After this they retired to another room for a quarter of an hour, and returned looking very happy. Just then Paretti entered, and on Rosalie introducing him to my niece under her true name he welcomed her in the most cordial manner. Her father was a correspondent of his, and drawing a letter he had just received from him from his pocket, he gave it to her to read. My niece read it eagerly, with tears in her eyes, and gave the signature a respectful pressure with her lips. This expression of filial love, which displayed all the feelings of her heart, moved me to such an extent that I burst into tears. Then taking Rosalie aside, I begged her to ask her husband not to mention the fact to his correspondent that he had seen his daughter.
The dinner was excellent, and Rosalie did the honours with that grace which was natural to her. However, the guests did not by any means pay her all their attentions, the greater portion of which was diverted in the direction of my supposed niece. Her father, a prosperous merchant of Marseilles, was well known in the commercial circles of Genoa, and besides this her wit and beauty captivated everybody, and one young gentleman fell madly in love with her. He was an extremely good match, and proved to be the husband whom Heaven had destined for my charming friend. What a happy thought it was for me that I had been the means of rescuing her from the gulf of shame, misery, and despair, and placing her on the high road to happiness. I own that I have always felt a keener pleasure in doing good than in anything else, though, perhaps, I may not always have done good from strictly disinterested motives.
When we rose from the table in excellent humour with ourselves and our surroundings, cards were proposed, and Rosalie, who knew my likings, said it must be trente-quarante. This was agreed to, and we played till supper, nobody either winning or losing to any extent. We did not go till midnight, after having spent a very happy day.
When we were in our room I asked my niece how she had known Rosalie.
"I knew her at home; she and her mother used to bring linen from the wash. I always liked her."
"You must be nearly the same age."
"She is two years older than I am. I recognized her directly."
"What did she tell you?"
"That it was you who brought her from Marseilles and made her fortune."
"She has not made you the depositary of any other confidences?"
"No, but there are some things which don't need telling."
"You are right. And what did you tell her?"
"Only what she could have guessed for herself. I told her that you were not my uncle, and if she thought you were my lover I was not sorry. You do not know how I have enjoyed myself to-day, you must have been born to make me happy."
"But how about La Croix?"
"For heaven's sake say nothing about him."
This conversation increased my ardour. She called Annette, and I went to my room.
As I had expected, Annette came to me as soon as her mistress was in bed.
"If the lady is really your niece," said she, "may I hope that you still love me?"
"Assuredly, dear Annette, I shall always love you. Undress, and let us have a little talk."
I had not long to wait, and in the course of two voluptuous hours I quenched the flames that another woman had kindled in my breast.
Next morning Possano came to tell me that he had arranged matters with the cook with the help of six sequins. I gave him the money, and told him to be more careful for the future.
I went to Rosalie's for my breakfast, which she was delighted to give me: and I asked her and her husband to dinner on the following day, telling her to bring any four persons she liked.
"Your decision," said I, "will decide the fate of my cook; it will be his trial dinner."
She promised to come, and then pressed me to tell her the history of my amours with her fair country-woman.
"Alas!" I said, "you may not believe me, but I assure you I am only beginning with her."
"I shall certainly believe you, if you tell me so, though it seems very strange."
"Strange but true.