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what she calls shocking her English prudery. I could perceive, by the increased gravity of the Duchess of Fitzwalter's demeanour, that she was more surprised than gratified by finding notre amie la comtesse established here so, apparently, at her ease; and I positively saw her cheek grow red as her eyes fell on the exposed ankles so ostentatiously displayed on the tabouret.
Notre comtesse, who has discovered that
she is in très mauvaise odeur with the circle
in which the Duchess of Fitzwalter lives, determined, with that recklessness which is one of her distinguishing characteristics, to shock still more the decorum of that lady. We had been conversing on the cholera, and the alarming ravages it is making, previously to the duchess' entrance, and the comtesse resumed the subject by saying,
“ I hope the cholera will increase, for only
fancy how delightful it would be to become at once emancipated from all the absurd conventional restraints of etiquette, and what you, mesdames, call decorum ! How pleasant it would be to lead a life like that so agreeably described by Boccacio, as having been passed by him and his friends during the peste at Florence! Ever since I read it, I have longed to find myself in a similar position.”
The Duchess of Fitzwalter absolutely crimsoned, and Augusta became agitated with shame and indignation ; while notre amie looked archly at her beaux, and triumphantly at me, directing our attention to the obvious discomposure of our hostess and her visitor ; who, probably, will not seek to cultivate Augusta's acquaintance after this echantillon of the society she keeps, for there was a proud reserve in her demeanour, as she withdrew,
that indicated some such determination.
The coldness of Augusta's manner towards the comtesse irritates the temper, but does not check the levity and coarseness, of that lady, who every where represents her as being maussade, bête, et stupide. From all these imputed defects, however, Augusta is far removed; but the position in which she is placed is one so peculiar and embarrassing, that it throws a constraint over the natural vivacity and gracefulness of her manners, and induces the adoption of a reserve and hauteur foreign to her disposition.
The extreme youth of Lady Annandale, and her total inexperience of fashionable society, have enabled her lord to usurp the privilege usually granted to all wives--that of selecting their female acquaintance. He encourages the frequent visits of those whose general tone of conversation is the most uncongenial to her taste; and, in truth, I must add, the least calculated to be advantageous to her morals. Augusta, having no power of excluding such unwelcome guests, entrenches herself in a proud reserve, which, instead of banishing them from her house, produces no other effect than that of unmitigated dislike to her whom they affect to consider and treat as a mere cipher, a spoiled and capricious child, whom, for the sake of her husband, they tolerate.
Her fondness for Lord Annandale's boy they ridicule as the entichement of a girl for a new plaything; and her assumption of the gravity and reserve becoming the matronly character, as a whim of the moment. They, none of them, comprehend her: how should they—beholding her only through the false medium of their prejudices, and of their offended vanity? But I, who have seen her in her happy home, the idol of her parents and the friends of her youth, know how warm, how affectionate is her nature; and often, in spite of my stoicism, pity her in her present uncongenial position, in which she reminds me of some beautiful flower, transplanted from its native clime, to droop and fade in a less genial atmosphere.
One of your countrywomen, chère Delphine, even though only emancipated from her convent or pension a week before her marriage, would quickly assume, and pertinaciously retain, the privileges of a maîtresse de maison. Notre comtesse and her clique would soon find themselves excluded from the salon d'une Française nouvellement mariée, if they were not suited to her taste, even though they were the dear friends of her husband; nay, perhaps, this circumstance would, in her mind, be a raison de plus for their exclusion.
There is, I observe, a natural tendency to subordination in young Englishwomen, which, had their husbands perception enough to dis