She must have seen him, too."
"I don't think so, she has said nothing about it to me."
"It is true that he was standing behind her all the time. But let us come to the point. Is Marcoline your wife, or have you any intention of marrying her?"
"I love her as tenderly as any man can love a woman, but I cannot make her a wife; the reasons are known only to herself and me."
"I respect your secret; but tell me if you would object to my begging her to return to Venice with her uncle?"
"I think Marcoline is happy, but if she has succeeded in gaining the favour of your excellency, she is happier still; and I feel sure that if she were to go back to Venice under the exalted patronage of your excellency, she would efface all stains on her reputation. As to permitting her to go, I can put no stumblingblock in the way, for I am not her master. As her lover I would defend her to the last drop of my blood, but if she wants to leave me I can only assent, though with sorrow."
"You speak with much sense, and I hope you will not be displeased at my undertaking this good work. Of course I shall do nothing without your consent."
"I respect the decrees of fate when they are promulgated by such a man as you. If your excellency can induce Marcoline to leave me, I will make no objection; but I warn you that she must be won mildly. She is intelligent, she loves me, and she knows that she is independent; besides she reckons on me, and she has cause to do so. Speak to her to-day by herself; my presence would only be in your way. Wait till dinner is over; the interview might last some time."
"My dear Casanova, you are an honest man. I am delighted to have made your acquaintance."
"You do me too much honour. I may say that Marcoline will hear nothing of all this."
When I got back to the inn, I gave Marcoline an exact account of the whole conversation, warning her that she would be supposed to know nothing about it.
"You must execute a masterly stroke, dearest," said I, "to persuade M. Querini that I did not lie in saying that you had not seen your uncle. As soon as you see him, you must give a shout of surprise, exclaim, 'My dear uncle!' and rush to his arms. This would be a splendid and dramatic situation, which would do you honour in the eyes of all the company."
"You may be sure that I shall play the part very well, although my heart be sad."
At the time appointed we waited on the ambassadors, and found that all the other guests had assembled. Marcoline, as blithe and smiling as before, first accosted M. Querini, and then did the polite to all the company. A few minutes before dinner Mattio brought in his master's spectacles on a silver tray. Marcoline, who was sitting next to M. Querini, stopped short in something she was saying, and staring at the man, exclaimed in a questioning voice,--
"Yes, my dear niece."
Marcoline flung herself into his arms, and there was a moving scene, which excited the admiration of all.
"I knew you had left Venice, dear uncle, but I did not know you were in his excellency's service. I am so glad to see you again! You will tell my father and mother about me? You see I am happy. Where were you yesterday?"
"And you didn't see me?"
"Yes; but your uncle there . . ."
"Well," said I, laughing, "let us know each other, cousin, and be good friends. Marcoline, I congratulate you on having such an honest man for an uncle."
"That is really very fine," said M. Querini; and everybody exclaimed, "Very affecting, very affecting indeed!"
The newly-found uncle departed, and we sat down to dinner, but in spirits which differed from those of yesterday. Marcoline bore traces of those mingled emotions of happiness and regret which move loyal hearts when they call to mind ther native land. M. Querini looked at her admiringly, and seemed to have all the confidence of success which a good action gives to the mind. M. Morosini sat a pleased spectator. The others were attentive and curious as to what would come next.