SWITZERLAND - Chapter XVI
Continuation of the Preceding Chapter--I Leave Soleure
When the servants had gone away and left us alone, it would have
looked strange if we had remained as dumb as two posts; but in my
state of mind I did not feel myself capable of breaking the silence.
My dear Dubois, who began to love me because I made her happy, felt
my melancholy react on herself, and tried to make me talk.
"Your sadness," said she, "is not like you; it frightens me. You may
console yourself by telling me of your troubles, but do not imagine
that my curiosity springs from any unworthy motive, I only want to be
of service to you. You may rely on my being perfectly discreet; and
to encourage you to speak freely, and to give you that trust in me
which I think I deserve, I will tell you what I know and what I have
learnt about yourself. My knowledge has not been obtained by any
unworthy stratagems, or by a curiosity in affairs which do not
"I am pleased with what you say, my dear housekeeper. I see you are
my friend, and I am grateful to you. Tell me all you know about the
matter which is now troubling me, and conceal nothing."
"Very good. You are the lover and the beloved of Madame----. The
widow whom you have treated badly has played you some trick which has
involved you with your mistress, and then the wretched woman has 477
left your house with the most unpardonable rudeness this tortures
you. You fear some disastrous consequences from which you cannot
escape, your heart and mind are at war, and there is a struggle in
your breast between passion and sentiment. Perhaps I am wrong, but
yesterday you seemed to me happy and to-day miserable. I pity you,
because you have inspired me with the tenderest feelings of
friendship. I did my best to-day to converse with the husband that
you might be free to talk to the wife, who seems to me well worthy of
"All that you have said is true. Your friendship is dear to me, and
I have a high opinion of your intellectual powers. The widow is a
monster who has made me wretched in return for my contempt, and I
cannot revenge myself on her. Honour will not allow me to tell you
any more, and indeed it would be impossible for you or any one else
to alleviate the grief that overwhelms me. It may possibly be my
death, but in the mean time, my dear Dubois, I entreat you to
continue your friendship towards me, and to treat me with entire
candour. I shall always attend to what you say, and thus you will be
of the greatest service to me. I shall not be ungrateful."
I spent a weary night as I had expected, for anger, the mother of
vengeance, always made me sleepless, while sudden happiness had
sometimes the same effect.
I rang for Le Duc early in the morning, but, instead of him, Madame
Dubois's ugly little attendant came, and told me that my man was ill,
and that the housekeeper would bring me my chocolate. She came in
directly after, and I had no sooner swallowed the chocolate than I
was seized with a violent attack of sickness, the effect of anger,
which at its height may kill the man who cannot satisfy it. My
concentrated rage called for vengeance on the dreadful widow, the
chocolate came on the top of the anger, and if it had not been
rejected I should have been killed; as it was I was quite exhausted.
Looking at my housekeeper I saw she was in tears, and asked her why
"Good heavens! Do you think I have a heart of stone?"
"Calm yourself; I see you pity me. Leave me, and I hope I shall be
able to get some sleep."
I went to sleep soon after, and I did not wake till I had slept for
seven hours. I felt restored to life. I rang the bell, my
housekeeper came in, and told me the surgeon of the place had called.
She looked very melancholy, but on seeing my more cheerful aspect I
saw gladness reappearing on her pretty face.
"We will dine together, dearest," said I, "but tell the surgeon to
come in. I want to know what he has to say to me."
The worthy man entered, and after looking carefully round the room to
see that we were alone, he came up to me, and whispered in my ear
that Le Duc had a malady of a shameful character.
I burst out laughing, as I had been expecting some terrible news.
"My dear doctor," said I, "do all you can to cure him, and I will pay
you handsomely, but next time don't look so doleful when you have
anything to tell me. How old are you?"
"May God help you!"
I was all the more ready to sympathize with my poor Spaniard, as I
expected to find myself in a like case.
What a fellow-feeling there is between the unfortunate! The poor man
will seek in vain for true compassion at the rich man's doors; what
he receives is a sacrifice to ostentation and not true benevolence;
and the man in sorrow should not look for pity from one to whom
sorrow is unknown, if there be such a person on the earth.
My housekeeper came in to dress me, and asked me what had been the
"He must have said something amusing to make you laugh."
"Yes, and I should like to tell you what it was; but before I do so I
must ask you if you know what the venereal disease is?"
"Yes, I do; Lady Montagu's footman died of it while I was with her"
"Very good, but you should pretend not to know what it is, and
imitate other ladies who assume an ignorance which well becomes them.
Poor Le Duc has got this disease."
"Poor fellow, I am sorry for him! Were you laughing at that?"
"No; it was the air of mystery assumed by the old doctor which amused
"I too have a confidence to make, and when you have heard it you must
either forgive me or send me away directly."
"Here is another bother. What the devil can you have done? Quick!
"Sir, I have robbed you!"
"What robbed me? When? How? Can you return me what you have
taken? I should not have thought you capable of such a thing. I
never forgive a robber or a liar."
"You are too hasty, sir. I am sure you will forgive me, as I robbed
you only half an hour ago, and I am now going to return to you the
"You are a singular woman, my dear. Come, I will vouchsafe full
forgiveness, but restore immediately what you have taken."
"This is what I stole."
"What! that monster's letter? Did you read it?"
"Yes, of course, for otherwise I should not have committed a theft,
"You have robbed me my secret, then, and that is a thing you cannot
give me back. You have done very wrong."
"I confess I have. My theft is all the greater in that I cannot make
restoration. Nevertheless, I promise never to speak a word of it all
my life, and that ought to gain me my pardon. Give it me quickly."
"You are a little witch. I forgive you, and here is the pledge of my
mercy." So saying I fastened my lips on hers.
"I don't doubt the validity of your pardon; you have signed with a
double and a triple seal."
"Yes; but for the future do not read, or so much as touch, any of my
papers, as I am the depositary of secrets of which I am not free to
"Very good; but what shall I do when I find papers on the ground, as
that letter was?"
"You must pick them up, but not read them."
"I promise to do so."
"Very well, my dear; but you must forget the horrors you have read."
"Listen to me. Allow me to remember what I have read; perhaps you
may be the gainer. Let us talk over this affair, which has made my
hair stand on end. This monster of immodesty has given you two
mortal blows--one in the body and one in the soul; but that is not
the worst, as she thinks that Madame's honour is in her keeping.
This, in my thinking, is the worst of all; for, in spite of the
affront, your mutual love might continue, and the disease which the
infamous creature has communicated to you would pass off; but if the
malicious woman carries out her threats, the honour of your charming
mistress is gone beyond return. Do not try to make me forget the
matter, then, but let us talk it over and see what can be done."
I thought I was dreaming when I heard a young woman in her position
reasoning with more acuteness than Minerva displays in her colloquies
with Telemachus. She had captured not only my esteem but my respect.
"Yes, my dear," I answered, "let us think over some plan for
delivering a woman who deserves the respect of all good men from this
imminent danger; and the very thought that we have some chance of
success makes me indebted to you. Let us think of it and talk of it
from noon to night. Think kindly of Madame ----, pardon her first
slip, protect her honour, and have pity on my distress. From
henceforth call me no more your master but your friend. I will be
your friend till death; I swear it to you. What you say is full of
wisdom; my heart is yours. Embrace me."
"No, no, that is not necessary; we are young people, and we might
perhaps allow ourselves to go astray. I only wish for your
friendship; but I do not want you to give it to me for nothing. I
wish to deserve it by giving you solid proofs of my friendship for
you. In the meanwhile I will tell them to serve dinner, and I hope
that after you have eaten something you will be quite well."
I was astonished at her sagacity. It might all be calculated
artifice, and her aim might be to seduce me, but I did not trouble
myself about that. I found myself almost in love with her, and like
to be the dupe of her principles, which would have made themselves
felt, even if she had openly shared my love. I decided that I would
add no fuel to my flames, and felt certain that they would go out of
their own accord. By leaving my love thus desolate it would die of
exhaustion. I argued like a fool. I forgot that it is not possible
to stop at friendship with a pretty woman whom one sees constantly,
and especially when one suspects her of being in love herself. At
its height friendship becomes love, and the palliative one is forced
to apply to soothe it for a moment only increases its intensity.
Such was the experience of Anacreon with Smerdis, and Cleobulus with
Badyllus. A Platonist who pretends that one is able to live with a
young woman of whom one is fond, without becoming more than her
friend, is a visionary who knows not what he says. My housekeeper
was too young, too pretty, and above all too pleasant, she had too
keen a wit, for me not to be captivated by all these qualities
conjoined; I was bound to become her lover.
We dined quietly together without saying anything about the affair we
had at heart, for nothing is more imprudent or more dangerous than to
speak in the presence of servants, who out of maliciousness or
ignorance put the worst construction on what they hear; add or
diminish, and think themselves privileged to divulge their master's
secrets, especially as they know them without having been entrusted
As soon as we were alone, my dear Dubois asked me if I had sufficient
proof of Le Duc's fidelity.
"Well, my dear, he is a rascal and a profligate, full of impudence,
sharp-witted, ignorant, a fearful liar, and nobody but myself has any
power over him. However, he has one good quality, and that is blind
obedience to my orders. He defies the stick, and he would defy the
gallows if it were far enough off. When I have to ford a river on my
travels, he strips off his clothes without my telling him, and jumps
in to see if I can across in safety."
"That will do; he is just what we want under the circumstances. I
will begin by assuring you, my dear friend, as you will have me style
you thus, that Madame's honour is perfectly safe. Follow my advice,
and if the detestable widow does not take care she will be the only
person put to shame. But we want Le Duc; without him we can do
nothing. Above all we must find out how he contracted his disease,
as several circumstances might throw obstacles in the way of my
design. Go to him at once and find out all particulars, and if he
has told any of the servants what is the matter with him. When you
have heard what he has to say, warn him to keep the matter quiet."
I made no objection, and without endeavouring to penetrate her design
I went to Le Duc. I found him lying on his bed by himself. I sat
down beside him with a smile on my face, and promised to have him
cured if he would tell me all the circumstances of the case.
"With all my heart, sir, the matter happened like this. The day you
sent me to Soleure to get your letters, I got down at a roadside
dairy to get a glass of milk. It was served to me by a young wench
who caught my fancy, and I gave her a hug; she raised no objection,
and in a quarter of an hour she made me what you see."
"Have you told anyone about it?"
"I took good care not to do so, as I should only have got laughed at.
The doctor is the only one who knows what is the matter, and he tells
me the swelling will be gone down before tomorrow, and I hope I shall
be able by that time to wait upon you."
"Very good, but remember to keep your own counsel."
I proceeded to inform my Minerva of our conversation, and she said,--
"Tell me whether the widow could take her oath that she had spent the
two hours on the sofa with you."
"No, for she didn't see me, and I did not say a word."
"Very good; then sit down at your desk and write, and tell her she is
a liar, as you did not leave your room at all, and that you are
making the necessary enquiries in your household to find out who is
the wretched person she has unwittingly contaminated. Write at once
and send off your letter directly. In an hour and a half's time you
can write another letter; or rather you can copy what I am just going
to put down."
"My dear, I see your plan; it is an ingenious one, but I have given
my word of honour to Madame to take no steps in the matter without
first consulting her."
"Then your word of honour must give way to the necessity of saving
her honour. Your love retards your steps, but everything depends on
our promptitude, and on the interval between the first and second
letter. Follow my advice, I beg of you, and you will know the rest
from the letter I am going to write for you to copy. Quick I write
letter number one."
I did not allow myself to reflect. I was persuaded that no better
plan could be found than that of my charming governess, and I
proceeded to write the following love-letter to the impudent monster:
"The impudence of your letter is in perfect accord with the three
nights you spent in discovering a fact which has no existence save in
your own perverse imagination. Know, cursed woman, that I never left
my room, and that I have not to deplore the shame of having passed
two hours with a being such as you. God knows with whom you did pass
them, but I mean to find out if the whole story is not the creation
of your devilish brain, and when I do so I will inform you.
"You may thank Heaven that I did not open your letter till after M.
and Madame had gone. I received it in their presence, but despising
the hand that wrote it I put it in my pocket, little caring what
infamous stuff it contained. If I had been curious enough to read it
and my guests had seen it, I would have you know that I would have
gone in pursuit of you, and at this moment you would have been a
corpse. I am quite well, and have no symptoms of any complaint, but
I shall not lower myself to convince you of my health, as your eyes
would carry contagion as well as your wretched carcase."
I shewed the letter to my dear Dubois, who thought it rather strongly
expressed, but approved of it on the whole; I then sent it to the
horrible being who had caused me such unhappiness. An hour and a
half afterwards I sent her the following letter, which I copied
without addition or subtraction:
"A quarter of an hour after I had sent off my letter, the village
doctor came to tell me that my man had need of his treatment for a
disease of a shameful nature which he had contracted quite recently.
I told him to take care of his patient; and when he had gone I went
to see the invalid, who confessed, after some pressure, that he had
received this pretty present from you. I asked him how he had
contrived to obtain access to you, and he said that he saw you going
by your self in the dark into the apartment of M.----. Knowing that
I had gone to bed, and having no further services to render me,
curiosity made him go and see what you were doing there by stealth,
as if you had wanted to see the lady, who would be in bed by that
time, you would not have gone by the door leading to the garden. He
at first thought that you went there with ill-intent, and he waited
an hour to see if you stole anything, in which case he would have
arrested you; but as you did not come out, and he heard no noise, he
resolved to go in after you, and found you had left the door open.
He has assured me that he had no intentions in the way of carnal
enjoyment, and I can well believe him. He tells me he was on the
point of crying for help, when you took hold of him and put your hand
over his mouth; but he changed his plans on finding himself drawn
gently to a couch and covered with kisses. You plainly took him for
somebody else, 'and,' said he, 'I did her a service which she has
done ill to recompense in this fashion.' He left you without saying
a word as soon as the day began to dawn, his motive being fear of
recognition. It is easy to see that you took my servant for myself,
for in the night, you know, all cats are grey, and I congratulate you
on obtaining an enjoyment you certainly would not have had from me,
as I should most surely have recognized you directly from your breath
and your aged charms, and I can tell you it would have gone hard with
you. Luckily for you and for me, things happened otherwise. I may
tell you that the poor fellow is furious, and intends making you a
visit, from which course I believe I have no right to dissuade him.
I advise you to hear him politely, and to be in a generous mood when
he comes, as he is a determined fellow like all Spaniards, and if you
do not treat him properly he will publish the matter, and you will
have to take the consequences. He will tell you himself what his
terms are, and I daresay you will be wise enough to grant them."
An hour after I had sent off this epistle I received a reply to my
first letter. She told me that my device was an ingenious one, but
that it was no good, as she knew what she was talking about. She
defied me to shew her that I was healthy in the course of a few days.
While we were at supper, my dear Dubois tried her utmost to cheer me
up, but all to no purpose; I was too much under the influence of
strong emotion to yield to her high spirits. We discussed the third
step, which would put an apex to the scheme and cover the impudent
woman with shame. As I had written the two letters according to my
housekeeper's instructions, I determined to follow her advice to the
end. She told me what to say to Le Duc in the morning; and she was
curious to know what sort of stuff he was made of, she begged me to
let her listen behind the curtains of my bed.
Next morning Le Due came in, and I asked if he could ride on
horseback to Soleure.
"Yes, sir," he replied, "but the doctor tells me I must begin to
"Very good. As soon as your horse is ready, set out and go to Madame
F----, but do not let her know you come from me, or suspect that you
are a mere emissary of mine. Say that you want to speak to her. If
she refuses to receive you, wait outside in the street; but I fancy
she will receive you, and without a witness either. Then say to her,
'You have given me my complaint without having been asked, and I
require you to give me sufficient money to get myself cured.' Add
that she made you work for two hours in the dark, and that if it had
not been for the fatal present she had given to you, you would have
said nothing about it; but that finding yourself in such a state (you
needn't be ashamed to shew her) she ought not to be astonished at
your taking such a course. If she resists, threaten her with the
law. That's all you have to do, but don't let my name appear.
Return directly without loss of time, that I may know how you have
"That's all very fine, sir, but if this jolly wench has me pitched
out of window, I shan't come home quite so speedily."
"Quite so, but you needn't be afraid; I will answer for your safety."
"It's a queer business you are sending me on."
"You are the only man I would trust to do it properly."
"I will do it all right, but I want to ask you one or two essential
questions. Has the lady really got the what d'you call it?"
"I am sorry for her. But how am I to stick to it that she has
peppered me, when I have never spoken to her?"
"Do you usually catch that complaint by speaking, booby?"
"No, but one speaks in order to catch it, or while one is catching
"You spent two hours in the dark with her without a word being
spoken, and she will see that she gave this fine present to you while
she thought she was giving it to another."
"Ah! I begin to see my way, sir. But if we were in the dark, how was
I to know it was she I had to do with?
"Thus: you saw her going in by the garden door, and you marked her
unobserved. But you may be sure she won't ask you any of these
"I know what to do now. I will start at once, and I am as curious as
you to know what her answer will be. But here's another question
comes into my head. She may try to strike a bargain over the sum I
am to ask for my cure; if so, shall I be content with three hundred
"That's too much for her, take half."
"But it isn't much for two hours of such pleasure for her and six
weeks of such pain for me."
"I will make up the rest to you."
"That's good hearing. She is going to pay for damage she has done.
I fancy I see it all, but I shall say nothing. I would bet it is you
to whom she has made this fine present, and that you want to pay her
"Perhaps so; but keep your own counsel and set out."
"Do you know I think the rascal is unique," said my dear Dubois,
emerging from her hiding-place, "I had hard work to keep from
laughing when he said that if he were pitched out of the window he
would not come back so soon. I am sure he will acquit himself better
than ever did diplomatist. When he gets to Soleure the monster will
have already dispatched her reply to your second letter. I am
curious to see how it will turn out."
"To you, my dear, the honour of this comedy belongs. You have
conducted this intrigue like a past master in the craft. It could
never be taken for the work of a novice."
"Nevertheless, it is my first and I hope it will be my last intrigue"
"I hope she won't defy me to 'give evidence of my health."
"You are quite well so far, I think?"
"Yes; and, by the way, it is possible she may only have leucorrhoea.
I am longing to see the end of the piece, and to set my mind at
"Will you give Madame an account of our scheme?"
"Yes; but I shall not be able to give you the credit you deserve."
"I only want to have credit in your eyes."
"You cannot doubt that I honour you immensely, and I shall certainly
not deprive you of the reward that is your due."
"The only reward I ask for is for you to be perfectly open with me."
"You are very wonderful. Why do you interest yourself so much in my
affairs? I don't like to think you are really inquisitive."
"You would be wrong to think that I have a defect which would lower
me in my own eyes. Be sure, sir, that I shall only be curious when
you are sad."
"But what can have made you feel so generously towards me?"
"Only your honourable conduct towards me."
"You touch me profoundly, and I promise to confide in you for the
"You will make me happy."
Le Duc had scarcely gone an hour when a messenger on foot came to
bring me a second letter from the widow. He also gave me a small
packet, telling me that he had orders to wait for a reply. I sent
him down to wait, and I gave the letter to Madame Dubois, that she
might see what it contained. While she was reading it I leant upon
the window, my heart beating violently.
"Everything is getting on famously," cried my housekeeper. "Here is
the letter; read it."
"Whether I am being told the truth, or whether I am the victim of a
myth arising from your fertile imagination (for which you are too
well known all over Europe), I will regard the whole story as being
true, as I am not in a position to disprove it. I am deeply grieved
to have injured an innocent man who has never done me any ill, and I
will willingly pay the penalty by giving him a sum which will be more
than sufficient to cure him of the plague with which I infected him.
I beg that you will give him the twenty-five louis I am sending you;
they will serve to restore him to health, and to make him forget the
bitterness of the pleasure I am so sorry to have procured for him.
And now are you sufficiently generous to employ your authority as
master to enjoin on your man the most absolute secrecy? I hope so,
for you have reason to dread my vengeance otherwise. Consider that,
if this affair is allowed to transpire, it will be easy for me to
give it a turn which may be far from pleasant to you, and which will
force the worthy man you are deceiving to open his eyes; for I have
not changed my opinion, as I have too many proofs of your
understanding with his wife. As I do not desire that we should meet
again, I shall go to Lucerne on the pretext of family concerns. Let
me know that you have got this letter."
"I am sorry," I said, "to have sent Le Duc, as the harpy is violent,
and I am afraid of something happening to him."
"Don't be afraid," she replied, "nothing will happen, and it is
better that they should see each other; it makes it more certain.
Send her the money directly; she will have to give it to him herself,
and your vengeance will be complete. She will not be able to
entertain the slightest suspicion, especially if Le Duc shews her her
work, and in two or three hours you will have the pleasure of hearing
everything from his lips. You have reason to bless your stars, as
the honour of the woman you love is safe. The only thing that can
trouble you is the remembrance of the widow's foul embraces, and the
certainty that the prostitute has communicated her complaint to you.
Nevertheless, I hope it may prove a slight attack and be easily
cured. An inveterate leucorrhoea is not exactly a venereal disease,
and I have heard people in London say that it was rarely contagious.
We ought to be very thankful that she is going to Lucerne. Laugh and
be thankful; there is certainly a comic touch in our drama."
"Unfortunately, it is tragi-comic. I know the human heart, and I am
sure that I must have forfeited Madame's affections."
"It is true that----; but this is not the time to be thinking of such
matters. Quick! write to her briefly and return her the twenty-five
My reply was as follows:
"Your unworthy suspicions, your abominable design of revenge, and the
impudent letter you wrote me, are the only causes of your no doubt
bitter repentance. I hope that it will restore peace to your
conscience. Our messengers have crossed, through no fault of mine.
I send you the twenty-five Louis; you can give them to the man
yourself. I could not prevent my servant from paying you a visit,
but this time you will not keep him two hours, and you will not find
it difficult to appease his anger. I wish you a good journey, and I
shall certainly flee all occasions of meeting you, for I always avoid
the horrible; and you must know, odious woman, that it isn't
everybody who endeavours to ruin the reputation of their friends.
If you see the apostolic nuncio at Lucerne, ask him about me, and he
will tell you what sort of a reputation I have in Europe. I can
assure you that Le Duc has only spoken to me of his misadventure, and
that if you treat him well he will be discreet, as he certainly has
nothing to boast of. Farewell."
My dear Minerva approved of this letter, and I sent it with the money
by the messenger.
"The piece is not yet done," said my housekeeper, "we have three
"What are they?"
"The return of your Spaniard, the appearance of the disease, and the
astonishment of Madame when she hears it all."
I counted the moments for Le Duc to return, but in vain; he did not
appear. I was in a state of great anxiety, although my dear Dubois
kept telling me that the only reason he was away so long was that the
widow was out. Some people are so happily constituted that they
never admit the possibility of misfortune. I was like that myself
till the age of thirty, when I was put under the Leads. Now I am
getting into my dotage and look on the dark side of everything. I am
invited to a wedding, and see nought but gloom; and witnessing the
coronation of Leopold, at Prague, I say to myself, 'Nolo coronari'.
Cursed old age, thou art only worthy of dwelling in hell, as others
before me have thought also, 'tristisque senectus'.
About half-past nine my housekeeper looked out, and saw Le Duc by the
moonlight coming along at a good pace. That news revived me. I had
no light in the room, and my housekeeper ran to hide in the recess,
for she would not have missed a word of the Spaniard's communication.
"I am dying of hunger," said he, as he came in. "I had to wait for
that woman till half-past six. When she came in she found me on the
stairs and told me to go about my business, as she had nothing to say
"'That may be, fair lady,' I replied; 'but I have a few words to say
to you, and I have been waiting here for a cursed time with that
"'Wait a minute,' she replied; and then putting into her pocket a
packet and a letter which I thought was addressed in your writing,
she told me to follow her. As soon as I got to her room, I saw there
was no one else present, and I told her that she had infected me, and
that I wanted the wherewithal to pay the doctor. As she said nothing
I proceeded to convince her of my infected state, but she turned away
her head, and said,--
"'Have you been waiting for me long?
"'Since eleven, without having had a bite or a sup.'
"Thereupon she went out, and after asking the servant, whom I suppose
she had sent here, what time he had come back, she returned to me,
shut the door, and gave me the packet, telling me that it contained
twenty-five Louis for my cure, and that if I valued my life I would
keep silence in the matter. I promised to be discreet, and with that
I left here, and here I am.
"Does the packet belong to me?"
"Certainly. Have some supper and go to bed."
My dear Dubois came out of her recess and embraced me, and we spent a
happy evening. Next morning I noticed the first symptoms of the
disease the hateful widow had communicated to me, but in three or
four days I found it was of a very harmless character, and a week
later I was quite rid of it. My poor Spaniard, on the other hand,
was in a pitiable case.
I passed the whole of the next morning in writing to Madame. I told
her circumstantially all I had done, in spite of my promise to
consult her, and I sent her copies of all the letters to convince her
that our enemy had gone to Lucerne with the idea that her vengeance
had been only an imaginary one. Thus I shewed her that her honour
was perfectly safe. I ended by telling her that I had noticed the
first symptoms of the disease, but that I was certain of getting rid
of it in a very few days. I sent my letter through her nurse, and in
two days' time I had a few lines from her informing me that I should
see her in the course of the week in company with her husband and
M. de Chavigni.
Unhappy I! I was obliged to renounce all thoughts of love, but my
Dubois, who was with me nearly all day on account of Le Duc's
illness, began to stand me in good stead. The more I determined to
be only a friend to her, the more I was taken with her; and it was in
vain that I told myself that from seeing her without any love-making
my sentiment for her would die a natural death. I had made her a
present of a ring, telling her that whenever she wanted to get rid of
it I would give her a hundred louis for it; but this could only
happen in time of need--an impossible contingency while she continued
with me, and I had no idea of sending her away. She was natural and
sincere, endowed with a ready wit and good reasoning powers. She had
never been in love, and she had only married to please Lady Montagu.
She only wrote to her mother, and to please her I read the letters.
They were full of filial piety, and were admirably written.
One day the fancy took me to ask to read the letters her mother wrote
in reply. "She never replies," said she, "For an excellent reason,
namely, that she cannot write. I thought she was dead when I came
back from England, and it was a happy surprise to find her in perfect
health when I got to Lausanne."
"Who came with you from England?"
"I can't credit that. Young, beautiful, well dressed, obliged to
associate casually with all kinds of people, young men and
profligates (for there are such everywhere), how did you manage to
"Defend myself? I never needed to do so. The best plan for a young
woman is never to stare at any man, to pretend not to hear certain
questions and certainly not to answer them, to sleep by herself in a
room where there is a lock and key, or with the landlady when
possible. When a girl has travelling adventures, one may safely say
that she has courted them, for it is easy to be discreet in all
countries if one wishes."
She spoke justly. She assured me that she had never had an adventure
and had never tripped, as she was fortunate enough not to be of an
amorous disposition. Her naive stories, her freedom from prudery,
and her sallies full of wit and good sense, amused me from morning
till night, and we sometimes thoued each other; this was going rather
far, and should have shewn us that we were on the brink of the
precipice. She talked with much admiration of the charms of Madame,
and shewed the liveliest interest in my stories of amorous adventure.
When I got on risky ground, I would make as if I would fain spare her
all unseemly details, but she begged me so gracefully to hide
nothing, that I found myself obliged to satisfy her; but when my
descriptions became so faithful as almost to set us on fire, she
would burst into a laugh, put her hand over my mouth, and fly like a
hunted gazelle to her room, and then lock herself in. One day I
asked her why she did so, and she answered, "To hinder you from
coming to ask me for what I could not refuse you at such moments."
The day before that on which M. and Madame and M. de Chavigni came to
dine with me, she asked me if I had had any amorous adventures in
Holland. I told her about Esther, and when I came to the mole and my
inspection of it, my charming curiosity ran to stop my mouth, her
sides shaking with laughter. I held her gently to me, and could not
help seeking whether she had a mole in the same place, to which she
opposed but a feeble resistance. I was prevented by my unfortunate
condition from immolating the victim on the altar of love, so we
confined ourselves to a make-believe combat which only lasted a
minute; however, our eyes took in it, and our excited feelings were
by no means appeased. When we had done she said, laughing, but yet
"My dear friend, we are in love with one another; and if we do not
take care we shall not long be content with this trifling."
Sighing as she spoke, she wished me good night and went to bed with
her ugly little maid. This was the first time we had allowed
ourselves to be overcome by the violence of our passion, but the
first step was taken. As I retired to rest I felt that I was in
love, and foresaw that I should soon be under the rule of my charming
M. and Madame--and M. Chavigni gave us an agreeable surprise, the
next day, by coming to dine with us, and we passed the time till
dinner by walking in the garden. My dear Dubois did the honours of
the table, and I was glad to see that my two male guests were
delighted with her, for they did not leave her for a moment during
the afternoon, and I was thus enabled to tell my charmer all I had
written to her. Nevertheless I took care not to say a word about the
share my housekeeper had had in the matter, for my mistress would
have been mortified at the thought that her weakness was known to
"I was delighted to read your letters," said she, "and to hear that
that villainous woman can no longer flatter herself upon having spent
two hours with you. But tell me, how can you have actually spent
them with her without noticing, in spite of the dark, the difference
between her and me? She is much shorter, much thinner, and ten
years older. Besides, her breath is disagreeable, and I think you
know that I have not that defect. Certainly, you could not see her
hair, but you could touch, and yet you noticed nothing! I can
scarcely believe it!"
"Unhappily, it is only too true. I was inebriated with love, and
thinking only of you, I saw nothing but you."
"I understand how strong the imagination would be at first, but this
element should have been much diminished after the first or second
assault; and, above all, because she differs from me in a matter
which I cannot conceal and she cannot supply."
"You are right--a burst of Venus! When I think that I only touched
two dangling flabby breasts, I feel as if I did not deserve to live!"
"And you felt them, and they did not disgust you!"
"Could I be disgusted, could I even reflect, when I felt certain that
I held you in my arms, you for whom I would give my life. No, a
rough skin, a stinking breath, and a fortification carried with far
too much ease; nothing could moderate my amorous fury."
"What do I hear? Accursed and unclean woman, nest of impurities!
And could you forgive me all these defects?"
"I repeat, the idea that I possessed you deprived me of my thinking
faculties; all seemed to me divine."
"You should have treated me like a common prostitute, you should even
have beaten me on finding me such as you describe."
"Ah! now you are unjust"
"That may be; I am so enraged against that monster that my anger
deprives me of reason. But now that she thinks that she had to do
with a servant, and after the degrading visit she has had she ought
to die of rage and shame. What astonishes me is her believing it,
for he is shorter than you by four inches. And how can she imagine
that a servant would do it as well as you? It's not likely. I am
sure she is in love with him now. Twenty-five louis! He would have
been content with ten. What a good thing that the poor fellow's
illness happened so conveniently. But I suppose you had to tell him
"Not at all. I gave him to understand that she had made an
appointment with me in that room, and that I had really spent two
hours with her, not speaking for fear of being heard. Then, thinking
over the orders I gave him, he came to the conclusion that on finding
myself diseased afterwards I was disgusted, and being able to disavow
my presence I had done so for the sake of revenge."
"That's admirable, and the impudence of the Spaniard passes all
belief. But her impudence is the most astonishing thing of all. But
supposing her illness had been a mere trick to frighten you, what a
risk the rascal would have run!"
"I was afraid of that, as I had no symptoms of disease whatever."
"But now you really have it, and all through my fault. I am in
"Be calm, my angel, my disease is of a very trifling nature. I am
only taking nitre, and in a week I shall be quite well again. I hope
that then . . . ."
"Ah! my dear friend."
"Don't let us think of that any more, I beseech you."
"You are disgusted, and not unnaturally; but your love cannot be very
strong, Ah! how unhappy I am."
"I am more unhappy than you. I love you, and you would be thankless
indeed if you ceased to love me. Let us love each other, but let us
not endeavour to give one another proofs of our love. It might be
fatal. That accursed widow! She is gone away, and in a fortnight we
shall be going also to Bale, where we remain till the end of
The die is cast, and I see that I must submit to your decision, or
rather to my destiny, for none but fatal events have befallen me
since I came to Switzerland. My only consoling thought is that I
have made your honour safe."
"You have won my husband's friendship and esteem; we shall always be
"If you are going I feel that I must go before you. That will tend
to convince the wretched author of my woe that there is nothing
blame-worthy in my friendship for you."
"You reason like an angel, and you convince me more and more of your
love. Where are you going?"
"To Italy; but I shall take Berne and Geneva on my way."
"You will not be coming to Bale, then? I am glad to hear it, in
spite of the pleasure it would give me to see you. No doubt your
arrival would give a handle for the gossips, and I might suffer by
it. But if possible, in the few days you are to remain, shew
yourself to be in good spirits, for sadness does not become you."
We rejoined the ambassador and M.---- who had not had time to think
about us, as my dear Dubois had kept them amused by her lively
conversation. I reproached her for the way in which she husbanded
her wit as far as I was concerned, and M. de Chavigni, seizing the
opportunity, told us it was because we were in love, and lovers are
known to be chary of their words. My housekeeper was not long in
finding a repartee, and she again began to entertain the two
gentlemen, so that I was enabled to continue my walk with Madame, who
"Your housekeeper, my dear friend, is a masterpiece. Tell me the
truth, and I promise to give you a mark of my gratitude that will
please you before I go."
"Speak; what do you wish to know?"
"You love her and she loves you in return."
"I think you are right, but so far . . . ."
"I don't want to know any more, for if matters are not yet arranged
they soon will be, and so it comes to the same thing. If you had
told me you did not love her I should not have believed you, for I
can't conceive that a man of your age can live with a woman like that
without loving her. She is very pretty and exceedingly intelligent,
she has good spirits, talents, an excellent manner, and she speaks
exceedingly well: that is enough to charm you, and I expect you will
find it difficult to separate from her. Lebel did her a bad turn in
sending her to you, as she used to have an excellent reputation, and
now she will no longer be able to get a place with ladies in the
"I shall take her to Berne."
"That is a good idea."
Just as they were going I said that I should soon be coming to
Soleure to thank them for the distinguished reception they had given
me, as I proposed leaving in a few days. The idea of never seeing
Madame again was so painful to me that as soon as I got in I went to
bed, and my housekeeper, respecting my melancholy, retired after
wishing me good-night.
In two or three days I received a note from my charmer, bidding me
call upon them the day following at about ten o'clock, and telling me
I was to ask for dinner. I carried out her orders to the letter.
M. gave me a most friendly reception, but saying that he was obliged
to go into the country and could not be home till one o'clock, he
begged me not to be offended if he delivered me over to his wife for
the morning. Such is the fate of a miserable husband! His wife was
engaged with a young girl at tambour-work; I accepted her company on
the condition that she would not allow me to disturb her work.
The girl went away at noon, and soon after we went to enjoy the fresh
air outside the house. We sat in a summer-house from which,
ourselves unseen, we could see all the carriages that approached the
"Why, dearest, did you not procure me the bliss when I was in good
"Because at that time my husband suspected that you turned yourself
into a waiter for my sake, and that you could not be indifferent
towards me. Your discretion has destroyed his suspicions; and also
your housekeeper, whom he believes to be your wife, and who has taken
his fancy to such an extent, that I believe he would willingly
consent to an exchange, for a few days at any rate. Would you
"Ah! if the exchange could be effected."
Having only an hour before me, and foreseeing that it would be the
last I should pass beside her, I threw myself at her feet. She was
full of affection, and put no obstacles in the way of my desires,
save those which my own feelings dictated, for I loved her too well
to consent to injure her health. I did all I could to replace the
utmost bliss, but the pleasure she enjoyed doubtless consisted in a
great measure in shewing me her superiority to the horrible widow.
When we saw the husband's carriage coming, we rose and took care that
the worthy man should not find us in the arbour. He made a thousand
excuses for not having returned sooner.
We had an excellent dinner, and at table he talked almost entirely of
my housekeeper, and he seemed moved when I said I meant to take her
to Lausanne to her mother. I took leave of them at five o'clock with
a broken heart, and from there I went to M. de Chavigni and told him
all my adventures. He had a right to be told, as he had done all in
his power to insure the success of a project which had only failed by
an unexampled fatality.
In admiration of my dear Dubois's wit--for I did not conceal the part
she played he said that old as he was he should think himself quite
happy if he had such a woman with him, and he was much pleased when I
told him that I was in love with her. "Don't give yourself the
trouble, my dear Casanova, of running from house to house to take
leave," said the amiable nobleman. "It can be done just as well at
the assembly, and you need not even stay to supper, if you don't want
I followed his advice, and thus saw again Madame as I thought, for
the last time, but I was wrong; I saw her ten years afterwards; and
at the proper time the reader will see where, when, how, and under
Before going away, I followed the ambassador to his room to thank him
as he deserved, for his kindness, and to ask him to give me a letter
of introduction for Berne, where I thought of staying a fortnight.
I also begged him to send Lebel to me that we might settle our
accounts. He told me that Lebel should bring me a letter for M. de
Muralt, the Mayor of Thun.
When I got home, feeling sad on this, the eve of my leaving a town
where I had but trifling victories and heavy losses, I thanked my
housekeeper for waiting for me, and to give her a good night I told
her that in three days we should set out for Berne, and that my mails
must be packed.
Next day, after a somewhat silent breakfast, she said,--
"You will take me with you, won't you?"
"Certainly, if you like me well enough to want to go."
"I would go with you to the end of the world, all the more as you are
now sick and sad, and when I saw you first you were blithe and well.
If I must leave you, I hope at least to see you happy first."
The doctor came in just then to tell me that my poor Spaniard was so
ill that he could not leave his bed.
"I will have him cured at Berne," said I ; "tell him that we are
going to dine there the day after to-morrow."
"I must tell you, sir, that though it's only a seven leagues'
journey, he cannot possibly undertake it as he has lost the use of
all his limbs."
"I am sorry to hear that, doctor."
"I dare say, but it's true."
"I must verify the matter with my own eyes;" and so saying I went to
see Le Duc.
I found the poor rascal, as the doctor had said, incapable of motion.
He had only the use of his tongue and his eyes.
"You are in a pretty state," said I to him.
"I am very ill, sir, though otherwise I feel quite well."
"I expect so, but as it is you can't move, and I want to dine at
Berne the day after to-morrow."
"Have me carried there, I shall get cured."
"You are right, I will have you carried in a litter."
"I shall look like a saint out for a walk."
I told one of the servants to look after him, and to see to all that
was necessary for our departure. I had him taken to the "Falcon" by
two horses who drew his litter.
Lebel came at noon and gave me the letter his master had written for
M. de Murat. He brought his receipts and I paid everything without
objection, as I found him an entirely honest man, and I had him to
dinner with Madame Dubois and myself. I did not feel disposed to
talk, and I was glad to see that they got on without me; they talked
away admirably and amused me, for Lebel was by no means wanting in
wit. He said he was very glad I had given him an opportunity of
knowing the housekeeper, as he could not say he had known her before,
having only seen her two or three times in passing through Lausanne.
On rising from the table he asked my permission to write to her, and
she, putting in her voice, called on him not to forget to do so.
Lebel was a good-natured man, of an honest appearance, and
approaching his fiftieth year. Just as he was going, without asking
my leave, he embraced her in the French fashion, and she seemed not
to have the slightest objection.
She told me as soon as he was gone that this worthy man might be
useful to her, and that she was delighted to enter into a
correspondence with him.
The next day was spent in putting everything in order for our short
journey, and Le Duc went off in his litter, intending to rest for the
night at four leagues from Soleure. On the day following, after I
had remembered the door-keeper, the cook, and the man-servant I was
leaving behind, I set out in my carriage with the charming Dubois,
and at eleven o'clock I arrived at the inn at Berne, where Le Duc had
preceded me by two hours. In the first place, knowing the habits of
Swiss innkeepers, I made an agreement with the landlord; and I then
told the servant I had kept, who came from Berne, to take care of Le
Duc, to put him under good medical superintendence, and to bid the
doctor spare nothing to cure him completely.
I dined with my housekeeper in her room, for she had a separate
lodging, and after sending my letter to M. de Muralt I went out for a