Her words, which passion made confused, increased my joy; here was no art nor deceit, but simple nature.
There was no mirror in her garret, so she had dressed by her sense of touch, and I could see that she was afraid to stand up and look at herself in the mirror in my room. I knew the weak spot in all women's hearts (which men are very wrong in considering as matter for reproach), and I encouraged her to admire herself, whereupon she could not restrain a smile of satisfaction.
"I think I must be in disguise," said she, "for I have never seen myself so decked out before."
She praised the tasteful simplicity of the dress I had chosen, but was vexed at the thought that her mother would still be displeased.
"Think no more of your mother, dearest one. You look like a lady of quality, and I shall be quite proud when the people at Genoa ask me if you are my daughter."
"Yes, at Genoa. Why do you blush?"
"From surprise; perhaps I may see there one whom I have not yet forgotten."
"Would you like to stay here better?"
"No, no! Love me and be sure that I love you and for your own sake, not from any thought of my own interests."
"You are moved, my angel; let me wipe away your tears with kisses."
She fell into my arms, and she relieved the various feelings of which her heart was full by weeping for some time. I did not try to console her, for she had not grief; she wept as tender souls, and women, more especially, often will. We had a delicious supper to which I did honour for two, for she ate nothing. I asked her if she was so unfortunate as not to care for good food.
"I have as good an appetite as anyone," she replied, "and an excellent digestion. You shall see for yourself when I grow more accustomed to my sudden happiness."
"At least you can drink; this wine is admirable. If you prefer Greek muscat I will send for some. It will remind you of your lover."
"If you love me at all, I beg you will spare me that mortification."
"You shall have no more mortification from me, I promise you. It was only a joke, and I beg your pardon for it."
"As I look upon you I feel in despair at not having known you first."
"That feeling of yours, which wells forth from the depths of your open soul, is grand. You are beautiful and good, for you only yielded to the voice of love with the prospect of becoming his wife; and when I think what you are to me I am in despair at not being sure you love me. An evil genius whispers in my ear that you only bear with me because I had the happiness of helping you."
"Indeed, that is an evil genius. To be sure, if I had met you in the street I should not have fallen head over ears in love with you, like a wanton, but you would certainly have pleased me. I am sure I love you, and not for what you have done for me; for if I were rich and you were poor, I would do anything in the world for you. But I don't want it to be like that, for I had rather be your debtor than for you to be mine. These are my real feelings, and you can guess the rest."
We were still talking on the same subject when midnight struck, and my old landlord came and asked me if I were pleased.
"I must thank you," I replied, "I am delighted. Who cooked this delicious supper?"
"She understands her craft; tell her I thought it excellent."
"Yes, sir, but it is dear."
"Not too dear for me. You shall be pleased with me as I with you, and take care to have as good a supper to-morrow evening, as I hope the lady will be well enough to do justice to the products of your daughter's culinary skill."
"Bed is a capital place to get an appetite. Ah! it is sixty years since I have had anything to do with that sort of thing. What are you laughing at, mademoiselle?"
"At the delight with which you must recollect it."
"You are right, it is a pleasant recollection; and thus I am always ready to forgive young folks the peccadilloes that love makes them commit."
"You are a wise old man," said I, "everyone should sympathise with the tenderest of all our mortal follies."
"If the old man is wise," said Rosalie, when he had left the room, "my mother must be very foolish."
"Would you like me to take you to the play to-morrow?"
"Pray do not.