"What do you want it for?"
"For the blisters that cursed saddle on which I rode six miles gave me."
"Does the ointment do them good?"
"Certainly; it takes away the smart, and by to-morrow I shall be cured, but you must send Costa to me, as I cannot put it on myself."
"Can't I do it?"
"Yes, but I am afraid that would be an abuse of your kindness."
"I guess why; but as I am short-sighted, how shall I see the blisters?"
"If you want to do it for me, I will place myself so that it will be easier for you. Stay, put the candle on this table."
"There you are, but don't let Costa put it on again to-morrow, or he will guess that I or my sister did it to-night."
"You will do me the same service, then, to-morrow?"
"I or my sister, for she will get up early."
"Your sister! No, my dear; she would be afraid of giving me too much pleasure by touching me so near."
"And I am only afraid of hurting you. Is that right? Good heavens! what a state your skin is in!"
"You have not finished yet."
"I am so short-sighted; turn round."
"With pleasure. Here I am."
The little wanton could not resist laughing at what she saw, doubtless, for the first time. She was obliged to touch it to continue rubbing the ointment in, and I saw that she liked it, as she touched it when she had no need, and not being able to stand it any longer I took hold of her hand and made her stop her work in favour of a pleasanter employment.
When she had finished I burst out laughing to hear her ask, in the most serious way, the pot of ointment still in her left hand,
"Did I do it right!"
"Oh, admirably, dear Annette! You are an angel, and I am sure you know what pleasure you gave me. Can you come and spend an hour with me?"
"Wait a bit."
She went out and shut the door, and I waited for her to return; but my patience being exhausted I opened the door slightly, and saw her undressing and getting into bed with her sister. I went back to my room and to bed again, without losing all hope. I was not disappointed, for in five minutes back she came, clad in her chemise and walking on tip-toe.
"Come to my arms, my love; it is very cold."
"Here I am. My sister is asleep and suspects nothing; and even if she awoke the bed is so large that she would not notice my absence."
"You are a divine creature, and I love you with all my heart."
"So much the better. I give myself up to you; do what you like with me, on the condition that you think of my sister no more."
"That will not cost me much. I promise that I will not think of her."
I found Annette a perfect neophyte, and though I saw no blood on the altar of love next morning I did not suspect her on that account. I have often seen such cases, and I know by experience that the effusion of blood or its absence proves nothing. As a general rule a girl cannot be convicted of having had a lover unless she be with child.
I spent two hours of delight with this pretty baby, for she was so small, so delicate, and so daintily shaped all over, that I can find no better name for her. Her docility did not detract from the piquancy of the pleasure, for she was voluptuously inclined.
When I rose in the morning she came to my room with Veronique, and I was glad to see that while the younger sister was radiant with happiness the elder looked pleasant and as if she desired to make herself agreeable. I asked her how she was, and she told me that diet and sleep had completely cured her. "I have always found them the best remedy for a headache." Annette had also cured me of the curiosity I had felt about her. I congratulated myself on my achievement.
I was in such high spirits at supper that M. de Grimaldi thought I had won everything from Veronique, and I let him think so. I promised to dine with him the next day, and I kept my word. After dinner I gave him a long letter for Rosalie, whom I did not expect to see again except as Madame Petri, though I took care not to let the marquis know what I thought.