You will have plenty of time."
He then gave orders for all the dishes that had been taken away to be brought back.
I made no answer, and sat down to table, and feigning good humour ate what was on the table, refusing to touch those dishes which had been taken away. He vainly asked me to try the soup, the beef, the entrees; I told him that I always punished myself thus when I came in late for a nobleman's dinner.
Still dissembling my ill humour, I got into his carriage to accompany him on his round of visits. He took me to Baron del Mestre, who spent the whole of the year in the country with his family, keeping up a good establishment.
The count spent the whole of the day with the baron, putting off the other visits to a future time. In the evening we returned to Spessa. Soon after we arrived the priest returned the money I had given him for the candles, telling me that the count had forgotten to inform him that I was to be treated as himself.
I took this acknowledgement for what it was worth.
Supper was served, and I ate with the appetite of four, while the count hardly ate at all.
The servant who escorted me to my room asked me at what time I should like breakfast. I told him, and he was punctual; and this time the coffee was brought in the coffee-pot and the sugar in the sugar basin.
The valet did my hair, and the maid did my room, everything was changed, and I imagined that I had given the count a little lesson, and that I should have no more trouble with him. Here, however, I was mistaken, as the reader will discover.
Three or four days later the priest came to me one morning, to ask when I would like dinner, as I was to dine in my room.
"Why so?" I asked.
"Because the count left yesterday for Gorice, telling me he did not know when he should come back. He ordered me to give you your meals in your room."
"Very good. I will dine at one."
No one could be more in favour of liberty and independence than myself, but I could not help feeling that my rough host should have told me he was going to Gorice. He stayed a week, and I should have died of weariness if it had not been for my daily visits to the Baron del Mestre. Otherwise there was no company, the priest was an uneducated man, and there were no pretty country girls. I felt as if I could not bear another four weeks of such a doleful exile.
When the count came back, I spoke to him plainly.
"I came to Spessa," I said, "to keep you company and to amuse myself; but I see that I am in the way, so I hope you will take me back to Gorice and leave me there. You must know that I like society as much as you do, and I do not feel inclined to die of solitary weariness in your house."
He assured me that it should not happen again, that he had gone to Gorice to meet an actress, who had come there purposely to see him, and that he had also profited by the opportunity to sign a contract of marriage with a Venetian lady.
These excuses and the apparently polite tone in which they were uttered induced me to prolong my stay with the extraordinary count.
He drew the whole of his income from vineyards, which produced an excellent white wine and a revenue of a thousand sequins a year. However, as the count did his best to spend double that amount, he was rapidly ruining himself. He had a fixed impression that all the tenants robbed him, so whenever he found a bunch of grapes in a cottage he proceeded to beat the occupants unless they could prove that the grapes did not come from his vineyards. The peasants might kneel down and beg pardon, but they were thrashed all the same.
I had been an unwilling witness of several of these arbitrary and cruel actions, when one day I had the pleasure of seeing the count soundly beaten by two peasants. He had struck the first blow himself, but when he found that he was getting the worst of it he prudently took to his heels.
He was much offended with me for remaining a mere spectator of the fray; but I told him very coolly that, being the aggressor, he was in the wrong, and in the second place I was not going to expose myself to be beaten to a jelly by two lusty peasants in another man's quarrel.