"'Tell his highness,' she said to Molinari, "that I will come, and that he will find me as gentle as a lamb and as good as an angel.'
"This is the way in which the connection began, and she fathomed his character so astutely that she maintained her conquest as much with ill- treatment and severity as with her favours."
Such was the tale of the hapless Madame Schizza. It was told with all the passion of an Italian divided between repentance for the past and the desire of vengeance.
The next day, as I had expected, I received a letter from Henriette. It ran as follows:
"My Dear Old Friend,--Nothing could be more romantic than our meeting at my country house six years ago, and now again, after a parting of so many years. Naturally we have both grown older, and though I love you still I am glad you did not recognize me. Not that I have become ugly, but I am stout, and this gives me another look. I am a widow, and well enough off to tell you that if you lack money you will find some ready for you in Henriette's purse. Do not come back to Aix to see me, as your return might give rise to gossip; but if you chance to come here again after some time, we may meet, though not as old acquaintances. I am happy to think that I have perhaps prolonged your days by giving you a nurse for whose trustworthiness I would answer. If you would like to correspond with me I should be happy to do my part. I am very curious to know what happened to you after your flight from The Leads, and after the proofs you have given me of your discretion I think I shall be able to tell you how we came to meet at Cesena, and how I returned to my country. The first part is a secret for everyone; only M. d'Antoine is acquainted with a portion of the story. I am grateful for the reticence you have observed, though Marcoline must have delivered the message I gave her. Tell me what has become of that beautiful girl. Farewell!"
I replied, accepting her offer to correspond, and I told her the whole story of my adventures. From her I received forty letters, in which the history of her life is given. If she die before me, I shall add these letters to my Memoirs, but at present she is alive and happy, though advanced in years.
The day after I went to call on Madame Audibert, and we went together to see Madame N---- N----, who was already the mother of three children. Her husband adored her, and she was very happy. I gave her good news of Marcoline, and told the story of Croce and Charlotte's death, which affected her to tears.
In turn she told me about Rosalie, who was quite a rich woman. I had no hopes of seeing her again, for she lived at Genoa, and I should not have cared to face M. Grimaldi.
My niece (as I once called her) mortified me unintentionally; she said I was ageing. Though a man can easily make a jest of his advancing years, a speech like this is not pleasant when one has not abandoned the pursuit of pleasure. She gave me a capital dinner, and her husband made me offers which I was ashamed to accept. I had fifty Louis, and, intending to go on to Turin, I did not feel uneasy about the future.
At Marseilles I met the Duc de Vilardi, who was kept alive by the art of Tronchin. This nobleman, who was Governor of Provence, asked me to supper, and I was surprised to meet at his house the self-styled Marquis d'Aragon; he was engaged in holding the bank. I staked a few coins and lost, and the marquis asked me to dine with him and his wife, an elderly Englishwoman, who had brought him a dowry of forty thousand guineas absolutely, with twenty thousand guineas which would ultimately go to her son in London. I was not ashamed to borrow fifty Louis from this lucky rascal, though I felt almost certain that I should never return the money.
I left Marseilles by myself, and after crossing the Alps arrived at Turin.
There I had a warm welcome from the Chevalier Raiberti and the Comte de la Perouse. Both of them pronounced me to be looking older, but I consoled myself with the thought that, after all, I was only forty-four.