In the month I had spent with the Hanoverians I had dissipated the whole of the sum resulting from the sale of the precious stones, and I found that I was in debt to the amount of four hundred guineas. I resolved to go to Lisbon by sea, and sold my diamond cross, six or seven gold snuff-boxes (after removing the portraits), all my watches except one, and two great trunks full of clothes. I then discharged my debts and found I was eighty guineas to the good, this being what remained of the fine fortune I had squandered away like a fool or a philosopher, or, perhaps, a little like both. I left my fine house where I had lived so pleasantly, and took a little room at a guinea a week. I still kept my negro, as I had every reason to believe him to be a faithful servant.
After taking these measures I wrote to M. de Bragadin, begging him to send me two hundred sequins.
Thus having made up my mind to leave London without owing a penny to anyone, and under obligations to no man's purse, I waited for the bill of exchange from Venice. When it came I resolved to bid farewell to all my friends and to try my fortune in Lisbon, but such was not the fate which the fickle goddess had assigned to me.
A fortnight after the departure of the Hanoverians (it was the end of February in the year 1764), my evil genius made me go to the "Canon Tavern," where I usually dined in a room by myself. The table was laid and I was just going to sit down, when Baron Stenau came in and begged me to have my dinner brought into the next room, where he and his mistress were dining.
"I thank you," said I, "for the solitary man grows weary of his company."
I saw the English woman I had met at Sartori's, the same to whom the baron had been so generous. She spoke Italian, and was attractive in many ways, so I was well pleased to find myself opposite to her, and we had a pleasant dinner.
After a fortnight's abstinence it was not surprising that she inspired me with desires, but I concealed them nevertheless, for her lover seemed to respect her. I only allowed myself to tell the baron that I thought him the happiest of men.
Towards the close of the dinner the girl noticed three dice on the mantel and took them up, saying,--
"Let us have a wager of a guinea, and spend it on oysters and champagne."
We could not refuse, and the baron having lost called the waiter and gave him his orders.
While we were eating the oysters she suggested that we should throw again to see which should pay for the dinner.
We did so and she lost.
I did not like my luck, and wishing to lose a couple of guineas I offered to throw against the baron. He accepted, and to my annoyance I won. He asked for his revenge and lost again.
"I don't want to win your money," said I, "and I will give you your revenge up to a hundred guineas."
He seemed grateful and we went on playing, and in less than half an hour he owed me a hundred guineas.
"Let us go on," said he.
"My dear baron, the luck's against you; you might lose a large sum of money. I really think we have had enough."
Without heeding my politeness, he swore against fortune and against the favour I seemed to be shewing him. Finally he got up, and taking his hat and cane, went out, saying,--
"I will pay you when I come back."
As soon as he had gone the girl said:
"I am sure you have been regarding me as your partner at play."
"If you have guessed that, you will also have guessed that I think you charming."
"Yes, I think I have."
"Are you angry with me?"
"Not in the least."
"You shall have the fifty guineas as soon as he has paid me."
"Very good, but the baron must know nothing about it."
"Of course not."
The bargain was scarcely struck before I began to shew her how much I loved her. I had every reason to congratulate myself on her complaisance, and I thought this meeting a welcome gleam of light when all looked dark around me. We had to make haste, however, as the door was only shut with a catch. I had barely time to ascertain her address and the hour at which she could see me, and whether I should have to be careful with her lover.