?"
"Yes, excepting man's weaknesses."
"Do you class the generative power as a weakness?"
"Will you tell me, then, of what nature would have been the
offspring of a union between a god and a mortal woman?"
Hedvig looked as red as fire.
The pastor and the other guests looked at each other, while I
gazed fixedly at the young theologian, who was reflecting. M.
d'Harcourt said that we should have to send for Voltaire to settle
a question so difficult, but as Hedvig had collected her thoughts
and seemed ready to speak everybody was silent.
"It would be absurd," said she, "to suppose that a deity could
perform such an action without its having any results. At the end
of nine months a woman would be delivered a male child, which
would be three parts man and one part god."
At these words all the guests applauded, M. de Ximenes expressed
his admiration of the way the question had been solved, adding,--
"Naturally, if the son of the woman married, his children would be
seven-eighths men and one-eighth gods."
"Yes," said I, "unless he married a goddess, which would have made
the proportion different."
"Tell me exactly," said Hedvig, "what proportion of divinity there
would be in a child of the sixteenth generation."
"Give me a pencil and I will soon tell you," said M. de Ximenes.
"There is no need to calculate it," said I; "the child would have
some small share of the wit which you enjoy."
Everybody applauded this gallant speech, which did not by any
means offend the lady to whom it was addressed.
This pretty blonde was chiefly desirable for the charms of her
intellect. We rose from the table and made a circle round her,
but she told us with much grace not to pay her any more
I took Helen aside, and told her to get her cousin to choose a
ring from my casket, which I gave her, and she seemed glad to
execute the commission. A quarter of an hour afterwards Hedvig
came to shew me her hand adorned with the ring she had chosen. I
kissed it rapturously, and she must have guessed from the warmth
of my kisses with what feelings she had inspired me.
In the evening Helen told the syndic and the three girls all about
the morning's discussion without leaving out the smallest detail.
She told the story with ease and grace, and I had no occasion to
prompt her. We begged her to stay to supper, but she whispered
something to the three friends, and they agreed that it was
impossible; but she said that she might spend a couple of days
with them in their country house on the lake, if they would ask
At the syndic's request the girls called on the mother the next
day, and the day after that they went off with Helen. The same
evening we went and supped with them, but we could not sleep
there. The syndic was to take me to a house at a short distance
off, where we should be very comfortable. This being the case
there was no hurry, and the eldest girl said that the syndic and I
could leave whenever we liked, but that they were going to bed.
So saying she took Helen to her room, while the two others slept
in another room. Soon after the syndic went into the room where
Helen was, and I visited the two others.
I had scarcely been with my two sweethearts for an hour when the
syndic interrupted my erotic exploits by begging me to go.
"What have you done with Helen?" I asked.
"Nothing; she's a simpleton, and an intractable one. She hid
under the sheets and would not look at my performance with her
"You ought to go to her direct."
"I have done so, but she repulsed me again and again. I have
given it up, and shall not try it again, unless you will tame her
"How is it to be done?"
"Come to dinner to-morrow. I shall be away at Geneva. I shall be
back by supper-time. I wish we could give her too much to drink!"
"That would be a pity. Let me see what I can do."
I accordingly went to dine with them by myself the next day, and
they entertained me in all the force of the word. After dinner we
went for a walk, and the three friends understanding my aims left
me alone with the intractable girl, who resisted my caresses in a
manner which almost made me give up the hope of taming her.
"The syndic," said I, "is in love with you, and last night . . .
"Last night," she said, "he amused himself with his old friend. I
am for everyone's following their own tastes, but I expect to be
allowed to follow mine."
"If I could gain your heart I should be happy."
"Why don't you invite the pastor and my cousin to dine with you?
I could come too, for the pastor makes much of everyone who loves
"I am glad to hear that. Has she a lover?"
"I can scarcely believe it. She is young, pretty, agreeable, and
"You don't understand Genevan ways. It is because she is so
clever that no young man falls in love with her. Those who might
be attracted by her personal charms hold themselves aloof on
account of her intellectual capacities, as they would have to sit
in silence before her."
"Are the young Genevans so ignorant, then?"
"As a rule they are. Some of them have received excellent
educations, but in a general way they are full of prejudice.
Nobody wishes to be considered a fool or a blockhead, but clever
women are not appreciated; and if a girl is witty or well educated
she endeavors to hide her lights, at least if she desires to be
"Ah! now I see why you did not open your lips during our
"No, I know I have nothing to hide. This was not the motive which
made me keep silence, but the pleasure of listening. I admired my
cousin, who was not afraid to display her learning on a subject
which any other girl would have affected to know nothing about."
"Yes, affected, though she might very probably know as much as her
"That's a matter of morals, or rather of prejudices."
"Your reasoning is admirable, and I am already longing for the
party you so cleverly suggested:"
"You will have the pleasure of being with my cousin."
"I do her justice. Hedvig is certainly a very interesting and
agreeable girl, but believe me it is your presence that will
constitute my chief enjoyment."
"And how if I do not believe you?"
"You would wrong me and give me pain, for I love you dearly."
"In spite of that you have deceived me. I am sure that you have
given marks of your affection to those three young ladies. For my
part I pity them."
"Because neither of them can flatter herself that you love her,
and her alone."
"And do you think that your delicacy of feeling makes you happier
than they are?"
"Yes, I think so though of course, I have no experience in the
matter. Tell me truly, do you think I am right?"
"Yes, I do."
"I am delighted to hear it; but you must confess that to associate
me with them in your attentions would not be giving me the
greatest possible proof of your love."
"Yes, I do confess it, and I beg your pardon. But tell me how I
should set to work to ask the pastor to dinner."
"There will be no difficulty. Just call on him and ask him to
come, and if you wish me to be of the party beg him to ask my
mother and myself."
"Why your mother?"
"Because he has been in love with her these twenty years, and
loves her still."
"And where shall I give this dinner?"
"Is not M. Tronchin your banker?"
"He has a nice pleasure house on the lake; ask him to lend it you
for the day; he will be delighted to do so. But don't tell the
syndic or his three friends anything about it; they can hear of it
"But do you think your learned cousin will be glad to be in my
"More than glad, you may be sure."
"Very good, everything will be arranged by tomorrow. The day
after, you will be returning to Geneva, and the party will take
place two or three days later."
The syndic came back in due course, and we had a very pleasant
evening. After supper the ladies went to bed as before, and I
went with the eldest girl while the syndic visited the two younger
ones. I knew that it would be of no use to try to do anything
with Helen, so I contented myself with a few kisses, after which I
wished them good night and passed on to the next room. I found
them in a deep sleep, and the syndic seemed visibly bored. He did
not look more cheerful when I told him that I had had no success
"I see," said he, "that I shall waste my time with the little
fool. I think I shall give her up."
"I think that's the best thing you could do," I replied, "for a
man who languishes after a woman who is either devoid of feeling
or full of caprice, makes himself her dupe. Bliss should be
neither too easy nor too hard to be won."
The next day we returned to Geneva, and M. Tronchin seemed
delighted to oblige me. The pastor accepted my invitation, and
said I was sure to be charmed with Helen's mother. It was easy to
see that the worthy man cherished a tenderness for her, and if she
responded at all it would be all the better for my purposes.
I was thinking of supping with the charming Helen and her three
friends at the house on the lake, but an express summoned me to
Lausanne. Madame Lebel, my old housekeeper, invited me to sup
with her and her husband. She wrote that she had made her husband
promise to take her to Lausanne as soon as she got my letter, and
she added she was sure that I would resign everything to give her
the pleasure of seeing me. She notified the hour at which she
would be at her mother's house.
Madame Lebel was one of the ten or twelve women for whom in my
happy youth I cherished the greatest affection. She had all the
qualities to make a man a good wife, if it had been my fate to
experience such felicity. But perhaps I did well not to tie
myself down with irrevocable bonds, though now my independence is
another name for slavery. But if I had married a woman of tact,
who would have ruled me unawares to myself, I should have taken
care of my fortune and have had children, instead of being lonely
and penniless in my old age.
But I must indulge no longer in digressions on the past which
cannot be recalled, and since my recollections make me happy I
should be foolish to cherish idle regrets.
I calculated that if I started directly I should get to Lausanne
an hour before Madame Lebel, and I did not hesitate to give her
this proof of my regard. I must here warn my readers, that,
though I loved this woman well, I was then occupied with another
passion, and no voluptuous thought mingled with my desire of
seeing her. My esteem for her was enough to hold my passions in
check, but I esteemed Lebel too, and nothing would have induced me
to disturb the happiness of this married pair.
I wrote in haste to the syndic, telling him that an important and
sudden call obliged me to start for Lausanne, but that I should
have the pleasure of supping with him and his three friends at
Geneva on the following day.
I knocked at Madame Dubois's door at five o'clock, almost dying
with hunger. Her surprise was extreme, for she did not know that
her daughter was going to meet me at her house. Without more ado
I gave her two louis to get us a good supper.
At seven o'clock, Madame Lebel, her husband, and a child of
eighteen months, whom I easily recognized as my own, arrived. Our
meeting was a happy one indeed; we spent ten hours at table, and
mirth and joy prevailed. At day-break she started for Soleure,
where Lebel had business. M. de Chavigni had desired to be
remembered most affectionately to me. Lebel assured me that the
ambassador was extremely kind to his wife, and he thanked me
heartily for having given such a woman up to him. I could easily
see that he was a happy husband, and that his wife was as happy as
My dear housekeeper talked to me about my son. She said that
nobody suspected the truth, but that neither she nor Lebel (who
had faithfully kept his promise, and had not consummated the
marriage for the two months agreed upon) had any doubts.
"The secret," said Lebel to me, "will never be known, and your son
will be my sole heir, or will share my property with my children
if I ever have any, which I doubt."
"My dear," said his wife, "there is somebody who has very strong
suspicions on the subject, and these suspicions will gain strength
as the child grows older; but we have nothing to fear on that
score, as she is well paid to keep the secret."
"And who is this person?" said I.
"Madame ----. She has not forgotten the past, and often speaks of
"Will you kindly remember me to her?"
"I shall be delighted to do so, and I am sure the message will
give her great pleasure."
Lebel shewed me my ring, and I shewed him his, and gave him a
superb watch for my son.
"You must give it him," I said, "when you think he is old enough."
We shall hear of the young gentleman in twenty-one years at
I passed three hours in telling them of all the adventures I had
during the twenty-seven months since we had seen one another. As
to their history, it was soon told; it had all the calm which
belongs to happiness.
Madame Lebel was as pretty as ever, and I could see no change in
her, but I was no longer the same man. She thought me less lively
than of old, and she was right. The Renaud had blasted me, and
the pretended Lascaris had given me a great deal of trouble and
We embraced each other tenderly, and the wedded pair returned to
Soleure and I to Geneva; but feeling that I wanted rest I wrote to
the syndic that I was not well and could not come till the next
day, and after I had done so I went to bed.
The next day, the eve of my dinner party, I ordered a repast in
which no expense was to be spared. I did not forget to tell the
landlord to get me the best wines, the choicest liqueurs, ices,
and all the materials for a bowl of punch. I told him that we
should be six in number, for I foresaw that M. Tronchin would dine
with us. I was right; I found him at his pretty house ready to
receive us, and I had not much trouble in inducing him to stay.
In the evening I thought it as well to tell the syndic and his
three friends about it in Helen's presence, while she, feigning
ignorance, said that her mother had told her they were going
somewhere or other to dinner.
"I am delighted to hear it," said I; "it must be at
My dinner would have satisfied the most exacting gourmet, but
Hedvig was its real charm. She treated difficult theological
questions with so much grace, and rationalised so skilfully, that
though one might not be convinced it was impossible to help being
attracted. I have never seen any theologian who could treat the
most difficult points with so much facility, eloquence, and real
dignity, and at dinner she completed her conquest of myself. M.
Tronchin, who had never heard her speak before, thanked me a
hundred times for having procured him this pleasure, and being
obliged to leave us by the call of business he asked us to meet
again in two days' time.
I was much interested during the dessert by the evident tenderness
of the pastor for Helen's mother. His amorous eloquence grew in
strength as he irrigated his throat with champagne, Greek wine,
and eastern liqueurs. The lady seemed pleased, and was a match
for him as far as drinking was concerned, while the two girls and
myself only drank with sobriety. However, the mixture of wines,
and above all the punch, had done their work, and my charmers were
slightly elevated. Their spirits were delightful, but rather
I took this favourable opportunity to ask the two aged lovers if I
might take the young ladies for a walk in the garden by the lake,
and they told us enthusiastically to go and enjoy ourselves. We
went out arm in arm, and in a few minutes we were out of sight of
"Do you know," said I to Hedvig, "that you have made a conquest of
"Have I? The worthy banker asked me some very silly questions."
"You must not expect everyone to be able to contend with you."
"I can't help telling you that your question pleased me best of
all. A bigoted theologian at the end of the table seemed
scandalized at the question and still more at the answer."
"He says I ought to have told you that a deity could not
impregnate a woman. He said that he would explain the reason to
me if I were a man, but being a woman and a maid he could not with
propriety expound such mysteries. I wish you would tell me what
the fool meant."
"I should be very glad, but you must allow me to speak plainly,
and I shall have to take for granted that you are acquainted with
the physical conformation of a man."
"Yes, speak as plainly as you like, for there is nobody to hear
what we say; but I must confess that I am only acquainted with the
peculiarities of the male by theory and reading. I have no
practical knowledge. I have seen statues, but I have never seen
or examined a real live man. Have you, Helen?"
"I have never wished to do so."
"Why not? It is good to know everything."
"Well, Hedvig, your theologian meant to say that a god was not
capable of this."
"What is that?"
"Give me your hand."
"I can feel it, and have thought it would be something like that;
without this provision of nature man would not be able to
fecundate his mate. And how could the foolish theologian maintain
that this was an imperfection?"
"Because it is the result of desire, Hedvig, and it would not have
taken place in me if I had not been charmed with you, and if I had
not conceived the most seducing ideas of the beauties that I
cannot see from the view of the beauties I can see. Tell me
frankly whether feeling that did not give you an agreeable
"It did, and just in the place where your hand is now. Don't you
feel a pleasant tickling there, Helen, after what the gentleman
has been saying to us?"
"Yes, I feel it, but I often do, without anything to excite me."
"And then," said I, "nature makes you appease it . . . thus?"
"Not at all."
"Oh, yes!" said Hedvig. "Even when we are asleep our hands seek
that spot as if by instinct, and if it were not for that solace I
think we should get terribly ill."
As this philosophical discourse, conducted by the young theologian
in quite a professional manner, proceeded, we reached a beautiful
basin of water, with a flight of marble steps for bathers.
Although the air was cool our heads were hot, and I conceived the
idea of telling them that it would do them good to bathe their feet,
and that if they would allow me I would take off their shoes and
"I should like to so much," said Hedvig.
"And I too," said Helen.
"Then sit down, ladies, on the first step."
They proceeded to sit down and I began to take off their shoes,
praising the beauty of their legs, and pretending for the present
not to want to go farther than the knee. When they got into the
water they were obliged to pick up their clothes, and I encouraged
them to do so.
"Well, well," said Hedvig, "men have thighs too."
Helen, who would have been ashamed to be beaten by her cousin, was
not backward in shewing her legs.
"That will do, charming maids," said I, "you might catch cold if
you stayed longer in the water."
They walked up backwards, still holding up their clothes for fear
of wetting them, and it was then my duty to wipe them dry with all
the handkerchiefs I had. This pleasant task left me at freedom to
touch and see, and the reader will imagine that I did my best in
that direction. The fair theologian told me I wanted to know too
much, but Helen let me do what I liked with such a tender and
affectionate expression that it was as much as I could do to keep
within bounds. At last, when I had drawn on their shoes and
stockings, I told them that I was delighted to have seen the
hidden charms of the two prettiest girls in Geneva.
"What effect had it on you?" asked Hedvig.
"I daren't tell you to look, but feel, both of you."
"Do you bathe, too."
"It's out of the question, a man's undressing takes so much
"But we have still two hours before us, in which we need not fear
This reply gave me a foretaste of the bliss I had to gain, but I
did not wish to expose myself to an illness by going into the
water in my present state. I noticed a summer-house at a little
distance, and feeling sure that M. Tronchin had left the door
open, I took the two girls on my arm and led them there without
giving them any hint of my intentions. The summer-house was
scented with vases of pot-pourri and adorned with engravings; but,
best of all, there was a large couch which seemed made for repose
and pleasure. I sat down on it between my two sweethearts, and as
I caressed them I told them I was going to shew them something
they had never seen before, and without more ado I displayed to
their gaze the principal agent in the preservation of the human
race. They got up to admire it, and taking a hand of each one I
procured them some enjoyment, but in the middle of their labours
an abundant flow of liquid threw them into the greatest
"That," said I, "is the Word which makes men."
"It's beautiful!" cried Helen, laughing at the term "word."
"I have a word too," said Hedvig, "and I will shew it to you if
you will wait a minute."
"Come, Hedvig, and I will save you the trouble of making it
yourself, and will do it better."
"I daresay, but I have never done it with a man."
"No more have I," said Helen.
Placing them in front of me I gave them another ecstacy. We then
sat down, and while I felt all their charms I let them touch me as
much as they liked till I watered their hands a second time.
We made ourselves decent once more, and spent half an hour in
kisses and caresses, and I then told them that they had made me
happy only in part, but that I hoped they would make my bliss
complete by presenting me with their maidenheads. I shewed them
the little safety-bags invented by the English in the interests of
the fair sex. They admired them greatly when I explained their
use, and the fair theologian remarked to her cousin that she would
think it over. We were now close friends, and soon promised to be
something more; and we walked back and found the pastor and
Helen's mother strolling by the side of the lake.
When I got back to Geneva I went to spend the evening with the
three friends, but I took good care not to tell the syndic
anything about my victory with Helen. It would only have served
to renew his hopes, and he would have had this trouble for
nothing. Even I would have done no good without the young
theologian; but as Helen admired her she did not like to appear
her inferior by refusing to imitate her freedom.
I did not see Helen that evening, but I saw her the next day at
her mother's house, for I was in mere politeness bound to thank
the old lady for the honour she had done me. She gave me a most
friendly reception, and introduced me to two very pretty girls who
were boarding with her. They might have interested me if I had
been stopping long in Geneva, but as if was Helen claimed all my
"To-morrow," said the charming girl, "I shall be able to get a
word with you at Madame Tronchin's dinner, and I expect Hedvig
will have hit on some way for you to satisfy your desires."
The banker gave us an excellent dinner. He proudly told me that
no inn-keeper could give such a good dinner as a rich gentleman
who has a good cook, a good cellar, good silver plate, and china