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“ Very true, very true,” cried Mrs. Morlay ; “ the attempt, you see, is quite ridiculous ; it looks, in fact, like affectation, and so I have told her a hundred times, for I am a plain-spoken body, and always like to say my say openly, however others may fawn and flatter.”
“ I hope the word others which you pronounçed-so significantly was not meant for Captain Colyton," said the Countess ; "for I can assure him that he might have paid me a much more acceptable compliment by answering my first question, and explaining why he did not sooner present himself in St. James's Square.”
“I felt a delicacy in doing so, until the expected remittance from my father enabled me to return the loan with which your Ladyship so kindly favoured. me," said Walter, placing the amount upon the table, enveloped in scented paper.
“Punctual as a goldsmith !” cried Catherine. “ Had I lent money to Sir Josiah Child, I could not have placed it in securer hands, although he might not have returned it in a perfumed packet. You have paid yourself but
an ill compliment, Captain Colyton, and me a still poorer one, by imagining that I valued this trifle more than the pleasure of seeing you, or the recollection of the service, albeit an involuntary one, which you conferred upon me at Westbury. Morlay, mia cura! you are always twitting me with my carelessness in money matters. Ought I not to count out these guineas and see that none be clipped ? nay, ought I not, like a true Shylock in petticoats, to exact good interest for the use ?"
“ This is talking like a rattling madcap as you are! I only object to your lavishing your money in charity, to your never passing a deserving object without drawing your pursestrings, while you frequently deny yourself those little luxuries and elegancies which are so congenial to your taste, and to which you are so fully entitled by your high station. This being one of your greatest foibles, I do not hesitate to denounce it, even at the risk of offending you, and in the presence of Captain Colyton."
“ So far as externals are concerned, and put
ting aside every thing that has reference to the heart, I do not see what pomps or gratifications I have denied myself," said the Countess, throwing a triumphant glance at the stately apartment, and at her own richly decorated figure, reflected by the long mirrors.
“ And her Ladyship’s taste must be fastidious indeed,” observed Walter, “ to discover a single defect, or even want in her establishment, if I may judge by this exquisitely adorned saloon."
“ But it is always pleasant,” resumed the pertinacious Mrs. Morlay, “ to save one's money instead of wasting it upon objects and institutions; to have a little bank in the house, if it be only to pay gaming debts, for want of which economy and forethought, as your Ladyship must confess, you have often been exposed to very vexatious embarrassments. To be sure, you are so ridiculously sensitive, so scrupulous, so conscientious upon this point! That is another of your great failings; really one would suppose you were a Puritan.-Ay, ay, you may
shake your head and frown, I care not for it, not I; I will speak my mind, and if I am not to be allowed this privilege of a true friend, I care not how soon I leave you. Why, there's Lady Ossory, and Lady Betty Camden, and the Duchess of Grafton, and half a score others, owe hundreds of card money to their friends. Nay the Queen herself will sometimes talk to the people, in her pretty broken English, of the pleasant party they had together the night before, and quite forget to pay what she lost to them; they do say the same thing of the Lady Anne, and Prince George ; and as to lady Sunderland, she is not only the worst pay-mistress in the world, but cheats besides."
66 And is it in either of these honourable qualifications, or in both, that you wish me to imitate her Ladyship? I should despise myself for ever if I resembled that woman in one single point.”
The Countess looked offended, for she de
sted Lady Sunderland ; and her companion, afraid that she had overshot the mark, eagerly
exclaimed.“ Imitate her ! you cannot suppose that I meant any thing so preposterous. That horrid woman is my aversion. Besides, it is well known that her intrigues are not all of a political nature. I presume that you are not acquainted with her, Captain Colyton ?”
“I have had the honour of an introduction to her since my arrival in London."
“ An acquaintance," said the Countess with an arch smile, “which you will doubtless cul . tivate, after the character my friend Morlay has just given her ; but remember that I have a prior claim to you ; you have put a ring upon my finger in presence of his Worship Balaam Hickman, the Mayor of Westbury; you are my affianced adorer, and if after this, you transfer your devoirs from one Countess to another, and exchange Catherine Sedley for Anne Digby, now Lady Sunderland, I will proclaim you a false Cavalier, summon forthwith a Cour d'Amour, and cite you in the name of the blind Deity to answer for a blindness equal to his own."