L'Etoile, Actor, at Marseilles, Bordeaux, Bayonne, Montpellier, etc."
I pitied Betty. She saw herself the dupe of a vile actor, and her indignation and shame were great.
"We will read it all to-morrow," said I; "to-day we have something else to do."
The poor girl seemed to breathe again.
We got over our supper hastily, and then Betty begged me to leave her alone for a few moments for her to change her linen and go to bed.
"If you like," said I, "I will have a bed made up for me in the next room."
"No, dear friend, ought I not to love your society? What would have become of me without you?"
I went out for a few minutes, and when I returned and came to her bedside to wish her good night, she gave me such a warm embrace that I knew my hour was come.
Reader, you must take the rest for granted. I was happy, and I had reason to believe that Betty was happy also.
In the morning, we had just fallen asleep, when the vettuyino knocked at the door.
I dressed myself hastily to see him.
"Listen," I said, "it is absolutely necessary for me to recover my pocket-book, and I hope to find it at Acquapendente."
"Very good, sir, very good," said the rogue, a true Italian, "pay me as if I had taken you to Rome, and a sequin a day for the future, and if you like, I will take you to England on those terms."
The vetturino was evidently what is called wide awake. I gave him his money, and we made a new agreement. At seven o'clock we stopped at Montefiascone to write to Sir B---- M---- , she in English, and I in French.
Betty had now an air of satisfaction and assurance which I found charming. She said she was full of hope, and seemed highly amused at the thought of the figure which the actor would cut when he arrived at Rome by himself. She hoped that we should come across the man in charge of her trunk, and that we should have no difficulty in getting it back.
"He might pursue us."
"He dare not do so."
"I expect not, but if he does I will give him a warm welcome. If he does not take himself off I will blow out his brains."
Before I began my letter to Sir B---- M----. Betty again warned me to conceal nothing from him.
"Not even the reward you gave me?"
"Oh, yes! That is a little secret between ourselves."
In less than three hours the letters were composed and written. Betty was satisfied with my letter; and her own, which she translated for my benefit, was a perfect masterpiece of sensibility, which seemed to me certain of success.
I thought of posting from Sienna, to ensure her being in a place of safety before the arrival of her lover.
The only thing that troubled me was the bill of exchange left behind by l'Etoile, for whether it were true or false, I felt bound to deal with it in some way, but I could not see how it was to be done.
We set out again after dinner in spite of the heat, and arrived at Acquapendente in the evening and spent the night in the delights of mutual love.
As I was getting up in the morning I saw a carriage in front of the inn, just starting for Rome. I imagined that amidst the baggage Betty's trunk might be discovered, and I told her to get up, and see if it were there. We went down, and Betty recognized the trunk she had confided to her seducer.
We begged the vetturino to restore it to us, but he was inflexible; and as he was in the right we had to submit. The only thing he could do was to have an embargo laid on the trunk at Rome, the said embargo to last for a month. A notary was called, and our claim properly drawn up. The vetturino, who seemed an honest and intelligent fellow, assured us he had received nothing else belonging to the Comte de l'Etoile, so we were assured that the actor was a mere beggar on the lookout for pickings, and that the rags in the small trunk were all his possessions.
After this business had been dispatched Betty brightened up amazingly.
"Heaven," she exclaimed, "is arranging everything. My mistake will serve as a warning to me for the future, for the lesson has been a severe one, and might have been much worse if I had not had the good fortune of meeting you."
"I congratulate you," I replied, "on having cured yourself so quickly of a passion that had deprived you of your reason."
"Ah! a woman's reason is a fragile thing.