I am a good architect, and I think you are grandly built."
"Stay, Iolas, do not touch me; it is enough that you have seen me."
"Alas! it is by touching that one rectifies the mistakes of the eyes; one judges thus of smoothness and solidity. Let me kiss these two fair sources of life. I prefer them to the hundred breasts of Cybele, and I am not jealous of Athys."
"You are wrong there; Sardini told me that it was Diana of Ephesus who had the hundred breasts."
How could I help laughing to hear mythology issuing from Clementine's mouth at such a moment! Could any lover foresee such an incident?
I pressed with my hand her alabaster breast, and yet the desire of knowledge subdued love in the heart of Clementine. But far from mistaking her condition I thought it a good omen. I told her that she was perfectly right, and that I was wrong, and a feeling of literary vanity prevented her opposing my pressing with my lips a rosy bud, which stood out in relief against the alabaster sphere.
"You apply your lips in vain, my dear Iolas, the land is barren. But what are you swallowing?"
"The quintessence of a kiss."
"I think you must have swallowed something of me, since you have given me a pleasurable sensation I have never before experienced."
"Dear Hebe, you make me happy."
"I am glad to hear it, but I think the kiss on the lips is much better."
"Certainly, because the pleasure is reciprocal, and consequently greater."
"You teach by precept and example too. Cruel teacher! Enough, this pleasure is too sweet. Love must be looking at us and laughing."
"Why should we not let him enjoy a victory which would make us both happier?"
"Because such happiness is not built on a sure foundation. No, no! put your arms down. If we can kill each other with kisses, let us kiss on; but let us use no other arms."
After our lips had clung to each other cruelly but sweetly, she paused, and gazing at me with eyes full of passion she begged me to leave her alone.
The situation in which I found myself is impossible to describe. I deplored the prejudice which had constrained me, and I wept with rage. I cooled myself by making a toilette which was extremely necessary, and returned to her room.
She was writing.
"I am delighted to see you back," said she, "I am full of the poetic frenzy and propose to tell the story of the victory we have gained in verse."
"A sad victory, abhorred by love, hateful to nature."
"That will do nicely. Will each write a poem; I to celebrate the victory and you to deplore it. But you look sad."
"I am in pain; but as the masculine anatomy is unknown to you, I cannot explain matters."
Clementine did not reply, but I could see that she was affected. I suffered a dull pain in that part which prejudice had made me hold a prisoner while love and nature bade me give it perfect freedom. Sleep was the only thing which would restore the balance of my constitution.
We went down to dinner, but I could not eat. I could not attend to the reading of the translation which M. Vigi had brought with him, and I even forgot to compliment him upon it. I begged the count to hold the bank for me, and asked the company to allow me to lie down; nobody could tell what was the matter with me, though Clementine might have her suspicions.
At supper-time Clementine, accompanied by a servant, brought me a delicate cold collation, and told me that the bank had won. It was the first time it had done so, for I had always taken care to play a losing game. I made a good supper, but remained still melancholy and silent. When I had finished Clementine bade me good night, saying that she was going to write her poem.
I, too, was in the vein: I finished my poem, and made a fair copy of it before I went to bed. In the morning Clementine came to see me, and gave me her piece, which I read with pleasure; though I suspect that the delight my praises gave was equal to mine.
Then came the turn of my composition, and before long I noticed that the picture of my sufferings was making a profound impression on her.