"What a contrast! Would it be possible for me not to love you, for you to feel nothing for me? Such contradictions strike me as unnatural. But you are growing thinner yourself, and I am dying. It must be so; we shall both die before long, you of consumption, I of exhausting decline; for I am now reduced to enjoying your shadow during the day, during the night, always, everywhere, except when I am in your presence."
At that passionate declaration, delivered with all the ardour of an excited lover, she was surprised, deeply moved, and I thought that the happy hour had struck. I folded her in my arms, and was already tasting the first fruits of enjoyment.... The sentinel knocked twice!... Oh! fatal mischance! I recovered my composure and stood in front of her.... M. D---- R----- made his appearance, and this time he found me in so cheerful a mood that he remained with us until one o'clock in the morning.
My comfits were beginning to be the talk of our society. M. D---- R-----, Madame F----, and I were the only ones who had a box full of them. I was stingy with them, and no one durst beg any from me, because I had said that they were very expensive, and that in all Corfu there was no confectioner who could make or physician who could analyse them. I never gave one out of my crystal box, and Madame F. remarked it. I certainly did not believe them to be amorous philtre, and I was very far from supposing that the addition of the hair made them taste more delicious; but a superstition, the offspring of my love, caused me to cherish them, and it made me happy to think that a small portion of the woman I worshipped was thus becoming a part of my being.
Influenced perhaps by some secret sympathy, Madame F. was exceedingly fond of the comfits. She asserted before all her friends that they were the universal panacea, and knowing herself perfect mistress of the inventor, she did not enquire after the secret of the composition. But having observed that I gave away only the comfits which I kept in my tortoise-shell box, and that I never eat any but those from the crystal box, she one day asked me what reason I had for that. Without taking time to think, I told her that in those I kept for myself there was a certain ingredient which made the partaker love her.
"I do not believe it," she answered; "but are they different from those I eat myself?"
"They are exactly the same, with the exception of the ingredient I have just mentioned, which has been put only in mine."
"Tell me what the ingredient is."
"It is a secret which I cannot reveal to you."
"Then I will never eat any of your comfits."
Saying which, she rose, emptied her box, and filled it again with chocolate drops; and for the next few days she was angry with me, and avoided my company. I felt grieved, I became low-spirited, but I could not make up my mind to tell her that I was eating her hair!
She enquired why I looked so sad.
"Because you refuse to take my comfits."
"You are master of your secret, and I am mistress of my diet."
"That is my reward for having taken you into my confidence."
And I opened my box, emptied its contents in my hand, and swallowed the whole of them, saying, "Two more doses like this, and I shall die mad with love for you. Then you will be revenged for my reserve. Farewell, madam."
She called me back, made me take a seat near her, and told me not to commit follies which would make her unhappy; that I knew how much she loved me, and that it was not owing to the effect of any drug. "To prove to you," she added, "that you do not require anything of the sort to be loved, here is a token of my affection." And she offered me her lovely lips, and upon them mine remained pressed until I was compelled to draw a breath. I threw myself at her feet, with tears of love and gratitude blinding my eyes, and told her that I would confess my crime, if she would promise to forgive me.
"Your crime! You frighten me. Yes, I forgive you, but speak quickly, and tell me all."
"Yes, everything. My comfits contain your hair reduced to a powder. Here on my arm, see this bracelet on which our names are written with your hair, and round my neck this chain of the same material, which will help me to destroy my own life when your love fails me. Such is my crime, but I would not have been guilty of it, if I had not loved you."
She smiled, and, bidding me rise from my kneeling position, she told me that I was indeed the most criminal of men, and she wiped away my tears, assuring me that I should never have any reason to strangle myself with the chain.
After that conversation, in which I had enjoyed the sweet nectar of my divinity's first kiss, I had the courage to behave in a very different manner. She could see the ardour which consumed me; perhaps the same fire burned in her veins, but I abstained from any attack.
"What gives you," she said one day, "the strength to control yourself?"
"After the kiss which you granted to me of your own accord, I felt that I ought not to wish any favour unless your heart gave it as freely. You cannot imagine the happiness that kiss has given me."
"I not imagine it, you ungrateful man! Which of us has given that happiness?"
"Neither you nor I, angel of my soul! That kiss so tender, so sweet, was the child of love!"
"Yes, dearest, of love, the treasures of which are inexhaustible."