The next day, when I thought of that exemplary supper, I had no difficulty in guessing what the ultimate result would be. The ambassador owed his great fortune entirely to the fair sex, because he possessed to the highest degree the art of coddling love; and as his nature was eminently voluptuous he found his advantage in it, because he knew how to call desires into existence, and this procured him enjoyments worthy of his delicate taste. I saw that he was deeply in love with C---- C----, and I was far from supposing him the man to be satisfied with looking at her lovely eyes. He certainly had some plan arranged, and M---- M----, in spite of all her honesty, was the prime manager of it. I knew that she would carry it on with such delicate skill that I should not see any evidence of it. Although I did not feel disposed to shew more compliance than was strictly just, I foresaw that in the end I should be the dupe, and my poor C---- C---- the victim, of a cunningly-contrived trick. I could not make up my mind either to consent with a good grace, or to throw obstacles in the way, and, believing my dear little wife incapable of abandoning herself to anything likely to displease me, I allowed myself to be taken off my guard, and to rely upon the difficulty of seducing her. Stupid calculation! Self-love and shamefacedness prevented me from using my common sense. At all events, that intrigue kept me in a state of fever because I was afraid of its consequences, and yet curiosity mastered me to such an extent that I was longing for the result. I knew very well that a second edition of the supper did not imply that the same play would be performed a second time, and I foresaw that the changes would be strongly marked. But I thought myself bound in honour not to retract. I could not lead the intrigue, but I believed myself sufficiently skilful to baffle all their manoeuvrings.
After all those considerations, however, considerations which enabled me to assume the countenance of false bravery, the inexperience of C- --- C----, who, in spite of all the knowledge she had lately acquired, was only a novice, caused me great anxiety. It was easy to abuse her natural wish to be polite, but that fear gave way very soon before the confidence I had in M---- M----s delicacy. I thought that, having seen how I had spent six hours with that young girl, knowing for a certainty that I intended to marry her, M---- M---- would never be guilty of such base treason. All these thoughts, worthy only of a weak and bashful jealousy, brought no conclusive decision. I had to follow the current and watch events.
At the appointed time I repaired to the casino, where I found my two lovely friends sitting by the fire.
"Good evening, my two divinities, where is our charming Frenchman?"
"He has not arrived yet," answered M---- M----, "but he will doubtless soon be here."
I took off my mask, and sitting between them, I gave them a thousand kisses, taking good care not to shew any preference, and although I knew that they were aware of the unquestionable right I had upon both of them, I kept within the limits of the utmost decency. I congratulated them upon the mutual inclination they felt for each other, and I saw that they were pleased not to have to blush on that account.
More than one hour was spent in gallant and friendly conversation, without my giving any satisfaction to my burning desires. M--- M---- attracted me more than C---- C----, but I would not for the world have offended the charming girl. M---- M---- was beginning to shew some anxiety about the absence of M. de Bernis, when the door-keeper brought her a note from him.
"A courier," he wrote, "who arrived two hours ago, prevents my being happy to-night, for I am compelled to pass it in answering the dispatches I have received. I trust that you will forgive and pity me. May I hope that you will kindly grant me on Friday the pleasure of which I am so unfortunately deprived to-day? Let me know your answer by to-morrow. I wish ardently, in that case, to find you with the same guests, to whom I beg you will present my affectionate compliments."
"Well," said M---- M----, "it is not his fault. We will sup without him. Will you come on Friday?"
"Yes, with the greatest pleasure. But what is the matter with you, dear C---- C----? You look sad."
"Sad, no, unless it should be for the sake of my friend, for I have never seen a more polite and more obliging gentleman."
"Very well, dear, I am glad he has rendered you so sensible."
"What do you mean? Could anyone be insensible to his merit?"
"Better still, but I agree with you. Only tell me if you love him?"
"Well, even if I loved him, do you think I would go and tell him? Besides, I am certain that he loves my friend."
So saying, she sat down on M---- M----'s knee, calling her her own little wife, and my two beauties began to bestow on one another caresses which made me laugh heartily. Far from troubling their sport, I excited them, in order to enjoy a spectacle with which I had long been acquainted.