What do you think of it? The woman will kill herself, and you will be the cause of her death."
"I, sir? I have only asked them to pay me my just debts."
"Hush! there goes the husband. I am sure he is telling his wife in his language that you are an unfeeling monster."
"He may tell her what he likes so long as he pays me."
"You have condemned them to die of hunger. How much do they owe you?"
"Aren't you ashamed of making such a row for a wretched sum like that?"
"Sir, I am only ashamed of an ill deed, and I do not commit such a deed in asking for my own."
"There's your money. Go and tell them that you have been paid, and that they may eat again; but don't say who gave you the money."
"That's what I call a good action," said the fellow; and he went and told them that they did not owe him anything, but that they would never know who paid the money.
"You may dine and sup," he added, "at the public table, but you must pay me day by day."
After he had delivered this speech in a high voice, so that I could hear as well as if I had been in the room, he came back to me.
"You stupid fool!" said I, pushing him away, "they will know everything." So saying I shut my door.
Le Duc stood in front of me, staring stupidly before him.
"What's the matter with you, idiot?" said I.
"That's fine. I see. I am going on the stage. You would do well to become an actor."
"You are a fool."
"Not so big a fool as you think."
"I am going for a walk; mind you don't leave my room for a moment."
I had scarcely shut the door when the chevalier accosted me and overwhelmed me with thanks.
"Sir, I don't know to what you are referring."
He thanked me again and left me, and walking by the banks of the Rhone, which geographers say is the most rapid river in Europe, I amused myself by looking at the ancient bridge. At dinner-time I went back to the inn, and as the landlord knew that I paid six francs a meal he treated me to an exquisite repast. Here, I remember, I had some exceedingly choice Hermitage. It was so delicious that I drank nothing else. I wished to make a pilgrimage to Vaucluse and begged the landlord to procure me a good guide, and after I had dressed I went to the theatre.
I found the Astrodi at the door, and giving her my sixteen tickets, I sat down near the box of the vice-legate Salviati, who came in a little later, surrounded by a numerous train of ladies and gentlemen bedizened with orders and gold lace.
The so-called father of the false Astrodi came and whispered that his daughter begged me to say that she was the celebrated Astrodi I had known at Paris. I replied, also in a whisper, that I would not run the risk of being posted as a liar by bolstering up an imposture. The ease with which a rogue invites a gentleman to share in a knavery is astonishing; he must think his confidence confers an honour.
At the end of the first act a score of lackeys in the prince's livery took round ices to the front boxes. I thought it my duty to refuse. A young gentleman, as fair as love, came up to me, and with easy politeness asked me why I had refused an ice.
"Not having the honour to know anyone here, I did not care that anyone should be able to say that he had regaled one who was unknown to him."
"But you, sir, are a man who needs no introduction."
"You do me too much honour."
"You are staying at the 'St. Omer'!"
"Yes; I am only stopping here to see Vaucluse, where I think of going to-morrow if I can get a good guide."
"If you would do me the honour of accepting me, I should be delighted. My name is Dolci, I am son of the captain of the vice- legate's guard."
"I feel the honour you do me, and I accept your obliging offer. I will put off my start till your arrival."
"I will be with you at seven."
I was astonished at the easy grace of this young Adonis, who might have been a pretty girl if the tone of his voice had not announced his manhood. I laughed at the false Astrodi, whose acting was as poor as her face, and who kept staring at me all the time.