Instinct drew me to the mother I have remarked on, and I asked her to whom the dancer that interested me belonged.
"I am her mother," she replied.
"You, madam! I should not have thought it possible."
"I was very young when she was born."
"I should think so. Where do you come from?"
"I am from Lucca, and what is more-a poor widow."
"How can you be poor, when you are still young and handsome, and have an angel for a daughter?"
She replied only by an expressive glance. I understood her reserve, and I stayed by her without speaking. Soon after, Agatha, as her daughter was named, came up to her to ask for a handkerchief to wipe her face.
"Allow me to offer you mine," said I. It was a white handkerchief, and scented with attar of roses; this latter circumstance gave her an excuse for accepting it, but after smelling it she wanted to return it to me.
"You have not used it," said I! "do so."
She obeyed, and then returned it to me with a bow by way of thanks.
"You must not give it me back, fair Agatha, till you have had it washed."
She smiled, and gave it to her mother, glancing at me in a grateful manner, which I considered of good omen.
"May I have the pleasure of calling on you?" said I. "I cannot receive you, sir, except in the presence of my landlady."
"This cursed restriction is general in Turin, then?"
"Yes, the superintendent uses everybody in the same way."
"Then I shall have the pleasure of seeing you again here?"
In the evening I had one of the best suppers I ever had in my life, if I except those I enjoyed during my stay at Turin. My cook was worthy of a place in the kitchen of Lucullus; but without detracting from his skill I must do justice to the products of the country. Everything is delicious; game, fish, birds, meat, vegetables, fruit, milk, and truffles--all are worthy of the table of the greatest gourmets, and the wines of the country yield to none. What a pity that strangers do not enjoy liberty at Turin! It is true that better society, and more politeness, such as are found in several French and Italian towns, are to be wished for.
The beauty of the women of Turin is no doubt due to the excellence of the air and diet.
I had not much trouble in extracting a promise from Madame Mazzoli and the two counts to sup with me every night, but the Chevalier de Raiberti would only promise to come whenever he could.
At the Carignan Theatre, where opera-bouffe was being played, I saw Redegonde, with whom I had failed at Florence. She saw me in the pit and gave me a smile, so I wrote to her, offering my services if the mother had changed her way of thinking. She answered that her mother was always the same, but that if I would ask the Corticelli she could come and sup with me, though the mother would doubtless have to be of the party. I gave her no answer, as the terms she named were by no means to my taste.
I had a letter from Madame du Rumain, enclosing one from M. de Choiseul to M. de Chauvelin, the French ambassador at Turin. It will be remembered that I had known this worthy nobleman at Soleure, and had been treated with great politeness by him, but I wished to have a more perfect title to his acquaintance; hence I asked Madame du Rumain to give me a letter.
M. de Chauvelin received me with the greatest cordiality; and reproaching me for having thought a letter of introduction necessary, introduced me to his charming wife, who was no less kind than her husband. Three or four days later he asked me to dine with him, and I met at his table M. Imberti, the Venetian ambassador, who said he was very sorry not to be able to present me at Court. On hearing the reason M. de Chauvelin offered to present me himself, but I thought it best to decline with thanks. No doubt it would have been a great honour, but the result would be that I should be more spied on than even in this town of spies, where the most indifferent actions do not pass unnoticed. My pleasures would have been interfered with.
Count Borromeo continued to honour me by coming every night to sup with me, preserving his dignity the while, for as he accompanied Madame Mazzoli it was not to be supposed that he came because he was in need of a meal.