Pauline’s Story — I Am Happy — Pauline Leaves Me
I am the only daughter of the unfortunate Count X——o, whom Carvailho Oeiras killed in prison on suspicion of being concerned in the attempt on the king’s life, in which the Jesuits were supposed to have had a hand. I do not know whether my father was innocent or guilty, but I do know that the tyrannical minister did not dare to have him tried, or to confiscate the estates, which remain in my possession, though I can only enjoy them by returning to my native land.
“My mother had me brought up in a convent where her sister was abbess. I had all kinds of masters, especially an Italian from Leghorn, who in six years taught me all that he thought proper for me to know. He would answer any questions I chose to put him, save on religious matters, but I must confess that his reserve made me all the fonder of him, for in leaving me to reflect on certain subjects by myself he did a great deal to form my judgment.
“I was eighteen when my grandfather removed ms from the convent, although I protested that I would gladly stay there till I got married. I was fondly attached to my aunt, who did all in her power after my mother’s death to make me forget the double loss I had sustained. My leaving the convent altered the whole course of my existence, and as it was not a voluntary action I have nothing to repent of.
“My grandfather placed me with his sister-in-law, the Marchioness X——o, who gave me up half her house. I had a governess, a companion, maids, pages, and footmen, all of whom, though in my service, were under the orders of my governess, a well-born lady, who was happily honest and trustworthy.
“A year after I had left the convent my grandfather came and told me in the presence of my governess that Count Fl —— had asked my hand for his son, who was coming from Madrid end would arrive that day.
“‘What answer did you give him, dear grandfather?’
“‘That the marriage would be acceptable to the whole of the nobility, and also to the king and royal family.’
“‘But are you quite sure that the young count will like me and that I shall like the count?’
“‘That, my dear daughter, is a matter of course, and there need be no discussion on the subject.’
“‘But it is a question in which I am strongly interested, and I should like to consider it very carefully. We shall see how matters arrange themselves.’
“‘You can see each other before deciding, but you must decide all the same.’
“‘I hope so, but let us not be too certain. We shall see.’
“As soon as my grandfather had gone I told my governess that I had made up my mind never to give my hand save where I had given my heart, and that I should only marry a man whose character and tastes I had carefully studied. My governess gave me no answer, and on my pressing her to give me her opinion, she replied that she thought her best course would be to keep silence on such a delicate question. This was as much as to tell me that she thought I was right; at least I persuaded myself that it was so.
“The next day I went to the convent, and told the story to my aunt, the abbess, who listened to me kindly and said it was to be hoped that I should fall in love with him and he with me, but that even if it were otherwise she was of opinion that the marriage would take place, as she had reasons for believing that the scheme came from the Princess of Brazil, who favoured Count Fl ——.
“Though this information grieved me, I was still glad to hear it, and my resolution never to marry save for love was all the more strongly confirmed.
“In the course of a fortnight the count arrived, and my grandfather presented him to me, several ladies being in the company. Nothing was said about marrying, but there was a deal of talk about the strange lands and peoples the new arrival had seen. I listened with the greatest attention, not opening my mouth the whole time. I had very little knowledge of the world, so I could not make any comparisons between my suitor and other men, but my conclusion was that he could never hope to please any woman, and that he would certainly never be mine. He had an unpleasant sneering manner, joked in bad taste, was stupid, and a devotee, or rather a fanatic. Furthermore he was ugly and ill-shapen, and so great a fop that he was not ashamed to relate the story of his conquests in France and Italy.
“I went home hoping with all my heart that he had taken a dislike to me, and a week which passed away without my hearing anything on the subject confirmed me in this belief, but I was doomed to be disappointed. My great-aunt asked me to dinner, and when I went I found the foolish young man and his father present, together with my grandfather, who formally introduced him to me as my future husband, and begged me to fix the wedding day. I made up my mind that I would rather die than marry him, and answered politely but coldly that I would name the day when I had decided on marrying, but I should require time to think it over. The dinner went off silently, and I only opened my mouth to utter monosyllables in reply to questions which I could not avoid. After the coffee had been served I left the house, taking no notice of anyone besides my aunt and my grandfather.
“Some time elapsed; and I again began to hope that I had effectually disgusted my suitor, but one morning my governess told me that Father Freire was waiting to speak to me in the ante-chamber. I ordered him to be sent in. He was the confessor of the Princess of Brazil, and after some desultory conversation he said the princess had sent him to congratulate me on my approaching marriage with Count Fl ——.
“I did not evince any surprise, merely replying that I was sensible of her highness’s kindness, but that nothing had been decided so far, as I was not thinking of getting married.
“The priest, who was a perfect courtier, smiled in a manner, half kindly, half sardonic, and said that I was at that happy age when I had no need to think of anything, as my kind friends and relations did all my thinking for me.
“I only answered by an incredulous smile, which, for all his monastic subtlety, struck him as the expression of a young girl’s coyness.
“Foreseeing the persecution to which I should be subjected, I went the next day to my aunt the abbess, who could not refuse me her advice. I began by stating my firm resolve to die rather than wed a being I detested.
“The worthy nun replied that the count had been introduced to her, and that to tell the truth she thought him insufferable; all the same, she said she was afraid I should be made to marry him.
“These words were such a shock to me that I turned the conversation, and spoke of other subjects for the remainder of my visit. But when I got back to my house I pursued an extraordinary course. I shut myself up in my closet and wrote a letter to the executioner of my unhappy father, the pitiless Oeiras, telling him the whole story, and imploring him to protect me and to speak to the king in my favour; ‘for,’ said I, ‘as you have made me an orphan it is your duty before God to care for me.’ I begged him to shelter me from the anger of the Princess of Brazil, and to leave me at liberty to dispose of my hand according to my pleasure.
“Though I did not imagine Oeiras to be a humane man, yet I thought he must have some sort of a heart; besides, by this extraordinary step and the firmness of my language, I hoped to appeal to his pride and to interest him in my favour. I felt sure that he would do me justice, if only to prove that he had not been unjust to my father. I was right, as will be seen, and although I was but an inexperienced girl my instinct served me well.
“Two days elapsed before I was waited on by a messenger from Oeiras, who begged the honour of a private interview with me. The messenger told me that the minister wished me to reply to all who pressed me to marry that I should not decide until I was assured that the princess desired the match. The minister begged me to excuse his not answering my letter, but he had good reasons for not doing so. The messenger assured me that I could count on his master’s support.
“His message delivered, the gentleman took leave with a profound bow, and went back without waiting for an answer. I must confess that the young man’s looks had made a great impression on me. I cannot describe my feelings, but they have exerted great influence on my conduct, and will no doubt continue to do so for the rest of my life.
“This message put me quite at ease, for he would never have given me the instructions he did without being perfectly sure that the princess would not interfere any farther with my marriage; and so I gave myself up entirely to the new sentiments which possessed my heart. Though strong, the flame would no doubt soon have died down if it had not received fresh fuel every day, for when I saw the young messenger a week later in church I scarcely recognized him. From that moment, however, I met him everywhere; out walking, in the theatre, in the houses where I called, and especially when I was getting in or out of my carriage he was ever beside me, ready to offer his hand; and I got so used to his presence that when I missed his face I felt a void at my heart that made me unhappy.
“Almost every day I saw the two Counts Fl —— at my great-aunt’s, but as there was no longer any engagement between us their presence neither joyed me nor grieved me. I had forgiven them but I was not happy. The image of the young messenger, of whom I knew nothing, was ever before me, and I blushed at my thoughts though I would not ask myself the reasons.
“Such was my state of mind, when one day I heard a voice, which was unknown to me, in my maid’s room. I saw a quantity of lace on a table and proceeded to examine it without paying any attention to a girl who was standing near the table and curtsying to me. I did not like any of the lace, so the girl said that she would bring me some more to choose from the next day, and as I raised my eyes I was astonished to see that she had the face of the young man who was always in my thoughts. My only resource was to doubt their identity and to make myself believe that I had been deceived by a mere chance likeness. I was reassured on second thoughts; the girl seemed to me to be taller than the young man, whom I hesitated to believe capable of such a piece of daring. The girl gathered up her lace and went her way without raising her eyes to mine, and this made me feel suspicious again.
“‘Do you know that girl?’ I said, coldly, to my maid, and she replied that she had never seen her before. I went away without another word, not knowing what to think.
“I thought it over and resolved to examine the girl when she came on the following day, and to unmask her if my suspicions proved to be well founded. I told myself that she might be the young man’s sister, and that if it were otherwise it would be all the more easy to cure myself of my passion. A young girl who reasons on love falls into love, especially if she have no one in whom to confide.
“The pretended lace-seller duly came the next day with a box of lace. I told her to come into my room, and then speaking to her to force her to raise her eyes I saw before me the being who exerted such a powerful influence over me. It was such a shock that I had no strength to ask her any of the questions I had premeditated. Besides, my maid was in the room, and the fear of exposing myself operated, I think, almost as strongly as emotion. I set about choosing some pieces of lace in a mechanical way, and told my maid to go and fetch my purse. No sooner had she left the room than the lace-seller fell at my feet and exclaimed passionately,
“‘Give me life or death, madam, for I see you know who I am.’
“‘Yes, I do know you, and I think you must have gone mad.’
“‘Yes, that may be; but I am mad with love. I adore you.’
“‘Rise, for my maid will come back directly.’
“‘She is in my secret.’
“‘What! you have dared ’
“He got up, and the maid came in and gave him his money with the utmost coolness. He picked up his lace, made me a profound bow, and departed.
“It would have been natural for me to speak to my maid, and still more natural if I had dismissed her on the spot. I had no courage to do so, and my weakness will only astonish those rigorous moralists who know nothing of a young girl’s heart, and do not consider my painful position, passionately in love and with no one but myself to rely on.
“I did not follow at once the severe dictates of duty; afterwards it was too late, and I easily consoled myself with the thought that I could pretend not to be aware that the maid was in the secret. I determined to dissemble, hoping that I should never see the adventurous lover again, and that thus all would be as if it had never happened.
“This resolve was really the effect of anger, for a fortnight passed by without my seeing the young man in the theatre, the public walks, or in any of the public places he used to frequent, and I became sad and dreamy, feeling all the time ashamed of my own wanton fancies. I longed to know his name, which I could only learn from my maid, and it was out of the question for me to ask Oeiras. I hated my maid, and I blushed when I saw her, imagining that she knew all. I was afraid that she would suspect my honour, and at another time I feared lest she might think I did not love him; and this thought nearly drove me mad. As for the young adventurer I thought him more to be pitied than to be blamed, for I did not believe that he knew I loved him, and it seemed to me that the idea of my despising him was enough vengeance for his audacity. But my thoughts were different when my vanity was stronger than love, for then despair avenged itself on pride, and I fancied he would think no more of me, and perhaps had already forgotten me.
“Such a state cannot last long, for if nothing comes to put an end to the storm which tosses the soul to and fro, it ends at last by making an effort of itself to sail into the calm waters of peace.
“One day I put on a lace kerchief I had bought from him, and asked my maid,
“‘What has become of the girl who sold me this kerchief?’
“I asked this question without premeditation; it was, as it were, an inspiration from my ‘good or my evil genius.
“As crafty as I was simple, the woman answered that to be sure he had not dared to come again, fearing that I had found out his disguise.
“‘Certainly,’ I replied, ‘I found it out directly, but I was astonished to hear that you knew this lace-seller was a young man.’
“‘I did not think I should offend you, madam, I know him well.’
“‘Who is he?
“‘Count d’Al ——; you ought to know him, for he paid you a visit about four months ago’
“‘True, and it is possible that I did not know him, but why did you tell a lie when I asked you, “Do you know that girl?”’
“‘I lied to spare your feelings, madam, and I was afraid you would be angry at the part I had taken:
“‘You would have honoured me more by supposing the contrary. When you went out, and I told him he was mad, and that you would find him on his knees when you returned, he told me you were in the secret.’
“‘If it be a secret, but it seems to me a mere joke:
“‘I wished to think so too, but nevertheless it seemed of such weight to me, that I resolved to be silent that I might not be obliged to send you away.’
“‘My idea was that you would have been amused, but as you take it seriously I am sorry that I have failed in my strict duty.’
“So weak is a woman in love that in this explanation which should have shewn me the servant’s fault in all its enormity I only saw a full justification. In fact she had given peace to my heart, but my mind was still uneasy. I knew that there was a young Count d’Al —— belonging to a noble family, but almost penniless. All he had was the minister’s patronage, and the prospect of good State employments. The notion that Heaven meant me to remedy the deficiencies in his fortune made me fall into a sweet reverie, and at last I found myself deciding that my maid who put it all down as a jest had more wit than I. I blamed myself for my scrupulous behaviour, which seemed no better than prudery. My love was stronger than I thought, and this is my best excuse, besides I had no one to guide or counsel me.
“But after sunshine comes shadow. My soul was like the ebb and tide of the sea, now in the heights and now in the depths. The resolve, which the count seemed to have taken, to see me no more, either shewed him to be a man of little enterprise or little love, and this supposition humiliated me. ‘If,’ I said to myself, ‘the count is offended with me for calling him a madman, he can have no delicacy and no discretion; he is unworthy of my love.’
“I was in this dreadful state of uncertainty when my maid took upon herself to write to the count that he could come and see me under the same diguise. He followed her advice, and one fine morning the crafty maid came into my chamber laughing, and told me that the lace- seller was in the next room. I was moved exceedingly, but restraining myself I began to laugh also, though the affair was no laughing matter for me.
“‘Shall I shew her in? said the maid.
“‘Are you crazy?
“Shall I send her away?
“‘No, I will go and speak to him myself.’
“This day was a memorable one. My maid left the room now and again, and we had plenty of time to disclose our feelings to one another. I frankly confessed that I loved him, but added that it were best that I should forget him, as it was not likely that my relations would consent to our marriage. In his turn he told me that the minister having resolved to send him to England, he would die of despair unless he carried with him the hope of one day possessing me, for he said he loved me too well to live without me. He begged me to allow him to come and see me under the same disguise, and though I could not refuse him anything I said that we might be discovered.
“‘It is enough for me,’ he replied, tenderly, ‘that you will incur no danger, my visits will be set down to the account of your maid.’
“‘But I am afraid for you,’ I replied, ‘your disguise is a crime in itself; your reputation will suffer, and that will not tend to bring the wish of your heart nearer.’
“In spite of my objections, my heart spoke in his favour, and he pleaded so well and promised to be so discreet that at last I said I would see him gladly whenever he liked to come.
“Count Al —— is twenty-two, and is shorter than I; he is small- boned, and in his disguise as a lace-seller it was hard to recognize him, even by his voice, which is very soft. He imitated the gestures and ways of women to perfection, and not a few women would be only too glad to be like him.
“Thus for nearly three months the disguised count came to see me three or four times a week, always in my maid’s room, and mostly in her presence. But even if we had been perfectly alone his fear of my displeasure was too great to allow him to take the slightest liberties. I think now that this mutual restraint added fuel to our flames, for when we thought of the moment of parting it was with dumb sadness and with no idea of taking the opportunity of rendering one another happy. We flattered ourselves that Heaven would work some miracle in our favour, and that the day would never come wherein we should be parted.
“But one morning the count came earlier than usual, and, bursting into tears, told me that the minister had given him a letter for M. de Saa, the Portuguese ambassador at London, and another letter open for the captain of a ship which was shortly to sail for London. In this letter the minister ordered the captain to embark Count Al — — to take him to London, and to treat him with distinction.
“My poor lover was overwhelmed, he was nearly choked with sobs, and his brain was all confusion. For his sake, and taking pity on his grief and my love, I conceived the plan of accompanying him as his servant, or rather to avoid disguising my sex, as his wife. When I told him, he was at once stupefied and dazzled. He was beyond reasoning, and left everything in my hands. We agreed to discuss the matter at greater length on the following day, and parted.
“Foreseeing that it would be difficult for me to leave the house in woman’s dress, I resolved to disguise myself as a man. But if I kept to my man’s dress I should be obliged to occupy the position of my lover’s valet, and have to undertake tasks beyond my strength. This thought made me resolve to impersonate the master myself, but thinking that I should not care to see my lover degraded to the rank of a servant, I determined that he should be my wife, supposing that the captain of the ship did not know him by sight.
“‘As soon as we get to England,’ I thought, ‘we will get married, and can resume our several dresses. This marriage will efface whatever shame may be attached to our flight; they will say, perhaps, that the count carried me off; but a girl is not carried off against her will, and Oeiras surely will not persecute me for having made the fortune of his favourite. As to our means of subsistence, till I get my rents, I can sell my diamonds, and they will realize an ample sum.’
“The next day, when I told my lover of this strange plan, he made no objections. The only obstacle which he thought of was the circumstance that the sea-captain might know him by sight, and this would have been fatal; but as he did not think it likely we determined to run the risk, and it was agreed that he should get me the clothes for the new part I was to play.
“I saw my lover again after an interval of three days; it was nightfall when he came. He told me that the Admiralty had informed him that the ship was riding at the mouth of the Tagus, and that the captain would put out to sea as soon as he had delivered his dispatches and had received fresh instructions. Count Al was consequently requested to be at a certain spot at midnight, and a boat would be in waiting to take him on board.
“I had made up my mind, and this was enough for me; and after having fixed the time and place of meeting, I shut myself up, pretending to be unwell. I put a few necessaries into a bag, not forgetting the precious jewel-casket, and I dressed myself up as a man and left the house by a stair only used by the servants. Even the porter did not see me as I made my escape.
“Fearing lest I should go astray the count was waiting for me at a short distance, and I was pleasantly surprised when he took me by the arm, saying, “Tis I.” From this careful action, simple though it was, I saw that he had intelligence; he was afraid to catch hold of me without making himself known. We went to a house where he had his trunk, and in half an hour his disguise was made. When all was ready a man came for our slight baggage, and we walked to the river where the count was waiting for us. It was eleven o’clock when we left land, and thinking my jewels would be safer in his pocket than in my bag, I gave them to him, and we anxiously awaited the arrival of the captain. He came aboard with his officers at midnight, and accosted me politely, saying he had received orders to treat me with distinction. I thanked him cordially, and introduced my wife to him, whom he greeted respectfully, saying he was delighted to have such a charming passenger, who would doubtless give us a fortunate voyage. He was too polite to be astonished that the minister had made no mention of the count’s wife in his letter.
“We got to the frigate in less than an hour; she was three leagues from land, and as soon as we got on board the captain ordered the men to set sail. He took us to a room which was extremely comfortable, considering it was only a cabin, and after doing the honours left us to ourselves.
“When we were alone we thanked Heaven that everything had gone off so well, and far from going to sleep we spent the night in discussing the bold step we had taken, or rather, only just begun to take; however, we hoped it would have as fortunate an ending as beginning. When the day dawned our hearts were gladdened because Lisbon was no longer in sight, and as we were in need of rest I laid down on a seat, while the count got into a hammock, neither of us troubling to undress.
“We were just falling asleep, when we began to feel the approach of sea-sickness, and for three days we knew no peace.
“On the fourth day, scarcely being able to stand upright for weakness, we began to be hungry, and had to exercise a careful moderation, so as not to become seriously ill. Happily for us the captain had a store of good food, and our meals were delicate and well-served.
“My lover, whose sickness has been more severe than mine, used this as a pretext for not leaving his room. The captain only came to see us once; this must have been out of extreme politeness, for in Portugal one may be jealous and yet not ridiculous. As for me, I stood upon the bridge nearly all day; the fresh air did me good, and I amused myself by scanning the horizon with my telescope.
“The seventh day of the voyage my heart trembled as with a presentiment of misfortune, when the sailors said that a vessel which could be seen in the distance was a corvette which was due to sail a day after us, but being a swift sailor would probably reach England two or three days before us.
“Though the voyage from Lisbon to England is a long one we had a fair wind all the way, and in fourteen days we dropped anchor at day-break in the port of Plymouth.
“The officer sent ashore by the captain to ask leave to disembark passengers came on board in the evening with several letters. One the captain read with peculiar attention, and then called me to one side and said,
“‘This letter comes from Count Oeiras, and enjoins me, on my life, not to let any Portuguese young lady land, unless she be known to me. I am to take her back to Lisbon after having executed my various commissions. There is neither wife nor maid on my frigate, except the countess your wife. If you can prove that she is really your wife she may land with you; otherwise, you see, I cannot disobey the minister’s orders.’
“‘She is my wife,’ I said, coolly; ‘but as I could not foresee this accident I have no papers to prove the fact.’
“‘I am sorry to hear it, as in that case she must go back to Lisbon. You may be sure I will treat her with all possible respect.’
“‘But a wife may not be parted from her husband.’
“‘Quite so, but I cannot disobey orders. If you like you can return to Lisbon in the corvette; you will be there before us.’
“‘Why cannot I return in this frigate?
“‘Because I have distinct orders to put you on land. And now I come to think of it, how was it that there was not a word about your wife in the letter you gave me when we started? If the lady is not the person meant by the minister, you may be sure she will be sent back to join you in London.’
“‘You will allow me to go and speak to her?
“‘Certainly, but in my presence.’
“My heart was broken; nevertheless, I had to put a good face on the losing game I was playing. I went to the count, and addressing him as my dear wife communicated the order which was to part us.
“I was afraid he would betray himself, but he was strong-minded enough to restrain his emotion, and only replied that we must needs submit, and that we should see each other again in a couple of months.
“As the captain stood beside us, I could only utter common-places. I warned him, however, that I should write to the abbess directly I got to London, who was the first person he must go and see at Lisbon, as she would have my address. I took care not to ask for my jewel-case, as the captain might have thought that my false wife was some rich young lady whom I had seduced.
“We had to abandon ourselves to our destiny. We embraced each other and mingled our ears, and the captain wept, too, when he heard me say,
“‘Trust in all things to the worthy captain, and let us not fear at all.’
“The count’s trunk was lowered into the boat, and as I did not dare to take my bag I found myself loaded with nothing but a man’s clothes, which would not have fitted me, even if I had intended to keep up my disguise.
“When I came to the custom-house I saw my possessions. There were books, letters, linen, some suits of clothes, a sword and two pairs of pistols, one pair of which I put in my pockets, and then I went to an inn where the host said that if I wanted to travel to London the next morning I should only have to pay for one horse.
“‘Who are the people,’ said I, ‘who desire a companion?
“‘You shall sup with them if you like,’ said he.
“I accepted the offer, and found the party consisted of a minister of religion and two ladies whose faces pleased me. I was fortunate enough to win their good graces, and early the next day we got to London and alighted in the Strand at an inn where I only dined, going out to seek a lodging appropriate to my means and the kind of life I wished to lead. Fifty Lisbon pieces and a ring of about the same value was all that I possessed in the world.
“I took a room on the third floor, being attracted by the honest and kindly expression of the landlady. I could only trust in God and confide my position to her. I agreed to pay her ten shillings a week, and begged her to get me some woman’s clothes, for I was afraid to go out in my man’s dress any longer.
“The next day I was clothed like a poor girl who desires to escape notice. I spoke English well enough to seem a native of the country, and I knew how I must behave if I wished to be let alone. Although the landlady was a worthy woman, her house was not exactly suitable for me; my stay in England might be protracted, and if I came to destitution I should be wretched indeed; so I resolved to leave the house. I received no visitors, but I could not prevent the inquisitive from hovering round my door, and the more it became known that I saw no one, the more their curiosity increased. The house was not quiet enough. It was near the Exchange, and the neighborhood swarmed with young men who came to dine on the first floor of the house, and did their best to cure me of my sadness, as they called it, though I had not shewn any signs of wishing to be cured.
“I made up my mind not to spend more than a guinea a week, and resolved to sell my ring if I could have the money paid to me at intervals. An old jeweler who lodged next door, and for whose honesty my landlady answered, told me it was worth a hundred and fifty guineas, and asked me to let him have it if I had no better offer. I had not thought it to be so valuable, and I sold it to him on condition that he would pay me four guineas a month, and that I should be at liberty to buy it back if I could do so before all the payments had been made.
“I wanted to keep my ready money, which I still have by me, so as to be able to go back to Lisbon by land when I can do so in safety, for I could not face the horrors of a sea voyage a second time.
“I told my case to my worthy landlady who still befriends me, and she helped me to get another lodging, but I had to procure a servant to fetch me my food; I could not summon up courage to have my meals in a coffee-house. However, all my servants turned out ill; they robbed me continually, and levied a tax on all their purchases.
“The temperance I observed — for I almost lived on bread and water — made me get thinner every day, still I saw no way of mending my existence till chance made me see your singular announcement. I laughed at it; and then drawn by some irresistible power, or perhaps by the curiosity that falls to the lot of most of us women, I could not resist going in and speaking to you. Instinct thus pointed out the way to improve my lot without increasing my expenditure.
“When I got back I found a copy of the Advertiser on my landlady’s table; it contained some editorial fun on the notice I had just read. The writer said that the master of the house was an Italian, and had therefore nothing to fear from feminine violence. On my side I determined to hazard everything, but I feel I have been too hasty, and that there are certain attacks which it is pleasant not to resist. I was brought up by an Italian, a clever and good man, and I have always had a great respect for your fellow-countrymen.”
My fair Portuguese had finished her story, and I observed —
“Really, your history has amused me very much; it has all the air of a romance.”
“Quite so,” said she; “but it is a strictly historical romance. But the most amusing thing to me is that you have listened to it without weariness.”
“That is your modesty, madam; not only, has your tale interested me, but now that I know you are a Portuguese I am at peace with the nation.”
“Were you at war with us, then?”
“I have never forgiven you for letting your Portuguese Virgil die miserably two hundred years ago.”
“You mean Camoens. But the Greeks treated Homer in the same way.”
“Yes, but the faults of others are no excuse for our own.”
“You are right; but how can you like Camoens so much if you do not know Portuguese?”
“I have read a translation in Latin hexameters so well done that I fancied I was reading Virgil.”
“Is that truly so?”
“I would never lie to you.”
“Then I make a vow to learn Latin.”
“That is worthy of you, but it is of me that you must learn the language. I will go to Portugal and live and die there, if you will give me your heart.’
“My heart! I have only one, and that is given already. Since I have known you I have despised myself, for I am afraid I have an inconstant nature.”
“It will be enough for me if you will love me as your father, provided I may sometimes take my daughter to my arms. But go on with your story, the chief part is yet untold. What became of your lover, and what did your relations do when they found out your flight?”
“Three days after I arrived in this vast city I wrote to the abbess, my aunt, and told her the whole story, begging her to protect my lover, and to confirm me in my resolution never to return to Lisbon till I could do so in security, and have no obstacles placed in the way of my marriage. I also begged her to write and inform me of all that happened, addressing her letters to ‘Miss Pauline,’ under cover of my landlady.
“I sent my letter by Paris and Madrid, and I had to wait three months before I got an answer. My aunt told me that the frigate had only returned a short time, and that the captain immediately on his arrival wrote to the minister informing him that the only lady who was in his ship when he sailed was still on board, for he had brought her back with him, despite the opposition of Count Al — — who declared she was his wife. The captain ended by asking his excellency for further orders with respect to the lady aforesaid.
“Oeiras, feeling sure that the lady was myself, told the captain to take her to the convent of which my aunt was abbess, with a letter he had written. In this letter he told my aunt that he sent her her niece, and begged her to keep the girl securely till further orders. My aunt was extremely surprised, but she would have been still more surprised if she had not got my letter a few days before. She thanked the captain for his care, and took the false niece to a room and locked her up. She then wrote to Oeiras, telling him that she had received into her convent a person supposed to be his niece, but as this person was really a man in woman’s dress she begged his excellency to remove him as soon as possible.
“When the abbess had written this curious letter she paid a visit to the count, who fell on his knees before her. My good aunt raised him, and shewed him my letter. She said that she had been obliged to write to the minister, and that she had no doubt he would be removed from the convent in the course of a few hours. The count burst into tears, and begging the abbess to protect us both gave her my jewel- casket, which the worthy woman received with great pleasure. She left him, promising to write to me of all that happened.
“The minister was at one of his country estates, and did not receive the abbess’s letter till the next day, but hastened to reply in person. My aunt easily convinced his excellency of the need for keeping the matter secret, for a man had been sent into the convent, which would be to her dishonour. She shewed the proud minister the letter she had had from me, and told him how the honest young man had given her my jewel-casket. He thanked her for her open dealing, and begged her pardon with a smile for sending a fine young man to her nunnery.
“‘The secret,’ said he, ‘is of the greatest importance; we must see that it goes no farther. I will relieve you of your false niece, and take her away in my carriage.’
“My aunt took him at his word and brought out the young recluse, who drove away with the minister. The abbess tells me that from that day she has heard nothing about him, but that all Lisbon is talking over the affair, but in a wholly distorted manner. They say that the minister first of all put me under the care of my aunt, but soon after took me away, and has kept me in some secret place ever since. Count Al —— is supposed to be in London, and I in the minister’s power, and probably we are supposed to have entered into a tender relationship. No doubt his excellency is perfectly well informed of my doings here, for he knows my address and has spies everywhere.
“On the advice of my aunt I wrote to Oeiras a couple of months ago, telling him that I am ready to return to Lisbon, if I may marry Count Al —— and live in perfect liberty. Otherwise, I declared, I would stay in London, where the laws guaranteed my freedom. I am waiting for his answer every day, and I expect it will be a favourable one, for no one can deprive me of my estates, and Oeiras will probably be only too glad to protect me to lessen the odium which attaches to his name as the murderer of my father.”
Pauline made no mystery of the names of the characters, but she may be still alive, and I respect her too well to run the risk of wounding her, though these Memoirs will not see the light of day during my lifetime. It is sufficient to say that the story is known to all the inhabitants of Lisbon, and that the persons who figure in it are public characters in Portugal.
I lived with dear Pauline in perfect harmony, feeling my love for her increase daily, and daily inspiring her with tenderer feelings towards myself. But as my love increased in strength, I grew thin and feeble; I could not sleep nor eat. I should have languished away if I had not succeeded in gratifying my passion. On the other hand, Pauline grew plumper and prettier every day.
“If my sufferings serve to increase your charms,” said I, “you ought not to let me die, for a dead man has no suffering.”
“Do you think that your sufferings are due to your love for me?”
“There may be something in it, but, believe me, the tender passion does not destroy the appetite nor take away the power of sleep. Your indisposition is undoubtedly due to the sedentary life you have been leading of late. If you love me, give me a proof of it; go out for a ride.”
“I cannot refuse you anything, dearest Pauline, but what then?”
“Then you shall find me grateful to you, you will have a good appetite, and will sleep well.”
“A horse, a horse! Quick! My boots!” I kissed her hand — for I had not got any farther than that — and began to ride towards Kingston. I did not care for the motion of trotting, so I put my horse at a gallop, when all of a sudden he stumbled, and in an instant I was lying on the ground in front of the Duke of Kingston’s house. 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. 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. 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. I should never have discovered that she possessed this merit if I had not slept with her. I have known several women of the same stamp; if you wish to know the elevation of their souls, you must begin by damning them. When this is done, one enjoys their confidence, for they have no secrets for the happy victor. This is the reason why the charming though feeble sex loves the brave and despises the cowardly. Sometimes they appear to love cowards, but always for their physical beauty. Women amuse themselves with such fellows, but are the first to laugh if they get caned.
After the most delicious night I had ever passed, I resolved not to leave my house till Pauline had to return to Portugal. She did not leave me for a moment, save to hear mass on Sundays. I shut my door to everybody, even to the doctor, for my sprain disappeared of itself. I did not fail to inform Miss Chudleigh of my rapid cure; she had sent twice a day ever since the accident to learn how I was.
Pauline went to her room after our amorous conflict, and I did not see her again till dinner-time; but when I did see her I thought her an angel. Her face had caught the hues of the lily and the rose, and had an air of happiness I could not help admiring.
As we both wanted to have our portraits taken, I asked Martinelli to send me the best miniature-painter in London. He sent a Jew, who succeeded admirably. I had my miniature mounted in a ring and gave it to Pauline; and this was the only present she would accept from me, who would have thought myself all the richer if she had accepted all I had.
We spent three weeks in a happy dream which no pen can describe. I was quite well again, and we tasted all the sweets of love together. All day and all night we were together, our desires were satisfied only to be renewed; we enjoyed the extremest bliss. In a word, it is difficult to form a just idea of the state of two individuals who enjoy all the range of physical and mental pleasures together, whose life is for the present without thought of the future; whose joys are mutual and continual; such, nevertheless, was the position of myself and my divine Pauline.
Every day I discovered in her some fresh perfection which made me love her more; her nature was inexhaustible in its treasures, for her mental qualities even surpassed her physical beauties, and an excellent education had wonderfully increased the powers of her intelligence. With all the beauty and grace of a woman she had that exalted character which is the lot of the best of men. She began to flatter herself that the fatal letter would never come, and the count was little more than a dream of the past. Sometimes she would say that she could not understand how a pretty face could exercise such a strong influence over us in spite of our reason.
“I have found out too late,” she added, “that chance alone can make a marriage, contracted for such physical reasons, happy.”
The 1st of August was a fatal day for both of us. Pauline received a letter from Lisbon, which summoned her home without delay, and I had a letter from Paris announcing the death of Madame d’Urfe. Madame du Rumain told me that on the evidence of her maid the doctors had pronounced her death to be due to an overdose of the liquid she called “The Panacea.” She added that a will had been found which savoured of a lunatic asylum, for she had left all her wealth to the son or daughter that should be born of her, declaring that she was with child. I was to be the governor of the infant; this vexed me exceedingly, as I knew I should be the laughing-stock of Paris for a week at least. Her daughter, the Comtesse de Chatelet, had taken possession of all her real estate and of her pocket-book, which contained, to my surprise, four hundred thousand francs. It was a great shock for me, but the contents of the two letters Pauline had received was a greater blow. One was from her aunt, and the other from Oeiras, who begged her to return to Lisbon as soon as possible, and assured her that she should be put in possession of her property on her arrival, and would be at liberty to marry Count Al —— in the sight of all the world. He sent her a cheque for twenty million reis. I was not aware of the small value of the coin, and was in an ecstasy; but Pauline laughed, and said it only came to two thousand pounds, which was a sufficient sum, however, to allow her to travel in the style of a duchess. The minister wanted her to come by sea, and all she had to do was to communicate with the Portuguese ambassador, who had orders to give her a passage on a Portuguese frigate which happened to be riding in an English port. Pauline would not hear of the voyage, or of applying to the ambassador, for she did not want anyone to think that she had been obliged to return. She was angry with the minister for having sent her a cheque, thinking that he must be aware that she had been in need, but I soon brought her to see reason on this point, telling her that it was a very thoughtful and delicate proceeding on the part of Oeiras, and that he had merely lent-her the money, and not given it to her.
Pauline was rich, and she was a high-minded woman. Her generosity may be estimated by her giving me her ring when she was in want, and she certainly never counted on my purse, though she may have felt sure that I would not abandon her. I am sure she believed me to be very rich, and my conduct was certainly calculated to favour that idea.
The day and even the night passed sadly. The next day Pauline addressed me as follows:
“We must part, dear friend, and try to forget one another, for my honour obliges me to become the wife of the count as soon as I arrive in Lisbon. The first fancy of my heart, which you have almost effaced, will regain all its old force when I see you no longer, and I am sure I shall love my husband, for he is a goodhearted, honest, and pleasant young man; that much I know from the few days we lived together.
“Now I have a favour to ask of you, which I am sure you will grant. Promise me never to come to Lisbon without my permission. I hope you will not seek to know my reasons; you would not, I am sure, come to trouble my peace, for if I sinned I should be unhappy, and you would not desire that for me. I have dreamed we have lived together as man and wife, and now we are parted I shall fancy myself a widow about to undertake another marriage.”
I burst into tears, and pressing her to my breast promised I would do as she wished.
Pauline wrote to her aunt and Oeiras that she would be in Lisbon in October, and that they should have further news of her when she reached Spain. She had plenty of money, and bought a carriage and engaged a maid, and these arrangements took up her time during the last week she spent with me. I made her promise me to let Clairmont accompany her as far as Madrid. She was to send me back my faithful servant when she reached the Spanish capital, but fate had decreed that I should see his face no more.
The last few days were spent partly in sorrow and partly in delight. We looked at each other without speaking, and spoke without knowing what we said. We forgot to eat, and went to bed hoping that love and anguish would keep us awake, but our exhausted bodies fell into a heavy sleep, and when we awoke we could only sigh and kiss again.
Pauline allowed me to escort her as far as Calais, and we started on the 10th of August, only stopping at Dover to embark the carriage on the packet, and four hours afterwards we disembarked at Calais, and Pauline, considering her widowhood had begun, begged me to sleep in another room. She started on the 12th of August, preceded by my poor Clairmont, and resolved only to travel by daytime.
The analogy between my parting with Pauline and my parting with Henriette fifteen years before, was exceedingly striking; the two women were of very similar character, and both were equally beautiful, though their beauty was of a different kind. Thus I fell as madly in love with the second as with the first, both being equally intelligent. The fact that one had more talent and less prejudices than the other must have been an effect of their different educations. Pauline had the fine pride of her nation, her mind was a serious cast, and her religion was more an affair of the heart than the understanding. She was also a far more ardent mistress than Henriette. I was successful with both of them because I was rich; if I had been a poor man I should never have known either of them. I have half forgotten them, as everything is forgotten in time, but when I recall them to my memory I find that Henriette made the profounder impression on me, no doubt because I was twenty-five when I knew her, while I was thirty-seven in London.
The older I get the more I feel the destructive effects of old age; and I regret bitterly that I could not discover the secret of remaining young and happy for ever. Vain regrets! we must finish as we began, helpless and devoid of sense.
I went back to England the same day, and had a troublesome passage. Nevertheless, I did not rest at Dover; and as soon as I got to London I shut myself up with a truly English attack of the spleen, while I thought of Pauline and strove to forget her. Jarbe put me to bed, and in the morning, when he came into my room, he made me shudder with a speech at which I laughed afterwards.
“Sir,” said he, “the old woman wants to know whether she is to put up the notice again.”
“The old hag! Does she want me to choke her?”
“Good heavens-no, sir! She is very fond of you, seeing you seemed so sad, she thought . . . ”
“Go and tell her never to think such things again, and as for you . . . ”
“I will do as you wish, sir.”
“Then leave me.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07