Thus the first step had been taken, and Donna Ignazia felt it would be ridiculous not to join in with my conversation at the ball which all tended to procuring the pleasure of spending our nights together. She found me affectionate all the evening, and at supper I did my best to get her everything she liked. I made her see that the part she had at last taken was worthy of praise, and not blame. I filled her pockets with sweets, and put into my own pockets two bottles of ratafia, which I handed over to the mother, who was asleep in the carriage. Donna Ignazia gratefully refused the quadruple I wished to give her, saying that if it were in my power to make such presents, I might give the money to her lover whenever he called on me.
"Certainly," I answered, "but what shall I say to prevent his taking offence?"
"Tell him that it is on account of what he asked you. He is poor, and I am sure he is in despair at not seeing me in the window to-night. I shall tell him I only went to the ball with you to please my father."
Donna Ignazia, a mixture of voluptuousness and piety, like most Spanish women, danced the fandango with so much fire that no words could have expressed so well the Joys that were in store for me. What a dance it is! Her bosom was heaving and her blood all aflame, and yet I was told that for the greater part of the company the dance was wholly innocent, and devoid of any intention. I pretended to believe it, but I certainly did not. Ignazia begged me to come to mass at the Church of the Soledad the next day at eight o'clock. I had not yet told her that it was there I had seen her first. She also asked me to come and see her in the evening, and said she would send me a letter if we were not left alone together.
I slept till noon, and was awoke by Marazzini, who came to ask me to give him some dinner. He told me he had seen me with my fair companion the night before, and that he had vainly endeavoured to find out who she was. I bore with this singularly misplaced curiosity, but when it came to his saying that he would have followed us if he had had any money, I spoke to him in a manner that made him turn pale. He begged pardon, and promised to bridle his curiosity for the future. He proposed a party of pleasure with the famous courtezan Spiletta, whose favours were dear, but I declined, for my mind was taken up with the fair Ignazia, whom I considered a worthy successor to Charlotte.
I went to the church, and she saw me when she came in, followed by the same companion as before.
She knelt down at two or three paces from me, but did not once look in my direction. Her friend, on the other hand, inspected me closely; she seemed about the same age as Ignazia, but she was ugly. I also noticed Don Francisco, and as I was going out of the church my rival followed me, and congratulated me somewhat bitterly on my good fortune in having taken his mistress a second time to the ball. He confessed that he had been on our track the whole evening, and that he should have gone away well enough pleased if it had not been for the way in which we dance the fandango. I felt this was an occasion for a little gentle management, and I answered good-humouredly that the love he thought he noticed was wholly imaginary, and that he was wrong to entertain any suspicions as to so virtuous a girl as Donna Ignazia. At the same time I placed an ounce in his hand, begging him to take it on account. He did so with an astonished stare, and, calling me his father and guardian angel, swore an eternal gratitude.
In the evening I called on Don Diego, where I was regaled with the excellent ratafia I had given the mother, and the whole family began to speak of the obligations Spain owed to the Count of Aranda.
"No exercise is more healthful than dancing," said Antonia, the mother, "and before his time balls were strictly forbidden. In spite of that he is hated for having expelled 'los padres de la compagnia de Jesus', and for his sumptuary regulations. But the poor bless his name, for all the money produced by the balls goes to them."
"And thus," said the father, "to go to the ball is to do a pious work."
"I have two cousins," said Ignazia, "who are perfect angels of goodness. I told them that you had taken me to the ball; but they are so poor that they have no hope of going.