First Love (Little Blue Book #1195) by Various


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Page 1

If I do not remember well _when_, I can at least say exactly _how_ my
first love revealed itself. I was very fond--as soon as my aunt had
gone to church to perform her evening devotions--of slipping into her
bedroom and rummaging her chest of drawers, which she kept in
admirable order. Those drawers were to me a museum; in them I always
came across something rare or antique, which exhaled an archaic and
mysterious scent, the aroma of the sandalwood fans which perfumed her
white linen. Pin-cushions of satin now faded; knitted mittens,
carefully wrapped in tissue paper; prints of saints; sewing materials;
a reticule of blue velvet embroidered with bugles, an amber and silver
rosary would appear from the corners: I used to ponder over them, and
return them to their place. But one day--I remember as well as if it
were today--in the corner of the top drawer, and lying on some collars
of old lace, I saw something gold glittering--I put in my hand,
unwittingly crumpled the lace, and drew out a portrait, an ivory
miniature, about three inches long, in a frame of gold.

I was struck at first sight. A sunbeam streamed through the window and
fell upon the alluring form, which seemed to wish to step out of its
dark background and come towards me. It was the most lovely creature,
such as I had never seen except in the dreams of my adolescence. The
lady of the portrait must have been some twenty odd years; she was no
simple maiden, no half-opened rosebud, but a woman in the full
resplendency of her beauty. Her face was oval, but not too long, her
lips full, half-open and smiling, her eyes cast a languishing
side-glance, and she had a dimple on her chin as if formed by the tip
of Cupid's playful finger. Her head-dress was strange but elegant; a
compact group of curls plastered conewise one over the other covered
her temples, and a basket of braided hair rose on the top of her head.
This old-fashioned head-dress, which was trussed up from the nape of
her neck, disclosed all the softness of her fresh young throat, on
which the dimple of her chin was reduplicated more vaguely and
delicately.

As for the dress--I do not venture to consider whether our
grandmothers were less modest than our wives are, or if the confessors
of past times were more indulgent than those of the present; I am
inclined to think the latter, for seventy years ago women prided
themselves upon being Christianlike and devout, and would not have
disobeyed the director of their conscience in so grave and important a
matter. What is undeniable is, that if in the present day any lady
were to present herself in the garb of the lady of the portrait, there
would be a scandal; for from her waist (which began at her armpits)
upwards, she was only veiled by light folds of diaphanous gauze, which
marked out, rather than covered, two mountains of snow, between which
meandered a thread of pearls. With further lack of modesty she
stretched out two rounded arms worthy of Juno, ending in finely molded
hands--when I say _hands_ I am not exact, for, strictly speaking, only
one hand could be seen, and that held a richly embroidered
handkerchief.

Even today I am astonished at the startling effect which the
contemplation of that miniature produced upon me, and how I remained
in ecstasy, scarcely breathing, devouring the portrait with my eyes. I
had already seen here and there prints representing beautiful women.
It often happened that in the illustrated papers, in the mythological
engravings of our dining-room, or in a shop-window, that a beautiful
face, or a harmonious and graceful figure attracted my precociously
artistic gaze. But the miniature encountered in my aunt's drawer,
apart from its great beauty, appeared to me as if animated by a subtle
and vital breath; you could see it was not the caprice of a painter,
but the image of a real and actual person of flesh and blood. The warm
and rich tone of the tints made you surmise that the blood was tepid
beneath that mother-of-pearl skin. The lips were slightly parted to
disclose the enameled teeth; and to complete the illusion there ran
round the frame a border of natural hair, chestnut in color, wavy and
silky, which had grown on the temples of the original.

As I have said, it was more than a copy, it was the reflection of a
living person from whom I was only separated by a wall of glass.--I
seized it, breathed upon it, and it seemed to me that the warmth of
the mysterious deity communicated itself to my lips and circulated
through my veins. At this moment I heard footsteps in the corridor. It
was my aunt returning from her prayers. I heard her asthmatic cough,
and the dragging of her gouty feet. I had only just time to put the
miniature into the drawer, shut it, and approach the window, adopting
an innocent and indifferent attitude.

My aunt entered noisily, for the cold of the church had exasperated
her catarrh, now chronic. Upon seeing me, her wrinkled eyes
brightened, and giving me a friendly tap with her withered hand, she
asked me if I had been turning over her drawers as usual.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Sun 19th May 2019, 17:04