When I got to the theatre the opera had begun. I presented myself to Leonilda, who received me with the pleasant words, "Caro Don Giacomo, I am so pleased to see you again."
No doubt she did not like to thou me, but the expression of her eyes and the tone of her voice were much better than the to which is often used lavishly at Naples.
The seductive features of this charming girl were not altogether unknown to me, but I could not recollect of what woman she reminded me. Leonilda was certainly a beauty, and something superior to a beauty, if possible. She had splendid light chestnut hair, and her black and brilliant eyes, shaded by thick lashes, seemed to hear and speak at the same time. But what ravished me still more was her expression, and the exquisite appropriateness of the gestures with which she accompanied what she was saying. It seemed as if her tongue could not give speech to the thoughts which crowded her brain. She was naturally quick- witted, and her intellect had been developed by an excellent education.
The conversation turned upon Lafontaine's epigram, of which I had only recited the first ten verses, as the rest is too licentious; and she said,--
"But I suppose it is only a poet's fancy, at which one could but smile."
"Possibly, but I did not care to wound your ears."
"You are very good," said she, using the pleasant tu, "but all the same, I am not so thin-skinned, as I have a closet which the duke has had painted over with couples in various amorous attitudes. We go there sometimes, and I assure you that I do not experience the slightest sensation."
"That may be through a defect of temperament, for whenever I see well-painted voluptuous pictures I feel myself on fire. I wonder that while you and the duke look at them, you do not try to put some of them into practice."
"We have only friendship for one another."
"Let him believe it who will."
"I am sure he is a man, but I am unable to say whether he is able to give a woman any real proofs of his love."
"Yet he has a son."
"Yes, he has a child who calls him father; but he himself confesses that he is only able to shew his manly powers with his wife."
"That's all nonsense, for you are made to give birth to amorous desires, and a man who could live with you without being able to possess you ought to cease to live."
"Do you really think so?"
"Dear Leonilda, if I were in the duke's place I would shew you what a man who really loves can do."
"Caro Don Giacomo, I am delighted to hear you love me, but you will soon forget me, as you are leaving Naples."
"Cursed be the gaming-table, for without it we might spend some delightful hour together."
"The duke told me that you lost a thousand ducats yesterday evening like a perfect gentleman. You must be very unlucky."
"Not always, but when I play on a day in which I have fallen in love I am sure to lose."
"You will win back your money this evening."
"This is the declaration day; I shall lose again."
"Then don't play."
"People would say I was afraid, or that all my money was gone."
"I hope at all events that you will win sometimes, and that you will tell me of your good luck. Come and see me to-morrow with the duke."
The duke came in at that moment, and asked me if I had liked the opera. Leonilda answered for me,
"We have been talking about love all the time, so we don't know what has been going on the stage."
"You have done well."
"I trust you will bring M. Casanova to see me tomorrow morning, as I hope he will bring me news that he has won."
"It's my turn to deal this evening, dearest, but whether he wins or loses you shall see him to-morrow. You must give us some breakfast."
"I shall be delighted."
We kissed her hand, and went to the same place as the night before. The company was waiting for the duke. There were twelve members of the club, and they all held the bank in turn. They said that this made the chances more equal; but I laughed at this opinion, as there is nothing more difficult to establish than equality between players.