The Comte d'Eigreville had introduced me to his sister, the Comtesse du Remain, who had been wanting to make my acquaintance ever since she had heard of my oracle. It was not long before I made friends with her husband and her two daughters, the elder of whom, nicknamed "Cotenfau," married M. de Polignac later on. Madame du Remain was handsome rather than pretty, but she won the love of all by her kindness, her frank courtesy, and her eagerness to be of service to her friends. She had a magnificent figure, and would have awed the whole bench of judges if she had pleaded before them.
At her house I got to know Mesdames de Valbelle and de Rancerolles, the Princess de Chimai, and many others who were then in the best society of Paris. Although Madame du Remain was not a proficient in the occult sciences, she had nevertheless consulted my oracle more frequently than Madame d'Urfe. She was of the utmost service to me in connection with an unhappy circumstance of which I shall speak presently.
The day after my long conversation with Mdlle. X. C. V., my servant told me that there was a young man waiting who wanted to give me a letter with his own hands. I had him in, and on my asking him from whom the letter came, he replied that I should find all particulars in the letter, and that he had orders to wait for an answer. The epistle ran as follows:
"I am writing this at two o'clock in the morning. I am weary and in need of rest, but a burden on my soul deprives me of sleep. The secret I am about to tell you will no longer be so grievous when I have confided in you; I shall feel eased by placing it in your breast. I am with child, and my situation drives me to despair. I was obliged to write to you because I felt I could not say it. Give me a word in reply."
My feelings on reading the above may be guessed. I was petrified with astonishment and could only write, "I will be with you at eleven o'clock."
No one should say that he has passed through great misfortunes unless they have proved too great for his mind to bear. The confidence of Mdlle. X. C. V. shewed me that she was in need of support. I congratulated myself on having the preference, and I vowed to do my best for her did it cost me my life. These were the thoughts of a lover, but for all that I could not conceal from myself the imprudence of the step she had taken. In such cases as these there is always the choice between speaking or writing, and the only feeling which can give the preference to writing is false shame, at bottom mere cowardice. If I had not been in love with her, I should have found it easier to have refused my aid in writing than if she had spoken to me, but I loved her to distraction.
"Yes," said I to myself, "she can count on me. Her mishap makes her all the dearer to me."
And below this there was another voice, a voice which whispered to me that if I succeeded in saving her my reward was sure. I am well aware that more than one grave moralist will fling stones at me for this avowal, but my answer is that such men cannot be in love as I was.
I was punctual to my appointment, and found the fair unfortunate at the door of the hotel.
"You are going out, are you? Where are you going?"
"I am going to mass at the Church of the Augustinians."
"Is this a saint's day?"
"No; but my mother makes me go every day."
"I will come with you."
"Yes do, give me your arm; we will go into the cloisters and talk there."
Mdlle. X. C. V. was accompanied by her maid, but she knew better than to be in the way, so we left her in the cloisters. As soon as we were alone she said to me,
"Have you read my letter?"
"Yes, of course; here it is, burn it yourself."
"No, keep it, and do so with your own hands."
"I see you trust in me, and I assure you I will not abuse your trust."
"I am sure you will not. I am four months with child; I can doubt it no longer, and the thought maddens me!"
"Comfort yourself, we will find some way to get over it."
"Yes; I leave all to you.