CH. II. -- Aurora's reception of Gil Blas. Their conversation.
I FOUND Aurora in an undress. I saluted her in the most respectful manner, and threw as much elegance into my attitude as I had to throw. She received me with the most winning affability, made me sit down by her against all my remonstrances, and told her ambassadress to go into another room. After this opening, which seemed highly encouraging to my cause, she entered upon the business. Gil Blas, said she, you must have perceived how favourably I have regarded and distinguished you from all the rest of my father's servants; and though my looks had not betrayed my partial dispositions towards you, my proceeding of this night would leave you no room to doubt them.
I did not give her time to say a word more. It struck me, that as a man of feeling, I ought to spare her trembling diffidence the cruel necessity of explaining her sentiments in more direct terms. I rose from my chair in a transport, and, throwing myself at Aurora's feet, like a tragedy hero of the Grecian stage when he supplicates the heroine "by her knees," exclaimed in a declamatory tone -- Ah! Madam, could it be possible that Gil Blas, hitherto the whirligig of fortune and football of embattled nature, should have called down upon his head the exquisite felicity of inspiring sentiments Do not speak so loud, interrupted my mistress with a laugh of mingled apprehension and ridicule, you will wake my women who sleep in the adjoining chamber. Get up, take your seat, and hear me out without putting in a word. Yes, Gil Blas, pursued she, resuming her gravity, you have my best wishes; and to shew you how deep you are in my good graces, I will confide to you a secret on which depends the repose of my life. I am in love with a young gentleman, possessing every charm of person and face, and noble by birth. His name is Don Lewis Pacheco. I have seen him occasionally in the public walks and at the theatre, but I have never conversed with him. I do not even know what his private character may be, or what bad qualities he may have. It is on this subject that I wish to be informed. I stand in need of a person to inquire diligently into his morals, and give me a true and particular account. I make choice of you. Surely I run no risk in entrusting you with this commission. I hope that you will acquit yourself with dexterity and prudence, and that I shall never repent of giving you my confidence.
My mistress concluded thus, and waited for my answer to her proposal. I had been disconcerted in the first instance at so disagreeable a mistake; but I soon recovered my scattered senses, and surmounting the confusion which rashness always occasions when it is unlucky, I exposed to sale such a cargo of zeal. For the lady's interests, I devoted myself with so martyr-like an enthusiasm to her service, that if she did not absolutely forget my silly vanity in the thought of having pleased her, at least she had reason to believe that I knew how to make amends for a piece of folly. I asked only two days to bring her a satisfactory account of Don Lewis. After which Dame Ortiz, answering the bell, shewed me the way back into the garden, and said, on taking leave, Good-night, Gil Blas. I need not caution you to be in time at the next appointment. I have sufficient experience of your punctuality on these occasions.
I returned to my chamber, not without some little mortification at finding my voluptuous anticipations all divested of even their ideal sweetness. I was nevertheless sufficiently in my senses to reflect soberly that it was more in my element to be the trusty scout of my mistress than her lover. I even thought that this adventure might lead to something further; that the middle men in the trade of love usually pocket a tolerable percentage; and went to bed with the resolution of doing whatever Aurora required of me. For this purpose I went abroad the next morning. The residence of so distinguished a personage as Don Lewis was not difficult to find out. I made my enquiries about him in the neighbourhood, but the people who came in my way could not satisfy my curiosity to the full, so that it was necessary to resume my search diligently on the following day. I was in better luck. I met a lad of my acquaintance by chance in the street, we stopped for a little gossip. There passed by in the very nick one of his friends, who came up and told him that he was just turned away from the family of Don Joseph Pacheco, Don Lewis's father, about a paltry remnant of wine, which he had been accused of drinking. I would not lose so fair an occasion of learning all I wanted to know, and plied my questions so successfully as to go home with much self-complacency, at my punctual performance of my engagements with my mistress. It was on the coming night that I was to see her again at the same hour and in the same manner as the first time. I was not in such a confounded hurry this evening. Far from writhing with impatience under the prolixity of my old commander, I led him on to the charge. I waited for midnight with the greatest indifference in the world, and it was not till all the clocks within ear-shot had struck that I crept down into the garden, without any nonsense of pomatum and perfumery. That foppery was completely cured.
At the place of meeting I found the very faithful duenna, who sneeringly reproached me with a defalcation in my zeal. I made her no answer, but suffered myself to be conducted into Aurora's chamber. She asked me, as soon as I made my appearance, whether I had gained any intelligence of Don Lewis. Yes, madam, said I, and you shall have the sum total in two words. I must first tell you, that he will soon set out for Salamanca, to finish his studies. The young gentleman is brim full of honour and probity. As for valour, he cannot be deficient there, since he is a man of birth and a Castilian. Besides this, he has an infinite deal of wit, and is very agreeable in his manners; but there is one thing which can scarcely be to your liking. He is pretty much in the fashion of our young nobility here at court -- exemplarily catholic in his devotions to the fair. Have you not heard that at his age he has already been tenant at will to two actresses? What is it you tell me? replied Aurora. What shocking conduct! But do you know for certain, Gil Blas, that he leads so dissolute a life? Oh! there is no doubt of it, madam, rejoined I. A servant, turned off this morning, told me so, and servants are very plain dealers when the failings of their masters are the topic. Besides, he keeps company with Don Alexo Segiar, Don Antonio Centellés, and Don Fernando de Gamboa; that single circumstance proves his libertinism with all the force of demonstration. It is enough, Gil Blas, said my mistress with a sigh; on your report I am determined to struggle with my unworthy passion. Though it has already struck deep root in my heart, I do not despair of tearing it forcibly from its bed. Go, added she, putting into my hands a small purse, none of the lightest, take this for your pains. Beware of betraying my secret. Consider it as entrusted to your silence.
I assured my mistress that she might be perfectly easy on that score, for I was the Harpocrates of confidential servants. After this compliment to myself, I withdrew with no small eagerness to investigate the contents of the purse. There were twenty pistoles. It struck me all at once that Aurora would surely have given me more had I been the bearer of pleasant tidings, since she paid so handsomely for a blank in the lottery. I was sorry not to have adopted the policy of the pleaders in the courts, who sometimes paint the cheek of truth when her natural complexion is inclined to be cadaverous. It was a pity to have stifled an amour in the birth which might in its growth have been so profitable. Yet I had the comfort of finding myself reimbursed the expense so unseasonably incurred in perfumery and washes.