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.