The wretched creature confessed she had been infected for the last six months, but that she had hoped not to give it me, as she had washed herself carefully whenever she thought I was going to have to do with her.
"Wretch, you have poisoned me; but nobody shall know it, as it is by my own fault, and I am ashamed of it. Get up, and you shall see how generous I can be."
She got up, and I had all the linen I had given her packed into a trunk. This done, I told my man to take a small room for her at another inn. His errand was soon over, and I then told Maton to go immediately, as I had done with her. I gave her fifty crowns, and made her sign a receipt specifying the reason why I had sent her away, and acknowledging that she had no further claim upon me. The conditions were humiliating, and she wished me to soften them down, but she soon gave in when I told her that unless she signed I would turn her into the streets as naked as when I found her.
"What am I to do here? I don't know anyone."
"If you like to return to Breslau I will pay your expenses there."
She made no answer, so I sent her away bag and baggage, and merely turned my back on her when she went down on her knees to excite my compassion.
I got rid of her without the slightest feeling of pity, for from what she had done to me and from what she was preparing to do I considered her as a mere monster, who would sooner or later have cost me my life.
I left the inn the following day, and I took a furnished apartment on the first floor of the house where my mother lived for six months, and proceeded about my cure. Everyone asked me what I had done with my housekeeper, and I said that having no further need of her services I had sent her away.
A week afterwards my brother John came to tell me that Bellegarde and five or six of his friends were on the sick list; Maton had certainly lost no time.
"I am sorry for them, but it's their own fault; why didn't they take more care?"
"But the girl came to Dresden with you."
"Yes, and I sent her about her business. It was enough for me to keep them off while she was under my charge. Tell them that if they complain of me they are wrong, and still more wrong to publish their shame. Let them learn discretion and get themselves cured in secrecy, if they do not want sensible men to laugh at them. Don't you think I am right?"
"The adventure is not a very honourable one for you."
"I know it, and that's why I say nothing; I am not such a fool as to proclaim my shame from the housetops. These friends of yours must be simpletons indeed; they must have known that I had good reasons for sending the girl away, and should consequently have been on their guard. They deserve what they got, and I hope it may be a lesson to them."
"They are all astonished at your being well."
"You may comfort them by saying that I have been as badly treated as they, but that I have held my tongue, not wishing to pass for a simpleton."
Poor John saw he had been a simpleton himself and departed in silence. I put myself under a severe diet, and by the middle of August my health was re-established.
About this time, Prince Adam Czartoryski's sister came to Dresden, lodging with Count Bruhl. I had the honour of paying my court to her, and I heard from her own mouth that her royal cousin had had the weakness to let himself be imposed on by calumnies about me. I told her that I was of Ariosto's opinion that all the virtues are nothing worth unless they are covered with the veil of constancy.
"You saw yourself when I supped with you, how his majesty completely ignored me. Your highness will be going to Paris next year; you will meet me there and you can write to the king that if I had been burnt in effigy I should not venture to shew myself."
The September fair being a great occasion at Leipzig, I went there to regain my size by eating larks, for which Leipzig is justly famous. I had played a cautious but a winning game at Dresden, the result of which had been the gain of some hundreds of ducats, so I was able to start for Leipzig with a letter of credit for three thousand crowns on the banker Hohman, an intelligent old man of upwards of eighty. It was of him I heard that the hair of the Empress of Russia, which looked a dark brown or even black, had been originally quite fair. The old banker had seen her at Stettin every day between her seventh and tenth years, and told me that even then they had begun to comb her hair with lead combs, and to rub a certain composition into it. From an early age Catherine had been looked upon as the future bride of the Duke of Holstein, afterwards the hapless Peter III.