When it was all over I begged Edgar to give the French girl four guineas, and to pay my share, as I had very little money about me.
What should I have said if I had been told in the morning that instead of drowning myself I should take part in so pleasant an entertainment?
The debt I had contracted with the young Englishman made me resolve to put off my suicide to another day. After the nymphs had gone I tried to get rid of Edgar, but in vain; he told me I was getting better, that the oysters I had taken skewed my stomach was improving, and that if I came with him to Ranelagh I should be able to make a good dinner the next day. I was weak and indifferent and let myself be persuaded, and got into a coach with Edgar in obedience to the Stoic maxim I had learnt in the happy days of my youth: 'Sequere Deum'.
We entered the fine rotunda with our hats off, and began to walk round and round, our arms behind our backs--a common custom in England, at least in those days.
A minuet was being danced, and I was so attracted by a lady who danced extremely well that I waited for her to turn round. What made me notice her more particularly was that her dress and hat were exactly like those I had given to the Charpillon a few days before, but as I believed the poor wretch to be dead or dying the likeness did not inspire me with any suspicion. But the lady turned round, lifted her face, and I saw--the Charpillon herself!
Edgar told me afterwards that at that moment he thought to see me fall to the ground in an epileptic fit; I trembled and shuddered so terribly.
However, I felt so sure she was ill that I could not believe my own eyes, and the doubt brought me to my senses.
"She can't be the Charpillon," I said to myself, "she is some other girl like her, and my enfeebled senses have led me astray." In the meanwhile the lady, intent on her dancing, did not glance in my direction, but I could afford to wait. At last she lifted her arms to make the curtsy at the end of the minuet, I went up instinctively as if I were about to dance with her; she looked me in the face, and fled.
I constrained myself; but now that there could be no doubt my shuddering fit returned, and I made haste to sit down. A cold sweat bedewed my face and my whole body. Edgar advised me to take a cup of tea but I begged him to leave me alone for a few moments.
I was afraid that I was on the point of death; I trembled all over, and my heart beat so rapidly that I could not have stood up had I wished.
At last, instead of dying, I got new life. What a wonderful change I experienced! Little by little my peace of mind returned, and I could enjoy the glitter of the multitudinous wax lights. By slow degrees I passed through all the shades of feeling between despair and an ecstasy of joy. My soul and mind were so astonished by the shock that I began to think I should never see Edgar again.
"This young man," I said to myself, "is my good genius, my guardian angel, my familiar spirit, who has taken the form of Edgar to restore me to my senses again."
I should certainly have persisted in this idea if my friend had not reappeared before very long.
Chance might have thrown him in the way of one of those seductive creatures who make one forget everything else; he might have left Ranelagh without having time to tell me he was going, and I should have gone back to London feeling perfectly certain that I had only seen his earthly shape. Should I have been disabused if I had seen him a few days after? Possibly; but I am not sure of it. I have always had a hankering after superstition, of which I do not boast; but I confess the fact, and leave the reader to judge me.
However, he came back in high spirits, but anxious about me. He was surprised to find me full of animation, and to hear me talking in a pleasant strain on the surrounding objects and persons.
"Why, you are laughing!" said he, "your sadness has departed, then?"
"Yes, good genius, but I am hungry, and I want you to do me a favour, if you have no other pressing engagements."
"I am free till the day after to-morrow, and till then you can do what you like with me."
"I owe my life to you, but to make your gift complete I want you to spend this night and the whole of the next day with me."
"Then let us go home."
"With all my heart; come along."
I did not tell him anything as we were in the coach, and when we got home I found nothing fresh, except a note from Goudar, which I put in my pocket, intending to reserve all business for the next day.