I set out the next day, after dining with the syndic, who accompanied me as far as Anneci, where I spent the night. Next day I dined at Aix, with the intention of lying at Chamberi, but my destiny ordered otherwise.
Aix is a villainous hole where the mineral waters attract people of fashion towards the end of the summer--a circumstance of which I was then ignorant. I dined hastily, wishing to set out immediately for Chamberi, when in the middle of my repast a crowd of fashionable people burst into the room. I looked at them without stirring, replying with an inclination of the head to the bows which some of them made me. I soon discovered from their conversation that they had all come to take the waters. A gentleman of a fine presence came up to me and asked if I were going to Turin; I answered that my way was to Marseilles.
Their dinner was served, and everybody sat down. Among them I noticed several pleasant-looking ladies, with gentlemen who were either their husbands or their lovers. I concluded that I might find some amusement with them, as they all spoke French with that easy tone of good society which is so attractive, and I felt that I should be inclined to stay without much pressing, for that day at all events.
I finished my dinner before the company had come to the end of their first course, and as my coach could not go for another hour I went up to a pretty woman, and complimented her on the good the waters of Aix seemed to have done her, for her appetite made all who looked at her feel hungry.
"I challenge you to prove that you are speaking the truth," said she, with a smile. I sat down next to her, and she gave me a nice piece of the roast which I ate as if I had been fasting.
While I was talking with the lady, and eating the morsels she gave me, I heard a voice saying that I was in the abbe's place, and another voice replying that the abbe had been gone for half an hour.
"Why has he gone?" asked a third, "he said he was going to stay here for another week." At this there was some whispering, but the departure of an abbe had nothing interesting in it for me, and I continued eating and talking. I told Le Duc, who was standing behind my chair, to get me some champagne. I offered the lady some, she accepted, and everyone began to call for champagne. Seeing my neighbour's spirits rising, I proceeded to make love to her, and asked her if she were always as ready to defy those who paid their court to her.
"So many of them," she answered, "are not worthy the trouble."
She was pretty and quick-witted, and I took a fancy to her, and wished for some pretext on which I could put off my departure, and chance came to my aid.
"The place next to you was conveniently empty," said a lady to my neighbour who was drinking with me.
"Very conveniently, for my neighbour wearied me."
"Had he no appetite?" said I.
"Gamesters only have an appetite for money."
"Usually, but your power is extraordinary; for I have never made two dinners on one day before now."
"Only out of pride; as I am sure you will eat no supper."
"Let us make a bet on it."
"We will; we will bet the supper."
All the guests began to clap, and my fair neighbour blushed with pleasure. I ordered Le Duc to tell my coachman that I should not be going till the next day.
"It is my business," said the lady, "to order the supper."
"Yes, you are right; for he who pays, orders. My part will be to oppose you to the knife, and if I eat as much as you I shall be the winner."
At the end of dinner, the individual who had addressed me before called for cards, and made a small bank of faro. He put down twenty- five Piedmontese pistoles, and some silver money to amuse the ladies --altogether it amounted nearly to forty louis. I remained a spectator during the first deal, and convinced myself that the banker played very well.
Whilst he was getting ready for the second deal, the lady asked me why I did not play. I whispered to her that she had made me lose my appetite for money.