I answered in the same gay strain, speaking to his wife, however, in the hope of rousing her. It was all lost labour. The little woman only replied by faint smiles which vanished almost as they came, and by monosyllabic answers of the briefest description, without taking her eyes off the dishes which she thought tasteless; and it was to the priest, who was the fourth person present, that she addressed her complaints, almost speaking affably to him.
Although I liked the count very well, I could not help pronouncing his wife decidedly ungracious. I was looking at her to see if I could find any justification for her ill humour on her features, but as soon as she saw me she turned away in a very marked manner, and began to speak about nothing to the priest. This conduct offended me, and I laughed heartily at her contempt, or her designs on me, for as she had not fascinated me at all I was safe from her tyranny.
After supper the sarcenet was brought in; it was to be used for a dress with hoops, made after the extravagant fashion then prevailing.
The count was grieved to see her fall so short of the praises he had lavished on her, and came to my room with me, begging me to forgive her Spanish ways, and saying that she would be very pleasant when she knew me better.
The count was poor, his house was small, his furniture shabby, and his footman's livery threadbare; instead of plate he had china, and one of the countess's maids was chief cook. He had no carriages nor horses, not even a saddle horse of any kind. Clairmont gave me all this information, and added that he had to sleep in a little kitchen, and was to share his bed with the man who had waited at table.
I had only one room, and having three heavy trunks found myself very uncomfortable, and I decided on seeking some other lodging more agreeable to my tastes.
The count came early in the morning to ask what I usually took for breakfast.
"My dear count," I replied, "I have enough fine Turin chocolate to go all round. Does the countess like it?"
"Very much, but she won't take it unless it is made by her woman."
"Here are six pounds: make her accept it, and tell her that if I hear anything about payment I shall take it back."
"I am sure she will accept it, and thank you too. Shall I have your carriage housed?"
"I shall be extremely obliged to you, and I shall be glad if you would get me a hired carriage, and a guide for whom you can answer."
"It shall be done."
The count was going out when the priest, who had supped with us the night before, came in to make his bow. He was a man of forty- one of the tribe of domestic chaplains who are so common in Italy --who, in return for keeping the accounts of the house, live with its master and mistress. In the morning this priest said mass in a neighbouring church, for the rest of the day he either occupied himself with the cares of the house, or was the lady's obedient servant.
As soon as We were alone he begged me to say that he had paid me the three hundred Milanese crowns for the sarcenet, if the countess asked me about it.
"Dear, dear, abbe!" said I, laughing, "this sort of thing is not exactly proper in a man of your sacred profession. How can you advise me to tell a lie? No, sir; if the countess asks me any such impertinent question, I shall tell her the truth."
"I am sure she will ask you, and if you answer like that I shall suffer for it."
"Well, sir, if you are in the wrong you deserve to suffer."
"But as it happens, I should be blamed for nothing."
"Well, go and tell her it's a present; and if she won't have that, tell her I am in no hurry to be paid."
"I see, sir, that you don't know the lady or the way in which this house is managed. I will speak to her husband."
In a quarter of an hour the count told me that he owed me a lot of money, which he hoped to pay back in the course of Lent, and that I must add the sarcenet to the account. I embraced him and said that he would have to keep the account hims