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she soon finds some idle lounger, who by his attentions soothes her wounded vanity, while inflicting an indelible stain on her reputation, if not on her virtue. How many such women might, in the hands of a sensible and honourable man, have become happy and estimable! instead of serving, as is but too frequently the
“To point a moral and adorn a tale,"
in the circles in which they move.
To trace effects to causes, all because they had been selected by some silly man as an object of selfish gratification, and deserted from the same motive. There is a mutual respect visible in all the conduct of Delaward and his wife, and a sustained tenderness, which never for a moment degenerates into that familiarity so disgusting in the ménages of newly married people. And this noble, this dignified woman, is the friend of Lady Annandale: what might not that lovely creature have become under
the tuition of such a Mentor! Delaward told
me yesterday, that Lady Delaward had received a very melancholy letter from her friend.
“Poor Lady Annandale!” said he; “she deserves a better fate : for, though a goodnatured and well-bred man, Annandale is quite incapable of appreciating such a person as his wife, or of rendering her happy. She staid with us some time, and I saw much to admire in her. All her fine qualities, and she has several, are natural to her; and all her defects, and they are but few, are the effects of the excessive indulgence of Lord and Lady Vernon, acting on a lively imagination and a quick temper. She had not been here three days before I saw a visible improvement in her, for the example of Lady Delaward had the best effect : but she is so young, and so much influenced by Miss Montressor, who, entre nous, is a very improper and dangerous friend for her, that I fear a season in London,
with its contaminating follies, will undo all the good that has been instilled into her by Lady Delaward.
I questioned Delaward further about Miss Montressor, and find that her aunt, a worthy and amiable woman, has been from early youth an intimate friend of Lady Vernon. A sister, many years her junior, married imprudently, and accompanied her husband abroad; where, after twelve or fourteen years of continental dissipation, he was shot in a duel, and Mrs. Montressor and her daughter were left, with a scanty pittance, to subsist as best they could, The beauty and polished manners of the mother rendered her a welcome guest at all the houses of fashionable resort; and being a weakminded woman, without any mental resources, she abandoned herself wholly to the pleasures of society, leaving her daughter to the care of a French femme de chambre, whose morals were as objectionable as her manners. Mademoiselle Annette was quite as fond of society as her mistress; and the consequence was, that the poor child, left at home in her care, was initiated into all the mysteries of high life below stairs, and sipped her café-au-lait in the coterie of Mademoiselle Annette, consisting of half-a-dozen femmes de chambre, and as many couriers, or valets, who related the adventures of their respective masters and mistresses, past and present, with so much naïveté and graphic skill, as to make a deep impression on the mind of their unlucky little auditor.
The demoralising effect of such associates may be easily imagined ; and, when some grossièreté in the language of her daughter shocked the refined ears of Mrs. Montressor, and led to her ascertaining where it had been acquired, she issued peremptory orders, that henceforth her daughter was not to leave
her saloon, nor Mademoiselle Annette to introduce any one into it, under pain of her displeasure.
This mandate was equally painful to the young lady and the femme de chambre, neither of whom liked solitude ; but a mode was found of satisfying both, that was forthwith put in practice. Mademoiselle Annette was much addicted to the reading of French novels; and by no means fastidious as to their morality. She suffered one of the most indelicate of those productions to fall into the hands of Miss Montressor, who devoured it with avidity; and the artful femme de chambre, seeing the pleasure its perusal imparted, proposed supplying the young lady with a volume every evening, provided she might go and spend that portion of her time with her usual companions. The proposal was joyfully accepted; the demoralising studies were continued ; and, before Caroline Montressor had completed her fifteenth