"Only for joy at having found the ring; you had concealed it so well! But you owe me a revenge, and this time you shall not beat me."
"We shall see."
We began a new race, and seeing that she was not running very fast, I thought I could easily distance her whenever I liked. I was mistaken. She had husbanded her strength, and when we had run about two-thirds of the race she suddenly sprang forward at full speed, left me behind, and I saw that I had lost. I then thought of a trick, the effect of which never fails; I feigned a heavy fall, and I uttered a shriek of pain. The poor child stopped at once, ran back to me in great fright, and, pitying me, she assisted me to raise myself from the ground. The moment I was on my feet again, I laughed heartily and, taking a spring forward, I had reached the goal long before her.
The charming runner, thoroughly amazed, said to me,
"Then you did not hurt yourself?"
"No, for I fell purposely."
"Purposely? Oh, to deceive me! I would never have believed you capable of that. It is not fair to win by fraud; therefore I have not lost the race."
"Oh! yes, you have, for I reached the goal before you."
"Trick for trick; confess that you tried to deceive me at the start."
"But that is fair, and your trick is a very different thing."
"Yet it has given me the victory, and
"Vincasi per fortund o per ingano, Il vincer sempre fu laudabil cosa"...
"I have often heard those words from my brother, but never from my father. Well, never mind, I have lost. Give your judgment now, I will obey."
"Wait a little. Let me see. Ah! my sentence is that you shall exchange your garters for mine."
"Exchange our garters! But you have seen mine, they are ugly and worth nothing."
"Never mind. Twice every day I shall think of the person I love, and as nearly as possible at the same hours you will have to think of me."
"It is a very pretty idea, and I like it. Now I forgive you for having deceived me. Here are my ugly garters! Ah! my dear deceiver, how beautiful yours are! What a handsome present! How they will please my mother! They must be a present which you have just received, for they are quite new."
"No, they have not been given to me. I bought them for you, and I have been racking my brain to find how I could make you accept them. Love suggested to me the idea of making them the prize of the race. You may now imagine my sorrow when I saw that you would win. Vexation inspired me with a deceitful stratagem which arose from a feeling you had caused yourself, and which turned entirely to your honour, for you must admit that you would have shewn a very hard heart if you had not come to my assistance."
"And I feel certain that you would not have had recourse to that stratagem, if you could have guessed how deeply it would pain me."
"Do you then feel much interest in me?"
"I would do anything in the world to convince you of it. I like my pretty garters exceedingly; I will never have another pair, and I promise you that my brother shall not steal them from me."
"Can you suppose him capable of such an action?"
"Oh! certainly, especially if the fastenings are in gold."
"Yes, they are in gold; but let him believe that they are in gilt brass."
"Will you teach me how to fasten my beautiful garters?"
"Of course I will."
We went upstairs, and after our dinner which we both enjoyed with a good appetite, she became more lively and I more excited by love, but at the same time more to be pitied in consequence of the restraint to which I had condemned myself. Very anxious to try her garters, she begged me to help her, and that request was made in good faith, without mischievous coquetry. An innocent young girl, who, in spite of her fifteen years, has not loved yet, who has not frequented the society of other girls, does not know the violence of amorous desires or what is likely to excite them. She has no idea of the danger of a tete-a-tete. When a natural instinct makes her love for the first time, she believes the object of her love worthy of her confidence, and she thinks that to be loved herself she must shew the most boundless trust.
Seeing that her stockings were too short to fasten the garter above the knee, she told me that she would in future use longer ones, and I immediately offered her those that I had purchased. Full of gratitude she sat on my knees, and in the effusion of her satisfaction she bestowed upon me all the kisses that she would have given to her father if he had made her such a present. I returned her kisses, forcibly keeping down the violence of my feelings. I only told her that one of her kisses was worth a kingdom. My charming C---- C---- took off her shoes and stockings, and put on one of the pairs I had given her, which went halfway up her thigh. The more innocent I found her to be, the less I could make up my mind to possess myself of that ravishing prey.