I Fall in Love With Veronique — Her Sister — Plot Against Plot — My Victory — Mutual Disappointment
I have never liked eating by myself, and thus I have never turned hermit, though I once thought of turning monk; but a monk without renouncing all the pleasures of life lives well in a kind of holy idleness. This dislike to loneliness made me give orders that the table should be laid for two, and indeed, after supping with the marquis and myself, Veronique had some right to expect as much, to say nothing of those rights which her wit and beauty gave her.
I only saw Costa, and asked him what had become of Le Duc. He said he was ill. “Then go behind the lady’s chair,” said I. He obeyed, but smiled as he did so. Pride is a universal failing, and though a servant’s pride is the silliest of all it is often pushed to the greatest extremes.
I thought Veronique prettier than before. Her behaviour, now free and now reserved, as the occasion demanded, shewed me that she was no new hand, and that she could have played the part of a princess in the best society. Nevertheless (so strange a thing is the heart of man), I was sorry to find I liked her, and my only consolation was that her mother would come and take her away before the day was over. I had adored Rosalie, and my heart still bled at the thought of our parting.
The girl’s mother came while we were still at table. She was astounded at the honour I shewed her daughter, and she overwhelmed me with thanks.
“You owe me no gratitude,” said I to her; “your daughter is clever, good, and beautiful.”
“Thank the gentleman for his compliment,” said the mother, “for you are really stupid, wanton, and ugly;” and then she added, “But how could you have the face to sit at table with the gentleman in a dirty chemise?”
“I should blush, mother, if I thought you were right; but I put a clean one on only two hours ago.”
“Madam,” said I to the mother, “the chemise cannot look white beside your daughter’s whiter skin.”
This made the mother laugh, and pleased the girl immensely. When the mother told her that she was come to take her back, Veronique said, with a sly smile —
“Perhaps the gentleman won’t be pleased at my leaving him twenty- four hours before he goes away.”
“On the contrary,” said I, “I should be very vexed.”
“Well; then, she can stay, sir,” said the mother; “but for decency’s sake I must send her younger sister to sleep with her.”
“If you please,” I rejoined. And with that I left them.
The thought of Veronique troubled me, as I knew I was taken with her, and what I had to dread was a calculated resistance.
The mother came into my room where I was writing, and wished me a pleasant journey, telling me for the second time that she was going to send her daughter Annette. The girl came in the evening, accompanied by a servant, and after lowering her mezzaro, and kissing my hand respectfully, she ran gaily to kiss her sister.
I wanted to see what she was like, and called for candles; and on their being brought I found she was a blonde of a kind I had never before seen. Her hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes were the colour of pale gold, fairer almost than her skin, which was extremely delicate. She was very short-sighted, but her large pale blue eyes were wonderfully beautiful. She had the smallest mouth imaginable, but her teeth, though regular, were not so white as her skin. But for this defect Annette might have passed for a perfect beauty.
Her shortness of sight made too brilliant a light painful to her, but as she stood before me she seemed to like me looking at her. My gaze fed hungrily on the two little half-spheres, which were not yet ripe, but so white as to make me guess how ravishing the rest of her body must be. Veronique did not shew her breasts so freely. One could see that she was superbly shaped, but everything was carefully hidden from the gaze. She made her sister sit down beside her and work, but when I saw that she was obliged to hold the stuff close to her face I told her that she should spare her eyes, for that night at all events, and with that she obediently put the work down.
The marquis came as usual, and like myself he thought Annette, whom he had never seen before, an astonishing miniature beauty. Taking advantage of his age and high rank, the voluptuous old man dared to pass his hand over her breast, and she, who was too respectful to cross my lord, let him do it without making the slightest objection. She was a compound of innocence and coquetry.
The woman who shewing little succeeds in making a man want to see more, has accomplished three-fourths of the task of making him fall in love with her; for is love anything else than a kind of curiosity? I think not; and what makes me certain is that when the curiosity is satisfied the love disappears. Love, however, is the strongest kind of curiosity in existence, and I was already curious about Annette.
M. Grimaldi told Veronique that Rosalie wished her to stay with me till I left Genoa, and she was as much astonished at this as I was.
“Be kind enough to tell her,” said I to the marquis, “that Veronique has anticipated her wishes and has got her sister Annette to stay with her.”
“Two are always better than one, my dear fellow,” replied the crafty Genoese.
After these remarks we left the two sisters together and went into my room, where he said —
“Your Rosalie is contented, and you ought to congratulate yourself on having made her happy, as I am sure she will be. The only thing that vexes me is that you can’t go and see her yourself with any decency.”
“You are in love with her, my lord.”
“I confess that I am, but I am an old man, and it vexes me.”
“That’s no matter, she will love you tenderly; and if Petri ever becomes her husband, I am sure she will never be anything more than a good friend to him. Write to me at Florence and tell me how she receives him.”
“Stay here for another three days; the two beauties there will make the time seem short.”
“It’s exactly for that reason that I want to go tomorrow. I am afraid of Veronique.”
“I shouldn’t have thought that you would have allowed any woman to frighten you.”
“I am afraid she has cast her fatal nets around me, and when the time comes she will be strictly moral. Rosalie is my only love.”
“Well, here’s a letter from her.”
I went apart to read the letter, the sight of which made my heart beat violently; it ran as follows:
“Dearest — I see you have placed me in the hands of one who will care for me like a father. This is a new kindness which I owe to the goodness of your heart. I will write to you at whatever address you send me. If you like Veronique, my darling, do not fear any jealousy from me; I should be wrong to entertain such a feeling in my present position. I expect that if you make much of her she will not be able to resist, and I shall be glad to hear that she is lessening your sadness. I hope you will write me a few lines before you go.”
I went up to the marquis and told him to read it. He seemed greatly moved.
“Yes,” said he, “the dear girl will find in me her friend and father, and if she marries my godson and he does not treat her as he ought, he will not possess her long. I shall remember her in my will, and thus when I am dead my care will still continue. But what do you think of her advice as to Veronique? I don’t expect she is exactly a vestal virgin, though I have never heard anything against her.”
I had ordered that the table should be laid for four, so Annette sat down without our having to ask her. Le Duc appeared on the scene, and I told him that if he were ill he might go to bed.
“I am quite well,” said he.
“I am glad to hear it; but don’t trouble now, you shall wait on me when I am at Leghorn.”
I saw that Veronique was delighted at my sending him away, and I resolved then and there to lay siege to her heart. I began by talking to her in a very meaning manner all supper-time, while the marquis entertained Annette. I asked him if he thought I could get a felucca next day to take me to Lerici.
“Yes,” said he, “whenever you like and with as many oarsmen as you please; but I hope you will put off your departure for two or three days.”
“No,” I replied, ogling Veronique, “the delay might cost me too dear.”
The sly puss answered with a smile that shewed she understood my meaning.
When we rose from the table I amused myself with Annette, and the marquis with Veronique. After a quarter of an hour he came and said to me —
“Certain persons have asked me to beg you to stay a few days longer, or at least to sup here to-morrow night.”
“Very good. We will talk of the few days more at supper to- morrow.”
“Victory!” said the marquis; and Veronique seemed very grateful to me for granting her request. When our guest was gone, I asked my new housekeeper if I might send Costa to bed.
“As my sister is with me, there can be no ground for any suspicion.”
“I am delighted that you consent; now I am going to talk to you.”
She proceeded to do my hair, but she gave no answer to my soft speeches. When I was on the point of getting into bed she wished me good night, and I tried to kiss her by way of return. She repulsed me and ran to the door, much to my surprise. She was going to leave the room, when I addressed her in a voice of grave politeness.
“I beg you will stay; I want to speak to you; come and sit by me. Why should you refuse me a pleasure which after all is a mere mark of friendship?”
“Because, things being as they are, we could not remain friends, neither could we be lovers.”
“Lovers! why not, we are perfectly free”
“I am not free; I am bound by certain prejudices which do not trouble you.”
“I should have thought you were superior to prejudices.”
“There are some prejudices which a woman ought to respect. The superiority you mention is a pitiful thing; always the dupe of itself. What would become of me, I should like to know, if I abandoned myself to the feelings I have for you?”
“I was waiting for you to say that, dear Veronique. What you feel for me is not love. If it were so, you would feel as I do, and you would soon break the bonds of prejudice.”
“I confess that my head is not quite turned yet, but still I feel that I shall grieve at your departure.”
“If so, that is no fault of mine. But tell me what I can do for you during my short stay here.”
“Nothing; we do not know one another well enough.”
“I understand you, but I would have you know that I do not intend to marry any woman who is not my friend.”
“You mean you will not marry her till you have ceased to be her lover?”
“You would like to finish where I would begin.”
“You may be happy some day, but you play for high stakes.”
“Well, well, it’s a case of win all or lose all.”
“That’s as may be. But without further argument it seems to me that we could safely enjoy our love, and pass many happy moments undisturbed by prejudice.”
“Possibly, but one gets burnt fingers at that game, and I shudder at the very thought of it. No, no; leave me alone, there is my sister who will wonder why I am in your arms.”
“Very good; I see I was mistaken, and Rosalie too.”
“Why what did she think about me?”
“She wrote and told me that she thought you would be kind.”
“I hope she’ mayn’t have to repent for having been too kind herself.”
“Good bye, Veronique.”
I felt vexed at having made the trial, for in these matters one always feels angry at failure. I decided I would leave her and her precepts, true or false, alone; but when I awoke in the morning and saw her coming to my bed with a pleasant smile on her face, I suddenly changed my mind. I had slept upon my anger and I was in love again. I thought she had repented, and that I should be victorious when I attacked her again. I put on a smile myself and breakfasted gaily with her and her sister. I behaved in the same way at dinner; and the general high spirits which M. de Grimaldi found prevailing in the evening, made him think, doubtless, that we were getting on well, and he congratulated us. Veronique behaved exactly as if the marquis had guessed the truth, and I felt sure of having her after supper, and in the ecstasy of the thought I promised to stay for four days longer.
“Bravo, Veronique!” said the marquis, “that’s the way. You are intended by nature to rule your lovers with an absolute sway.”
I thought she would say something to diminish the marquis’s certainty that there was an agreement between us, but she did nothing of the sort, seeming to enjoy her triumph which made her appear more beautiful than ever; whilst I looked at her with the submissive gaze of a captive who glories in, his chain. I took her behaviour as an omen of my approaching conquest, and did not speak to M. de Grimaldi alone lest he might ask me questions which I should not care to answer. He told us before he went away that he was engaged on the morrow, and so could not come to see us till the day after.
As soon as we were alone Veronique said to me, “You see how I let people believe what they please; I had rather be thought kind, as you call it, than ridiculous, as an honest girl is termed now-a- days. Is it not so?”
“No, dear Veronique, I will never call you ridiculous, but I shall think you hate me if you make me pass another night in torture. You have inflamed me.”
“Oh, pray be quiet! For pity’s sake leave me alone! I will not inflame you any more. Oh! Oh!”
I had enraged her by thrusting a daring hand into the very door of the sanctuary. She repulsed me and fled. Three or four minutes later her sister came to undress me. I told her gently to go to bed as I had to write for three or four hours; but not caring that she should come on a bootless errand I opened a box and gave her a watch. She took it modestly, saying —
“This is for my sister, I suppose?”
“No, dear Annette, it’s for you.”
She gave a skip of delight, and I could not prevent her kissing my hand.
I proceeded to write Rosalie a letter of four pages. I felt worried and displeased with myself and everyone else. I tore up my letter without reading it over, and making an effort to calm myself I wrote her another letter more subdued than the first, in which I said nothing of Veronique, but informed my fair recluse that I was going on the day following.
I did not go to bed till very late, feeling out of temper with the world. I considered that I had failed in my duty to Veronique, whether she loved me or not, for I loved her and I was a man of honour. I had a bad night, and when I awoke it was noon, and on ringing Costa and Annette appeared. The absence of Veronique shewed how I had offended her. When Costa had left the room I asked Annette after her sister, and she said that she was working. I wrote her a note, in which I begged her pardon, promising that I would never offend her again, and begging her to forget everything and to be just the same as before. I was taking my coffee when she came into my room with an expression of mortification which grieved me excessively.
“Forget everything, I beg, and I will trouble you no more. Give me my buckles, as I am going for a country walk, and I shall not be in till suppertime. I shall doubtless get an excellent appetite, and as you have nothing more to fear you need not trouble to send me Annette again.”
I dressed myself in haste, and left the town by the first road that came in my way, and I walked fast for two hours with the intention of tiring myself, and of thus readjusting the balance between mind and body. I have always found that severe exercise and fresh air are the best cure for any mental perturbation.
I had walked for more than three leagues when hunger and weariness made me stop at a village inn, where I had an omelette cooked. I ate it hungrily with brown bread and wine, which seemed to me delicious though it was rather sharp.
I felt too tired to walk back to Genoa, so I asked for a carriage; but there was no such thing to be had. The inn-keeper provided me with a sorry nag and a man to guide me. Darkness was coming on, and we had more than six miles to do. Fine rain began to fall when I started, and continued all the way, so that I got home by eight o’clock wet to the skin, shivering with cold, dead tired, and in a sore plight from the rough saddle, against which my satin breeches were no protection. Costa helped me to change my clothes, and as he went out Annette came in.
“Where is your sister?”
“She is in bed with a bad headache. She gave me a letter for you; here it is.”
“I have been obliged to go to bed on account of a severe headache to which I am subject. I feel better already, and I shall be able to wait on you to-morrow. I tell you as much, because I do not wish you to think that my illness is feigned. I am sure that your repentance for having humiliated me is sincere, and I hope in your turn that you will forgive me or pity me, if my way of thinking prevents me from conforming to yours.”
“Annette dear, go and ask your sister if she would like us to sup in her room.”
She soon came back telling me that Veronique was obliged, but begged me to let her sleep.
I supped with Annette, and was glad to see that, though she only drank water, her appetite was better than mine. My passion for her sister prevented me thinking of her, but I felt that Annette would otherwise have taken my fancy. When we were taking dessert, I conceived the idea of making her drunk to get her talk of her sister, so I gave her a glass of Lunel muscat.
“I only drink water, sir.”
“Don’t you like wine?”
“Yes, but as I am not used to it I am afraid of its getting into my head.”
“Then you can go to bed; you will sleep all the better.”
She drank the first glass, which she enjoyed immensely, then a second, and then a third. Her little brains were in some confusion when she had finished the third glass. I made her talk about her sister, and in perfect faith she told me all the good imaginable.
“Then you are very fond of Veronique?” said I.
“Oh, yes! I love her with all my heart, but she will not let me caress her.”
“No doubt she is afraid of your ceasing to love her. But do you think she ought to make me suffer so?”
“No, but if you love her you ought to forgive her.”
Annette was still quite reasonable. I made her drink a fourth glass of muscat, but an instant after she told me that she could not see anything, and we rose from the table. Annette began to please me a little too much, but I determined not to make any attempts upon her for fear of finding her too submissive. A little resistance sharpens the appetite, while favours granted with too much ease lose a great deal of their charm. Annette was only fourteen, she had a soft heart, no knowledge of the world or her own rights, and she would not have resisted my embraces for fear of being rude. That sort of thing would only please a rich and voluptuous Turk.
I begged her to do my hair, intending to dismiss her directly after, but when she had finished I asked her to give me the ointment.
“What do you want it for?”
“For the blisters that cursed saddle on which I rode six miles gave me.”
“Does the ointment do them good?”
“Certainly; it takes away the smart, and by to-morrow I shall be cured, but you must send Costa to me, as I cannot put it on myself.”
“Can’t I do it?”
“Yes, but I am afraid that would be an abuse of your kindness.”
“I guess why; but as I am short-sighted, how shall I see the blisters?”
“If you want to do it for me, I will place myself so that it will be easier for you. Stay, put the candle on this table.”
“There you are, but don’t let Costa put it on again to-morrow, or he will guess that I or my sister did it to-night.”
“You will do me the same service, then, to-morrow?”
“I or my sister, for she will get up early.”
“Your sister! No, my dear; she would be afraid of giving me too much pleasure by touching me so near.”
“And I am only afraid of hurting you. Is that right? Good heavens! what a state your skin is in!”
“You have not finished yet.”
“I am so short-sighted; turn round.”
“With pleasure. Here I am.”
The little wanton could not resist laughing at what she saw, doubtless, for the first time. She was obliged to touch it to continue rubbing the ointment in, and I saw that she liked it, as she touched it when she had no need, and not being able to stand it any longer I took hold of her hand and made her stop her work in favour of a pleasanter employment.
When she had finished I burst out laughing to hear her ask, in the most serious way, the pot of ointment still in her left hand,
“Did I do it right!”
“Oh, admirably, dear Annette! You are an angel, and I am sure you know what pleasure you gave me. Can you come and spend an hour with me?”
“Wait a bit.”
She went out and shut the door, and I waited for her to return; but my patience being exhausted I opened the door slightly, and saw her undressing and getting into bed with her sister. I went back to my room and to bed again, without losing all hope. I was not disappointed, for in five minutes back she came, clad in her chemise and walking on tip-toe.
“Come to my arms, my love; it is very cold.”
“Here I am. My sister is asleep and suspects nothing; and even if she awoke the bed is so large that she would not notice my absence.”
“You are a divine creature, and I love you with all my heart.”
“So much the better. I give myself up to you; do what you like with me, on the condition that you think of my sister no more.”
“That will not cost me much. I promise that I will not think of her.”
I found Annette a perfect neophyte, and though I saw no blood on the altar of love next morning I did not suspect her on that account. I have often seen such cases, and I know by experience that the effusion of blood or its absence proves nothing. As a general rule a girl cannot be convicted of having had a lover unless she be with child.
I spent two hours of delight with this pretty baby, for she was so small, so delicate, and so daintily shaped all over, that I can find no better name for her. Her docility did not detract from the piquancy of the pleasure, for she was voluptuously inclined.
When I rose in the morning she came to my room with Veronique, and I was glad to see that while the younger sister was radiant with happiness the elder looked pleasant and as if she desired to make herself agreeable. I asked her how she was, and she told me that diet and sleep had completely cured her. “I have always found them the best remedy for a headache.” Annette had also cured me of the curiosity I had felt about her. I congratulated myself on my achievement.
I was in such high spirits at supper that M. de Grimaldi thought I had won everything from Veronique, and I let him think so. I promised to dine with him the next day, and I kept my word. After dinner I gave him a long letter for Rosalie, whom I did not expect to see again except as Madame Petri, though I took care not to let the marquis know what I thought.
In the evening I supped with the two sisters, and I made myself equally agreeable to both of them. When Veronique was alone with me, putting my hair into curl-papers, she said that she loved me much more now that I behaved discreetly.
“My discretion,” I replied, “only means that I have given up the hope of winning you. I know how to take my part.”
“Your love was not very great, then?”
“It sprang up quickly, and you, Veronique, could have made it increase to a gigantic size.”
She said nothing, but bit her lip, wished me good night and left the room. I went to bed expecting a visit from Annette, but I waited in vain. When I rang the next morning the dear girl appeared looking rather sad. I asked her the reason.
“Because my sister is ill, and spent the whole night in writing,” said she.
Thus I learnt the reason of her not having paid me a visit.
“Do you know what she was writing about?”
“Oh, no! She does not tell me that kind of thing, but here is a letter for you.”
I read through the long and well-composed letter, but as it bore marks of craft and dissimulation it made me laugh. After several remarks of no consequence she said that she had repulsed me because she loved me so much and that she was afraid that if she satisfied my fancy she might lose me.
“I will be wholly yours,” she added, “if you will give me the position which Rosalie enjoyed. I will travel in your company, but you must give me a document, which M. de Grimaldi will sign as a witness, in which you must engage to marry me in a year, and to give me a portion of fifty thousand francs; and if at the end of a year you do not wish to marry me, that sum to be at my absolute disposal.”
She stipulated also that if she became a mother in the course of a year the child should be hers in the event of our separating. On these conditions she would become my mistress, and would have for me all possible love and kindness.
This proposal, cleverly conceived, but foolishly communicated to me, shewed me that Veronique had not the talent of duping others. I saw directly that M. de Grimaldi had nothing to do with it, and I felt sure that he would laugh when I told him the story.
Annette soon came back with the chocolate, and told me that her sister hoped I would answer her letter.
“Yes, dear,” said I, “I will answer her when I get up.”
I took my chocolate, put on my dressing-gown, and went to Veronique’s room. I found her sitting up in bed in a negligent attire that might have attracted me if her letter had not deprived her of my good opinion. I sat on the bed, gave her back the letter, and said —
“Why write, when we can talk the matter over?”
“Because one is often more at ease in writing than in speaking.”
“In diplomacy and business that will pass, but not in love. Love makes no conditions. Let us have no documents, no safeguards, but give yourself up to me as Rosalie did, and begin to-night without my promising anything. If you trust in love, you will make him your prisoner. That way will honour us and our pleasures, and if you like I will consult M. de Grimaldi on the subject. As to your plan, if it does not injure your honour, it does small justice to your common sense, and no one but a fool would agree to it. You could not possibly love the man to whom you make such a proposal, and as to M. de Grimaldi, far from having anything to do with it, I am sure he would be indignant at the very idea.”
This discourse did not put Veronique out of countenance. She said she did not love me well enough to give herself to me unconditionally; to which I replied that I was not sufficiently taken with her charms to buy them at the price she fixed, and so I left her.
I called Costa, and told him to go and warn the master of the felucca that I was going the next day, and with this idea I went to bid good-bye to the marquis, who informed me that he had just been taking Petri to see Rosalie, who had received him well enough. I told him I was glad to hear it, and said that I commended to him the care of her happiness, but such commendations were thrown away.
It is one of the most curious circumstances of my history, that in one year two women whom I sincerely loved and whom I might have married were taken from me by two old men, whose affections I had fostered without wishing to do so. Happily these gentlemen made my mistresses’ fortunes, but on the other hand they did me a still greater service in relieving me of a tie which I should have found very troublesome in course of time. No doubt they both saw that my fortune, though great in outward show, rested on no solid basis, which, as the reader will see, was unhappily too true. I should be happy if I thought that my errors or rather follies would serve as a warning to the readers of these Memoirs.
I spent the day in watching the care with which Veronique and Annette packed up my trunks, for I would not let my two servants help in any way. Veronique was neither sad nor gay. She looked as if she had made up her mind, and as if there had never been any differences between us. I was very glad, for as I no longer cared for her I should have been annoyed to find that she still cared for me.
We supped in our usual manner, discussing only commonplace topics, but just as I was going to bed Annette shook my hand in a way that told me to prepare for a visit from her. I admired the natural acuteness of young girls, who take their degrees in the art of love with so much ease and at such an early age. Annette, almost a child, knew more than a young man of twenty. I decided on giving her fifty sequins without letting Veronique see me, as I did not intend to be so liberal towards her. I took a roll of ducats and gave them to her as soon as she came.
She lay down beside me, and after a moment devoted to love she said that Veronique was asleep, adding —
“I heard all you said to my sister, and I am sure you love her.”
“If I did, dear Annette, I should not have made my proposal in such plain terms.”
“I should like to believe that, but what would you have done if she had accepted your offer? You would be in one bed by this, I suppose?”
“I was more than certain, dearest, that her pride would hinder her receiving me.”
We had reached this point in our conversation when we were surprised by the sudden appearance of Veronique with a lighted candle, and wearing only her chemise. She laughed at her sister to encourage her, and I joined in the laughter, keeping a firm hold on the little one for fear of her escaping. Veronique looked ravishing in her scanty attire, and as she laughed I could not be angry with her. However, I said —
“You have interrupted our enjoyment, and hurt your sister’s feelings; perhaps you will despise her for the future?”
“On the contrary, I shall always love her.”
“Her feelings overcame her, and she surrendered to me without making any terms.”
“She has more sense than I”
“Do you mean that?”
“I do, really.”
“I am astonished and delighted to hear it; but as it is so, kiss your sister.”
At this invitation Veronique put down the candle, and covered Annette’s beautiful body with kisses. The scene made me feel very happy.
“Come, Veronique,” said I, “you will die of cold; come and lie down.”
I made room for her, and soon there were three of us under the same sheet. I was in an ecstasy at this group, worthy of Aretin’s pencil.
“Dearest ones,” said I, “you have played me a pretty trick; was it premeditated? And was Veronique false this morning, or is she false now?”
“We did not premeditate anything, I was true this morning, and I am true now. I feel that I and my plan were very silly, and I hope you will forgive me, since I have repented and have had my punishment. Now I think I am in my right senses, as I have yielded to the feelings with which you inspired me when I saw you first, and against which I have fought too long.”
“What you say pleases me extremely.”
“Well, forgive me and finish my punishment by shewing that you are not angry with me.”
“How am I to do that?”
“By telling me that you are vexed no longer, and by continuing to give my sister proofs of your love.”
“I swear to you that so far from being angry with you I am very fond of you; but would you like us to be fond in your presence?”
“Yes, if you don’t mind me.”
Feeling excited by voluptuous emotions, I saw that my part could no longer be a passive one.
“What do you say,” said I to my blonde, “will you allow your heroic sister to remain a mere looker-on at our sweet struggles? Are you not generous enough to let me make her an actress in the drama?”
“No; I confess I do not feel as if I could be so generous to- night, but next night, if you will play the same part, we will change. Veronique shall act and I will look on.”
“That would do beautifully,” said Veronique, with some vexation in her manner, “if the gentleman was not going to-morrow morning.”
“I will stay, dear Veronique, if only to prove how much I love you,”
I could not have wished for plainer speech on her part, and I should have liked to shew her how grateful I felt on the spot; but that would have been at Annette’s expense, as I had no right to make any alteration in the piece of which she was the author and had a right to expect all the profits. Whenever I recall this pleasant scene I feel my heart beat with voluptuous pleasure, and even now, with the hand of old age upon me, I can not recall it without delight.
Veronique resigned herself to the passive part which her younger sister imposed on her, and turning aside she leant her head on her hand, disclosing a breast which would have excited the coldest of men, and bade me begin my attack on Annette. It was no hard task she laid upon me, for I was all on fire, and I was certain of pleasing her as long as she looked at me. As Annette was short- sighted, she could not distinguish in the heat of the action which way I was looking, and I succeeded in getting my right hand free, without her noticing me, and I was thus enabled to communicate a pleasure as real though not as acute as that enjoyed by her sister. When the coverlet was disarranged, Veronique took the trouble to replace it, and thus offered me, as if by accident, a new spectacle. She saw how I enjoyed the sight of her charms, and her eye brightened. At last, full of unsatisfied desire, she shewed me all the treasures which nature had given her, just as I had finished with Annette for the fourth time. She might well think that I was only rehearsing for the following night, and her fancy must have painted her coming joys in the brightest colours. Such at all events were my thoughts, but the fates determined otherwise. I was in the middle of the seventh act, always slower and more pleasant for the actress than the first two or three, when Costa came knocking loudly at my door, calling out that the felucca was ready. I was vexed at this untoward incident, got up in a rage, and after telling him to pay the master for the day, as I was not going till the morrow, I went back to bed, no longer, however, in a state to continue the work I begun. My two sweethearts were delighted with me, but we all wanted rest, though the piece should not have finished with an interruption. I wanted to get some amusement out of the interval, and proposed an ablution, which made Annette laugh and which Veronique pronounced to be absolutely necessary. I found it a delicious hors d’oeuvre to the banquet I had enjoyed. The two sisters rendered each other various services, standing in the most lascivious postures, and I found my situation as looker-on an enviable one.
When the washing and the laughter it gave rise to were over, we returned to the stage where the last act should have been performed. I longed to begin again, and I am sure I should have succeeded if I had been well backed up by my partner; but Annette, who was young and tired out with the toils of the night, forgot her part, and yielded to sleep as she had yielded to love. Veronique began to laugh when she saw her asleep, and I had to do the same, when I saw that she was as still as a corpse.
“What a pity!” said Veronique’s eyes; but she said it with her eyes alone, while I was waiting for these words to issue from her lips. We were both of us wrong: she for not speaking, and I for waiting for her to speak. It was a favourable moment, but we let it pass by, and love punished us. I had, it is true, another reason for abstaining. I wished to reserve myself for the night. Veronique went to her own bed to quiet her excited feelings, and I stayed in bed with my sleeping beauty till noon, when I wished her good morning by a fresh assault which was completed neither on her side nor on mine to the best of my belief.
The day was spent in talking about ourselves, and determined to eat only one meal, we did not sit down to table till night began to fall. We spent two hours in the consumption of delicate dishes, and in defying Bacchus to make us feel his power. We rose as we saw Annette falling asleep, but we were not much annoyed at the thought that she would not see the pleasures we promised each other. I thought that I should have enough to do to contemplate the charms of the one nymph without looking at Annette’s beauties. We went to bed, our arms interlaced, our bodies tight together, and lip pressed on lip, but that was all. Veronique saw what prevented me going any further, and she was too polite and modest to complain. She dissembled her feelings and continued to caress me, while I was in a frenzy of rage. I had never had such a misfortune, unless as the result of complete exhaustion, or from a strong mental impression capable of destroying my natural faculties. Let my readers imagine what I suffered; in the flower of my age, with a strong constitution, holding the body of a woman I had ardently desired in my arms, while she tenderly caressed me, and yet I could do nothing for her. I was in despair; one cannot offer a greater insult to a woman.
At last we had to accept the facts and speak reasonably, and I was the first to bewail my misfortune.
“You tired yourself too much yesterday,” said she, “and you were not sufficiently temperate at supper. Do not let it trouble you, dearest, I am sure you love me. Do not try to force nature, you will only weaken yourself more. I think a gentle sleep would restore your manly powers better than anything. I can’t sleep myself, but don’t mind me. Sleep, we will make love together afterwards.”
After those excellent and reasonable suggestions, Veronique turned her back to me and I followed her example, but in vain did I endeavour to obtain a refreshing slumber; nature which would not give me the power of making her, the loveliest creature, happy, envied me the power of repose as well. My amorous ardour and my rage forbade all thoughts of rest, and my excited passions conspired against that which would enable them to satisfy their desires. Nature punished me for having distrusted her, and because I had taken stimulants fit only for the weak. If I had fasted, I should have done great things, but now there was a conflict between the stimulants and nature, and by my desire for enjoyment I had deprived myself of the power to enjoy. Thus nature, wise like its Divine Author, punishes the ignorance and presumption of poor weak mortals.
Throughout this terrible and sleepless night my mind roamed abroad, and amidst the reproaches with which I overwhelmed myself I found a certain satisfaction in the thought that they were not wholly undeserved. This is the sole enjoyment I still have when I meditate on my past life and its varied adventures. I feel that no misfortune has befallen me save by my own fault, whilst I attribute to natural causes the blessings, of which I have enjoyed many. I think I should go mad if in my soliloquies I came across any misfortune which I could not trace to my own fault, for I should not know where to place the reason, and that would degrade me to the rank of creatures governed by instinct alone. I feel that I am somewhat more than a beast. A beast, in truth, is a foolish neighbour of mine, who tries to argue that the brutes reason better than we do.
“I will grant,” I said, “that they reason better than you, but I can go no farther; and I think every reasonable man would say as much.”
This reply has made me an enemy, although he admits the first part of the thesis.
Happier than I, Veronique slept for three hours; but she was disagreeably surprised on my telling her that I had not been able to close an eye, and on finding me in the same state of impotence as before. She began to get angry when I tried to convince her rather too forcibly that my misfortune was not due to my want of will, and then she blamed herself as the cause of my impotence; and mortified by the idea, she endeavoured to destroy the spell by all the means which passion suggested, and which I had hitherto thought infallible; but her efforts and mine were all thrown away. My despair was as great as hers when at last, wearied, ashamed, and degraded in her own eyes, she discontinued her efforts, her eyes full of tears. She went away without a word, and left me alone for the two or three hours which had still to elapse before the dawn appeared.
At day-break Costa came and told me that the sea being rough and a contrary wind blowing, the felucca would be in danger of perishing.
“We will go as soon as the weather improves,” said I; “in the mean time light me a fire”
I arose, and proceeded to write down the sad history of the night. This occupation soothed me, and feeling inclined to sleep I lay down again and slept for eight hours. When I awoke I felt better, but still rather sad. The two sisters were delighted to see me in good health, but I thought I saw on Veronique’s features an unpleasant expression of contempt. However, I had deserved it, and I did not take the trouble of changing her opinion, though if she had been more caressing she might easily have put me in a state to repair the involuntary wrongs I had done her in the night. Before we sat down to table I gave her a present of a hundred sequins, which made her look a little more cheerful. I gave an equal present to my dear Annette, who had not expected anything, thinking herself amply recompensed by my first gift and by the pleasure I had afforded her.
At midnight the master of the felucca came to tell me that the wind had changed, and I took leave of the sisters. Veronique shed tears, but I knew to what to attribute them. Annette kissed me affectionately; thus each played her own part. I sailed for Lerici, where I arrived the next day, and then posted to Leghorn. Before I speak of this town I think I shall interest my readers by narrating a circumstance not unworthy of these Memoirs.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07