Let us sup and play till to-morrow, and tomorrow evening we will begin again."
"I am going away at seven o'clock to-morrow."
"No, no, you are not; and your coachman will have no cause for complaint, for he has been paid; here is the receipt."
These remarks, delivered with an air of amorous despotism, flattered my vanity. I made up my mind to submit gaily, called her wanton, and said I was not worth the pains she was taking over me.
"What astonishes me," said I, "is that with this fine house you do not care to entertain company."
"Everybody is afraid to come; they fear Ricla's jealousy, for it is well known that that animal who is now suffering from the colic tells him everything I do. He swears that it is not so, but I know him to be a liar. Indeed, I am very glad he does write to Ricla, and only wish he had something of real importance to write about."
"He will tell him that I have supped alone with you."
"All the better; are you afraid?"
"No; but I think you ought to tell me if I have anything really to fear."
"Nothing at all; it will fall on me."
"But I should not like to involve you in a dispute which might be prejudicial to your interests."
"Not at all; the more I provoke him, the better he loves me, and I will make him pay dearly when he asks me to make it up."
"Then you don't love him?"
"Yes, to ruin him; but he is so rich that there doesn't seem much hope of my ever doing that."
Before me I saw a woman as beautiful as Venus and as degraded as Lucifer; a woman most surely born to be the ruin of anyone who had the misfortune to fall in love with her. I had known women of similar character, but never one so dangerous as she.
I determined to make some money out of her if I could.
She called for cards, and asked me to play with her at a game called primiera. It is a game of chance, but of so complicated a nature that the best player always wins. In a quarter of an hour I found that I was the better player, but she had such luck that at the end of the game I had lost twenty pistoles, which I paid on the spot. She took the money, promising to give me my revenge.
We had supper, and then we committed all the wantonness she wished and I was capable of performing, for with me the age of miracles was past.
The next day I called to see her earlier in the evening. We played again; and she lost, and went on losing evening after evening, till I had won a matter of two or three hundred doubloons, no unwelcome addition to my somewhat depleted purse.
The spy recovered from his colic and supped with us every evening, but his presence no longer interfered with my pleasure since Nina had ceased to prostitute herself to him in my presence. She did the opposite; giving herself to me, and telling him to write to the Comte de Ricla whatever he liked.
The count wrote her a letter which she gave me to read. The poor love- sick viceroy informed her that she might safely return to Barcelona, as the bishop had received an order from the Court to regard her as merely au actress, whose stay in his diocese would only be temporary; she would thus be allowed to live there in peace so long as she abstained from giving cause for scandal. She told me that whilst she was at Barcelona I could only see her after ten o'clock at night, when the count always left her. She assured me that I should run no risk whatever.
Possibly I should not have stayed at Barcelona at all if Nina had not told me that she would always be ready to lend me as much money as I wanted.
She asked me to leave Valentia a day before her, and to await her at Tarragona. I did so, and spent a very pleasant day in that town, which abounds in remains of antiquity.
I ordered a choice supper according to her instructions, and took care that she should have a separate bedroom so as to avoid any scandal.
She started in the morning begging me to wait till the evening, and to travel by night so as to reach Barcelona by day-time. She told me to put up at the "Santa Maria," and not to call till I had heard from her.