An Unlucky Night I Fall in Love with the Two Sisters, and Forget Angela--A Ball at My House--Juliette's Humiliation--My Return to Pasian--Lucie's Misfortune--A Propitious Storm
On my reappearance, Madame Orio told me, with many heart-felt thanks, that I must for the future consider myself as a privileged and welcome friend, and the evening passed off very pleasantly. As the hour for supper drew near, I excused myself so well that Madame Orio could not insist upon my accepting her invitation to stay. Marton rose to light me out of the room, but her aunt, believing Nanette to be my favourite, gave her such an imperative order to accompany me that she was compelled to obey. She went down the stairs rapidly, opened and closed the street door very noisily, and putting her light out, she reentered the sitting room, leaving me in darkness. I went upstairs softly: when I reached the third landing I found the chamber of the two sisters, and, throwing myself upon a sofa, I waited patiently for the rising of the star of my happiness. An hour passed amidst the sweetest dreams of my imagination; at last I hear the noise of the street door opening and closing, and, a few minutes after, the two sisters come in with my Angela. I draw her towards me, and caring for nobody else, I keep up for two full hours my conversation with her. The clock strikes midnight; I am pitied for having gone so late supperless, but I am shocked at such an idea; I answer that, with such happiness as I am enjoying, I can suffer from no human want. I am told that I am a prisoner, that the key of the house door is under the aunt's pillow, and that it is opened only by herself as she goes in the morning to the first mass. I wonder at my young friends imagining that such news can be anything but delightful to me. I express all my joy at the certainty of passing the next five hours with the beloved mistress of my heart. Another hour is spent, when suddenly Nanette begins to laugh, Angela wants to know the reason, and Marton whispering a few words to her, they both laugh likewise. This puzzles me. In my turn, I want to know what causes this general laughter, and at last Nanette, putting on an air of anxiety, tells me that they have no more candle, and that in a few minutes we shall be in the dark. This is a piece of news particularly agreeable to me, but I do not let my satisfaction appear on my countenance, and saying how truly I am sorry for their sake, I propose that they should go to bed and sleep quietly under my respectful guardianship. My proposal increases their merriment.
"What can we do in the dark?"
"We can talk."
We were four; for the last three hours we had been talking, and I was the hero of the romance. Love is a great poet, its resources are inexhaustible, but if the end it has in view is not obtained, it feels weary and remains silent. My Angela listened willingly, but little disposed to talk herself, she seldom answered, and she displayed good sense rather than wit. To weaken the force of my arguments, she was often satisfied with hurling at me a proverb, somewhat in the fashion of the Romans throwing the catapult. Every time that my poor hands came to the assistance of love, she drew herself back or repulsed me. Yet, in spite of all, I went on talking and using my hands without losing courage, but I gave myself up to despair when I found that my rather artful arguing astounded her without bringing conviction to her heart, which was only disquieted, never softened. On the other hand, I could see with astonishment upon their countenances the impression made upon the two sisters by the ardent speeches I poured out to Angela. This metaphysical curve struck me as unnatural, it ought to have been an angle; I was then, unhappily for myself, studying geometry. I was in such a state that, notwithstanding the cold, I was perspiring profusely. At last the light was nearly out, and Nanette took it away.
The moment we were in the dark, I very naturally extended my arms to seize her whom I loved; but I only met with empty space, and I could not help laughing at the rapidity with which Angela had availed herself of the opportunity of escaping me. For one full hour I poured out all the tender, cheerful words that love inspired me with, to persuade her to come back to me; I could only suppose that it was a joke to tease me. But I became impatient.
"The joke," I said, "has lasted long enough; it is foolish, as I could not run after you, and I am surprised to hear you laugh, for your strange conduct leads me to suppose that you are making fun of me. Come and take your seat near me, and if I must speak to you without seeing you let my hands assure me that I am not addressing my words to the empty air. To continue this game would be an insult to me, and my love does not deserve such a return."
"Well, be calm. I will listen to every word you may say, but you must feel that it would not be decent for me to place myself near you in this dark room."
"Do you want me to stand where I am until morning?"
"Lie down on the bed, and go to sleep."
"In wonder, indeed, at your thinking me capable of doing so in the state I am in. Well, I suppose we must play at blind man's buff."
Thereupon, I began to feel right and left, everywhere, but in vain. Whenever I caught anyone it always turned out to be Nanette or Marton, who at once discovered themselves, and I, stupid Don Quixote, instantly would let them go! Love and prejudice blinded me, I could not see how ridiculous I was with my respectful reserve. I had not yet read the anecdotes of Louis XIII, king of France, but I had read Boccacio. I kept on seeking in vain, reproaching her with her cruelty, and entreating her to let me catch her; but she would only answer that the difficulty of meeting each other was mutual. The room was not large, and I was enraged at my want of success.