I was on thorns the whole time, in terror lest the heroine might make some dreadful slip. She danced so gracefully that everybody gazed at her, and I was the person who was complimented on her performance.
I suffered a martyrdom, for these compliments seemed to be given with malicious intent. I suspected that the ballet-girl had been discovered beneath the countess, and I felt myself dishonoured. I succeeded in speaking privately to the young wanton for a moment, and begged her to dance like a young lady, and not like a chorus girl; but she was proud of her success, and dared to tell me that a young lady might know how to dance as well as a professional dancer, and that she was not going to dance badly to please me. I was so enraged with her impudence, that I would have cast her off that instant if it had been possible; but as it was not, I determined that her punishment should lose none of its sharpness by waiting; and whether it be a vice or a virtue, the desire of revenge is never extinguished in my heart till it is satisfied.
The day after the ball Madame d'Urfe presented her with a casket containing a beautiful watch set with brilliants, a pair of diamond ear-rings, and a ring containing a ruby of fifteen carats. The whole was worth sixty thousand francs. I took possession of it to prevent her going off without my leave.
In the meanwhile I amused myself with play and making bad acquaintances. The worst of all was a French officer, named d'Ache, who had a pretty wife and a daughter prettier still. Before long the daughter had taken possession of the heart which the Corticelli had lost, but as soon as Madame d'Ache saw that I preferred her daughter to herself she refused to receive me at her house.
I had lent d'Ache ten Louis, and I consequently felt myself entitled to complain of his wife's conduct; but he answered rudely that as I only went to the house after his daughter, his wife was quite right; that he intended his daughter to make a good match, and that if my intentions were honourable I had only to speak to the mother. His manner was still more offensive than his words, and I felt enraged, but knowing the brutal drunken characteristics of the man, and that he was always ready to draw cold steel for a yes or a no, I was silent and resolved to forget the girl, not caring to become involved with a man like her father.
I had almost cured myself of my fancy when, a few days after our conversation, I happened to go into a billiard-room where d'Ache was playing with a Swiss named Schmit, an officer in the Swedish army. As soon as d'Ache saw me he asked whether I would lay the ten Louis he owed me against him.
"Yes," said I, "that will make double or quits."
Towards the end of the match d'Ache made an unfair stroke, which was so evident that the marker told him of it; but as this stroke made him the winner, d'Ache seized the stakes and put them in his pocket without heeding the marker or the other player, who, seeing himself cheated before his very eyes, gave the rascal a blow across the face with his cue. D'Ache parried the blow with his hand, and drawing his sword rushed at Schmit, who had no arms. The marker, a sturdy young fellow, caught hold of d'Ache round the body, and thus prevented murder. The Swiss went out, saying,
"We shall see each other again."
The rascally Frenchman cooled down, and said to me,
"Now, you see, we are quits."
"Very much quits."
"That's all very well; but, by God! you might have prevented the insult which has dishonoured me."
"I might have done so, but I did not care to interfere. You are strong enough to look after yourself. Schmit had not his sword, but I believe him to be a brave man; and he will give you satisfaction if you will return him his money, for there can be no doubt that you lost the match."
An officer, named de Pyene, took me up and said that he himself would give me the twenty louis which d'Ache had taken, but that the Swiss must give satisfaction. I had no hesitation in promising that he would do so, and said I would bring a reply to the challenge the next morning.