The table was laid for thirty, but before dinner Madame Goudar seated herself at the piano, and sang a few airs with the voice of a siren, and with a confidence that did not astonish the other guests as they knew her, but which astonished me extremely, for her singing was really admirable.
Goudar had worked this miracle. He had been educating her to be his wife for six or seven years.
After marrying her he had taken her to Paris, Vienna, Venice, Florence, Rome, etc., everywhere seeking fortune, but in vain. Finally he had come to Naples, where he had brought his wife into the fashion of obliging her to renounce in public the errors of the Anglican heresy. She had been received into the Catholic Church under the auspices of the Queen of Naples. The amusing part in all this was that Sara, being an Irishwoman, had been born a Catholic, and had never ceased to be one.
All the nobility, even to the Court, went to see Sara, while she went nowhere, for no one invited her. This kind of thing is a characteristic of nobility all the world over.
Goudar told me all these particulars, and confessed that he only made his living by gaming. Faro and biribi were the only pillars of his house; but they must have been strong ones, for he lived in great style.
He asked me to join with him, and I did not care to refuse; my purse was fast approaching total depletion, and if it were not for this resource I could not continue living in the style to which I had been accustomed.
Having taken this resolution I declined returning to Rome with Betty and Sir B---- M-----, who wanted to repay me all I had spent on her account. I was not in a position to be ostentatious, so I accepted his generous offer.
Two months later I heard that l'Etoile had been liberated by the influence of Cardinal Bernis, and had left Rome. Next year I heard at Florence that Sir B---- M----- had returned to England, where no doubt he married Betty as soon as he became a widower.
As for the famous Lord Baltimore he left Naples a few days after my friends, and travelled about Italy in his usual way. Three years later he paid for his British bravado with his life. He committed the wild imprudence of traversing the Maremma in August, and was killed by the poisonous exhalations.
I stopped at "Crocielles," as all the rich foreigners came to live there. I was thus enabled to make their acquaintance, and put them in the way of losing their money at Goudar's. I did not like my task, but circumstances were too strong for me.
Five or six days after Betty had left I chanced to meet the Abby Gama, who had aged a good deal, but was still as gay and active as ever. After we had told each other our adventures he informed me that, as all the differences between the Holy See and the Court of Naples had been adjusted, he was going back to Rome.
Before he went, however, he said he should like to present me to a lady whom he was sure I should be very glad to see again.
The first persons I thought of were Donna Leonilda, or Donna Lucrezia, her mother; but what was my surprise to see Agatha, the dancer with whom I had been in love at Turin after abandoning the Corticelli.
Our delight was mutual, and we proceeded to tell each other the incidents of our lives since we had parted.
My tale only lasted a quarter of an hour, but Agatha's history was a long one.
She had only danced a year at Naples. An advocate had fallen in love with her, and she shewed me four pretty children she had given him. The husband came in at supper-time, and as she had often talked to him about me he rushed to embrace me as soon as he heard my name. He was an intelligent man, like most of the pagletti of Naples. We supped together like old friends, and the Abbe Gama going soon after supper I stayed with them till midnight, promising to join them at dinner the next day.
Although Agatha was in the very flower of her beauty, the old fires were not rekindled in me. I was ten years older. My coolness pleased me, for I should not have liked to trouble the peace of a happy home.