Nevertheless, I am not sure that my society will amuse you."
"Very good, I am grateful to you, and I promise you you shall never repent of your kindness. I will do my best to amuse you, and I hope I shall succeed, for you have inspired me with the liveliest interest. We will dine at one to-day."
I did not sit down or look at her books, or even ask her if she had spent a good night. The only thing I noted was that she had looked pale and careworn when I came in, and when I went out her cheeks were the colour of the rose.
I went for a walk in the park, feeling quite taken with this charming woman, and resolved to make her love me, for I did not want to owe anything to gratitude. I felt curious to know where she came from, and suspected she was an Italian; but I determined to ask her no questions for fear of offending her.
When I got home Pauline came down of her own free will, and I was delighted with this, which I took for a good omen. As we had half an hour before us, I asked her how she found her health.
"Nature," she replied, "has favoured me with such a good constitution that I have never had the least sickness in my life, except on the sea."
"You have made a voyage, then."
"I must have done so to come to England."
"You might be an Englishwoman."
"Yes, for the English language has been familiar to me from my childhood."
We were seated on a sofa, and on the table in front of us was a chess-board. Pauline toyed with the pawns, and I asked her if she could play chess.
"Yes, and pretty well too from what they tell me."
"Then we will have a game together; my blunders will amuse you."
We began, and in four moves I was checkmated. She laughed, and I admired her play. We began again, and I was checkmated in five moves. My agreeable guest laughed heartily, and while she laughed I became intoxicated with love, watching the play of her features, her exquisite teeth, and her happy expression. We began another game, Pauline played carelessly, and I placed her in a difficult position.
"I think you may conquer me," said she.
"What happiness for me!"
The servant came in to tell us that dinner was ready.
"Interruptions are often extremely inconvenient," said I, as I offered her my arm, feeling quite sure that she had not lost the significance of my last words, for women find a meaning for everything.
We were just sitting down to table when Clairmont announced my daughter and Madame Rancour.
"Tell them that I am at dinner, and that I shall not be disengaged till three o'clock."
Just as my man was leaving the room to carry back my answer, Sophie rushed in and knelt before me, choking with sobs.
This was too much for me, and raising her I took her on my knees, saying I knew what she had come for, and that for love of her I would do it.
Passing from grief to joy the dear child kissed me, calling me her father, and at last made me weep myself.
"Dine with us, dear Sophie," said I, "I shall be the more likely to do what you wish."
She ran from my arms to embrace Pauline, who was weeping out of sympathy, and we all dined happily together. Sophie begged me to give Madame Rancour some dinner.
"It shall be so if you please, but only for your sake, for that woman Rancour deserves that I should leave her standing at the door to punish her for her impertinence to me when I came to London."
The child amused us in an astonishing way all dinnertime, Pauline keeping her ears open and not saying a word, so surprised was she to hear a child of her age talk in a way that would have excited attention in a woman of twenty. Although perfectly respectful she condemned her mother's conduct, and said that she was unfortunate in being obliged to give her a blind obedience.
"I would wager that you don't love her much."
"I respect, but I cannot love her, for I am always afraid. I never see her without fearing her."
"Why do you weep, then, at her fate?"
"I pity her, and her family still more, and the expressions she used in sending me to you were very affecting."
"What were these expressions?"
"'Go,' said she, 'kneel before him, for you and you alone can soften his heart.'"
"Then you knelt before me because your mother told you to do so."
"Yes, for if I had followed my own inclination I should have rushed to your arms."
"You answer well.