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his fortunes, and thus accelerating the great object of his heart, his union with Hetty. So rapidly do thoughts evolve in which our feelings and interests are deeply concerned, that he had time to consider all this as he ascended the stairs, and to determine on cultivating, to the best of his ability, an acquaintance that might prove not less beneficial than that which he had so auspiciously commenced with the Earl of Sunderland. Powdered lacqueys habited in splendid liveries preceded him to the landingplace, where he was committed to the Groom of the Chambers, who received his name, and ushered him into a gorgeously furnished drawing-room, within which he beheld the Countess reclining upon a sofa, while Mrs. Morlay was reading, either to her, or to a girl who sate upon an ottoman by her side.
The girl was Lady Catherine Darnley, the Countess's daughter, by the King, or by Colonel Graham, if we may rather believe the scandalous chronicles of the day. Mrs. Morlay, the same who had attended the Countess at West
bury, was a companion, or to speak more plainly, a toad-eater, who at once largely served her own interested purposes, and contrived to ingratiate herself with her patroness, by concealing her servility and adulation beneath a flimsy veil of candour and independence. From direct adulation the quick-witted, penetrative Catherine Sedley would have revolted; but so treacherous is the self-love, even of the keenest intellects, that they are reconciled to the most fulsome compliment if it be rendered in the smallest degree oblique, and administered with the minutest portion of tact and discernment, Unless when a fool is to be propitiated, flattery, to be successful, requires more talent than is generally imagined. Where it is palpable, it is felt as an insult to the understanding, but few are insensible to the homage that wears the plausible disguise of a sincere friendship or involuntary admiration. Of this fact Mrs. Morlay was aware, and having just art enough to conceal her art, she contrived, although an ignorant weak-minded woman, to obtain an ascendency
over the stronger intellect of Catherine Sedley ; nay, even to persuade her that she was her disinterested friend, and ventured to tell her truths which no
one else would presume to utter. These truths indeed were never of an unpalatable nature; they were only wheedling blandishments, wearing always a mask of free, and sometimes of indignant rebuke, and were thus admirably adapted to cajole her patroness, who was at once gratified by the cause of her friend's apparent anger, and the frank honesty that it seemed to evince.
The girl having left the room, accompanied by a female attendant, as Walter entered, he looked at the Countess, and a single glance convinced him of her identity with his fair acquaintance of Westbury, as well as of the surprising improvement in her appearance, effected by a change from the plain travelling dress she had then worn, to a magnificent robe à la Sultane and jewelled turban, which accorded not less happily with her figure than with the oriental character of the chamber, hung as it was with
costly mirrors and draperies in the Turkish fashion. Her eyes, assisted perhaps by the effect of rouge, seemed even brighter than before, while she exhibited a voluptuous boldness in her looks and attitude such as he had not previously remarked.
“Eccolo.” she exclaimed as Walter entered the apartment, “there he is, I protest-oup reputed robber, our Don Guzman, or rather our Don Quixote de la Mancha, who came to the relief of the distressed damsels! Meglio tardi che mai, Captain Colyton; you see I have not forgotten your name, but neither have I forgotten my sex, and still less my presumed attractions, and I must therefore put your gallantry or your invention to the test, by demanding the cause of this long delay in your appearance.”
“I should have sooner done myself the honour of resuming my acquaintance with your Ladyship
“ Tush, man !” interposed the Countess, who was at times half disposed to be ashamed of her
ignoble nobility, “you had no previous acquaintance with my Ladyship; you only knew me as Catherine. I was returning from the Bath when we encountered so strangely at Westbury, and I always travel incognita to avoid the impertinence of the mobile, who in these disaffected times love to show disrespect to every thing that appertains to the Court, aš I do, Helas pour
moi !" “Nay, nay, I cannot allow that to pass, said the obsequious Mrs. Morlay ; " your only motive for concealment upon these occasions is your humility, an indisposition to assert, as you ought to do, your high rank and station. You know that all the women are dying with envy of you, and so you go about in disguise to avoid giving them pain. This is a great weakness, and I feel it my duty to tell you of it.”
“ If her Ladyship wished to be equally considerate towards our sex," said Walter, “she would always wear a veil; and would she spare, both to men and women, a feeling of their inferiority, she must silence her own wit.”