I told myself that she might be the young man's sister, and that if it were otherwise it would be all the more easy to cure myself of my passion. A young girl who reasons on love falls into love, especially if she have no one in whom to confide.
"The pretended lace-seller duly came the next day with a box of lace. I told her to come into my room, and then speaking to her to force her to raise her eyes I saw before me the being who exerted such a powerful influence over me. It was such a shock that I had no strength to ask her any of the questions I had premeditated. Besides, my maid was in the room, and the fear of exposing myself operated, I think, almost as strongly as emotion. I set about choosing some pieces of lace in a mechanical way, and told my maid to go and fetch my purse. No sooner had she left the room than the lace-seller fell at my feet and exclaimed passionately,
"'Give me life or death, madam, for I see you know who I am.'
"'Yes, I do know you, and I think you must have gone mad.'
"'Yes, that may be; but I am mad with love. I adore you.'
"'Rise, for my maid will come back directly.'
"'She is in my secret.'
"'What! you have dared '
"He got up, and the maid came in and gave him his money with the utmost coolness. He picked up his lace, made me a profound bow, and departed.
"It would have been natural for me to speak to my maid, and still more natural if I had dismissed her on the spot. I had no courage to do so, and my weakness will only astonish those rigorous moralists who know nothing of a young girl's heart, and do not consider my painful position, passionately in love and with no one but myself to rely on.
"I did not follow at once the severe dictates of duty; afterwards it was too late, and I easily consoled myself with the thought that I could pretend not to be aware that the maid was in the secret. I determined to dissemble, hoping that I should never see the adventurous lover again, and that thus all would be as if it had never happened.
"This resolve was really the effect of anger, for a fortnight passed by without my seeing the young man in the theatre, the public walks, or in any of the public places he used to frequent, and I became sad and dreamy, feeling all the time ashamed of my own wanton fancies. I longed to know his name, which I could only learn from my maid, and it was out of the question for me to ask Oeiras. I hated my maid, and I blushed when I saw her, imagining that she knew all. I was afraid that she would suspect my honour, and at another time I feared lest she might think I did not love him; and this thought nearly drove me mad. As for the young adventurer I thought him more to be pitied than to be blamed, for I did not believe that he knew I loved him, and it seemed to me that the idea of my despising him was enough vengeance for his audacity. But my thoughts were different when my vanity was stronger than love, for then despair avenged itself on pride, and I fancied he would think no more of me, and perhaps had already forgotten me.
"Such a state cannot last long, for if nothing comes to put an end to the storm which tosses the soul to and fro, it ends at last by making an effort of itself to sail into the calm waters of peace.
"One day I put on a lace kerchief I had bought from him, and asked my maid,
"'What has become of the girl who sold me this kerchief?'
"I asked this question without premeditation; it was, as it were, an inspiration from my 'good or my evil genius.
"As crafty as I was simple, the woman answered that to be sure he had not dared to come again, fearing that I had found out his disguise.
"'Certainly,' I replied, 'I found it out directly, but I was astonished to hear that you knew this lace-seller was a young man.'
"'I did not think I should offend you, madam, I know him well.'
"'Who is he?
"'Count d'Al----; you ought to know him, for he paid you a visit about four months ago'
"'True, and it is possible that I did not know him, but why did you tell a lie when I asked you, "Do you know that girl?"'
"'I lied to spare your feelings, madam, and I was afraid you would be angry at the part I had taken:
"'You would have honoured me more by supposing the contrary.