We went to the middle of, the amphitheatre and he pointed out a score of girls to right and left, all of them ready to treat the first comer to supper. They are all on the free list, and the manager finds they serve his ends as respectable women will not sit in their boxes, and they draw people to the theatre. I noticed five or six of a better type than the one I had engaged, but I resolved to stick to her for the evening, and to make the acquaintance of the others another time.
"Is your favourite amongst them?" I said to the knight.
"No, I keep a ballet-girl, and I will introduce you to her, as I am glad to say that I am free from all jealousy."
When the play came to an end he took me to my nymph's lodging, and we parted with the understanding that we were to see more of one another.
I found the lady in undress--a circumstance which went against her, for what I saw did not please me. She gave me a capital supper, and enlivened me by some witty and wanton sallies which made me regard her in a more favourable light. When we had supper she got into bed, and asked me to follow her example; but I told her that I never slept out. She then offered me the English article which brings peace to the soul, but I did not accept the one she offered as I thought it looked of a common make.
"I have finer ones, but they are three francs each, and the maker only sells them by the dozen," she said. "I will take a dozen if they are really good," I replied.
She rang the bell, and a young, charming, and modest-looking girl came in. I was struck with her.
"You have got a nice maid," I remarked, when the girl had gone for the protective sheaths.
"She is only fifteen," she said, "and won't do anything, as she is new to it."
"Will you allow me to see for myself?"
"You may ask her if you like, but I don't think she will consent."
The girl came back with the packet, and putting myself in a proper position I told her to try one on. She proceeded to do so with a sulky air and with a kind of repugnance which made me feel interested in her. Number one would not go on, so she had to try on a second, and the result was that I besprinkled her plentifully. The mistress laughed, but she was indignant, threw the whole packet in my face, and ran away in a rage. I wanted nothing more after this, so I put the packet in my pocket, gave the woman two Louis, and left the room. The girl I had treated so cavalierly came to light me downstairs, and thinking I owed her an apology I gave her a Louis and begged her pardon. The poor girl was astonished, kissed my hand, and begged me to say nothing to her mistress.
"I will not, my dear, but tell me truly whether you are still a 'virgo intacta'."
"Wonderful! but tell me why you wouldn't let me see for myself?"
"Because it revolted me."
"Nevertheless you will have to do so, for otherwise, in spite of your prettiness, people will not know what to make of you. Would you like to let me try?"
"Yes, but not in this horrible house."
"Go to my mother's to-morrow, I will be there. Your guide knows where she lives."
When I got outside, I asked the man if he knew her. He replied in the affirmative, and said he believed her to be an honest girl.
"You will take me to-morrow to see her mother," I said.
Next morning he took me to the end of the town, to a poor house, where I found a poor woman and poor children living on the ground floor, and eating hard black bread.
"What do you want?" said she.
"Is you daughter here?"
"No, and what if she were? I am not her bawd."
"No, of course not, my good woman."
Just then the girl came in, and the enraged mother flung an old pot which came handy, at her head. Luckily it missed, but she would not have escaped her mother's talons if I had not flung myself between them. However, the old woman set up a dismal shriek, the children imitated her, and the poor girl began to cry. This hubbub made my man come in.
"You hussy!" screamed the mother, "you are bringing disgrace on me; get out of my house.