I marked her artifices and her cunning, and resolved to be equal to all her wiles. When she brought the chocolate I noticed that there were two cups on the tray, and I said,--
"Then it is not true that you don't like chocolate?"
"I feel obliged to relieve you of all fear of being poisoned."
I noticed that she was now dressed with the utmost decency, while half an hour before she had only her chemise and petticoat her neck being perfectly bare. The more resolved she seemed to gain the victory, the more firmly I was determined to humiliate her, as it appeared to me the only other alternative would have been my shame and dishonour; and this turned me to stone.
In spite of my resolves, Leah renewed the attack at dinner, for, contrary to my orders, she served a magnificent foie gras, telling me that it was for herself, and that if she were poisoned she would die of pleasure; Mardocheus said he should like to die too, and began regaling himself on it with evident relish.
I could not help laughing, and announced my wish to taste the deadly food, and so we all of us were eating it.
"Your resolves are not strong enough to withstand seduction," said Leah. This remark piqued me, and I answered that she was imprudent to disclose her designs in such a manner, and that she would find my resolves strong enough when the time came.
A faint smile played about her lips.
"Try if you like," I said, "to persuade me to drink some Scopolo or Muscat. I meant to have taken some, but your taunt has turned me to steel. I mean to prove that when I make up my mind I never alter it."
"The strong-minded man never gives way," said Leah, "but the good-hearted man often lets himself be overpersuaded."
"Quite so, and the good-hearted girl refrains from taunting a man for his weakness for her."
I called the maid and told her to go to the Venetian consul's and get me some more Scopolo and Muscat. Leah piqued me once more by saying enthusiastically,--
"I am sure you are the most good-hearted of men as well as the firmest." Mardocheus, who could not make out what we meant, ate, drank, and laughed, and seemed pleased with everything.
In the afternoon I went out to a cafe in spite of the dreadful weather. I thought over Leah and her designs, feeling certain that she would pay me another nocturnal visit and renew the assault in force. I resolved to weaken myself with some common woman, if I could find one at all supportable.
A Greek who had taken me to a disgusting place a few days before, conducted me to another where he introduced me to a painted horror of a woman from whose very sight I fled in terror.
I felt angry that in a town like Ancona a man of some delicacy could not get his money's worth for his money, and went home, supped by myself, and locked the door after me.
The precaution, however, was useless.
A few minutes after I had shut the door, Leah knocked on the pretext that I had forgotten to give her the chocolate.
I opened the door and gave it her, and she begged me not to lock myself in, as she wanted to have an important and final interview.
"You can tell me now what you want to say."
"No, it will take some time, and I should not like to come till everyone is asleep. You have nothing to be afraid of; you are lord of yourself. You can go to bed in peace."
"I have certainly nothing to be afraid of, and to prove it to you I will leave the door open."
I felt more than ever certain of victory, and resolved not to blow out the candles, as my doing so might be interpreted into a confession of fear. Besides, the light would render my triumph and her humiliation more complete. With these thoughts I went to bed.
At eleven o'clock a slight noise told me that my hour had come. I saw Leah enter my room in her chemise and a light petticoat. She locked my door softly, and when I cried, "Well; what do you want with me?" she let her chemise and petticoat drop, and lay down beside me in a state of nature.
I was too much astonished to repulse her.