Since it crosses my mind, dear ladies, how tender you all are by nature, I realize that this present work will seem to you to be starting off very seriously, indeed unpleasantly. For I must begin with a sad recollection of the recent deadly plague, disastrous to all those who saw it or heard about it. But I should hate this to put you off from going any further, as if everything you read will be to the accompaniment of sighs and tears. No, as you approach this horrible beginning, you are like walkers faced with a steep and rugged mountain, beyond which there stretched a lovely, delightful plain, all the more pleasing after the difficulties of the climb and the descent. And just as happiness always end distress, so sorrow is overcome by joy.
This brief trial (I call it brief because it can be expressed in few words) is followed immediately by that pleasure which I have promised to you, which you would not have expected from such a beginning if I had not mentioned it. And to tell the truth, if it had been possible in all honesty to take you where I want you to go by another route than one as rough as this, I would gladly have done so. But since it is impossible, without delving into the past, to show you how the things you are about to read happened, I find myself compelled to set about it.
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