I found her with her mother, rosary in hand, while her noble father was botching old boots. I laughed inwardly at being obliged to give the title of don to a cobbler who would not make boots because he was an hidalgo. Hidalgo, meaning noble, is derived from 'higo de albo', son of somebody, and the people, whom the nobles call 'higos de nade', sons of nobody, often revenge themselves by calling the nobles hideputas, that is to say, sons of harlots.
Donna Ignazia rose politely from the floor, where she was sitting cross- legged, after the Moorish fashion. I have seen exalted ladies in this position at Madrid, and it is very common in the antechambers of the Court and the palace of the Princess of the Asturias. The Spanish women sit in church in the same way, and the rapidity with which they can change this posture to a kneeling or a standing one is something amazing.
Donna Ignazia thanked me for honouring her with a visit, adding that she would never have gone to the ball if it had not been for me, and that she never hoped to go to it again, as I had doubtless found someone else more worthy of my attentions.
"I have not found anyone worthy to be preferred before you," I replied, "and if you would like to go to the ball again I should be most happy to take you."
The father and mother were delighted with the pleasure I was about to give to their beloved daughter. As the ball was to take place the same evening, I gave the mother a doubloon to get a mask and domino. She went on her errand, and, as Don Diego also went out on some business, I found myself alone with the girl. I took the opportunity of telling her that if she willed I would be hers, as I adored her, but that I could not sigh for long.
"What can you ask, and what can I offer, since I must keep myself pure for my husband?"
"You should abandon yourself to me without reserve, and you may be sure that I should respect your innocence."
I then proceeded to deliver a gentle attack, which she repulsed, with a serious face. I stopped directly, telling her that she would find me polite and respectful, but not in the least affectionate, for the rest of the evening.
Her face had blushed a vivid scarlet, and she replied that her sense of duty obliged her to repulse me in spite of herself.
I liked this metaphysical line of argument. I saw that I had only to destroy the idea of duty in her and all the rest would follow. What I had to do was to enter into an argument, and to bear away the prize directly I saw her at a loss for an answer.
"If your duty," I began, "forces you to repulse me in spite of yourself, your duty is a burden on you. If it is a burden on you, it is your enemy, and if it is your enemy why do you suffer it thus lightly to gain the victory? If you were your own friend, you would at once expel this insolent enemy from your coasts."
"That may not be."
"Yes, it may. Only shut your eyes."
I immediately laid hands on a tender place; she repulsed me, but more gently and not so seriously as before.
"You may, of course, seduce me," she said, "but if you really love me you will spare me the shame."
"Dearest Ignazia, there is no shame in a girl giving herself up to the man she loves. Love justifies all things. If you do not love me I ask nothing of you."
"But how shall I convince you that I am actuated by love and not by complaisance?"
"Leave me to do what I like, and my self-esteem will help me to believe you."
"But as I cannot be certain that you will believe me, my duty plainly points to a refusal."
"Very good, but you will make me sad and cold."
"Then I shall be sad, too."
At these encouraging words I embraced her, and obtained some solid favours with one hardy hand. She made no opposition, and I was well pleased with what I had got; and for a first attempt I could not well expect more.
At this juncture the mother came in with the dominos and gloves. I refused to accept the change, and went away to return in my carriage, as before.