The fair Madame Saxe gave me a glance of contempt and left us, but Madame d'Urfe, who believed I was infallible, avenged me by saying to d'Entragues, in a tone of the profoundest conviction,--
"O Lord! I pity you, sir."
The company did not return after supper, and we were left alone to our play. We played on all the night, and I observed my antagonist's face as closely as the cards. He began to lose his composure, and made mistakes, his cards got mixed up, and his scoring was wild. I was hardly less done up than he; I felt myself growing weaker, and I hoped to see him fall to the ground every moment, as I began to be afraid of being beaten in spite of the superior strength of my constitution. I had won back my money by day-break, and I cavilled with him for being away for more than a quarter of an hour. This quarrel about nothing irritated him, and roused me up; the difference of our natures produced these different results, and my stratagem succeeded because it was impromptu, and could not have been foreseen. In the same way in war, sudden stratagems succeed.
At nine o'clock Madame Saxe came in, her lover was losing.
"Now, sir," she said to me, "you may fairly yield."
"Madam," said I, "in hope of pleasing you, I will gladly divide the stakes and rise from the table."
The tone of exaggerated gallantry with which I pronounced these words, put d'Entragues into a rage, and he answered sharply that he would not desist till one of us was dead.
With a glance at the lady which was meant to be lovelorn, but which must have been extremely languid in my exhausted state, I said,--
"You see, Madam, that I am not the more obstinate of the two."
A dish of soup was served to us, but d'Entragues, who was in the last stage of exhaustion, had no sooner swallowed the soup than he fell from his chair in a dead faint. He was soon taken up, and after I had given six louis to the marker who had been watching for forty-eight hours, I pocketed the gold, and went to the apothecary's where I took a mild emetic. Afterwards I went to bed and slept for a few hours, and at three o'clock I made an excellent dinner.
D'Entragues remained in his room till the next day. I expected a quarrel, but the night brings counsel, and I made a mistake. As soon as he saw me he ran up to me and embraced me, saying,--
"I made a silly bet, but you have given me a lesson which will last me all my days, and I am much obliged to you for it."
"I am delighted to hear it, provided that your health has not suffered."
"No, I am quite well, but we will play no more together."
"Well, I hope we shan't play against each other any more."
In the course of eight or ten days I took Madame d'Urfe and the pretended Lascaris to Bale. We put up at the inn of the famous Imhoff, who swindled us, but, all the same, the "Three Kings" is the best inn in the town. I think I have noted that noon at Bale is at eleven o'clock--an absurdity due to some historic event, which I had explained to me but have forgotten. The inhabitants are said to be subject to a kind of madness, of which they are cured by taking the waters of Sulzbach; but they 'get it again as soon as they return.
We should have stayed at Bale some time, if it had not been for an incident which made me hasten our departure. It was as follows:
My necessities had obliged me to forgive the Corticelli to a certain extent, and when I came home early I spent the night with her; but when I came home late, as often happened, I slept in my own room. The little hussy, in the latter case, slept also alone in a room next to her mother's, through whose chamber one had to pass to get to the daughter's.
One night I came in at one o'clock, and not feeling inclined to sleep, I took a candle and went in search of my charmer. I was rather surprised to find Signora Laura's door half open, and just as I was going in the old woman came forward and took me by the arm, begging me not to go into her daughter's room.
"Why?" said I.
"She has been very poorly all the evening, and she is in need of sleep."
"Very good; then I will sleep too."
So saying I pushed the mother to one side, and entering the girl's room I found her in bed with someone who was hiding under the sheets.