If at the moment of physical delight the covering were taken away, and a face of hideous, revolting ugliness disclosed, one would fly in horror, in spite of the beauties of the woman's body.
But the contrary does not hold good. If a man has fallen in love with a sweet, enchanting face, and succeeds in lifting the veil of the sanctuary only to find deformities there, still the face wins the day, atones for all, and the sacrifice is consummated.
The face is thus paramount, and hence it has come to be agreed that women's bodies shall be covered and their faces disclosed; while men's clothes are arranged in such a way that women can easily guess at what they cannot see.
This arrangement is undoubtedly to the advantage of women; art can conceal the imperfections of the face, and even make it appear beautiful, but no cosmetic can dissemble an ugly breast, stomach, or any other part of the man body.
In spite of this, I confess that the phenomerides of Sparta were in the right, like all women who, though they possess a fine figure, have a repulsive face; in spite of the beauty of the piece, the title drives spectators away. Still an interesting face is an inseparable accident of love.
Thrice happy are they who, like Armelline, have beauty both in the face and body.
When I got home I was so fortunate as to find Margarita in a deep sleep. I took care not to awake her, and went to bed with as little noise as possible. I was in want of rest, for I no longer enjoyed the vigour of youth, and I slept till twelve.
When I awoke, Margarita told me that a handsome young man had called on me at ten o'clock, and that she had amused him till eleven, not daring to awake me.
"I made him some coffee," said she, "and he was pleased to pronounce it excellent. He would not tell me his name, but he will come again tomorrow. He gave me a piece of money, but I hope you will not mind. I don't know how much it is worth."
I guessed that it was the Florentine. The piece was of two ounces. I only laughed, for not loving Margarita I was not jealous of her. I told her she had done quite right to amuse him and to accept the piece, which was worth forty-eight pauls.
She kissed me affectionately, and thanks to this incident I heard nothing about my having come home so late.
I felt curious to learn more about this generous Tuscan, so I proceeded to read Leonilda's letter.
His name, it appeared, was M----. He was a rich merchant established in London, and had been commended to her husband by a Knight of Malta.
Leonilda said he was generous, good-hearted, and polished, and assured me that I should like him.
After telling me the family news, Leonilda concluded by saying that she was in a fair way to become a mother, and that she would be perfectly happy if she gave birth to a son. She begged me to congratulate the marquis.
Whether from a natural instinct or the effects of prejudice, this news made me shudder. I answered her letter in a few days, enclosing it in a letter to the marquis, in which I told him that the grace of God was never too late, and that I had never been so much pleased by any news as at hearing he was likely to have an heir.
In the following May Leonilda gave birth to a son, whom I saw at Prague, on the occasion of the coronation of Leopold. He called himself Marquis C----, like his father, or perhaps we had better say like his mother's husband, who attained the age of eighty.
Though the young marquis did not know my name, I got introduced to him, and had the pleasure of meeting him a second time at the theatre. He was accompanied by a priest, who was called his governor, but such an office was a superfluity for him, who was wiser at twenty than most men are at sixty.
I was delighted to see that the young man was the living image of the old marquis. I shed tears of joy as I thought how this likeness must have pleased the old man and his wife, and I admired this chance which seemed to have abetted nature in her deceit.
I wrote to my dear Leonilda, placing the letter in the hands of her son. She did not get it till the Carnival of 1792, when the young marquis returned to Naples; and a short time after I received an answer inviting me to her son's marriage and begging me to spend the remainder of my days with her.