But are you sure of persuading me?"
"No, for one can never be sure of anything; but I have good hopes of success, remembering what you told me at the Hague. My mother told me that I was only three then, but I know I was five. She it was who told me not to look at you when I spoke to you, but fortunately you made her remove her prohibition. Everybody says that you are my father, and at the Hague she told me so herself; but here she is always dinning it into my ears that I am the daughter of M. de Monpernis."
"But, Sophie dear, your mother does wrong in making you a bastard when you are the legitimate daughter of the dancer Pompeati, who killed himself at Vienna."
"Then I am not your daughter?"
"Clearly, for you cannot have two fathers, can you?"
"But how is it that I am your image?"
"It's a mere chance."
"You deprive me of a dream which has made me happy."
Pauline said nothing, but covered her with kisses, which Sophie returned effusively. She asked me if the lady was my wife, and on my replying in the affirmative she called Pauline her "dear mamma," which made "dear mamma" laugh merrily.
When the dessert was served I drew four fifty-pound notes out of my pocket-book, and giving them to Sophie told her that she might hand them over to her mother if she liked, but that the present was for her and not for her mother.
"If you give her the money," I said, "she will be able to sleep to- night in the fine house where she gave me such a poor reception."
"It makes me unhappy to think of it, but you must forgive her."
"Yes, Sophie; but out of love for you."
"Write to her to the effect that it is to me you give the money, not to her; I dare not tell her so myself."
"I could not do that, my dear; it would be insulting her in her affliction. Do you understand that?"
"Yes, quite well."
"You may tell her that whenever she sends you to dine or sup with me, she will please me very much."
"But you can write that down without wounding her, can you not? Do so, I entreat you. Dear mamma," said she, addressing Pauline, "ask papa to do so, and then I will come and dine with you sometimes."
Pauline laughed with all her heart as she addressed me as husband, and begged me to write the desired epistle. The effect on the mother could only let her know how much I loved her daughter, and would consequently increase her love for her child. I gave in, saying that I could not refuse anything to the adorable woman who had honoured me with the name of husband. Sophie kissed us, and went away in a happy mood.
"It's a long time since I have laughed so much," said Pauline, "and I don't think I have ever had such an agreeable meal. That child is a perfect treasure. She is unhappy, poor little girl, but she would not be so if I were her mother."
I then told her of the true relationship between Sophie and myself, and the reasons I had for despising her mother.
"I wonder what she will say when Sophie tells her that she found you at table with your wife."
"She won't believe it, as she knows my horror for the sacrament of matrimony."
"How is that?"
"I hate it because it is the grave of love."
As she said this Pauline sighed, and lowering her eyes changed the conversation. She asked me how long I intended to stay in London and when I had replied, "Nine or ten months," I felt myself entitled to ask her the same question.
"I really can't say," she answered, "my return to my country depends on my getting a letter."
"May I ask you what country you come from?"
"I see I shall soon have no secrets from you, but let me have a little time. I have only made your acquaintance to-day, and in a manner which makes me have a very high opinion of you."
"I shall try my best to deserve the good opinions you have conceived of my character."
"You have shewn yourself to me in a thoroughly estimable light."
"Give me your esteem, I desire it earnestly, but don't say anything of respect, for that seems to shut out friendship; I aspire to yours, and I warn you that I shall do my best to gain it."
"I have no doubt you are very clever in that way, but you are generous too, and I hope you will spare me.