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lord Monteith applied for legal damages, fince, however large the fum given by the verdict, abfence and incapacity would be a receipt in full. The next ftep of the injured husband must be a divorce, and the deserted lady could not then object to taking refuge in a second marriage, which was the only chance of reftoring her again to the world, if not with untainted, at least with a convalefcent character. Geraldine was an heiress, and it was to be supposed that her fettlements were made with proper precaution. Even as a wife fhe was infinitely more defirable than Arabella; and, though the illiberality of husbands might wish to fecure their domeftic poffeffions by an impaffable inclosure, modern spirit had proved itself able to furmount every fence; and the lady might give away herself and her property feveral times over, without calling upon
death to cancel a former bond. The world indeed would at first be angry; but the times were very liberal. People would allow for the force of irresistible temptation. They would plead, that it was impoffible to forbear adoring such a charming creature. The blame would be happily transferred to my lord, who ought never to have admitted a friend into his family, or to have trusted her out of his fight; and in a little time every body would vifit Mr. Fitzofborne and his lady, and perhaps even find them out to be a very worthy and exemplary pair.
Confirmed in his defigns not more by his own infidious inclinations than by the false notions which prevail even amongst the more principled part of that important circle called the great world, Fitzofborne profecuted his nefarious plans; and he determined, that if
fear, or, as he called it, prudence, did not check, compunction fhould not diffuade. Chance, and the credulous confidence of lord Monteith, favoured his wishes. Cards of invitation to lady Fillagree's petit fouper had been fent to the Monteiths, and the countefs had not only chofen her character, but fhe had alfo decorated an Italian tiffany with feftoons of violets, in which dress fhe intended to perfonify the Perdita of Shakspeare. Her anxious entreaties had prevailed upon her lord to accompany her in the habit of the royal Florizel; and this mark of attachment on her part, and condefcenfion on his, promised the renewal of domestic harmony. The expected evening approached, when a note from the minifter requested lord Monteith's attendance in the house of peers. Business of great importance was to be agitated; M 3 a vio.
a violent oppofition was expected; and the honour of his lordship's fupport would confer a lafting obligation. The earl was not in the habit of courting minifterial favour; he difliked the task of attendance: and the labour of liftening to a long debate was always fufficiently terrific to make him prejudge the question. Yet though no one ever took less pains to acquire real authority, he was very well pleased to be thought a man of confequence; and the minifter's request was too preffing to be declined. Geraldine wished to give up her engagement, but my lord had fixed upon a plan that would fettle every thing, and to which his own diflike of masked balls and fancy-fuppers gave a determinate ftability. It was, that Fitzofborne, instead of spending the evening alone in the library, should be her escort. My lord's dress would fit him pretty exactly,
and Edward's excufes answered the end for which they were defigned, which was to fix my lord moft pofitively in his determinations.
The entertainment was to be given at a villa a little diftance from town. Geraldine dreffed early; but her heavy heart feemed to anticipate fome difaftrous iffue. My lord came into her dreffingroom to fee if fhe looked her character; and while he contemplated the fimplicity and exquifite adaption of her ornaments, the apprehenfions with which he had been lately tortured returned. " Do "not," faid he, "dance with Vernon, "nor any of that fet, if they should afk сс you. Plead that you are engaged to "Fitzofborne, or else fay that you are " tired."
"Will not that have a fingular "appearance?" inquired the countess. " You