"But, sir," answered the man, "we have not had a special courier for the last two months:"
"What? Did not a special cabinet messenger arrive here last night?"
"Then he must have come in through the garret window or down the chimney, for, on the word of an honest man, none entered through the gate."
"But the ambassador worked all night?"
"That may be, sir, but not here, for his excellency dined with the Spanish ambassador, and did not return till very late:"
I had guessed rightly. I could no longer entertain any doubt. It was all over; I could not draw back without shame. C---- C---- must resist, if the game was distasteful to her; no violence would of course be offered to her. The die was cast!
Towards evening I went to the casino of Muran, and wrote a short note to M---- M----, requesting her to excuse me if some important business of M. de Bragadin's prevented me from spending the night with her and with our two friends, to whom I sent my compliments as well as my apologies. After that I returned to Venice, but in rather an unpleasant mood; to divert myself I went to the gaming table, and lost all night.
Two days afterwards, being certain that a letter from M---- M---- awaited me at Muran, I went over, and the door-keeper handed me a parcel in which I found a note from my nun and a letter from C---- C----, for everything was now in common between them.
Here is C---- C ----'s letter"
"We were very sorry, dearest friend, when we heard that we should not have the happiness of seeing you. My dear M---- M----'s friend came shortly afterwards, and when he read your note he likewise expressed his deep regret. We expected to have a very dull supper, but the witty sayings of that gentleman enlivened us and you cannot imagine of what follies we were guilty after partaking of some champagne punch. Our friend had become as gay as ourselves, and we spent the night in trios, not very fatiguing, but very pleasant. I can assure you that that man deserves to be loved, but he must acknowledge himself inferior to you in everything. Believe me, dearest, I shall ever love you, and you must for ever remain the master of my heart."
In spite of all my vexation, that letter made me laugh, but the note of M---- M---- was much more singular. Here are the contents of it:
"I am certain, my own beloved, that you told a story out of pure politeness, but you had guessed that I expected you to do so. You have made our friend a splendid present in exchange for the one he made you when he did not object to his M---- M---- bestowing her heart upon you. You possess that heart entirely, dearest, and you would possess it under all circumstances, but how sweet it is to flavour the pleasures of love with the charms of friendship! I was sorry not to see you, but I knew that if you had come we would not have had much enjoyment; for our friend, notwithstanding all his wit, is not exempt from some natural prejudices. As for C---- C-----, her mind is now quite as free of them as our own, and I am glad she owes it to me. You must feel thankful to me for having completed her education, and for rendering her in every way worthy of you. I wish you had been hiding in the closet, where I am certain you would have spent some delightful hours. On Wednesday next I shall be yours, and all alone with you in your casino in Venice; let me know whether you will be at the usual hour near the statue of the hero Colleoni. In case you should be prevented, name any other day."
I had to answer those two letters in the same spirit in which they had been written, and in spite of all the bitter feelings which were then raging in my heart, my answers were to be as sweet as honey. I was in need of great courage, but I said to myself: "George Dandin, tu las voulu!" I could not refuse to pay the penalty of my own deeds, and I have never been able to ascertain whether the shame I felt was what is called shamefacedness. It is a problem which I leave to others.
In my letter to C---- C---- I had the courage, or the effrontery, to congratulate her, and to encourage her to imitate M---- M----, the best model, I said, I could propose to her.
I wrote to my nun that I would be punctual at the appointment near the statue, and amidst many false compliments, which ought to have betrayed the true state of my heart, I told her that I admired the perfect education she had given to C---- C-----, but that I congratulated myself upon having escaped the torture I should have suffered in the mysterious observatory, for I felt that I could not have borne it.
On the Wednesday I was punctual at the rendezvous, and I had not to wait long for M---- M----, who came disguised in male attire. "No theatre to-night," she said to me; "let us go to the 'ridotto', to lose or double our money." She had six hundred sequins. I had about one hundred. Fortune turned her back upon us, and we lost a11. I expected that we would then leave that cutthroat place, but M---- M----, having left me for a minute, came back with three hundred sequins which had been given to her by her friend, whom she knew where to find. That money given by love or by friendship brought her luck for a short time, and she soon won back all we had lost, but in our greediness or imprudence we continued to play, and finally we lost our last sequin.