If the friendship between us became too ardent, a parting would be dreadful, and we may be parted at any moment, indeed I ought to be looking forward to it."
Our dialogue was getting rather sentimental, and with that ease which is only acquired in the best society, Pauline turned it to other topics, and soon asked me to allow her to go upstairs. I would have gladly spent the whole day with her, for I have never met a woman whose manners were so distinguished and at the same time so pleasant.
When she left me I felt a sort of void, and went to see Madame Binetti, who asked me for news of Pembroke. She was in a rage with him.
"He is a detestable fellow," said she; "he would like to have a fresh wife every day! What do you think of such conduct?"
"I envy him his happiness."
"He enjoys it because all women are such fools. He caught me through meeting me at your house; he would never have done so otherwise. What are you laughing at?"
"Because if he has caught you, you have also caught him; you are therefore quits."
"You don't know what you are talking about."
I came home at eight o'clock, and as soon as Fanny had told Pauline that I had returned she came downstairs. I fancied she was trying to captivate me by her attentions, and as the prospect was quite agreeable to me I thought we should come to an understanding before very long.
Supper was brought in and we stayed at table till midnight, talking about trifles, but so pleasantly that the time passed away very quickly. When she left me she wished me good night, and said my conversation had made her forget her sorrows.
Pembroke came next morning to ask me to give him breakfast, and congratulated me on the disappearance of the bill from my window.
"I should very much like to see your boarder," said he.
"I daresay, my lord, but I can't gratify your curiosity just now, for the lady likes to be alone, and only puts up with my company because she can't help it."
He did not insist, and to turn the conversation I told him that Madame Binetti was furious with him for his inconstancy, which was a testimony to his merits. That made him laugh, and without giving me any answer he asked me if I dined at home that day.
"No, my lord, not to-day."
"I understand. Well, it's very natural; bring the affair to a happy conclusion."
"I will do my best."
Martinelli had found two or three parodies of my notice in the Advertiser, and came and read them to me. I was much amused with them; they were mostly indecent, for the liberty of the press is much abused in London. As for Martinelli he was too discreet and delicate a man to ask me about my new boarder. As it was Sunday, I begged him to take me to mass at the Bavarian ambassador's chapel; and here I must confess that I was not moved by any feelings of devotion, but by the hope of seeing Pauline. I had my trouble for nothing, for, as I heard afterwards, she sat in a dark corner where no one could see her. The chapel was full, and Martinelli pointed out several lords and ladies who were Catholics, and did not conceal their religion.
When I got home I received a note from Madame Cornelis, saying that as it was Sunday and she could go out freely, she hoped I would let her come to dinner. I shewed the letter to Pauline, not knowing whether she would object to dining with her, and she said she would be happy to do so, provided there were no men. I wrote in answer to Madame Cornelis that I should be glad to see her and her charming daughter at dinner. She came, and Sophie did not leave my side for a moment. Madame Cornelis, who was constrained in Pauline's presence, took me aside to express her gratitude and to communicate to me some chimerical schemes of hers which were soon to make her rich.
Sophie was the life and soul of the party, but as I happened to tell her mother that Pauline was a lady who was lodging in my house, she said,
"Then she is not your wife?"
"No; such happiness is not for me. It was a joke of mine, and the lady amused herself at the expense of your credulity."
"Well, I should like to sleep with her."
"Whenever mamma will let me."
"We must first ascertain," said the mother, "what the lady thinks of the arrangement."
"She needn't fear a refusal," said Pauline, giving the child a kiss.