It is one of the most curious circumstances of my history, that in one year two women whom I sincerely loved and whom I might have married were taken from me by two old men, whose affections I had fostered without wishing to do so. Happily these gentlemen made my mistresses' fortunes, but on the other hand they did me a still greater service in relieving me of a tie which I should have found very troublesome in course of time. No doubt they both saw that my fortune, though great in outward show, rested on no solid basis, which, as the reader will see, was unhappily too true. I should be happy if I thought that my errors or rather follies would serve as a warning to the readers of these Memoirs.
I spent the day in watching the care with which Veronique and Annette packed up my trunks, for I would not let my two servants help in any way. Veronique was neither sad nor gay. She looked as if she had made up her mind, and as if there had never been any differences between us. I was very glad, for as I no longer cared for her I should have been annoyed to find that she still cared for me.
We supped in our usual manner, discussing only commonplace topics, but just as I was going to bed Annette shook my hand in a way that told me to prepare for a visit from her. I admired the natural acuteness of young girls, who take their degrees in the art of love with so much ease and at such an early age. Annette, almost a child, knew more than a young man of twenty. I decided on giving her fifty sequins without letting Veronique see me, as I did not intend to be so liberal towards her. I took a roll of ducats and gave them to her as soon as she came.
She lay down beside me, and after a moment devoted to love she said that Veronique was asleep, adding,--
"I heard all you said to my sister, and I am sure you love her."
"If I did, dear Annette, I should not have made my proposal in such plain terms."
"I should like to believe that, but what would you have done if she had accepted your offer? You would be in one bed by this, I suppose?"
"I was more than certain, dearest, that her pride would hinder her receiving me."
We had reached this point in our conversation when we were surprised by the sudden appearance of Veronique with a lighted candle, and wearing only her chemise. She laughed at her sister to encourage her, and I joined in the laughter, keeping a firm hold on the little one for fear of her escaping. Veronique looked ravishing in her scanty attire, and as she laughed I could not be angry with her. However, I said,--
"You have interrupted our enjoyment, and hurt your sister's feelings; perhaps you will despise her for the future?"
"On the contrary, I shall always love her."
"Her feelings overcame her, and she surrendered to me without making any terms."
"She has more sense than I"
"Do you mean that?"
"I do, really."
"I am astonished and delighted to hear it; but as it is so, kiss your sister."
At this invitation Veronique put down the candle, and covered Annette's beautiful body with kisses. The scene made me feel very happy.
"Come, Veronique," said I, "you will die of cold; come and lie down."
I made room for her, and soon there were three of us under the same sheet. I was in an ecstasy at this group, worthy of Aretin's pencil.
"Dearest ones," said I, "you have played me a pretty trick; was it premeditated? And was Veronique false this morning, or is she false now?"
"We did not premeditate anything, I was true this morning, and I am true now. I feel that I and my plan were very silly, and I hope you will forgive me, since I have repented and have had my punishment. Now I think I am in my right senses, as I have yielded to the feelings with which you inspired me when I saw you first, and against which I have fought too long."
"What you say pleases me extremely."
"Well, forgive me and finish my punishment by shewing that you are not angry with me."
"How am I to do that?"
"By telling me that you are vexed no longer, and by continuing to give my sister proofs of your love."
"I swear to you that so far from being angry with you I am very fond of you; but would you like us to be fond in your presence?"
"Yes, if you don't mind me."
Feeling excited by voluptuous emotions, I saw that my part could no longer be a passive one.