Our jests and laughter irritate his passions."
"The rascal! We will punish him rarely. If we laughed last night, we will laugh ten times louder tonight."
Thereupon we began a thousand tricks, accompanied by shouts and shrieks of laughter, purposely calculated to drive the little priest desperate. When the fun was at its height, the door opened and the mother came in.
I had Margarita's night-cap on my head, and Margarita's face was adorned with two huge moustaches, which I had stuck on with ink. Her mother had probably anticipated taking us in the fact, but when she came in she was obliged to re-echo our shouts of mirth.
"Come now," said I, "do you think our amusements criminal?"
"Not a bit; but you see your innocent orgies keep your neighbour awake."
"Then he had better go and sleep somewhere else; I am not going to put myself out for him. I will even say that you must choose between him and me; if I consent to stay with you, you must send him away, and I will take his room."
"I can't send him away before the end of the month, and I am afraid he will say things to my husband which will disturb the peace of the house."
"I promise you he shall go to-morrow and say nothing at all. Leave him to me; the, abbe shall leave of his own free will, without giving you the slightest trouble. In future be afraid for your daughter when she is alone with a man and you don't hear laughing. When one does not laugh, one does something serious."
After this the mother seemed satisfied and went off to bed. Margarita was in such high spirits over the promised dismissal of the abbe that I could not resist doing her justice. We passed an hour together without laughing, and she left me very proud of the victory she had gained.
Early the next day I paid the abbe a visit, and after reproaching him for his behaviour I gave him his choice between paying me the money he owed me and leaving the house at once. He did his best to get out of the dilemma, but seeing that I was pitiless he said he could not leave without paying a few small sums he owed the landlord, and without the wherewithal to obtain another lodging.
"Very good," said I, "I will present you with another twenty crowns; but you must go to-day, and not say a word to anyone, unless you wish me to become your implacable enemy."
I thus got rid of him and entered into possession of the two rooms. Margarita was always at my disposal, and after a few days so was the fair Buonacorsi, who was much the prettier of the two.
The two girls introduced me to the young man who had seduced them.
He was a lad of fifteen or sixteen, and very handsome though short. Nature had endowed him with an enormous symbol of virility, and at Lampsacus he would no doubt have had an altar erected to him beside that of Priapus, with which divinity he might well have contended.
He was well-mannered and agreeable, and seemed much above a common workman. He did not love Margarita or Mdlle. Bounacorsi; he had merely satisfied their curiosity. They saw and admired, and wished to come to a nearer acquaintance; he read their minds and offered to satisfy them. Thereupon the two girls held a consultation, and pretending to submit out of mere complaisance; the double deed was done. I liked this young man, and gave him linen and clothes. So before long he had complete confidence in me. He told me he was in love with a girl, but unhappily for him she was in a convent, and not being able to win her he was becoming desperate. The chief obstacle to the match lay in the fact that his earnings only amounted to a paul a day, which was certainly an insufficient sum to support a wife on.
He talked so much about her that I became curious, and expressed a desire to see her. But before coming to this I must recite some other incidents of my stay at Rome.
One day I went to the Capitol to see the prizes given to the art students, and the first face I saw was the face of Mengs. He was with Battoni and two or three other painters, all being occupied in adjudging the merits of the various pictures.