de Ximenes expressed his admiration of the way the question had been solved, adding,--
"Naturally, if the son of the woman married, his children would be seven-eighths men and one-eighth gods."
"Yes," said I, "unless he married a goddess, which would have made the proportion different."
"Tell me exactly," said Hedvig, "what proportion of divinity there would be in a child of the sixteenth generation."
"Give me a pencil and I will soon tell you," said M. de Ximenes.
"There is no need to calculate it," said I; "the child would have some small share of the wit which you enjoy."
Everybody applauded this gallant speech, which did not by any means offend the lady to whom it was addressed.
This pretty blonde was chiefly desirable for the charms of her intellect. We rose from the table and made a circle round her, but she told us with much grace not to pay her any more compliments.
I took Helen aside, and told her to get her cousin to choose a ring from my casket, which I gave her, and she seemed glad to execute the commission. A quarter of an hour afterwards Hedvig came to shew me her hand adorned with the ring she had chosen. I kissed it rapturously, and she must have guessed from the warmth of my kisses with what feelings she had inspired me.
In the evening Helen told the syndic and the three girls all about the morning's discussion without leaving out the smallest detail. She told the story with ease and grace, and I had no occasion to prompt her. We begged her to stay to supper, but she whispered something to the three friends, and they agreed that it was impossible; but she said that she might spend a couple of days with them in their country house on the lake, if they would ask her mother.
At the syndic's request the girls called on the mother the next day, and the day after that they went off with Helen. The same evening we went and supped with them, but we could not sleep there. The syndic was to take me to a house at a short distance off, where we should be very comfortable. This being the case there was no hurry, and the eldest girl said that the syndic and I could leave whenever we liked, but that they were going to bed. So saying she took Helen to her room, while the two others slept in another room. Soon after the syndic went into the room where Helen was, and I visited the two others.
I had scarcely been with my two sweethearts for an hour when the syndic interrupted my erotic exploits by begging me to go.
"What have you done with Helen?" I asked.
"Nothing; she's a simpleton, and an intractable one. She hid under the sheets and would not look at my performance with her friend."
"You ought to go to her direct."
"I have done so, but she repulsed me again and again. I have given it up, and shall not try it again, unless you will tame her for me."
"How is it to be done?"
"Come to dinner to-morrow. I shall be away at Geneva. I shall be back by supper-time. I wish we could give her too much to drink!"
"That would be a pity. Let me see what I can do."
I accordingly went to dine with them by myself the next day, and they entertained me in all the force of the word. After dinner we went for a walk, and the three friends understanding my aims left me alone with the intractable girl, who resisted my caresses in a manner which almost made me give up the hope of taming her.
"The syndic," said I, "is in love with you, and last night . . .
"Last night," she said, "he amused himself with his old friend. I am for everyone's following their own tastes, but I expect to be allowed to follow mine."
"If I could gain your heart I should be happy."
"Why don't you invite the pastor and my cousin to dine with you? I could come too, for the pastor makes much of everyone who loves his niece."
"I am glad to hear that. Has she a lover?"
"I can scarcely believe it. She is young, pretty, agreeable, and very clever."
"You don't understand Genevan ways. It is because she is so clever that no young man falls in love with her.