Calling on the Venetian ambassador's steward I saw some peculiarly fine oysters, and I got him to let me have a hundred. I then took a box at the Capronica Theatre, and ordered a good supper at the inn where we had supped before.
"I want a room with a bed," I said to the waiter.
"That's not allowed in Rome, signor," he replied, "but on the third floor we have two rooms with large sofas which might do instead, without the Holy Office being able to say anything."
I looked at the rooms and took them, and ordered the man to get the best supper that Rome could offer.
As I was entering the boa with the two girls I saw the Marchioness d'Aout was my near neighbour. She accosted me, and congratulated herself on her vicinity to me. She was accompanied by her French abbe, her husband, and a fine-looking young man, whom I had never seen before. She asked who my companions were, and I told her they were in the Venetian ambassador's household. She praised their beauty and began to talk to Armelline, who answered well enough till the curtain went up. The young man also complimented her, and after having asked my permission he gave her a large packet of bonbons, telling her to share them with her neighbour. I had guessed him to be a Florentine from his accent, and asked him if the sweets came from the banks of the Arno; he told me they were from Naples, whence he had just arrived.
At the end of the first act I was surprised to hear him say that he had a letter of introduction for me from the Marchioness of C----.
"I have just heard your name," he said, "and tomorrow I shall have the honour of delivering the letter in person, if you will kindly give me your address."
After these polite preliminaries I felt that I must comply with his request.
I asked after the marquis, his mother-in-law, and Anastasia, saying that I was delighted to hear from the marchioness from whom I had been expecting an answer for the last month.
"The charming marchioness has deigned to entrust me with the answer you speak of."
"I long to read it."
"Then I may give you the letter now, though I shall still claim the privilege of calling on you to-morrow. I will bring it to you in your box, if you will allow me."
"Pray do so."
He might easily have given it to me from the box where he was, but this would not have suited his plans. He came in, and politeness obliged me to give him my place next to Armelline. He took out an elaborate pocket- book, and gave me the letter. I opened it, but finding that it covered four pages, I said I would read it when I got home, as the box was dark. "I shall stay in Rome till Easter," he said, "as I want to see all the sights; though indeed I cannot hope to see anything more beautiful than the vision now before me."
Armelline, who was gazing fixedly at him, blushed deeply. I felt that his compliment, though polite, was entirely out of place, and in some sort an insult to myself. However, I said nothing, but decided mentally that the Florentine Adonis must be a fop of the first water.
Finding his compliment created a silence, he saw he had made himself offensive, and after a few disconnected remarks withdrew from the box. In spite of myself the man annoyed me, and I congratulated Armelline on the rapidity of her conquest, asking her what she thought of him. "He is a fine man, but his compliments shews he has no taste. Tell me, is it the custom for people of fashion to make a young girl blush the first time they see her?"
"No, dear Armelline, it is neither customary nor polite; and anyone who wishes to mix in good society would never do such a thing."
I lapsed into silence, as though I wanted to listen to the music; but as a matter of fact my heart was a prey to cruel jealousy. I thought the matter over, and came to the conclusion that the Florentine had treated me rudely. He might have guessed that I was in love with Armelline, and to make such an open declaration of love to my very face was nothing more nor less than an insult to me.