While I talked I touched their legs, saying it was just as if I were to touch my own.
They did not interrupt this examination which I carried up to the knee, and I told Emilie that all the reward I would ask for my services was that I might see her thighs, to compare them with Armelline's.
"She will be bigger than I," said Armelline, "though I am the taller."
"Well, there would be no harm in letting me see."
"I think there would."
"Well, I will feel with my hands."
"No, you would look at the same time."
"I swear I will not."
"Let me bandage your eyes."
"Certainly; but I will: bandage yours too."
"Yes; we will play, at blindman's buff."
Before the bandaging began I took care to make them swallow a good dose of punch, and, then we proceeded to play. The two girls let me span their thighs several times, laughing and falling over me whenever my hands went too high.
I lifted the bandage and saw everything, but they pretended not to suspect anything.
They treated me in the same way, no doubt to see what it was that they felt when they fell upon me.
This delightful game went on; till exhausted, nature would not allow me to play it any more. I put myself in a state of decency, and then told them to take off their bandages.
They did so and sat beside me, thinking, perhaps, that they would be able to, disavow everything on the score of the bandage.
It seemed to me that Emilie had had a lover, though I took good care not to tell her so; but Armelline was a pure virgin. She was meeker than her friend, and her great eyes shone as voluptuously but more modestly.
I would have snatched a kiss from her pretty mouth, but she turned away her head, though she squeezed my hands tenderly. I was astonished at this refusal after the liberties I had taken with her.
We had talked about balls, and they were both extremely anxious to see one.
The public ball was the rage with all the young Romans. For ten long years the Pope Rezzonico had deprived them of this pleasure. Although Rezzonico forbade dancing, he allowed gaming of every description. Ganganelli, his successor, had other views, and forbade gaming but allowed dancing.
So much for papal infallibility; what one condemns the other approves. Ganganelli thought it better to let his subjects skip than to give them the opportunity of ruining themselves, of committing suicide, or of becoming brigands; but Rezzonico did not see the matter in that light. I promised the girls I would take them to the ball as soon as I could discover one where I was not likely to be recognized.
Three o'clock struck, and I took them back to the convent, well enough pleased with the progress I had made, though I had only increased my passion. I was surer than ever that Armelline was born to exercise an irresistible sway over every man who owed fealty to beauty.
I was amongst her liegemen, and am so still, but the incense is all gone and the censer of no value.
I could not help reflecting on the sort of glamour which made me fall in love with one who seemed all new to me, while I loved her in exactly the same manner as I had loved her predecessor. But in reality there was no real novelty; the piece was the same, though the title might be altered. But when I had won what I coveted, did I realize that I was going over old ground? Did I complain? Did I think myself deceived?
Not one whit; and doubtless for this reason, that whilst I enjoyed the piece I kept my eyes fixed on the title which had so taken my fancy. If this be so, of what use is title at all? The title of a book, the name of a dish, the name of a town--of what consequence are all these when what one wants is to read the book, to eat the dish, and to see the town.
The comparison is a sophism. Man becomes amorous through the senses, which, touch excepted, all reside in the head. In love a beautiful face is a matter of the greatest moment.
A beautiful female body might well excite a man to carnal indulgence, even though the head were covered, but never to real love.