Possano came uninvited to see me, and congratulated me on my victory of the evening before.
"Who told you about it?"
"I have just been at the coffee-house, where everybody is talking of it. It was a wonderful victory, for those biribanti are knaves of the first water. Your adventure is making a great noise, for everyone says that you could not have broken their bank unless you had made an agreement with the man that kept the bag."
"My dear fellow, I am tired of you. Here, take this piece of money for your wife and be off."
The piece of money I had given him was a gold coin worth a hundred Genoese livres, which the Government had struck for internal commerce; there were also pieces of fifty and twenty-five livres.
I was going on with my calculations when Clairmont brought me a note. It was from Irene, and contained a tender invitation to breakfast with her. I did not know that she was in Genoa, and the news gave me very great pleasure. I locked up my money, dressed in haste, and started out to see her. I found her in good and well-furnished rooms, and her old father, Count Rinaldi, embraced me with tears of joy.
After the ordinary compliments had been passed, the old man proceeded to congratulate me on my winnings of the night before.
"Three thousand sequins!" he exclaimed, "that is a grand haul indeed."
"The funny part of it is that the man who keeps the bag is in the pay of the others."
"What strikes you as funny in that?"
"Why, he gained half without any risk, otherwise he would not have been likely to have entered into an agreement with you."
"You think, then, that it was a case of connivance?"
"Everybody says so; indeed what else could it be? The rascal has made his fortune without running any risk. All the Greeks in Genoa are applauding him and you."
"As the greater rascal of the two?"
"They don't call you a rascal; they say you're a great genius; you are praised and envied."
"I am sure I ought to be obliged to them."
"I heard it all from a gentleman who was there. He says that the second and the third time the man with the bag gave you the office."
"And you believe this?"
"I am sure of it. No man of honour in your position could have acted otherwise. However, when you come to settle up with the fellow I advise you to be very careful, for there will be spies on your tracks. If you like, I will do the business for you."
I had enough self-restraint to repress the indignation and rage I felt. Without a word I took my hat and marched out of the room, sternly repulsing Irene who tried to prevent me from going as she had done once before. I resolved not to have anything more to do with the wretched old count.
This calumnious report vexed me extremely, although I knew that most gamesters would consider it an honour. Possano and Rinaldi had said enough to shew me that all the town was talking over it, and I was not surprised that everyone believed it; but for my part I did not care to be taken for a rogue when I had acted honourably.
I felt the need of unbosoming myself to someone, and walked towards the Strada Balbi to call on the Marquis Grimaldi, and discuss the matter with him. I was told he was gone to the courts, so I followed him there and was ushered into vast hall, where he waited on me. I told him my story, and he said,
"My dear chevalier, you ought to laugh at it, and I should not advise you to take the trouble to refute the calumny."
"Then you advise me to confess openly that I am a rogue?"
"No, for only fools will think that of you. Despise them, unless they tell you you are a rogue to your face."
"I should like to know the name of the nobleman who was present and sent this report about the town."
"I do not know who it is. He was wrong to say anything, but you would be equally wrong in taking any steps against him, for I am sure he did not tell the story with any intention of giving offence; quite the contrary."
"I am lost in wonder at his course of reasoning.