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afperfe a character which he verily believed was the only exception to that general careleffnefs of reputation too ftrongly characteristic of the manners of the prefent race of married ladies.
Calumny, my dear lady Monteith,” continued he, "is now confidered as "the test of fashion; and, instead of fhrinking from its peftilential attack, "C even women of virtue conceive a flan"derous paragraph in a morning paper "to be a kind of paffport to celebrity; "and, pleafed with becoming objects "of general attention, they wait very "patiently for time to confute what was "untrue in the report. Your extreme
delicacy (for now that you are a little "recovered I cannot help remarking "that it is too exquifitely fufceptible) " and the peculiarity of your lord's dif
pofition make me fee the confequences "of this affair in a more ferious light
" than I fhould otherwife do: but as I am afraid that neither of you will ever "practise the philofophy which I fhould "affume on this ridiculous occafion, "I can only fay, that I fhall be ready to "pursue any plan you shall fuggeft for "my conduct. Come, clear that pen"five brow; and be convinced, that "Monteith may fee other men admire "you without fuppofing that you en"courage their addreffes."
This fpeech had the defired effect. It convinced the countess that fhe ought to conceal from her lord every circumftance in her own behaviour which excited the animadverfions of others; and while her agitated fpirits were fomewhat confoled by the hope that his displeasure was now wholly confined to Vernon, fhe faw the neceffity of extreme caution, left it should ultimately point at her. Her apprehen
fions of fome criminal intention in Fitzofborne's paffionate addrefs were tranfient. The extreme audacity and guilt annexed to the bare idea of his having formed an illicit attachment, and the abfolute impoffibility of his even boping for fuccefs, perfuaded her, that his paffionate language was only, as he af firmed it to be, the unpremeditated fympathy of fincere friendship; and the now blushed at her own indelicacy in doubting, though but for a moment, the rectitude of his heart.
Efteem and confidence are never fo powerful as at the moment of removed fufpicion. She wanted an advifer and confidant. Who could feem fo proper to perform that office as the fagacious fentimental Edward? The firft fcheme which lady Monteith propofed to stop the circulation of the flanderous tale was, that Fitzofborne should immediately
ately leave the family. The arch-tempter fignified his perfect acquiefcence; but with deference ftated, that in his opinion fuch an apparent coincidence with the prejudice of malevolence would tend to confirm its cenfure; and to his repeated advice to treat the whole ftory with indifference and bravado, lady Monteith oppofed her own poignant feelings, which would never permit her to go into company while confcious that a whifper was circulated to her dif advantage. At length a compromise was agreed to between the oppofite opinions, and Geraldine determined to take leave of the gay world with more than philofophic diftafte of its levity and uncharitable afperity. Forgetting that retirement had fometimes fuggefted the wifh of introducing her brilliant talents to the notice of more accurate obfervers, the envy, hatred, and detraction which impeded
impeded her career, made her again wish to take fhelter in the quiet undifputed fuperiority which Powerfcourt or Monteith prefented. The prefence of caprice and affectation renewed her Lucy's remembrance, rendered the recollected fweetnefs and ingenuoufnefs of her character fill more pleating, and ftimulated her impatience to pour her forrows into the bofom of foothing friendfhip; or to heal her corroded heart by the gentle balm of parental tenderness. The propofed alliance which had occafioned her journey to London being to all appearance entirely fruftrated, fhe wished to return to the pleafing occupations of domeftic life; and the claims of filial duty determined her to take Powerscourt in her way to Scotland. To prevent any fufpicion, that her retreat was in confequence of a breach. between the earl and Fitzofborne, it