"The count," he added, "is madly in love with her, and allows her fifty doubloons a day."
"I should hope she does not spend them."
"She can't do that, but she does not let a day pass without committing some expensive act of folly."
I felt curious to know a woman of such a peculiar character, and longed for the end of the bull fight, little thinking in what trouble this new acquaintance would involve me.
She received me with great politeness, and as she got into her carriage drawn by six mules, she said she would be delighted if I would breakfast with her at nine o'clock on the following day.
I promised to come, and I kept my word.
Her house was just outside the town walls, and was a very large building. It was richly and tastefully furnished, and was surrounded by an enormous garden.
The first thing that struck me was the number of the lackeys and the richness of their liveries, and the maids in elegant attire, who seemed to be going and coming in all directions.
As I advanced I heard an imperious voice scolding some one.
The scold was Nina, who was abusing an astonished-looking man, who was standing by a large table covered with stuffs and laces.
"Excuse me," said she, "but this fool of a Spaniard wants to persuade me that this lace is really handsome."
She asked me what I thought of the lace, and though I privately thought it lace of the finest quality, I did not care to contradict her, and so replied that I was no judge.
"Madam," said the tradesman, "if you do not like the lace, leave it; will you keep the stuffs?"
"Yes," she replied; "and as for the lace, I will shew you that it is not the money that deters me."
So saying the mad girl took up a pair of scissors and cut the lace into fragments.
"What a pity!" said the man who had spoken to me at the bull fight. "People will say that you have gone off your head."
"Be silent, you pimping rogue!" said she, enforcing her words with a sturdy box on the ear.
The fellow went off, calling her strumpet, which only made her scream with laughter; then, turning to the Spaniard, she told him to make out his account directly.
The man did not want telling twice, and avenged himself for the abuse he had received by the inordinate length of his bill.
She took up the account and placed her initials at the bottom without deigning to look at the items, and said,--
"Go to Don Diego Valencia; he will pay you immediately."
As soon as we were alone the chocolate was served, and she sent a message to the fellow whose ears she had boxed to come to breakfast directly.
"You needn't be surprised at my way of treating him," she said. "He's a rascal whom Ricla has placed in my house to spy out my actions, and I treat him as you have seen, so that he may have plenty of news to write to his master."
I thought I must be dreaming; such a woman seemed to me beyond the limits of the possible.
The poor wretch, who came from Bologna and was a musician by profession, came and sat down with us without a word. His name was Molinari.
As soon as he had finished his breakfast he left the room, and Nina spent an hour with me talking about Spain, Italy, and Portugal, where she had married a dancer named Bergonzi.
"My father," she said, "was the famous charlatan Pelandi; you may have known him at Venice."
After this piece of confidence (and she did not seem at all ashamed of her parentage) she asked me to sup with her, supper being her favourite meal. I promised to come, and I left her to reflect on the extraordinary character of the woman, and on the good fortune which she so abused.
Nina was wonderfully beautiful; but as it has always been my opinion that mere beauty does not go for much, I could not understand how a viceroy could have fallen in love with her to such an extent. As for Molinari, after which I had seen, I could only set him down as an infamous wretch.
I went to supper with her for amusement's sake, for, with all her beauty, she had not touched my heart in the slightest degree.