I leave you with this charming attendant. I did not think that such a beauty could exist in Milan unknown to all but you."
"She is a townswoman, who knows how to keep a secret. Do you not?"
"I would rather die than tell anyone that this gentleman is the Marquis of F----."
"That's right; always keep your word, and take this trifle as a souvenir of me."
It was a pretty ring, which Zenobia received with much grace; it might be worth about fifty sequins.
When the marquis was gone, Zenobia undressed me and did my hair for the night, and as I got into bed I gave her twenty-four sequins, and told her she might go and comfort her husband.
"He won't be uneasy," said she, "he is a philosopher."
"He need be with such a pretty wife. Kiss me again, Zenobia, and then we must part."
She threw herself upon me, covering me with kisses, and calling me her happiness and her providence. Her fiery kisses produced their natural effect, and after I had given her a fresh proof of the power of her charms, she left me and I went to sleep.
It was two o'clock when I awoke ravenously hungry. I had an excellent dinner, and then I dressed to call on the charming Mdlle. Q----, whom I did not expect to find too hard on me, after what she had said. Everybody was playing cards with the exception of herself. She was standing by a window reading so attentively that she did not hear me come into the room, but when she saw me near her, she blushed, shut up the book, and put it in her pocket.
"I will not betray you," said I, "or tell anyone that I surprised you reading a prayer-book."
"No, don't; for my reputation would be gone if I were thought to be a devotee."
"Has there been any talk of the masqued ball or of the mysterious masquers?"
"People talk of nothing else, and condole with us for not having been to the ball, but no one can guess who the beggars were. It seems that an unknown carriage and four that sped like the wind took them as far as the first stage, and where they went next God alone knows! It is said that my hair was false, and I have longed to let it down and thus give them the lie. It is also said that you must know who the beggars were, as you loaded them with ducats."
"One must let people say and believe what they like and not betray ourselves."
"You are right; and after all we had a delightful evening. If you acquit yourself of all commissions in the same way, you must be a wonderful man."
"But it is only you who could give me such a commission."
"I to-day, and another to-morrow."
"I see you think I am inconstant, but believe me if I find favour in your eyes your face will ever dwell in my memory."
"I am certain you have told a thousand girls the same story, and after they have admitted you to their favour you have despised them."
"Pray do not use the word 'despise,' or I shall suppose you think me a monster. Beauty seduces me. I aspire to its possession, and it is only when it is given me from other motives than love that I despise it. How should I despise one who loved me? I should first be compelled to despise myself. You are beautiful and I worship you, but you are mistaken if you think that I should be content for you to surrender yourself to me out of mere kindness."
"Ah! I see it is my heart you want."
"To make me wretched at the end of a fortnight."
"To love you till death, and to obey your slightest wishes."
"My slightest wishes?"
"Yes, for to me they would be inviolable laws."
"Would you settle in Milan?"
"Certainly, if you made that a condition of my happiness."
"What amuses me in all this is that you are deceiving me without knowing it, if indeed you really love me."
"Deceiving you without knowing it! That is something new. If I am not aware of it, I am innocent of deceit."
"I am willing to admit your innocency, but you are deceiving me none the less, for after you had ceased to love me no power of yours could bring love back again."
"That, of course, might happen, but I don't choose to entertain such unpleasant thoughts; I prefer to think of myself as loving you to all eternity.