I could only make her happy by spending the night with her. Look, this will shew you how pleased she was."
With these words Marcoline drew a superb ring, set with brilliants, from her finger. I was astonished.
"Truly," I said, "this woman is fond of pleasure and deserves to have it."
I gave my Lesbian (who might have vied with Sappho) a hundred. kisses, and forgave her her infidelity.
"But," I remarked, "I can't think why she did not want me to see her; I think she has treated me rather cavalierly."
"No, I think the reason was that she was ashamed to be seen by my lover after having made me unfaithful to him; I had to confess that we were lovers."
"Maybe. At all events you have been well paid; that ring is worth two hundred louis:"
"But I may as well tell you that I was well enough paid for the pleasure I gave by the pleasure I received."
"That's right; I am delighted to see you happy."
"If you want to make me really happy, take me to England with you. My uncle will be there, and I could go back to Venice with him."
"What! you have an uncle in England? Do you really mean it? It sounds like a fairy-tale. You never told me of it before."
"I have never said anything about it up to now, because I have always imagined that this might prevent your accomplishing your desire."
"Is your uncle a Venetian? What is he doing in England? Are you sure that he will welcome you?"
"What is his name? And how are we to find him in a town of more than a million inhabitants?"
"He is ready found. His name is Mattio Boisi, and he is valet de chambre to M. Querini, the Venetian ambassador sent to England to congratulate the new king; he is accompanied by the Procurator Morosini. My uncle is my mother's brother; he is very fond of me, and will forgive my fault, especially when he finds I am rich. When he went to England he said he would be back in Venice in July, and we shall just catch him on the point of departure."
As far as the embassy went I knew it was all true, from the letters I had received from M. de Bragadin, and as for the rest Marcoline seemed to me to be speaking the truth. I was flattered by her proposal and agreed to take her to England so that I should possess her for five or six weeks longer without committing myself to anything.
We reached Avignon at the close of the day, and found ourselves very hungry. I knew that the "St. Omer" was an excellent inn, and when I got there I ordered a choice meal and horses for five o'clock the next morning. Marcoline, who did not like night travelling, was in high glee, and threw her arms around my neck, saying,--
"Are we at Avignon now?"
"Then I conscientiously discharge the trust which the countess placed in me when she embraced me for the last time this morning. She made me swear not to say a word about it till we got to Avignon."
"All this puzzles me, dearest; explain yourself."
"She gave me a letter for you,"
"Will you forgive me for not placing it in your hands sooner?"
"Certainly, if you passed your word to the countess; but where is this letter?"
"Wait a minute."
She drew a large bundle of papers from her pocket, saying,--
"This is my certificate of baptism."
"I see you were born in 1746."
"This is a certificate of 'good conduct.'"
"Keep it, it may be useful to you."
"This is my certificate of virginity."
"That's no use. Did you get it from a midwife?"
"No, from the Patriarch of Venice."
"Did he test the matter for himself?"
"No, he was too old; he trusted in me."
"Well, well, let me see the letter."
"I hope I haven't lost it."
"I hope not, to God."
"Here is your brother's promise of marriage; he wanted to be a Protestant."
"You may throw that into the fire."
"What is a Protestant?"
"I will tell you another time. Give me the letter."
"Praised be God, here it is!"
"That's lucky; but it has no address."
My heart beat fast, as I opened it, and found, instead of an address, these words in Italian:
"To the most honest man of my acquaintance."
Could this be meant for me? I turned down the leaf, and read one word--Henriette! Nothing else; the rest of the paper was blank.