The count was in the greatest distress. He did not know that Greppi, whom his proud wife considered so worthless, had a hundred thousand francs of my money, and that I possessed jewellery to an even greater amount.
The countess, who had seen me lose, asked me if I would sell my beautiful dress.
"They say it's worth a thousand sequins," said she.
"Yes, that is so; but I would sell everything I possess before parting with any of the articles which I intend for the fair sex."
"Marquis Triulzi wants it badly to present to someone."
"I am very sorry, but I cannot sell it to him."
She went away without a word, but I could see that she was exceedingly vexed at my refusal.
As I was leaving the opera-house I saw Therese getting into her sedan-chair. I went up to her, and told her that I was sure she was going to sup with her lover. She whispered in my ear that she was going to sup by herself, and that I might come if I dared. I gave her an agreeable surprise by accepting the invitation.
"I will expect you, then," she said.
I asked the count to ride home in my carriage, and taking a chair I reached Therese's house just as she was going in.
What a happy evening we had! We laughed heartily when we told each other our thoughts.
"I know you were in love with Countess A---- B---- ," said she, "and I felt sure you would not dare to come to supper with me."
"And I thought I should confound you by accepting your invitation, as I knew Greppi was your lover."
"He is my friend," she replied. "If he loves me in any other way than that of friendship, I pity him, for as yet he has not discovered the secret of seduction."
"Do you think he ever will?"
"No, I don't. I am rich."
"Yes, but he is richer than you."
"I know that, but I think he loves his money better than he loves me."
"I understand. You will make him happy if he loves you well enough to ruin himself."
"That is it, but it will never come to pass. But here we are, together again after a divorce of nearly twenty years. I don't think you will find any change in me."
"That is a privilege which nature grants to the fair sex only. You will find me changed, but you will be able to work miracles."
This was a piece of politeness, for she was hardly capable of working any miracle. However, after an excellent supper, we spent two hours in amorous raptures, and then Morpheus claimed us for his own. When we awoke I did not leave her before giving her a good day equal to the good night which had sent us to sleep.
When I got back I found the fair Zenobia, who said the tailor was ready to marry her next Sunday if my offer was not a joke.
"To convince you of the contrary," said I, "here are the twenty- five sequins."
Full of gratitude she let herself fall into my arms, and I covered her mouth and her beautiful bosom with my fiery kisses. Therese had exhausted me, so I did not go any further, but the girl no doubt attributed my self-restraint to the fact that the door was open. I dressed carefully, and made myself look less weary, and to freshen myself up I had a long drive in an open carriage.
When I returned, I found the Marquis of Triulzi teasing the countess as usual. On that day he furnished the dinner, and it was consequently, a very good one.
The conversation turned on the dress in my possession, and the countess told the marquis, like an idiot, that it was destined for the lady who would make me desirous and gratify my desire.
With exquisite politeness the marquis told me that I deserved to enjoy favours at a cheaper rate.
"I suppose you will be giving it to the person with whom you spent the night," said the countess.
"That's an impossibility," I answered, "for I spent the night in play."
Just then Clairmont came in, and told me an officer wanted to speak to me. I went to the door, and saw a handsome young fellow, who greeted me with an embrace. I recognized him as Barbaro, the son of a Venetian noble, and brother of the fair and famous Madame Gritti Scombro, of whom I spoke ten years ago, whose husband had died in the citadel of Cattaro, where the State Inquisitors had imprisoned him.