The princess as well as myself likes it better than our place at Monaco, so we live here by preference."
"I should be grateful if your highness would present me to the princess."
Without mentioning my name he ordered a page in waiting to present me to the princess.
The page opened the door of a handsome room and said, "The Princess," and left me. She was singing at the piano, but as soon as she saw me she rose and came to meet me. I was obliged to introduce myself, a most unpleasant thing, and no doubt the princess felt the position, for she pretended not to notice it, and addressed me with the utmost kindness and politeness, and in a way that shewed that she was learned in the maxims of good society. I immediately became very much at my ease, and proceeded in a lordly manner to entertain her with pleasant talk, though I said nothing about my two lady friends.
The princess was handsome, clever, and good-natured. Her mother, who knew that a man like the prince would never make her daughter happy, opposed the marriage, but the young marchioness was infatuated, and the mother had to give in when the girl said,--
"O Monaco O monaca." (Either Monaco or a convent.)
We were still occupied in the trifles which keep up an ordinary conversation, when the prince came in running after a waiting-maid, who was making her escape, laughing. The princess pretended not to see him, and went on with what she was saying. The scene displeased me, and I took leave of the princess, who wished me a pleasant journey. I met the prince as I was going out, and he invited me to come and see him whenever I passed that way.
"Certainly," said I; and made my escape without saying any more.
I went back to the inn and ordered a good dinner for three.
In the principality of Monaco there was a French garrison, which was worth a pension of a hundred thousand francs to the prince--a very welcome addition to his income.
A curled and scented young officer, passing by our room, the door of which was open, stopped short, and with unblushing politeness asked us if we would allow him to join our party. I replied politely, but coldly, that he did us honour--a phrase which means neither yes nor no; but a Frenchman who has advanced one step never retreats.
He proceeded to display his graces for the benefit of the ladies, talking incessantly, without giving them time to get in a word, when he suddenly turned to me and said that he wondered how it was that the prince had not asked me and my ladies to dinner. I told him that I had not said anything to the prince about the treasure I had with me.
I had scarcely uttered the words, when the kindly blockhead rose and cried enthusiastically,--
"Parbleu! I am no longer surprised. I will go and tell his highness, and I shall soon have the honour of dining with you at the castle."
He did not wait to hear my answer, but went off in hot haste.
We laughed heartily at his folly, feeling quite sure that we should neither dine with him nor the prince, but in a quarter of an hour he returned in high glee, and invited us all to dinner on behalf of the prince.
"I beg you will thank his highness, and at the same time ask him to excuse us. The weather has improved, and I want to be off as soon as we have taken a hasty morsel."
The young Frenchman exerted all his eloquence in vain, and at length retired with a mortified air to take our answer to the prince.
I thought I had got rid of him at last, but I did not know my man. He returned a short time after, and addressing himself in a complacent manner to the ladies, as if I was of no more account, he told them that he had given the prince such a description of their charms that he had made up his mind to dine with them.
"I have already ordered the table to be laid for two more, as I shall have the honour of being of the party. In a quarter of an hour, ladies, the prince will be here."
"Very good," said I, "but as the prince is coming I must go to the felucca and fetch a capital pie of which the prince is very fond, I know.