The Russians are fair as a rule, and so it was thought it that the reigning family should be dark.
Here I will note down a pleasant adventure I had at Leipzig. The Princess of Aremberg had arrived from Vienna, and was staying at the same hotel as myself. She took a fancy to go to the fair incognito, and as she had a large suite she dressed up one of her maids as the princess, and mingled with her following. I suppose my readers to be aware that this princess was witty and beautiful, and that she was the favourite mistress of the Emperor Francis the First.
I heard of his masquerade, and leaving my hotel at the same time I followed her till she stopped at a stall, and then going up to her and addressing her as one would any other maid, I asked if that (pointing at the false princess) were really the famous Princess of Aremberg.
"Certainly," she replied.
"I can scarcely believe it, for she is not pretty, and she, has, not the look nor the manners of a princess."
"Perhaps you are not a good judge of princesses."
"I have seen enough of them anyhow, and to prove that I am a good judge I say that it is you who ought to be the princess; I would willingly give a hundred ducats to spend the night with you."
"A hundred ducats! What would you do if I were to take you at your word?"
"Try me. I lodge at the same hotel as you, and if yet can contrive ways and means, I will give you the money in advance, but not till I am sure of my prize, for I don't like being taken in."
"Very good. Say not a word to anyone, but try to speak with me either before or after supper. If you are brave enough to face certain risks, we will spend the night together."
"What is your name?"
I felt certain it would come to nothing, but I was glad to have amused the princess, and to have let her know that I appreciated her beauties, and I resolved to go on with the part I was playing. About supper-time I began a promenade near the princess's apartments, stopping every now and then in front of the room where her women were sitting, till one of them came out to ask me if I wanted anything.
"I want to speak for a moment to one of your companions to whom I had the pleasure of talking at the fair."
"You mean Caroline, I expect?"
"She is waiting on the princess, but she will be out in half an hour."
I spent this half hour in my own room, and then returned to dance attendance. Before long the same maid to whom I had spoken came up to me and told me to wait in a closet which she shewed me, telling me that Caroline would be there before long. I went into the closet, which was small, dark, and uncomfortable. I was soon joined by a woman. This time I was sure it was the real Caroline, but I said nothing.
She came, in, took my hand, and told me that if I would wait there she would come to me as soon as her mistress was in bed.
"Without any light?"
"Of course, or else the people of the house would notice it, and I should not like that."
"I cannot do anything without light, charming Caroline; and besides, this closet is not a very nice place to pass five or six hours. There is another alternative, the first room above is mine. I shall be alone, and I swear to you that no one shall come in; come up and make me happy; I have got the hundred ducats here."
"Impossible! I dare not go upstairs for a million ducats."
"So much the worse for you, as I am not going to stay in this hole which "has only a chair in it, if you offer me a million and a half. Farewell, sweet Caroline."
"Wait a moment; let me go out first."
The sly puss went out quickly enough, but I was as sharp as she, and trod on the tail of her dress so that she could not shut the door after her. So we went out together, and I left her at the door, saying,--
"Good night, Caroline, you see it was no use."
I went to bed well pleased with the incident. The princess, it was plain, had intended to make me pass the night in the hole of a closet, as a punishment for having dared to ask the mistress of an emperor to sleep with me for a hundred crowns.