The consequence was that Augusta wrote my lord a letter, and in three days it was all settled. The merchant duly signed the contract, at the foot of which I had the honour of inscribing my name as a witness, and then I took the merchant to the mother, and he witnessed her cession of her daughter. She would not see Pembroke, but she kissed her daughter, and held a private colloquy with her.
The day on which Augusta left my house was signalized by an event which I must set down.
The day after I had given the Marquis Petina's future bride the required certificate, I had taken out Gabrielle and Hippolyta for a ride. When I got home I found waiting for me a person calling himself Sir Frederick, who was said to be the son of Theodore, King of Corsica, who had died in London. This gentleman said he wished to speak to me in private, and when we were alone he said he was aware of my acquaintance with the Marquis Petina, and being on the eve of discounting a bill of two hundred guineas for him he wished to be informed whether it was likely that he could meet the bill when it fell due.
"It is important that I should be informed on that point," he added, "for the persons who are going to discount the bill want me to put my signature to it."
"Sir," I replied, "I certainly am acquainted with the marquis, but I know nothing about his fortune. However, the Neapolitan ambassador assured me that he was the Marquis Petina."
"If the persons who have the matter in hand should drop it, would you discount the bill? You shall have it cheap."
"I never meddle with these speculations. Good day, Sir Frederick."
The next day Goudar came and said that a M. du Claude wanted to speak to me.
"Who is M. du Claude?"
"The famous Jesuit Lavalette, who was concerned in the great bankruptcy case which ruined the Society in France. He fled to England under a false name. I advise you to listen to him, for he must have plenty of money."
"A Jesuit and a bankrupt; that does not sound very well."
"Well, I have met him in good houses, and knowing that I was acquainted with you he addressed himself to me. After all, you run no risk in listening to what he has to say."
"Well, well, you can take me to him; it will be easier to avoid any entanglement than if he came to see me."
Goudar went to Lavalette to prepare the way, and in the afternoon he took me to see him. I was well enough pleased to see the man, whose rascality had destroyed the infamous work of many years. He welcomed me with great politeness, and as soon as we were alone he shewed me a bill of Petina's, saying,--
"The young man wants me to discount it, and says you can give me the necessary information."
I gave the reverend father the same answer as I had given the King of Corsica's son, and left him angry with this Marquis of Misery who had given me so much needless trouble. I was minded to have done with him, and resolved to let him know through his mistress that I would not be his reference, but I could not find an opportunity that day.
The next day I took my two nymphs for a ride, and asked Pembroke to dinner. In vain we waited for Petina's mistress; she was nowhere to be found. At nine o'clock I got a letter from her, with a German letter enclosed for her mother. She said that feeling certain that her mother would not give her consent to her marriage, she had eloped with her lover, who had got together enough money to go to Naples, and when they reached that town he would marry her. She begged me to console her mother and make her listen to reason, as she had not gone off with an adventurer but with a man of rank, her equal. My lips curled into a smile of pity and contempt, which made the three sisters curious. I shewed them the letter I had just received, and asked them to come with me to their mother.
"Not to-night," said Victoire, "this terrible news would keep her awake."
I took her advice and we supped together, sadly enough.
I thought the poor wretch was ruined for life, and I reproached myself with being the cause of her misfortune; for if I had not released the marquis from prison this could never have happened.