No more blind man's buff!"
"And it is such a nice game! You really grieve me."
"Well, invent another game," said Emilie.
Emilie was becoming ardent, somewhat to my annoyance, for I was afraid Armelline would get jealous. I must not be charged with foppishness on this account. I knew the human heart.
When I left them I went to the Tordinona Theatre and took a box, and then ordered a good supper at the same inn, not forgetting the oysters, though I felt sure I should not require their aid.
I then called on a musician, whom I requested to get me three tickets for a ball, where no one would be likely to know me.
I went home with the idea of dining by myself, but I found a note from the Marchioness d'Aout, reproaching me in a friendly manner for not having broken bread with her, and inviting me to dinner. I resolved to accept the invitation, and when I got to the house I found the young Florentine already there.
It was at this dinner that I found out many of his good qualities, and I saw that Donna Leonilda had not said too much in his favour.
Towards the end of the meal the marchioness asked why I had not stayed till the end of the opera.
"Because the young ladies were getting tired."
"I have found out that they do not belong to the Venetian ambassador's household.
"You are right, and I hope you will pardon my small fiction."
"It was an impromptu effort to avoid telling me who they are, but they are known."
"Then I congratulate the curious."
"The one I addressed deserves to excite general curiosity; but if I were in your place I should make her use a little powder."
"I have not the authority to do so, and if I had, I would not trouble her for the world."
I was pleased with the Florentine, who listened to all this without saying a word. I got him to talk of England and of his business. He told me that he was going to Florence to take possession of his inheritance, and to get a wife to take back with him to London. As I left, I told him that I could not have the pleasure of calling on him till the day after next, as I was prevented by important business. He told me I must come at dinnertime, and I promised to do so.
Full of love and hope, I went for my two friends, who enjoyed the whole play without any interruption.
When we alighted at the inn I told the coachman to call for me at two, and we then went up to the third floor, where we sat before the fire while the oysters were being opened. They did not interest us as they had done before.
Emilie had an important air; she was about to make a good marriage. Armelline was meek, smiling, and affectionate, and reminded me of the promise I had given her. I replied by ardent kisses which reassured her, while they warned her that I would fain increase the responsibility I had already contracted towards her. However, she seemed resigned, and I sat down to table in a happy frame of mind.
As Emilie was on the eve of her wedding, she no doubt put down my neglect of her to my respect for the sacrament of matrimony.
When supper was over I got on the sofa with Armelline, and spent three hours which might have been delicious if I had not obstinately endeavoured to obtain the utmost favour. She would not give in; all my supplications and entreaties could not move her; she was sweet, but firm. She lay between my arms, but would not grant what I wanted, though she gave me no harsh or positive refusal.
It seems a puzzle, but in reality it is quite simple.
She left my arms a virgin, sorry, perhaps, that her sense of duty had not allowed her to make me completely happy.
At last nature bade me cease, in spite of my love, and I begged her to forgive me. My instinct told me that this was the only way by which I might obtain her consent another time.
Half merry and half sad, we awoke Emilie who was in a deep sleep, and then we started. I went home and got into bed, not troubling myself about the storm of abuse with which Margarita greeted me.
The Florentine gave me a delicious dinner, overwhelmed me with protestations of friendship, and offered me his purse if I needed it.