The Toilet of Venus
Of the manner in which Venus was coiffed and prepared
Before a toilet that shone like the altar of Notre
Dame des Victoires, Venus was seated in a little dressing-gown of
black and heliotrope. The coiffeur Cosmé was caring for her
scented chevelure, and with tiny silver tongs, warm from the caresses
of the flame, made delicious intelligent curls that fell as lightly
as a breath about her forehead and over her eyebrows, and clustered
like tendrils round her neck. Her three favourite girls, Pappelarde,
Blanchemains and Loreyne, waited immediately upon her with perfume
and powder in delicate flacons and frail cassolettes, and held in
porcelain jars the ravishing paints prepared by Chateline for those
cheeks and lips that had grown a little pale with anguish of exile.
Her three favourite boys, Claude, Clair and Sarrasine, stood amorously
about with salver, fan and napkin. Millamant held a slight tray
of slippers, Minette some tender gloves, La Popelinièremistress
of the robeswas ready with a frock of yellow and yellow. La
Zambellina bore the jewels, Florizel some flowers, Amadour a box
of various pins, and Vadius a box of sweets. Her doves, ever in
attendance, walked about the room that was panelled with the gallant
paintings of Jean Baptiste Dorat, and some dwarfs and doubtful creatures
sat here and there lolling out their tongues, pinching each other,
and behaving oddly enough. Sometimes Venus gave them little smiles.
As the toilet was in progress, Priapusa,
the fat manicure and fardeuse, strode in and seated herself by the
side of the dressing-table, greeting Venus with an intimate nod.
She wore a gown of white watered silk with gold lace trimmings and
a velvet necklet of false vermilion. Her hair hung in bandeaux over
her ears, passing into a huge chignon at the back of her head, and
the hat, wide-brimmed and hung with a valance of pink muslin, was
floral with red roses.
Priapusas voice was full of salacious
unction; she had terrible little gestures with the hands, strange
movements with the shoulders, a short respiration that made surprising
wrinkles in her bodice, a corrupt skin, large horny eyes, a parrots
nose, a small loose mouth, great flaccid cheeks, and chin after
chin. She was a wise person, and Venus loved her more than any of
her servants, and had a hundred pet names for her, such as Dear
Toad, Pretty Pol, Cock-robin, Dearest Lip, Touchstone, Little Cough-drop,
Bijou, Buttons, Dear Heart, Dick-dock, Mrs. Manly, Little Nipper,
Cochon-de-lait, Naughty-naughty, Blessèd Thing, and Trump.
The talk that passed between Priapusa and
her mistress was of that excellent kind that passes between old
friends, a perfect understanding giving to scraps of phrases their
full meaning, and to the merest reference a point. Naturally Tannhäuser,
the newcomer, was discussed a little. Venus had not seen him yet,
and asked a score of questions on his account that were delightfully
to the point.
Priapusa told the story of his arrival,
his curious wandering in the gardens, and calm satisfaction with
all he saw there, his impromptu affection for a slender girl upon
the first terrace, of the crowd of frocks that gathered round and
pelted him with roses, of the graceful way he defended himself with
his mask, and of the queer reverence he made to the God of all gardens,
kissing that deity with a pilgrims devotion. Just now Tannhäuser
was at the baths, and was creating a favourable impression.
The report and the coiffing were completed
at the same moment.
Cosmé, said Venus, you
have been quite sweet and quite brilliant. You have surpassed yourself
Madam flatters me, replied
the antique old thing, with a girlish giggle under his black satin
mask. Gad, Madam; sometimes I believe I have no talent
in the world, but tonight I must confess to a touch of the vain
It would pain me horribly to tell you about
the painting of her face; suffice it that the sorrowful work was
accomplished frankly, magnificently, and without a shadow of deception.
Venus slipped away the dressing-gown, and
rose before the mirror in a flutter of frilled things. She was adorably
tall and slender. Her neck and shoulders were wonderfully drawn,
and the little malicious breasts were full of the irritation of
loveliness that can never be entirely comprehended, or ever enjoyed
to the utmost. Her arms and hands were loosely, but delicately articulated,
and her legs were divinely long. From the hip to the knee, twenty-two
inches; from the knee to the heel, twenty-two inches, as befitted
I should like to speak more particularly
about her, for generalities are not of the slightest service in
a description. But I am afraid that an enforced silence here and
there would leave such numerous gaps in the picture that it had
better not be begun at all than left unfinished.
Priapusa grew quite lyric over the dear
little person, and pecked at her arms with kisses.
Dear Tongue, you must really behave
yourself, said Venus, and called Millamant to bring her the
The tray was freighted with the most exquisite
and shapely pantoufles, sufficient to make Cluny a place of naught.
There were shoes of grey and black and brown suède, of white
silk and rose satin, and velvet and sarcenet; there were some of
sea-green sewn with cherry blossoms, some of red with willow branches,
and some of grey with bright-winged birds. There were heels of silver,
of ivory and of gilt; there were buckles of very precious stones
set in most strange and esoteric devices; there were ribands tied
and twisted into cunning forms; there were buttons so beautiful
that the buttonholes might have no pleasure till they closed upon
them; there were soles of delicate leathers scented with maréchale,
and linings of soft stuffs scented with the juice of July flowers.
But Venus, finding none of them to her mind, called for a discarded
pair of blood-red maroquine, diapered with pearls. They looked very
distinguished over her white silk stockings.
As the tray was being carried away, the
capricious Florizel snatched as usual a slipper from it, and fitted
the foot over his penis, and made the necessary movements. That
was Florizels little caprice. Meantime, La Popelinière
stepped forward with the frock.
I shant wear one tonight,
said Venus. Then she slipped on her gloves.
When the toilet was at an end all her doves
clustered round her feet, loving to frôler her ankles with
their plumes, and the dwarfs clapped their hands, and put their
fingers between their lips and whistled. Never before had Venus
been so radiant and compelling. Spiridion, in the corner, looked
up from his game of Spellicans and trembled. Claude and Clair, pale
with pleasure, stroked and touched her with their delicate hands,
and wrinkled her stockings with their nervous lips, and smoothed
them with their thin fingers; and Sarrasine undid her garters and
kissed them inside and put them on again, pressing her thighs with
his mouth. The dwarfs grew very daring, I can tell you. There was
almost a mêlée. They illustrated pages 72 and 73 of
In the middle of it all, Pranzmungel announced
that supper was ready upon the fifth terrace. Ah! cried
Venus, Im famished!