The banker made me a bow, and offered me a place next to him. I sat down and he handed me a pack of cards. I punted, and with such inveterate bad luck that in less than an hour I lost seven hundred sequins. I should probably have lost all the money I had in my pocket if Canano had not been obliged to go away. He gave the cards to a man whose looks displeased me, and I rose and went home and got into bed directly, so as not to be obliged to conceal my ill temper.
In the morning Barbaro came to claim the two hundred sequins. He gave me the right to sequestrate his pay by way of surety. I do not think I should have had the heart to exercise my rights if things had gone wrong, but I liked to have some control over him. When I went out I called on Greppi, and took two thousand sequins in gold.
Humiliation of The Countess--Zenobia's Wedding--Faro Conquest of The Fair Irene--Plan for a Masquerade
On my return I found the count with one of the marquis's servants, who gave me a note, begging me to send the dress, which I did directly.
"The marquis will dine with us," said the count, "and, no doubt, he will bring the money with him for this treasure."
"You think it a treasure, then?"
"Yes, fit for a queen to wear."
"I wish the treasure had the virtue of giving you a crown; one head-dress is as good as another."
The poor devil understood the allusion, and as I liked him I reproached myself for having humiliated him unintentionally, but I could not resist the temptation to jest. I hastened to smooth his brow by saying that as soon as I got the money for the dress I would take it to the countess.
"I have spoken to her about it," said he, "and your proposal made her laugh; but I am sure she will make up her mind when she finds herself in possession of the dress."
It was a Friday. The marquis sent in an excellent fish dinner, and came himself soon after with the dress in a basket. The present was made with all ceremony, and the proud countess was profuse in her expressions of thanks, which the giver received coolly enough, as if accustomed to that kind of thing. However, he ended by the no means flattering remark that if she had any sense she would sell it, as everybody knew she was too poor to wear it. This suggestion by no means met with her approval. She abused him to her heart's content, and told him he must be a great fool to give her a dress which he considered unsuitable to her.
They were disputing warmly when the Marchioness Menafoglio was announced. As soon as she came in her eyes were attracted by the dress, which was stretched over a chair, and finding it superb she exclaimed,
"I would gladly buy that dress."
"I did not buy it to sell again," said the countess, sharply.
"Excuse me," replied the marchioness, "I thought it was for sale, and I am sorry it is not."
The marquis, who was no lover of dissimulation, began to laugh, and the countess, fearing he would cover her with ridicule, hastened to change the conversation. But when the marchioness was gone the countess gave reins to her passion, and scolded the marquis bitterly for having laughed. However, he only replied by remarks which, though exquisitely polite, had a sting in them; and at last the lady said she was tired, and was going to lie down.
When she had left the room the marquis gave me the fifteen thousand francs, telling me that they would bring me good luck at Canano's.
"You are a great favourite of Canano's," he added, "and he wants you to come and dine with him. He can't ask you to supper, as he is obliged to spend his nights in the assembly-rooms."
"Tell him I will come any day he likes except the day after to- morrow, when I have to go to a wedding at the 'Apple Garden.'"
"I congratulate you," said the count and the marquis together, "it will no doubt be very pleasant."
"I expect to enjoy myself heartily there."
"Could not we come, too?"
"Do you really want to?"
"Then I will get you an invitation from the fair bride herself on the condition that the countess comes as well.