Continues the Preceding Chapter — M. M. Recovers — I Return to Venice — Tonine Consoles Me — Decrease of My Love For M. M. — Doctor Righelini — Curious Conversation With Him — How This Conversation Affected M. M. — Mr. Murray Undeceived and Avenged
Tontine had what is called tact and common sense, and thinking these qualities were required in our economy she behaved with great delicacy, not going to bed before receiving my letters, and never coming into my room except in a proper dress, and all this pleased me. For a fortnight M—— M—— was so ill that I expected every moment to hear the news of her death. On Shrove Tuesday C—— C—— wrote that her friend was not strong enough to read my letter, and that she was going to receive ‘extreme unction’. This news so shocked me that I could not rise, and passed the whole day in weeping and writing, Tonine not leaving me till midnight. I could not sleep. On Ash Wednesday I got a letter, in which C—— C—— told me that the doctor had no hopes for her friend, and that he only gave her a fortnight to live. A low fever was wasting her away, her weakness was extreme, and she could scarcely swallow a little broth. She had also the misfortune to be harassed by her confessor, who made her foretaste all the terrors of death. I could only solace my grief by writing, and Tonine now and again made bold to observe that I was cherishing my grief, and that it would be the death of me. I knew myself that I was making my anguish more poignant, and that keeping to my bed, continued writing, and no food, would finally drive me mad. I had told my grief to poor Tonine, whose chief duty was to wipe away my tears. She had compassion on me.
A few days later, after assuring C—— C—— that if our friend died I should not survive her, I asked her to tell M—— M—— that if she wanted me to take care of my life she must promise to let me carry her off on her recovery.
“I have,” I said, “four thousand sequins and her diamonds, which are worth six thousand; we should, therefore, have a sufficient sum to enable us to live honourably in any part of Europe.”
C—— C—— wrote to me on the following day, and said that my mistress, after hearing my letter read, had fallen into a kind of convulsion, and, becoming delirious, she talked incessantly in French for three whole hours in a fashion which would have made all the nuns take to their heels, if they had understood her. I was in despair, and was nearly raving as wildly as my poor nun. Her delirium lasted three days, and as soon as she got back her reason she charged her young friend to tell me that she was sure to get well if I promised to keep to my word, and to carry her off as soon as her health would allow. I hastened to reply that if I lived she might be sure my promise would be fulfilled.
Thus continuing to deceive each other in all good faith, we got better, for every letter from C—— C— — telling me how the convalescence of her friend was progressing, was to me as balm. And as my mind grew more composed my appetite also grew better, and my health improving day by day, I soon, though quite unconsciously, began to take pleasure in the simple ways of Tonine, who now never left me at night before she saw that I was asleep.
Towards the end of March M—— M—— wrote to me herself, saying that she believed herself out of danger, and that by taking care she hoped to be able to leave her room after Easter. I replied that I should not leave Muran till I had the pleasure of seeing her at the grating, where, without hurrying ourselves, we could plan the execution of our scheme.
It was now seven weeks since M. de Bragadin had seen me, and thinking that he would be getting anxious I resolved to go and see him that very day. Telling Tonine that I should not be back till the evening, I started for Venice without a cloak, for having gone to Muran masked I had forgotten to take one. I had spent forty-eight days without going out of my room, chiefly in tears and distress, and without taking any food. I had just gone through an experience which flattered my self-esteem. I had been served by a girl who would have passed for a beauty anywhere in Europe. She was gentle, thoughtful, and delicate, and without being taxed with foppishness I think I may say that, if she was not in love with me, she was at all events inclined to please me to the utmost of her ability; for all that I had been able to withstand her youthful charms, and I now scarcely dreaded them. Seeing her every day, I had dispersed my amorous fancies, and friendship and gratitude seemed to have vanquished all other feelings, for I was obliged to confess that this charming girl had lavished on me the most tender and assiduous care.
She had passed whole nights on a chair by my bedside, tending me like a mother, and never giving me the slightest cause for complaint.
Never had I given her a kiss, never had I allowed myself to undress in her presence, and never (with one exception) had she come into my room without being properly dressed. For all that, I knew that I had fought a battle, and I felt inclined to boast at having won the victory. There was only one circumstance that vexed me — namely, that I was nearly certain that neither M. M. nor C. C. would consider such continence to be within the bounds of possibility, if they heard of it, and that Laura herself, to whom her daughter would tell the whole story, would be sceptical, though she might out of kindness pretend to believe it all.
I got to M. de Bragadin’s just as the soup was being served. He welcomed me heartily, and was delighted at having foreseen that I should thus surprise them. Besides my two other old friends, there were De la Haye, Bavois, and Dr. Righelini at table.
“What! you without a cloak!” said M. Dandolo.
“Yes,” said I; “for having gone out with my mask on I forgot to bring one:”
At this they laughed, and, without putting myself out, I sat down. No one asked where I had been so long, for it was understood that that question should be left to me to answer or not. Nevertheless, De la Haye, who was bursting with curiosity, could not refrain from breaking some jests on me.
“You have got so thin,” said he, “that uncharitable people will be rather hard on you.”
“I trust they will not say that I have been passing my time with the Jesuits.”
“You are sarcastic. They may say, perhaps, that you have passed your time in a hot-house under the influence of Mercury.”
“Don’t be afraid, sir, for to escape this hasty judgment I shall go back this evening.”
“No, no, I am quite sure you will not.”
“Believe me, sir,” said I, with a bantering tone, “that I deem your opinion of too much consequence not to be governed by it.”
Seeing that I was in earnest, my friends were angry with him; and the Aristarchus was in some confusion.
Righelini, who was one of Murray’s intimate friends, said to me in a friendly way that he had been longing to tell Murray of my re- appearance, and of the falsity of all the reports about me.
“We will go to sup with him,” said I, “and I will return after supper.”
Seeing that M. de Bragadin and his two friends were uneasy about me, I promised to dine with them on April 25th, St. Mark’s Day.
As soon as Mr. Murray saw me, he fell on my neck and embraced me. He introduced me to his wife, who asked me to supper with great politeness. After Murray had told me the innumerable stories which had been made about my disappearance, he asked me if I knew a little story by the Abbe Chiari, which had come out at the end of the carnival. As I said that I knew nothing about it, he gave me a copy, telling me that I should like it. He was right. It was a satire in which the Zorzi clique was pulled to pieces, and in which I played a very poor part. I did not read it till some time after, and in the mean time put it in my pocket. After a very good supper I took a gondola to return to Muran.
It was midnight and very dark, so that I did not perceive the gondola to be ill covered and in wretched order. A fine rain was falling when I got in, and the drops getting larger I was soon wet to the skin. No great harm was done, as I was close to my quarters. I groped my way upstairs and knocked at the door of the ante-room, where Tonine, who had not waited for me, was sleeping. Awake in a moment she came to open the door in her smock, and without a light. As I wanted one, I told her to get the flint and steel, which she did, warning me in a modest voice that she was not dressed. “That’s of no consequence,” said I, “provided you are covered.” She said no more, and soon lighted a candle, but she could not help laughing when she saw me dripping wet.
“I only want you, my dear,” said I, “to dry my hair.” She quickly set to work with powder and powder-puff in hand, but her smock was short and loose at the top, and I repented, rather too late, that I had not given her time to dress. I felt that all was lost, all the more as having to use both her hands she could not hold her smock and conceal two swelling spheres more seductive than the apples of the Hesperides. How could I help seeing them? I shut my eyes and, said “For shame!” but I gave in at last, and fixed such a hungry gaze upon poor Tonine that she blushed. “Come,” said I, “take your smock between your teeth and then I shall see no more.” But it was worse than before, and I had only added fuel to the fire; for, as the veil was short, I could see the bases and almost the frieze of two marble columns; and at this sight I gave a voluptuous cry. Not knowing how to conceal everything from my gaze, Tonine let herself fall on the sofa, and I, my passions at fever-heat, stood beside her, not knowing what to do.
“Well,” she said, “shall I go and dress myself and then do your hair?”
“No, come and sit on my knee, and cover my eyes with your hands.” She came obediently, but the die was cast, and my resistance overcome. I clasped her between my arms, and without any more thoughts of playing at blind man’s buff I threw her on the bed and covered her with kisses. And as I swore that I would always love her, she opened her arms to receive me in a way that shewed how long she had been waiting for this moment.
I plucked the rose, and then, as ever, I thought it the rarest I had ever gathered since I had laboured in the harvest of the fruitful fields of love.
When I awoke in the morning I found myself more deeply in love with Tonine than I had been with any other woman. She had got up without waking me, but as soon as she heard me stirring she came, and I tenderly chid her for not waiting for me to give her good morrow. Without answering she gave me M—— M—— ‘s letter. I thanked her, but putting the letter on one side I took her in my arms, and set her by my side. “What a wonder!” cried Tonine. “You are not in a hurry to read that letter! Faithless man, why did you not let me cure you six weeks ago. How lucky I am; thanks to the rain! I do not blame you, dear, but love me as you love her who writes to you every day, and I shall be satisfied.”
“Do you know who she is?”
“She lives in a boarding-house, and is as beautiful as an angel; but she is there, and I am here. You are my master, and I will be your servant as long as you like.”
I was glad to leave her in error, and swore an ever-lasting love; but during our conversation she had let herself drop down in the bottom of the bed, and I entreated her to lie down again; but she said that on the contrary it was time for me to get up for dinner, for she wanted to give me a dainty meal cooked in the Venetian manner.
“Who is the cook?” said I.
“I am, and I have been using all my skill on it since five, when I got up.”
“What time is it now, then?”
The girl astonished me. She was no longer the shy Tonine of last night; she had that exultant air which happiness bestows, and the look of pleasure which the delights of love give to a young beauty. I could not understand how I had escaped from doing homage to her beauty when I first saw her at her mother’s house. But I was then too deeply in love with C—— C——; I was in too great distress; and, moreover, Tonine was then unformed. I got up, and making her bring me a cup of coffee I asked her to keep the dinner back for a couple of hours.
I found M—— M——‘s letter affectionate, but not so interesting as it would have been the day before. I set myself to answer it, and was almost thunderstruck to find the task, for the first time, a painful one. However, my short journey to Venice supplied me with talk which covered four pages.
I had an exquisite dinner with my charming Tonine. Looking at her as at the same time my wife, my mistress, and my housekeeper, I was delighted to find myself made happy at such a cheap rate. We spent the whole day at the table talking of our love, and giving each other a thousand little marks of it; for there is no such rich and pleasant matter for conversation as when they who talk are parties to an amorous suit. She told with charming simplicity that she knew perfectly well that she could not make me amorous of her, because I loved another, and that her only hope was therefore in a surprise, and that she had foreseen the happy moment when I told her that she need not dress herself to light a candle.
Tonine was naturally quick-witted, but she did not know either how to read or to write. She was enchanted to see herself become rich (for she thought herself so) without a soul at Muran being able to breathe a word against her honour. I passed three weeks in the company of this delightful girl — weeks which I still reckon among the happiest of my life; and what embitters my old age is that, having a heart as warm as ever, I have no longer the strength necessary to secure a single day as blissful as those which I owed to this charming girl.
Towards the end of April I saw M. M. at the grating, looking thin and much changed, but out of danger. I therefore returned to Venice. In my interview, calling my attachment and tender feelings to my aid, I succeeded in behaving myself in such wise that she could not possibly detect the change which a new love had worked in my heart. I shall be, I trust, easily believed when I say that I was not imprudent enough to let her suspect that I had given up the idea of escaping with her, upon which she counted more than ever. I was afraid lest she should fall ill again, if I took this hope away from her. I kept my casino, which cost me little, and as I went to see M. M. twice a week I slept there on those occasions, and made love with my dashing Tonine.
Having kept my word with my friends by dining with them on St. Mark’s Day, I went with Dr. Righelini to the parlour of the Vierges to see the taking of the veil.
The Convent of the Vierges is within the jurisdiction of the Doge, whom the nuns style “Most Serene Father.” They all belong to the first families in Venice.
While I was praising the beauty of Mother M—— E—— to Dr. Righelini, he whispered to me that he could get her me for a money payment, if I were curious in the matter. A hundred sequins for her and ten sequins for the go-between was the price fixed on. He assured me that Murray had had her, and could have her again. Seeing my surprise, he added that there was not a nun whom one could not have by paying for her: that Murray had the courage to disburse five hundred sequins for a nun of Muran — a rare beauty, who was afterwards the mistress of the French ambassador.
Though my passion for M—— M—— was on the wane, I felt my heart gripped as by a hand of ice, and it was with the greatest difficulty that I made no sign. Notwithstanding, I took the story for an atrocious calumny, but yet the matter was too near my heart for me to delay in bringing it to light at the earliest opportunity. I therefore replied to Righelini in the calmest manner possible, that one or two nuns might be had for money, but that it could happen very rarely on account of the difficulties in most convents.
“As for the nun of Muran, justly famous for her beauty, if she be M—— M— — nun of the convent . . ., I not only disbelieve that Murray ever had her, but I am sure she was never the French ambassador’s mistress. If he knew her it could only have been at the grating, where I really cannot say what happens.”
Righelini, who was an honourable and spirited man, answered me coldly that the English ambassador was a man of his word, and that he had the story from his own lips.
“If Mr. Murray,” he continued, “had not told it me under the seal of secrecy I would make him tell it you himself. I shall be obliged if you will take care that he never knows I told you of it.”
“You may rely on my discretion.”
The same evening, supping at Murray’s casino with Righelini, having the matter at heart, and seeing before me the two men who could clear up everything to my satisfaction, I began to speak with enthusiasm of the beauty of M—— E— — whom I had seen at the Vierges.
Here the ambassador struck in, taking the ball on the hop:
“Between friends,” said he, “you can get yourself the enjoyment of those charms, if you are willing to sacrifice a sum of money — not too much, either, but you must have the key.”
“Do you think you have it?”
“No, I am sure; and had less trouble than you might suppose.”
“If you are sure; I congratulate you, and doubt no more. I envy your fortune, for I don’t believe a more perfect beauty could be found in all the convents of Venice.”
“There you are wrong. Mother M—— M— — at —— in Muran, is certainly handsomer.”
“I have heard her talked of and I have seen her once, but I do not think it possible that she can be procured for money.”
“I think so,” said he, laughing, “and when I think I mostly have good reasons.”
“You surprise me; but all the same I don’t mind betting you are deceived.”
“You would lose. As you have only seen her once, I suppose you would not recognize her portrait?”
“I should, indeed, as her face left a strong impression on my mind.”
“Wait a minute.”
He got up from the table, went out, and returned a minute after with a box containing eight or ten miniatures, all in the same style, namely, with hair in disorder and bare necks.
“These,” said I, “are rare charms, with which you have doubtless a near acquaintance?”
“Yes, and if you recognize any of them be discreet.”
“You need not be afraid. Here are three I recognize, and this looks like M—— M——; but confess that you may have been deceived — at least, that you did not have her in the convent or here, for there are women like her.”
“Why do you think I have been deceived? I have had her here in her religious habit, and I have spent a whole night with her; and it was to her individually that I sent a purse containing five hundred sequins. I gave fifty to the good procurer.”
“You have, I suppose, visited her in the parlour, after having her here?”
“No, never, as she was afraid her titular lover might hear of it. You know that was the French ambassador.”
“But she only saw him in the parlour;”
“She used to go to his house in secular dress whenever he wanted her. I was told that by the man who brought her here.”
“Have you had her several times?”
“Only once and that was enough, but I can have her whenever I like for a hundred sequins.”
“All that may be the truth, but I would wager five hundred sequins that you have been deceived.”
“You shall have your answer in three days.”
I was perfectly certain, I repeat, that the whole affair was a piece of knavery; but it was necessary to have it proved, and I shuddered when the thought came into my head that after all it might be a true story. In this case I should have been freed from a good many obligations, but I was strongly persuaded of her innocence. At all events, if I were to find her guilty (which was amongst possible occurrences), I resigned myself to lose five hundred sequins as the price of this horrible discovery and addition to my experience of life. I was full of restless anguish — the worst, perhaps, of the torments of the mind. If the honest Englishman had been the victim of a mystification, or rather knavery, my regard for M—— M——‘s honour compelled me to find a way to undeceive him without compromising her; and such was my plan, and thus fortune favoured me. Three or four days after, Mr. Murray told the doctor that he wished to see me. We went to him, and he greeted me thus:
“I have won; for a hundred sequins I can have the fair nun!
“Alas!” said I, “there go my five hundred sequins.”
“No, not five hundred, my dear fellow, for I should be ashamed to win so much of you, but the hundred she would cost me. If I win, you shall pay for my pleasure, and if I lose I shall give her nothing.”
“How is the problem to be solved?” “My Mercury tells me that we must wait for a day when masks are worn. He is endeavouring at present to find out a way to convince both of us; for otherwise neither you nor I would feel compelled to pay the wager, and if I really have M. M. my honour would not allow me to let her suspect that I had betrayed the secret.”
“No, that would be an unpardonable crime. Hear my plan, which will satisfy us both; for after it has been carried out each of us will be sure that he has fairly won or fairly lost.
“As soon as you have possessed yourself of the real or pretended nun, leave her on some pretext, and meet me in a place to be agreed upon. We will then go together to the convent, and I will ask for M. M.
“Will seeing her and speaking to her convince you that the woman you have left at home is a mere impostor?”
“Perfectly, and I shall pay my wager with the greatest willingness.”
“I may say the same. If, when I summon M. M. to the parlour, the lay-sister tells us she is ill or busy, we will go, and the wager will be yours; you will sup with the fair, and I will go elsewhere.”
“So be it; but since all this will be at nighttime, it is possible that when you ask for her, the sister will tell you that no one can be seen at such an hour.”
“Then I shall lose.”
“You are quite sure, then, that if she be in the convent she will come down?”
“That’s my business. I repeat, if you don’t speak to her, I shall hold myself to have lost a hundred sequins, or a thousand if you like.”
“One can’t speak plainer than that, my dear fellow, and I thank you beforehand.”
“The only thing I ask you is to come sharp to time; and not to come too late for a convent.”
“Will an hour after sunset suit you?”
“I shall also make it my business to compel my masked mistress to stop where she is, even though it be M. M. herself.”
“Some won’t have long to wait, if you will take her to a casino which I myself possess at Muran, and where I secretly keep a girl of whom I am amorous. I will take care that she shall not be there on the appointed day, and I will give you the key of the casino. I shall also see that you find a delicate cold supper ready.”
“That is admirable, but I must be able to point out the place to my Mercury.”
“True! I will give you a supper to-morrow, the greatest secrecy to be observed between us. We will go to my casino in a gondola, and after supper we will go out by the street door; thus you will know the way by land and water. You will only have to tell the procurer the name of the canal and of the house, and on the day fixed you shall have the key. You will only find there an old man who lives on the ground floor, and he will see neither those who go out nor those who come in. My sweetheart will see nothing and will not be seen; and all, trust me, will turn out well.”
“I begin to think that I have lost my bet,” said the Englishman, who was delighted with the plan; “but it matters not, I can gaily encounter either loss or gain.” We made our appointment for the next day, and separated.
On the following morning I went to Muran to warn Tonine that I was going to sup with her, and to bring two of my friends; and as my English friend paid as great court to Bacchus as to Cupid, I took care to send my little housekeeper several bottles of excellent wine.
Charmed with the prospect of doing the honours of the table, Tonine only asked me if my friends would go away after supper. I said yes, and this reply made her happy; she only cared for the dessert.
After leaving her I went to the convent and passed an hour with M. M. in the parlour. I was glad to see that she was getting back her health and her beauty every day, and having complimented her upon it I returned to Venice. In the evening my two friends kept their appointments to the minute, and we went to my little casino at two hours after sunset.
Our supper was delicious, and my Tonine charmed me with the gracefulness of her carriage. I was delighted to see Righelini enchanted, and the ambassador dumb with admiration. When I was in love I did not encourage my friends to cajole my sweetheart, but I became full of complaisance when time had cooled the heat of my passion.
We parted about midnight, and having taken Mr. Murray to the spot where I was to wait for him on the day of trial, I returned to compliment my charming Tonine as she deserved. She praised my two friends, and could not express her surprise at seeing our English friend going away, fresh and nimble on his feet, notwithstanding his having emptied by himself six bottles of my best wine. Murray looked like a fine Bacchus after Rubens.
On Whit Sunday Righelini came to tell me that the English ambassador had made all arrangements with the pretended procurer of M. M. for Whit Tuesday. I gave him the keys of my abode at Muran, and told him to assure Murray that I would keep the appointment at the exact time arranged upon.
My impatience brought on palpitation of the heart, which was extremely painful, and I passed the two nights without closing an eye; for although I was convinced of M—— M——‘s innocence, my agitation was extreme. But whence all this anxiety? Merely from a desire to see the ambassador undeceived. M. M. must in his eyes have seemed a common prostitute, and the moment in which he would be obliged to confess himself the victim of roguery would re-establish the honour of the nun.
Mr. Murray was as impatient as myself, with this difference, that whereas he, looking upon the adventure as a comic one, only laughed, I who found it too tragic shuddered with indignation.
On Tuesday morning I went to Muran to tell Tonine to get a cold supper after my instruction, to lay the table for two, to get wax lights ready, and having sent in several bottles of wine I bade her keep to the room occupied by the old landlord, and not to come out till the people who were coming in the evening were gone. She promised to do so, and asked no questions. After leaving her I went to the convent parlour, and asked to see M—— M——. Not expecting to see me, she asked me why I had not gone to the pageant of the Bucentaur, which, the weather being favourable, would set out on this day. I do not know what I answered, but I know that she found my words little to the purpose. I came at last to the important point, and told her I was going to ask a favour of her, on which my peace of mind depended, but which she must grant blindly without asking any questions.
“Tell me what I am to do, sweetheart,” said she, “and be sure I will refuse nothing which may be in my power.”
“I shall be here this evening an hour after sunset, and ask for you at this grating; come. I shall be with another man, to whom I beg of you to say a few words of politeness; you can then leave us. Let us find some pretext to justify the unseasonable hour.”
“I will do what you ask, but you cannot imagine how troublesome it is in a convent, for at six o’clock the parlours are shut up and the keys are taken to the abbess’ room. However, as you only want me for five minutes, I will tell the abbess that I am expecting a letter from my brother, and that it can be sent to me on this evening only. You must give me a letter that the nun who will be with me may be able to say that I have not been guilty of deception.”
“You will not come alone, then?”
“I should not dare even to ask for such a privilege.”
“Very good, but try to come with some old nun who is short-sighted.”
“I will keep the light in the background.”
“Pray do not do so, my beloved; on the contrary, place it so that you may be distinctly seen.”
“All this is very strange, but I have promised passive obedience, and I will come down with two lights. May I hope that you will explain this riddle to me at your next interview?”
“By to-morrow, at latest, you shall know the whole story.”
“My curiosity will prevent me from sleeping.”
“Not so, dear heart; sleep peacefully, and be sure of my gratitude.”
The reader will think that after this conversation my heart was perfectly at rest; but how far was I from resting! I returned to Venice, tortured lest I should be told in the evening at the door of the cathedral, where we were to meet, that the nun had been obliged to put off her appointment. If that had happened, I should not have exactly suspected M—— M— — but the ambassador would have thought that I had caused the scheme to miscarry. It is certain that in that case I should not have taken my man to the parlour, but should have gone there sadly by myself.
I passed the whole day in these torments, thinking it would never come to an end, and in the evening I put a letter in my pocket, and went to my post at the hour agreed upon.
Fortunately, Murray kept the appointment exactly.
“Is the nun there?” said I, as soon as he was near me.
“Yes, my dear fellow. We will go, if you like, to the parlour; but you will find that we shall be told she is ill or engaged. If you like, the bet shall be off.”
“God forbid, my dear fellow! I cling to that hundred ducats. Let us be gone.”
We presented ourselves at the wicket, and I asked for M—— M— — and the doorkeeper made me breathe again by saying that I was expected. I entered the parlour with my English friend, and saw that it was lighted by four candles. I cannot recall these moments without being in love with life. I take note not only of my noble mistress’s innocence, but also of the quickness of her wit. Murray remained serious, without a smile on his face. Full of grace and beauty, M—— M—— came into the room with a lay-sister, each of them holding a candlestick. She paid me a compliment in good French; I gave her the letter, and looking at the address and the seal she put it in her pocket. After thanking me and saying she would reply in due course, she turned towards my companion:
“I shall, perhaps, make you lose the first act of the opera,” said she.
“The pleasure of seeing you, madam, is worth all the operas in the world.”
“You are English, I think?”
“The English are now the greatest people in the world, because they are free and powerful. Gentlemen, I wish you a very good evening.”
I had never seen M—— M—— looking so beautiful as then, and I went out of the parlour ablaze with love, and glad as I had never been before. I walked with long strides towards my casino, without taking notice of the ambassador, who did not hurry himself in following me; I waited for him at my door.
“Well,” said I, “are you convinced now that you have been cheated?”
“Be quiet, we have time enough to talk about that. Let us go upstairs.”
“Shall I come?”
“Do. What do you think I could do by myself for four hours with that creature who is waiting for me? We will amuse ourselves with her.”
“Had we not better turn her out?”
“No; her master is coming for her at two o’clock in the morning. She would go and warn him, and he would escape my vengeance. We will throw them both out of the window.”
“Be moderate, for M—— M——s honour depends on the secrecy we observe. Let us go upstairs. We shall have some fun. I should like to see the hussy.”
Murray was the first to enter the room. As soon as the girl saw me, she threw her handkerchief over her face, and told the ambassador that such behaviour was unworthy of him. He made no answer. She was not so tall as M—— M— — and she spoke bad French.
Her cloak and mask were on the bed, but she was dressed as a nun. As I wanted to see her face, I politely asked her to do me the favour of shewing it.
“I don’t know you,” said she; “who are you?”
“You are in my house, and don’t know who I am?”
“I am in your house because I have been betrayed. I did not think that I should have to do with a scoundrel.”
At this word Murray commanded her to be silent, calling her by the name of her honourable business; and the slut got up to take her cloak, saying she would go. Murray pushed her back, and told her that she would have to wait for her worthy friend, warning her to make no noise if she wanted to keep out of prison.
“Put me in prison!”
With this she directed her hand towards her dress, but I rushed forward and seized one hand while Murray mastered the other. We pushed her back on a chair while we possessed ourselves of the pistols she carried in her pockets.
Murray tore away the front of her holy habit, and I extracted a stiletto eight inches long, the false nun weeping bitterly all the time.
“Will you hold your tongue, and keep quiet till Capsucefalo comes,” said the ambassador, “or go to prison?”
“If I keep quiet what will become of me?”
“I promise to let you go.”
“Very well, then, I will keep quiet.”
“Have you got any more weapons?”
Hereupon the slut took off her habit and her petticoat, and if we had allowed her she would have soon been in a state of nature, no doubt in the expectation of our passions granting what our reason refused. I was much astonished to find in her only a false resemblance to M.M. I remarked as much to the ambassador, who agreed with me, but made me confess that most men, prepossessed with the idea that they were going to see M. M., would have fallen into the same trap. In fact, the longing to possess one’s self of a nun who has renounced all the pleasures of the world, and especially that of cohabitation with the other sex, is the very apple of Eve, and is more delightful from the very difficulty of penetrating the convent grating.
Few of my readers will fail to testify that the sweetest pleasures are those which are hardest to be won, and that the prize, to obtain which one would risk one’s life, would often pass unnoticed if it were freely offered without difficulty or hazard.
In the following chapter, dear reader, you will see the end of this farcical adventure. In the mean time, let us take a little breath.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07