It was midnight, and we went on wasting our time in this desultory conversation, when the prudent and careful servant brought us an excellent supper. I could not touch anything, my heart was too full, but my dear little wife supped with a good appetite. I could not help laughing when I saw a salad of whites of eggs, and C---- C---- thought it extraordinary because all the yolks had been removed. In her innocence, she could not understand the intention of the person who had ordered the supper. As I looked at her, I was compelled to acknowledge that she had improved in beauty; in fact C---- C---- was remarkably beautiful, yet I remained cold by her side. I have always thought that there is no merit in being faithful to the person we truly love.
Two hours before day-light we resumed our seats near the fire, and C---- C----, seeing how dull I was, was delicately attentive to me. She attempted no allurement, all her movements wore the stamp of the most decent reserve, and her conversation, tender in its expressions and perfectly easy, never conveyed the shadow of a reproach for my coolness.
Towards the end of our long conversation, she asked me what she should say to her friend on her return to the convent.
"My dear M---- M---- expects to see me full of joy and gratitude for the generous present she thought she was making me by giving me this night, but what shall I tell her?"
"The whole truth. Do not keep from her a single word of our conversation, as far as your memory will serve you, and tell her especially that she has made me miserable for a long time."
"No, for I should cause her too great a sorrow; she loves you dearly, and cherishes the locket which contains your likeness. I mean, on the contrary, to do all I can to bring peace between you two, and I must succeed before long, because my friend is not guilty of any wrong, and you only feel some spite, although with no cause. I will send you my letter by Laura, unless you promise me to go and fetch it yourself at her house."
"Your letters will always be dear to me, but, mark my words, M---- M---- will not enter into any explanation. She will believe you in everything, except in one."
"I suppose you mean our passing a whole night together as innocently as if we were brother and sister. If she knows you as well as I do, she will indeed think it most wonderful."
"In that case, you may tell her the contrary, if you like."
"Nothing of the sort. I hate falsehoods, and I will certainly never utter one in such a case as this; it would be very wrong. I do not love you less on that account, my darling, although, during this long night, you have not condescended to give me the slightest proof of your love."
"Believe me, dearest, I am sick from unhappiness. I love you with my whole soul, but I am in such a situation that...."
"What! you are weeping, my love! Oh! I entreat you, spare my heart! I am so sorry to have told you such a thing, but I can assure you I never meant to make you unhappy. I am sure that in a quarter of an hour M---- M---- will be crying likewise."
The alarum struck, and, having no longer any hope of seeing M---- M---- come to justify herself, I kissed C---- C----. I gave her the key of the casino, requesting her to return it for me to M---- M----, and my young friend having gone back to the convent, I put on my mask and left the casino.