They meekly replied,--
They rose and kissed the mother's hand, which I thought a ridiculous ceremony; however, it gave me an opportunity of examining them, and I thought them delicious. We went back to the shop, and sitting down by the counter I enlarged on the beauty of the girls, adding, though not with strict truth, that I vastly preferred their mistress. She thanked me for the compliment and told me plainly that she had a lover, and soon after named him. He was the Comte de St. Giles, an infirm and elderly man, and by no means a model lover. I thought Madame R---- was jesting, but next day I ascertained that she was speaking the truth. Well, everyone to his taste, and I suspect that she was more in love with the count's purse than his person. I had met him at the "Exchange" coffeehouse.
The next day the two pretty milliners brought me my goods. I offered them chocolate, but they firmly and persistently declined. The fancy took me to send them to Leah with all the things she had chosen, and I bade them return and tell me what sort of a reception they had had. They said they would do so, and waited for me to write her a note.
I could not give them the slightest mark of affection. I dared not shut the door, and the mistress and the ugly young woman of the house kept going and coming all the time; but when they came back I waited for them on the stairs, and giving them a sequin each told each of them that she might command my heart if she would. Leah had accepted my handsome present and sent to say that she was waiting for me.
As I was walking aimlessly about in the afternoon I happened to pass the milliner's shop, and Madame R---- saw me and made me come in and sit down beside her.
"I am really much obliged to you," said she, "for your kindness to my girls. They came home enchanted. Tell me frankly whether you are really in love with the pretty Jewess."
"I am really in love with her, but as she will not make me happy I have signed my own dismissal."
"You were quite right. All Leah thinks of is duping those who are captivated by her charms."
"Do not your charming apprentices follow your maxims?"
"No; but they are only complaisant when I give them leave."
"Then I commend myself to your intercession, for they would not even take a cup of chocolate from me."
"They were perfectly right not to accept your chocolate: but I see you do not know the ways of Turin. Do you find yourself comfortable in your present lodging?"
"Are you perfectly free to do what you like?"
"I think so."
"Can you give supper to anyone you like in your own rooms? I am certain you can't."
"I have not had the opportunity of trying the experiment so far, but I believe . . . ."
"Don't flatter yourself by believing anything; that house is full of the spies of the police."
"Then you think that I could not give you and two or three of your girls a little supper?"
"I should take very good care not to go to it, that's all I know. By next morning it would be known to all the town, and especially to the police."
"Well, supposing I look out for another lodging?"
"It's the same everywhere. Turin is a perfect nest of spies; but I do know a house where you could live at ease, and where my girls might perhaps be able to bring you your purchases. But we should have to be very careful."
"Where is the house I will be guided by you in everything."
"Don't trust a Piedmontese; that's the first commandment here."
She then gave me the address of a small furnished house, which was only inhabited by an old door-keeper and his wife.
"They will let it you by the month," said she, "and if you pay a month in advance you need not even tell them your name."
I found the house to be a very pretty one, standing in a lonely street at about two hundred paces from the citadel. One gate, large enough to admit a carriage, led into the country. I found everything to be as Madame R---- had described it. I paid a month in advance without any bargaining, and in a day I had settled in my new lodging.