I replied that if anyone asked me about him that I should say what was absolutely true, that I knew him nothing about him. "Thank you; I am now going to Marseilles." "I hope you will have a prosperous journey." Later on my readers will hear. how I found him at Genoa. It is a good thing to know something about people of his kind, of whom there are far too many in the world.
I called up the landlord and told him I wanted a delicate supper for three in my own room.
He told me that I should have it, and then said, "I have just had a row with the Chevalier Stuard."
"Because he has nothing to pay me with, and I am going to turn them out immediately, although the lady is in bed in convulsions which are suffocating her."
"Take out your bill in her charms."
"Ah, I don't care for that sort of thing! I am getting on in life, and I don't want any more scenes to bring discredit on my house."
"Go and tell her that from henceforth she and her husband will dine and sup in their own room and that I will pay for them as long as I remain here."
"You are very generous, sir, but you know that meals in a private room are charged double."
"I know they are."
I shuddered at the idea of the woman being turned out of doors without any resources but her body, by which she refused to profit. On the other hand I could not condemn the inn-keeper who, like his fellows, was not troubled with much gallantry. I had yielded to an impulse of pity without any hopes of advantage for myself. Such were my thoughts when Stuard came to thank me, begging me to come and see his wife and try and persuade her to behave in a different manner.
"She will give me no answers, and you know that that sort of thing is rather tedious."
"Come, she knows what you have done for her; she will talk to you, for her feelings . . . ."
"What business have you to talk about feelings after what happened yesterday evening?"
"It was well for that gentleman that he went away at midnight, otherwise I should have killed him this morning."
"My dear sir, allow me to tell you that all that is pure braggadocio. Yesterday, not to-day, was the time to kill him, or to throw your plate at his head, at all events. We will now go and see your wife."
I found her in bed, her face to the wall, the coverlet right up to her chin, and her body convulsed with sobs. I tried to bring her to reason, but as usual got no reply. Stuard wanted to leave me, but I told him that if he went out I would go too, as I could do nothing to console her, as he might know after her refusing the Marquis of Grimaldi's hundred louis for a smile and her hand to kiss.
"A hundred Louis!" cried the fellow with a sturdy oath; "what folly! We might have been at home at Liege by now. A princess allows one to kiss her hand for nothing, and she.... A hundred Louis! Oh, damnable!"
His exclamations, very natural under the circumstances, made me feel inclined to laugh. The poor devil swore by all his gods, and I was about to leave the room, when all at once the wretched woman was seized with true or false convulsions. With one hand she seized a water-bottle and sent it flying into the middle of the room, and with the other she tore the clothes away from her breast. Stuard tried to hold her, but her disorder increased in violence, and the coverlet was disarranged to such a degree that I could see the most exquisite naked charms imaginable. At last she grew calm, and her eyes closed as if exhausted; she remained in the most voluptuous position that desire itself could have invented. I began to get very excited. How was I to look on such beauties without desiring to possess them? At this point her wretched husband left the room, saying he was gone to fetch some water. I saw the snare, and my self-respect prevented my being caught in it. I had an idea that the whole scene had been arranged with the intent that I should deliver myself up to brutal pleasure, while the proud and foolish woman would be free to disavow all participation in the fact.