This girl skewed me a repeater, for which she had got up a lottery at twelve francs a ticket. She had ten tickets left; I took them all, and so delighted was she to touch my five Louis that she came and kissed me, and told the knight that her unfaithfulness to him rested only with me.
"I am charmed to hear it," said the Maltese. He asked me to sup with her, and I accepted the invitation, but the sole pleasure I had was looking at the knight at work. He was far inferior to Dolci!
I wished them good night, and went to the house where I had placed the poor girl. The maid skewed me to my room, and I asked her if I might go to the garret. She took the light, I followed her up, and Rosalie, as the poor girl was named, heard my voice and opened the door. I told the maid to wait for me in my room, and I went in and sat down on the bed.
"Are you contented, dear?" I said.
"I am quite happy."
"Then I hope you will be kind, and find room for me in your bed."
"You may come if you like, but I must tell you that you will not find me a maid, as I have had one lover."
"You told me a lie, then?"
"Forgive me, I could not guess you would be my lover."
"I forgive you willingly; all the more so as I am no great stickler for maidenheads."
She was as gentle as a lamb, and allowed me to gaze on all those charms of which my hands and my lips disputed the possession; and the notion that I was master of all these treasures put fire in all my veins, but her submissive air distressed me.
"How is it you do not partake my desires?" said I.
"I dare not, lest you take me for a pretender."
Artifice or studied coquetry might have prompted such an answer, but the real timidity and the frankness with which these words were uttered could not have been assumed. Impatient to gain possession of her I took off my clothes, and on getting into bed to her I was astonished to find her a maid.
"Why did you tell me you had a lover?" said I. "I never heard of a girl telling a lie of that sort before."
"All the same I did not tell a lie, but I am very glad that I seem as if I had done so."
"Tell me all about it."
"Certainly I will, for I want to win your confidence. This is the story:
"Two years ago my mother, though she was hot-tempered, still loved me. I was a needle-woman, and earned from twenty to thirty sous a day. Whatever I earned I gave my mother. I had never had a lover, never thought of such a thing, and when my goodness was praised I felt inclined to laugh. I had been brought up from a child never to look at young men when I met them in the street, and never to reply to them when they addressed any impudence to me.
"Two months ago a fine enough looking young man, a native of Genoa, and a merchant in a small way, came to my mother to get her to wash some very fine cotton stockings which the sea-water had stained. When he saw me he was very complimentary, but in an honest way. I liked him, and, no doubt seeing it, he came and came again every evening. My mother was always present at our interviews, and he looked at me and talked to me, but did not so much as ask to kiss my hand. My mother was very pleased to notice that the young man liked me, and often scolded me because I was not polite enough to him. In time he had to go to Genoa in a small ship which belonged to him, and which was laden with goods. He assured us that he would return again the next spring and declare his intentions. He said he hoped he should find me as good as ever, and still without any lover. This was enough; my mother looked upon him as my betrothed, and let us talk together at the door till midnight. When he went I would shut the door and lie down beside my mother, who was always asleep.
"Four or five days before his departure, he took my arm and got me to go with him to a place about fifty paces from the house to drink a glass of Muscat at a Greek's, who kept his tavern open all night. We were only away for half an hour, and then it was that he first kissed me.