I was anxious to find out whether she would acknowledge the fact, or deny it altogether. If she had done so I should have despised her. When I had seen her before, the blossom of her beauty was still in the bud, now it had opened out in all its splendour.
"Charming Sara," I said, "you have so enchanted me that I cannot help asking you a couple of questions, which if you value my peace of mind you will answer. Do you remember what happened at Berne?"
"And do you repent of what you did?"
No man of any delicacy could ask the third question, which may be understood. I felt sure that Sara would make me happy-nay, that she was even longing for the moment, and gave reins to my passions, determined to convince her that I was deserving of her love. The waiter came to enquire if we had any orders, and I begged Madame M---- F---- to allow me to offer her some oysters. After the usual polite refusals she gave in, and I profited by her acceptance to order all the delicacies of the season, including a hare (a great delicacy in London), champagne, choice liqueurs, larks, ortolans, truffles, sweetmeats--everything, in fact, that money could buy, and I was not at all surprised when the bill proved to amount to ten guineas. But I was very much surprised when M. M---- F----, who had eaten like a Turk and drunk like a Swiss, said calmly that it was too dear.
I begged him politely not to trouble himself about the cost; and by way of proving that I did not share his opinion, I gave the waiter half-a-guinea; the worthy man looked as if he wished that such customers came more often. The Swiss, who had been pale and gloomy enough a short while before; was rubicund and affable. Sara glanced at me and squeezed my hand; I had conquered.
When the play was over, M---- F---- asked me if I would allow him to call on me. I embraced him in reply. His servant came in, and said that he could not find a coach; and I, feeling rather surprised that he had not brought his carriage, offered him the use of mine, telling my man to get me a sedan-chair.
"I accept your kind offer," said he, "on the condition that you allow me to occupy the chair."
I consented to this arrangement, and took the mother and the two daughters with me in the carriage.
On the way, Madame M---- F---- was very polite, gently blaming her husband for the rudeness of which I had to complain. I said that I would avenge myself by paying an assiduous court to him in the future; but she pierced me to the heart by saying that they were on the point of departing. "We wanted to go on the day after next," she said, "and to-morrow we shall have to leave our present rooms to their new occupants. A matter of business which my husband was not able to conclude will oblige us to stay for another week, and to- morrow we shall have the double task of moving and finding new apartments."
"Then you have not yet got new rooms?"
"No, but my husband says he is certain to find some to-morrow morning."
"Furnished, I suppose, for as you intend to leave you will be selling, your furniture."
"Yes, and we shall have to pay the expenses of carriage to the buyer."
On hearing that M. M---- F---- was sure of finding lodgings, I was precluded from offering to accommodate them in my own house, as the lady might think that I only made the offer because I was sure it would not be accepted.
When we got to the door of their house we alighted, and the mother begged me to come in. She and her husband slept on the second floor, and the two girls on the third. Everything was upside down, and as Madame M---- F---- had something to say to the landlady she asked me to go up with her daughters. It was cold, and the room we entered had no fire in it. The sister went into the room adjoining and I stayed with Sara, and all of a sudden I clasped her to my breast, and feeling that her desires were as ardent as mine I fell with her on to a sofa where we mingled our beings in all the delights of voluptuous ardours. But this happiness was short lived; scarcely was the work achieved when we heard a footstep on the stair.