After supper I counted our winnings, and I found myself in possession of one thousand sequins as my share. I rolled the remainder in paper, and my friend asked me to put it in her bureau. I then took my locket and threw it over her neck; it gave her the greatest delight, and she tried for a long time to discover the secret. At last I showed it her, and she pronounced my portrait an excellent likeness.
Recollecting that we had but three hours to devote to the pleasures of love, I entreated her to allow me to turn them to good account.
"Yes," she said, "but be prudent, for our friend pretends that you might die on the spot."
"And why does he not fear the same danger for you, when your ecstasies are in reality much more frequent than mine?"
"He says that the liquor distilled by us women does not come from the brain, as is the case with men, and that the generating parts of woman have no contact with her intellect. The consequence of it, he says, is that the child is not the offspring of the mother as far as the brain, the seat of reason, is concerned, but of the father, and it seems to me very true. In that important act the woman has scarcely the amount of reason that she is in need of, and she cannot have any left to enable her to give a dose to the being she is generating." "Your friend is a very learned man. But do you know that such a way of arguing opens my eyes singularly? It is evident that, if that system be true, women ought to be forgiven for all the follies which they commit on account of love, whilst man is inexcusable, and I should be in despair if I happened to place you in a position to become a mother."
"I shall know before long, and if it should be the case so much the better. My mind is made up, and my decision taken."
"And what is that decision?"
"To abandon my destiny entirely to you both. I am quite certain that neither one nor the other would let me remain at the convent."
"It would be a fatal event which would decide our future destinies. I would carry you off, and take you to England to marry you."
"My friend thinks that a physician might be bought, who, under the pretext of some disease of his own invention, would prescribe to me to go somewhere to drink the waters--a permission which the bishop might grant. At the watering-place I would get cured, and come back here, but I would much rather unite our destinies for ever. Tell me, dearest, could you manage to live anywhere as comfortably as you do here?"
"Alas! my love, no, but with you how could I be unhappy? But we will resume that subject whenever it may be necessary. Let us go to bed."
"Yes. If I have a son my friend wishes to act towards him as a father."
"Would he believe himself to be the father?"
"You might both of you believe it, but some likeness would soon enlighten me as to which of you two was the true father."
"Yes. If, for instance, the child composed poetry, then you would suppose that he was the son of your friend."
"How do you know that my friend can write poetry?"
"Admit that he is the author of the six lines which you wrote in answer to mine."
"I cannot possibly admit such a falsehood, because, good or bad, they were of my own making, and so as to leave you no doubt let me convince you of it at once."
"Oh, never mind! I believe you, and let us go to bed, or Love will call out the god of Parnassus."
"Let him do it, but take this pencil and write; I am Apollo, you may be Love:"
'Je ne me battrai pas; je te cede la place. Si Venus est ma sceur, L'Amour est de ma race. Je sais faire des vers. Un instant de perdu N'offense pas L'Amour, si je l'ai convaincu.
"It is on my knees that I entreat your pardon, my heavenly friend, but how could I expect so much talent in a young daughter of Venice, only twenty-two years of age, and, above all, brought up in a convent?"
"I have a most insatiate desire to prove myself more and more worthy of you. Did you think I was prudent at the gaming-table?"
"Prudent enough to make the most intrepid banker tremble."
"I do not always play so well, but I had taken you as a partner, and I felt I could set fortune at defiance. Why would you not play?"
"Because I had lost four thousand sequins last week and I was without money, but I shall play to-morrow, and fortune will smile upon me. In the mean time, here is a small book which I have brought from your boudoir: the postures of Pietro Aretino; I want to try some of them."
"The thought is worthy of you, but some of these positions could not be executed, and others are insipid."
"True, but I have chosen four very interesting ones."
These delightful labours occupied the remainder of the night until the alarum warned us that it was time to part. I accompanied my lovely nun as far as her gondola, and then went to bed; but I could not sleep. I got up in order to go and pay a few small debts, for one of the greatest pleasures that a spendthrift can enjoy is, in my opinion, to discharge certain liabilities. The gold won by my mistress proved lucky for me, for I did not pass a single day of the carnival without winning.
Three days after Twelfth Night, having paid a visit to the casino of Muran for the purpose of placing some gold in M---- M----'s bureau, the door-keeper handed me a letter from my nun. Laura had, a few minutes before, delivered me one from C---- C----.