I was curious to see who it could be, and not wishing to speak before I knew her, I had the patience to wait till she lifted her mask, and this occurred at the end of an hour. What was my surprise to see Madame Baret, the stocking-seller of the Rue St. Honor& My love awoke from its long sleep, and coming up to her I said, in a falsetto voice,--
"I am your friend of the 'Hotel d'Elbeuf.'"
She was puzzled, and looked the picture of bewilderment. I whispered in her ear, "Gilbert Baret, Rue des Prouveres," and certain other facts which could only be known to herself and a fortunate lover.
She saw I knew her inmost secrets, and drawing me away she begged me to tell her who I was.
"I was your lover, and a fortunate one, too," I replied; "but before I tell you my name, with whom are you, and how are you?"
"Very well; but pray do not divulge what I tell you. I left Paris with M. d'Anglade, counsellor in the Court of Rouen. I lived happily enough for some time with him, and then left him to go with a theatrical manager, who brought me here as an actress under the name of de l'Anglade, and now I am kept by Count Rzewuski, the Polish ambassador. And now tell me who you are?"
Feeling sure of enjoying her again, I lifted my mask. She gave a cry of joy, and exclaimed,--
"My good angel has brought you to St. Petersburg."
"How do you mean?"
"Rzewuski is obliged to go back to Poland, and now I count on you to get me out of the country, for I can no longer continue in a station for which I was not intended, since I can neither sing nor act."
She gave me her address, and I left her delighted with my discovery. After having passed half an hour at the counter, eating and drinking of the best, I returned to the crowd and saw my fair stocking-seller talking to Count Volpati. He had seen her with me, and hastened to enquire my name of her. However, she was faithful to our mutual promise, and told him I was her husband, though the Venetian did not seem to give the least credence to this piece of information.
At last I was tired and left the ball, and went to bed intending to go to mass in the morning. I slept for some time and woke, but as it was still dark I turned on the other side and went to sleep again. At last I awoke again, and seeing the daylight stealing through my double windows, I sent for a hairdresser, telling my man to make haste as I wanted to hear mass on the first Sunday after my arrival in St. Petersburg.
"But sir," said he, "the first Sunday was yesterday; we are at Monday now."
I had spent twenty-seven hours in bed, and after laughing at the mishap I felt as if I could easily believe it, for my hunger was like that of a cannibal.
This is the only day which I really lost in my life; but I do not weep like the Roman emperor, I laugh. But this is not the only difference between Titus and Casanova.
I called on Demetrio Papanelopulo, the Greek merchant, who was to pay me a hundred roubles a month. I was also commended to him by M. da Loglio, and I had an excellent reception. He begged me to come and dine with him every day, paid me the roubles for the month due, and assured me that he had honoured my bill drawn at Mitau. He also found me a reliable servant, and a carriage at eighteen roubles, or six ducats per month. Such cheapness has, alas! departed for ever.
The next day, as I was dining with the worthy Greek and young Bernardi, who was afterwards poisoned, Count Volpati came in with the dessert, and told us how he had met a Venetian at the ball who had promised to come and see him.
"The Venetian would have kept his promise," said I, "if he had not had a long sleep of twenty-seven hours. I am the Venetian, and am delighted to continue our acquaintance."
The count was about to leave, and his departure had already been announced in the St. Petersburg Gazette. The Russian custom is not to give a traveller his passports till a fortnight has elapsed after the appearance of his name in the paper.