ページの画像
PDF
ePub

interrupting their business, went down stairs to receive and dismiss him as soon as possible ; whilst, during the absence of Sir Bashful, Mr. Lovemore wrote a letter to Lady Constant, declaring his ardent love for her, which letter he substituted in place of her husband's tender epistle. Sir Brilliant's visit was short ; and the anxious Sir Bashful hastily returned to his dear friend, who waited with the letter in his hand. A servant was immediately despatched with it to Lady Constant, who was in an apartment across the gallery, the door of which, standing open, gave the husband and lover an opportunity of witnessing her conduct whilst perusing the letter. But they were both driven to despair, when they beheld her tear it in pieces, and throw it from her with indignation. Sir Bashful, who naturally supposed it to be his own letter, now gave up all as lost ; he felt convinced he had forfeited her love for ever ; the thought distracted him : and this distraction was aroused almost to madness, when Sir Brilliant Fashion rushed into the room, and triumphantly displayed a pair of diamond buckles and a diamond crosswhich he had just received as a present.

Sir Bashful was struck with dismay ; and could with difficulty suppress his agitation! These very buckles and cross he had himself sent to Lady Constant the day before ; and her having bestowed such a splendid present on Sir. Brilliant, was a glaring proof, if not of actual infidelity, at least of love to the fop. Sir Brilliant was too much occupied with his own triumph, to observe the mutual uneasiness of Lovemore and Sir Bashful; and he departed almost as abruptly as he had entered.

Lady Constant had for some time past been teasing Sir Bashful for a pair of buckles and a cross: but he, as was his custom, accused her of extravagance, declaring that he would not sanction such doings; and that if she presumed to order them,

1

she must pay for them,--for he would not. Then, with the same absurdity, which usually marked his conduct, he went to a jeweller's, and gave orders that the ornaments should be made, and sent to her. When she received this anonymous present, she imagined it came from Sir Brilliant; and thinking contempt the only treatment his presumption deservedshe returned the jewels to him, in the same anonymous way they were sent to her. Sir Bashful was now completely wretched ; yet a faint hope passed over his mind, that Lady Constant, really supposing the jewels came from him, had returned them, as she imagined, to the right owner. This faint hope kept him from absolute despair ; but his mind was altogether in a dreadful sťate of anxiety, and he saw no prospect before him, but of an immediate and defini. tive separation.

Mrs. Lovemore's affliction, in the mean time, increased with every passing day. Mr. Lovemore's indifference seemed to border on absolute dislike : he was so seldoni at home, and kept such late hours, that she saw little of him; yet her love for him did not abate, and she was a prey to the keenest jealousy. Sometimes, she thought of demanding a separate maintenance, and returning home to her parents: but such a step would preclude every chance of future happiness; and she still indulged the hope that some fortunate circumstance would occur to restore the lost affections of her adored husband.

Sir Brilliant was the man whom she accused of luring Mr. Lovemore from his home, and leading him into perpetual scenes of dissipation; but Sir Brilliant defended himself from this charge with great warmth: he did not wish to lose ground in her estimation, for all neglected wives were the objects of his care and affection ; and Mrs. Lovemore, as well as Lady Constant, had long been marked out

as peculiarly entitled to his attention and regard. Towards Mrs. Love

was erroneous.

more he had not indeed as yet openly declared himself; but he had taken frequent opportunities of expressing his admiration. It was known that Sir Brilliant paid his addresses to Mrs. Belmour, the lovely widow from Bath ; and therefore Mrs. Lovemore naturally concluded it was he who had introduced Ir. Lovemore to her parties. She accordingly told him her suspicion; when, to her great surprise, he assured her, on his honour, that Mr. Lovemore did not even know Mrs. Belmour, and proceeded to describe her in such glowing terms, that poor Mrs. · Lovemore trembled at her husband's danger, should he indeed be acquainted with this fascinating woman. But Sir Brilliant's assurances were so strong, she almost ventured to hope that Muslin's information

Muslin on her part was obstinate: she declared that her assertion was true, and that her master had visited every day and every evening at Mrs. Belmour's for the last month past.

Isabel, sinking under the tortures of suspense, resolved to pay a visit to this charming widow, and learn the truth at once, whether or not Mr. Lovemore did visit there. In her way she called on Lady Constant; and, speaking of Mrs. Belmour, heard so many encomiums on her various virtues, that she was at a loss what to think. Determined, however, to be satisfied, she adhered to her resolution of visiting the sprightly widow, and ordered her chair there, on leaving Lady Constant.

Mrs. Belmour received her very graciously ; and, after many apologies for her intrusion, the anxious wife inquired if a gentleman of the name of Lovenore did not visit her. Mrs. Belmour instantly informed her she did not know any person whatever of that name ;

and Mrs. Lovemore, harpy in the assurance, arose to depart: but Mrs. Bermour, struck with her interesting appearance and the air of melancholy in her countenance and manner, requested her to remain ; and, taking her hand with great tenderness, begged her to pardon her curiosity, in inquiring who the gentleman was about whom she was thus apparently anxious.

Mrs. Lovemore, encouraged by the frankness and goodhumour of Mrs. Belmour's manner, now freely imparted her painful situation, telling all her love for her husband, and all his neglect of her. Mrs. Belmour, whose temper was not only lively, but reasonable, then questioned Mrs. Lovemore very closely as to her own management of her husband's affections, and pointed out the danger of unfounded jealousy ; observing, that women were too apt to blame the neglect of their husbands, when, in fact, the fault was in themselves.

Mrs. Lovemore, somewhat displeased, replied rather hastily-" Angry with myself, madam!-Calumny can lay nothing to my charge-the virtue of my conduct, madam' "Ay (replied the lively widow), I could have laid

you would be at that work--that's the folly of us all. But virtue is out of the question at present. It is la belle nature--nature embellished by the advantages of art, that the men expect now-adays ;-and really, madam, without compliment, you seem to have all the qualities that can dispute your husband's heart with any body ; but the exertion of those qualities, I am afraid, is suppressed. You'll excuse my freedom ; I have been married, and am a little in the secret. It is much more difficult to keep a heart, than to win one. After the fatal words, " for better for worse,” the general way with wives is, to relax into indolence; and, while they are guilty of no infidelity, they think that is enough :—but they are mistaken ; there's a great deal wanting-an address, à manner, a desire of pleasing. Home must be made a place of pleasure to the husband ; and the wife must throw infinite variety into her manner: and

my life

this I take to be the whole mystery, the way to keep a man.”

Isabel scarcely knew whether to be pleased or offended whether to attribute the lightness with which the gay widow treated the subject, to levity, or good sense: yet, there was an air of so much truth. and nobleness of sentiment in her countenance, she: was strongly disposed to own that the praises of Lady Constant and Sir Brilliant were not unworthily bea stowed. Their conversation was interrupted by a oud knocking at the door ; when Mrs. Belmour, declaring she would not be at home, called to her attendant Mignionet, to give orders that she should be denied. It was too late, however; the visitor, Mrs. Belmour's favoured lover, the elegant Lord. Etheridge, was already on his way up stairs, and she was advancing to the door to forbid his entrance, when Mrs. Lovemore requested she might be no interruption, and offered to retire into another room ; a politeness of which Mrs. Belmour, much better pleased to admit his Lordship, than refuse him, willingly availed herself.

Mrs. Belmour now ran to the glass, to see whether her charms were in full force, and to adjust a stray curl or two. Lord Etheridge entered, gaily exclaiming

A heavenly image in the glass appears:
To that she bends, to that her eyes she rears,

Repairs ber smiles—*** “Repairs her smiles, my Lord (replied the lovely widow): I don't like your application of that phrase, Pray, my Lord, are my smiles out of repair, like an old house in the country that wants a tenant?”

Each in high spirits, an animated, lively, and witty conversation flowed freely; and Mrs. Belmour, who really admired Lord Etheridge, played off the whole artillery of her charms to delight him. Amongst her numerous accomplishments, she sung and played with

« 前へ次へ »