Of course, she was angry at that, but her wrath did not last long. She burst out laughing when she came to the lines,
'Io il veggo, io il sento, e a pena vero parmi: Sento in maschio in femina matarsi.'
'Cosi le dissi, e feci ch'ella stessa Trovo con man la veritade expressa.
She expressed her, wonder that this poem abounding in obscenities had not been put on the "Index" at Rome.
"What you call obscenity is mere license, and there is plenty of that at Rome."
"That's a joke which should bring the censures of the Church upon you. But what do you call obscenities, if Ariosto is not obscene?"
"Obscenity disgusts, and never gives pleasure."
"Your logic is all your own, but situated as I am I cannot reargue your proposition. I am amused at Ariosto's choosing a Spanish woman above all others to conceive that strange passion for Bradamante."
"The heat of the Spanish climate made him conclude that the Spanish temperament was also ardent, and consequently whimsical in its tastes."
"Poets are a kind of madmen who allow themselves to give utterance to all their fancies."
The reading was continued, and I thought my time had come when she read the verses:
Io senza scale in su la rooca salto, E to stendardo piantovi di botto, E la nemica mia mi caccio sotto**
**I scaled the rock without a ladder, I planted my standard suddenly, and held my enemy beneath me.
I wanted to give her a practical illustration of the lines, but with that sensibility so natural to women, and which they can use so well as a goad to passion, she said,--
"Dearest, you might make yourself worse; let us wait till your sprain is cured."
"Are we to wait till I am cured for the consummation of our marriage?"
"I suppose so, for if I am not mistaken the thing can't be done without a certain movement."
"You are wrong, dear Pauline, but it would make no difference to me even if it were so. You may be sure I would not put it off till to- morrow, even if it cost me my leg. Besides, you shall see that there are ways and means of satisfying our passions without doing me any harm. Is that enough for you?"
"Well, well, as it is written that a wife should obey her husband, you will find me docile."
"Then we will have no supper. We shall dine with all the better appetite to-morrow. Let us begin now."
"No, for the suspicions of the servants might be aroused. Love has its rules of decency like everything else."
"You talk as wisely as Cato, and I am obliged to confess that you are right in all you say."
Supper was served as usual; it was delicate enough, but the thought of approaching bliss had taken away our appetites, and we ate only for form's sake. At ten o'clock we were at liberty, and could indulge our passion without any fear of being disturbed.
But this delightful woman, who had so plainly told me a few hours before that when I was cured we would live together as man and wife, was now ashamed to undress before me. She could not make up her mind, and told me so, laughing at herself. From this circumstance I gathered that the decency of the body is more tenacious in its grasp than the purity of the soul.
"But, sweetheart," said I, "you dressed and undressed for a fortnight before your betrothed."
"Yes, but he was always lying in his hammock with his back towards me at night, and in the morning he never turned round and wished me good day till he knew I was dressed."
"What, he never turned?"
"I never let him take any liberties."
"Such virtue is incomprehensible to me."
"You see the count was to be my husband, and I was to be his wife, and in such cases a young woman is careful. Besides, I believe that if one will but refrain from taking the first step, continence is easy. Then the count was naturally timid, and would never have taken any liberties without my encouraging him, which I took care not to do. For this once, you will allow me to sleep with you in my clothes."
"Certainly, if you wish me to be dressed also, otherwise it would be unbearable for both of us."
"You are very cruel."
"But, dearest, are you not ashamed of these foolish scruples?"
"Well, well, put out the candles, and in a minute I will be beside you."
"Very good; though the want of light will deprive me of a great pleasure.