"I suppose you know him well," said the ambassador, "and as I am going to present him to the Holy Father to-morrow, I should be much obliged if you could tell me who he really is."
"I knew him at Madrid, where he lived with Mocenigo our ambassador; he is well mannered, polite, and a fine looking young man, and that's all I know about him."
"Was he received at the Spanish Court?"
"I think so, but I cannot be positive."
"Well, I think he was not received; but I see that you won't tell me all you know about him. It's of no consequence; I shall run no risk in presenting him to the Pope. He says he is descended from Manucci, the famous traveller of the thirteenth century, and from the celebrated printers of the same name who did so much for literature. He shewed me the Aldine anchor on his coat of arms which has sixteen quarters."
I was astonished beyond measure that this man who had plotted my assassination should speak of me as an intimate friend, and I determined to conceal my feelings and await events. I did not shew the least sign of anger, and when after greeting the ambassador he came up to me with open arms, I received him cordially and asked after Mocenigo.
Manucci talked a great deal at dinner, telling a score of lies, all in my honour, about my reception at Madrid. I believe his object was to force me to lie too, and to make me do the same for him another time.
I swallowed all these bitter pills, for I had no choice in the matter, but I made up my mind I would have a thorough explanation the next day.
A Frenchman, the Chevalier de Neuville by name, who had come with Manucci, interested me a great deal. He had come to Rome to endeavour to obtain the annulment of marriage of a lady who was in a convent at Mantua. He had a special recommendation to Cardinal Galli.
His conversation was particularly agreeable, and when we left the ambassador's I accepted the offer to come into his carriage with Manucci, and we drove about till the evening.
As we were returning at nightfall he told us that he was going to present us to a pretty girl with whom we would sup and where we should have a game of faro.
The carriage stopped at the Place d'Espagne, at a short distance from my lodging, and we went up to a room on the second floor. When I went in I was surprised to see Count Medini and his mistress, the lady whom the chevalier had praised, and whom I found not at all to my taste. Medini received me cordially, and thanked the Frenchman for having made me forget the past, and having brought me to see him.
M. de Neuville looked astonished, and to avoid any unpleasant explanations I turned the conversation.
When Medini thought a sufficient number of punters were present he sat down at a large table, placed five or six hundred crowns in gold and notes before him, and began to deal. Manucci lost all the gold he had about him, Neuville swept away half the bank, and I was content with the humble part of spectator.
After supper, Medini asked the chevalier to give him his revenge, and Manucci asked me to lend him a hundred sequins. I did so, and in an hour he had not one left. Neuville, on the other hand, brought down Medini's bank to twenty or thirty sequins, and after that we retired to our several homes.
Manucci lodged with my sister-in-law, Roland's daughter, and I had made up my mind to give him an early call; but he did not leave me the opportunity, as he called on me early in the morning.
After returning me the hundred sequins he embraced me affectionately, and, shewing me a large letter of credit on Bettoni, said that I must consider his purse as mine. In short, though he said nothing about the past, he gave me to understand that he wished to initiate a mutual policy of forget and forgive.
On this occasion my heart proved too strong for my brain; such has often been the case with me. I agreed to the articles of peace he offered and required.
Besides, I was no longer at that headstrong age which only knows one kind of satisfaction, that of the sword.