I met her again in Paris at the ambassador's, and she told me with a laugh that she had only been in jest when she called herself Madame Querini, and that I should oblige her if for the future I would call her by her real name of Countess Preati. She invited me to visit her at the Hotel de Luxembourg, where she was staying. I often called on her, for her intrigues amused me, but I was wise enough not to meddle with them.
She remained in Paris four months, and contrived to infatuate M. Ranchi, secretary of the Venetian Embassy, an amiable and learned man. He was so deeply in love that he had made up his mind to marry her; but through a caprice which she, perhaps, regretted afterwards, she ill-treated him, and the fool died of grief. Count de Canes. ambassador of Maria Theresa, had some inclination for her, as well as the Count of Zinzendorf. The person who arranged these transient and short-lived intrigues was a certain Guasco, an abbe not over-favoured with the gifts of Plutus. He was particularly ugly, and had to purchase small favours with great services.
But the man whom she really wished to marry was Count Saint Simon. He would have married her if she had not given him false addresses to make enquiries respecting her birth. The Preati family of Verona denied all knowledge of her, as a matter of course, and M. de Saint Simon, who, in spite of all his love, had not entirely lost his senses, had the courage to abandon her. Altogether, Paris did not prove an 'el dorado' for my handsome countrywoman, for she was obliged to pledge her diamonds, and to leave them behind her. After her return to Venice she married the son of the Uccelli, who sixteen years before had taken her out of her poverty. She died ten years ago.
I was still taking my French lessons with my good old Crebillon; yet my style, which was full of Italianisms, often expressed the very reverse of what I meant to say. But generally my 'quid pro quos' only resulted in curious jokes which made my fortune; and the best of it is that my gibberish did me no harm on the score of wit: on the contrary, it procured me fine acquaintances.
Several ladies of the best society begged me to teach them Italian, saying that it would afford them the opportunity of teaching me French; in such an exchange I always won more than they did.
Madame Preodot, who was one of my pupils, received me one morning; she was still in bed, and told me that she did not feel disposed to have a lesson, because she had taken medicine the night previous. Foolishly translating an Italian idiom, I asked her, with an air of deep interest, whether she had well 'decharge'?
"Sir, what a question! You are unbearable."
I repeated my question; she broke out angrily again.
"Never utter that dreadful word."
"You are wrong in getting angry; it is the proper word."
"A very dirty word, sir, but enough about it. Will you have some breakfast?"
"No, I thank you. I have taken a 'cafe' and two 'Savoyards'."
"Dear me! What a ferocious breakfast! Pray, explain yourself."
"I say that I have drunk a cafe and eaten two Savoyards soaked in it, and that is what I do every morning."
"You are stupid, my good friend. A cafe is the establishment in which coffee is sold, and you ought to say that you have drunk 'use tasse de cafe'"
"Good indeed! Do you drink the cup? In Italy we say a 'caffs', and we are not foolish enough to suppose that it means the coffee-house."
"He will have the best of it! And the two 'Savoyards', how did you swallow them?"
"Soaked in my coffee, for they were not larger than these on your table."
"And you call these 'Savoyards'? Say biscuits."
"In Italy, we call them 'Savoyards' because they were first invented in Savoy; and it is not my fault if you imagined that I had swallowed two of the porters to be found at the corner of the streets--big fellows whom you call in Paris Savoyards, although very often they have never been in Savoy."
Her husband came in at that moment, and she lost no time in relating the whole of our conversation. He laughed heartily, but he said I was right. Her niece arrived a few minutes after; she was a young girl about fourteen years of age, reserved, modest, and very intelligent. I had given her five or six lessons in Italian, and as she was very fond of that language and studied diligently she was beginning to speak.
Wishing to pay me her compliments in Italian, she said to me,
"'Signore, sono in cantata di vi Vader in bona salute'."
"I thank you, mademoiselle; but to translate 'I am enchanted', you must say 'ho pacer', and for to see you, you must say 'di vedervi'."
"I thought, sir, that the 'vi' was to be placed before."
"No, mademoiselle, we always put it behind."
Monsieur and Madame Preodot were dying with laughter; the young lady was confused, and I in despair at having uttered such a gross absurdity; but it could not be helped. I took a book sulkily, in the hope of putting a stop to their mirth, but it was of no use: it lasted a week. That uncouth blunder soon got known throughout Paris, and gave me a sort of reputation which I lost little by little, but only when I understood the double meanings of words better. Crebillon was much amused with my blunder, and he told me that I ought to have said after instead of behind. Ah! why have not all languages the same genius! But if the French laughed at my mistakes in speaking their language, I took my revenge amply by turning some of their idioms into ridicule.