n-sense or prudence, and lost all.
His pockets were empty, and seeing me he beckoned to me, and I followed him out of the Spa.
"My friend," he began, "I have two alternatives, I can kill myself this instant or I can fly without returning to the house. I shall embrace the latter and go to Warsaw on foot, and I leave my wife in your hands, for I know you adore her. It must be your task to give her the dreadful news of the pass to which I have come. Have a care of her, she is too good by far for a poor wretch like me. Take her to Paris and I will write to you there at your brother's address. I know you have money, but I would die rather than accept a single louis from you. I have still two or three pieces left, and I assure you that I am richer at the present moment than I was two months ago. Farewell; once more I commend Charlotte to your care; I would that she had never known me."
With these words he shed tears, and embracing me went his way. I was stupefied at what lay before me.
I had to inform a pregnant woman that the man she dearly loved had deserted her. The only thought that supported me in that moment was that it would be done for love of her, and I felt thankful that I had sufficient means to secure her from privation.
I went to the house and told her that we might dine at once, as the marquis would be engaged till the evening. She sighed, wished him luck, and we proceeded to dine. I disguised my emotions so well that she conceived no suspicion. After the meal was over, I asked her to walk with me in the garden of the Capuchin Monastery, which was close at hand. To prepare her for the fatal news I asked her if she would approve of her lover exposing himself to assassination for the sake of bidding adieu to her rather than making his escape.
"I should blame him for doing so," she replied. "He ought to escape by all means, if only to save his life for my sake. Has my husband done so? Speak openly to me. My spirit is strong enough to resist even so fatal a blow, for I know I have a friend in you. Speak."
"Well, I will tell you all. But first of all remember this; you must look upon me as a tender father who will never let you want, so long as life remains to him."
"In that case I cannot be called unfortunate, for I have a true friend. Say on."
I told all that Croce had told me, not omitting his last words: "I commend Charlotte to your care; I would that she had never known me."
For a few minutes she remained motionless, as one turned into stone. By her attitude, by her laboured and unequal breath, I could divine somewhat of the battle between love, and anger, and sorrow, and pity, that was raging in the noble breast. I was cut to the heart. At last she wiped away the big tears that began to trickle down her cheeks, and turning to me sighed and said,--
"Dear friend, since I can count on you, I am far indeed from utter misery."
"I swear to you, Charlotte, that I will never leave you till I place you again in your husband's hands, provided I do not die before."
"That is enough. I swear eternal gratitude, and to be as submissive to you as a good daughter ought to be."
The religion and philosophy with which her heart and mind were fortified, though she made no parade of either, began to calm her spirit, and she proceeded to make some reflections on Croce's unhappy lot, but all in pity not in anger, excusing his inveterate passion for play. She had often heard from Croce's lips the story of the Marseilles girl whom he had left penniless in an inn at Milan, commending her to my care. She thought it something wonderful that I should again be intervening as the tutelary genius; but her situation was much the worse, for she was with child.
"There's another difference," I added, "for I made the fortune of the first by finding her an honest husband, whereas I should never have the courage to adopt the same method with the second."
"While Croce lives I am no man's wife but his, nevertheless I am glad to find myself free."
When we were back in the house, I advised her to send away the servant and to pay his journey to Besanion, where she had taken him.