By the way, M. de Voltaire has given up his house at Delices to M. de Villars, and has gone to live at Ferney."
"That makes no difference to me, as I was not thinking of calling on him this time. I shall be here for two or three weeks, and I mean to devote my time to you."
"You are too good."
"Will you give me writing materials before you go out? I will write a few letters while you are away."
He put me in possession of his desk, and I wrote to my late housekeeper, Madame Lebel, telling her that I was going to spend three weeks at Geneva, and that if I were sure of seeing her I would gladly pay a visit to Lausanne. Unfortunately, I also wrote to the bad Genoese poet, Ascanio Pogomas, or Giaccomo Passano, whom I had met at Leghorn. I told him to go to Turin and to wait for me there. At the same time I wrote to M. F----, to whom I had commended him, asking him to give the poet twelve Louis for the journey.
My evil genius made me think of this man, who was an imposing- looking fellow, and had all the air of a magician, to introduce him to Madame d'Urfe as a great adept. You will see, dear reader, in the course of a year whether I had reason to repent of this fatal inspiration.
As the syndic and I were on our way to our young friend's house I saw an elegant English carriage for sale, and I exchanged it for mine, giving the owner a hundred Louis as well. While the bargain was going on the uncle of the young theologian who argued so well, and to whom I had given such pleasant lessons in physiology, came up to me, embraced me, and asked me to dine with him the next day.
Before we got to the house the syndic informed me that we should find another extremely pretty but uninitiated girl present.
"All the better," said I, "I shall know how to regulate my conduct, and perhaps I may succeed in initiating her."
In my pocket I had placed a casket containing a dozen exquisite rings. I had long been aware that such trifling presents are often very serviceable.
The moment of meeting those charming girls once more was one of the happiest I have ever enjoyed. In their greeting I read delight and love of pleasure. Their love was without envy or jealousy, or any ideas which would have injured their self-esteem. They felt worthy of my regard, as they had lavished their favours on me without any degrading feelings, and drawn by the same emotion that had drawn me.
The presence of the neophyte obliged us to greet each other with what is called decency, and she allowed me to kiss her without raising her eyes, but blushing violently.
After the usual commonplaces had passed and we had indulged in some double meanings which made us laugh and her look thoughtful, I told her she was pretty as a little love, and that I felt sure that her mind, as beautiful as its casket, could harbour no prejudices.
"I have all the prejudices which honour and religion suggest," she modestly replied.
I saw that this was a case requiring very delicate treatment. There was no question of carrying the citadel by sudden assault. But, as usual, I fell in love with her.
The syndic having pronounced my name, she said,--
"Ah! then, you, sir, are the person who discussed some very singular questions with my cousin, the pastor's niece. I am delighted to make your acquaintance."
"I am equally pleased to make yours, but I hope the pastor's niece said nothing against me."
"Not at all; she has a very high opinion of you."
"I am going to dine with her to-morrow, and I shall take care to thank her."
"To-morrow! I should like to be there, for I enjoy philosophical discussions though I never dare to put a word in."
The syndic praised her discretion and wisdom in such a manner that I was convinced he was in love with her, and that he had either seduced her or was trying to do so. Her name was Helen. I asked the young ladies if Helen was their sister. The eldest replied, with a sly smile, that she was a sister, but as yet she had no brother; and with this explanation she ran up to Helen and kissed her.