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lived so much among the most vicious of our ladies of fashion, that it would be difficult to make him believe that two young people of different sexes could meet frequently, and alone, without guilt; consequently, from the appearance, he jumps quickly to the conclusion, and has already, I am persuaded, condemned his wife.
The comtesse misses no opportunity of drawing his attention to the petits soins of le beau marquis ; which, though of a most respectful character, are, nevertheless, too unremitting not to be remarked. The dignified reserve of Lady Annandale, so unusual in so very young a woman, sa seigneurie affects to attribute to hypocrisy; while, I am convinced, it proceeds from consciousness of a preference that alarms her virtue, and which she thus attempts to repress. Pauvre petite! she will, one day, have to thank me for breaking the chains I assisted her to forge; and for enabling her to assume others, which will press less heavily. Yes, she will be a very happy woman as the wife of Lord Nottingham : for, independent of their attachment, which, I am sure, is, or will be, of the most fervent and romantic character, they are both more formed for domestic than fashionable life; and will, therefore, retire to the seclusion of some one of his châteaut, without entertaining a single regret for the pleasures of London. The patriarchal papa and mamma of my lady, also, will gain by the exchange of sons-in-law; for Nottingham acts towards them as if already he stood in that relation, while Annandale treats them with perfect nonchalance.
The individuals who compose our circle have already commenced commenting very freely on the attentions of Lord Nottingham to Lady Annandale. Their liaison is looked on as a thing no longer doubtful, and furnishes a topic of general conversation, and an object for the small facetiousness of the fashionable pretenders to wit. Lord Annandale perceives this; and his vanity, the most sensitive of all his qualities, writhes under the infliction, which wounds not his heart-if hearts such men have.
Little does Augusta suspect that her conduct is the subject of remark, or that her virtue is questioned. How shocked she would be at the bare notion of it!
I told you of her going to welcome the arrival of her
papa and mamma en ville, in defiance of the request of her husband to remain at home. This proceeding piqued him exceedingly; but not near so much so as her dining with them the next day, though he had a party, and ladies too, to dine with him. He apologised for her absence by saying that Lady Vernon was unwell, and that Lady Annandale had gone to nurse her,-an historiette at which the comtesse opened her eyes to their fullest extent, and, with that air goguenard for which, you may remember, she was so famous, burst into
a laugh rather louder than les bienséances permit in an English aristocratic circle. Seeing that Annandale looked vexed and embarrassed, I came to his aid, by adding, that Lady Annandale was the most affectionate daughter in the world, and never quitted her father and mother whenever they had the slightest indisposition. He looked his thanks; while the comtesse maliciously whispered in Annandale's ear, but loud enough for me to hear, that it was strange so loving a daughter appeared to be so unloving a wife.
When dinner was announced, it was dis
covered that Lord Nottingham, who was expected, was absent; and, as Annandale has a peculiar dislike to a vacant place at his table, he was not a little discomposed by the non
appearance of his friend.
“ How very droll it is," said notre comtesse, “ that Lord Nottingham has not come; for I heard him last night promise you."
Annandale bit his lip.
“ Perhaps, as miladi has gone to nurse her mamma, milord has gone to keep company with the papa," continued the comtesse, with a laugh, which was echoed by the whole party around.
I saw that the host was deeply mortified at this open and indelicate insinuation, though most anxious to conceal his feelings; and, therefore, I changed the conversation, led it into lively subjects, gave utterance to some of my most brilliant bon-mots, and, in short, played the hostess à ravir. I had, at Annandale's request, taken his wife's place at table; and I resolved to make him sensible of the
different manner in which it was filled, and how much the gaiety of a dinner depends on the mistress of the fête. Yet, while executing this determination, I took care not to throw him into the back-ground; but, au contraire, drew him out, applauded whatever he said that was