She ended her note with these words:
"I have no doubt that my husband will finally introduce you to me as his wife."
I followed her advice, and the good man asked me if I had ever known a young lace seller of the name of Mdlle. Blasin, of Montpellier.
"Yes, I remember her well enough--a delightful and most respectable young woman; but I did not know she came from Montpellier. She was very pretty and very sensible, and I expect she did a good business. I have seen her in several European cities, and the last time at Vienna, where I was able to be of some slight service to her. Her admirable behaviour won her the esteem of all the ladies with whom she came in contact. In England I met her at the house of a duchess."
"Do you think you would recognize her if you saw her again?"
"By Jove! I should think so! But is she at Montpellier? If so, tell her that the Chevalier de Seingalt is here."
"Sir, you shall speak to her yourself, if you will do me the honour to follow me."
My heart leapt, but I restrained myself. The worthy apothecary went through the shop, climbed a stair, and, opening a door on the first floor, said to me,--
"There she is."
"What, mademoiselle! You here? I am delighted to see you."
"This is not a young lady, sir, 'tis my dear wife; but I hope that will not hinder you from embracing her."
"I have never had such an honour; but I will avail myself of your permission with pleasure. Then you have got married at Montpellier. I congratulate both of you, and wish you all health and happiness. Tell me, did you have a pleasant journey from Vienna to Lyons?"
Madame Blasin (for so I must continue to designate her) answered my question according to her fancy, and found me as good an actor as she was an actress.
We were very glad to see each other again, but the apothecary was delighted at the great respect with which I treated his wife.
For a whole hour we carried on a conversation of a perfectly imaginary character, and with all the simplicity of perfect truth.
She asked me if I thought of spending the carnival at Montpellier, and seemed quite mortified when I said that I thought of going on the next day.
Her husband hastened to say that that was quite out of the question.
"Oh, I hope you won't go," she added, "you must do my husband the honour of dining with us."
After the husband had pressed me for some time I gave in, and accepted their invitation to dinner for the day after next.
Instead of stopping two days I stopped four. I was much pleased with the husband's mother, who was advanced in years but extremely intelligent. She had evidently made a point of forgetting everything unpleasant in the past history of her son's wife.
Madame Blasin told me in private that she was perfectly happy, and I had every reason to believe that she was speaking the truth. She had made a rule to be most precise in fulfilling her wifely duties, and rarely went out unless accompanied by her husband or her mother-in-law.
I spent these four days in the enjoyment of pure and innocent friendship without there being the slightest desire on either side to renew our guilty pleasures.
On the third day after I had dined with her and her husband, she told me, while we were alone for a moment, that if I wanted fifty louis she knew where to get them for me. I told her to keep them for another time, if I was so happy as to see her again, and so unhappy as to be in want.
I left Montpellier feeling certain that my visit had increased the esteem in which her husband and her mother-in-law held her, and I congratulated myself on my ability to be happy without committing any sins.
The day after I had bade them farewell, I slept at Nimes, where I spent three days in the company of a naturalist: M. de Seguier, the friend of the Marquis Maffei of Verona. In his cabinet of natural history I saw and admired the immensity and infinity of the Creator's handiwork.
Nimes is a town well worthy of the stranger's observation; it provides food for the mind, and the fair sex, which is really fair there, should give the heart the food it likes best.