In the midst of all this gaiety I could not help stealing many a furtive glance towards Callimena. I addressed her again and again, and she answered me politely but so briefly as to give me no opportunity of displaying my powers in the way of persiflage.
I asked if her name was her family name or a pseudonym.
"It is my baptismal name."
"It is Greek; but, of course, you know what it means?"
"Mad beauty, or fair moon."
"I am glad to say that I have nothing in common with my name."
"Have you any brothers or sisters?"
"I have only one married sister, with whom you may possibly be acquainted."
"What is her name, and who is her husband?"
"Her husband is a Piedmontese, but she does not live with him."
"Is she the Madame Slopis who travels with Aston?"
"I can give you good news of her."
After dinner I asked Agatha how she came to know Callimena.
"My husband is her godfather."
"What is her exact age?"
"She's a simple prodigy! What loveliness!"
"Her sister is still handsomer."
"I have never seen her."
A servant came in and said M. Goudar would like to have a little private conversation with the advocate.
The advocate came back in a quarter of an hour, and informed me that Goudar had given him the two hundred ounces, and that he had returned him the ring.
"Then that's all settled, and I am very glad of it. I have certainly made an eternal enemy of him, but that doesn't trouble me much."
We began playing, and Agatha made me play with Callimena, the freshness and simplicity of whose character delighted me.
I told her all I knew about her sister, and promised I would write to Turin to enquire whether she were still there. I told her that I loved her, and that if she would allow me, I would come and see her. Her reply was extremely satisfactory.
The next morning I went to wish her good day. She was taking a music lesson from her master. Her talents were really of a moderate order, but love made me pronounce her performance to be exquisite.
When the master had gone, I remained alone with her. The poor girl overwhelmed me with apologies for her dress, her wretched furniture, and for her inability to give me a proper breakfast.
"All that make you more desirable in my eyes, and I am only sorry that I cannot offer you a fortune."
As I praised her beauty, she allowed me to kiss her ardently, but she stopped my further progress by giving me a kiss as if to satisfy me.
I made an effort to restrain my ardour, and told her to tell me truly whether she had a lover.
"And have you never had one?"
"Not even a fancy for anyone?"
"What, with your beauty and sensibility, is there no man in Naples who has succeeded in inspiring you with desire?"
"No one has ever tried to do so. No one has spoken to me as you have, and that is the plain truth."
"I believe you, and I see that I must make haste to leave Naples, if I would not be the most unhappy of men."
"What do you mean?"
"I should love you without the hope of possessing you, and thus I should be most unhappy."
"Love me then, and stay. Try and make me love you. Only you must moderate your ecstacies, for I cannot love a man who cannot exercise self-restraint."
"As just now, for instance?"
"Yes. If you calm yourself I shall think you do so for my sake, and thus love will tread close on the heels of gratitude."
This was as much as to tell me that though she did not love me yet I had only to wait patiently, and I resolved to follow her advice. I had reached an age which knows nothing of the impatient desires of youth.
I gave her a tender embrace, and as I was getting up to go I asked her if she were in need of money.
This question male her blush, and she said I had better ask her aunt, who was in the next room.
I went in, and was somewhat astonished to find the aunt seated between two worthy Capuchins, who were talking small talk to her while she worked at her needle.