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An Unlucky Night I Fall in Love with the Two Sisters, and
Forget Angela—A Ball at My House—Juliette's Humiliation—
My Return to Pasian—Lucie's Misfortune—A Propitious Storm
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On my reappearance, Madame Orio told me, with many heart-felt thanks, that
I must for the future consider myself as a privileged and welcome friend,
and the evening passed off very pleasantly. As the hour for supper drew
near, I excused myself so well that Madame Orio could not insist upon my
accepting her invitation to stay. Marton rose to light me out of the room,
but her aunt, believing Nanette to be my favourite, gave her such an
imperative order to accompany me that she was compelled to obey. She went
down the stairs rapidly, opened and closed the street door very noisily,
and putting her light out, she reentered the sitting room, leaving me in
darkness. I went upstairs softly: when I reached the third landing I found
the chamber of the two sisters, and, throwing myself upon a sofa, I waited
patiently for the rising of the star of my happiness. An hour passed
amidst the sweetest dreams of my imagination; at last I hear the noise of
the street door opening and closing, and, a few minutes after, the two
sisters come in with my Angela. I draw her towards me, and caring for
nobody else, I keep up for two full hours my conversation with her. The
clock strikes midnight; I am pitied for having gone so late supperless,
but I am shocked at such an idea; I answer that, with such happiness as I
am enjoying, I can suffer from no human want. I am told that I am a
prisoner, that the key of the house door is under the aunt's pillow, and
that it is opened only by herself as she goes in the morning to the first
mass. I wonder at my young friends imagining that such news can be
anything but delightful to me. I express all my joy at the certainty of
passing the next five hours with the beloved mistress of my heart. Another
hour is spent, when suddenly Nanette begins to laugh, Angela wants to know
the reason, and Marton whispering a few words to her, they both laugh
likewise. This puzzles me. In my turn, I want to know what causes this
general laughter, and at last Nanette, putting on an air of anxiety, tells
me that they have no more candle, and that in a few minutes we shall be in
the dark. This is a piece of news particularly agreeable to me, but I do
not let my satisfaction appear on my countenance, and saying how truly I
am sorry for their sake, I propose that they should go to bed and sleep
quietly under my respectful guardianship. My proposal increases their
"What can we do in the dark?"
"We can talk."
We were four; for the last three hours we had been talking, and I was the
hero of the romance. Love is a great poet, its resources are
inexhaustible, but if the end it has in view is not obtained, it feels
weary and remains silent. My Angela listened willingly, but little
disposed to talk herself, she seldom answered, and she displayed good
sense rather than wit. To weaken the force of my arguments, she was often
satisfied with hurling at me a proverb, somewhat in the fashion of the
Romans throwing the catapult. Every time that my poor hands came to the
assistance of love, she drew herself back or repulsed me. Yet, in spite of
all, I went on talking and using my hands without losing courage, but I
gave myself up to despair when I found that my rather artful arguing
astounded her without bringing conviction to her heart, which was only
disquieted, never softened. On the other hand, I could see with
astonishment upon their countenances the impression made upon the two
sisters by the ardent speeches I poured out to Angela. This metaphysical
curve struck me as unnatural, it ought to have been an angle; I was then,
unhappily for myself, studying geometry. I was in such a state that,
notwithstanding the cold, I was perspiring profusely. At last the light
was nearly out, and Nanette took it away.
The moment we were in the dark, I very naturally extended my arms to seize
her whom I loved; but I only met with empty space, and I could not help
laughing at the rapidity with which Angela had availed herself of the
opportunity of escaping me. For one full hour I poured out all the tender,
cheerful words that love inspired me with, to persuade her to come back to
me; I could only suppose that it was a joke to tease me. But I became
"The joke," I said, "has lasted long enough; it is foolish, as I could not
run after you, and I am surprised to hear you laugh, for your strange
conduct leads me to suppose that you are making fun of me. Come and take
your seat near me, and if I must speak to you without seeing you let my
hands assure me that I am not addressing my words to the empty air. To
continue this game would be an insult to me, and my love does not deserve
such a return."
"Well, be calm. I will listen to every word you may say, but you must feel
that it would not be decent for me to place myself near you in this dark
"Do you want me to stand where I am until morning?"
"Lie down on the bed, and go to sleep."
"In wonder, indeed, at your thinking me capable of doing so in the state I
am in. Well, I suppose we must play at blind man's buff."
Thereupon, I began to feel right and left, everywhere, but in vain.
Whenever I caught anyone it always turned out to be Nanette or Marton, who
at once discovered themselves, and I, stupid Don Quixote, instantly would
let them go! Love and prejudice blinded me, I could not see how ridiculous
I was with my respectful reserve. I had not yet read the anecdotes of
Louis XIII, king of France, but I had read Boccacio. I kept on seeking in
vain, reproaching her with her cruelty, and entreating her to let me catch
her; but she would only answer that the difficulty of meeting each other
was mutual. The room was not large, and I was enraged at my want of
Tired and still more vexed, I sat down, and for the next hour I told the
history of Roger, when Angelica disappears through the power of the magic
ring which the loving knight had so imprudently given her:
'Cosi dicendo, intorno a la fortuna
Brancolando n'andava come cieco.
O quante volte abbraccio l'aria vana
Speyando la donzella abbracciar seco'.
Angela had not read Ariosto, but Nanette had done so several times. She
undertook the defence of Angelica, and blamed the simplicity of Roger,
who, if he had been wise, would never have trusted the ring to a coquette.
I was delighted with Nanette, but I was yet too much of a novice to apply
her remarks to myself.
Only one more hour remained, and I was to leave before the break of day,
for Madame Orio would have died rather than give way to the temptation of
missing the early mass. During that hour I spoke to Angela, trying to
convince her that she ought to come and sit by me. My soul went through
every gradation of hope and despair, and the reader cannot possibly
realize it unless he has been placed in a similar position. I exhausted
the most convincing arguments; then I had recourse to prayers, and even to
tears; but, seeing all was useless, I gave way to that feeling of noble
indignation which lends dignity to anger. Had I not been in the dark, I
might, I truly believe, have struck the proud monster, the cruel girl, who
had thus for five hours condemned me to the most distressing suffering. I
poured out all the abuse, all the insulting words that despised love can
suggest to an infuriated mind; I loaded her with the deepest curses; I
swore that my love had entirely turned into hatred, and, as a finale, I
advised her to be careful, as I would kill her the moment I would set my
eyes on her.
My invectives came to an end with the darkness. At the first break of day,
and as soon as I heard the noise made by the bolt and the key of the
street door, which Madame Orio was opening to let herself out, that she
might seek in the church the repose of which her pious soul was in need, I
got myself ready and looked for my cloak and for my hat. But how can I
ever portray the consternation in which I was thrown when, casting a sly
glance upon the young friends, I found the three bathed in tears! In my
shame and despair I thought of committing suicide, and sitting down again,
I recollected my brutal speeches, and upbraided myself for having wantonly
caused them to weep. I could not say one word; I felt choking; at last
tears came to my assistance, and I gave way to a fit of crying which
relieved me. Nanette then remarked that her aunt would soon return home; I
dried my eyes, and, not venturing another look at Angela or at her
friends, I ran away without uttering a word, and threw myself on my bed,
where sleep would not visit my troubled mind.
At noon, M. de Malipiero, noticing the change in my countenance, enquired
what ailed me, and longing to unburden my heart, I told him all that had
happened. The wise old man did not laugh at my sorrow, but by his sensible
advice he managed to console me and to give me courage. He was in the same
predicament with the beautiful Therese. Yet he could not help giving way
to his merriment when at dinner he saw me, in spite of my grief, eat with
increased appetite; I had gone without my supper the night before; he
complimented me upon my happy constitution.
I was determined never to visit Madame Orio's house, and on that very day
I held an argument in metaphysics, in which I contended that any being of
whom we had only an abstract idea, could only exist abstractedly, and I
was right; but it was a very easy task to give to my thesis an irreligious
turn, and I was obliged to recant. A few days afterwards I went to Padua,
where I took my degree of doctor 'utroque jure'.
When I returned to Venice, I received a note from M. Rosa, who entreated
me to call upon Madame Orio; she wished to see me, and, feeling certain of
not meeting Angela, I paid her a visit the same evening. The two graceful
sisters were so kind, so pleasant, that they scattered to the winds the
shame I felt at seeing them after the fearful night I had passed in their
room two months before. The labours of writing my thesis and passing my
examination were of course sufficient excuses for Madame Orio, who only
wanted to reproach me for having remained so long away from her house.
As I left, Nanette gave me a letter containing a note from Angela, the
contents of which ran as follows:
"If you are not afraid of passing another night with me you shall have no
reason to complain of me, for I love you, and I wish to hear from your own
lips whether you would still have loved me if I had consented to become
contemptible in your eyes."
This is the letter of Nanette, who alone had her wits about her:
"M. Rosa having undertaken to bring you back to our house, I prepare these
few lines to let you know that Angela is in despair at having lost you. I
confess that the night you spent with us was a cruel one, but I do not
think that you did rightly in giving up your visits to Madame Orio. If you
still feel any love for Angela, I advise you to take your chances once
more. Accept a rendezvous for another night; she may vindicate herself,
and you will be happy. Believe me; come. Farewell!"
Those two letters afforded me much gratification, for I had it in my power
to enjoy my revenge by shewing to Angela the coldest contempt. Therefore,
on the following Sunday I went to Madame Orio's house, having provided
myself with a smoked tongue and a couple of bottles of Cyprus wine; but to
my great surprise my cruel mistress was not there. Nanette told me that
she had met her at church in the morning, and that she would not be able
to come before supper-time. Trusting to that promise I declined Madam
Orio's invitation, and before the family sat down to supper I left the
room as I had done on the former occasion, and slipped upstairs. I longed
to represent the character I had prepared myself for, and feeling assured
that Angela, even if she should prove less cruel, would only grant me
insignificant favours, I despised them in anticipation, and resolved to be
After waiting three quarters of an hour the street door was locked, and a
moment later Nanette and Marton entered the room.
"Where is Angela?" I enquired.
"She must have been unable to come, or to send a message. Yet she knows
you are here."
"She thinks she has made a fool of me; but I suspected she would act in
this way. You know her now. She is trifling with me, and very likely she
is now revelling in her triumph. She has made use of you to allure me in
the snare, and it is all the better for her; had she come, I meant to have
had my turn, and to have laughed at her."
"Ah! you must allow me to have my doubts as to that."
"Doubt me not, beautiful Nanette; the pleasant night we are going to spend
without her must convince you."
"That is to say that, as a man of sense, you can accept us as a makeshift;
but you can sleep here, and my sister can lie with me on the sofa in the
"I cannot hinder you, but it would be great unkindness on your part. At
all events, I do not intend to go to bed."
"What! you would have the courage to spend seven hours alone with us? Why,
I am certain that in a short time you will be at a loss what to say, and
you will fall asleep."
"Well, we shall see. In the mean-time here are provisions. You will not be
so cruel as to let me eat alone? Can you get any bread?"
"Yes, and to please you we must have a second supper."
"I ought to be in love with you. Tell me, beautiful Nanette, if I were as
much attached to you as I was to Angela, would you follow her example and
make me unhappy?"
"How can you ask such a question? It is worthy of a conceited man. All I
can answer is, that I do not know what I would do."
They laid the cloth, brought some bread, some Parmesan cheese and water,
laughing all the while, and then we went to work. The wine, to which they
were not accustomed, went to their heads, and their gaiety was soon
delightful. I wondered, as I looked at them, at my having been blind
enough not to see their merit.
After our supper, which was delicious, I sat between them, holding their
hands, which I pressed to my lips, asking them whether they were truly my
friends, and whether they approved of Angela's conduct towards me. They
both answered that it had made them shed many tears. "Then let me," I
said, "have for you the tender feelings of a brother, and share those
feelings yourselves as if you were my sisters; let us exchange, in all
innocence, proofs of our mutual affection, and swear to each other an
The first kiss I gave them was prompted by entirely harmless motives, and
they returned the kiss, as they assured me a few days afterwards only to
prove to me that they reciprocated my brotherly feelings; but those
innocent kisses, as we repeated them, very soon became ardent ones, and
kindled a flame which certainly took us by surprise, for we stopped, as by
common consent, after a short time, looking at each other very much
astonished and rather serious. They both left me without affectation, and
I remained alone with my thoughts. Indeed, it was natural that the burning
kisses I had given and received should have sent through me the fire of
passion, and that I should suddenly have fallen madly in love with the two
amiable sisters. Both were handsomer than Angela, and they were superior
to her—Nanette by her charming wit, Marton by her sweet and simple
nature; I could not understand how I had been so long in rendering them
the justice they deserved, but they were the innocent daughters of a noble
family, and the lucky chance which had thrown them in my way ought not to
prove a calamity for them. I was not vain enough to suppose that they
loved me, but I could well enough admit that my kisses had influenced them
in the same manner that their kisses had influenced me, and, believing
this to be the case, it was evident that, with a little cunning on my
part, and of sly practices of which they were ignorant, I could easily,
during the long night I was going to spend with them, obtain favours, the
consequences of which might be very positive. The very thought made me
shudder, and I firmly resolved to respect their virtue, never dreaming
that circumstances might prove too strong for me.
When they returned, I read upon their countenances perfect security and
satisfaction, and I quickly put on the same appearance, with a full
determination not to expose myself again to the danger of their kisses.
For one hour we spoke of Angela, and I expressed my determination never to
see her again, as I had every proof that she did not care for me. "She
loves you," said the artless Marton; "I know she does, but if you do not
mean to marry her, you will do well to give up all intercourse with her,
for she is quite determined not to grant you even a kiss as long as you
are not her acknowledged suitor. You must therefore either give up the
acquaintance altogether, or make up your mind that she will refuse you
"You argue very well, but how do you know that she loves me?"
"I am quite sure of it, and as you have promised to be our brother, I can
tell you why I have that conviction. When Angela is in bed with me, she
embraces me lovingly and calls me her dear abbe."
The words were scarcely spoken when Nanette, laughing heartily, placed her
hand on her sister's lips, but the innocent confession had such an effect
upon me that I could hardly control myself.
Marton told Nanette that I could not possibly be ignorant of what takes
place between young girls sleeping together.
"There is no doubt," I said, "that everybody knows those trifles, and I do
not think, dear Nanette, that you ought to reproach your sister with
indiscretion for her friendly confidence."
"It cannot be helped now, but such things ought not to be mentioned. If
Angela knew it!"
"She would be vexed, of course; but Marton has given me a mark of her
friendship which I never can forget. But it is all over; I hate Angela,
and I do not mean to speak to her any more! she is false, and she wishes
"Yet, loving you, is she wrong to think of having you for her husband?"
"Granted that she is not; but she thinks only of her own self, for she
knows what I suffer, and her conduct would be very different if she loved
me. In the mean time, thanks to her imagination, she finds the means of
satisfying her senses with the charming Marton who kindly performs the
part of her husband."
Nanette laughed louder, but I kept very serious, and I went on talking to
her sister, and praising her sincerity. I said that very likely, and to
reciprocate her kindness, Angela must likewise have been her husband, but
she answered, with a smile, that Angela played husband only to Nanette,
and Nanette could not deny it.
"But," said I, "what name did Nanette, in her rapture, give to her
"Do you love anyone, Nanette?"
"I do; but my secret is my own."
This reserve gave me the suspicion that I had something to do with her
secret, and that Nanette was the rival of Angela. Such a delightful
conversation caused me to lose the wish of passing an idle night with two
girls so well made for love.
"It is very lucky," I exclaimed, "that I have for you only feelings of
friendship; otherwise it would be very hard to pass the night without
giving way to the temptation of bestowing upon you proofs of my affection,
for you are both so lovely, so bewitching, that you would turn the brains
of any man."
As I went on talking, I pretended to be somewhat sleepy; Nanette being the
first to notice it, said, "Go to bed without any ceremony, we will lie
down on the sofa in the adjoining room."
"I would be a very poor-spirited fellow indeed, if I agreed to this; let
us talk; my sleepiness will soon pass off, but I am anxious about you. Go
to bed yourselves, my charming friends, and I will go into the next room.
If you are afraid of me, lock the door, but you would do me an injustice,
for I feel only a brother's yearnings towards you."
"We cannot accept such an arrangement," said Nanette, "but let me persuade
you; take this bed."
"I cannot sleep with my clothes on."
"Undress yourself; we will not look at you."
"I have no fear of it, but how could I find the heart to sleep, while on
my account you are compelled to sit up?"
"Well," said Marton, "we can lie down, too, without undressing."
"If you shew me such distrust, you will offend me. Tell me, Nanette, do
you think I am an honest man?"
"Well, then, give me a proof of your good opinion; lie down near me in the
bed, undressed, and rely on my word of honour that I will not even lay a
finger upon you. Besides, you are two against one, what can you fear? Will
you not be free to get out of the bed in case I should not keep quiet? In
short, unless you consent to give me this mark of your confidence in me,
at least when I have fallen asleep, I cannot go to bed."
I said no more, and pretended to be very sleepy. They exchanged a few
words, whispering to each other, and Marton told me to go to bed, that
they would follow me as soon as I was asleep. Nanette made me the same
promise, I turned my back to them, undressed myself quickly, and wishing
them good night, I went to bed. I immediately pretended to fall asleep,
but soon I dozed in good earnest, and only woke when they came to bed.
Then, turning round as if I wished to resume my slumbers, I remained very
quiet until I could suppose them fast asleep; at all events, if they did
not sleep, they were at liberty to pretend to do so. Their backs were
towards me, and the light was out; therefore I could only act at random,
and I paid my first compliments to the one who was lying on my right, not
knowing whether she was Nanette or Marton. I find her bent in two, and
wrapped up in the only garment she had kept on. Taking my time, and
sparing her modesty, I compel her by degrees to acknowledge her defeat,
and convince her that it is better to feign sleep and to let me proceed.
Her natural instincts soon working in concert with mine, I reach the goal;
and my efforts, crowned with the most complete success, leave me not the
shadow of a doubt that I have gathered those first-fruits to which our
prejudice makes us attach so great an importance. Enraptured at having
enjoyed my manhood completely and for the first time, I quietly leave my
beauty in order to do homage to the other sister. I find her motionless,
lying on her back like a person wrapped in profound and undisturbed
slumber. Carefully managing my advance, as if I were afraid of waking her
up, I begin by gently gratifying her senses, and I ascertain the
delightful fact that, like her sister, she is still in possession of her
maidenhood. As soon as a natural movement proves to me that love accepts
the offering, I take my measures to consummate the sacrifice. At that
moment, giving way suddenly to the violence of her feelings, and tired of
her assumed dissimulation, she warmly locks me in her arms at the very
instant of the voluptuous crisis, smothers me with kisses, shares my
raptures, and love blends our souls in the most ecstatic enjoyment.
Guessing her to be Nanette, I whisper her name.
"Yes, I am Nanette," she answers; "and I declare myself happy, as well as
my sister, if you prove yourself true and faithful."
"Until death, my beloved ones, and as everything we have done is the work
of love, do not let us ever mention the name of Angela."
After this, I begged that she would give us a light; but Marton, always
kind and obliging, got out of bed leaving us alone. When I saw Nanette in
my arms, beaming with love, and Marton near the bed, holding a candle,
with her eyes reproaching us with ingratitude because we did not speak to
her, who, by accepting my first caresses, had encouraged her sister to
follow her example, I realized all my happiness.