A profound bow shewed her how flattered I felt by the compliment.
The ball did not come to an end till four o'clock in the morning, and I did not leave it till I saw Agatha going away in the company with Madame Dupre.
I was still in bed the next morning, when my man told me a pretty woman wanted to speak to me. I had her in and was delighted to find it was Agatha's mother. I made her sit down beside me, and gave her a cup of chocolate. As soon as we were alone she drew my ear-rings from her pocket, and said, with a smile, that she had just been shewing them to a jeweller, who had offered her a thousand sequins for them.
"The man's mad," said I, "you ought to have let him have them; they are not worth four sequins."
So saying, I drew her to my arms and gave her a kiss. Feeling that she had shared in the kiss, and that she seemed to like it, I went farther, and at last we spent a couple of hours in shewing what a high opinion we had of each other.
Afterwards we both looked rather astonished, and it was the beautiful mother who first broke the silence.
"Am I to tell my girl," said she, with a smile, "of the way in which you proved to me that you love her?"
"I leave that to your discretion, my dear," said I. "I have certainly proved that I love you, but it does not follow that I do not adore your daughter. In fact, I burn for her; and yet, if we are not careful to avoid being alone together, what has just happened between us will often happen again."
"It is hard to resist you, and it is possible that I may have occasion to speak to you again in private."
"You may be sure you will always be welcome, and all I ask of you is not to put any obstacles in the way of my suit with Agatha."
"I have also a favour to ask."
"If it is within my power, you may be sure I will grant it."
"Very good! Then tell me if these ear-rings are real, and what was your intention in putting them in my daughter's ears?"
"The diamonds are perfectly genuine, and my intention was that Agatha should keep them as a proof of my affection."
She heaved a sigh, and then told me that I might ask them to supper, with Dupre and his wife, whenever I pleased. I thanked her, gave her ten sequins, and sent her away happy.
On reflection I decided that I had never seen a more sensible woman than Agatha's mother. It would have been impossible to announce the success of my suit in a more delicate or more perspicuous manner.
My readers will ho doubt guess that I seized the opportunity and brought this interesting affair to a conclusion. The same evening I asked Dupre and his wife, Agatha and her mother, to sup with me the next day, in addition to my usual company. But as I was leaving Dupre's I had an adventure.
My man, who was a great rascal, but who behaved well on this occasion, ran up to me panting for breath, and said triumphantly,
"Sir, I have been looking for you to warn you that I have just seen the Chevalier de Ville-Follet slip into Madame Pacienza's house, and I suspect he is making an amorous call on the Corticelli."
I immediately walked to the abode of the worthy spy in high spirits, and hoping that my servant's guess had been correct. I walked in and found the landlady and the mother sitting together. Without noticing them, I was making my way towards the Corticelli's room when the two old ladies arrested my course, telling me that the signora was not well and wanted rest. I pushed them aside, and entered the room so swiftly and suddenly that I found the gentleman in a state of nature while the girl remained stretched on the bed as if petrified by my sudden apparition.
"Sir," said I, "I hope you will pardon me for coming in without knocking."
"Wait a moment, wait a moment."
Far from waiting I went away in high glee, and told the story to the Chevalier Raiberti, who enjoyed it as well as I did. I asked him to warn the Pacienza woman that from that day I would pay nothing for Corticelli, who had ceased to belong to me. He approved, and said,--
"I suppose you will not be going to complain to the Count d'Aglie?"
"It is only fools who complain, above all in circumstances like these."
This scandalous story would have been consigned to forgetfulness, if it had not been for the Chevalier de Ville-Follet's indiscretion.