I did not ask for anything more, but I thought Therese very insolent.
I told Aranda that his mother would be waiting for us at Abbeville in a week's time, and that she wanted to see him.
"We will both give her the pleasure of seeing us."
"Certainly," said he; "but as you are going on to London, how shall I come back?"
"By yourself," said Madame d'Urfe, "dressed as a postillion."
"What shall I ride post? How delightfull"
"You must only cover eight or ten posts a day, for you have no need to risk your life by riding all night."
"Yes, yes; but I am to dress like a postillion, am I not?"
"Yes; I will have a handsome jacket and a pair of leather breeches made for you, and you shall have a flag with the arms of France on it."
"They will take me for a courier going to London."
With the idea that to throw difficulties in the way would confirm him in his desire to go, I said roughly that I could not hear of it, as the horse might fall and break his neck. I had to be begged and entreated for three days before I would give in, and I did so on the condition that he should only ride on his way back.
As he was certain of returning to Paris, he only took linen sufficient for a very short absence; but as I knew that once at Abbeville he could not escape me, I sent his trunk on to Calais, where we found it on our arrival. However, the worthy Madame d'Urfe got him a magnificent postillion's suit, not forgetting the top-boots.
This business which offered a good many difficulties was happily arranged by the action of pure chance; and I am glad to confess that often in my life has chance turned the scale in my favour.
I called on a banker and got him to give me heavy credits on several of the most important houses in London, where I wished to make numerous acquaintances.
While I was crossing the Place des Victoires, I passed by the house where the Corticelli lived, and my curiosity made me enter. She was astonished to see me, and after a long silence she burst into tears, and said,--
"I should never have been unhappy if I had never known you."
"Yes, you would, only in some other way; your misfortunes are the result of your bad conduct. But tell me what are your misfortunes."
"As I could not stay in Turin after you had dishonoured me . . ."
"You came to dishonour yourself here, I suppose. Drop that tone, or else I will leave you."
She began her wretched tale, which struck me with consternation, for I could not help feeling that I was the first and final cause of this long list of woes. Hence I felt it was my duty to succour her, however ill she had treated me in the past.
"Then," said I, "you are at present the victim of a fearful disease, heavily in debt, likely to be turned out of doors and imprisoned by your creditors. What do you propose to do?"
"Do! Why, throw myself in the Seine, to be sure; that's all that is left for me to do. I have not a farthing left."
"And what would you do if you had some money?"
"I would put myself under the doctor's hands, in the first place, and then if any money was left I would go to Bologna and try to get a living somehow. Perhaps I should have learnt a little wisdom by experience."
"Poor girl, I pity you! and in spite of your bad treatment of me, which has brought you to this pass, I will not abandon you. Here are four louis for your present wants, and to-morrow I will tell you where you are to go for your cure. When you have got well again, I will give you enough money for the journey. Dry your tears, repent, amend your ways, and may God have mercy on you!"
The poor girl threw herself on the ground before me, and covered one of my hands with kisses, begging me to forgive her for the ill she had done me. I comforted her and went my way, feeling very sad. I took a coach and drove to the Rue de Seine, where I called on an old surgeon I knew, told him the story, and what I wanted him to do. He told me he could cure her in six weeks without anybody hearing about it, but that he must be paid in advance.