I hired a carriage to seat four, and at nightfall I drove to the house of my pious partner, who was quite ready for me. The happy flush on her face was a sufficient index to me of the feelings of her heart. We got into the carriage with the mother, who was wrapped up in a vast cloak, and at the door of the dancing-room we descended, leaving the mother in the carriage. As soon as we were alone my fair partner told me that her name was Donna Ignazia.
My Amours With Donna Ignazia--My Imprisonment At Buen Retiro--My Triumph --I Am Commended to the Venetian Ambassador by One of the State Inquisitors
We entered the ball-room and walked round several times. Donna Ignazia was in such a state of ecstasy that I felt her trembling, and augured well for my amorous projects. Though liberty, nay, license, seemed to reign supreme, there was a guard of soldiers ready to arrest the first person who created any disturbance. We danced several minuets and square dances, and at ten o'clock we went into the supper-room, our conversation being very limited all the while, she not speaking for fear of encouraging me too much, and I on account of my poor knowledge of the Spanish language. I left her alone for a moment after supper, and went to the box, where I expected to find Madame Pichona, but it was occupied by maskers, who were unknown to me, so I rejoined my partner, and we went on dancing the minuets and quadrilles till the fandango was announced. I took my place with my partner, who danced it admirably, and seemed astonished to find herself so well supported by a foreigner. This dance had excited both of us, so, after taking her to the buffet and giving her the best wines and liqueurs procurable, I asked her if she were content with me. I added that I was so deeply in love with her that unless she found some means of making me happy I should undoubtedly die of love. I assured her that I was ready to face all hazards.
"By making you happy," she replied, "I shall make myself happy, too. I will write to you to-morrow, and you will find the letter sewn into the hood of my domino."
"You will find me ready to do anything, fair Ignazia, if you will give me hope."
At last the ball was over, and we went out and got into the carriage. The mother woke up, and the coachman drove off, and I, taking the girl's hands, would have kissed them. However, she seemed to suspect that I had other intentions, and held my hands clasped so tightly that I believe I should have found it a hard task to pull them away. In this position Donna Ignazia proceeded to tell her mother all about the ball, and the delight it had given her. She did not let go my hands till we got to the corner of their street, when the mother called out to the coachman to stop, not wishing to give her neighbours occasion for slander by stopping in front of their own house.
The next day I sent for the domino, and in it I found a letter from Donna Ignazia, in which she told me that a Don Francisco de Ramos would call on me, that he was her lover, and that he would inform me how to render her and myself happy.
Don Francisco wasted no time, for the next morning at eight o'clock my page sent in his name. He told me that Donna Ignazia, with whom he spoke every night, she being at her window and he in the street, had informed him that she and I had been at the ball together. She had also told him that she felt sure I had conceived a fatherly affection for her, and she had consequently prevailed upon him to call on me, being certain that I would treat him as my own son. She had encouraged him to ask me to lend him a hundred doubloons which would enable them to get married before the end of the carnival.
"I am employed at the Mint," he added, "but my present salary is a very small one. I hope I shall get an increase before long, and then I shall be in a position to make Ignazia happy. All my relations live at Toledo, and I have no friends at Madrid, so when we set up our only friends will be the father and mother of my wife and yourself, for I am sure you love her like a daughter."
"You have probed my heart to its core," I replied, "but just now I am awaiting remittances, and have very little money about me.