I went to inspect it, and saw djrectly that I was being treated as if I were a person of no consequence. The storm of anger was gathering, but wonderful to relate, I subdued myself, and did not say a word.
"Where is your room?" I said to Clairmont.
"Near the roof, and I am to share it with one of those two louts you saw."
The worthy Clairmont, who knew my disposition, was surprised at the calm with which I said,--
"Take your trunk there."
"Shall I open yours?"
"No. We will see what can be done to-morrow."
I still kept on my mask, and returned to the room of the young gentleman who seemed to be considered as my master. I found him listening with a foolish stare to Madame Rancour, who was telling him of the splendid position his mother occupied, her great enterprise, her immense credit, the splendid house she had built, her thirty- three servants, her two secretaries, her six horses, her country house, etc., etc.
"How is my sister Sophie?" said the young gentleman.
"Her name is Sophie, is it? She is only known as Miss Cornelis. She is a beauty, a perfect prodigy, she plays at sight on several instruments, dances like Terpsichore, speaks English, French, and Italian equally well--in a word, she is really wonderful. She has a governess and a maid. Unfortunately, she is rather short for her age; she is eight."
She was ten, but as Madame Rancour was not speaking to me I refrained from interrupting her.
My lord Cornelis, who felt very tired, asked at what hour they were to sup.
"At ten o'clock and not before," said the duenna, "for Madame Cornelis is always engaged till then. She is always with her lawyer, on account of an important law-suit she has against Sir Frederick Fermer."
I could see that I should learn nothing worth learning by listening to the woman's gossip, so I took my hat and cane and went for a walk in the immense city, taking care not to lose my way.
It was seven o'clock when I went out, and a quarter of an hour after, seeing a number of people in a coffeehouse, I entered it. It was the most notorious place in London, the resort of all the rascally Italians in town. I had heard of it at Lyons, and had taken a firm resolve never to set foot in it, but almighty chance made me go there unknown to myself. But it was my only visit.
I sat down by myself and called for a glass of lemonade, and before long a man came and sat by me to profit by the light. He had a printed paper in his hand, and I could see that the words were Italian. He had a pencil with which he scratched out some words and letters, writing the corrections in the margin. Idle curiosity made me follow him in his work, and I noticed him correcting the word 'ancora', putting in an 'h' in the margin. I was irritated by this barbarous spelling, and told him that for four centuries 'ancora' had been spelt without an 'h'.
"Quite so," said he, "but I am quoting from Boccaccio, and one should be exact in quotations."
"I apologize, sir; I see you are a man of letters."
"Well, in a small way. My name is Martinelli."
"Then you are in a great way indeed. I know you by repute, and if I am not mistaken you are a relation of Calsabigi, who has spoken of you to me. I have read some of your satires."
"May I ask to whom I have the honour of speaking?"
"My name is Seingalt. Have you finished your edition of the Decameron?"
"I am still at work on it, and trying to increase the number of my subscribers."
"If you will be so kind I should be glad to be of the number."
"You do me honour."
He gave me a ticket, and seeing that it was only for a guinea I took four, and telling him I hoped to see him again at the same coffee- house, the name of which I asked him, he told it me, evidently astonished at my ignorance; but his surprise vanished when I informed him that I had only been in London for an hour, and that it was my first visit to the great city.
"You will experience some trouble in finding your way back," said he, "allow me to accompany you."
When we had got out he gave me to understand that chance had led me to the "Orange Coffee House," the most disreputable house in London.