"Oh! it is you who have had me followed, is it?"
"No, it is I who followed you, but to no effect. However, I did not think you were so wicked. You frightened me dreadfully! Do you know, sir, you might have killed me if your shot had not luckily missed."
"I missed on purpose, dearest; for though I did not suspect that it was you, I fired in the air, feeling certain that that would be enough to scare off the spies."
"You won't be troubled with them any more."
"If they like to follow me, perhaps I shall let them, for my walk is quite innocent. I am always back by ten."
While we were at table we saw a travelling carriage and six horses drawn up. It was the Marquis de Prie, with a Chevalier de St. Louis and two charming ladies, of whom one, as the Zeroli hastened to inform me, was the Marquis's mistress. Four places were laid, and while the newcomers were waiting to be served, they were told the story of my bet with the Englishman.
The marquis congratulated me, telling me that he had not hoped to find me at Aix on his return; and here Madame Zeroli put in her word, and said that if it had not been for her he would not have seen me again. I was getting used to her foolish talk, and I could only agree with a good grace, which seemed to delight her intensely although her husband was present, but he seemed to share her triumph.
The marquis said that he would make a little bank for me, and feeling obliged to accept I soon lost a hundred louis. I went to my room to write some letters, and at twilight I set out to see my nun.
"What news have you?"
"The lay-sister is dead, and she is to be buried tomorrow. To-morrow is the day we were to have returned to the convent. This is the letter I am sending to the abbess. She will dispatch another laysister, unless she orders the country-woman to bring me back to the convent."
"What did the priest say?"
"He said the lay-sister died of a cerebral lethargy, which super- induced an attack of apoplexy."
"Very good, very good."
"I want him to say fifteen masses for her, if you will let me?"
"Certainly, my dear, they will serve as the priest's reward, or rather as the reward of his happy ignorance."
I called the peasant woman, and gave her the order to have the masses said, and bade her tell the priest that the masses were to be said for the intention of the person who paid for them. She told me that the aspect of the dead sister was dreadful, and that she had to be guarded by two women who sprinkled her with holy water, lest witches, under the form of cats, should come and tear her limb from limb. Far from laughing at her, I told her she was quite right, and asked where she had got the laudanum.
"I got it from a worthy midwife, and old friend of mine. We got it to send the poor lay-sister to sleep when the pains of child-birth should come on."
"When you put the child at the hospital door, were you recognized?"
"Nobody saw me as I put it into the box, and I wrote a note to say the child had not been baptized."
"Who wrote the note?"
"You will, of course, see that the funeral is properly carried out?"
"It will only cost six francs, and the parson will take that from two louis which were found on the deceased; the rest will do for masses to atone for her having had the money."
"What! ought she not to have had the two louis?"
"No," said the nun, "we are forbidden to have any money without the knowledge of the abbess, under pain of excommunication."
"What did they give you to come here?"
"Ten Savoy sols a day. But now I live like a princess, as you shall see at supper, for though this worthy woman knows the money you gave her is for herself she lavishes it on me."
"She knows, dear sister, that such is my intention, and here is some more to go on with."
So saying I took another ten louis from my purse, and bade the country-woman spare nothing for the invalid's comfort. I enjoyed the worthy woman's happiness; she kissed my hands, and told me that I had made her fortune, and that she could buy some cows now.