He said he would take care to give the ambassador a prejudice in my favour, and that he would give me a good reception.
"We will begin to break the ice to-morrow," added this charming cardinal. "You shall dine with me, and his excellence shall hear of it."
He heard with pleasure that I was well provided for as far as money was concerned, and that I had made up my mind to live simply and discreetly so long as I remained in Rome.
"I shall write about you to M---- M----," he said. "I have always kept up a correspondence with that delightful nun."
I then amused him by the, talk of my adventure with the nun of Chamberi.
"You ought to ask the Prince of Santa Croce to introduce you to the princess. We might pass some pleasant hours with her, though not in our old Venetian style, for the princess is not at all like M---- M----.
"And yet she serves to amuse your eminence?"
"Well, I have to be content with what I can get."
The next day as I was getting up from dinner the cardinal told me that M. Zuliani had written about me to the ambassador, who would be delighted to make my acquaintance, and when I went I had an excellent reception from him.
The Chevalier Erizzo, who is still alive, was a man of great intelligence, common sense, and oratorical power. He complimented me on my travels and on my being protected by the State Inquisitors instead of being persecuted by them. He kept me to dinner, and asked me to dine with him whenever I had no other engagement.
The same evening I met Prince Santa Croce at the duchess's, and asked him to introduce me to his wife.
"I have been expecting that," he replied "even since the cardinal talked to her about you for more than an hour. You can call any day at eleven in the morning or two in the afternoon."
I called the next day at two o'clock. She was taking her siesta in bed, but as I had the privileges allowed to a person of no consequence she let me in directly. She was young, pretty, lively, curious, and talkative; she had not enough patience to wait for my answer to her questions. She struck me as a toy, well adapted to amuse a man of affairs, who felt the need of some distraction. The cardinal saw her regularly three times a day; the first thing in the morning he called to ask if she had had a good night, at three o'clock in the afternoon he took coffee with her, and in the evening he met her at the assembly. He always played at piquet, and played with such talent that he invariably lost six Roman sequins, no more and no less. These losses of the cardinal's made the princess the richest young wife in Rome.
Although the marquis was somewhat inclined to be jealous, he could not possibly object to his wife enjoying a revenue of eighteen hundred francs a month, and that without the least scandal, for everything was done in public, and the game was honestly conducted. Why should not fortune fall in love with such a pretty woman?
The Prince of Santa Croce could not fail to appreciate the friendship of the cardinal for his wife, who gave him a child every year, and sometimes every nine months, in spite of the doctor's warnings to beware of results. It was said that to make up for his enforced abstinence during the last few days of his wife's pregnancy, the prince immediately set to again when the child was being baptized.
The friendship of the cardinal for the prince's wife also gave him the advantage of getting silks from Lyons without the Pope's treasurer being able to say anything, as the packets were addressed to the French ambassador. It must also be noted that the cardinal's patronage kept other lovers from the house. The High Constable Colonna was very much taken with her. The prince had surprised this gentleman talking to the princess in a room of the palace and at an hour when she was certain that the cardinal would not be in the way. Scarcely had the Colonna gone when the prince told his wife that she would accompany him into the country the next day. She protested, saying that this sudden order was only a caprice and that her honour would not allow of her obeying him.