You must understand, however, that I have only known her for a very short time; and, again, I would not be made happy save through love, mere submission would kill me."
"Good! but what did she say of me?"
I gave her a report of the whole conversation I had had with my niece the night before, and she was delighted."
"As you have not yet gone far with your niece, would you object if the young man who shewed her so much attention yesterday were of the party to-morrow?"
"Who is he? I should like to know him."
"M. N----, the only son of a rich merchant."
"Certainly, bring him with you."
When I got home I went to my niece, who was still in bed, and told her that her fellow-countryman would dine with us to-morrow. I comforted her with the assurance that M. Paretti would not tell her father that she was in Genoa. She had been a good deal tormented with the idea that the merchant would inform her father of all.
As I was going out to supper I told her that she could go and sup with Rosalie, or take supper at home if she preferred it.
"You are too kind to me, my dear uncle. I will go to Rosalie's."
"Very good. Are you satisfied with Annette?"
"Oh! by the way, she told me that you spent last night with her, and that you had been her lover and her sister's at the same time."
"It is true, but she is very indiscreet to say anything about it."
"We must forgive her, though. She told me that she only consented to sleep with you on the assurance that I was really your niece. I am sure she only made this confession out of vanity, and in the hope of gaining my favour, which would be naturally bestowed on a woman you love."
"I wish you had the right to be jealous of her; and I swear that if she does not comport herself with the utmost obedience to you in every respect, I will send her packing, in despite of our relations. As for you, you may not be able to love me, and I have no right to complain; but I will not have you degrade yourself by becoming my submissive victim."
I was not sorry for my niece to know that I made use of Annette, but my vanity was wounded at the way she took it. It was plain that she was not at all in love with me, and that she was glad that there was a safeguard in the person of her maid, and that thus we could be together without danger, for she could not ignore the power of her charms.
We dined together, and augured well of the skill of the new cook. M. Paretti had promised to get me a good man, and he presented himself just as we were finishing dinner, and I made a present of him to my niece. We went for a drive together, and I left my niece at Rosalie's, and I then repaired to Isola-Bella's, where I found a numerous and brilliant company had assembled consisting of all the best people in Genoa.
Just then all the great ladies were mad over 'biribi', a regular cheating game. It was strictly forbidden at Genoa, but this only made it more popular, and besides, the prohibition had no force in private houses, which are outside of the jurisdiction of the Government; in short, I found the game in full swing at the Signora Isola-Bella's. The professional gamesters who kept the bank went from house to house, and the amateurs were advised of their presence at such a house and at such a time.
Although I detested the game, I began to play--to do as the others did.
In the room there was a portrait of the mistress of the house in harlequin costume, and there happened to be the same picture on one of the divisions of the biribi-table: I chose this one out of politeness, and did not play on any other. I risked a sequin each time. The board had thirty-six compartments, and if one lost, one paid thirty-two tines the amount of the stake; this, of course, was an enormous advantage for the bank.
Each player drew three numbers in succession, and there were three professionals; one kept the bag, another the bank, and the third the board, and the last took care to gather in the winnings as soon as the result was known, and the bank amounted to two thousand sequins or thereabouts.