He will cite you in the law courts, and win his case."
"Then you have made a formal agreement with him?"
"Certainly; and your letter authorized me to do so."
"Tell him to come up; I want to speak to him."
While Possano was downstairs I told Clairmont to go and fetch me an advocate. The cook came upstairs, I read the agreement, and I saw that it was worded in such a manner that I should be in the wrong legally; but I did not change my mind for all that.
"Sir," said the cook, "I am skilled in my business, and I can get four thousand Genoese to swear as much."
"That doesn't say much for their good taste; but whatever they may- say, the execrable supper you gave me last night proves that you are only fit to keep a low eating-house."
As there is nothing more irritable than the feelings of a culinary artist, I was expecting a sharp answer; but just then the advocate came in. He had heard the end of our dialogue, and told me that not only would the man find plenty of witnesses to his skill, but that I should find a very great difficulty in getting anybody at all to swear to his want of skill.
"That may be," I replied, "but as I stick to my own opinion, and think his cooking horrible, he must go, for I want to get another, and I will pay that fellow as if he had served me the whole time."
"That won't do," said the cook; "I will summon you before the judge and demand damages for defamation of character."
At this my bile overpowered me, and I was going to seize him anti throw him out of the window, when Don Antonio Grimaldi came in. When he heard what was the matter, he laughed and said, with a shrug of his shoulders,
"My dear sir, you had better not go into court, or you will be cast in costs, for the evidence is against you. Probably this man makes a slight mistake in believing himself to be an excellent cook, but the chief mistake is in the agreement, which ought to have stipulated that he should cook a trial dinner. The person who drew up the agreement is either a great knave or a great fool."
At this Possano struck in in his rude way, and told the nobleman that he was neither knave nor fool.
"But you are cousin to the cook," said the landlady.
This timely remark solved the mystery. I paid and dismissed the advocate, and having sent the cook out of the room I said,
"Do I owe you any money, Possano?"
"On the contrary, you paid me a month in advance, and there are ten more days of the month to run."
"I will make you a present of the ten days and send you away this very moment, unless your cousin does not leave my house to-day, and give you the foolish engagement which you signed in my name."
"That's what I call cutting the Gordian knot," said M. Grimaldi.
He then begged me to introduce him to the lady he had seen with me, and I did so, telling him she was my niece.
"Signora Isola-Bella will be delighted to see her."
"As the marquis did not mention her in his letter, I did not take the liberty of bringing her."
The marquis left a few moments afterwards, and soon after Annette came in with her mother. The girl had developed in an incredible manner while I was away. Her cheeks blossomed like the rose, her teeth were white as pearls, and her breasts, though modestly concealed from view, were exquisitely rounded. I presented her to her mistress, whose astonishment amused me.
Annette, who looked pleased to be in my service again, went to dress her new mistress; and, after giving a few sequins to the mother I sent her away, and proceeded to make my toilette.
Towards noon, just as I was going out with my niece to dine at Rosalie's, my landlady brought me the agreement Possano had made, and introduced the new cook. I ordered the next day's dinner, and went away much pleased with my comic victory.
A brilliant company awaited us at the Paretti's, but I was agreeably surprised on introducing my niece to Rosalie to see them recognize each other. They called each other by their respective names, and indulged in an affectionate embrace.