"Whatever you like, but at once, at once."
"That's it," said Marguerite, jumping like a child, "we'll have supper. How tiresome that idiot of a count is!"
The more I saw her, the more she enchanted me. She was exquisitely beautiful. Her slenderness was a charm. I was lost in contemplation.
What was passing in my mind I should have some difficulty in explaining. I was full of indulgence for her life, full of admiration for her beauty. The proof of disinterestedness that she gave in not accepting a rich and fashionable young man, ready to waste all his money upon her, excused her in my eyes for all her faults in the past.
There was a kind of candour in this woman. You could see she was still in the virginity of vice. Her firm walk, her supple figure, her rosy, open nostrils, her large eyes, slightly tinged with blue, indicated one of those ardent natures which sbed around them a sort of voluptuous perfume, like Eastern vials, which, close them as tightly as you will, still let some of their perfume escape. Finally, whether it was simple nature or a breath of fever, there passed from time to time in the eyes of this woman a glimmer of desire, giving promise of a very heaven for one whom she should love. But those who had loved Marguerite were not to be counted, nor those whom she had loved.
In this girl there was at once the virgin whom a mere nothing had turned into a courtesan, and the courtesan whom a mere nothing would have turned into the most loving and the purest of virgins. Marguerite had still pride and independence, two sentiments which, if they are wounded, can be the equivalent of a sense of shame. I did not speak a word; my soul seemed to have passed into my heart and my heart into my eyes.
"So," said she all at once, "it was you who came to inquire after me when I was ill?"
"Do you know, it was quite splendid of you! How can I thank you for it?"