I renewed my offer to marry her.
"Buy a property," said she, "in the kingdom of Naples, and I will spend the remainder of my days with you, without asking a priest to give us his blessing, unless we happen to have children."
I could not deny that Lucrezia spoke very sensibly, and I could easily have bought land in Naples, and lived comfortably on it, but the idea of binding myself down to one place was so contrary to my feelings that I had the good sense to prefer my vagabond life to all the advantages which our union would have given me, and I do not think that Lucrezia altogether disapproved of my resolution.
After supper I took leave of everybody, and I set out at day-break in order to get to Rome by the next day. I had only fifteen stages to do, and the road was excellent.
As we were getting into Carillano, I saw one of the two-wheeled carriages, locally called mantice, two horses were being put into it, while my carriage required four. I got out, and on hearing myself called I turned round. I was not a little surprised to find that the occupants of the mantice were a young and pretty girl and Signora Diana, the Prince de Sassaro's mistress, who owed me three hundred ounces. She told me that she was going to Rome, and that she would be glad if we could make the journey together.
"I suppose you don't mind stopping for the night at Piperno?"
"No," said I, "I am afraid that can't be managed; I don't intend to break my journey."
"But you would get to Rome by to-morrow."
"I know that, but I sleep better in my carriage than in the bad beds they give you in the inns."
"I dare not travel by night."
"Well, well, madam, I have no doubt we shall see each other at Rome."
"You are a cruel man. You see I have only a stupid servant, and a maid who is as timid as I am, besides it is cold and my carriage is open. I will keep you company in yours."
"I really can't take you in, as all the available space is taken up by my old secretary, who broke his arm yesterday."
"Shall we dine together at Terracino? We could have a little talk."
We made good cheer at this small town, which is the frontier of the States of the Church. We should not reach Piperno till far on in the night, and the lady renewed and redoubled her efforts to keep me till daybreak; but though young and pretty she did not take my fancy; she was too fair and too fat. But her maid, who was a pretty brunette, with a delicious rounded form and a sparkling eye, excited all my feelings of desire. A vague hope of possessing the maid won me over, and I ended by promising the signora to sup with her, and not to continue my journey without giving notice to the landlord.
When we got to Piperno, I succeeded in telling the pretty maid that if she would let me have her quietly I would not go any further. She promised to wait for me, and allowed me to take such liberties as are usually the signs of perfect complaisance.
We had our supper, and I wished the ladies good night and escorted them to their room, where I took note of the relative positions of their beds so that there should be no mistake. I left them and came back in a quarter of an hour. Finding the door open I felt sure of success, and I got into bed; but as I found out, it was the signora and not the maid who received me. Evidently the little hussy had told her mistress the story, and the mistress had thought fit to take the maid's place. There was no possibility of my being mistaken, for though I could not see I could feel.
For a moment I was undecided, should I remain in bed and make the best of what I had got, or go on my way to Rome immediately? The latter counsel prevailed. I called Le Duc, gave my orders, and started, enjoying the thought of the confusion of the two women, who must have been in a great rage at the failure of their plans. I saw Signora Diana three or four times at Rome, and we bowed without speaking; if I had thought it likely that she would pay me the four hundred louis she owed me I might have taken the trouble to call on her, but I know that your stage queens are the worst debtors in the world.