"Is the nun there?" said I, as soon as he was near me.
"Yes, my dear fellow. We will go, if you like, to the parlour; but you will find that we shall be told she is ill or engaged. If you like, the bet shall be off."
"God forbid, my dear fellow! I cling to that hundred ducats. Let us be gone."
We presented ourselves at the wicket, and I asked for M---- M----, and the doorkeeper made me breathe again by saying that I was expected. I entered the parlour with my English friend, and saw that it was lighted by four candles. I cannot recall these moments without being in love with life. I take note not only of my noble mistress's innocence, but also of the quickness of her wit. Murray remained serious, without a smile on his face. Full of grace and beauty, M---- M---- came into the room with a lay-sister, each of them holding a candlestick. She paid me a compliment in good French; I gave her the letter, and looking at the address and the seal she put it in her pocket. After thanking me and saying she would reply in due course, she turned towards my companion:
"I shall, perhaps, make you lose the first act of the opera," said she.
"The pleasure of seeing you, madam, is worth all the operas in the world."
"You are English, I think?"
"The English are now the greatest people in the world, because they are free and powerful. Gentlemen, I wish you a very good evening."
I had never seen M---- M---- looking so beautiful as then, and I went out of the parlour ablaze with love, and glad as I had never been before. I walked with long strides towards my casino, without taking notice of the ambassador, who did not hurry himself in following me; I waited for him at my door.
"Well," said I, "are you convinced now that you have been cheated?"
"Be quiet, we have time enough to talk about that. Let us go upstairs."
"Shall I come?"
"Do. What do you think I could do by myself for four hours with that creature who is waiting for me? We will amuse ourselves with her."
"Had we not better turn her out?"
"No; her master is coming for her at two o'clock in the morning. She would go and warn him, and he would escape my vengeance. We will throw them both out of the window."
"Be moderate, for M---- M----s honour depends on the secrecy we observe. Let us go upstairs. We shall have some fun. I should like to see the hussy."
Murray was the first to enter the room. As soon as the girl saw me, she threw her handkerchief over her face, and told the ambassador that such behaviour was unworthy of him. He made no answer. She was not so tall as M---- M----, and she spoke bad French.
Her cloak and mask were on the bed, but she was dressed as a nun. As I wanted to see her face, I politely asked her to do me the favour of shewing it.
"I don't know you," said she; "who are you?"
"You are in my house, and don't know who I am?"
"I am in your house because I have been betrayed. I did not think that I should have to do with a scoundrel."
At this word Murray commanded her to be silent, calling her by the name of her honourable business; and the slut got up to take her cloak, saying she would go. Murray pushed her back, and told her that she would have to wait for her worthy friend, warning her to make no noise if she wanted to keep out of prison.
"Put me in prison!"
With this she directed her hand towards her dress, but I rushed forward and seized one hand while Murray mastered the other. We pushed her back on a chair while we possessed ourselves of the pistols she carried in her pockets.
Murray tore away the front of her holy habit, and I extracted a stiletto eight inches long, the false nun weeping bitterly all the time.
"Will you hold your tongue, and keep quiet till Capsucefalo comes," said the ambassador, "or go to prison?"
"If I keep quiet what will become of me?"
"I promise to let you go."
"Very well, then, I will keep quiet."
"Have you got any more weapons?"
Hereupon the slut took off her habit and her petticoat, and if we had allowed her she would have soon been in a state of nature, no doubt in the expectation of our passions granting what our reason refused. I was much astonished to find in her only a false resemblance to M.M. I remarked as much to the ambassador, who agreed with me, but made me confess that most men, prepossessed with the idea that they were going to see M. M., would have fallen into the same trap. In fact, the longing to possess one's self of a nun who has renounced all the pleasures of the world, and especially that of cohabitation with the other sex, is the very apple of Eve, and is more delightful from the very difficulty of penetrating the convent grating.
Few of my readers will fail to testify that the sweetest pleasures are those which are hardest to be won, and that the prize, to obtain which one would risk one's life, would often pass unnoticed if it were freely offered without difficulty or hazard.
In the following chapter, dear reader, you will see the end of this farcical adventure. In the mean time, let us take a little breath.