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future position, he said, to remain a single day beneath the roof of a woman who had so completely compromised her honour as Augusta had done. I could not resist asking
him whether he was not aware that the com
tesse had compromised hers a thousandfold more? He looked at me with surprise, and then answered,
“ That the actual guilt of the parties was not the point to be considered; but the cir
cumstance, that, in the case of Lady Annandale, not only was the guilt presumed, but the husband had denounced her: whereas the
husband of the comtesse still countenanced her;
and, consequently, her honour was in no degree compromised.”
And this, chère amie, is the moral of the fashionable world in London!
It appears that Annandale, with his usual faiblesse, has kept the comtesse au courant of all that he has discovered. I strongly suspect, entre nous, that sa seigneurie, prompted by jealousy of the beauty, and anger at the reserve and coldness of Augusta's manner to her, has urged him to be still more severe towards his. poor wife; though this instigation was unnecessary, for the wound offered to his vanity by the terms in which he is named in the diary, has rendered him implacable. I have ascertained from his own lips that it was my artful flattery which won his decided preference for me ; consequently I have not the satisfaction of thinking, that otherwise he would ever have liked me. Vain, weak, and unfeeling man! if he knew that, even while profiting by his weakness, I despise him, what would he think?
I have received a note from the Comtesse Hohenlinden, which I send to you. What a world we live in!
“ Ma chère Caroline, poor dear Lord Annandale has informed me of the shocking conduct of miladi. Now that it is all discovered, and the whole town talking of nothing else, it will be very improper in you to stay a single hour under the same room with a person who has compromised her reputation so dreadfully. She will, of course, be cut by every one; and few will pity a lady who was so very prudish and severe towards others. I shall be charmed to receive you, ma chère, chez moi, and have ordered an apartment to be prepared. The carriage shall convey you from Annandale
I should in person conduct you hither, but I have such a horror of coming in contact with that very naughty woman, or of being even supposed to
House at any
enter Annandale House while she remains in
it, that I dare not go to you. The comte is, and with reason, extremely particular that I should not commit myself by associating with
any one whose reputation is tainted ; and I, also, am fully aware of the necessity of preserving appearances, and not violating les convenances on which the preservation of society so wholly depends.
“ I have had a conclave of ladies with me
this morning to consult on this terrible affair. Lady Castlemartin declares, that if we do not shew a proper severity towards Lady Annandale, husbands will begin to suspect that their wives are lenient from a sympathy with the delinquent. A - propos de Lady Castlemartin, she is just now greatly annoyed; for her friend, Lord Eaglesfort, has thrown off her chains, and is about to put on those of Hymen. She is très en colère with him ; but, I think, not indisposed to transfer her affections to the Marquess of Nottingham, should he be disposed to console her.
“ But, to return to our conclave. Lady F. says, that if we wish to preserve our own liberty, we must shew no mercy to those who manage so ill as to be detected ; thereby, more or less, compromising all their clique : and Lady H. advises, that we at once renounce, not only Lady Annandale, but any woman who countenances her. You will thus, chère Caroline, see the necessity of at once leaving Annandale House ; and I will take care to have it well understood, that you declined seeing its mistress from the moment you heard of her guilt.
“ I have written to ask poor dear Lord Annandale to dine with us en petit comité. I do so pity him! such a good and kind husband as he was, and so anxious to make his house agreeable ; always filling it with the most fashionable people in London. How happy that silly woman might have been, had she only had proper tact! I lose all patience in thinking of her folly.