As well be imagined, pederasty has a fine field in this town, where the passions are kept under lock and key.
Amongst the beauties I looked at, one only attracted me. I asked Desarmoises her name, as he knew all of them.
"That's the famous Leah," said he; "she is a Jewess, and impregnable. She has resisted the attacks of the best strategists in Turin. Her father's a famous horse-dealer; you can go and see her easily enough, but there's nothing to be done there."
The greater the difficulty the more I felt spurred on to attempt it.
"Take me there," said I, to Desarmoises.
"As soon as you please."
I asked him to dine with me, and we were on our way when we met M. Zeroli and two or three other persons whom I had met at Aix. I gave and received plenty of compliments, but not wishing to pay them any visits I excused myself on the pretext of business.
When we had finished dinner Desarmoises took me to the horse- dealer's. I asked if he had a good saddle horse. He called a lad and gave his orders, and whilst he was speaking the charming daughter appeared on the scene. She was dazzlingly beautiful, and could not be more than twenty-two. Her figure was as lissom as a nymph's, her hair a raven black, her complexion a meeting of the lily and the rose, her eyes full of fire, her lashes long, and her eye-brows so well arched that they seemed ready to make war on any who would dare the conquest of her charms. All about her betokened an educated mind and knowledge of the world.
I was so absorbed in the contemplation of her charms that I did not notice the horse when it was brought to me. However, I proceeded to scrutinise it, pretending to be an expert, and after feeling the knees and legs, turning back the ears, and looking at the teeth, I tested its behaviour at a walk, a trot, and a gallop, and then told the Jew that I would come and try it myself in top- boots the next day. The horse was a fine dappled bay, and was priced at forty Piedmontese pistoles--about a hundred sequins.
"He is gentleness itself," said Leah, "and he ambles as fast as any other horse trots."
"You have ridden it, then?"
"Often, sir, and if I were rich I would never sell him."
"I won't buy the horse till I have seen you ride it."
She blushed at this.
"You must oblige the gentleman," said her father. She consented to do so, and I promised to come again at nine o'clock the next day.
I was exact to time, as may be imagined, and I found Leah in riding costume. What proportions! What a Venus Callipyge! I was captivated.
Two horses were ready, and she leapt on hers with the ease and grace of a practised rider, and I got up on my horse. We rode together for some distance. The horse went well enough, but what of that; all my eyes were for her.
As we were turning, I said,--
"Fair Leah, I will buy the horse, but as a present for you; and if you will not take it I shall leave Turin today. The only condition I attach to the gift is, that you will ride with me whenever I ask you."
I saw she seemed favourably inclined to my proposal, so I told her that I should stay six weeks at Turin, that I had fallen in love with her on the promenade, and that the purchase of the horse had been a mere pretext for discovering to her my feelings. She replied modestly that she was vastly flattered by the liking I had taken to her, and that I need not have made her such a present to assure myself of her friendship.
"The condition you impose on me is an extremely pleasant one, and I am sure that my father will like me to accept it."
To this she added,--
"All I ask is for you to make me the present before him, repeating that you will only buy it on the condition that I will accept it."
I found the way smoother than I had expected, and I did what she asked me. Her father, whose name was Moses, thought it a good bargain, congratulated his daughter, took the forty pistoles and gave me a receipt, and begged me to do them the honour of breakfasting with them the next day.