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have been wholly wanting in decorum, or it never could have obtained this publicity in so short a time. What could be more glaring than her choosing to dine out to-day, when she knew I had company at home — Lord Nottingham absenting himself, too, without even an apology? And then, being seen with her at the theatre justifies the rumours in question ; and I shall be rendered ridiculous in the eyes of all London, if I do not adopt measures to put a stop to her imprudence.”
“ Surely, my lord, you would not do any thing harsh, any thing likely to pain or humiliate Augusta. Consider how young, how inexperienced she is !”
“ You are an angel, lovely Caroline !" exclaimed he, seizing my hand and kissing it fervently; “ and I only wish that Lady Annandale had your tact and discretion, — but of that no woman that I know can boast.”
I looked down, tried to blush and appear embarrassed, which, of course, encouraged his boldness, until he unequivocally made me a declaration of love, at which I affected to be shocked; and he repeated his regret that
I stood not in the relation towards him that
Lady Annandale filled.
“ When I saw you doing the honours of my table to-day, my charming friend,” continued he, “I could not help being struck with the different effect your influence spread around. Brilliant and witty yourself, you called forth all the agreeable qualities of others; instead of casting a gêne, if not a gloom, round the guests, as Lady Annandale's reserved manners invariably do. I wish to fill a certain position in society, for which,
I flatter myself, my station, fortune, and talents, qualify me; I mean the position of a leader of fashion, making my house the focus of the élite of our society. I do not regard this important desideratum with the frivolous feeling of the generality of persons ; that is, as a mere object of amusement, or of acquiring fashionable celebrity. No; I view it as a means of obtaining political influence, which our ministerial people have always too much neglected."
Here he looked as profoundly sagacious as if suggesting the mode of carrying the most important political measure; and I affected to consider his puerile fancy, ineffably sapient and momentous.
“ Our ministers," resumed he, « arrive
at power at too advanced an age to become leaders of fashion. A veteran élégant is always ridiculous; witness poor Ledersdale; but, as I took office at a period of life when few are deemed capable of holding it,” (you should have seen how self-important he looked !) “ I may, without any risk of ridicule, unite the
rare position of a leader of fashion and a man of business. To effect this great object of my desires, Lady Annandale should be a totally
She has the physique, but not the morale, for a position such as my wife ought to hold. You, my charming friend, have both. Would that I could but it is vain to think of what is impossible.”
He does think, and will think, nevertheless, of this seeming impossibility, until it ceases to be one: for his vanity will co-operate with my ambition in perpetually inviting him to the fulfilment of his wish; and, rather than appear as a deserted husband, he will, I am sure, marry again the instant he shall be freed from his present chains, in order to convince the world that he cared not for his former wife, and does care for her successor. Every time I attempted to advocate Augusta's cause, he silenced me by compliments on my good-nature. The plea I most strongly urged, to prove the impossibility of her preference for another, was his own superiority. This fulsome flattery ineffably gratified his . vanity ; for it is so inordinate and voracious that it would devour
any thing. But it did not satisfy him that Augusta was willing to accord him this
superiority, for her coldness too plainly implied the contrary: consequently, my seemingly most amiable intervention had not the effect of persuading him to forgive her, but only that of making him value me the more, for appearing to believe that she must entertain a favourable opinion of him. You see, ma belle amie, that the “ comedy of errors” advances just as I foretold and wished; but when a plot is founded on the vanity of man, it seldom fails of success. Addio, carissima! votre