Rosalie — Toulon — Nice — I Arrive at Genoa — M. Grimaldi — Veronique and Her Sister
I noticed that the four principal boxes on both sides of the proscenium were adorned with pretty women, but not a single gentleman. In the interval between the first and second acts I saw gentlemen of all classes paying their devoirs to these ladies. Suddenly I heard a Knight of Malta say to a girl, who was the sole occupant of a box next to me,
“I will breakfast with you to-morrow.”
This was enough for me. I looked at her more closely and finding her to be a dainty morsel I said, as soon as the knight had gone,-
“Will you give me my supper?”
“With pleasure; but I have been taken in so often that I shan’t expect you without an earnest.”
“How can I give you an earnest? I don’t understand.”
“You must be a new-comer here.”
She laughed, called the knight, and said —
“Be pleased to explain to this gentleman, who has just asked me for supper, the meaning of the word ‘earnest.’”
The good-natured knight explained, with a smile, that the lady, fearing lest my memory should prove defective, wanted me to pay for my supper in advance. I thanked him, and asked her if a louis would be enough; and on her replying in the affirmative, I gave her the Louis and asked for her address. The knight told me politely that he would take me there himself after the theatre, adding —
“She’s the wantonest wench in all Marseilles.”
He then asked me if I knew the town, and when I told him that I had only come that day he said he was glad to be the first to make my acquaintance. We went to the middle of, the amphitheatre and he pointed out a score of girls to right and left, all of them ready to treat the first comer to supper. They are all on the free list, and the manager finds they serve his ends as respectable women will not sit in their boxes, and they draw people to the theatre. I noticed five or six of a better type than the one I had engaged, but I resolved to stick to her for the evening, and to make the acquaintance of the others another time.
“Is your favourite amongst them?” I said to the knight.
“No, I keep a ballet-girl, and I will introduce you to her, as I am glad to say that I am free from all jealousy.”
When the play came to an end he took me to my nymph’s lodging, and we parted with the understanding that we were to see more of one another.
I found the lady in undress — a circumstance which went against her, for what I saw did not please me. She gave me a capital supper, and enlivened me by some witty and wanton sallies which made me regard her in a more favourable light. When we had supper she got into bed, and asked me to follow her example; but I told her that I never slept out. She then offered me the English article which brings peace to the soul, but I did not accept the one she offered as I thought it looked of a common make.
“I have finer ones, but they are three francs each, and the maker only sells them by the dozen,” she said. “I will take a dozen if they are really good,” I replied.
She rang the bell, and a young, charming, and modest-looking girl came in. I was struck with her.
“You have got a nice maid,” I remarked, when the girl had gone for the protective sheaths.
“She is only fifteen,” she said, “and won’t do anything, as she is new to it.”
“Will you allow me to see for myself?”
“You may ask her if you like, but I don’t think she will consent.”
The girl came back with the packet, and putting myself in a proper position I told her to try one on. She proceeded to do so with a sulky air and with a kind of repugnance which made me feel interested in her. Number one would not go on, so she had to try on a second, and the result was that I besprinkled her plentifully. The mistress laughed, but she was indignant, threw the whole packet in my face, and ran away in a rage. I wanted nothing more after this, so I put the packet in my pocket, gave the woman two Louis, and left the room. The girl I had treated so cavalierly came to light me downstairs, and thinking I owed her an apology I gave her a Louis and begged her pardon. The poor girl was astonished, kissed my hand, and begged me to say nothing to her mistress.
“I will not, my dear, but tell me truly whether you are still a ‘virgo intacta’.”
“Wonderful! but tell me why you wouldn’t let me see for myself?”
“Because it revolted me.”
“Nevertheless you will have to do so, for otherwise, in spite of your prettiness, people will not know what to make of you. Would you like to let me try?”
“Yes, but not in this horrible house.”
“Go to my mother’s to-morrow, I will be there. Your guide knows where she lives.”
When I got outside, I asked the man if he knew her. He replied in the affirmative, and said he believed her to be an honest girl.
“You will take me to-morrow to see her mother,” I said.
Next morning he took me to the end of the town, to a poor house, where I found a poor woman and poor children living on the ground floor, and eating hard black bread.
“What do you want?” said she.
“Is you daughter here?”
“No, and what if she were? I am not her bawd.”
“No, of course not, my good woman.”
Just then the girl came in, and the enraged mother flung an old pot which came handy, at her head. Luckily it missed, but she would not have escaped her mother’s talons if I had not flung myself between them. However, the old woman set up a dismal shriek, the children imitated her, and the poor girl began to cry. This hubbub made my man come in.
“You hussy!” screamed the mother, “you are bringing disgrace on me; get out of my house. You are no longer my daughter!”
I was in a difficult position. The man begged her not to make such a noise, as it would draw all the neighbours about the house; but the enraged woman answered only by abuse. I drew six francs from my pocket and gave them to her, but she flung them in my face. At last I went out with the daughter, whose hair she attempted to pull out by the roots, which project was defeated by the aid of my man. As soon as we got outside, the mob which the uproar had attracted hooted me and followed me, and no doubt I should have been torn to pieces if I had not escaped into a church, which I left by another door a quarter of an hour later. My fright saved me, for I knew the ferocity of the Provencals, and I took care not to reply a word to the storm of abuse which poured on me. I believe that I was never in greater danger than on that day.
Before I got back to my inn I was rejoined by the servant and the girl.
“How could you lead me into such a dangerous position?” said I. “You must have known your mother was savage.”
“I hoped she would behave respectfully to you.”
“Be calm; don’t weep any more. Tell me how I can serve you.”
“Rather than return to that horrible house I was in yesterday I would throw myself into the sea.”
“Do you know of any respectable house where I can keep her?” said I to the man.
He told me he did know a respectable individual who let furnished apartments.
“Take me to it, then.”
The man was of an advanced age, and he had rooms to let on all the floors.
“I only want a little nook,” said the girl; and the old man took us to the highest story, and opened the door of a garret, saying,-
“This closet is six francs a month, a month’s rent to be paid in advance, and I may tell you that my door is always shut at ten o’clock, and that nobody can come and pass the night with you.”
The room held a bed with coarse sheets, two chairs, a little table, and a chest of drawers.
“How much will you board this young woman for?” said I.
He asked twenty sous, and two sous for the maid who would bring her meals and do her room.
“That will do,” said the girl, and she paid the month’s rent and the day’s board. I left her telling her I would come back again.
As I went down the stairs I asked the old man to shew me a room for myself. He skewed me a very nice one at a Louis a month, and I paid in advance. He then gave me a latch-key, that I might go and come when I liked.
“If you wish to board here,” said he, “I think I could give satisfaction.”
Having done this good work, I had my dinner by myself, and then went to a coffee-house where I found the amiable Knight of Malta who was playing. He left the game as soon as he saw me, put the fistfull of gold he had won into his pocket, accosted me with the politeness natural to a Frenchman, and asked me how I had liked the lady who had given me my supper. I told him what had happened, at which he laughed, and asked me to come and see his ballet-girl. We found her under the hairdresser’s hands, and she received me with the playful familiarity with which one greets an old acquaintance. I did not think much of her, but I pretended to be immensely struck, with the idea of pleasing the good-natured knight.
When the hairdresser left her, it was time for her to get ready for the theatre, and she dressed herself, without caring who was present. The knight helped her to change her chemise, which she allowed him to do as a matter of course, though indeed she begged me to excuse her.
As I owed her a compliment, I could think of nothing better than to tell her that though she had not offended me she had made me feel very uncomfortable.
“I don’t believe you,” said she.
“It’s true all the same.”
She came up to me to verify the fact, and finding I had deceived her, she said half crossly,
“You are a bad fellow.”
The women of Marseilles are undoubtedly the most profligate in France. They not only pride themselves on never refusing, but also on being the first to propose. This girl skewed me a repeater, for which she had got up a lottery at twelve francs a ticket. She had ten tickets left; I took them all, and so delighted was she to touch my five Louis that she came and kissed me, and told the knight that her unfaithfulness to him rested only with me.
“I am charmed to hear it,” said the Maltese. He asked me to sup with her, and I accepted the invitation, but the sole pleasure I had was looking at the knight at work. He was far inferior to Dolci!
I wished them good night, and went to the house where I had placed the poor girl. The maid skewed me to my room, and I asked her if I might go to the garret. She took the light, I followed her up, and Rosalie, as the poor girl was named, heard my voice and opened the door. I told the maid to wait for me in my room, and I went in and sat down on the bed.
“Are you contented, dear?” I said.
“I am quite happy.”
“Then I hope you will be kind, and find room for me in your bed.”
“You may come if you like, but I must tell you that you will not find me a maid, as I have had one lover.”
“You told me a lie, then?”
“Forgive me, I could not guess you would be my lover.”
“I forgive you willingly; all the more so as I am no great stickler for maidenheads.”
She was as gentle as a lamb, and allowed me to gaze on all those charms of which my hands and my lips disputed the possession; and the notion that I was master of all these treasures put fire in all my veins, but her submissive air distressed me.
“How is it you do not partake my desires?” said I.
“I dare not, lest you take me for a pretender.”
Artifice or studied coquetry might have prompted such an answer, but the real timidity and the frankness with which these words were uttered could not have been assumed. Impatient to gain possession of her I took off my clothes, and on getting into bed to her I was astonished to find her a maid.
“Why did you tell me you had a lover?” said I. “I never heard of a girl telling a lie of that sort before.”
“All the same I did not tell a lie, but I am very glad that I seem as if I had done so.”
“Tell me all about it.”
“Certainly I will, for I want to win your confidence. This is the story:
“Two years ago my mother, though she was hot-tempered, still loved me. I was a needle-woman, and earned from twenty to thirty sous a day. Whatever I earned I gave my mother. I had never had a lover, never thought of such a thing, and when my goodness was praised I felt inclined to laugh. I had been brought up from a child never to look at young men when I met them in the street, and never to reply to them when they addressed any impudence to me.
“Two months ago a fine enough looking young man, a native of Genoa, and a merchant in a small way, came to my mother to get her to wash some very fine cotton stockings which the sea-water had stained. When he saw me he was very complimentary, but in an honest way. I liked him, and, no doubt seeing it, he came and came again every evening. My mother was always present at our interviews, and he looked at me and talked to me, but did not so much as ask to kiss my hand. My mother was very pleased to notice that the young man liked me, and often scolded me because I was not polite enough to him. In time he had to go to Genoa in a small ship which belonged to him, and which was laden with goods. He assured us that he would return again the next spring and declare his intentions. He said he hoped he should find me as good as ever, and still without any lover. This was enough; my mother looked upon him as my betrothed, and let us talk together at the door till midnight. When he went I would shut the door and lie down beside my mother, who was always asleep.
“Four or five days before his departure, he took my arm and got me to go with him to a place about fifty paces from the house to drink a glass of Muscat at a Greek’s, who kept his tavern open all night. We were only away for half an hour, and then it was that he first kissed me. When I got home I found my mother awake, and told her all; it seemed so harmless to me.
“Next day, excited by the recollection of what had happened the night before, I went with him again, and love began to gain ground. We indulged in caresses which were no longer innocent, as we well knew. However, we forgave each other, as we had abstained from the chief liberty.
“The day after, my lover — as he had to journey in the night — took leave of my mother, and as soon as she was in bed I was not longer in granting what I desired as much as he. We went to the Greek’s, ate and drank, and our heated senses gained love’s cause; we forgot our duty, and fancied our misdemeanour a triumph.
“Afterwards we fell asleep, and when we awoke we saw our fault in the clear, cold light of day. We parted sorrowful rather than rejoicing, and the reception my mother gave me was like that you witnessed this morning. I assured her that marriage would take away the shame of my sin, and with this she took up a stick and would have done for me, if I had not taken to my heels, more from instinct than from any idea of what I was doing.
“Once in the street I knew not where to turn, and taking refuge in a church I stayed there like one in a dream till noon. Think of my position. I was hungry, I had no refuge, nothing but the clothes I wore, nothing that would get me a morsel of bread. A woman accosted me in the street. I knew her and I also knew that she kept a servants’ agency. I asked her forthwith if she could get me a place.
“‘I had enquiries about a maid this morning,’ said she, ‘but it is for a gay woman, and you are pretty. You would have a good deal of difficulty in remaining virtuous.’
“‘I can keep off the infection,’ I answered, ‘and in the position I am in I cannot pick and choose.’
“She thereupon took me to the lady, who was delighted to see me, and still more delighted when I told her that I had never had anything to do with a man. I have repented of this lie bitterly enough, for in the week I spent at that profligate woman’s house I have had to endure the most humiliating insults that an honest girl ever suffered. No sooner did the men who came to the house hear that I was a maid than they longed to slake their brutal lust upon me, offering me gold if I would submit to their caresses. I refused and was reviled, but that was not all. Five or six times every day I was obliged to remain a witness of the disgusting scenes enacted between my mistress and her customers, who, when I was compelled to light them about the house at night, overwhelmed me with insults, because I would not do them a disgusting service for a twelve-sous piece. I could not bear this sort of life much longer, and I was thinking of drowning myself. When you came you treated me so ignominiously that my resolve to die was strengthened, but you were so kind and polite as you went away that I fell in love with you directly, thinking that Providence must have sent you to snatch me away from the abyss. I thought your fine presence might calm my mother and persuade her to take me back till my lover came to marry me. I was undeceived, and I saw that she took me for a prostitute. Now, if you like, I am altogether yours, and I renounce my lover of whom I am no longer worthy. Take me as your maid, I will love you and you only; I will submit myself to you and do whatever you bid me.”
Whether it were weakness or virtue on my part, this tale of woe and a mother’s too great severity drew tears from my eyes, and when she saw my emotion she wept profusely, for her heart was in need of some relief.
“I think, my poor Rosalie, you have only one chemise.”
“Alas! that is all.”
Comfort yourself, my dear; all your wants shall be supplied tomorrow, and in the evening you shall sup with me in my room on the second floor. I will take care of you.”
“You pity me, then?”
“I fancy there is more love than pity in it.”
“Would to God it were so!”
This “would to God,” which came from the very depths of her soul, sent me away in a merry mood. The servant who had been waiting for me for two hours, and was looking rather glum, relaxed when she saw the colour of a crown which I gave her by way of atonement.
“Tell your master,” said I, “that Rosalie will sup with me to- morrow; let us have a fasting dinner, but let it be a good one.”
I returned to my inn quite in love with Rosalie, and I congratulated myself on having at last heard a true tale from a pretty mouth. She appeared to me so well disposed that her small failing seemed to make her shine the more. I resolved never to abandon her, and I did so in all sincerity; was I not in love?
After I had had my chocolate next morning I went out with a guide to the shops, where I got the necessary articles, paying a good but not an excessive price. Rosalie was only fifteen, but with her figure, her well-formed breasts, and her rounded arms, she would have been taken for twenty. Her shape was so imprinted on my brain that everything I got for her fitted as if she had been measured for it. This shopping took up all the morning, and in the afternoon the man took her a small trunk containing two dresses, chemises, petticoats, handkerchiefs, stockings, gloves, caps, a pair of slippers, a fan, a work-bag, and a mantle. I was pleased at giving her such a delightful surprise, and I longed for suppertime that I might enjoy the sight of her pleasure.
The Knight of Malta came to dine with me without ceremony, and I was charmed to see him. After we had dined he persuaded me to go to the theatre, as in consequence of the suspense of the subscription arrangements the boxes would be filled with all the quality in Marseilles.
“There will be no loose women in the amphitheatre,” said he, “as everybody has to pay.”
That decided me and I went. He presented me to a lady with an excellent connection, who asked me to come and see her. I excused myself on the plea that I was leaving so shortly. Nevertheless she was very useful to me on my second visit to Marseilles. Her name was Madame Audibert.
I did not wait for the play to end, but went where love called me. I had a delightful surprise when I saw Rosalie; I should not have known her. But I cannot resist the pleasure of recalling her picture as she stood before me then, despite the years that have rolled by since that happy moment.
Rosalie was an enticing-looking brunette, above the middle height. Her face was a perfect oval, and exquisitely proportioned. Two fine black eyes shed a soft and ravishing light around. Her eyebrows were arched, and she had a wealth of hair, black and shining as ebony; her skin was while and lightly tinged with colour. On her chin was a dimple, and her slightest smile summoned into being two other dimples, one on each cheek. Her mouth was small, disclosing two rows of fairest orient pearls, and from her red lips flowed forth an indefinable sweetness. The lower lip projected ever so lightly, and seemed designed to hold a kiss. I have spoken of her arms, her breast, and her figure, which left nothing to be desired, but I must add to this catalogue of her charms, that her hand was exquisitely shaped, and that her foot was the smallest I have ever seen. As to her other beauties, I will content myself with saying that they were in harmony with those I have described.
To see her at her best, one had to see her smiling; and hitherto she had been sad or vexed — states of mind which detract from a woman’s appearance. But now sadness was gone, and gratitude and pleasure had taken its place. I examined her closely, and felt proud, as I saw what a transformation I had effected; but I concealed my surprise, lest she should think I had formed an unfavourable impression of her. I proceeded, therefore, to tell her that I should expose myself to ridicule if I attempted to keep a beauty like herself for a servant.
“You shall be my mistress,” I said, “and my servants shall respect you as if you were my wife.”
At this Rosalie, as if I had given her another being, began to try and express her gratitude for what I had done. Her words, which passion made confused, increased my joy; here was no art nor deceit, but simple nature.
There was no mirror in her garret, so she had dressed by her sense of touch, and I could see that she was afraid to stand up and look at herself in the mirror in my room. I knew the weak spot in all women’s hearts (which men are very wrong in considering as matter for reproach), and I encouraged her to admire herself, whereupon she could not restrain a smile of satisfaction.
“I think I must be in disguise,” said she, “for I have never seen myself so decked out before.”
She praised the tasteful simplicity of the dress I had chosen, but was vexed at the thought that her mother would still be displeased.
“Think no more of your mother, dearest one. You look like a lady of quality, and I shall be quite proud when the people at Genoa ask me if you are my daughter.”
“Yes, at Genoa. Why do you blush?”
“From surprise; perhaps I may see there one whom I have not yet forgotten.”
“Would you like to stay here better?”
“No, no! Love me and be sure that I love you and for your own sake, not from any thought of my own interests.”
“You are moved, my angel; let me wipe away your tears with kisses.”
She fell into my arms, and she relieved the various feelings of which her heart was full by weeping for some time. I did not try to console her, for she had not grief; she wept as tender souls, and women, more especially, often will. We had a delicious supper to which I did honour for two, for she ate nothing. I asked her if she was so unfortunate as not to care for good food.
“I have as good an appetite as anyone,” she replied, “and an excellent digestion. You shall see for yourself when I grow more accustomed to my sudden happiness.”
“At least you can drink; this wine is admirable. If you prefer Greek muscat I will send for some. It will remind you of your lover.”
“If you love me at all, I beg you will spare me that mortification.”
“You shall have no more mortification from me, I promise you. It was only a joke, and I beg your pardon for it.”
“As I look upon you I feel in despair at not having known you first.”
“That feeling of yours, which wells forth from the depths of your open soul, is grand. You are beautiful and good, for you only yielded to the voice of love with the prospect of becoming his wife; and when I think what you are to me I am in despair at not being sure you love me. An evil genius whispers in my ear that you only bear with me because I had the happiness of helping you.”
“Indeed, that is an evil genius. To be sure, if I had met you in the street I should not have fallen head over ears in love with you, like a wanton, but you would certainly have pleased me. I am sure I love you, and not for what you have done for me; for if I were rich and you were poor, I would do anything in the world for you. But I don’t want it to be like that, for I had rather be your debtor than for you to be mine. These are my real feelings, and you can guess the rest.”
We were still talking on the same subject when midnight struck, and my old landlord came and asked me if I were pleased.
“I must thank you,” I replied, “I am delighted. Who cooked this delicious supper?”
“She understands her craft; tell her I thought it excellent.”
“Yes, sir, but it is dear.”
“Not too dear for me. You shall be pleased with me as I with you, and take care to have as good a supper to-morrow evening, as I hope the lady will be well enough to do justice to the products of your daughter’s culinary skill.”
“Bed is a capital place to get an appetite. Ah! it is sixty years since I have had anything to do with that sort of thing. What are you laughing at, mademoiselle?”
“At the delight with which you must recollect it.”
“You are right, it is a pleasant recollection; and thus I am always ready to forgive young folks the peccadilloes that love makes them commit.”
“You are a wise old man,” said I, “everyone should sympathise with the tenderest of all our mortal follies.”
“If the old man is wise,” said Rosalie, when he had left the room, “my mother must be very foolish.”
“Would you like me to take you to the play to-morrow?”
“Pray do not. I will come if you like, but it will vex me very much. I don’t want to walk out with you or to go to the theatre with you here. Good heavens! What would people say. No, neither at Marseilles; but elsewhere, anything you please and with all my heart.”
“Very good, my dear, just as you please. But look at your room; no more garret for you; and in three days we will start.”
“Yes; tell me to-morrow what you require for the journey, for I don’t want you to lack for anything, and if you leave it all to me I might forget something which would vex me.”
“Well, I should like another cloak, a cloak with a lining, some boots, a night-cap, and a prayer-book.”
“You know how to read, do you?”
“Certainly; and I can write fairly well.”
“I am glad to hear it. Your asking me so freely for what you want is a true proof of your love; where confidence dwells not there is no love. I will not forget anything, but your feet are so small that I should advise you to get your boots yourself.”
Our talk was so pleasant, and I experienced such delight in studying her disposition, that we did not go to bed till five o’clock. In the arms of love and sleep we spent seven delicious hours, and when we rose at noon we were fast lovers. She called me thou, talked of love and not of gratitude, and, grown more familiar with her new estate, laughed at her troubles. She kissed me at every opportunity, called me her darling boy, her joy, and as the present moment is the only real thing in this life, I enjoyed her love, I was pleased with her caresses, and put away all ideas of the dreadful future, which has only one certainty — death, ‘ultima linea rerum’.
The second night was far sweeter than the first; she had made a good supper, and drunk well, though moderately; thus she was disposed to refine on her pleasure, and to deliver herself with greater ardour to all the voluptuous enjoyments which love inspires.
I gave her a pretty watch and a gold shuttle for her to amuse herself with.
“I wanted it,” said she, “but I should never have dared to ask for it.”
I told her that this fear of my displeasure made me doubt once more whether she really loved me. She threw herself into my arms, and promised that henceforth she would shew me the utmost confidence.
I was pleased to educate this young girl, and I felt that when her mind had been developed she would be perfect.
On the fourth day I warned her to hold herself in readiness to start at a moment’s notice. I had said nothing about my plans to Costa or Le Duc, but Rosalie knew that I had two servants, and I told her that I should often make them talk on the journey for the sake of the laughter their folly would afford me.
“You, my dear,” I had said to her, “must be very reserved with them, and not allow them to take the slightest liberty. Give them your orders as a mistress, but without pride, and you will be obeyed and respected. If they forget themselves in the slightest particular, tell me at once.”
I started from the hotel of the “Treize Cantons” with four post- horses, Le Duc and Costa sitting on the coachman’s seat. The guide, whom I had paid well for his services, took us to Rosalie’s door. I got out of the carriage, and after thanking the kindly old landlord, who was sorry to lose so good a boarder, I made her get in, sat down beside her, and ordered the postillions to go to Toulon, as I wished to see that fine port before returning to Italy. We got to Toulon at five o’clock.
My Rosalie behaved herself at supper like the mistress of a house accustomed to the best society. I noticed that Le Duc as head man made Costa wait upon her, but I got over him by telling my sweetheart that he would have the honour of doing her hair, as he could do it as well as the best barber in Paris. He swallowed the golden pill, and gave in with a good grace, and said, with a profound bow, that he hoped to give madam satisfaction.
We went out next morning to see the port, and were shewn over the place by the commandant, whose acquaintance we made by a lucky chance. He offered his arm to Rosalie, and treated her with the consideration she deserved for her appearance and the good sense of her questions. The commandant accepted my invitation to dinner, at which Rosalie spoke to the point though not to excess, and received the polite compliments of our worthy guest with much grace. In the afternoon he took us over the arsenal, and after having him to dinner could not refuse his invitation to supper. There was no difficulty about Rosalie; the commandant introduced her immediately to his wife, his daughter, and his son. I was delighted to see that her manner with ladies even surpassed her manner with gentlemen. She was one of Nature’s own ladies. The commandant’s wife and daughter caressed her again and again, and she received their attentions with that modest sensibility which is the seal of a good education.
They asked me to dinner the next day, but I was satisfied with what I had seen, so I took leave, intending to start on the morrow.
When we got back to the inn I told her how pleased I was with her, and she threw her arms round my neck for joy.
“I am always afraid,” said she, “of being asked who I am.”
“You needn’t be afraid, dearest; in France no gentleman or lady would think of asking such a question.”
“But if they did, what ought I to do?”
“You should make use of an evasion.”
“What’s an evasion?”
“A way of escaping from a difficulty without satisfying impertinent curiosity.”
“Give me an example.”
“Well, if such a question were asked you, you might say, ‘You had better ask this gentleman.’”
“I see, the question is avoided; but is not that impolite?”
“Yes; but not so impolite as to ask an embarrassing question.”
“And what would you say if the question was passed on to you?”
“Well, my answer would vary in a ratio with the respect in which I held the questioner. I would not tell the truth, but I should say something. And I am glad to see you attentive to my lessons. Always ask questions, and you will always find me ready to answer, for I want to teach you. And now let us to bed; we have to start for Antibes at an early hour, and love will reward you for the pleasure you have given me to-day.”
At Antibes I hired a felucca to take me to Genoa, and as I intended to return by the same route I had my carriage warehoused for a small monthly payment. We started early with a good wind, but the sea becoming rough, and Rosalie being mortally afraid, I had the felucca rowed into Villafranca, where I engaged a carriage to take me to Nice. The weather kept us back for three days, and I felt obliged to call on the commandant, an old officer named Peterson.
He gave me an excellent reception, and after the usual compliments had passed, said —
“Do you know a Russian who calls himself Charles Ivanoff?”
“I saw him once at Grenoble.”
“It is said that he has escaped from Siberia, and that he is the younger son of the Duke of Courland.”
“So I have heard, but I know no proof of his claim to the title.”
“He is at Genoa, where it is said a banker is to give him twenty thousand crowns. In spite of that, no one would give him a sou here, so I sent him to Genoa at my own expense, to rid the place of him.”
I felt very glad that the Russian had gone away before my arrival. An officer named Ramini, who was staying at the same inn as myself, asked if I would mind taking charge of a packet which M. de St. Pierre, the Spanish consul, had to send to the Marquis Grimaldi, at Genoa. It was the nobleman I had just seen at Avignon, and I was pleased to execute the commission. The same officer asked me whether I had ever seen a certain Madame Stuard.
“She came here a fortnight ago with a man who calls himself her husband. The poor devils hadn’t a penny, and she, a great beauty, enchanted everybody, but would give no one a smile or a word.”
“I have both seen and know her,” I answered. “I furnished her with the means to come here. How could she leave Nice without any money?”
“That’s just what no one can understand. She went off in a carriage, and the landlord’s bill was paid. I was interested in the woman. The Marquis Grimaldi told me that she had refused a hundred louis he offered her, and that a Venetian of his acquaintance had fared just as badly. Perhaps that is you?”
“It is, and I gave her some money despite my treatment.”
M. Peterson came to see me, and was enchanted with Rosalie’s amiable manner. This was another conquest for her, and I duly complimented her upon it.
Nice is a terribly dull place, and strangers are tormented by the midges, who prefer them to the inhabitants. However, I amused myself at a small bank at faro, which was held at a coffee-house, and at which Rosalie, whose play I directed, won a score of Piedmontese pistoles. She put her little earnings into a purse, and told me she liked to have some money of her own. I scolded her for not having told me so before, and reminded her of her promise.
“I don’t really want it,” said she, “it’s only my thoughtlessness.”
We soon made up our little quarrel.
In such ways did I make this girl my own, in the hope that for the remnant of my days she would be mine, and so I should not be forced to fly from one lady to another. But inexorable fate ordained it otherwise.
The weather grew fine again, and we got on board once more, and the next day arrived at Genoa, which I had never seen before. I put up at “St. Martin’s Inn,” and for decency’s sake took two rooms, but they were adjoining one another. The following day I sent the packet to M. Grimaldi, and a little later I left my card at his palace.
My guide took me to a linen-draper’s, and I bought some stuff for Rosalie, who was in want of linen. She was very pleased with it.
We were still at table when the Marquis Grimaldi was announced; he kissed me and thanked me for bringing the parcel. His next remark referred to Madame Stuard. I told him what had happened, and he laughed, saying that he was not quite sure what he would have done under the circumstances.
I saw him looking at Rosalie attentively, and I told him she was as good as she was beautiful.
“I want to find her a maid,” I said, “a good seamstress, who could go out with her, and above all who could talk Italian to her, for I want her to learn the language that I may take her into society at Florence, Rome and Naples.”
“Don’t deprive Genoa of the pleasure of entertaining her,” said the marquis. “I will introduce her under whatever name she pleases, and in my own house to begin with.”
“She has good reasons for preserving her incognito here.”
“Ah, I see! — Do you think of staying here long?”
“A month, or thereabouts, and our pleasures will be limited to seeing the town and its surroundings and going to the theatre. We shall also enjoy the pleasures of the table. I hope to eat champignons every day, they are better here than anywhere else”
“An excellent plan. I couldn’t suggest a better. I am going to see what I can do in the way of getting you a maid, mademoiselle.”
“You sir? How can I deserve such great kindness?”
“My interest in you is the greater, as I think you come from Marseilles.”
Rosalie blushed. She was not aware that she lisped, and that this betrayed her. I extricated her from her confusion by telling the marquis his conjecture was well founded.
I asked him how I could get the Journal de Savans, the Mercure de France, and other papers of the same description. He promised to send me a man who would get me all that kind of thing. He added that if I would allow him to send me some of his excellent chocolate he would come and breakfast with us. I said that both gift and guest were vastly agreeable to me.
As soon as he had gone Rosalie asked me to take her to a milliner’s.
“I want ribbons and other little things,” said she, “but I should like to bargain for them and pay for them out of my own money, without your having anything to do with it.”
“Do whatever you like, my dear, and afterwards we will go to the play.”
The milliner to whom we went proved to be a Frenchwoman. It was a charming sight to see Rosalie shopping. She put on an important air, seemed to know all about it, ordered bonnets in the latest fashion, bargained, and contrived to spend five or six louis with great grandeur. As we left the shop I told her that I had been taken for her footman, and I meant to be revenged. So saying, I made her come into a jeweller’s, where I bought her a necklace, ear-rings, and brooches in imitation diamonds, and without letting her say a word I paid the price and left the shop.
“You have bought me some beautiful things,” said she, “but you are too lavish with your money; if you had bargained you might have saved four louis at least.”
“Very likely, dearest, but I never was any hand at a bargain.”
I took her to the play, but as she did not understand the language she got dreadfully tired, and asked me to take her home at the end of the first act, which I did very willingly. When we got in I found a box waiting for me from M. Grimaldi. It proved to contain twenty-four pounds of chocolate. Costa, who had boasted of his skill in making chocolate in the Spanish fashion, received orders to make us three cups in the morning.
At nine o’clock the marquis arrived with a tradesman, who sold me some beautiful oriental materials. I gave them to Rosalie to make two ‘mezzaro’ for herself. The ‘mezzaro’ is a kind of hooded cloak worn by the Genoese women, as the ‘cendal’ is worn at Venice, and the ‘mantilla’ at Madrid.
I thanked M. Grimaldi for the chocolate, which was excellent; Costa was quite proud of the praise the marquis gave him. Le Duc came in to announce a woman, whose name I did not know.
“It’s the mother of the maid I have engaged,” said M. Grimaldi.
She came in, and I saw before me a well-dressed woman, followed by a girl from twenty to twenty-four years old, who pleased me at the first glance. The mother thanked the marquis, and presented her daughter to Rosalie, enumerating her good qualities, and telling her that she would serve her well, and walk with her when she wished to go out.
“My daughter,” she added, “speaks French, and you will find her a good, faithful, and obliging girl.”
She ended by saying that her daughter had been in service lately with a lady, and that she would be obliged if she could have her meals by herself.
The girl was named Veronique. Rosalie told her that she was a good girl, and that the only way to be respected was to be respectable. Veronique kissed her hand, the mother went away, and Rosalie took the girl into her room to begin her work.
I did not forget to thank the marquis, for he had evidently chosen a maid more with a view to my likings than to those of my sweetheart. I told him that I should not fail to call on him, and he replied that he would be happy to see me at any hour, and that I should easily find him at his casino at St. Pierre d’Arena, where he often spent the night.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:49