She was handsome, and might have been victorious if she had liked, but luckily she did not think of exerting her power, and so gained nothing.
Three days after, Madame de St. Giles, a great power in Turin, and a kind of protecting deity to all actresses, summoned me to her presence by a liveried footman. Guessing what she wanted, I called on her unceremoniously in a morning coat. She received me politely, and began to talk of the Corticelli affair with great affability; but I did not like her, and replied dryly that I had had no hesitation in abandoning the girl to the protection of the gallant gentleman with whom I had surprised her in 'flagrante delicto'. She told me I should be sorry for it, and that she would publish a little story which she had already read and which did not do me much credit. I replied that I never changed my mind, and that threats were of no avail with me. With that parting shot I left her.
I did not attach much importance to the town gossip, but a week after I received a manuscript containing an account--accurate in most respects--of my relations with the Corticelli and Madame d'Urfe, but so ill written and badly expressed that nobody could read it without weariness. It did not make the slightest impression on me, and I stayed a fortnight longer in Turin without its causing me the slightest annoyance. I saw the Corticelli again in Paris six months after, and will speak of our meeting in due time.
The day after M. de Chauvelin's ball I asked Agatha, her mother, the Dupres, and my usual company to supper. It was the mother's business to so arrange matters that the ear-rings should become Agatha's lawful property, so I left everything to her. I knew she would manage to introduce the subject, and while we were at supper she said that the common report of Turin was that I had given her daughter a pair of diamond ear-rings worth five hundred Louis, which the Corticelli claimed as hers by right.
"I do not know," she added, "if they are real diamonds, or if they belong to the Corticelli, but I do know that my girl has received no such present from the gentleman."
"Well, well," said I, "we will have no more surmises in the matter;" and going up to Agatha I put the earrings on her, saying,--
"Dearest Agatha, I make you a present of them before this company, and my giving them to you now is a proof that hitherto they have belonged to me."
Everybody applauded, and I read in the girl's eyes that I should have no cause to regret my generosity.
We then fell to speaking of the affair of Ville-Follet and the Corticelli, and of the efforts that had been made to compel me to retain her. The Chevalier Raiberti said that in my place he would have offered Madame de St. Giles or the superintendent to continue paying for her board, but merely as an act of charity, and that I could have deposited money with either of them.
"I should be very glad to do so," said I; and the next day the worthy chevalier made the necessary arrangements with Madame de St. Giles, and I furnished the necessary moneys.
In spite of this charitable action, the wretched manuscript came out, but, as I have said, without doing me any harm. The superintendent made the Corticelli live in the same house with Redegonde, and Madame Pacienza was left in peace.
After supper, with the exception of the Chevalier Raiberti, we all masked, and went to the ball at the opera-house. I soon seized the opportunity of escaping with Agatha, and she granted me all that love can desire. All constraint was banished; she was my titular mistress, and we were proud of belonging the one to the other, for we loved each other. The suppers I had given at my house had set me perfectly at liberty, and the superintendent could do nothing to thwart our love, though he was informed of it, so well are the spies of Turin organized.
Divine Providence made use of me as its instrument in making Agatha's fortune. It may be said that Providence might have chosen a more moral method, but are we to presume to limit the paths of Providence to the narrow circle of our prejudices and conventions? It has its own ways, which often appear dark to us because of our ignorance.