I was almost ten years old when Mme du Troussel1 made me the target of a jest which I never forgot.
“My dear friend,” she said one day, “will you be my lover?”
She might as well have spoken Greek. But since my mother told me that being her lover meant being devoted to her, and that there was no way to refuse such a proposal from a beautiful lady, I answered:
“Very well,” she replied, “but, if you become my lover, your life must answer for your fidelity.”
This sounded quite serious, and although she declared that this would be reciprocal, although this word of fidelity was not very clear in my mind—though it did feel like a forbidden fruit—, I did not care much for that pact. Despite everyone telling me that it would be a long time before I had any merit in remaining blameless, I did not want to gamble my head on something that sounded all the more tempting as it looked important to defend it. It took many explanations and the promise of candies, a beautiful Turkish dress and most of all a large sabre to defeat me. I soon received all of these presents, and it was with my Oriental garb, my yellow slippers, the sabre at my side and a pearled turban on my head that I knelt to pledge the oath that was demanded of me. This jesting was amusing for some time; but as you can imagine, it was worn out long before my dress, which did not last for very long.
1At the court of Frederick the Great, her beauty, her spirit and her grace had earned her a brilliant reputation. The daughter of General Schwerin, she had first married a Protestant canon from Brandenburg, Herr von Kleist, and after divorcing him, she was shining under the nicknames of “the beautiful Schwerin” or “the beautiful von Kleist”, when an artillery colonel of French origins, M. du Troussel, fell for her and married her. [Details about the end of this second marriage are found under “Ghost Stories”]. (Ed.)