"You have no right to complain," said she, "Hebe's duty is to keep the cup of the chief of the gods always full."
"Very good; but you know Jupiter sent her away."
"Yes, but I know why. I will take care not to stumble in the same way; and no Ganymede shall take my place for a like cause."
"You are very wise. Jupiter was wrong, and henceforth I will be Hercules. Will that please you, fair Hebe?"
"No; because he did not marry her till after her death."
"True, again. I will be Iolas then, for . . ."
"Be quiet. Iolas was old."
"True; but so was I yesterday. You have made me young again."
"I am very glad, dear Iolas; but remember what I did when he left me."
"And what did you do? I do not remember."
"I did not believe a word he said."
"You can believe."
"I took away the gift I had made."
At these words this charming girl's face was suffered with blushes. If I had touched her with my hand, sure it would have been on fire; but the rays that darted from her eyes froze my heart.
Philosophers, be not angry if I talk of freezing rays. It is no miracle, but a very natural phenomenon, which is happening every day. A great love, which elevates a man's whole nature, is a strong flame born out of a great cold, such as I then felt for a moment; it would have killed me if it had lasted longer.
The superior manner in which Clementine had applied the story of Hebe convinced me not only that she had a profound knowledge of mythology, but also that she had a keen and far-reaching intellect. She had given me more than a glimpse of her learning; she had let me guess that I interested her, and that she thought of me.
These ideas, entering a heart which is already warm, speedily set all the senses in flames. In a moment all doubt was laid to rest; Clementine loved me, and I was sure that we should be happy.
Clementine slipped away from the table to calm herself, and thus I had time to escape from my astonishment.
"Pray where was that young lady educated?" I said to the countess.
"In the country. She was always present when my brother had his lessons, but the tutor, Sardini, never took any notice of her, and it was only she who gained anything; my brother only yawned. Clementine used to make my mother laugh, and puzzle the old tutor sadly sometimes."
"Sardini wrote and published some poems which are not bad; but nobody reads them, because they are so full of mythology."
"Quite so. Clementine possesses a manuscript with which he presented her, containing a number of mythological tales verified. Try and make her shew you her books and the verses she used to write; she won't shew them to any of us."
I was in a great state of admiration. When she returned I complimented her upon her acquirements, and said that as I was a great lover of literature myself I should be delighted if she would shew me her verses.
"I should be ashamed. I had to give over my studies two years ago, when my sister married and we came to live here, where we only see honest folks who talk about the stable, the harvest, and the weather. You are the first person I have seen who has talked to me about literature. If our old Sardini had come with us I should have gone on learning, but my sister did not care to have him here."
"But my dear Clementine," said the countess, "what do you think my husband could have done with an old man of eighty whose sole accomplishments are weighing the wind, writing verses, and talking mythology?"
"He would have been useful enough," said the husband, "if he could have managed the estate, but the honest old man will not believe in the existence of rascals. He is so learned that he is quite stupid."
"Good heavens!" cried Clementine. "Sardini stupid? It is certainly easy to deceive him, but that is because he is so noble. I love a man who is easily deceived, but they call me silly."
"Not at all, my dear sister," said the countess. "On the contrary, there is wisdom in all you say, but it is wisdom out of place in a woman; the mistress of a household does not want to know anything about literature, poetry, or philosophy, and when it comes to marrying you I am very much afraid that your taste for this kind of thing will stand in your way."
"I know it, and I am expecting to die a maid; not that it is much compliment to the men."
To know all that such a dialogue meant for me, the reader must imagine himself most passionately in love.