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“ And what does your ladyship suppose she now is?” asked Lord Henry.
“ A widow, of course," was the answer.
This gave rise to another laugh, and Lady Annandale appeared embarrassed. I changed the subject, and engaged her in a conversation relative to the Delawards, and her father and mother — two themes that never fail to interest her sufficiently to withdraw her attention from all others; and the two beaux walked away, voting, I dare be sworn, Lady Annandale a fool, or, at least, not far removed from that condition. I saw them go to the Comtesse Hohenlinden; and, from her laughter, and the looks cast at Lady Annandale, they were, I am sure, relating to her the simplicity, or, as they would most probably term it, the bétise, de la beauté.
The comtesse, with that vanity and spirit of coquetry which characterise her, appears
now determined to exhibit Annandale as being more than ever the slave of her charms. She thinks that this is the only way of proving their power to the world ; and she goes about hanging on his arm, and positively affecting to display the tendresse she affiches him to entertain for her. His vanity is quite equal to hers; and, to have the credit of making her dismiss one or two of the pretenders to her favour, he is capable of compromising himself, and behaving ill to Lady Annandale. Already he presumes to treat her with a nonchalance which, if it does not amount to ill-breeding, is, at least, far removed from that respectful attention which every man owes to his wife ; and, short as has been their séjour in town, people already begin to comment on his being what they call “ so fashionable ” a husband.
An observation of Lady Annandale had so much innocence in it, that I was glad no one heard it but myself, conscious as I am of the evil interpretations to which it would subject her.
“ I scarcely know the persons around me,” said she. “ How happy they all seem, and how deeply occupied with each other! It is pleasant to see married people so much attached; though, I confess, I prefer witnessing that delicate and respectful attention which distinguishes Lord Delaward's manner towards his wife, to the familiarity, affectionate as it appears, of the gentlemen around us, to theirs. And yet it surprises me, too; for Lord Annandale told me, that in society it was not customary for men to sit by their wives, or to walk about with them, but the persons around us never quit each other."
If this innocent speech were promulgated, Lady Annandale would be ridiculed by every
man and woman of fashion, and set down as a perfect imbécile : you would judge differently, as does your friend,
FROM LA MARQUISE DE VILLEROI TO
You ask me for news, chère Caroline, but you forget that news, like money, is not always forthcoming when demanded. Have you never observed how blank people look when either is required of them? Such is now my case, as yonder mirror, on which my eyes have just glanced, par hasard, assured me. Voyons ! what shall I tell you ? Conspiracies are so common, that they cease to interest any but the plotters, the plotted against, and the police ; changes of ministry few care about, except les agents de change ; et quant aux modes, Herbault tells me, they arrive in London three days after they see the light here.
En vérité, I know nothing worthy of repetition, unless it be an occurrence which has recently excited the attention of all the salons in Paris. People talk of nothing else, and half-a-dozen versions, at least, are given of it. It is rather a long affair; but, as it has its points of interest, I think I will undertake its narration, and endeavour to serve it up to you in the regular “ Contes Moraux" style.
You did not, I believe, know Monsieur and Madame de St. Armand. Yet you must have seen them, too, as they visited at some of the houses of our acquaintance, and the heroine of the histoire was too handsome not to be remarked. But, to my story. Once upon a time, then, the said Monsieur et Madame de St. Armand were considered a juvenile Baucis and Philemon, and were cited by all who