Quick, out with them!"
My charming Portuguese did not reflect that the moon shone full into the room, and that the muslin curtains would not prevent my seeing her exquisite figure, which shewed to greater advantage in the position she happened to take. If Pauline had been a coquette I should have considered her scruples as mere artifice calculated to increase my ardour; but she had no need to use such stratagems. At last she was within my arms, and we clasped each other closely and in silence that was only broken by the murmur of our kisses. Soon our union became closer, and her sighs and the ardour of her surrender shewed me that her passion was more in need of relief than mine. I was sufficiently master of myself to remember that I must have a care for her honour, greatly to her astonishment, for she confessed she had never thought of such a thing, and had given herself up freely, resolved to brave the consequences which she believed to be inevitable. I explained the mystery and made her happy.
Till this moment love alone had swayed me, but now that the bloody sacrifice was over I felt full of respect and gratitude. I told her effusively that I knew how great was my happiness, and that I was ready to sacrifice my life to her to prove my love.
The thought that our embraces would have no dangerous result had put Pauline at her ease, and she have reins to her ardent temperament, while I did valiant service, till at last we were exhausted and the last sacrifice was not entirely consummated. We abandoned ourselves to a profound and peaceful sleep. I was the first to awake; the sun was shining in through the window, and I gazed on Pauline. As I looked at this woman, the first beauty in Portugal, the only child of an illustrious family, who had given herself to me all for love, and whom I should possess for so short a time, I could not restrain a profound sigh.
Pauline awoke, and her gaze, as bright as the rising sun in springtime, fixed itself on me truthfully and lovingly.
"What are you thinking of, dearest?"
"I am trying to convince myself that my happiness is not a dream, and if it be real I want it to last for ever. I am the happy mortal to whom you have given up your great treasure, of which I am unworthy, though I love you tenderly."
"Sweetheart, you are worthy of all my devotion and affection, if you have not ceased to respect me."
"Can you doubt it, Pauline?"
"No, dearest, I think you love me, and that I shall never repent having trusted in you."
The sweet sacrifice was offered again, and Pauline rose and laughed to find that she was no longer ashamed of her nakedness before me. Then, passing from jest to earnest, she said,--
"If the loss of shame is the result of knowledge, how was it that our first parents were not ashamed till they had acquired knowledge?"
"I don't know, dearest, but tell me, did you ever ask your learned Italian master that same question?"
"Yes, I did."
"What did he say?"
"That their shame arose not from their enjoyment, but from disobedience; and that in covering the parts which had seduced them, they discovered, as it were, the sin they had committed. Whatever may be said on the subject, I shall always think that Adam was much more to blame than Eve."
"How is that?"
"Because Adam had received the prohibition from God, while Eve had only received it from Adam."
"I thought that both of them received the prohibition directly from God."
"You have not read Genesis, then."
"You are laughing at me."
"Then you have read it carelessly, because it is distinctly stated that God made Eve after he had forbidden Adam to eat of the fruit."
"I wonder that point has not been remarked by our commentators; it seems a very important one to me."
"They are a pack of knaves, all sworn enemies of women."
"No, no, they give proofs of quite another feeling only too often."
"We won't say anything more about it. My teacher was an honest man."
"Was he a Jesuit?"
"Yes, but of the short robe."
"What do you mean?"
"We will discuss the question another time."
"Very good; I should like to have it proved to me that a man can be a Jesuit and honest at the same time."
"There are exceptions to all rules."
My Pauline was a profound thinker, and strongly attached to her religion.