"Do you know me?" said I.
"No, but I have often seen you passing under my window. I live at St. Roch, near the bridge."
The way in which the woman told her yarn convinced us that she was an adept in the science of prostitution, but we thought Capsucefalo, in spite of the count, worthy of the pillory. The girl was about ten years older than M. M., she was pretty, but light-complexioned, while my beautiful nun had fine dark brown hair and was at least three inches taller.
After twelve o'clock we sat down to supper, and did honour to the excellent meal which my dear Antoinette had prepared for us. We were cruel enough to leave the poor wretch without offering her so much as a glass of wine, but we thought it our duty.
While we were talking, the jolly Englishman made some witty comments on my eagerness to convince him that he had not enjoyed M. M.'s favours.
"I can't believe," said he, "that you have shewn so much interest without being in love with the divine nun."
I answered by saying that if I were her lover I was much to be pitied in being condemned to go to the parlour, and no farther.
"I would gladly give a hundred guineas a month," said he, "to have the privilege of visiting her at the grating."
So saying he gave me my hundred sequins, complimenting me on my success, and I slipped them forthwith into my pocket.
At two o'clock in the morning we heard a soft knock on the street door.
"Here is our friend," I said, "be discreet, and you will see that he will make a full confession."
He came in and saw Murray and the lady, but did not discover that a third party was present till he heard the ante-room door being locked. He turned round and saw me, and as he knew me, merely said, without losing countenance:
"Ah, you are here; you know, of course, that the secret must be kept?"
Murray laughed and calmly asked him to be seated, and he enquired, with the lady's pistols in his hands, where he was going to take her before day-break.
"I think you may be mistaken, as it is very possible that when you leave this place you will both of you be provided with a bed in prison."
"No, I am not afraid of that happening; the thing would make too much noise, and the laugh would not be on your side. Come," said he to his mate, "put on your cloak and let us be off."
The ambassador, who like an Englishman kept quite cool the whole time, poured him out a glass of Chambertin, and the blackguard drank his health. Murray seeing he had on a fine ring set with brilliants, praised it, and shewing some curiosity to see it more closely he drew it off the fellow's finger, examined it, found it without flaw, and asked how much it was worth. Capsucefalo, a little taken aback, said it cost him four hundred sequins.
"I will hold it as a pledge for that sum," said the ambassador, putting the ring into his pocket. The other looked chop-fallen, and Murray laughing at his retiring manners told the girl to put on her cloak and to pack off with her worthy acolyte. She did so directly, and with a low bow they disappeared.
"Farewell, nun procurer!" said the ambassador, but the count made no answer.
As soon as they were gone I thanked Murray warmly for the moderation he had shewn, as a scandal would have only injured three innocent people.
"Be sure," said he, "that the guilty parties shall be punished without anyone's knowing the reason"
I then made Tonine come upstairs, and my English friend offered her a glass of wine, which she declined with much modesty and politeness. Murray looked at her with flaming glances, and left after giving me his heartiest thanks.
Poor little Tonine had been resigned, and obedient for many hours, and she had good cause to think I had been unfaithful to her; however, I gave her the most unmistakable proofs of my fidelity. We stayed in bed for six hours, and rose happy in the morning.
After dinner I hurried off to my noble M---- M----, and told her the whole story. She listened eagerly, her various feelings flitting across her face. Fear, anger, wrath, approval of my method of clearing up my natural suspicions, joy at discovering me still her lover--all were depicted in succession in her glance, and in the play of her features, and in the red and white which followed one another on her cheeks and forehead. She was delighted to hear that the masker who was with me in the parlour was the English ambassador, but she became nobly disdainful when I told her that he would gladly give a hundred guineas a month for the pleasure of visiting her in the parlour. She was angry with him for fancying that she had been in his power, and for finding a likeness between her and a portrait, when, so she said, there was no likeness at all; I had given her the portrait. She added, with a shrewd smile, that she was sure I had not let my little maid see the false nun, as she might have been mistaken.