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Chapter 8

Paulina slept while church clocks tolled out the passing of the night and the moon, riding high above their spires, cast upon the town a still and frozen radiance, that streamed upon the dark canals until they were canals no longer, but winding pathways of light, crazy, glittering pathways leading to the sky. Against so much brightness huddled twisted chimneys, roofs and gables somber as ogres. The night was nearly over.

Paulina turned, smiling, on her pillow, fragile as white coral against the shadow of her hair. Half-awake she whispered, "Nurdo," and he, opening the wagon-door softly, stood still on the threshold, a black and carven shape in the clearness of the moonlight.

"Nurdo!" she said again. Sitting up in bed she pushed her hair out of her eyes and remembered that she was to begin loving him that very night. She wished that she were not so sleepy. She blinked at him.

"Where have you been?"

He closed the door behind him and came across to her, walking very slowly, staring at her fixedly. He sat down beside her on the bed.

"You're shivering. I hope you have not caught cold?"

Still gazing at her as though he were intent upon some hypnotic experiment, he groped for the candle, lighted it and thrust it close to her face, which looked wan enough in this little dancing circle of light. She put her hands before her eyes. He muttered, so that she could scarcely understand what he was saying.

"What is it?" she wanted to know. "What's the matter? Are you ill?"