"I understand you, sir, but I am quite at ease on that point, as I am happy to say that I did not yield to any of the wretch's desires."
"Remember," said the abbe, in a plaintive voice, "the oath you took to be mine for ever. You swore it upon the crucifix."
So saying he got up and approached her with a supplicating gesture, but as soon as he was within reach she gave him a good hearty box on the ear. I expected to see a fight, in which I should not have interfered, but nothing of the kind. The humble abbe gently turned away to the window, and casting his eyes to heaven began to weep.
"You are too malicious, my dear," I said; "the poor devil is only unhappy because you have made him in love with you."
"If he is it's his own fault, I should never have thought of him but for his coming to me and fooling me, I shall never forgive him till he is out of my sight. That's not the first blow I have given him; I had to begin at Padua."
"Yes," said the abbe, "but you are excommunicated, for I am a priest."
"It's little I care for the excommunication of a scoundrel like you, and if you say another word I will give you some more."
"Calm yourself, my child," said I; "you have cause to be angry, but you should not beat him. Take up your things and follow me."
"Where are you going to take her?" said the foolish priest.
"To my own house, and I should advise you to hold your tongue. Here, take these twenty sequins and buy yourself some clean clothes and linen, and give those rags of yours to the beggars. I will come and talk to you to-morrow, and you may thank your stars that you found me here. As for you, mademoiselle, I will have you conducted to my lodging, for Genoa must not see you in my company after arriving here with a priest. We must not have any scandal. I shall place you under the charge of my landlady, but whatever you do don't tell her this sad story. I will see that you are properly dressed, and that you want for nothing."
"May Heaven reward you!"
My brother, astonished at the sight of the twenty sequins, let me go away without a word. I had the fair Venetian taken to my lodging in a sedan-chair, and putting her under the charge of my landlady I told the latter to see that she was properly dressed. I wanted to see how she would look in decent clothes, for her present rags and tatters detracted from her appearance. I warned Annette that a girl who had been placed in my care would eat and sleep with her, and then having to entertain a numerous company of guests I proceeded to make my toilette.
Although my niece had no rights over me, I valued her esteem, and thought it best to tell her the whole story lest she should pass an unfavourable judgment on me. She listened attentively and thanked me for my confidence in her, and said she should very much like to see the girl and the abbe too, whom she pitied, though she admitted he was to be blamed for what he had done. I had got her a dress to wear at dinner, which became her exquisitely. I felt only too happy to be able to please her in any way, for her conduct towards myself and the way she treated her ardent lover commanded my admiration. She saw him every day either at my house or at Rosalie's. The young man had received an excellent education, though he was of the mercantile class, and wrote to her in a business-like manner, that, as they were well suited to each other in every way, there was nothing against his going to Marseilles and obtaining her father's consent to the match, unless it were a feeling of aversion on her side. He finished by requesting her to give him an answer. She shewed me the letter, and I congratulated her, and advised her to accept, if there was nothing about the young man which displeased her.
"There is nothing of the kind," she said, "and Rosalie thinks with you."
"Then tell him by word of mouth that you give your consent, and will expect to see him at Marseilles."
"Very good; as you think so, I will tell him tomorrow."
When dinner was over a feeling of curiosity made me go into the room where Annette was dining with the Venetian girl, whose name was Marcoline.