If that reason does not strike you as a cogent one, I am sorry, for to me it appears unanswerable."
"Let us run the risk, sir, at all events."
"There is a still greater risk of which I can tell you nothing. In brief, sir, you ask what is impossible."
"In Heaven's name, sir," said the girl, with a voice and a look that would have pierced a heart of stone, "rescue me from that dreadful journey on the roof of the diligence! The very idea makes me shudder; I should be afraid of falling off all the way; besides, there is something mean in travelling that way. Do but grant me this favour, and I will sit at your feet so as not to discomfort you."
"This is too much! You do not know me, mademoiselle. I am neither cruel nor impolite, especially where your sex is concerned, though my refusal must make you feel otherwise. If I give way you may regret it afterwards, and I do not wish that to happen." Then, turning to the father, I said,--
"A post-chaise costs six Louis. Here they are; take them. I will put off my departure for a few hours, if necessary, to answer for the chaise, supposing you are not known here, and an extra horse will cost four Louis take them. As to the rest, you would have spent as much in taking two places in the diligence."
"You are very kind, sir, but I cannot accept your gift. I am not worthy of it, and I should be still less worthy if I accepted the money. Adele, let us go. Forgive us, sir, if we have wasted half an hour of your time. Come, my poor child."
"Wait a moment, father."
Adele begged him to wait, as her sobs almost choked her. I was furious with everything, but having received one look from her beautiful eyes I could not withstand her sorrow any longer, and said,
"Calm yourself, mademoiselle. It shall never be said that I remained unmoved while beauty wept. I yield to your request, for if I did not I should not be able to sleep all night. But I accede on one condition," I added, turning to her father, "and that is that you sit at the back of the carriage."
"Certainly; but what is to become of your servant?"
"He will ride on in front. Everything is settled. Go to bed now, and be ready to start at six o'clock."
"Certainly, but you will allow me to pay for the extra horse?"
"You shall pay nothing at all; it would be a shame if I received any money from you. You have told me you are poor, and poverty is no dishonour; well, I may tell you that I am rich, and riches are no honour save when they are used in doing good. Therefore, as I said, I will pay for all."
"Very good, but I will pay for the extra horse in the carriage."
"Certainly not, and let us have no bargaining, please; it is time to go to bed. I will put you down at Paris without the journey costing you a farthing, and then if you like you may thank me; these are the only conditions on which I will take you. Look! Mdlle. Adele is laughing, that's reward enough for me."
"I am laughing for joy at having escaped that dreadful diligence roof."
"I see, but I hope you will not weep in my carriage, for all sadness is an abomination to me."
I went, to bed, resolved to struggle against my fate no longer. I saw that I could not withstand the tempting charms of this new beauty, and I determined that everything should be over in a couple of days. Adele had beautiful blue eyes, a complexion wherein were mingled the lily and the rose, a small mouth, excellent teeth, a figure still slender but full of promise; here, surely, were enough motives for a fresh fall. I fell asleep, thanking my good genius for thus providing me with amusement on the journey.
Just before we started the father came and asked if it was all the same to me whether we went by Burgundy or the Bourbonnais.
"Certainly. Do you prefer any particular route?"
"If I went through Nevers I might be able to collect a small account."
"Then we will go by the Bourbonnais."
Directly after Adele, simply but neatly dressed, came down and wished me good day, telling me that her father was going to put a small trunk containing their belongings at the back of the carriage. Seeing me busy, she asked if she could help me in any way.