de Grimaldi giving Rosalie a lesson in Italian.
"She has given me an exquisite dinner," said he, "you must be very happy with her."
In spite of his honest face, M. Grimaldi was in love with her, but I thought I had nothing to fear. Before he went she invited him to come to the rehearsal next day.
When the actors came I noticed amongst them a young man whose face I did not know, and on my enquiring Rossi told me he was the prompter.
"I won't have any prompter; send him about his business."
"We can't get on without him."
"You'll have to; I will be the prompter."
The prompter was dismissed, but the three actresses began to complain.
"If we knew our parts as well as the 'pater noster' we should be certain to come to a dead stop if the prompter isn't in his box."
"Very good," said I to the actress, who was to play Lindane, "I will occupy the box myself, but I shall see your drawers."
"You would have some difficulty in doing that," said the first actor, "she doesn't wear any."
"So much the better."
"You know nothing about it," said the actress.
These remarks put us all in high spirits, and the ministers of Thalia ended by promising that they would dispense with a prompter. I was pleased with the way the piece was read, and they said they would be letter-perfect in three days. But something happened.
On the day fixed for the rehearsal they came without the Lindane and Murray. They were not well, but Rossi said they would not fail us eventually. I took the part of Murray, and asked Rosalie to be the Lindane.
"I don't read Italian well enough," she whispered, "and I don't wish to have the actors laughing at me; but Veronique could do it."
"Ask if she will read the part."
However, Veronique said that she could repeat it by heart.
"All the better," said I to her, laughing internally, as I thought of Soleure, for I saw that I should thus be obliged to make love to the girl to whom I had not spoken for the fortnight she had been with us. I had not even had a good look at her face. I was so afraid of Rosalie (whom I loved better every day) taking fright.
What I had feared happened. When I took Veronique's hand, and said, "Si, bella Lindana, debbe adorarvi!" everybody clapped, because I gave the words their proper expression; but glancing at Rosalie I saw a shadow on her face, and I was angry at not having controlled myself better. Nevertheless, I could not help feeling amazed at the way Veronique played the part. When I told her that I adored her she blushed up to her eyes; she could not have played the love-sick girl better.
We fixed a day for the dress-rehearsal at the theatre, and the company announced the first night a week in advance to excite public curiosity. The bills ran:
"We shall give Voltaire's Ecossaise, translated by an anonymous author: no prompter will be present."
I cannot give the reader any idea of the trouble I had to quiet Rosalie. She refused to be comforted; wept incessantly, and touched my heart by gentle reproaches.
"You love Veronique," said she, "and you only translated that piece to have an opportunity of declaring your love."
I succeeded in convincing her that she wronged me, and at last after I had lavished caresses on her she suffered herself to be calmed. Next morning she begged pardon for her jealousy, and to cure it insisted on my speaking constantly to Veronique. Her heroism went farther. She got up before me and sent me my coffee by Veronique, who was as astonished as I was.
At heart Rosalie was a great creature, capable of noble resolves, but like all women she gave way to sudden emotions. From that day she gave me no more signs of jealousy, and treated her maid with more kindness than ever. Veronique was an intelligent and well- mannered girl, and if my heart had not been already occupied she would have reigned there.
The first night of the play I took Rosalie to a box, and she would have Veronique with her. M. de Grimaldi did not leave her for a moment. The play was praised to the skies; the large theatre was full of the best people in Genoa.