I must commend you highly for kissing M. Querini's hand. That was a masterstroke indeed. All will go off well; but I hope you will be merry, for sadness I abhor."
We were still at table when I heard the voice of M. Memmo in the ante-chamber; he was a young man, intelligent and good-natured. I warned Marcoline not to say a word about our private affairs, but to display a moderate gaiety. The servant announced the young nobleman, and we rose to welcome him; but he made us sit down again, and sat beside us, and drank a glass of wine with the utmost cordiality. He told me how he had been supping with the old devotee Querini, who had had his hand kissed by a young and fair Venetian. The ambassadors were much amused at the circumstance, and Querini himself, in spite of his scrupulous conscience, was greatly flattered.
"May I ask you, mademoiselle," he added, "how you came to know M. Querini?"
"It's a mystery, sir."
"A mystery, is it? What fun we shall have tomorrow! I have come," he said, addressing himself to me, "to ask you to dine with us to- morrow, and you must bring your charming niece."
"Would you like to go, Marcoline?"
"'Con grandissimo piacere'! We shall speak Venetian, shall we not?"
"'E viva'! I cannot learn French."
"M. Querini is in the same position," said M. Memmo.
After half an hour's agreeable conversation he left us, and Marcoline embraced me with delight at having made such a good impression on these gentlemen.
"Put on your best dress to-morrow," said I, "and do not forget your jewels. Be agreeable to everybody, but pretend not to see your Uncle Mattio, who will be sure to wait at table."
"You may be sure I shall follow your advice to the letter."
"And I mean to make the recognition a scene worthy of the drama. I intend that you shall be taken back to Venice by M. Querini himself, while your uncle will take care of you by his special orders."
"I shall be delighted with this arrangement, provided it succeeds."
"You may trust to me for that."
At nine o'clock the next day I called on Morosini concerning the commissions he had for me. He gave me a little box and a letter for Lady Harrington, and another letter with the words,--
"The Procurator Morosini is very sorry not to have been able to take a last leave of Mdlle. Charpillon."
"Where shall I find her?"
"I really don't know. If you find her, give her the letter; if not, it doesn't matter. That's a dazzling beauty you have with you, Casanova."
"Well, she has dazzled me."
"But how did she know Querini?"
"She has seen him at Venice, but she has never spoken to him."
"I thought so; we have been laughing over it, but Querini is hugely pleased. But how did you get hold of her? She must be very young, as Memmo says she cannot speak French."
"It would be a long story to tell, and after all we met through a mere chance."
"She is not your niece."
"Nay, she is more--she is my queen."
"You will have to teach her French, as when you get to London."
"I am not going to take her there; she wants to return to Venice."
"I pity you if you are in love with her! I hope she will dine with us?"
"Oh, yes! she is delighted with the honour."
"And we are delighted to have our poor repast animated by such a charming person."
"You will find her worthy of your company; she is full of wit."
When I got back to the inn I told Marcoline that if anything was said at dinner about her return to Venice, she was to reply that no one could make her return except M. Querini, but that if she could have his protection she would gladly go back with him.
"I will draw you out of the difficulty," said I; and she promised to carry out my instructions.
Marcoline followed my advice with regard to her toilette, and looked brilliant in all respects; and I, wishing to shine in the eyes of the proud Venetian nobles, had dressed myself with the utmost richness. I wore a suit of grey velvet, trimmed with gold and silver lace; my point lace shirt was worth at least fifty louis; and my diamonds, my watches, my chains, my sword of the finest English steel, my snuff- box set with brilliants, my cross set with diamonds, my buckles set with the same stones, were altogether worth more than fifty thousand crowns.