"What will you do for us," said she, "if I consent to share your couch?"
"I will give you twenty guineas, and I will lodge and board you as long as you give me satisfaction."
Without saying a word she began to undress, and got into bed. She was submissive and nothing more, and did not give me so much as a kiss. At the end of a quarter of an hour I was disgusted with her and got up, and giving her a bank note for twenty guineas I told her to put on her clothes and go back to her room.
"You must all leave my house to-morrow," I said, "for I am ill pleased with you. Instead of giving yourself up for love you have prostituted yourself. I blush for you."
She obeyed mutely, and I went to sleep in an ill humour.
At about seven o'clock in the morning I was awakened by a hand shaking me gently. I opened my eyes, and I was surprised to see the second daughter.
"What do you want?" I said, coldly.
"I want you to take pity on us, and shelter us in your house for a few days longer. I will be very grateful. My sister has told me all, you are displeased with her, but you must forgive her, for her heart is not her own. She is in love with an Italian who is in prison for debt."
"And I suppose you are in love with someone else?" "No, I am not."
"Could you love me?"
She lowered her eyes, and pressed my hand gently. I drew her towards me, and embraced her, and as I felt her kisses answer mine, I said,--
"You have conquered."
"My name is Victoire."
"I like it, and I will prove the omen a true one."
Victoire, who was tender and passionate, made me spend two delicious hours, which compensated me for my bad quarter of an hour of the night before.
When our exploits were over, I said,--
"Dearest Victoire, I am wholly throe. Let your mother be brought here as soon as she is free. Here are twenty guineas for you."
She did not expect anything, and the agreeable surprise made her in an ecstasy; she could not speak, but her heart was full of happiness. I too was happy, and I believed that a great part of my happiness was caused by the knowledge that I had done a good deed. We are queer creatures all of us, whether we are bad or good. From that moment I gave my servants orders to lay the table for eight persons every day, and told them that I was only at home to Goudar. I spent money madly, and felt that I was within a measurable distance of poverty.
At noon the mother came in a sedan-chair, and went to bed directly. I went to see her, and did not evince any surprise when she began to thank me for my noble generosity. She wanted me to suppose that she thought I had given her daughters forty guineas for nothing, and I let her enjoy her hypocrisy.
In the evening I took them to Covent Garden, where the castrato Tenducci surprised me by introducing me to his wife, of whom he had two children. He laughed at people who said that a castrato could not procreate. Nature had made him a monster that he might remain a man; he was born triorchis, and as only two of the seminal glands had been destroyed the remaining one was sufficient to endow him with virility.
When I got back to my small seraglio I supped merrily with the five nymphs, and spent a delicious night with Victoire, who was overjoyed at having made my conquest. She told me that her sister's lover was a Neapolitan, calling himself Marquis de Petina, and that they were to get married as soon as he was out of prison. It seemed he was expecting remittances, and the mother would be delighted to see her daughter a marchioness.
"How much does the marquis owe?"
"And the Neapolitan ambassador allows him to languish in prison for such a beggarly sum? I can't believe it."
"The ambassador won't have anything to do with him, because he left Naples without the leave of the Government."
"Tell your sister that if the ambassador assures me that her lover's name is really the Marquis de Petina, I will get him out of prison immediately."
I went out to ask my daughter, and another boarder of whom I was very fond, to dinner, and on my way called on the Marquis of Caraccioli, an agreeable man, whose acquaintance I had made at Turin.