"Who knows? I may eventually do so."
I called on the Princess Santa Croce at three o'clock, and found her in bed, with the cardinal reading to her.
The first question she asked was, why I had left the opera at the end of the second act.
"Princess, I can tell you an interesting history of my six hours of adventure, but you must give me a free hand, for some of the episodes must be told strictly after nature."
"Is it anything in the style of Sister M---- M----?" asked the cardinal.
"Yes, my lord, something of the kind."
"Princess, will you be deaf?" said his eminence,
"Of course I will," she replied.
I then told my tale almost as I have written it. The slipping oysters and the game of blind man's buff made the princess burst with laughing, in spite of her deafness. She agreed with the cardinal that I had acted with great discretion, and told me that I should be sure to succeed on the next attempt.
"In three or four days," said the cardinal, "you will have the dispensation, and then Emilie can marry whom she likes."
The next morning the Florentine came to see me at nine o'clock, and I found him to answer to the marchioness's description; but I had a bone to pick with him, and I was none the better pleased when he began asking me about the young person in my box at the theatre; he wanted to know whether she were married or engaged, if she had father, mother, or any other relations.
I smiled sardonically, and begged to be excused giving him the required information, as the young lady was masked when he saw her.
He blushed, and begged my pardon.
I thanked him for doing Margarita the honour of accepting a cup of coffee from her hands, and begged him to take one with me, saying I would breakfast with him next morning. He lived with Roland, opposite St. Charles, where Madame Gabrieli, the famous singer, nicknamed la Coghetta, lived.
As soon as the Florentine was gone, I went to St. Paul's in hot haste, for I longed to see what reception I should have from the two vestals I had initiated so well.
When they appeared I noticed a great change. Emilie had become gay, while Armelline looked sad.
I told the former that she should have her dispensation in three days, and her warrant for four hundred crowns in a week.
"At the same time," I added, "you shall have your grant of two hundred crowns."
At this happy tidings she ran to tell the superioress of her good fortune.
As soon as I was alone with Armelline I took her hands and covered them with kisses, begging her to resume her wonted gaiety.
"What shall I do," said she, "without Emilie? What shall I do when you are gone? I am unhappy. I love myself no longer."
She shed tears which pierced me to the heart. I swore I would not leave Rome till I had seen her married with a dowry of a thousand crowns.
"I don't want a thousand crowns, but I hope you will see me married as you say; if you do not keep your promise it will kill me."
"I would die rather than deceive you; but you on your side must forgive my love, which, perhaps, made me go too far the other evening."
"I forgive you everything if you will remain my friend."
"I will; and now let me kiss your beautiful lips."
After this first kiss, which I took as a pledge of certain victory, she wiped away her tears; and soon after Emilie reappeared, accompanied by the superioress, who treated me with great cordiality.
"I want you to do as much for Armelline's new friend as you have done for Emilie," said she.
"I will do everything in my power," I replied; "and in return I hope you will allow me to take these young ladies to the theatre this evening."
"You will find them ready; how could I refuse you anything?"
When I was alone with the two friends I apologised for having disposed of them without their consent.
"Our consent!" said Emilie: "we should be ungrateful indeed if we refused you anything after all you have done for us."
"And you, Armelline, will you withstand my love?"
"No; so long as it keeps within due bounds.