"If I had foreseen that," I answered, "I would have ordered a good supper, whereas I have now only potluck to offer you."
"Never mind. How many shall we be?"
"So much the better; we shall be more at liberty."
"Then you don't like the princess?"
"I beg your pardon, but she wants me to kiss her in a way I don't like."
"Nevertheless, you kissed her ardently enough."
"I was afraid she would take me for a simpleton if I did not do so."
"Then do you think you committed a sin in kissing her like that?"
"Certainly not, for it was very unpleasant for me."
"Then why won't you make the same effort on my behalf?"
She said nothing, and when we got to the inn I ordered them to light a fire and to get a good supper ready.
The waiter asked me if I would like some oysters, and noticing the curiosity of my guests on the subject I asked him how much they were."
"They are from the arsenal at Venice," he replied, "and we can't sell them under fifty pains a hundred."
"Very good, I will take a hundred, but you must open them here."
Armelline was horrified to think that I was going to pay five crowns for her whim, and begged me to revoke the order; but she said nothing when I told her that no pleasure of hers could be bought too dearly by me.
At this she took my hand and would have carried it to her lips, but I took it away rather roughly, greatly to her mortification.
I was sitting in front of the fire between them, and I was sorry at having grieved her.
"I beg pardon, Armelline," I said, "I only took my hand away because it was not worthy of being carried to your fair lips."
In spite of this excuse she could not help two big tears coursing down her blushing cheeks. I was greatly pained.
Armelline was a tender dove, not made to be roughly treated. If I did not want her to hate me I felt that I must either not see her at all or treat her more gently for the future.
Her tears convinced me that I had wounded her feelings terribly, and I got up and went out to order some champagne.
When I came back I found that she had been weeping bitterly. I did not know what to do; I begged her again and again to forgive me, and to be gay once more, unless she wished to subject me to the severest of all punishments.
Emilie backed me up, and on taking her hand and covering it with kisses, I had the pleasure of seeing her smile once more.
The oysters were opened in our presence, and the astonishment depicted on the girls' countenances would have amused me if my heart had been more at ease. But I was desperate with love, and Armelline begged me vainly to be as I was when we first met.
We sat down, and I taught my guests how to suck up the oysters, which swam in their own liquid, and were very good.
Armelline swallowed half a dozen, and then observed to her friend that so delicate a morsel must be a sin.
"Not on account of its delicacy," said Emilie, "but because at every mouthful we swallow half a Paul."
"Half a Paul!" said Armelline, "and the Holy Father does not forbid such a luxury? If this is not the sin of gluttony, I don't know what is. These oysters are delightful; but I shall speak about the matter to my director."
These simplicities of hers afforded me great mental pleasure, but I wanted bodily pleasure as well.
We ate fifty oysters, and drank two bottles of sparkling champagne, which made my two guests eruct and blush and laugh at the same time.
I would fain have laughed too and devoured Armelline with my kisses, but I could only devour her with by eyes.
I kept the remainder of the oysters for dessert, and ordered the supper to be served. It was an excellent meal, and the two heroines enjoyed it; even Emilie became quite lively.
I ordered up lemons and a bottle of rum, and after having the fifty remaining oysters opened I sent the waiter away. I then made a bowl of punch, pouring in a bottle of champagne as a finishing touch.
After they had swallowed a few oysters and drank one or two glasses of punch, which they liked amazingly, I begged Emilie to give me an oyster with her lips.