As I was leaving, the woman of the house told us that the painter had asked four louis, and that she had give two louis to her foster-son. I gave her twelve, and went home, where I slept till morn, without thinking of breakfasting with the Marquis de Prie, but I think I should have given him some notice of my inability to come. His mistress sulked with me all dinner-time, but softened when I allowed myself to be persuaded into making a bank. However, I found she was playing for heavy stakes, and I had to check her once or twice, which made her so cross that she went to hide her ill-temper in a corner of the hall. However, the marquis won, and I was losing, when the taciturn Duke of Rosebury, his tutor Smith, and two of his fellow-countrymen, arrived from Geneva. He came up to me and said, "How do you do?" and without another word began to play, inviting his companions to follow his example.
Seeing my bank in the last agony I sent Le Duc to my room for the cash-box, whence I drew out five rolls of a hundred louis each. The Marquis de Prie said, coolly, that he wouldn't mind being my partner, and in the same tone I begged to be excused. He continued punting without seeming to be offended at my refusal and when I put down the cards and rose from the table he had won two hundred louis; but all the others had lost, especially one of the Englishmen, so that I had made a profit of a thousand louis. The marquis asked me if I would give him chocolate in my room next morning, and I replied that I should be glad to see him. I replaced my cash-box in my room, and proceeded to the cottage, pleased with the day's work and feeling inclined to crown it with love.
I found my fair friend looking somewhat sad, and on my enquiring the reason she told me that a nephew of the country-woman's, who had come from Chamberi that morning, had told her that he had heard from a lay-sister of the same convent, whom he knew, that two sisters would start at day-break in two days' time to fetch her; this sad news, she said, had made her tears flow fast.
"But the abbess said the sisters could not start before ten days had expired."
"She must have changed her mind."
"Sorrow intrudes into our happy state. Will you be my wife? Will you follow me to Rome and receive absolution from your vows. You may be sure that I shall have a care for your happiness."
"Nay, I have lived long enough; let me return to my tomb."
After supper I told the good woman that if she could rely on her nephew, she would do well to send him at once to Chamberi with orders to return directly the lay-sisters started, and to endeavour to reach Aix two hours before them. She told me that I might reckon on the young man's silence, and on his carrying out my orders. I quieted in this way the charming nun's alarm, and got into bed with her, feeling sad though amorous; and on the pretext that she required rest I left her at midnight, as I wanted to be at home in the morning since I had an engagement with the marquis. In due course he arrived with his mistress, two other ladies, and their husbands or lovers.
I did not limit myself to giving them chocolate; my breakfast consisted of all the luxuries the place afforded. When I had got rid of my troublesome company, I told Le Duc to shut my door, and to tell everybody that I was ill in bed and could not see any visitors. I also warned him that I should be away for two days, and that he must not leave my room a moment till I came back. Having made these arrangements, I slipped away unperceived and went to my mistress, resolved not to leave her till half an hour before the arrival of the lay-sisters.
When she saw me and heard that I was not going to leave her till she went away, she jumped for joy; and we conceived the idea of not having any dinner that we might enjoy our supper the better.
"We will go to bed after supper," said she, "and will not get up till the messenger brings the fatal news that the lay-sisters have started."
I thought the idea an excellent one, and I called the, woman of the house to tell her of our arrangements, and she promised to see that we were not disturbed.