A. MORAVIA, Mistaken Ambitions
Pietro: Maria Luisa, I have not seen you for months. How have things been going with you in your new life?
Maria Luisa: (How can I make that fellow understand that I am ready to become his mistress?)
There was no liking for Pietro Monatti in her design. Maria Luisa had always despised him and she still did.

Maria Luisa: My new life? It could not be going better, my dear Pietro. I am seeing no one but my maid, and her only when I actually have to. I spend my time, as you may have noticed, reading. And she pointed to the books that were lying about on the rug and which, as Pietro had remarked, were all uncut.


Maria Luisa: You have no idea, Pietro, what a relief it is to wake up in the morning and think: “Well, today, thank Heaven, I have no invitations, no appointments, and the whole blessed day is my own”. You cannot imagine what that means to me—to be free of a luncheon engagement, three or four teas, and then a dinner, when it is not a full-fledged reception. Really, my dear Pietro, I have come to think that we all lead very scattered lives—too much so. We see too many people, we have too many engagements, we are too much like butterflies. You too ought to go into retirement once in a while, as I have done.

Pietro: If what you say is true, Maria Luisa, and I have no reason to suppose it is not true, I am inclined to think that I owe you an apology. Really, I had been thinking of you all along as something altogether different from what your words would now lead me to believe.
Maria Luisa: How did you think of me?

Pietro: Oh, I thought no end of silly things. Mistaken impressions! I thought you were a frivolous sort of person, satisfied with yourself, all taken up with society. And I also thought that you could not endure me. Now, for many reasons, I believe I have changed my mind.

Maria Luisa: It isn’t true that I could not endure you, Pietro, but you were so evasive with me, so hard to reach!

Pietro: Strange isn’t it? We each thought that the other was hostile! And we were both mistaken! We were made to understand each other.
Maria Luisa: Quite so. Explain one thing to me…

Maria Luisa: You said a moment ago that you had always considered me a frivolous butterfly undeserving of your interest, but that afterwards you changed your mind, discovered, that is, that I did interest you. Well, what I would like to know is what sort of interest you take in me now.

Pietro: What sort of interest! Why, a real interest, without a trace of ulterior motive, a disinterested interest, so to say.
Maria Luisa: Oh, with no ulterior motive!
Pietro: Absolutely none!

Maria Luisa: Nobody is accusing you of being in love with me. I don’t see, then, just what sort of interest you can have in me.
Pietro: I don’t know. You strike me as being less happy than I had thought. I should like to make you happier. I may be mistaken, but I have an impression that I might be able to give you all you need—all that Matteo failed to give you.

He looked at her. He was so persuaded of the truth of what he was saying that it required no effort or calculation on his part whatever to extend his hand suddenly and graze her cheek with the tips of his fingers. But at that point, entirely to his surprise, Maria Luisa collapsed awkwardly upon him and he had a pair of lips pressing greedily upon his own. He was conscious of a sweetish taste of lipstick. So they kissed.