After a troubled night I rose early and went to wish her good morning. She was still asleep, but her sister Eleanore was dressing.
"My sister," said she, "read till three o'clock this morning. Now that she has so many books, she is getting quite mad over them. Let us play a trick on her; get into the bed beside her; it will be amusing to see her surprise when she wakes up."
"But do you think she will take it as a joke?"
"She won't be able to help laughing; besides, you are dressed."
The opportunity was too tempting, and taking off my dressing-gown, I gently crept into the bed, and Eleanore covered me up to my neck. She laughed, but my heart was beating rapidly. I could not give the affair the appearance of a joke, and I hoped Clementine would be some time before she awoke that I might have time to compose myself.
I had been in this position for about five minutes, when Clementine, half asleep and half awake, turned over, and stretching out her arm, gave me a hasty kiss, thinking I was her sister. She then fell asleep again in the same position. I should have stayed still long enough, for her warm breath played on my face, and gave me a foretaste of ambrosia; but Eleanore could restrain herself no longer, and, bursting into a peal of laughter, forced Clementine to open her eyes. Nevertheless, she did not discover that she held me in her arms till she saw her sister standing laughing beside the bed.
"This is a fine trick," said she, "you are two charmers indeed!"
This quiet reception gave me back my self-composure, and I was able to play my part properly.
"You see," said I, "I have had a kiss from my sweet Hebe."
"I thought I was giving it to my sister. 'Tis the kiss that Amaryllis gave to Mistillo."
"It comes to the same thing. The kiss has produced its effects, and Iolas is young again."
"Dear Eleanore, you have gone too far, for we love each other, and I was dreaming of him."
"No, no," said her sister, "Iolas is dressed. Look!"
So saying, the little wanton with a swift movement uncovered me, but at the same time she uncovered her sister, and Clementine with a little scream veiled the charms which my eyes had devoured for a moment. I had seen all, but as one sees lightning. I had seen the cornice and the frieze of the altar of love.
Eleanore then went out, and I remained gazing at the treasure I desired but did not dare to seize. At last I broke the silence.
"Dearest Hebe," said I, "you are certainly fairer than the cupbearer of the gods. I have just seen what must have been seen when Hebe was falling, and if I had been Jupiter I should have changed my mind."
"Sardini told me that Jupiter drove Hebe away, and now I ought to drive Jupiter away out of revenge."
"Yes; but, my angel, I am Iolas, and not Jupiter. I adore you, and I seek to quench the desires which torture me."
"This is a trick between you and Eleanore."
"My dearest, it was all pure chance. I thought I should find you dressed, and I went in to wish you good day. You were asleep and your sister was dressing. I gazed at you, and Eleanore suggested that I should lie down beside you to enjoy your astonishment when you awoke. I ought to be grateful to her for a pleasure which has turned out so pleasantly. But the beauties she discovered to me surpass all the ideas I had formed on the subject. My charming Hebe will not refuse to pardon me."
"No, since all is the effect of chance. But it is curious that when one loves passionately one always feels inquisitive concerning the person of the beloved object."
"It is a very natural feeling, dearest. Love itself is a kind of curiosity, if it be lawful to put curiosity in the rank of the passions; but you have not that feeling about me?"
"No, for fear you might disappoint me, for I love you, and I want everything to speak in your favour."
"I know you might be disappointed, and consequently I must do everything in my power to preserve your good opinion."
"Then you are satisfied with me?"