I went upstairs, and he followed me, and I shewed him into the room, congratulating the lady on the pleasant surprise.
I expected that she would play her part as well as I had played mine, but I was wrong. In her rage she told him that she would never have asked me to give her a cup of coffee if she had foreseen this piece of importunity, adding that if he had been a gentleman he would have known better than to intrude himself at such an hour.
In spite of my own anger I felt that I must take the poor devil's part; he looked like a dog with a tin kettle tied to his tail. I tried to calm Donna Ignazia, telling her that Don Francisco had seen us by a mere accident, and that it was I who had asked him to come upstairs, in the hope of pleasing her.
Donna Ignazia feigned to be persuaded and asked her lover to sit down, but she did not speak another word to him, confining her remarks to me, saying how much she had enjoyed the ball, and how kind I had been to take her cousins.
After he had taken a cup of coffee, Don Francisco bade us a good night. I told him I hoped he would come and see me before Lent was over, but Donna Ignazia only vouchsafed him a slight nod. When he had gone she said, sadly enough, that she was sorry he had deprived us both of our pleasure, and that she was sure Don Francisco was still hanging about the place, and that she dared not expose herself to his vengeance. "So take me home, but if you love me come and see me again. The trick the stupid fellow has played me shall cost him dear. Are you sure I don't love him?"
"Quite certain, for you love me too well to love anybody else."
Donna Ignazia gave me a hasty proof of her affection, and I escorted her home, assuring her that she would be the sole object of my thoughts as long as I stayed at Madrid.
The next day I dined with Mengs, and the day after that I was accosted in the street by an ill-looking fellow, who bade me follow him to a cloister, as he had something of importance to communicate to me.
As soon as he saw that we were unobserved, he told me that the Alcalde Messa was going to pay me a visit that same night with a band of police, "of whom," he added, "I am one. He knows you have concealed weapons in your room. He knows, or thinks he knows, certain other things which authorize him to seize your person and to take you to the prison where persons destined for the galleys are kept. I give you all this warning because I believe you to be a man of honour. Despise not my advice, but look to yourself, and get into some place of security."
I credited what he told me, as the circumstance of my having arms was perfectly true, so I gave the man a doubloon, and, instead of calling on Donna Ignazia, as I intended, I went back to my lodging, and after putting the weapons under my cloak I went to Mengs's, leaving word at the cafe to send me my page as soon as he came back. In Mengs's house I was safe, as it belonged to the king.
The painter was an honest fellow, but proud and suspicious in excess. He did not refuse me an asylum for the night, but he told me that I must look out for some other refuge, as the alcalde must have some other accusation against me, and that knowing nothing of the merits or demerits of the case he could not take any part in it. He gave me a room and we supped together, discussing the matter all the time, I persisting that the possession of arms was my only offence, and he replying that if it were so I should have awaited the alcalde fearlessly, as it stood to reason that a man had a right to keep defensive weapons in his own room. To this I answered that I had only come to him to avoid passing the night in prison, as I was certain that the man had told me the truth.
"To-morrow I shall look out for another lodging."
I confessed, however, that it would have been wiser of me to leave my pistols and musket in my room.
"Yes, and you might have remained there yourself. I did not think you were so easily frightened."
As we were arguing it over my landlord came and said that the alcalde with thirty constables had been to my apartment and had broken open the door.