My Amours With Donna Ignazia — Return of M. de Mocenino to Madrid
All you barons, counts, and marquises who laugh at an untitled man who calls himself a gentleman, pause and reflect, spare your disdain till you have degraded him; allow him a gentle title so long as he does gentle deeds. Respect the man that defines nobility in a new way, which you cannot understand. With him nobility is not a series of descents from father to son; he laughs at pedigrees, in which no account is taken of the impure blood introduced by wifely infidelities; he defines a nobleman as one who does noble deeds, who neither lies nor cheats, who prefers his honour to his life.
This latter part of the definition should make you tremble for your lives, if you meditate his dishonour. From imposture comes contempt, from contempt hatred, from hatred homicide, which takes out the blot of dishonour.
The cobbler Don Diego might have feared, perhaps, that I should laugh at him, when he told me he was noble; but feeling himself to be really so he had done his best to prove it to me. The fineness of his behaviour when I was in prison had given me some idea of the nobility of his soul, but he was not content with this. On the receipt of my letter, he had taken a new house only to give up the best part of it to me. No doubt he calculated on not losing in the long run, as after I had left he would probably have no difficulty in letting the apartment, but his chief motive was to oblige me.
He was not disappointed; henceforth I treated him entirely as an equal. Donna Ignazia was delighted at what her father had done for me. We talked an hour, settling our business relations over a bottle of excellent wine. I succeeded in my contention that the Biscayan cook should be kept at my expense. All the same, I wanted the girl to think that she was in Don Diego’s service, so I begged him to pay her every day, as I should take all my meals at home, at all events, till the return of the ambassador. I also told him that it was a penance to me to eat alone, and begged him to keep me company at dinner and supper every day. He tried to excuse himself, and at last gave in on the condition that his daughter should take his place when he had too much work to do. As may be imagined I had anticipated this condition, and made no difficulty about it.
The next morning, feeling curious to see the way in which my landlord was lodged, I paid him a visit. I went into the little room sacred to Donna Ignazia. A bed, a chest, and a chair made up the whole furniture; but beside the bed was a desk before a picture, four feet high, representing St. Ignatius de Loyola as a fine young man, more calculated to irritate the sense than to arouse devotion.
My cobbler said to me,
“I have a much better lodging than I had before; and the rent of your room pays me for the house four times over.”
“How about the furniture and the linen?”
“It will all be paid in the course of four years. I hope this house will be the dower of my daughter. It is an excellent speculation, and I have to thank you for it.”
“I am glad to hear it; but what is this, you seem to be making new boots?”
“Quite so; but if you look you will see that I am working on a last which has been given me. In this way I have not to put them on, nor need I trouble myself whether they fit well or ill.”
“How much do you get?”
“That’s a larger price than usual.”
“Yes, but there’s a great difference between my work and my leather, and the usual work and leather of the bootmakers.”
“Then I will have a last made, and you shall make me a pair of shoes, if you will; but I warn you they must be of the finest skin, and the soles of morocco.”
“They will cost more, and not last so long.”
“I can’t help that; I can’t bear any but the lightest boots.”
Before I left him he said his daughter should dine with me that day as he was very busy.
I called on the Count of Aranda, who received me coldly, but with great politeness. I told him how I had been treated by my parish priest and by Mengs.
“I heard about it; this was worse than your imprisonment, and I don’t know what I could have done for you if you had not communicated, and obliged the priest to take out your name. Just now they are trying to annoy me with posters on the walls, but I take no notice.”
“What do they want your excellency to do?”
To allow long cloaks and low-crowned hats; you must know all about it.”
“I only arrived at Madrid yesterday evening.”
“Very good. Don’t come here on Sunday, as my house is to be blown up.”
“I should like to see that, my lord, so I will be in your hall at noon.”
“I expect you will be in good company.”
I duly went, and never had I seen it so full. The count was addressing the company, under the last poster threatening him with death, two very energetic lines were inscribed by the person who put up the poster, knowing that he was at the same time running his head into the noose:
Si me cogen, me horqueran,
Pero no me cogeran.
“If they catch me, they will hang me,
So I shall not let them catch me.”
At dinner Donna Ignazia told me how glad she was to have me in the house, but she did not respond to all my amorous speeches after Philippe had left the room. She blushed and sighed, and then being obliged to say something, begged me to forget everything that had passed between us. I smiled, and said that I was sure she knew she was asking an impossibility. I added that even if I could forget the past I would not do so.
I knew that she was neither false nor hypocritical, and felt sure that her behaviour proceeded from devotion; but I knew this could not last long. I should have to conquer her by slow degrees. I had had to do so with other devotees who had loved me less than she, nevertheless, they had capitulated. I was therefore sure of Donna Ignazia.
After dinner she remained a quarter of an hour with me, but I refrained from any amorous attempts.
After my siesta I dressed, and went out without seeing her. In the evening when she came in for her father, who had supped with me, I treated her with the greatest politeness without shewing any ill-humour. The following day I behaved in the same manner. At dinner she told me she had broken with her lover at the beginning of Lent, and begged me not to see him if he called on me.
On Whit Sunday I called on the Count of Aranda, and Don Diego, who was exquisitely dressed, dined with me. I saw nothing of his daughter. I asked after her, and Don Diego replied, with a smile, that she had shut herself up in her room to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. He pronounced these words in a manner and with a smile that he would not have dared to use if he had been speaking to a fellow-Spaniard. He added that she would, no doubt, come down and sup with me, as he was going to sup with his brother.
“My dear Don Diego, don’t let there be any false compliments between us. Before you go out, tell your daughter not to put herself out for me, and that I do not pretend to put my society in comparison with that of God. Tell her to keep her room to-night, and she can sup with me another time. I hope you will take my message to her.”
“As you will have it so, you shall be obeyed.”
After my siesta, the worthy man said that Donna Ignazia thanked me and would profit by my kindness, as she did not want to see anyone on that holy day.
“I am very glad she has taken me at my word, and to-morrow I will thank her for it.”
I had some difficulty in shaping my lips to this reply; for this excess of devotion displeased me, and even made me tremble for her love. I could not help laughing, however, when Don Diego said that a wise father forgives an ecstasy of love. I had not expected such a philosophic remark from the mouth of a Spaniard.
The weather was unpleasant, so I resolved to stay indoors. I told Philippe that I should not want the carriage, and that he could go out. I told my Biscayan cook that I should not sup till ten. When I was alone I wrote for some time, and in the evening the mother lit my candles, instead of the daughter, so in the end I went to bed without any supper. At nine o’clock next morning, just as I was awaking, Donna Ignazia appeared, to my great astonishment, telling me how sorry she was to hear that I had not taken any supper.
“Alone, sad, and unhappy,” I replied, “I felt that abstinence was the best thing for me.”
“You look downcast.”
“You alone can make me look cheerful.”
Here my barber came in, and she left me. I then went to mass at the Church of the Good Success, where I saw all the handsome courtezans in Madrid. I dined with Don Diego, and when his daughter came in with dessert he told her that it was her fault I had gone supperless to bed.
“It shall not happen again,” said she.
“Would you like to come with me to our Lady of Atocha?” said I.
“I should like it very much,” she replied, with a side-glance at her father.
“My girl,” said Don Diego, “true devotion and merriment go together, and the reason is that the truly devout person has trust in God and in the honesty of all men. Thus you can trust in Don Jaime as an honest man, though he has not the good fortune to be born in Spain.”
I could not help laughing at this last sentence, but Don Diego was not offended. Donna Ignazia kissed her father’s hands, and asked if she might bring her cousin too.
“What do you want to take the cousin for?” said Don Diego; “I will answer for Don Jaime.”
“You are very kind, Don Diego, but if Ignazia likes her cousin to come I shall be delighted, provided it be the elder cousin, whom I like better than the younger.”
After this arrangement the father went his way, and I sent Philippe to the stables to put in four mules.
When we were alone Ignazia asked me repentantly to forgive her.
“Entirely, if you will forgive me for loving you.”
“Alas, dearest! I think I shall go mad if I keep up the battle any longer.”
“There needs no battle, dearest Ignazia, either love me as I love you, or tell me to leave the house, and see you no more. I will obey you, but that will not make you happy.”
“I know that. No, you shall not go from your own house. But allow me to tell you that you are mistaken in your estimate of my cousins’ characters. I know what influenced you, but you do not know all. The younger is a good girl, and though she is ugly, she too has succumbed to love. But the elder, who is ten times uglier, is mad with rage at never having had a lover. She thought she had made you in love with her, and yet she speaks evil of you. She reproaches me for having yielded so easily. and boasts that she would never have gratified your passion.”
“Say no more, we must punish her; and the younger shall come.”
“I am much obliged to you.”
“Does she know that we love each other?”
“I have never told her, but she has guessed it, and pities me. She wants me to join her in a devotion to Our Lady de la Soledad, the effect of which would be a complete cure for us both.”
“Then she is in love, too?”
“Yes; and she is unhappy in her love, for it is not returned. That must be a great grief.”
“I pity her, and yet, with such a face, I do not know any man who would take compassion on her. The poor girl would do well to leave love alone. But as to you. . . . ”
“Say nothing about me: my danger is greater than hers. I am forced to defend myself or to give in, and God knows there are some men whom it is impossible to ward off! God is my witness that in Holy Week I went to a poor girl with the smallpox, and touched her in the hope of catching it, and so losing my beauty; but God would not have it so, and my confessor blamed me, bidding me to do a penance I had never expected.”
“Tell me what it is?”
“He told me that a handsome face is the index of a handsome soul, and is a gift of God, for which a woman should render thanks continually; that in attempting to destroy this beauty I had sinned, for I had endeavoured to destroy God’s handiwork. After a good deal of rebuke in this style, he ordered me to put a little rouge on my cheeks whenever I felt myself looking pale. I had to submit, and I have bought a pot of rouge, but hitherto I have not felt obliged to use it. Indeed, my father might notice it, and I should not like to tell him that it is done by way of penance.”
“Is your confessor a young man?”
“He is an old man of seventy.”
“Do you tell him all your sins without reserve?”
“Certainly, for the smallest circumstance may be really a great sin.”
“Does he ask you questions?”
“No, for he sees that I am telling him the whole truth. It is a great trial, but I have to submit to it.”
“Have you had this confessor for long?”
“For two years. Before him I had a confessor who was quite unbearable. He asked me questions which made me quite indignant.”
“What questions were these?”
“You must please excuse me telling you.”
“Why do you go to confession so often?”
“Why? Would to God I had not good cause! but after all I only go once a week.”
“That’s too often.”
“Not so, for when I am in mortal sin I cannot sleep at night. I am afraid of dying in my sleep.”
“I pity you, dearest; I have a consolation which is denied you. I have an infinite trust in the infinite mercy of God.”
The cousin arrived and we set out. We found a good many carriages in front of the church-door, and the church itself was full of devotees, both male and female. Amongst others I saw the Duchess of Villadorias, notorious for her andromania. When the ‘furor uterinus’ seized her, nothing could keep her back. She would rush at the man who had excited her, and he had no choice but to satisfy her passion. This had happened several times in public assemblies, and had given rise to some extraordinary scenes. I had seen her at a ball; she was still both young and pretty. As I entered the church I saw her kneeling on the stones of the church floor. She lifted her eyes, and gazed at me, as if doubtful whether she knew me or not, as she had only seen me in domino. After my devotees had prayed for half an hour, they rose to go, and the duchess rose also; and as soon as we were out of the church she asked me if I knew her. I replied in the affirmative, and she asked why I had not been to see her, and if I visited the Duchess of Benevento. I told her that I did not visit her grace, and that I should have the honour of paying her a call before long.
On our way I explained to my two companions the nature of the duchess’s malady. Donna Ignazia asked me anxiously if I really meant to go and see her. She seemed reassured when I replied in the negative.
A common and to my mind a ridiculous question is which of the two sexes enjoys the generative act the more. Homer gives us Jupiter and Juno disputing on this point. Tiresias, who was once a woman, has given a correct though amusing decision on the point. A laconic answer has it that a woman enjoys the act the most because with her it is sharper, repeated more frequently, and finally because the battle is fought in her field. She is at the same time an active and passive agent, while action is indispensable to the pleasure of the man. But the most conclusive reason is that if the woman’s pleasure were not the greater nature would be unjust, and she never is or can be unjust. Nothing in this universe is without its use, and no pleasure or pain is without its compensation or balance. If woman had not more pleasure than man she would not have more organs than he. The greater nervous power planted in the female organ is demonstrated by the andromania to which some women are subject, and which makes them either Messalines or martyrs. Men have nothing at all similar to this.
Nature has given to women this special enjoyment to compensate for the pains they have to undergo. What man would expose himself, for the pleasure he enjoys, to the pains of pregnancy and the dangers of childbed? But women will do so again and again; so it must be concluded that they believe the pleasure to outbalance the pain; and so it is clearly the woman who has the better share in the enjoyment. In spite of this, if I had the choice of being born again as a woman, I should say no; for in spite of my voluptuousness, a man has pleasures which a woman cannot enjoy. Though, indeed, rather than not be born again, I would be a woman, and even a brute, provided always that I had my memory, for without it I should no longer be myself.
We had some ices, and my two companions returned home with me, well pleased with the enjoyment I had given them without offending God. Donna Ignazia, who was delighted with my continence during the day, and apparently afraid of its not lasting, begged me to invite her cousin to supper. I agreed, and even did so with pleasure.
The cousin was ugly, and also a fool, but she had a great heart and was sympathetic. I knew that Donna Ignazia had told her all, and as she was no restraint on me I did not mind her being at supper, while Ignazia looked upon her as a safeguard.
The table had been laid for three, when I heard a step coming up the stairs. It was the father, and I asked him to sup with us. Don Diego was a pleasant man, as I have said, but what amused me most of all about him was his moral maxims. He knew or suspected that I was fond of his daughter, though in an honourable way; he thought my honour or his daughter’s piety would be a sufficient safeguard. If he had suspected what had really happened, I do not think he would ever have allowed us to be together.
He sat beside his niece and facing his daughter, and did most of the talking, for your Spaniard, though grave, is eloquent, and fond of hearing the fine harmonies of his native tongue.
It was very hot, so I asked him to take off his waistcoat, and to tell his daughter to do just as she would if only he and his wife had been present.
Donna Ignazia had not to be entreated long before she took off her kerchief, but the poor cousin did not like having to shew us her bones and swarthy skin.
Donna Ignazia told her father how much she had enjoyed herself, and how they had seen the Duchess of Villadorias, who had asked me to come and see her.
The good man began to philosophise and to jest on her malady, and he told me some stories, germane to the question, which the girls pretended not to understand.
The good wine of La Mancha kept us at table till a late hour, and the time seemed to pass very quickly. Don Diego told his niece that she could sleep with his daughter, in the room we were in, as the bed was big enough for two. I hastened to add that if the ladies would do so I should be delighted; but Donna Ignazia blushed and said it would not do, as the room was only separated from mine by a glass door. At this I smiled at Don Diego, who proceeded to harangue his daughter in a manner which amused me extremely. He told her that I was at least twenty years older than herself, and that in suspecting me she had committed a greater sin than if she allowed me to take some slight liberty.
“I am sure,” he added, “that when you go to confession next Sunday you will forget to accuse yourself of having wrongfully suspected Don Jaime of a dishonourable action.”
Donna Ignazia looked at me affectionately, asked my pardon, and said she would do whatever her father liked. The cousin said nothing, and the father kissed his daughter, bade me a good night, and went away well pleased with the harangue he had delivered.
I suspected that Donna Ignazia expected me to make some attempt on her honour, and feeling sure that she would resist for the sake of appearance, I determined to leave her in peace. Next morning I got up and went into their room in the hope of playing some trick on them. However, the birds were flown, and I had no doubt that they had gone to hear mass.
Donna Ignazia came home by herself at ten o’clock. She found me alone, dressed, and writing. She told me she had been in the church for three hours.
“You have been to confession, I suppose?”
“No; I went last Sunday, and I shall wait till next Sunday.”
“I am very glad that your confession will not be lengthened by any sins I have helped you to commit.”
“You are wrong.”
“Wrong? I understand; but you must know that I am not going to be damned for mere desires. I do not wish to torment you or to become a martyr myself. What you granted me has made me fall deeply in love with you, and it makes me shudder when I imagine that our love has become a subject of repentance with you. I have had a bad night; and it is time for me to think of my health. I must forget you, but to bring about that effect I will see you no longer. I will keep on the house, but I will not live in it. If your religion is an intelligent one, you will approve of my idea. Tell your confessor of it next Sunday, and you will see that he will approve it.”
“You are right, but I cannot agree to it. You can go away if you like, and I shall say nothing, but I shall be the most unhappy girl in all Madrid.”
As she spoke these words, two big tears rolled down her cheeks, and her face dropped; I was profoundly moved.
“I love you, dearest Ignazia, and I hope not to be damned for my love. I cannot see you without loving you and to this love some positive proof is essential; otherwise, I am unhappy. If I go you say you will be unhappy, and if I stay it is I that will be unhappy, my health will be ruined. But tell me which I shall do stay or go? Say.”
“Then you must be as loving and tender as you were before.”
“Alas! I promised to commit that sin no more. I tell you to stay, because I am sure that in eight or ten days we shall have become so accustomed to one another that I shall be able to love you like a father, and you will be able to take me in your arms without any amorous sentiments.”
“Are you sure of this?”
“Yes, dearest, quite sure.”
“You make a mistake.”
“Let me be mistaken, and believe me I shall be glad to be mistaken.”
“Nothing, nothing. I may be too long, I shall endanger . . . let us say no more about it. I will stay.”
I went out more pained with her state than my own, and I felt that the best thing I could do would be to forget her, “for,” said I to myself, “even if I do enjoy her once, Sunday will come again; she will confess, repent, and I shall have to begin all over again. She confessed her love, and flatters herself that she will be able to subdue it — a foolish hope, which could only exist in a mind under the dominion of prejudice.”
I came home at noon, and Don Diego dined with me; his daughter did not appear till the dessert. I begged her to sit down, politely, but coldly. Her father asked her jestingly if I had paid her a visit in the night.
“I never suspected Don Jaime of such a thing,” she replied, “and I only objected out of shyness.”
I interrupted her by praising her modesty, and telling her that she would have done quite right to beware of me, if my sense of duty had not been stronger than any voluptuous desires inspired by her charms.
Don Diego pronounced this declaration of love as good as anything to be found in the “Morte d’Arthur.”
His daughter said I was laughing at her, but Don Diego said he was certain that I was in earnest, and that I had known her before taking her to the ball.
“You are utterly mistaken,” said Donna Ignazia, with some degree of fire.
“Your father is wiser than you, senora,” I replied.
“What! How and when did you see me?”
“At the church where I heard mass, and you communicated, when you went out with your cousin. I followed you at some distance; you can guess the rest.”
She was speechless, and her father enjoyed the consciousness of his superior intellect.
“I am going to see the bull fight,” said he; “it’s a fine day, and all Madrid will be there, so one must go early to get a good place. I advise you to go, as you have never seen a bull fight; ask Don Jaime to take you with him, Ignazia.”
“Would you like to have my companionship?” said she, tenderly.
“Certainly I would, but you must bring your cousin, as I am in love with her.”
Don Diego burst out laughing, but Ignazia said, slyly,
“It is not so impossible after all.”
We went to see the splendid but barbarous spectacle in which Spaniards take so much delight. The two girls placed themselves in front of the only vacant box, and I sat behind on the second bench, which was a foot and a half higher than the first. There were already two ladies there, and much to my amusement one of them was the famous Duchess of Villadorias. She was in front of me, and sat in such a position that her head was almost between my legs. She recognized me, and said we were fortunate in meeting one another; and then noticing Donna Ignazia, who was close to her, she congratulated me in French on her charms, and asked me whether she was my mistress or my wife. I replied that she was a beauty before whom I sighed in vain. She replied, with a smile, that she was rather a sceptical person; and turning to Donna Ignazia began a pleasant and amorous discourse, thinking the girl to be as learned in the laws of love as herself. She whispered something in her ear which made Ignazia blush, and the duchess, becoming enthusiastic, told me I had chosen the handsomest girl in Madrid, and that she would be delighted to see us both at her country house.
I promised to come, as I was obliged to do, but I begged to be excused naming the day. Nevertheless, she made me promise to call on her at four o’clock the next day, telling me, much to my terror, that she would be alone. She was pretty enough, but too notorious a character; and such a visit would have given rise to talk.
Happily the fight began, and silence became general, for the Spaniards are passionately devoted of bull fighting.
So much has been written on the subject that my readers will pardon my giving a detailed account of the fight. I may say that the sport is, in my opinion, a most barbarous one, and likely to operate unfavourably on the national morals; the arena is sometimes drenched in the blood of bulls, horses, and even of the unfortunate picadores and matadores, whose sole defence is the red rag with which they irritate the bull.
When it was over I escorted the girls — who had enjoyed themselves immensely — back to the house, and made the ugly cousin stay to supper, as I foresaw that they would again sleep together.
We supped together, but it was a melancholy affair, for Don Diego was away, and I did not feel in the humour to amuse my company.
Donna Ignazia became pensive when, in reply to a question of hers, I said that it would be absolutely rude of me not to go to the duchess’s.
“You will come with me some day,” I added, “to dine at her country house.”
“You need not look for that.”
“Because she is a madwoman. She talked to me in a way that would have offended me if I did not know that she fancied she was honouring me by laying aside her rank.”
We rose from table, and after I had dismissed my man we sat on the balcony to wait for Don Diego and to enjoy the delicious evening breezes.
As we sat near to each other in the twilight, so favourable to lovers’ vows, I looked into Donna Ignazia’s eyes, and saw there that my hour had come. I clasped her to me with one arm, I clung with my lips to hers, and by the way she trembled I guessed the flame which consumed her.
“Will you go and see the duchess?”
“No, if you will promise me not to go to confession next Sunday.”
“But what will he say if I do not go?”
“Nothing at all, if he understands his business. But let us talk it over a little.”
We were so tightly clasped together that the cousin, like a good girl, left us, and went to the other end of the balcony, taking care to look away from us.
Without changing my position, in spite of the temptation to do so, I asked her if she felt in the humour to repent of the sin she was ready to commit.
“I was not thinking of repentance just then, but as you remind me of it, I must tell you that I shall certainly go to confession.”
“And after you have been to confession will you love me as you love me now?”
“I hope God will give me strength to offend Him no more.”
“I assure you that if you continue loving me God will not give you grace, yet I feel sure that on Sunday evening you will refuse me that which you are now ready to grant.”
“Indeed I will, sweetheart; but why should we talk of that now?”
“Because if I abandon myself to pleasure now I shall be more in love with you than ever, and consequently more unhappy than ever, when the day of your repentance comes. So promise me that you will not go to confession whilst I remain at Madrid, or give the fatal order now, and bid me leave you. I cannot abandon myself to love to-day knowing that it will be refused me on Sunday.”
As I remonstrated thus, I clasped her affectionately in my arms, caressing her most ardently; but before coming to the decisive action I asked her again whether she would promise not to go to confession next Sunday.
“You are cruel,” said she, “I cannot make you that promise for my conscience sake.”
At this reply, which I had quite expected, I remained motionless, feeling sure that she must be in a state of desperate irritation at the work half begun and not concluded. I, too, suffered, for I was at the door of the sanctuary, and a slight movement would have sent me into the inmost shrine; but I knew that her torments must be greater than mine, and that she could not resist long.
Donna Ignazia was indeed in a terrible state; I had not repulsed her, but I was perfectly inactive. Modesty prevented her asking me openly to continue, but she redoubled her caresses, and placed herself in an easier position, reproaching me with my cruelty. I do not know whether I could have held out much longer, but just then the cousin turned round and told us that Don Diego was coming in.
We hastened to arrange our toilette, and to sit in a decent position. The cousin came up to us, and Don Diego, after making a few remarks, left us on the balcony, wishing us a good night. I might have begun over again, but I clung to my system of repression, and after wishing the girls good night with a melancholy air, I went to bed.
I hoped Donna Ignazia would repent and come and keep me company, but I was disappointed. They left their room early in the morning, and at noon Don Diego came to dine with me, saying his daughter had such a bad headache that she had not even gone to mass.
“We must get her to eat something.”
“No, I think abstinence will do her good, and in the evening I daresay she will be able to sup with you.”
I went to keep her company by her bedside after I had taken my siesta. I did my best for three hours to convince her of her folly; but she kept her eyes closed, and said nothing, only sighing when I said something very touching.
I left her to walk in St. Jerome’s Park, and told her that if she did not sup with me I should understand that she did not wish to see me again. This threat had its effect. She came to table at supper-time, but she looked pale and exhausted. She ate little, and said nothing, for she knew not what to say. I saw that she was suffering, and I pitied her from my heart.
Before going to bed she asked me if I had been to see the duchess. She seemed somewhat cheered when I answered in the negative. I told her that she might satisfy herself of the truth of my reply by asking Philippe, who had taken my note begging her grace to excuse me for that day.
“But will you go another day?”
“No, dearest, because I see it would grieve you.”
She gave a sigh of content, and I embraced her gently, and she left me as sad as I was.
I could see that what I asked of her was a great deal; but I had good grounds for hope, as I knew her ardent disposition. It was not God and I that were disputing for her, but her confessor and I. If she had not been a Catholic I should have won her the first day.
She had told me that she would get into trouble with her confessor if she did not go to him as usual; she had too much of fine Spanish honour in her to tell him what was not true, or to endeavour to combine her love with her religion.
The Friday and the Saturday passed without any events of consequence. Her father, who could not blind himself to our love any longer, trusted, I suppose, to his daughter’s virtue, and made her dine and sup with me every day. On Saturday evening Donna Ignazia left me sadder than ever, and turned her head away when I would have kissed her as usual. I saw what was the matter; she was going to communicate the next day. I admired her consistency, in spite of myself, and pitied her heartily; for I could guess the storm that must be raging in her breast. I began to repent having demanded all, and wished I had been contented with a little.
I wished to be satisfied with my own eyes, and got up early on Sunday morning and followed her. I knew that she would call for her cousin, so I went on to the church. I placed myself by the sacristy-door, where I could see without being seen.
I waited a quarter of an hour, then they came in, and after kneeling down for a few moments, separated, each going to her own confessor.
I only noticed Donna Ignazia; I saw her going to the confessional, and the confessor turning towards her.
I waited patiently. I thought the confession would never come to an end. “What is he saying?” I repeated to myself as I saw the confessor speaking to her now and again.
I could bear it no longer, and I was on the point of going away when I saw her rise from her knees.
Donna Ignazia, looking like a saint, came to kneel in the church, but out of my sight. I thought she would come forward to receive the Holy Communion at the end of the Mass that was being said, but instead of that she went towards the door, rejoined her cousin and they left the church. I was astonished. My heart was seized with a pang of remorse.
“It’s all over,” I said to myself. “The poor girl has made a sincere and full confession, she has avowed her love, and the priest’s cruel duty has made him refuse her absolution.
“All is lost. What will come of it?”
“My peace of mind and hers require me to leave her.
“Wretch that I am, to have lost all for all! I should have made allowance for the peculiar Spanish character.
“I might have enjoyed her by surprise now and again; the difficulty would have added piquancy to the intrigue. I have behaved as if I were once more twenty, and I have lost all.
“At dinner she will be all sad and tearful. I must find some way out of this terrible situation.”
Thus soliloquising, I came home ill pleased with the line of conduct I had adopted.
My hairdresser was waiting for me, but I sent him away, and told my cook not to serve my dinner till I ordered it; then, feeling the need of rest, I flung myself on my bed and slept profoundly till one o’clock.
I got up and ordered dinner to be brought in, and sent a message to the father and daughter that I was expecting them.
My surprise may be imagined when Donna Ignazia appeared in a costume of black velvet, adorned with ribbons and lace. In my opinion there is no more seductive costume in Europe when the wearer is pretty.
I also noticed that every feature of her face breathed peace and calm; I had never seen her looking so well, and I could not help congratulating her. She replied with a smile, and I gave her a kiss, which she took as meekly as a lamb.
Philippe arrived, and we sat down to table. I saw that my fair sweetheart had crossed the Rubicon; the day was won.
“I am going to be happy,” said she, “but let us say nothing, and it will come of itself.”
However, I did not conceal my bliss, and made love to her whenever the servant was out of the room. She was not only submissive, but even ardent.
Before we left the table she asked me if I still loved her.
“More than ever, darling; I adore you.”
“Then take me to the bull fight.”
“Quick! Fetch the hairdresser.”
When my hair was done I made an elaborate toilette, and burning with impatience we set out on foot, as I was afraid we should not secure a good place if we waited till the carriage was ready. We found a fine box with only two persons in it, and Ignazia, after glancing round, said she was glad that the detestable duchess was not anywhere near us.
After some fine sport my mistress begged me to take her to the Prado, where all the best people in Madrid are to be seen.
Donna Ignazia leant on my arm, seemed proud to be thought mine, and filled me with delight.
All at once we met the Venetian ambassador and his favourite, Manucci. They had just arrived from Aranjuez. We greeted each other with due Spanish politeness, and the ambassador paid me a high compliment on the beauty of my companion. Donna Ignazia pretended not to understand, but she pressed my arm with Spanish delicacy.
After walking a short distance with us M. de Mocenigo said he hoped I would dine with him on the following day, and after I had nodded acquiescence in the French style we parted.
Towards the evening we took some ices and returned home, and the gentle pressure of my arm on the way prepared me for the bliss I was to enjoy.
We found Don Diego on the balcony waiting for us. He congratulated his daughter on her pleasant appearance and the pleasure she must have taken in my society.
Charmed with papa’s good humour, I asked him to sup with us, and he accepted, and amused us with his witty conversation and a multitude of little tales that pleased me exceedingly. He made the following speech on leaving us, which I give word for word, but I cannot give the reader any idea of the inimitable Spanish gravity with which it was delivered.
“Amigo Senior Don Jaime, I leave you here to enjoy the cool air with my daughter. I am delighted at your loving her, and you may be assured that I shall place no obstacle in the way of your becoming my son-in-law as soon as you can shew your titles of nobility.”
When he was gone, I said to his daughter —
“I should be only too happy, if it could be managed; but you must know that in my country they only are called nobles who have an hereditary right to rule the state. If I had been born in Spain I should be noble, but as it is I adore you, and I hope you will make me happy.”
“Yes, dearest, but we must be happy together; I cannot suffer any infidelity.”
“I give you my word of honour that I will be wholly faithful to you.”
“Come then, ‘corazon mio’, let us go in.”
“No, let us put out the lights, and stay here a quarter of an hour. Tell me, my angel, whence comes this unexpected happiness?”
“You owe it to a piece of tyranny which drove me to desperation. God is good, and I am sure He would not have me become my own executioner. When I told my confessor that I could not help loving you, but that I could restrain myself from all excess of love, he replied that this self- confidence was misplaced, as I had already fallen. He wanted me to promise never to be alone with you again, and on my refusing to do so he would not give me absolution.
“I have never had such a piece of shame cast on me, but I laid it all in the hands of God, and said, ‘Thy will be done.’
“Whilst I heard mass my mind was made up, and as long as you love me I shall be yours, and yours only. When you leave Spain and abandon me to despair, I shall find another confessor. My conscience holds me guiltless; this is my comfort. My cousin, whom I have told all, is astonished, but then she is not very clever.”
After this declaration, which put me quite at my ease, and would have relieved me of any scruples if I had had them, I took her to my bed. In the morning, she left me tired out, but more in love with her than ever.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07