I followed him without saying a word, and saw a plain-looking girl, who threw her arms round my neck and addressed me by my name, though I could have sworn I had never seen her before, but she did not leave me time to speak. Close by I saw a man who gave himself out as the father of the famous Astrodi, who was known to all Paris, who had caused the death of the Comte d'Egmont, one of the most amiable noblemen of the Court of Louis XV. I thought this ugly female might be her sister, so I sat down and complimented her on her talents. She asked if I would mind her changing her dress; and in a moment she was running here and there, laughing and shewing a liberality which possibly might have been absent if what she had to display had been worth seeing.
I laughed internally at her wiles, for after my experiences at Grenoble she would have found it a hard task to arouse my desires if she had been as pretty as she was ugly. Her thinness and her tawny skin could not divert my attention from other still less pleasing features about her. I admired her confidence in spite of her disadvantages. She must have credited me with a diabolic appetite, but these women often contrive to extract charms out of their depravity which their delicacy would be impotent to furnish. She begged me to sup with her, and as she persisted I was obliged to refuse her in a way I should not have allowed myself to use with any other woman. She then begged me to take four tickets for the play the next day, which was to be for her benefit. I saw it was only a matter of twelve francs, and delighted to be quit of her so cheaply I told her to give me sixteen. I thought she would have gone mad with joy when I gave her a double louis. She was not the real Astrodi. I went back to my inn and had a delicious supper in my own room.
While Le Duc was doing my hair before I went to bed, he told me that the landlord had paid a visit to the fair stranger and her husband before supper, and had said in clear terms that he must be paid next morning; and if he were not, no place would be laid for them at table, and their linen would be detained.
"Who told you that?"
"I heard it from here; their room is only separated from this by a wooden partition. If they were in it now, I am sure they could hear all we are saying."
"Where are they, then?"
"At table, where they are eating for to-morrow, but the lady is crying. There's a fine chance for you, sir."
"Be quiet; I shan't have anything to do with it. It's a trap, for a woman of any worth would die rather than weep at a public table."
"Ah, if you saw how pretty she looks in tears! I am only a poor devil, but I would willingly give her two louis if she would earn them."
"Go and offer her the money."
A moment after the gentleman and his wife came back to their room, and I heard the loud voice of the one and the sobs of the other, but as he was speaking Walloon I did not understand what he said.
"Go to bed," said I to Le Duc, "and next morning tell the landlord to get me another room, for a wooden partition is too thin a barrier to keep off people whom despair drive to extremities."
I went to bed myself, and the sobs and muttering did not die away till midnight.
I was shaving next morning, when Le Duc announced the Chevalier Stuard.
"Say I don't know anybody of that name."
He executed my orders, and returned saying that the chevalier on hearing my refusal to see him had stamped with rage, gone into his chamber, and come out again with his sword beside him.
"I am going to see," added Le Duc, "that your pistols are well primed for the future."
I felt inclined to laugh, but none the less I admired the foresight of my Spaniard, for a man in despair is capable of anything.
"Go," said I, "and ask the landlord to give me another room."
In due course the landlord came himself and told me that he could not oblige me until the next day.
"If you don't get me another room I shall leave your house on the spot, because I don't like hearing sobs and reproaches all night."
"Can you hear them, sir?"
"You can hear them yourself now.