“Bravo! for sunsets, for twilights, for moonshine, for deep silence, for starry nights, and silvery seas—in such things you excel; one feels as if one were there, and one envies you the fairy scenes of ocean. But, I implore you, be not sentimental. That is the feeble part of your poetry, to my thinking, and spoils the rest. By the way, I should like to ask you whose are those soft eyes, that silky hair, that radiant smile, and all that assortment of amber, jet, and coral occurring so often in your visions? Is she—or rather, are they—black, yellow, green, or tattooed, for, of course, you have met everywhere beauties of all colors? Several times when it appeared as if the lady of your dreams were white, I fancied you were drawing a portrait of Isabelle Ray. All the girls, your old friends, to whom I have shown At Sea, send you their compliments, to which I join my own. Each of them will beg you to write her a sonnet; but first of all, in virtue of our ancient friendship, I want one myself.
So! she had shown to others what was meant for her alone; what profanation! And what was more abominable, she had not recognized that he was speaking of herself. Ah! there was nothing to be done now but to forget her. Fred tried to do so conscientiously during all his cruise in the Atlantic, but the moment he got ashore and had seen Jacqueline, he fell again a victim to her charms.
BEAUTY AT THE FAIR
She was more beautiful than ever, and her first exclamation on seeing him was intended to be flattering: “Ah! Fred, how much you have improved! But what a change! What an extraordinary change! Why, look at him! He is still himself, but who would have thought it was Fred!”
He was not disconcerted, for he had acquired aplomb in his journeys round the globe, but he gave her a glance of sad reproach, while Madame de Nailles said, quietly:
“Yes, really—How are you, Fred? The tan on your face is very becoming to you. You have broadened at the shoulders, and are now a man—something more than a man, an experienced sailor, almost an old seadog.”
And she laughed, but only softly, because a frank laugh would have shown little wrinkles under her eyes and above her cheeks, which were getting too large.