Miss Chudleigh happened to be at the window, and seeing me thrown to the ground uttered a shriek. I raised my head and she recognized me, and hastened to send some of her people to help me. As soon as I was on my feet I wanted to go and thank her, but I could not stir, and a valet who knew something of surgery examined me, and declared that I had put out my collar-bone and would require a week's rest.
The young lady told me that if I liked to stay in her house the greatest care should be taken of me. I thanked her warmly, but begged her to have me taken home, as I should not like to give her so much trouble. She immediately gave the necessary orders, and I was driven home in a comfortable carriage. The servants in charge would not acept any money, and I saw in the incident a proof of that hospitality for which the English are famed, although they are at the same time profoundly egotistic.
When I got home I went to bed, and sent for a surgeon, who laughed when I told him that I had put out a bone.
"I'll wager it is nothing more than a sprain. I only wish it was put out that I might have some chance of shewing my skill."
"I am delighted," I said, "not to be in a position to call for that amount of talent, but I shall have a high opinion of you if you set me up in a short time."
I did not see Pauline, much to my astonishment. I was told she had gone out in a sedan-chair, and I almost felt jealous. In two hours she came in looking quite frightened, the old house-keeper having told her that I had broken my leg, and that the doctor had been with me already.
"Unhappy wretch that I am!" she exclaimed as she came to my bedside, "'tis I that have brought you to this."
With these words she turned pale and almost fell in a swoon beside me.
"Divine being!" I cried, as I pressed her to my breast, "it is nothing; only a sprain."
"What pain that foolish old woman has given me!
"God be praised that it is no worse! Feel my heart."
"Oh, yes! I felt it with delight. It was a happy fall for me."
Fastening my lips on hers, I felt with delight that our transports were mutual, and I blessed the sprain that had brought me such bliss.
After these ectasies I felt that Pauline was laughing.
"What are you laughing at, sweetheart?"
"At the craft of love, which always triumphs at last."
"Where have you been?"
"I went to my old jeweler's to redeem my ring, that you might have a souvenir of me; here it is."
"Pauline! Pauline! a little love would have been much more precious to me than this beautiful ring."
"You shall have both. Till the time of my departure, which will come only too soon, we will live together like man and wife; and to-night shall be our wedding night, and the bed the table for the feast."
"What sweet news you give me, Pauline! I cannot believe it till my happiness is actually accomplished."
"You may doubt, if you like; but let it be a slight doubt, or else you will do me wrong. I am tired of living with you as a lover and only making you wretched, and the moment I saw you on horseback I determined to belong to you. Consequently I went to redeem the ring directly you left, and I do not intend to leave you until I receive the fatal message from Lisbon. I have dreaded its arrival every day for the last week."
"May the messenger that brings it be robbed on the way."
"No such luck, I am afraid."
As Pauline was standing, I asked her to come to my arms, for I longed to give her some palpable signs of my love.
"No, dearest, one can love and yet be wise; the door is open."
She got down Ariosto and began to read to me the adventure of Ricciardetto with Fiordespina, an episode which gives its beauty to the twenty-ninth canto of that beautiful poem which I knew by heart. She imagined that she was the princess, and I Ricciardetto. She liked to fancy,
'Che il ciel L'abbia concesso, Bradamante cangiata in miglior sesso.'
When she came to the lines;
'Le belle braccia al collo indi mi getta, E dolcemente stringe, a baccia in bocca: Tu puoi pensar se allora la saetta Dirizza Amor, se in mezzo al cor mi tocca.'
She wanted some explanations on the expression 'baccia in bocca', and on the love which made Ricciardetto's arrow so stiff, and I, only too ready to comment on the text, made her touch an arrow as stiff as Ricciardetto's.