As usual I staked five hundred louis, and about seven o'clock, though two-thirds of the bank had gone, I announced the last deal. The marquis and two other heavy gamesters then endeavoured to break the bank, but fortune turned, and I not only got back my losses but won three hundred Louis besides. Thereupon I rose, promising the company to begin again next day. All the ladies had won, as Desarmoises had orders to let them play as they liked up to a certain limit.
I locked up my money, and warning my faithful Spaniard that I should not be coming back, I went to my idol, having got wet through on the way, and being obliged to undress as soon as I arrived. The good woman' of the house took care to dry my clothes.
I found the fair nun dressed in her religious habit, and lying on the small bed.
"Why are you not in your own bed, dearest?"
"Because I feel quite well again, my darling, and I wished to sup with you at table. We will go to bed afterwards, if that will give you any pleasure."
"It will give me pleasure if you share in my delight."
"Alas! I am undone, and I shall doubtless die when I have to leave you."
"Do not leave me, sweetheart; come with me to Rome; and leave the matter in my hands. I will make you my wife, and we will live happily together ever after."
"That would be too great a bliss, but I could never make up my mind to it; say no more about it."
I was sure of spending a delicious night--in the possession of all her charms, and we stayed an hour at table, seasoning the dishes with sweet converse. When we had done, the woman came up, gave her a packet, and went away again, wishing us good night.
"What does this packet contain, darling?"
"It is the present I have got for you-my portrait, but you must not see it till I am in bed."
"I will indulge you in that fancy, although I am very curious to see the portrait."
"You will say I am right afterwards."
I wanted to undress her myself, and she submitted like a lamb. When she was in bed, she opened the packet, and shewed me her portrait, naked, and very like the naked portrait of M---- M----. I praised the painter for the excellence of the copy he had made; nothing was altered but the colour of the hair and eyes.
"It isn't a copy," she said, "there would not have been time. He only made the eyes and hair black, and the latter more abundant. Thus you have in it a portrait of the first and also of the second M---- M----, in whom you must forget the first. She has also vanished from the clothed portrait, for you see the nun has black eyes. I could shew this picture to anyone as my portrait."
"You do not know how precious your present is to me! Tell me, dearest, how you succeeded in carrying out your plan so well."
"I told the country-woman about it yesterday morning, and she said that she had a foster-son at Anneci, who was a miniature painter. Through him she sent the two miniatures to a more skilful painter at Geneva, who made the change you see for four or five Louis; he was probably able to do it in two or three hours. I entrusted the two portraits to him, and you see how well he did his work. The woman has no doubt just received them, and to-morrow she may be able to tell you more about it."
"She is really a wonderful woman. I will indemnify her for the expense. But now tell me why you did not want me to see the portrait before you were in bed?"
"Because I can now see you in the same posture as that in which you are represented."
"It is an excellent idea; only love can have given it you. But you must wait till I am in the same state."
When we were both in a state of nature, exactly like Adam and Eve before they tasted the fatal apple, I placed her in the position of the portrait, and guessing my intention from my face she opened her arms for me to come to her; but I asked her to wait a moment, for I had a little packet too, which contained something she would like. I then drew from my pocket-book a little article of transparent skin, about eight inches long, with one opening, which was ornamented with a red rosette.