I did not stir, as I was sure she would soon come back, putting her down in my own mind as very far removed from silliness or innocence either. I supposed she wished to affect what she did not possess. I was, moreover, delighted at having taken the opportunity so well. I had punished her for having tried to impose on me; and as I had taken a great fancy to her, I was pleased that she seemed to like her punishment. As for her possession of wit, there could be no doubt on that point, for it was she who had sustained the chief part in our dialogue, and my sayings and doings were all prompted by her questions, and the persevering way in which she kept to the subject.
She had not been behind her aunt's chair for five minutes when the latter was looed. She, not knowing whom to attack, turned on her niece and said, "Get you gone, little silly, you are bringing me bad luck! Besides, it is bad manners to leave the gentleman who so kindly offered to keep you company all by himself."
The amiable niece made not answer, and came back to me smiling. "If my aunt knew," said she, "what you had done to me, she would not have accused me of bad manners."
"I can't tell you how sorry I am. I want you to have some evidence of my repentance, but all that I can do is to go. Will you be offended if I do?"
"If you leave me, my aunt will call me a dreadful stupid, and will say that I have tired you out."
"Would you like me to stay, then?"
"You can't go."
"Had you no idea what I shewed you was like till just now?"
"My ideas on the subject were inaccurate. My aunt only took me out of the convent a month ago, and I had been there since I was seven."
"How old are you now?"
"Seventeen. They tried to make me take the veil, but not having any relish for the fooleries of the cloister I refused."
"Are you vexed with me?"
"I ought to be very angry with you, but I know it was my fault, so I will only ask you to be discreet."
"Don't be afraid, if I were indiscreet I should be the first to suffer."
"You have given me a lesson which will come in useful. Stop! stop! or I will go away."
"No, keep quiet; it's done now."
I had taken her pretty hand, with which she let me do as I liked, and at last when she drew it back she was astonished to find it wanted wiping.
"What is that?"
"The most pleasant of substances, which renovates the world."
"I see you are an excellent master. Your pupils make rapid progress, and you give your lessons with such a learned air."
"Now don't be angry with me for what has happened. I should never have dared to go so far if your beauty had not inspired me."
"Am I to take that speech as a declaration of love?"
"Yes, it is bold, sweetheart, but it is sincere. If it were not, I should be unworthy both of you and of myself."
"Can I believe you?"
"Yes, with all your heart. But tell me if I may hope for your love?"
"I don't know. All I know at present is that I ought to hate you, for in the space of a quarter of an hour you have taught me what I thought I should never know till I was married."
"Are you sorry?"
"I ought to be, although I feel that I have nothing more to learn on a matter which I never dared to think about. But how is it that you have got so quiet?"
"Because we are talking reasonably and after the rapture love requires some repose. But look at this!"
"What! again? Is that the rest of the lesson?"
"It is the natural result of it."
"How is it that you don't frighten me now?"
"The soldier gets used to fire."
"I see our fire is going out."
With these words she took up a stick to poke the fire, and as she was stooping down in a favourable position my rash hand dared to approach the porch of the temple, and found the door closed in such sort that it would be necessary to break it open if one wished to enter the sanctuary. She got up in a dignified way, and told me in a polite and feeling manner that she was a well-born girl and worthy of respect. Pretending to be confused I made a thousand excuses, and I soon saw the amiable expression return to the face which it became so well.