When I have been unfaithful to you I will punish myself by depriving myself of the pleasure of giving you proofs of my affection till I am certain that I can do so without danger."
"Ah! you would punish me for your faults, would you? If you love me as I love you, believe me you would find a better remedy than that."
"What is that?"
"You would never be unfaithful to me."
"You are right. I am sorry I was not the first to think of this plan, which I promise to follow for the future."
"Don't make any promises," said she, with a sigh, "it might prove too difficult to keep them."
It is only love which can inspire such conversations, but unfortunately it gains nothing by them.
Next morning, just as I was going out to take my letters, the Baron de Bercei, uncle of my friend Bavois, entered.
"I know," said he, "that my nephew owes his fortune to you; he is just going to be made general, and I and all the family will be enchanted to make your acquaintance. I have come to offer my services, and to beg that you will dine with me to-day, and on any other day you please when you have nothing better to do, and I hope you will always consider yourself of the family.
"At the same time I beg of you not to tell anybody that my nephew has become a Catholic, as according to the prejudices of the country it would be a dishonour which would reflect on the whole family."
I accepted his invitation, and promised to say nothing about the circumstance he had mentioned.
I left my letters of introduction, and I received everywhere a welcome of the most distinguished kind. Madame de Gentil-Langalerie appeared the most amiable of all the ladies I called on, but I had not time to pay my court to one more than another. Every day politeness called me to some dinner, supper, ball, or assembly. I was bored beyond measure, and I felt inclined to say how troublesome it is to have such a welcome. I spent a fortnight in the little town, where everyone prides himself on his liberty, and in all my life I have never experienced such a slavery, for I had not a moment to myself. I was only able to pass one night with my sweetheart, and I longed to set off with her for Geneva. Everybody would give me letters of introduction for M. de Voltaire, and by their eagerness one would have thought the great man beloved, whereas all detested him on account of his sarcastic humour.
"What, ladies!" said I, "is not M. de Voltaire good-natured, polite, and affable to you who have been kind enough to act in his plays with him?"
"Not in the least. When he hears us rehearse he grumbles all the time. We never say a thing to please him: here it is a bad pronunciation, there a tone not sufficiently passionate, sometimes one speaks too softly, sometimes too loudly; and it's worse when we are acting. What a hubbub there is if one add a syllable, or if some carelessness spoil one of his verses. He frightens us. So and so laughed badly; so and so in Alzire had only pretended to weep."
"Does he want you to weep really?"
"Certainly. He will have real tears. He says that if an actor wants to draw tears he must shed them himself."
"I think he is right there; but he should not be so severe with amateurs, above all with charming actresses like you. Such perfection is only to be looked for from professionals, but all authors are the same. They never think that the actor has pronounced the words with the force which the sense, as they see it, requires."
"I told him, one day, that it was not my fault if his lines had not the proper force."
"I am sure he laughed."
"Laughed? No, sneered, for he is a rude and impertinent man."
"But I suppose you overlook all these failings?"
"Not at all; we have sent him about his business."
"Sent him about his business?"
"Yes. He left the house he had rented here, at short notice, and retired to where you will find him now. He never comes to see us now, even if we ask him."
"Oh, you do ask him, though you sent him about his business?"
"We cannot deprive ourselves of the pleasure of admiring his talents, and if we have teased him, that was only from revenge, and to teach him something of the manners of good society."
"You have given a lesson to a great master."
"Yes; but when you see him mention Lausanne, and see what he will say of us.