"You can leave them here, sir. I will undertake to keep them amused."
"I have no doubt you would, but they have some things to get from the felucca as well."
"Then you will allow me to come too."
"Certainly with pleasure."
As we were going down the stairs, I asked the innkeeper what I owed him.
"Nothing, sir, I have just received orders to serve you in everything, and to take no money from you."
"The prince is really magnificent!" During this short dialogue, the ladies had gone on with the fop. I hastened to rejoin them, and my niece took my arm, laughing heartily to hear the officer making love to Marcoline, who did not understand a word he said. He did not notice it in the least, for his tongue kept going like the wheel of a mill, and he did not pause for any answers.
"We shall have some fun at dinner," said my niece, "but what are we going to do on the felucca?"
"We are leaving. Say nothing."
"What a jest! it is worth its weight in gold."
We went on board the felucca, and the officer, who was delighted with the pretty vessel, proceeded to examine it. I told my niece to keep him company, and going to the master, whispered to him to let go directly.
"Yes, this moment."
"But the abbe and your secretary are gone for a walk, and two of my men are on shore, too."
"That's no matter; we shall pick them up again at Antibes; it's only ten leagues, and they have plenty of money. I must go, and directly. Make haste."
He tripped the anchor, and the felucca began to swing away from the shore. The officer asked me in great astonishment what it meant.
"It means that I am going to Antibes and I shall be very glad to take you there for nothing."
"This is a fine jest! You are joking, surely?"
"Your company will be very pleasant on the journey."
"Pardieu! put me ashore, for with your leave, ladies, I cannot go to Antibes."
"Put the gentleman ashore," said I to the master, "he does not seem to like our company."
"It's not that, upon my honour. These ladies are charming, but the prince would think that I was in the plot to play this trick upon him, which you must confess is rather strong."
"I never play a weak trick."
"But what will the prince say?"
"He may say what he likes, and I shall do as I like."
"Well, it's no fault of mine. Farewell, ladies! farewell, sir!"
"Farewell, and you may thank the prince for me for paying my bill."
Marcoline who did not understand what was passing gazed in astonishment, but my niece laughed till her sides ached, for the way in which the poor officer had taken the matter was extremely comic.
Clairmont brought us an excellent dinner, and we laughed incessantly during its progress, even at the astonishment of the abbe and Possano when they came to the quay and found the felucca had flown. However, I was sure of meeting them again at Antibes, and we reached that port at six o'clock in the evening.
The motion of the sea had tired us without making us feel sick, for the air was fresh, and our appetites felt the benefits of it, and in consequence we did great honour to the supper and the wine. Marcoline whose stomach was weakened by the sickness she had undergone soon felt the effects of the Burgundy, her eyes were heavy, and she went to sleep. My niece would have imitated her, but I reminded her tenderly that we were at Antibes, and said I was sure she would keep her word. She did not answer me, but gave me her hand, lowering her eyes with much modesty.
Intoxicated with her submission which was so like love, I got into bed beside her, exclaiming,--
"At last the hour of my happiness has come!
"And mine too, dearest."
"Yours? Have you not continually repulsed me?"
"Never! I always loved you, and your indifference has been a bitter grief to me."
"But the first night we left Milan you preferred being alone to sleeping with me."
"Could I do otherwise without passing in your eyes for one more a slave to sensual passion than to love? Besides you might have thought I was giving myself to you for the benefits I had received; and though gratitude be a noble feeling, it destroys all the sweet delights of love.