"I saw her sister once," said the marchioness; "she is really charmingly pretty, and it's a great pity that with her beauty and irreproachable morality she should be condemned to marry a man of her father's class."
"I once knew a man named Coltellini," I replied; "he is the son of the bargello of Florence, and is poet-inordinary to the Empress of Russia. I shall try to make a match between him and Fortuna's sister; he is a young man of the greatest talents."
The marchioness thought my idea an excellent one, but soon after I heard that Coltellini was dead.
The 'bargello' is a cordially-detested person all over Italy, if you except Modena, where the weak nobility make much of the 'bargello', and do justice to his excellent table. This is a curious fact, for as a rule these bargellos are spies, liars, traitors, cheats, and misanthropes, for a man despised hates his despisers.
At Sienna I was shewn a Count Piccolomini, a learned and agreeable man. He had a strange whim, however, of spending six months in the year in the strictest seclusion in his own house, never going out and never seeing any company; reading and working the whole time. He certainly did his best to make up for his hibernation during the other six months in the year.
The marchioness promised she would come to Rome in the course of the summer. She had there an intimate friend in Bianconi who had abandoned the practice of medicine, and was now the representative of the Court of Saxony.
On the eve of my departure, the driver who was to take me to Rome came and asked me if I would like to take a travelling companion, and save myself three sequins.
"I don't want anyone."
"You are wrong, for she is very beautiful"
"Is she by herself?"
"No, she is with a gentleman on horseback, who wishes to ride all the way to Rome."
"Then how did the girl come here?"
"On horseback, but she is tired out, and cannot bear it any longer. The gentleman has offered me four sequins to take her to Rome, and as I am a poor man I think you might let me earn the money."
"I suppose he will follow the carriage?"
"He can go as he likes; that can't make much difference to either of us."
"You say she is young and pretty."
"I have been told so, but I haven't seen her myself."
"What sort of a man is her companion?"
"He's a fine man, but he can speak very little Italian."
"Has he sold the lady's horse?"
"No, it was hired. He has only one trunk, which will go behind the carriage."
"This is all very strange. I shall not give any decision before speaking to this man."
"I will tell him to wait on you."
Directly afterwards, a brisk-looking young fellow, carrying himself well enough, and clad in a fancy uniform, came in. He told me the tale I had heard from the coachman, and ended by saying that he was sure I would not refuse to accommodate his wife in my carriage.
"Your wife, sir?"
I saw he was a Frenchman, and I addressed him in French.
"God be praised! You can speak my native tongue. Yes, sir, she is an Englishwoman and my wife. I am sure she will be no trouble to you."
"Very good. I don't want to start later than I had arranged. Will she be ready at five o'clock?"
The next morning when I got into my carriage, I found her already there. I paid her some slight compliment, and sat down beside her, and we drove off.
Miss Betty--TheComte de L'Etoile--Sir B * * * M * * *--Reassured
This was the fourth adventure I had had of this kind. There is nothing particularly out of the common in having a fellow-traveller in one's carriage; this time, however, the affair had something decidedly romantic about it.
I was forty-five, and my purse contained two hundred sequins. I still loved the fair sex, though my ardour had decreased, my experience had ripened, and my caution increased. I was more like a heavy father than a young lover, and I limited myself to pretensions of the most modest character.
The young person beside me was pretty and gentle-looking, she was neatly though simply dressed in the English fashion, she was fair and small, and her budding breast could be seen outlined beneath the fine muslin of her dress.