She then wrote to Oeiras, telling him that she had received into her convent a person supposed to be his niece, but as this person was really a man in woman's dress she begged his excellency to remove him as soon as possible.
"When the abbess had written this curious letter she paid a visit to the count, who fell on his knees before her. My good aunt raised him, and shewed him my letter. She said that she had been obliged to write to the minister, and that she had no doubt he would be removed from the convent in the course of a few hours. The count burst into tears, and begging the abbess to protect us both gave her my jewel- casket, which the worthy woman received with great pleasure. She left him, promising to write to me of all that happened.
"The minister was at one of his country estates, and did not receive the abbess's letter till the next day, but hastened to reply in person. My aunt easily convinced his excellency of the need for keeping the matter secret, for a man had been sent into the convent, which would be to her dishonour. She shewed the proud minister the letter she had had from me, and told him how the honest young man had given her my jewel-casket. He thanked her for her open dealing, and begged her pardon with a smile for sending a fine young man to her nunnery.
"'The secret,' said he, 'is of the greatest importance; we must see that it goes no farther. I will relieve you of your false niece, and take her away in my carriage.'
"My aunt took him at his word and brought out the young recluse, who drove away with the minister. The abbess tells me that from that day she has heard nothing about him, but that all Lisbon is talking over the affair, but in a wholly distorted manner. They say that the minister first of all put me under the care of my aunt, but soon after took me away, and has kept me in some secret place ever since. Count Al---- is supposed to be in London, and I in the minister's power, and probably we are supposed to have entered into a tender relationship. No doubt his excellency is perfectly well informed of my doings here, for he knows my address and has spies everywhere.
"On the advice of my aunt I wrote to Oeiras a couple of months ago, telling him that I am ready to return to Lisbon, if I may marry Count Al---- and live in perfect liberty. Otherwise, I declared, I would stay in London, where the laws guaranteed my freedom. I am waiting for his answer every day, and I expect it will be a favourable one, for no one can deprive me of my estates, and Oeiras will probably be only too glad to protect me to lessen the odium which attaches to his name as the murderer of my father."
Pauline made no mystery of the names of the characters, but she may be still alive, and I respect her too well to run the risk of wounding her, though these Memoirs will not see the light of day during my lifetime. It is sufficient to say that the story is known to all the inhabitants of Lisbon, and that the persons who figure in it are public characters in Portugal.
I lived with dear Pauline in perfect harmony, feeling my love for her increase daily, and daily inspiring her with tenderer feelings towards myself. But as my love increased in strength, I grew thin and feeble; I could not sleep nor eat. I should have languished away if I had not succeeded in gratifying my passion. On the other hand, Pauline grew plumper and prettier every day.
"If my sufferings serve to increase your charms," said I, "you ought not to let me die, for a dead man has no suffering."
"Do you think that your sufferings are due to your love for me?"
"There may be something in it, but, believe me, the tender passion does not destroy the appetite nor take away the power of sleep. Your indisposition is undoubtedly due to the sedentary life you have been leading of late. If you love me, give me a proof of it; go out for a ride."
"I cannot refuse you anything, dearest Pauline, but what then?"
"Then you shall find me grateful to you, you will have a good appetite, and will sleep well."
"A horse, a horse! Quick! My boots!" I kissed her hand--for I had not got any farther than that--and began to ride towards Kingston. I did not care for the motion of trotting, so I put my horse at a gallop, when all of a sudden he stumbled, and in an instant I was lying on the ground in front of the Duke of Kingston's house.