However, she was not in the least disconcerted.
"I suppose the marks of the blows you gave me make my face so repulsive?"
"You lie; I never struck you."
"No, but your tiger-like claws have left bruises all over me. Look here. No, you needn't be afraid that what you see may prove too seductive; besides, it will have no novelty for you."
So saying the wretched creature let me see her body, on which some livid marks were still visible.
Coward that I was! Why did I not look another way? I will tell you: it was because she was so beautiful, and because a woman's charms are unworthy of the name if they cannot silence reason. I affected only to look at the bruises, but it was an empty farce. I blush for myself; here was I conquered by a simple girl, ignorant of well nigh everything. But she knew well enough that I was inhaling the poison at every pore. All at once she dropped her clothes and came and sat beside me, feeling sure that I should have relished a continuance of the spectacle.
However, I made an effort and said, coldly, that it was all her own fault.
"I know it is," said she, "for if I had been tractable as I ought to have been, you would have been loving instead of cruel. But repentance effaces sin, and I am come to beg pardon. May I hope to obtain it?"
"Certainly; I am angry with you no longer, but I cannot forgive myself. Now go, and trouble me no more."
"I will if you like, but there is something you have not heard, and I beg you will listen to me a moment."
"As I have nothing to do you can say what you have got to say, I will listen to you."
In spite of the coldness of my words, I was really profoundly touched, and the worst of it was that I began to believe in the genuineness of her motives.
She might have relieved herself of what she had to say in a quarter of an hour, but by dint of tears, sighs, groans, digressions, and so forth, she took two hours to tell me that her mother had made her swear to pass the night as she had done. She ended by saying that she would like to be mine as she had been M. Morosini's, to live with me, and only to go out under my escort, while I might allow her a monthly sum which she would hand over to her mother, who would, in that case, leave her alone.
She dined with me, and it was in the evening that she made this proposition. I suppose because she thought me ripe for another cheat. I told her that it might be arranged, but that I should prefer to settle with her mother, and that she would see me at their house the following day, and this seemed to surprise her.
It is possible that the Charpillon would have granted me any favour on that day, and then there would have been no question of deception or resistance for the future. Why did I not press her? Because sometimes love stupefies instead of quickens, and because I had been in a way her judge, and I thought it would be base of me to revenge myself on her by satisfying my amorous desires, and possibly because I was a fool, as I have often been in the course of my existence. She must have left me in a state of irritation, and no doubt she registered a vow to revenge herself on me for the half-contemptuous way in which I had treated her.
Goudar was astonished when he heard of her visit, and of the way in which I had spent the day. I begged him to get me a small furnished house, and in the evening I went to see the infamous woman in her own house.
She was with her mother, and I laid my proposal before them.
"Your daughter will have a house at Chelsea," said I to the mother, "where I can go and see her whenever I like, and also fifty guineas a month to do what she likes with."
"I don't care what you give her a month," she replied, "but before I let her leave my house she must give me the hundred guineas she was to have had when she slept with you."
"It is your fault that she didn't have them; however, to cut the matter short, she shall give them to you."
"And in the meanwhile, till you have found the house, I hope you will come and see me."
The next day Goudar shewed me a pretty house at Chelsea, and I took it, paying ten guineas, a month's rent, in advance, for which I received a receipt.