"When shall I have the happiness of convincing you of my devotion with complete freedom and in all the joy of my heart?"
"We will take supper together at my casino whenever you please, provided you give me notice two days beforehand; or I will go and sup with you in Venice, if it will not disturb your arrangements."
"It would only increase my happiness. I think it right to tell you that I am in very easy circumstances, and that, far from fearing expense, I delight in it: all I possess belongs to the woman I love."
"That confidence, my dear friend, is very agreeable to me, the more so that I have likewise to tell you that I am very rich, and that I could not refuse anything to my lover."
"But you must have a lover?"
"Yes; it is through him that I am rich, and he is entirely my master. I never conceal anything from him. The day after to-morrow, when I am alone with you, I will tell you more."
"But I hope that your lover...."
"Will not be there? Certainly not. Have you a mistress?"
"I had one, but, alas! she has been taken from me by violent means, and for the last six months I have led a life of complete celibacy."
"Do you love her still?"
"I cannot think of her without loving her. She has almost as great charms, as great beauty, as you have; but I foresee that you will make me forget her."
"If your happiness with her was complete, I pity you. She has been violently taken from you, and you shun society in order to feed your sorrow. I have guessed right, have I not? But if I happen to take possession of her place in your heart, no one, my sweet friend, shall turn me out of it."
"But what will your lover say?"
"He will be delighted to see me happy with such a lover as you. It is in his nature."
"What an admirable nature! Such heroism is quite beyond me!"
"What sort of a life do you lead in Venice?"
"I live at the theatres, in society, in the casinos, where I fight against fortune sometimes with good sometimes with bad success."
"Do you visit the foreign ambassadors?"
"No, because I am too much acquainted with the nobility; but I know them all."
"How can you know them if you do not see them?"
"I have known them abroad. In Parma the Duke de Montalegre, the Spanish ambassador; in Vienna I knew Count Rosemberg; in Paris, about two years ago, the French ambassador."
"It is near twelve o'clock, my dear friend; it is time for us to part. Come at the same hour the day after tomorrow, and I will give you all the instructions which you will require to enable you to come and sup with me."
"May I venture to ask you for a pledge? The happiness which you promise me is so immense!"
"What pledge do you want?"
"To see you standing before that small window in the grating with permission for me to occupy the same place as Madame de S----."
She rose at once, and, with the most gracious smile, touched the spring; after a most expressive kiss, I took leave of her. She followed me with her eyes as far as the door, and her loving gaze would have rooted me to the spot if she had not left the room.
I spent the two days of expectation in a whirl of impatient joy, which prevented me from eating and sleeping; for it seemed to me that no other love had ever given me such happiness, or rather that I was going to be happy for the first time.
Irrespective of birth, beauty, and wit, which was the principal merit of my new conquest, prejudice was there to enhance a hundredfold my felicity, for she was a vestal: it was forbidden fruit, and who does not know that, from Eve down to our days, it was that fruit which has always appeared the most delicious! I was on the point of encroaching upon the rights of an all-powerful husband; in my eyes M---- M---- was above all the queens of the earth.
If my reason had not been the slave of passion, I should have known that my nun could not be a different creature from all the pretty women whom I had loved for the thirteen years that I had been labouring in the fields of love. But where is the man in love who can harbour such a thought? If it presents itself too often to his mind, he expels it disdainfully! M---- M---- could not by any means be otherwise than superior to all other women in the wide world.
Animal nature, which chemists call the animal kingdom, obtains through instinct the three various means necessary for the perpetuation of its species.
There are three real wants which nature has implanted in all human creatures. They must feed themselves, and to prevent that task from being insipid and tedious they have the agreeable sensation of appetite, which they feel pleasure in satisfying. They must propagate their respective species; an absolute necessity which proves the wisdom of the Creator, since without reproduction all would, be annihilated--by the constant law of degradation, decay and death. And, whatever St. Augustine may say, human creatures would not perform the work of generation if they did not find pleasure in it, and if there was not in that great work an irresistible attraction for them. In the third place, all creatures have a determined and invincible propensity to destroy their enemies; and it is certainly a very wise ordination, for that feeling of self- preservation makes it a duty for them to do their best for the destruction of whatever can injure them.