He told her that I was at least twenty years older than herself, and that in suspecting me she had committed a greater sin than if she allowed me to take some slight liberty.
"I am sure," he added, "that when you go to confession next Sunday you will forget to accuse yourself of having wrongfully suspected Don Jaime of a dishonourable action."
Donna Ignazia looked at me affectionately, asked my pardon, and said she would do whatever her father liked. The cousin said nothing, and the father kissed his daughter, bade me a good night, and went away well pleased with the harangue he had delivered.
I suspected that Donna Ignazia expected me to make some attempt on her honour, and feeling sure that she would resist for the sake of appearance, I determined to leave her in peace. Next morning I got up and went into their room in the hope of playing some trick on them. However, the birds were flown, and I had no doubt that they had gone to hear mass.
Donna Ignazia came home by herself at ten o'clock. She found me alone, dressed, and writing. She told me she had been in the church for three hours.
"You have been to confession, I suppose?"
"No; I went last Sunday, and I shall wait till next Sunday."
"I am very glad that your confession will not be lengthened by any sins I have helped you to commit."
"You are wrong."
"Wrong? I understand; but you must know that I am not going to be damned for mere desires. I do not wish to torment you or to become a martyr myself. What you granted me has made me fall deeply in love with you, and it makes me shudder when I imagine that our love has become a subject of repentance with you. I have had a bad night; and it is time for me to think of my health. I must forget you, but to bring about that effect I will see you no longer. I will keep on the house, but I will not live in it. If your religion is an intelligent one, you will approve of my idea. Tell your confessor of it next Sunday, and you will see that he will approve it."
"You are right, but I cannot agree to it. You can go away if you like, and I shall say nothing, but I shall be the most unhappy girl in all Madrid."
As she spoke these words, two big tears rolled down her cheeks, and her face dropped; I was profoundly moved.
"I love you, dearest Ignazia, and I hope not to be damned for my love. I cannot see you without loving you and to this love some positive proof is essential; otherwise, I am unhappy. If I go you say you will be unhappy, and if I stay it is I that will be unhappy, my health will be ruined. But tell me which I shall do stay or go? Say."
"Then you must be as loving and tender as you were before."
"Alas! I promised to commit that sin no more. I tell you to stay, because I am sure that in eight or ten days we shall have become so accustomed to one another that I shall be able to love you like a father, and you will be able to take me in your arms without any amorous sentiments."
"Are you sure of this?"
"Yes, dearest, quite sure."
"You make a mistake."
"Let me be mistaken, and believe me I shall be glad to be mistaken."
"Nothing, nothing. I may be too long, I shall endanger . . . let us say no more about it. I will stay."
I went out more pained with her state than my own, and I felt that the best thing I could do would be to forget her, "for," said I to myself, "even if I do enjoy her once, Sunday will come again; she will confess, repent, and I shall have to begin all over again. She confessed her love, and flatters herself that she will be able to subdue it--a foolish hope, which could only exist in a mind under the dominion of prejudice."
I came home at noon, and Don Diego dined with me; his daughter did not appear till the dessert. I begged her to sit down, politely, but coldly. Her father asked her jestingly if I had paid her a visit in the night.
"I never suspected Don Jaime of such a thing," she replied, "and I only objected out of shyness."
I interrupted her by praising her modesty, and telling her that she would have done quite right to beware of me, if my sense of duty had not been stronger than any voluptuous desires inspired by her charms.