Directly afterwards supper was announced, and we went into the dining-room.
Redegonde, who had learnt French admirably, kept everybody amused. She had been engaged by the Duke of Brunswick as second singer, and she had come from Brussels. She bemoaned her journey in the uncomfortable post-chaise, and expressed a fear that she would be ill by the time she got to her journey's end.
"Why, there's the Chevalier Seingalt all alone in a most comfortable carriage," said the general.
"How many people will your carriage hold?"
"Then it's out of the question, for I never let my daughter travel alone with anybody."
A general burst of laughter, in which Redegonde joined, seemed to confuse the mother in some degree; but like a good daughter Redegonde explained that her mother was always afraid of her being assassinated.
The evening passed away in pleasant conversation, and the younger singer did not need much persuasion to seat herself at the piano, where she sang in a manner that won genuine applause.
When I wanted to go the general begged me to breakfast with him, saying that the post-chaise did not go till twelve, and that this act of politeness was due to my young fellow-countrywoman. Redegonde joined in, reproaching me with my behaviour at Turin and Florence, though she had nothing really to complain of. I gave in, and feeling that I wanted rest I went to bed.
The next morning, at nine o'clock, I took leave of the worthy doctor and his family and walked to the general's, giving orders that my carriage should be brought round as soon as it was ready.
In half an hour Redegonde and her mother arrived, and I was astonished to see them accompanied by the brother who had been my servant at Florence.
When breakfast was over my carriage stood at the door, and I made my bow to the general and all the company, who were standing in the hall to see me off. Redegonde came down the steps with me, and asked if my carriage was comfortable, and then got into it. I got in after her without the slightest premeditation, and the postillion, seeing the carriage full, gave a crack with his whip and we were off, Redegonde shrieking with laughter. I was on the point of telling him to stop, but seeing her enjoyment of the drive I held my tongue, only waiting for her to say, "I have had enough." But I waited in vain, and we had gone over half a league before she said a word.
"I have laughed, and laugh still," she said, "when I think of what my mother will say at this freak of mine. I had no intentions in getting into the carriage, and I am sure you cannot have told the postillion to drive on."
"You may be quite sure of that."
"All the same my mother will believe it to be a deeply-laid plan, and that strikes me as amusing."
"So it is; I am quite satisfied, certainly. Now you are here you had better come on with me to Brunswick; you will be more comfortable than in a villainous stage coach."
"I should be delighted, but that would be pushing matters too far. No, we will stop at the first stage and wait for the coach."
"You may do so if you please, but you will excuse my waiting."
"What! you would leave me all alone?"
"You know, dear Redegonde, that I have always loved you, and I am ready to take you with me to Brunswick; what more can I say?"
"If you love me you will wait with me and restore me to my mother, who must be in despair."
"In spite of my devotion I am afraid I cannot do so."
Instead of turning sulky the young madcap began to laugh again; and I determined she should come with me to Brunswick.
When we got to the end of the stage there were no horses ready. I arranged matters with the postillion, and after baiting the horses we set out once more. The roads were fearful, and we did not come to the second posting-stage till nightfall.
We might have slept there, but not wishing to be caught up by the coach and to lose my prize, I ordered fresh horses and we resumed our journey in spite of Redegonde's tears and supplications.