Benedict XIV--Excursion to Tivoli--Departure of Lucrezia--The Marchioness G.--Barbara Dalacqua--My Misfortunes--I Leave Rome
M. Dalacqua being very ill, his daughter Barbara gave me my lesson. When it was over, she seized an opportunity of slipping a letter into my pocket, and immediately disappeared, so that I had no chance of refusing. The letter was addressed to me, and expressed feelings of the warmest gratitude. She only desired me to inform her lover that her father had spoken to her again, and that most likely he would engage a new servant as soon as he had recovered from his illness, and she concluded her letter by assuring me that she never would implicate me in this business.
Her father was compelled to keep his bed for a fortnight, and Barbara continued to give me my lesson every day. I felt for her an interest which, from me towards a young and pretty girl, was, indeed, quite a new sentiment. It was a feeling of pity, and I was proud of being able to help and comfort her. Her eyes never rested upon mine, her hand never met mine, I never saw in her toilet the slightest wish to please me. She was very pretty, and I knew she had a tender, loving nature; but nothing interfered with the respect and the regard which I was bound in honour and in good faith to feel towards her, and I was proud to remark that she never thought me capable of taking advantage of her weakness or of her position.
When the father had recovered he dismissed his servant and engaged another. Barbara entreated me to inform her friend of the circumstance, and likewise of her hope to gain the new servant to their interests, at least sufficiently to secure the possibility of carrying on some correspondence. I promised to do so, and as a mark of her gratitude she took my hand to carry it to her lips, but quickly withdrawing it I tried to kiss her; she turned her face away, blushing deeply. I was much pleased with her modesty.
Barbara having succeeded in gaining the new servant over, I had nothing more to do with the intrigue, and I was very glad of it, for I knew my interference might have brought evil on my own head. Unfortunately, it was already too late.
I seldom visited Don Gaspar; the study of the French language took up all my mornings, and it was only in the morning that I could see him; but I called every evening upon Father Georgi, and, although I went to him only as one of his 'proteges', it gave me some reputation. I seldom spoke before his guests, yet I never felt weary, for in his circle his friends would criticise without slandering, discuss politics without stubbornness, literature without passion, and I profited by all. After my visit to the sagacious monk, I used to attend the assembly of the cardinal, my master, as a matter of duty. Almost every evening, when she happened to see me at her card-table, the beautiful marchioness would address to me a few gracious words in French, and I always answered in Italian, not caring to make her laugh before so many persons. My feelings for her were of a singular kind. I must leave them to the analysis of the reader. I thought that woman charming, yet I avoided her; it was not because I was afraid of falling in love with her; I loved Lucrezia, and I firmly believed that such an affection was a shield against any other attachment, but it was because I feared that she might love me or have a passing fancy for me. Was it self-conceit or modesty, vice or virtue? Perhaps neither one nor the other.
One evening she desired the Abbe Gama to call me to her; she was standing near the cardinal, my patron, and the moment I approached her she caused me a strange feeling of surprise by asking me in Italian a question which I was far from anticipating:
"How did you like Frascati?"
"Very much, madam; I have never seen such a beautiful place."
"But your company was still more beautiful, and your vis-a-vis was very smart."
I only bowed low to the marchioness, and a moment after Cardinal Acquaviva said to me, kindly,
"You are astonished at your adventure being known?"
"No, my lord; but I am surprised that people should talk of it. I could not have believed Rome to be so much like a small village."
"The longer you live in Rome," said his eminence, "the more you will find it so. You have not yet presented yourself to kiss the foot of our Holy Father?"
"Not yet, my lord."
"Then you must do so."
I bowed in compliance to his wishes.
The Abbe Gama told me to present myself to the Pope on the morrow, and he added,
"Of course you have already shewn yourself in the Marchioness G.'s palace?"
"No, I have never been there."
"You astonish me; but she often speaks to you!"
"I have no objection to go with you."
"I never visit at her palace."
"Yet she speaks to you likewise."
"Yes, but.... You do not know Rome; go alone; believe me, you ought to go."
"Will she receive me?"
"You are joking, I suppose. Of course it is out of the question for you to be announced. You will call when the doors are wide open to everybody. You will meet there all those who pay homage to her."