I took out a picture of a naked woman lying on her back and abusing herself, and covering up the lower part of it I shewed it to Leah.
"But her breast is like any other," said Leah.
"Take away your handkerchief."
"Take it back; it's disgusting. It's well enough done," she added, with a burst of laughter, "but it's no novelty for me."
"No novelty for you?"
"Of course not; every girl does like that before she gets married."
"Then you do it, too?"
"Whenever I want to."
"Do it now."
"A well-bred girl always does it in private."
"And what do you do after?"
"If I am in bed I go to sleep."
"My dear Leah, your sincerity is too much for me. Either be kind or visit me no more."
"You are very weak, I think."
"Yes, because I am strong."
"Then henceforth we shall only meet at dinner. But chew me some more miniatures."
"I have some pictures which you will not like."
"Let me see them."
I gave her Arentin's figures, and was astonished to see how coolly she examined them, passing from one to the other in the most commonplace way.
"Do you think them interesting?" I said.
"Yes, very; they are so natural. But a good girl should not look at such pictures; anyone must be aware that these voluptuous attitudes excite one's emotions."
"I believe you, Leah, and I feel it as much as you. Look here!"
She smiled and took the book away to the window, turning her back towards me without taking any notice of my appeal.
I had to cool down and dress myself, and when the hairdresser arrived Leah went away, saying she would return me my book at dinner.
I was delighted, thinking I was sure of victory either that day or the next, but I was out of my reckoning.
We dined well and drank better. At dessert Leah took the book out of her pocket and set me all on fire by asking me to explain some of the pictures but forbidding all practical demonstration.
I went out impatiently, determined to wait till next morning.
When the cruel Jewess came in the morning she told me that she wanted explanations, but that I must use the pictures and nothing more as a demonstration of my remarks.
"Certainly," I replied, "but you must answer all my questions as to your sex."
"I promise to do so, if they arise naturally from the pictures."
The lesson lasted two hours, and a hundred times did I curse Aretin and my folly in shewing her his designs, for whenever I made the slightest attempt the pitiless woman threatened to leave me. But the information she gave me about her own sex was a perfect torment to me. She told me the most lascivious details, and explained with the utmost minuteness the different external and internal movements which would be developed in the copulations pictured by Aretin. I thought it quite impossible that she could be reasoning from theory alone. She was not troubled by the slightest tincture of modesty, but philosophized on coition as coolly and much more learnedly than Hedvig. I would willingly have given her all I possessed to crown her science by the performance of the great work. She swore it was all pure theory with her, and I thought she must be speaking the truth when she said she wanted to get married to see if her notions were right or wrong. She looked pensive when I told her that the husband destined for her might be unable to discharge his connubial duties more than once a week.
"Do you mean to say," said she, "that one man is not as good as another?"
"How do you mean?"
"Are not all men able to make love every day, and every hour, just as they eat, drink and sleep every day?"
"No, dear Leah, they that can make love every day are very scarce."
In my state of chronic irritation I felt much annoyed that there was no decent place at Ancona where a man might appease his passions for his money. I trembled to think that I was in danger of falling really in love with Leah, and I told the consul every day that I was in no hurry to go. I was as foolish as a boy in his calf-love. I pictured Leah as the purest of women, for with strong passions she refused to gratify them. I saw in her a model of virtue; she was all self-restraint and purity, resisting temptation in spite of the fire that consumed her.