M. De Bernis Goes Away Leaving Me the Use of His Casino--His Good Advice: How I Follow It--Peril of M. M. and Myself--Mr. Murray, the English Ambassador--Sale of the Casino and End of Our Meetings-- Serious Illness of M. M.--Zorzi and Condulmer--Tonnie
Though the infidelities of C---- C----made me look at her with other eyes than before, and I had now no intention of making her the companion of my life, I could not help feeling that it had rested with me to stop her on the brink of the stream, and I therefore considered it my duty always to be her friend.
If I had been more logical, the resolution I took with respect to her would doubtless have been of another kind. I should have said to myself: After seducing her, I myself have set the example of infidelity; I have bidden her to follow blindly the advice of her friend, although I knew that the advice and the example of M--- M---- would end in her ruin; I had insulted, in the most grievous manner, the delicacy of my mistress, and that before her very eyes, and after all this how could I ask a weak woman to do what a man, priding himself on his strength, would shrink from at tempting? I should have stood self-condemned, and have felt that it was my duty to remain the same to her, but flattering myself that I was overcoming mere prejudices, I was in fact that most degraded of slaves, he who uses his strength to crush the weak.
The day after Shrove Tuesday, going to the casino of Muran, I found there a letter from M---- M----, who gave me two pieces of bad news: that C---- C---- had lost her mother, and that the poor girl was in despair; and that the lay-sister, whose rheum was cured, had returned to take her place. Thus C---- C---- was deprived of her friend at a time when she would have given her consolation, of which she stood in great need. C---- C----, it seemed, had gone to share the rooms of her aunt, who, being very fond of her, had obtained permission from the superior. This circumstance would prevent the ambassador taking any more suppers with her, and I should have been delighted if chance had put this obstacle in his path a few days sooner.
All these misfortunes seemed of small account com pared with what I was afraid of, for C---- C---- might have to pay the price for her pleasures, and I so far regarded myself as the origin of her unhappiness as to feel bound never to abandon her, and this might have involved me in terrible complications.
M---- M---- asked me to sup with her and her lover on the following Monday. I went and found them both sad--he for the loss of his new mistress, and she because she had no longer a friend to make the seclusion of the convent pleasant.
About midnight M. de Bemis left us, saying in a melancholy manner that he feared he should be obliged to pass several months in Vienna on important diplomatic business. Before parting we agreed to sup together every Friday.
When we were alone M---- M---- told me that the ambassador would be obliged to me if in the future I would come to the casino two hours later. I understood that the good-natured and witty profligate had a very natural prejudice against indulging his amorous feelings except when he was certain of being alone.
M. de Bemis came to all our suppers till he left for Vienna, and always went away at midnight. He no longer made use of his hiding- place, partly because we now only lay in the recess, and partly because, having had time to make love before my arrival, his desires were appeased. M---- M---- always found me amorous. My love, indeed, was even hotter than it had been, since, only seeing her once a week and remaining faithful to her, I had always an abundant harvest to gather in. C---- C----'s letters which she brought to me softened me to tears, for she said that after the loss of her mother she could not count upon the friendship of any of her relations. She called me her sole friend, her only protector, and in speaking of her grief in not being able to see me any more whilst she remained in the convent, she begged me to remain faithful to her dear friend.
On Good Friday, when I got to the casino, I found the lovers over- whelmed with grief. Supper was served, but the ambassador, downcast and absent, neither ate nor spoke; and M---- M---- was like a statue that moves at intervals by some mechanism. Good sense and ordinary politeness prevented me from asking any questions, but on M---- M---- leaving us together, M. de Bemis told me that she was distressed, and with reason, since he was obliged to set out for Vienna fifteen days after Easter. "I may tell you confidentially," he added, "that I believe I shall scarcely be able to return, but she must not be told, as she would be in despair." M---- M---- came back in a few minutes, but it was easy to see that she had been weeping.
After some commonplace conversation, M. de Bernis, seeing M----M---- still low-spirited, said,