In the first verse of the fourth chapter it is written, that Adam knew his wife after they had been driven from the Garden, and that in consequence she conceived Cain."
"Yes, but the verse does not say that Adam did not know her before and consequently he might have done so."
"I cannot admit the inference, as in that case she would have conceived; for it would be absurd to suppose that two creatures who had just left God's hands, and were consequently as nearly perfect as is possible, could perform the act of generation without its having any result."
This reply gained everyone's applause, and compliments to Hedvig made the round of the table.
Mr. Tronchin asked her if the doctrine of the immortality of the soul could be gathered from the Old Testament alone.
"The Old Testament," she replied, "does not teach this doctrine; but, nevertheless, human reason teaches it, as the soul is a substance, and the destruction of any substance is an unthinkable proposition."
"Then I will ask you," said the banker, "if the existence of the soul is established in the Bible."
"Where there is smoke there is always fire."
"Tell me, then, if matter can think."
"I cannot answer that question, for it is beyond my knowledge. I can only say that as I believe God to be all powerful, I cannot deny Him the power to make matter capable of thought."
"But what is your own opinion?"
"I believe that I have a soul endowed with thinking capacities, but I do not know whether I shall remember that I had the honour of dining with you to-day after I die."
"Then you think that the soul and the memory may be separable; but in that case you would not be a theologian."
"One may be a theologian and a philosopher, for philosophy never contradicts any truth, and besides, to say 'I do not know' is not the same as 'I am sure'"
Three parts of the guests burst into cries of admiration, and the fair philosopher enjoyed seeing me laugh for pleasure at the applause. The pastor wept for joy, and whispered something to Helen's mother. All at once he turned to me, saying,--
"Ask my niece some question."
"Yes," said Hedvig, "but it must be something quite new."
"That is a hard task," I replied, "for how am I to know that what I ask is new to you? However, tell me if one must stop at the first principle of a thing one wants to understand."
"Certainly, and the reason is that in God there is no first principle, and He is therefore incomprehensible."
"God be praised! that is how I would have you answer. Can God have any self-consciousness?"
"There my learning is baffled. I know not what to reply. You should not ask me so hard a thing as that."
"But you wished for something new. I thought the newest thing would be to see you at a loss."
"That's prettily said. Be kind enough to reply for me, gentlemen, and teach me what to say."
Everybody tried to answer, but nothing was said worthy of record. Hedvig at last said,--
"My opinion is that since God knows all, He knows of His own existence, but you must not ask me how He knows it."
"That's well said," I answered; and nobody could throw any further light on the matter.
All the company looked on me as a polite Atheist, so superficial is the judgment of society, but it did not matter to me whether they thought me an Atheist or not.
M. de Ximenes asked Hedvig if matter had been created.
"I cannot recognize the word 'created,'" she replied. "Ask me whether matter was formed, and I shall reply in the affirmative. The word 'created' cannot have existence, for the existence of anything must be prior to the word which explains it."
"Then what meaning do you assign to the word 'created'?"
"Made out of nothing. You see the absurdity, for nothing must have first existed. I am glad to see you laugh. Do you think that nothingness could be created?"
"You are right."
"Not at all, not at all," said one of the guests, superciliously.
"Kindly tell me who was your teacher?" said M. de Ximenes.
"My uncle there."
"Not at all, my dear niece.