One morning towards the end of November the advocate, accompanied by Angelique's intended, called on me. The latter gave me a pressing invitation to spend twenty-four hours at Tivoli with the friends I had entertained at Frascati. I accepted with great pleasure, for I had found no opportunity of being alone with Lucrezia since the Festival of St. Ursula. I promised to be at Donna Cecilia's house at day-break with the same 'is-a-vis'. It was necessary to start very early, because Tivoli is sixteen miles from Rome, and has so many objects of interest that it requires many hours to see them all. As I had to sleep out that night, I craved permission to do so from the cardinal himself, who, hearing with whom I was going, told me that I was quite right not to lose such an opportunity of visiting that splendid place in such good society.
The first dawn of day found me with my 'vis-a-vis' and four at the door of Donna Cecilia, who came with me as before. The charming widow, notwithstanding her strict morality, was delighted at my love for her daughter. The family rode in a large phaeton hired by Don Francisco, which gave room for six persons.
At half-past seven in the morning we made a halt at a small place where had been prepared, by Don Franciso's orders, an excellent breakfast, which was intended to replace the dinner, and we all made a hearty meal, as we were not likely to find time for anything but supper at Tivoli. I wore on my finger the beautiful ring which Lucrezia had given me. At the back of the ring I had had a piece of enamel placed, on it was delineated a saduceus, with one serpent between the letters Alpha and Omega. This ring was the subject of conversation during breakfast, and Don Francisco, as well as the advocate, exerted himself in vain to guess the meaning of the hieroglyphs; much to the amusement of Lucrezia, who understood the mysterious secret so well. We continued our road, and reached Tivoli at ten o'clock.
We began by visiting Don Francisco's villa. It was a beautiful little house, and we spent the following six hours in examining together the antiquities of Tivoli. Lucrezia having occasion to whisper a few words to Don Francisco, I seized the opportunity of telling Angelique that after her marriage I should be happy to spend a few days of the fine season with her.
"Sir," she answered, "I give you fair notice that the moment I become mistress in this house you will be the very first person to be excluded."
"I feel greatly obliged to you, signora, for your timely notice."
But the most amusing part of the affair was that I construed Angelique's wanton insult into a declaration of love. I was astounded. Lucrezia, remarking the state I was in, touched my arm, enquiring what ailed me. I told her, and she said at once,
"My darling, my happiness cannot last long; the cruel moment of our separation is drawing near. When I have gone, pray undertake the task of compelling her to acknowledge her error. Angelique pities me, be sure to avenge me."
I have forgotten to mention that at Don Francisco's villa I happened to praise a very pretty room opening upon the orange-house, and the amiable host, having heard me, came obligingly to me, and said that it should be my room that night. Lucrezia feigned not to hear, but it was to her Ariadne's clue, for, as we were to remain altogether during our visit to the beauties of Tivoli, we had no chance of a tete-a-tete through the day.
I have said that we devoted six hours to an examination of the antiquities of Tivoli, but I am bound to confess here that I saw, for my part, very little of them, and it was only twenty-eight years later that I made a thorough acquaintance with the beautiful spot.
We returned to the villa towards evening, fatigued and very hungry, but an hour's rest before supper--a repast which lasted two hours, the most delicious dishes, the most exquisite wines, and particularly the excellent wine of Tivoli--restored us so well that everybody wanted nothing more than a good bed and the freedom to enjoy the bed according to his own taste.
As everybody objected to sleep alone, Lucrezia said that she would sleep with Angelique in one of the rooms leading to the orange-house, and proposed that her husband should share a room with the young abbe, his brother-in-law, and that Donna Cecilia should take her youngest daughter with her.
The arrangement met with general approbation, and Don Francisco, taking a candle, escorted me to my pretty little room adjoining the one in which the two sisters were to sleep, and, after shewing me how I could lock myself in, he wished me good night and left me alone.
Angelique had no idea that I was her near neighbour, but Lucrezia and I, without exchanging a single word on the subject, had perfectly understood each other.
I watched through the key-hole and saw the two sisters come into their room, preceded by the polite Don Francisco, who carried a taper, and, after lighting a night-lamp, bade them good night and retired. Then my two beauties, their door once locked, sat down on the sofa and completed their night toilet, which, in that fortunate climate, is similar to the costume of our first mother. Lucrezia, knowing that I was waiting to come in, told her sister to lie down on the side towards the window, and the virgin, having no idea that she was exposing her most secret beauties to my profane eyes, crossed the room in a state of complete nakedness. Lucrezia put out the lamp and lay down near her innocent sister.