The doctor came while I was with her, and just as her intelligent conversation was making me forget her face. She had already began to take his remedies, which were partly composed of mercury.
"It seems to me," said she, "that the itching has increased since I have taken your medicines."
"It will last," said the son of AEsculapius, "till the end of the cure, and that will take about three months."
"As long as I scratch myself," said she, "I shall be in the same state, and the cure will never be completed."
The doctor replied in an evasive manner. I rose to take my leave, and holding my hand she asked me to supper once for all. I went the same evening; the poor woman took everything and drank some wine, as the doctor had not put her on any diet. I saw that she would never be cured.
Her good temper and her charming conversational powers kept all the company amused. I conceived that it would be possible to get used to her face, and to live with her without being disgusted. In the evening I talked about her to my housekeeper, who said that the beauty of her body and her mental endowments might be sufficient to attract people to her. I agreed, though I felt that I could never become one of her lovers.
Three or four days after, I went to a bookseller's to read the newspaper, and was politely accosted by a fine young man of twenty, who said that Madame de la Saone was sorry not to have seen me again at supper.
"You know the lady?"
"I had the honour to sup at her house with you."
"True; I remember you."
"I get her the books she likes, as I am a bookseller, and not only do I sup with her every evening, but we breakfast together every morning before she gets up."
"I congratulate you. I bet you are in love with her."
"You are pleased to jest, but she is pleasanter than you think."
"I do not jest at all, but I would wager she would not have the courage to push things to an extremity."
"Perhaps you would lose."
"Really? I should be very glad to."
"Let us make a bet."
"How will you convince me I have lost?"
"Let us bet a louis, and you must promise to be discreet."
"Come and sup at her house this evening, and I will tell you something."
"You shall see me there."
When I got home I told my housekeeper what I had heard.
"I am curious to know," said she, "how he will convince you." I promised to tell her, which pleased her very much.
I was exact to my appointment. Madame de la Saone reproached me pleasantly for my absence, and gave me a delicious supper. The young bookseller was there, but as his sweetheart did not speak a word to him he said nothing and passed unnoticed.
After supper we went out together, and he told me on the way that if I liked he would satisfy me the next morning at eight o'clock. "Call here, and the lady's maid will tell you her mistress is not visible, but you have only to say that you will wait, and that you will go into the ante-chamber. This room has a glass door commanding a view of madame's bed, and I will take care to draw back the curtains over the door so that you will be able to see at your ease all that passes between us. When the affair is over I shall go out by another door, she will call her maid, and you will be shewn in. At noon, if you will allow me, I will bring you some books to the 'Falcon,' and if you find that you have lost you shall pay me my louis." I promised to carry out his directions, and we parted.
I was curious to see what would happen, though I by no means regarded it as an impossibility; and on my presenting myself at eight o'clock, the maid let me in as soon as I said that I could wait. I found a corner of the glass door before which there was no curtain, and on applying my eye to the place I saw my young adventurer holding his conquest in his arms on the bed. An enormous nightcap entirely concealed her face--an excellent precaution which favoured the bookseller's enterprise.
When the rascal saw that I had taken up my position, he did not keep me waiting, for, getting up, he presented to my dazzled gaze, not only the secret treasures of his sweetheart, but his own also.