At eight o'clock I heard a knock at the door, and on opening the window found it was one of the servants from the house of my foes. I cried out to let her in, and I breathed again on hearing that Miss Charpillon had just arrived in a sedan-chair in a pitiable condition, and that she had been put to bed.
"I made haste to come and tell you," said the cunning maid, "not for the sake of your two guineas, but because I saw you were so unhappy." This duped me directly. I gave her the two guineas, and made her sit down on my bed, begging her to tell me all about her mistress's return. I did not dream that she had been schooled by my enemies; but during the whole of this period I was deprived of the right use of my reason.
The slut began by saying that her young mistress loved me, and had only deceived me in accordance with her mother's orders.
"I know that," I said, "but where did she pass the night?"
"At a shop which she found open, and where she was known from having bought various articles there. She is in bed with a fever, and I am afraid it may have serious consequences as she is in her monthly period."
"That's impossible, for I caught her in the act with her hairdresser."
"Oh, that proves nothing! the poor young man does not look into things very closely."
"But she is in love with him."
"I don't think so, though she has spent several hours in his company."
"And you say that she loves me!"
"Oh, that has nothing to do with it! It is only a whim of hers with the hairdresser."
"Tell her that I am coming to pass the day beside her bed, and bring me her reply."
"I will send the other girl if you like."
"No, she only speaks English."
She went away, and as she had not returned by three o'clock I decided on calling to hear how she was. I knocked at the door, and one of the aunts appeared and begged me not to enter as the two friends of the house were there in a fury against me, and her niece lay in a delirium, crying out "There's Seingalt, there's Seingalt! He's going to kill me. Help! help!" "For God's sake, sir, go away,"
I went home desperate, without the slightest suspicion that it was all a lie. I spent the whole day without eating anything; I could not swallow a mouthful. All night I kept awake, and though I took several glasses of strong waters I could obtain no rest.
At nine o'clock the next morning I knocked at the Charpillon's door, and the old aunt came and held it half open as before. She forbade me to enter, saying that her niece was still delirious, continually calling on me in her transports, and that the doctor had declared that if the disease continued its course she had not twenty-four hours to live. "The fright you gave her has arrested her periods; she is in a terrible state."
"O, fatal hairdresser!" I exclaimed.
"That was a mere youthful folly; you should have pretended not to have seen anything."
"You think that possible, you old witch, do you? Do not let her lack for anything; take that."
With these words I gave her a bank note for ten guineas and went away, like the fool I was. On my way back I met Goudar, who was quite frightened at my aspect. I begged him to go and see how the Charpillon really was, and then to come and pass the rest of the day with me. An hour after he came back and said he had found them all in tears and that the girl was in extremis.
"Did you see her?"
"No, they said she could see no one."
"Do you think it is all true?"
"I don't know what to think; but one of the maids, who tells me the truth as a rule, assured me that she had become mad through her courses being stopped, while she has also a fever and violent convulsions. It is all credible enough, for these are the usual results of a shock when a woman is in such a situation. The girl told me it was all your fault."
I then told him the whole story. He could only pity me, but when he heard that I had neither eaten nor slept for the last forty-eight hours he said very wisely that if I did not take care I should lose my reason or my life.