Disgraceful Behaviour of My Brother, the Abbe, I Relieve Him of His Mistress — Departure from Genoa — The Prince of Monaco — My Niece Overcome — Our Arrival at Antibes
On the Tuesday in Holy Week I was just getting up, when Clairmont came to tell me that a priest who would not give his name wanted to speak to me. I went out in my night-cap, and the rascally priest rushed at me and nearly choked me with his embraces. I did not like so much affection, and as I had not recognized him at first on account of the darkness of the room, I took him by the arm and led him to the window. It was my youngest brother, a good-for-nothing fellow, whom I had always disliked. I had not seen him for ten years, but I cared so little about him that I had not even enquired whether he were alive or dead in the correspondence I maintained with M. de Bragadin, Dandolo, and Barbaro.
As soon as his silly embraces were over, I coldly asked him what chance had brought him to Genoa in this disgusting state of dirt, rags, and tatters. He was only twenty-nine, his complexion was fresh and healthy, and he had a splendid head of hair. He was a posthumous son, born like Mahomet, three months after the death of his father.
“The story of my misfortunes would be only too long. Take me into your room, and I will sit down and tell you the whole story.”
“First of all, answer my questions. How long have you been here?”
“Who told you that I was here?”
“Count B— — at Milan.”
“Who told you that the count knew me?”
“I found out by chance. I was at M. de Bragadin’s a month ago, and on his table I saw a letter from the count to you.”
“Did you tell him you were my brother?”
“I had to when he said how much I resembled you.”
“He made a mistake, for you are a blockhead.”
“He did not think so, at all events, for he asked me to dinner.”
“You must have cut a pretty figure, if you were in your present state.”
“He gave me four sequins to come here; otherwise, I should never have been able to do the journey.”
“Then he did a very foolish thing. You’re a mere beggar, then; you take alms. Why did you leave Venice? What do you want with me? I can do nothing for you.”
“Ah! do not make me despair, or I shall kill myself.”
“That’s the very best thing you could do; but you are too great a coward. I ask again why you left Venice, where you could say mass, and preach, and make an honest living, like many priests much better than you?”
“That is the kernel of the whole matter. Let us go in and I will tell you.”
“No; wait for me here. We will go somewhere where you can tell me your story, if I have patience to listen to it. But don’t tell any of my people that you are my brother, for I am ashamed to have such a relation. Come, take me to the place where you are staying.”
“I must tell you that at my inn I am not alone, and I want to have a private interview with you.”
“Who is with you?”
“I will tell you presently, but let us go into a coffeehouse.”
“Are you in company with a band of brigands? What are you sighing at?”
“I must confess it, however painful it may be to my feelings. I am with a woman.”
“A woman! and you a priest!”
“Forgive me. I was blinded by love, and seduced by my senses and her beauty, so I seduced her under a promise to marry her at Geneva. I can never go back to Venice, for I took her away from her father’s house.”
“What could you do at Geneva? They would expel you after you had been there three or four days. Come, we will go to the inn and see the woman you have deceived. I will speak to you afterwards.”
I began to trace my steps in the direction he had pointed out, and he was obliged to follow me. As soon as we got to the inn, he went on in front, and after climbing three flights of stairs I entered a wretched den where I saw a tall young girl, a sweet brunette, who looked proud and not in the least confused. As soon as I made my appearance she said, without any greeting —
“Are you the brother of this liar and monster who has deceived me so abominably?”
“Yes,” said I. “I have the honour.”
“A fine honour, truly. Well, have the kindness to send me back to Venice, for I won’t stop any longer with this rascal whom I listened to like the fool I was, who turned my head with his lying tales. He was going to meet you at Milan, and you were to give us enough money to go to Geneva, and there we were to turn Protestants and get married. He swore you were expecting him at Milan, but you were not there at all, and he contrived to get money in some way or another, and brought me here miserably enough. I thank Heaven he has found you at last, for if he had not I should have started off by myself and begged my way. I have not a single thing left; the wretch sold all I possessed at Bergamo and Verona. I don’t know how I kept my senses through it all. To hear him talk, the world was a paradise outside Venice, but I have found to my cost that there is no place like home. I curse the hour when I first saw the miserable wretch. He’s a beggarly knave; always whining. He wanted to enjoy his rights as my husband when we got to Padua, but I am thankful to say I gave him nothing. Here is the writing he gave me; take it, and do what you like with it. But if you have any heart, send me back to Venice or I will tramp there on foot.”
I had listened to this long tirade without interrupting her. She might have spoken at much greater length, so far as I was concerned; my astonishment took my breath away. Her discourse had all the fire of eloquence, and was heightened by her expressive face and the flaming glances she shot from her eyes.
My brother, sitting down with his head between his hands, and obliged to listen in silence to this long catalogue of well-deserved reproaches, gave something of a comic element to the scene. In spite of that, however, I was much touched by the sad aspects of the girl’s story. I felt at once that I must take charge of her, and put an end to this ill-assorted match. I imagined that I should not have much difficulty in sending her back to Venice, which she might never have quitted if it had not been for her trust in me, founded on the fallacious promises of her seducer.
The true Venetian character of the girl struck me even more than her beauty. Her courage, frank indignation, and the nobility of her aspect made me resolve not to abandon her. I could not doubt that she had told a true tale, as my brother continued to observe a guilty silence.
I watched her silently for some time, and, my mind being made up, said —
“I promise to send you back to Venice with a respectable woman to look after you; but you will be unfortunate if you carry back with you the results of your amours.”
“What results? Did I not tell you that we were going to be married at Geneva?”
“Yes, but in spite of that . . . ”
“I understand you, sir, but I am quite at ease on that point, as I am happy to say that I did not yield to any of the wretch’s desires.”
“Remember,” said the abbe, in a plaintive voice, “the oath you took to be mine for ever. You swore it upon the crucifix.”
So saying he got up and approached her with a supplicating gesture, but as soon as he was within reach she gave him a good hearty box on the ear. I expected to see a fight, in which I should not have interfered, but nothing of the kind. The humble abbe gently turned away to the window, and casting his eyes to heaven began to weep.
“You are too malicious, my dear,” I said; “the poor devil is only unhappy because you have made him in love with you.”
“If he is it’s his own fault, I should never have thought of him but for his coming to me and fooling me, I shall never forgive him till he is out of my sight. That’s not the first blow I have given him; I had to begin at Padua.”
“Yes,” said the abbe, “but you are excommunicated, for I am a priest.”
“It’s little I care for the excommunication of a scoundrel like you, and if you say another word I will give you some more.”
“Calm yourself, my child,” said I; “you have cause to be angry, but you should not beat him. Take up your things and follow me.”
“Where are you going to take her?” said the foolish priest.
“To my own house, and I should advise you to hold your tongue. Here, take these twenty sequins and buy yourself some clean clothes and linen, and give those rags of yours to the beggars. I will come and talk to you to-morrow, and you may thank your stars that you found me here. As for you, mademoiselle, I will have you conducted to my lodging, for Genoa must not see you in my company after arriving here with a priest. We must not have any scandal. I shall place you under the charge of my landlady, but whatever you do don’t tell her this sad story. I will see that you are properly dressed, and that you want for nothing.”
“May Heaven reward you!”
My brother, astonished at the sight of the twenty sequins, let me go away without a word. I had the fair Venetian taken to my lodging in a sedan-chair, and putting her under the charge of my landlady I told the latter to see that she was properly dressed. I wanted to see how she would look in decent clothes, for her present rags and tatters detracted from her appearance. I warned Annette that a girl who had been placed in my care would eat and sleep with her, and then having to entertain a numerous company of guests I proceeded to make my toilette.
Although my niece had no rights over me, I valued her esteem, and thought it best to tell her the whole story lest she should pass an unfavourable judgment on me. She listened attentively and thanked me for my confidence in her, and said she should very much like to see the girl and the abbe too, whom she pitied, though she admitted he was to be blamed for what he had done. I had got her a dress to wear at dinner, which became her exquisitely. I felt only too happy to be able to please her in any way, for her conduct towards myself and the way she treated her ardent lover commanded my admiration. She saw him every day either at my house or at Rosalie’s. The young man had received an excellent education, though he was of the mercantile class, and wrote to her in a business-like manner, that, as they were well suited to each other in every way, there was nothing against his going to Marseilles and obtaining her father’s consent to the match, unless it were a feeling of aversion on her side. He finished by requesting her to give him an answer. She shewed me the letter, and I congratulated her, and advised her to accept, if there was nothing about the young man which displeased her.
“There is nothing of the kind,” she said, “and Rosalie thinks with you.”
“Then tell him by word of mouth that you give your consent, and will expect to see him at Marseilles.”
“Very good; as you think so, I will tell him tomorrow.”
When dinner was over a feeling of curiosity made me go into the room where Annette was dining with the Venetian girl, whose name was Marcoline. I was struck with astonishment on seeing her, for she was completely changed, not so much by the pretty dress she had on as by the contented expression of her face, which made her look quite another person. Good humour had vanquished unbecoming rage, and the gentleness born of happiness made her features breathe forth love. I could scarcely believe that this charming creature before me was the same who had dealt such a vigorous blow to my brother, a priest, and a sacred being in the eyes of the common people. They were eating, and laughing at not being able to understand each other, for Marcoline only spoke Venetian, and Annette Genoese, and the latter dialect does not resemble the former any more than Bohemian resembles Dutch.
I spoke to Marcoline in her native tongue, which was mine too, and she said —
“I seem to have suddenly passed from hell to Paradise.”
“Indeed, you look like an angel.”
“You called me a little devil this morning. But here is a fair angel,” said she, pointing to Annette; “we don’t see such in Venice.”
“She is my treasure.”
Shortly after my niece came in, and seeing me talking and laughing with the two girls began to examine the new-comer. She told me in French that she thought her perfectly beautiful, and repeating her opinion to the girl in Italian gave her a kiss. Marcoline asked her plainly in the Venetian manner who she was.
“I am this gentleman’s niece, and he is taking me back to Marseilles, where my home is.”
“Then you would have been my niece too, if I had married his brother. I wish I had such a pretty niece.”
This pleasant rejoinder was followed by a storm of kisses given and returned with ardour which one might pronounce truly Venetian, if it were not that this would wound the feelings of the almost equally ardent Provencals.
I took my niece for a sail in the bay, and after we had enjoyed one of those delicious evenings which I think can be found nowhere else — sailing on a mirror silvered by the moon, over which float the odours of the jasmine, the orange-blossom, the pomegranates, the aloes, and all the scented flowers which grow along the coasts — we returned to our lodging, and I asked Annette what had become of Marcoline. She told me that she had gone to bed early, and I went gently into her room, with no other intention than to see her asleep. The light of the candle awoke her, and she did not seem at all frightened at seeing me. I sat by the bed, and fell to making love to her, and at last made as if I would kiss her, but she resisted, and we went on talking.
When Annette had put her mistress to bed, she came in and found us together.
“Go to bed, my dear,” said I. “I will come to you directly.”
Proud of being my mistress, she gave me a fiery kiss and went away without a word.
I began to talk about my brother, and passing from him to myself I told her of the interest I felt for her, saying that I would either have her taken to Venice, or bring her with me when I went to France.
“Do you want to marry me?”
“No, I am married already.”
“That’s a lie, I know, but it doesn’t matter. Send me back to Venice, and the sooner the better. I don’t want to be anybody’s concubine.”
“I admire your sentiments, my dear, they do you honour.”
Continuing my praise I became pressing, not using any force, but those gentle caresses which are so much harder for a woman to resist than a violent attack. Marcoline laughed, but seeing that I persisted in spite of her resistance, she suddenly glided out of the bed and took refuge in my niece’s room and locked the door after her. I was not displeased; the thing was done so easily and gracefully. I went to bed with Annette, who lost nothing by the ardour with which Marcoline had inspired me. I told her how she had escaped from my hands, and Annette was loud in her praises.
In the morning I got up early and went into my niece’s room to enjoy the sight of the companion I had involuntarily given her, and the two girls were certainly a very pleasant sight. As soon as my niece saw me, she exclaimed —
“My dear uncle, would you believe it? This sly Venetian has violated me.”
Marcoline understood her, and far from denying the fact proceeded to give my niece fresh marks of her affection, which were well received, and from the movements of the sheets which covered them I could make a pretty good guess as to the nature of their amusement.
“This is a rude shock to the respect which your uncle has had for your prejudices,” said I.
“The sports of two girls cannot tempt a man who has just left the arms of Annette.”
“You are wrong, and perhaps you know it, for I am more than tempted.”
With these words I lifted the sheets of the bed. Marcoline shrieked but did not move, but my niece earnestly begged me to replace the bed-clothes. However, the picture before me was too charming to be concealed.
At this point Annette came in, and in obedience to her mistress replaced the coverlet over the two Bacchantes. I felt angry with Annette, and seizing her threw her on the bed, and then and there gave the two sweethearts such an interesting spectacle that they left their own play to watch us. When I had finished, Annette, who was in high glee; said I was quite right to avenge myself on their prudery. I felt satisfied with what I had done, and went to breakfast. I then dressed, and visited my brother.
“How is Marcoline?” said he, as soon as he saw me.
“Very well, and you needn’t trouble yourself any more about her. She is well lodged, well dressed, and well fed, and sleeps with my niece’s maid.”
“I didn’t know I had a niece.”
“There are many things you don’t know. In three or four days she will return to Venice.”
“I hope, dear brother, that you will ask me to dine with you to-day.”
“Not at all, dear brother. I forbid you to set foot in my house, where your presence would be offensive to Marcoline, whom you must not see any more.”
“Yes, I will; I will return to Venice, if I have to hang for it.”
“What good would that be? She won’t have you.”
“She loves me.”
“She beats you.”
“She beats me because she loves me. She will be as gentle as a lamb when she sees me so well dressed. You do not know how I suffer.”
“I can partly guess, but I do not pity you, for you are an impious and cruel fool. You have broken your vows, and have not hesitated to make a young girl endure misery and degradation to satisfy your caprice. What would you have done, I should like to know, if I had given you the cold shoulder instead of helping you?”
“I should have gone into the street, and begged for my living with her.”
“She would have beaten you, and would probably have appealed to the law to get rid of you.”
“But what will you do for me, if I let her go back to Venice without following her.”
“I will take you to France, and try to get you employed by some bishop.”
“Employed! I was meant by nature to be employed by none but God.”
“You proud fool! Marcoline rightly called you a whiner. Who is your God? How do you serve Him? You are either a hypocrite or an idiot. Do you think that you, a priest, serve God by decoying an innocent girl away from her home? Do you serve Him by profaning the religion you do not even understand? Unhappy fool! do you think that with no talent, no theological learning, and no eloquence, you can be a Protestant minister. Take care never to come to my house, or I will have you expelled from Genoa.”
“Well, well, take me to Paris, and I will see what my brother Francis can do for me; his heart is not so hard as yours.”
“Very good! you shall go to Paris, and we will start from here in three or four days. Eat and drink to your heart’s content, but remain indoors; I will let you know when we are going. I shall have my niece, my secretary, and my valet with me. We shall travel by sea.”
“The sea makes me sick.”
“That will purge away some of your bad humours.”
When I got home I told Marcoline what had passed between us.
“I hate him!” said she; “but I forgive him, since it is through him I know you.”
“And I forgive him, too, because unless it had been for him I should never have seen you. But I love you, and I shall die unless you satisfy my desires.”
“Never; for I know I should be madly in love with you, and then you would leave me, and I should be miserable again.”
“I will never leave you.”
“If you will swear that, take me into France and make me all your own. Here you must continue living with Annette; besides, I have got your niece to make love to.”
The pleasant part of the affair was that my niece was equally taken with her, and had begged me to let her take meals with us and sleep with her. As I had a prospect of being at their lascivious play, I willingly consented, and henceforth she was always present at the table. We enjoyed her company immensely, for she told us side- splitting tales which kept us at table till it was time to go to Rosalie’s, where my niece’s adorer was certain to be awaiting us.
The next day, which was Holy Thursday, Rosalie came with us to see the processions. I had Rosalie and Marcoline with me, one on each arm, veiled in their mezzaros, and my niece was under the charge of her lover. The day after we went to see the procession called at Genoa Caracce, and Marcoline pointed out my brother who kept hovering round us, though he pretended not to see us. He was most carefully dressed, and the stupid fop seemed to think he was sure to find favour in Marcoline’s eyes, and make her regret having despised him; but he was woefully deceived, for Marcoline knew how to manage her mezzaro so well that, though he was both seen and laughed at, the poor devil could not be certain that she had noticed him at all, and in addition the sly girl held me so closely by the arm that he must have concluded we were very intimate.
My niece and Marcoline thought themselves the best friends in the world, and could not bear my telling them that their amorous sports were the only reason for their attachment. They therefore agreed to abandon them as soon as we left Genoa, and promised that I should sleep between them in the felucca, all of us to keep our clothes on. I said I should hold them to their word, and I fixed our departure for Thursday. I ordered the felucca to be in readiness and summoned my brother to go on board.
It was a cruel moment when I left Annette with her mother. She wept so bitterly that all of us had to shed tears. My niece gave her a handsome dress and I thirty sequins, promising to come and see her again on my return from England. Possano was told to go on board with the abbe; I had provisioned the boat for three days. The young merchant promised to be at Marseilles, telling my niece that by the time he came everything would be settled. I was delighted to hear it; it assured me that her father would give her a kind reception. Our friends did not leave us till the moment we went on board.
The felucca was very conveniently arranged, and was propelled by the twelve oarsmen. On the deck there were also twenty-four muskets, so that we should have been able to defend ourselves against a pirate. Clairmont had arranged my carriage and my trunks so cleverly, that by stretching five mattresses over them we had an excellent bed, where we could sleep and undress ourselves in perfect comfort; we had good pillows and plenty of sheets. A long awning covered the deck, and two lanterns were hung up, one at each end. In the evening they were lighted and Clairmont brought in supper. I had warned my brother that at the slightest presumption on his part he should be flung into the sea, so I allowed him and Possano to sup with us.
I sat between my two nymphs and served the company merrily, first my niece, then Marcoline, then my brother, and finally Possano. No water was drunk at table, so we each emptied a bottle of excellent Burgundy, and when we had finished supper the rowers rested on their oars, although the wind was very light. I had the lamps put out and went to bed with my two sweethearts, one on each side of me.
The light of dawn awoke me, and I found my darlings still sleeping in the same position. I could kiss neither of them, since one passed for my niece, and my sense of humanity would not allow me to treat Marcoline as my mistress in the presence of an unfortunate brother who adored her, and had never obtained the least favour from her. He was lying near at hand, overwhelmed with grief and seasickness, and watching and listening with all his might for the amorous encounter he suspected us of engaging in. I did not want to have any unpleasantness, so I contented myself with gazing on them till the two roses awoke and opened their eyes.
When this delicious sight was over, I got up and found that we were only opposite Final, and I proceeded to reprimand the master.
“The wind fell dead at Savona, sir”; and all the seamen chorused his excuse.
“Then you should have rowed instead of idling.”
“We were afraid of waking you. You shall be at Antibes by tomorrow.”
After passing the time by eating a hearty meal, we took a fancy to go on shore at St. Remo. Everybody was delighted. I took my two nymphs on land, and after forbidding any of the others to disembark I conducted the ladies to an inn, where I ordered coffee. A man accosted us, and invited us to come and play biribi at his house.
“I thought the game was forbidden in Genoa,” said I. I felt certain that the players were the rascals whose bank I had broken at Genoa, so I accepted the invitation. My niece had fifty Louis in her purse, and I gave fifteen to Marcoline. We found a large assemblage, room was made for us, and I recognized the knaves of Genoa. As soon as they saw me they turned pale and trembled. I should say that the man with the bag was not the poor devil who had served me so well without wanting to.
“I play harlequin,” said I.
“There isn’t one.”
“What’s the bank?”
“There it is. We play for small stakes here, and those two hundred louis are quite sufficient. You can bet as low as you like, and the highest stake is of a louis.”
“That’s all very well, but my louis is full weight.”
“I think ours are, too.”
“Are you sure?”
“Then I won’t play,” said I, to the keeper of the rooms.
“You are right; bring the scales.”
The banker then said that when play was over he would give four crowns of six livres for every louis that the company had won, and the matter was settled. In a moment the board was covered with stakes.
We each punted a louis at a time, and I and my niece lost twenty Louis, but Marcoline, who had never possessed two sequins in her life before, won two hundred and forty Louis. She played on the figure of an abbe which came out fifth twenty times. She was given a bag full of crown pieces, and we returned to the felucca.
The wind was contrary, and we had to row all night, and in the morning the sea was so rough that we had to put in at Mentone. My two sweethearts were very sick, as also my brother and Possano, but I was perfectly well. I took the two invalids to the inn, and allowed my brother and Possano to land and refresh themselves. The innkeeper told me that the Prince and Princess of Monaco were at Mentone, so I resolved to pay them a visit. It was thirteen years since I had seen the prince at Paris, where I had amused him and his mistress Caroline at supper. It was this prince who had taken me to see the horrible Duchess of Rufec; then he was unmarried, and now I met him again in his principality with his wife, of whom he had already two sons. The princess had been a Duchess de Borgnoli, a great heiress, and a delightful and pretty woman. I had heard all about her, and I was curious to verify the facts for myself.
I called on the prince, was announced, and after a long wait they introduced me to his presence. I gave him his title of highness, which I had never done at Paris, where he was not known under his full style and title. He received me politely, but with that coolness which lets one know that one is not an over-welcome visitor.
“You have put in on account of the bad weather, I suppose?” said he.
“Yes, prince, and if your highness will allow me I will spend the whole day in your delicious villa.” (It is far from being delicious.)
“As you please. The princess as well as myself likes it better than our place at Monaco, so we live here by preference.”
“I should be grateful if your highness would present me to the princess.”
Without mentioning my name he ordered a page in waiting to present me to the princess.
The page opened the door of a handsome room and said, “The Princess,” and left me. She was singing at the piano, but as soon as she saw me she rose and came to meet me. I was obliged to introduce myself, a most unpleasant thing, and no doubt the princess felt the position, for she pretended not to notice it, and addressed me with the utmost kindness and politeness, and in a way that shewed that she was learned in the maxims of good society. I immediately became very much at my ease, and proceeded in a lordly manner to entertain her with pleasant talk, though I said nothing about my two lady friends.
The princess was handsome, clever, and good-natured. Her mother, who knew that a man like the prince would never make her daughter happy, opposed the marriage, but the young marchioness was infatuated, and the mother had to give in when the girl said —
“O Monaco O monaca.” (Either Monaco or a convent.)
We were still occupied in the trifles which keep up an ordinary conversation, when the prince came in running after a waiting-maid, who was making her escape, laughing. The princess pretended not to see him, and went on with what she was saying. The scene displeased me, and I took leave of the princess, who wished me a pleasant journey. I met the prince as I was going out, and he invited me to come and see him whenever I passed that way.
“Certainly,” said I; and made my escape without saying any more.
I went back to the inn and ordered a good dinner for three.
In the principality of Monaco there was a French garrison, which was worth a pension of a hundred thousand francs to the prince — a very welcome addition to his income.
A curled and scented young officer, passing by our room, the door of which was open, stopped short, and with unblushing politeness asked us if we would allow him to join our party. I replied politely, but coldly, that he did us honour — a phrase which means neither yes nor no; but a Frenchman who has advanced one step never retreats.
He proceeded to display his graces for the benefit of the ladies, talking incessantly, without giving them time to get in a word, when he suddenly turned to me and said that he wondered how it was that the prince had not asked me and my ladies to dinner. I told him that I had not said anything to the prince about the treasure I had with me.
I had scarcely uttered the words, when the kindly blockhead rose and cried enthusiastically —
“Parbleu! I am no longer surprised. I will go and tell his highness, and I shall soon have the honour of dining with you at the castle.”
He did not wait to hear my answer, but went off in hot haste.
We laughed heartily at his folly, feeling quite sure that we should neither dine with him nor the prince, but in a quarter of an hour he returned in high glee, and invited us all to dinner on behalf of the prince.
“I beg you will thank his highness, and at the same time ask him to excuse us. The weather has improved, and I want to be off as soon as we have taken a hasty morsel.”
The young Frenchman exerted all his eloquence in vain, and at length retired with a mortified air to take our answer to the prince.
I thought I had got rid of him at last, but I did not know my man. He returned a short time after, and addressing himself in a complacent manner to the ladies, as if I was of no more account, he told them that he had given the prince such a description of their charms that he had made up his mind to dine with them.
“I have already ordered the table to be laid for two more, as I shall have the honour of being of the party. In a quarter of an hour, ladies, the prince will be here.”
“Very good,” said I, “but as the prince is coming I must go to the felucca and fetch a capital pie of which the prince is very fond, I know. Come, ladies.”
“You can leave them here, sir. I will undertake to keep them amused.”
“I have no doubt you would, but they have some things to get from the felucca as well.”
“Then you will allow me to come too.”
“Certainly with pleasure.”
As we were going down the stairs, I asked the innkeeper what I owed him.
“Nothing, sir, I have just received orders to serve you in everything, and to take no money from you.”
“The prince is really magnificent!” During this short dialogue, the ladies had gone on with the fop. I hastened to rejoin them, and my niece took my arm, laughing heartily to hear the officer making love to Marcoline, who did not understand a word he said. He did not notice it in the least, for his tongue kept going like the wheel of a mill, and he did not pause for any answers.
“We shall have some fun at dinner,” said my niece, “but what are we going to do on the felucca?”
“We are leaving. Say nothing.”
“What a jest! it is worth its weight in gold.”
We went on board the felucca, and the officer, who was delighted with the pretty vessel, proceeded to examine it. I told my niece to keep him company, and going to the master, whispered to him to let go directly.
“Yes, this moment.”
“But the abbe and your secretary are gone for a walk, and two of my men are on shore, too.”
“That’s no matter; we shall pick them up again at Antibes; it’s only ten leagues, and they have plenty of money. I must go, and directly. Make haste.”
He tripped the anchor, and the felucca began to swing away from the shore. The officer asked me in great astonishment what it meant.
“It means that I am going to Antibes and I shall be very glad to take you there for nothing.”
“This is a fine jest! You are joking, surely?”
“Your company will be very pleasant on the journey.”
“Pardieu! put me ashore, for with your leave, ladies, I cannot go to Antibes.”
“Put the gentleman ashore,” said I to the master, “he does not seem to like our company.”
“It’s not that, upon my honour. These ladies are charming, but the prince would think that I was in the plot to play this trick upon him, which you must confess is rather strong.”
“I never play a weak trick.”
“But what will the prince say?”
“He may say what he likes, and I shall do as I like.”
“Well, it’s no fault of mine. Farewell, ladies! farewell, sir!”
“Farewell, and you may thank the prince for me for paying my bill.”
Marcoline who did not understand what was passing gazed in astonishment, but my niece laughed till her sides ached, for the way in which the poor officer had taken the matter was extremely comic.
Clairmont brought us an excellent dinner, and we laughed incessantly during its progress, even at the astonishment of the abbe and Possano when they came to the quay and found the felucca had flown. However, I was sure of meeting them again at Antibes, and we reached that port at six o’clock in the evening.
The motion of the sea had tired us without making us feel sick, for the air was fresh, and our appetites felt the benefits of it, and in consequence we did great honour to the supper and the wine. Marcoline whose stomach was weakened by the sickness she had undergone soon felt the effects of the Burgundy, her eyes were heavy, and she went to sleep. My niece would have imitated her, but I reminded her tenderly that we were at Antibes, and said I was sure she would keep her word. She did not answer me, but gave me her hand, lowering her eyes with much modesty.
Intoxicated with her submission which was so like love, I got into bed beside her, exclaiming —
“At last the hour of my happiness has come!
“And mine too, dearest.”
“Yours? Have you not continually repulsed me?”
“Never! I always loved you, and your indifference has been a bitter grief to me.”
“But the first night we left Milan you preferred being alone to sleeping with me.”
“Could I do otherwise without passing in your eyes for one more a slave to sensual passion than to love? Besides you might have thought I was giving myself to you for the benefits I had received; and though gratitude be a noble feeling, it destroys all the sweet delights of love. You ought to have told me that you loved me and subdued me by those attentions which conquer the hearts of us women. Then you would have seen that I loved you too, and our affection would have been mutual. On my side I should have known that the pleasure you had of me was not given out of a mere feeling of gratitude. I do not know whether you would have loved me less the morning after, if I had consented, but I am sure I should have lost your esteem.”
She was right, and I applauded her sentiments, while giving her to understand that she was to put all notions of benefits received out of her mind. I wanted to make her see that I knew that there was no more need for gratitude on her side than mine.
We spent a night that must be imagined rather than described. She told me in the morning that she felt all had been for the best, as if she had given way at first she could never have made up her mind to accept the young Genoese, though he seemed likely to make her happy.
Marcoline came to see us in the morning, caressed us, and promised to sleep by herself the rest of the voyage.
“Then you are not jealous?” said I.
“No, for her happiness is mine too, and I know she will make you happy.”
She became more ravishingly beautiful every day.
Possano and the abbe came in just as we were sitting down to table, and my niece having ordered two more plates I allowed them to dine with us. My brother’s face was pitiful and yet ridiculous. He could not walk any distance, so he had been obliged to come on horseback, probably for the first time in his life.
“My skin is delicate,” said he, “so I am all blistered. But God’s will be done! I do not think any of His servants have endured greater torments than mine during this journey. My body is sore, and so is my soul.”
So saying he cast a piteous glance at Marcoline, and we had to hold our sides to prevent ourselves laughing. My niece could bear it no more, and said —
“How I pity you, dear uncle!”
At this he blushed, and began to address the most absurd compliments to her, styling her “my dear niece.” I told him to be silent, and not to speak French till he was able to express himself in that equivocal language without making a fool of himself. But the poet Pogomas spoke no better than he did.
I was curious to know what had happened at Mentone after we had left, and Pogomas proceeded to tell the story.
“When we came back from our walk we were greatly astonished not to find the felucca any more. We went to the inn, where I knew you had ordered dinner; but the inn-keeper knew nothing except that he was expecting the prince and a young officer to dine with you. I told him he might wait for you in vain, and just then the prince came up in a rage, and told the inn-keeper that now you were gone he might look to you for his payment. ‘My lord,’ said the inn-keeper, ‘the gentleman wanted to pay me, but I respected the orders I had received from your highness and would not take the money.’ At this the prince flung him a louis with an ill grace, and asked us who we were. I told him that we belonged to you, and that you had not waited for us either, which put us to great trouble. ‘You will get away easily enough,’ said he; and then he began to laugh, and swore the jest was a pleasant one. He then asked me who the ladies were. I told him that the one was your niece, and that I knew nothing of the other; but the abbe interfered, and said she was your cuisine. The prince guessed he meant to say ‘cousin,’ and burst out laughing, in which he was joined by the young officer. ‘Greet him from me,’ said he, as he went away, ‘and tell him that we shall meet again, and that I will pay him out for the trick he has played me.’ “The worthy host laughed, too, when the prince had gone, and gave us a good dinner, saying that the prince’s Louis would pay for it all. When we had dined we hired two horses, and slept at Nice. In the morning we rode on again, being certain of finding you here.” Marcoline told the abbe in a cold voice to take care not to tell anyone else that she was his cuisine, or his cousin, or else it would go ill with him, as she did not wish to be thought either the one or the other. I also advised him seriously not to speak French for the future, as the absurd way in which he had committed himself made everyone about him ashamed.”
Just as I was ordering post-horses to take us to Frejus, a man appeared, and told me I owed him ten louis for the storage of a carriage which I had left on his hands nearly three years ago. This was when I was taking Rosalie to Italy. I laughed, for the carriage itself was not worth five louis. “Friend,” said I, “I make you a present of the article.”
“I don’t want your present. I want the ten louis you owe me.”
“You won’t get the ten louis. I will see you further first.”
“We will see about that”; and so saying he took his departure.
I sent for horses that we might continue our journey.
A few moments after, a sergeant summoned me to the governor’s presence. I followed him, and was politely requested to pay the ten louis that my creditor demanded. I answered that, in the agreement I had entered into for six francs a month, there was no mention of the length of the term, and that I did not want to withdraw my carriage.
“But supposing you were never to withdraw it?”
“Then the man could bequeath his claim to his heir.”
“I believe he could oblige you to withdraw it, or to allow it to be sold to defray expenses.”
“You are right, sir, and I wish to spare him that trouble. I make him a present of the carriage.”
“That’s fair enough. Friend, the carriage is yours.”
“But sir,” said the plaintiff, “it is not enough; the carriage is not worth ten louis, and I want the surplus.”
“You are in the wrong. I wish you a pleasant journey, sir, and I hope you will forgive the ignorance of these poor people, who would like to shape the laws according to their needs.”
All this trouble had made me lose a good deal of time, and I determined to put off my departure till the next day. However, I wanted a carriage for Possano and the abbe, and I got my secretary to buy the one I had abandoned for four louis. It was in a deplorable state, and I had to have it repaired, which kept us till the afternoon of the next day; however, so far as pleasure was concerned, the time was not lost.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07