"Because I am in love with Armelline."
"If that reason brought you here every day, I do not see how it can have suddenly operated in another direction."
"And yet it is all quite natural; for when one loves one desires, and when one desires in vain one suffers, and continual suffering is great unhappiness. And so you see that I am bound to act thus for my own sake."
"I pity you, and see the wisdom of your course; but allow me to tell you that, esteeming Armelline, you have no right to lay her open to a judgment being passed upon her which is very far from the truth."
"And what judgment is that?"
"That your love was only a whim, and that as soon as it was satisfied you abandoned her."
"I am sorry indeed to hear of this, but what can I do? I must cure myself of this unhappy passion. Do you know any other remedy than absence? Kindly advise me."
"I don't know much about the affection called love, but it seems to me that by slow degrees love becomes friendship, and peace is restored."
"True, but if it is to become friendship, love must be gently treated. If the beloved object is not very tender, love grows desperate and turns to indifference or contempt. I neither wish to grow desperate nor to despise Armelline, who is a miracle of beauty and goodness. I shall do my utmost for her, just as if she had made me happy, but I will see her no more."
"I am in complete darkness on the matter. They assure me that they have never failed in their duty towards you, and that they cannot imagine why you have ceased coming here."
"Whether by prudence, or timidity, or a delicate wish not to say anything against me, they have told you a lie; but you deserve to know all, and my honour requires that I should tell you the whole story."
"Please do so; you may count on my discretion."
I then told my tale, and I saw she was moved.
"I have always tried," she said, "never to believe evil except on compulsion, nevertheless, knowing as I do the weakness of the human heart, I could never have believed that throughout so long and intimate an acquaintance you could have kept yourself so severely within bounds. In my opinion there would be much less harm in a kiss than in all this scandal."
"I am sure that Armelline does not care about it."
"She does nothing but weep."
"Her tears probably spring from vanity, or from the cause her companions assign for my absence."
"No, I have told them all that you are ill."
"What does Emilie say?"
"She does not weep, but she looks sad, and says over and over again that it is not her fault if you do not come, thereby hinting that it is Armelline's fault. Come tomorrow to oblige me. They are dying to see the opera at the Aliberti, and the comic opera at the Capronica."
"Very good, then I will breakfast with them to-morrow morning, and to- morrow evening they shall see the opera."
"You are very good; I thank you. Shall I tell them the news?"
"Please tell Armelline that I am only coming after hearing all that you have said to me."
The princess skipped for joy when she heard of my interview with the superioress, and the cardinal said he had guessed as much. The princess gave me the key of her box, and ordered that her carriage and servants should be at my orders.
The next day when I went to the convent Emilie came down by herself to reproach me on my cruel conduct. She told me that a man who really loved would not have acted in such a manner, and that I had been wrong to tell the superioress everything.
"I would not have said anything if I had had anything important to say."
"Armelline has become unhappy through knowing you."
"Because she does not want to fail in her duty, and she sees that you only love her to turn her from it."
"But her unhappiness will cease when I cease troubling her."
"Do you mean you are not going to see her any more?"
"Exactly. Do you think that it costs me no pain? But I must make the effort for the sake of my peace of mind."
"Then she will be sure that you do not love her."
"She must think what she pleases.