When we had done she said, laughing, but yet discreetly,--
"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 housekeeper.
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 her.
"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 all?"
"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.