I enjoy a pension from the Government, which I surrender to my wife, and as for me I make a livelihood on my travels. I play black gammon and most other games perfectly. I win more often than I lose, and I live on my winnings."
"But is what you have told me about your daughter known to the visitors here?"
"Everybody knows it; why should I hide it? I am a man of honour and injure no one; and, besides, my sword is sharp."
"Quite so; but would you tell me whether you allow your daughter to have a lover?"
"I should have no objection, but my wife is religious."
"Is your daughter pretty?"
"Very; if you are going to Lyons, you can go and see her; I will give you a letter of introduction for her." "Thank you, but I am going to Italy. Can you tell me the name of the gentleman who kept the bank?"
"That is the famous Parcalier, Marquis de Prie since the death of his father, whom you may have known as ambassador at Venice. The gentleman who asked you if you knew the Abbe Gilbert is the Chevalier Zeroli, husband of the lady you are to sup with. The rest are counts, marquises, and barons of the usual kind, some from Piedmont and some from Savoy. Two or three are merchants' sons, and the ladies are all their friends or relations. They are all professional gamblers and sharp-witted. When a stranger comes here they know how to get over him, and if he plays it is all up with him, for they go together like pickpockets at a fair. They think they have got you, so take care of yourself."
In the evening we returned to the inn, and found all the company playing, and my companion proceeded to play with a Count de Scarnafisch.
The Chevalier Zeroli offered to play faro with me for forty sequins, and I had just lost that sum when supper was served. My loss had not affected my spirits, and the lady finding me at once hungry and gay paid the bet with a good grace. At supper I surprised her in certain side-glances, which warned me that she was going to try to dupe me; I felt myself safe as far as love was concerned, but I had reason to dread fortune, always the friend of those who keep a bank at faro, especially as I had already lost. I should have done well to go, but I had not the strength; all I could do was to promise myself that I would be extremely prudent. Having large sums in paper money and plenty of gold, it was not difficult for me to be careful.
Just after supper the Marquis de Prie made a bank of about three hundred sequins. His staking this paltry sum shewed me that I had much to lose and little to win, as it was evident that he would have made a bank of a thousand sequins if he had had them. I put down fifty Portuguese crowns, and said that as soon as I had lost them I should go to bed. In the middle of the third deal I broke the bank.
"I am good for another two hundred louis," said the marquis.
"I should be glad to continue playing," I replied, "if I had not to go at day-break"; and I thereupon left the room.
Just as I was going to bed, Desarmoises came and asked me to lend him twelve louis. I had expected some such request, and I counted them out to him. He embraced me gratefully, and told me that Madame Zeroli had sworn to make me stay on at least for another day. I smiled and called Le Duc, and asked him if my coachman knew that I was starting early; he replied that he would be at the door by five o'clock.
"Very good," said Desarmoises, "but I will wager that you will not go for all that."
He went out and I went to bed, laughing at his prophecy.
At five o'clock next morning the coachman came to tell me that one of the horses was ill and could not travel. I saw that Desarmoises had had an inkling of some plot, but I only laughed. I sent the man roughly about his business, and told Le Duc to get me post-horses at the inn. The inn-keeper came and told me that there were no horses, and that it would take all the morning to find some, as the Marquis de Prie, who was leaving at one o'clock in the morning, had emptied his stables.