I asked if her husband Denis was with her, and they told me that the king had banished him because he ill-treated her.
I called on her the day after the performance, and was politely received, but she said she did not think she had had the pleasure of seeing me before.
By degrees I told her of the events of her childhood, and how she enchanted all Venice by the grace with which she danced the minuet. She interrupted me by saying that at that time she was only six years old.
"You could not be more," I replied, "for I was only ten; and nevertheless, I fell in love with you, and never have I forgotten the kiss you gave me by your father's order in return for some trifling present I made you."
"Be quiet; you gave me a beautiful ring, and I kissed you of my own free will. You wore the cassock then. I have never forgotten you. But can it really be you?"
"It is indeed."
"I am. delighted to see you again. But I could never have recognized you, and I suppose you would not have recognized me."
"No, I should not have known you, unless I had heard your name mentioned."
"One alters in twenty years, you know."
"Yes, one cannot expect to have the same face as at six."
"You can bear witness that I am not more than twenty-six, though some evil speakers give me ten years more."
"You should not take any notice of such calumnies, my dear. You are in the flower of your age, and made for the service of love. For my part, I congratulate myself on being able to tell you that you are the first woman that inspired me with a real passion."
We could not help becoming affectionate if we continued to keep up the conversation in this style, but experience had taught us that it was well to remain as we were for the present.
Madame Denis was still fresh and youthful looking, though she persisted in abbreviating her age by ten years. Of course she could not deceive me, and she must have known it, nevertheless, she liked me to bear outward testimony to her youthfulness. She would have detested me if I had attempted to prove to her what she knew perfectly well, but did not care to confess. No doubt she cared little for my thoughts on the subject, and she may have imagined that I owed her gratitude for diminishing her age, as it enabled me to diminish my own to make our tales agree. However, I did not trouble myself much about it, for it is almost a duty in an actress to disguise her age, as in spite of talent the public will not forgive a woman for having been born too soon.
I thought her behaviour augured well, and I hoped she would not make me languish long. She shewed me her house, which was all elegance and good taste. I asked her if she had a lover, and she replied with a smile that all Berlin thought so, but that it was nevertheless deceived on the principal point, as the individual in question was more of a father than a lover.
"But you deserve to have a real lover; I cannot conceive how you can do without one."
"I assure you I don't trouble myself about it. I am subject to convulsions, which are the plague of my life. I want to try the Teplitz waters, which are said to be excellent for all nervous affections; but the king has refused his permission, which I, nevertheless, hope to obtain next year."
I felt ardently disposed, and I thought she was pleased with the restraint I put upon myself.
"Will you be annoyed," said I, "if I call upon you frequently?"
"If you don't mind I will call myself your niece, or your cousin, and then we can see each other."
"Do you know that that may possibly be true? I would not swear that you were not my sister."
This sally made us talk of the friendship that had subsisted between her father and my mother, and we allowed ourselves those caresses which are permitted to near relations; but feeling that things were going too far we ceased. As she bade me farewell, she asked me to dine with her the next day, and I accepted.
As I went back to my inn I reflected on the strange combinations which made my life one continuous chain of events, and I felt it my duty to give thanks to eternal Providence, for I felt that I had been born under a happy star.