"Oh! you will manage to get out of it."
"My carriage is at your service, as I shall not be going out for the rest of the day."
I softly entered the countess's room and finding her in bed enquired affectionately after her health.
"I am very well," said she, smiling agreeably, "my husband has done me good."
I had seated myself quietly on the bed, and she had shewn no vexation; certainly a good omen.
"Aren't you going out any more to-day?" said she, "you have got your dressing-gown on."
"I fell asleep lying on my bed, and when I awoke I decided on keeping you company if you will be as good and gentle as you are pretty."
"If you behave well to me, you will always find me so.
"And will you love me?"
"That depends on you. So you are going to sacrifice Canano to me this evening."
"Yes, and with the greatest pleasure. He has won a lot from me already, and I foresee that he will win the fifteen thousand francs I have in my pocket to-morrow. This is the money the Marquis Triulzi gave me for the dress."
"It would be a pity to lose such a large sum."
"You are right, and I need not lose them if you will be complaisant, for they are meant for you. Allow me to shut the door."
"Because I am perishing with cold and desire, and intend warming myself in your bed."
"I will never allow that."
"I don't want to force you. Good-bye, countess, I will go and warm myself by my own fire, and to-morrow I will wage war on Canano's bank."
"You are certainly a sad dog. Stay here, I like your conversation."
Without more ado I locked the door, took off my clothes, and seeing that her back was turned to me, jumped into bed beside her. She had made up her mind, and let me do as I liked, but my combats with Zenobia had exhausted me. With closed eyes she let me place her in all the postures which lubricity could suggest, while her hands were not idle; but all was in vain, my torpor was complete, and nothing would give life to the instrument which was necessary to the operation.
Doubtless the Spaniard felt that my nullity was an insult to her charms; doubtless I must have tortured her by raising desires which I could not appease; for several times I felt my fingers drenched with a flow that shewed she was not passive in the matter; but she pretended all the while to be asleep. I was vexed at her being able to feign insensibility to such an extent, and I attached myself to her head; but her lips, which she abandoned to me, and which I abused disgracefully, produced no more effect than the rest of her body. I felt angry that I could not effect the miracle of resurrection, and I decided on leaving a stage where I had so wretched a part, but I was not generous to her, and put the finishing stroke to her humiliation by saying,--
"'Tis not my fault, madam, that your charms have so little power over me. Here, take these fifteen thousand francs by way of consolation."
With this apostrophe I left her.
My readers, more especially my lady readers, if I ever have any, will no doubt pronounce me a detestable fellow after this. I understand their feelings, but beg them to suspend their judgment. They will see afterwards that my instinct served me wonderfully in the course I had taken.
Early the next day the count came into my room with a very pleased expression.
"My wife is very well," said he, "and told me to wish you good day."
I did not expect this, and I no doubt looked somewhat astonished.
"I am glad," he said, "that you gave her francs instead of the sequins you got from Triulzi, and I hope, as Triulzi said, you will have luck with it at the bank."
"I am not going to the opera," said I, "but to the masked ball, and I don't want anyone to recognize me."
I begged him to go and buy me a new domino, and not to come near me in the evening, so that none but he should know who I was. As soon as he had gone out I began to write letters. I had heavy arrears to make up in that direction.
The count brought me my domino at noon, and after hiding it we went to dine with the countess.