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THE COUNTESS OF ANNANDALE TO THE
COUNTESS OF DELAWARD.
You will be glad to hear, my dear Mary, that the poor child I have adopted thrives apace, and is really a source of comfort to me.
His fondness of me, too, dear little fellow, increases; and he claps his hands, and crows with joy, when I appear. One half-hour spent in playing with him in my dressing-room, is worth whole hours spent in crowded soirées and balls; which, if it were not for Lord Nottingham, who has kindly undertaken to initiate me into the modes, customs, and persons of the new world into which I am launched, I should find, insupportable indeed. Lord Annandale insists on my being present at all their fêtes, rallies me on my preference for solitude, and seems desirous to fill up every moment with some new pleasure, - the search after which I find as tiresome as he appears to think it agreeable.
He told me this morning, that I must be guarded in my observations in society, and not display my rusticity with regard to its general usages, under penalty of being exposed to its ridicule, -—"a penalty,” he added, looking most seriously, “ more to be dreaded than all others, being one which is never overcome.”
I asked to what he alluded, wondering what I could have said, to subject myself to so grave an exordium.
“ Did you not observe,” he replied, “ how Lord Henry Mercer laughed when you made that very naïve speech about Lady Harlestone? a few more such speeches will render you the talk of all the clubs ; nay, more, the subject of their merriment. I thought the Comtesse of Hohenlinden would never have ceased laughing, when Mercer told her of it.”
I felt my anger a little excited, at learning that I had been ridiculed, while ignorant as to the cause ; and my reflections led to his making me a disclosure that has shocked and disgusted me. Yes, Mary; the man who has vowed to love and protect me, and whom I have vowed to love, honour, and obey, has torn the bandage from my eyes, by informing me, that nearly all the women in the circle in which I live -- that circle into which he has led me- are supposed to have attachments with the men whom I, in the simplicity of my heart, believed to be their husbands, judging from the familiar attentions I witnessed — and which at
tentions I thought, even from husbands, too familiar for public exhibition !
And, knowing the conduct of these women,” said I, “ you could permit them to approach me!”
“ You must, really, my dear Augusta,"
was his reply, “ learn to understand society. The ladies
allude to are the most fashionable in London, — universally sought after and received, and living on the best terms with their husbands. Why, then, should I object to your associating with them ?
Such an absurd piece of prudery would expose me to the ridicule of all London, were I so wanting in tact as to put it in practice.”
“ If the ladies in question,” replied I, and I felt my cheeks glow with indignation, sought after, and well received, and live on the best terms with their husbands, it must be because, adding hypocrisy to vice, they deceive the world, and the husbands they betray.”
By no means : society has no right to pry into the private conduct of any woman whose husband has not denounced her; and most husbands have too much philosophy, or goodnature, to be severe towards their wives,
who, grateful for their forbearance, repay it by similar indulgence. Lady C. receives Lady D., because it is agreeable to Lord C., who, in turn, permits the constant presence of Mr. E., and thus domestic harmony is preserved, esclandres avoided, and husbands and wives, who no longer could be lovers, instead of proving a source of mutual gêne and torment, become friends."
“ You surely jest,” said I, “ and are imposing on my inexperience, by the statements you have just made.”
“ Pas de tout, ma chère; I assure you I have only stated the fact Nine out of every ten married pairs belonging to our circle, stand precisely in the position I have described, which is the secret of the good understanding that subsists between the greater number of