In Black & White


Title Page
Under the Hill

The Art of the Hoarding
Letters to his Critics
   Pall Mall Budget
   Daily Chronicle
   St. Paul’s
Table Talk
Lines upon Pictures
   St Rose of Lima

The Three Musicians
The Ballad of a Barber
Ave Atque Vale
The Celestial Lover
The Ivory Piece
Prospectus for Volpone

Appendix : Juvenilia
The Valiant
A Ride in an Omnibus
The Confession Album
The Courts of Love
Dante in Exile
Written in Uncertainty
The Morte Darthur

Enoch Soames

Under the Hill
Under the Hill

Chapter VI

Of the amorous encounter which took place between Venus and Tannhäuser

Venus and Tannhäuser had retired to the exquisite little boudoir or pavilion Le Con had designed for the queen on the first terrace, and which commanded the most delicious view of the parks and gardens. It was a sweet little place, all silk curtains and soft cushions. There were eight sides to it, bright with mirrors and candelabra, and rich with pictured panels, and the ceiling, dome-shaped and some thirty feet above the head, shone obscurely with gilt mouldings through the warm haze of candle light below. Tiny wax statuettes dressed theatrically and smiling with plump cheeks, quaint magots that looked as cruel as foreign gods, gilded monticules, pale celadon vases, clocks that said nothing, ivory boxes full of secrets, china figurines playing whole scenes of plays, and a world of strange preciousness crowded the curious cabinets that stood against the walls. On one side of the room there were six perfect little card tables, with quite the daintiest and most elegant chairs set primly round them; so, after all, there may be some truth in that line of Mr. Theodore Watts——
     “I played at picquet with the Queen of Love.”
     Nothing in the pavilion was more beautiful than the folding screens painted by De La Pine, with Claudian landscapes—the sort of things that fairly make one melt, things one can lie and look at for hours together, and forget that the country can ever be dull and tiresome. There were four of them, delicate walls that hem in an amour so cosily, and make room within room.
     The place was scented with huge branches of red roses, and with a faint amatory perfume breathed out from the couches and cushions—a perfume Chateline distilled in secret and called L’Eau Lavante.
     Those who have only seen Venus at the Louvre or the British Museum, at Florence, at Naples, or at Rome, can not have the faintest idea how sweet and enticing and gracious, how really exquisitely she looked lying with Tannhäuser upon rose silk in that pretty boudoir.
     Cosmé’s precise curls and artful waves had been finally disarranged at supper, and strayed-ringlets of black hair fell loosely over Venus’s soft, delicious, tired, swollen eyelids. Her frail chemise and dear little drawers were torn and moist, and clung transparently about her, and all her body was nervous and responsive. Her closed thighs seemed like a vast replica of the little bijou she had between them; the beautiful tétons du derrière were firm as a plump virgin’s cheek, and promised a joy as profound as the mystery of the Rue Vendôme, and the minor chevelure, just profuse enough, curled as prettily as the hair upon a cherub’s head.
     Tannhäuser, pale and speechless with excitement, passed his gem-girt fingers brutally over the divine limbs, tearing away smock and pantalon and stocking, and then, stripping himself of his own few things, fell upon the splendid lady with a deep-drawn breath.
     It is, I know, the custom of all romancers to paint heroes who can give a lady proof of their valliance at least twenty times a night. Now Tannhäuser had no such Gargantuan facility, and was rather relieved when, an hour later, Priapusa and Doricourt and some others burst into the room and claimed Venus for themselves. The pavilion soon filled with a noisy crowd that could scarcely keep its feet. Several of the actors were there, and Lesfesses, who had played Sporion so brilliantly, and was still in his make-up, paid tremendous attention to Tannhäuser. But the Chevalier found him quite uninteresting off the stage, and rose and crossed the room to where Venus and the manicure were seated.
     “How tired the poor baby looks,” said Priapusa. “Shall I put him in his little cot?”
     “Well, if he’s as sleepy as I am,” yawned Venus, “you can’t do better.”
     Priapusa lifted her mistress off the pillows, and carried her in her arms in a nice, motherly way.
     “Come along, children,” said the fat old thing, “come along; it’s time you were both in bed.”

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