A curious fancy increased my delight, namely, the thought of becoming a famous astrologer in an age when reason and science had so justly demolished astrology. I enjoyed the thought of seeing myself sought out by crowned heads, which are always the more accessible to superstitious notions. I determined I would be particular to whom I gave my advice. Who has not made his castles in Spain? If Mdlle. Roman gave birth to a daughter instead of a son I should be amused, and all would not be lost, for a son might come afterwards.
At first silence reigned, and then the conversation ran on a thousand trifles, as is usual in good society, but by degrees, as I had thought, they returned to the horoscope.
"According to the horoscope," said the aunt, "the king is to fall in love with my niece in her eighteenth year; she is now close on it. What are we to do? Where are we to get the hundred louis necessary? And when she gets to Paris is she to go to the king and say, 'Here I am, your majesty'? And who is going to take her there? I can't."
"My aunt Roman might," said the young lady, blushing up to her eyes at the roar of laughter which none of us could restrain.
"Well," said Madame Morin, "there is Madame Varnier, of the Rue de Richelieu; she is an aunt of yours. She has a good establishment, and knows everybody."
"See," said Valenglard, "how the ways of destiny are made plain. You talk of a hundred louis; twelve will be sufficient to take you to Madame Varnier's. When you get there, leave the rest to your fate, which will surely favour you."
"If you do go to Paris," said I, "say nothing to Madame Roman or Madame Varnier about the horoscope."
"I will say nothing to anyone about it; but, after all, it is only a happy dream. I shall never see Paris, still less Louis XV."
I arose, and going to my cash-box I took out a roll of a hundred and fifty louis, which I gave to her, saying it was a packet of sweetmeats. It felt rather heavy, and on opening it she found it to contain fifty pieces-of-eight, which she took for medals.
"They are gold," said Valenglard.
"And the goldsmith will give you a hundred and fifty louis for them," added M. Morin.
"I beg you will keep them; you can give me a bill payable at Paris when you become rich."
I knew she would refuse to accept my present, although I should have been delighted if she had kept the money. But I admired her strength of mind in restraining her tears, and that without disturbing for a moment the smile on her face.
We went out to take a turn in the garden. Valenglard and Madame Morin began on the topic of the horoscope anew, and I left them, taking Mdlle. Roman with me.
"I wish you would tell me," said she, when we were out of hearing of the others, "if this horoscope is not all a joke."
"No," I answered, "it is quite serious, but it all depends on an if. If you do not go to Paris the prophecy will never be fulfilled."
"You must think so, certainly, or you would never have offered me those fifty medals."
"Do me the pleasure of accepting them now; nobody will know anything about it."
"No, I cannot, though I am much obliged to you. But why should you want to give me such a large sum?"
"For the pleasure of contributing to your happiness, and in the hope that you will allow me to love you."
"If you really love met why should I oppose your love? You need not buy my consent; and to be happy I do not want to possess the King of France, if you did but know to what my desires are limited."
"I would fain find a kind husband, rich enough for us not to lack the necessaries of life."
"But how if you did not love him?"
"If he was a good, kind man how could I help loving him?"
"I see that you do not know what love is."
"You are right. I do not know the love that maddens, and I thank God for it."
"Well, I think you are wise; may God preserve you from that love."
"You say, that as soon as the king sees me he will fall in love with me, and to tell you the truth that strikes me as vastly improbable; for though it is quite possible that he may not think me plain, or he might even pronounce me pretty, yet I do not think he will become so madly in love as you say."
"You don't? Let us sit down.