and boasts that she would never have gratified your passion."
"Say no more, we must punish her; and the younger shall come."
"I am much obliged to you."
"Does she know that we love each other?"
"I have never told her, but she has guessed it, and pities me. She wants me to join her in a devotion to Our Lady de la Soledad, the effect of which would be a complete cure for us both."
"Then she is in love, too?"
"Yes; and she is unhappy in her love, for it is not returned. That must be a great grief."
"I pity her, and yet, with such a face, I do not know any man who would take compassion on her. The poor girl would do well to leave love alone. But as to you. . . ."
"Say nothing about me: my danger is greater than hers. I am forced to defend myself or to give in, and God knows there are some men whom it is impossible to ward off! God is my witness that in Holy Week I went to a poor girl with the smallpox, and touched her in the hope of catching it, and so losing my beauty; but God would not have it so, and my confessor blamed me, bidding me to do a penance I had never expected."
"Tell me what it is?"
"He told me that a handsome face is the index of a handsome soul, and is a gift of God, for which a woman should render thanks continually; that in attempting to destroy this beauty I had sinned, for I had endeavoured to destroy God's handiwork. After a good deal of rebuke in this style, he ordered me to put a little rouge on my cheeks whenever I felt myself looking pale. I had to submit, and I have bought a pot of rouge, but hitherto I have not felt obliged to use it. Indeed, my father might notice it, and I should not like to tell him that it is done by way of penance."
"Is your confessor a young man?"
"He is an old man of seventy."
"Do you tell him all your sins without reserve?"
"Certainly, for the smallest circumstance may be really a great sin."
"Does he ask you questions?"
"No, for he sees that I am telling him the whole truth. It is a great trial, but I have to submit to it."
"Have you had this confessor for long?"
"For two years. Before him I had a confessor who was quite unbearable. He asked me questions which made me quite indignant."
"What questions were these?"
"You must please excuse me telling you."
"Why do you go to confession so often?"
"Why? Would to God I had not good cause! but after all I only go once a week."
"That's too often."
"Not so, for when I am in mortal sin I cannot sleep at night. I am afraid of dying in my sleep."
"I pity you, dearest; I have a consolation which is denied you. I have an infinite trust in the infinite mercy of God."
The cousin arrived and we set out. We found a good many carriages in front of the church-door, and the church itself was full of devotees, both male and female. Amongst others I saw the Duchess of Villadorias, notorious for her andromania. When the 'furor uterinus' seized her, nothing could keep her back. She would rush at the man who had excited her, and he had no choice but to satisfy her passion. This had happened several times in public assemblies, and had given rise to some extraordinary scenes. I had seen her at a ball; she was still both young and pretty. As I entered the church I saw her kneeling on the stones of the church floor. She lifted her eyes, and gazed at me, as if doubtful whether she knew me or not, as she had only seen me in domino. After my devotees had prayed for half an hour, they rose to go, and the duchess rose also; and as soon as we were out of the church she asked me if I knew her. I replied in the affirmative, and she asked why I had not been to see her, and if I visited the Duchess of Benevento. I told her that I did not visit her grace, and that I should have the honour of paying her a call before long.
On our way I explained to my two companions the nature of the duchess's malady. Donna Ignazia asked me anxiously if I really meant to go and see her. She seemed reassured when I replied in the negative.