My grief, when I heard what had happened, was hypocritical; in the first place because I no longer felt any desire for the girl, and in the second because I thought I saw a way in which I could make use of the incident to take vengeance on her.
I lavished consolations on Madame d'Urfe; and on consulting the oracle I found that the Lascaris had been defiled by an evil genius, and that I must search for another virgin whose purity must be under the protection of more powerful spirits. I saw that my madwoman was perfectly happy with this, and I left her to visit the Corticelli, whom I found in bed with her mother beside her.
"You have convulsions, have you, dearest?" said I.
"No, I haven't. I am quite well, but all the same I shall have them till you give me back my jewel-casket."
"You are getting wicked, my poor child; this comes of following your mother's advice. As for the casket, if you are going to behave like this, probably you will have it."
"I will reveal all."
"You will not be believed; and I shall send you back to Bologna without letting you take any of the presents which Madame d'Urfe has given you."
"You ought to have given me back the casket when I declared myself with child."
Signora Laura told me that this was only too true, though I was not the father.
"Who is, then?" I asked.
"Count N----, whose mistress she was at Prague."
It did not seem probable, as she had no symptoms of pregnancy; still it might be so. I was obliged to plot myself to bring the plots of these two rascally women to nought, and without saying anything to them I shut myself up with Madame d'Urfe to enquire of the oracle concerning the operation which was to make her happy.
After several answers, more obscure than any returned from the oracular tripod at Delphi, the interpretation of which I left to the infatuated Madame d'Urfe, she discovered herself--and I took care not to contradict her--that the Countess Lascaris had gone mad. I encouraged her fears, and succeeded in making her obtain from a cabalistic pyramid the statement that the reason the princess had not conceived was that she had been defiled by an evil genius--an enemy of the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross. This put Madame d'Urfe fairly on the way, and she added on her own account that the girl must be with child by a gnome.
She then erected another pyramid to obtain guidance on our quest, and I so directed things that the answer came that she must write to the moon.
This mad reply, which should have brought her to her senses, only made her more crazy than ever. She was quite ecstatic, and I am sure that if I had endeavoured to shew her the nothingness of all this I show have had nothing for my trouble. Her conclusion would probably have been that I was possessed by an evil spirit, and was no longer a true Rosy Cross. But I had no idea of undertaking a cure which would have done me harm and her no 'good. Her chimerical notions made her happy, and the cold naked truth would doubtless have made her unhappy.
She received the order to write to the moon with the greater delight as she knew what ceremonies were to be observed in addressing that planet; but she could not dispense with the assistance of an adept, and I knew she would reckon on me. I told her I should always be ready to serve her, but that, as she knew herself, we should have to wait for the first phase of the new moon. I was very glad to gain time, for I had lost heavily at play, and I could not leave Aix-la-Chapelle before a bill, which I had drawn on M. d'O. of Amsterdam, was cashed. In the mean time we agreed that as the Countess Lascaris had become mad, we must not pay any attention to what she might say, as the words would not be hers but would proceed from the evil spirit who possessed her.
Nevertheless, we determined that as her state was a pitiable one, and should be as much alleviated as possible, she should continue to dine with us, but that in the evening she was to go to her governess and sleep with her.