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frequently to administer spiritual consolation to the poor woman. Lady Belfield knew him slightly, and highly respected his character. She took him aside, and questioned him as to the disposition and conduct of these people, especially the young woman. His testimony was highly satisfactory. The girl, he said, had not only had an excellent education, but her understanding and principles were equally good. He added, that he reckoned her beauty among her misfortunes. It made good people afraid to take her into the house, and exposed her to danger from those of the opposite description.
I put my purse into Lady Belfield's bands, declining to make any present myself, lest, after the remark he had just made, I should incur the suspicions of the worthy clergyman.
We promised to call again the next day, and took our leave, but not till we had possessed ourselves of as many flowers as she could spare. I begged that we might stop and send some medical assistance to the sick woman, for though it was evident that all relief was hopeless, yet it would be a comfort to the affectionate girl's heart to know that nothing was omitted which might restore her mother.
In the evening we talked over our little adventure with Sir John, who entered warmly into the distresses of Fanny, and was inclined to adopt our opinion, that if her character and attainments stood the test of a strict inquiry, she might hereafter probably be
transplanted into their family as governess. We were interrupted in the formation of this plan by a visit from Lady Melbury, the acknowledged queen of beauty and of ton. I had long been acquainted with her character, for her charms and her accomplishments were the theme of every man of fashion, and the envy of every modish woman.
She is one of those admired but pitiable characters, who, sent by Providence as an example to their sex, degrade themselves into a warning. Warm-hearted, feeling, liberal on the one hand; on the other vain, sentimental, romantic, extravagantly addicted to dissipation and expence, and with that union of contrarieties which distinguishes her, equally devoted to poetry and gaming, to liberality and injustice. She is too handsome to be envious, and too generous to have any relish for detraction, but she gives to excess into the opposite fault. As Lady Denbam can detect blemishes in the most perfect, Lady Melbury finds perfections in the most depraved. From a judgment which cannot discriminate, a temper which will not censure, and a hunger for popularity, which can feed on the coarsest applause, she flatters egregiously and universally, on the principle of being paid back usuriously in the same coin. Prodigal of her beauty, she exists but on the homage paid to it from the drawing room of St. James's, to the mob at an election. Candour in her is as mischievous as calumny in others, for it buoys up characters which ought to sink. Not content with being blind to the bad qualities of her favourites, she invents good ones for them, and you would suppose her corrupt “ little senate” was a choir of seraphims.
A recent circumstance related by Sir John was quite characteristical. Her favourite maid was dangerously ill, and earnestly begged to see her lady, who always had loaded her with favours. To all company she talked of the virtues of the poor Toinette, for whom she not only expressed, but felt real compassion. Instead of one apothecary, who would have sufficed, two physicians were sent for ; and she herself resolved to go up and visit her, as soon as she had finished setting to music an elegy on the death of her Java Sparrow. Just as she had completed it, she received a fresh entreaty to see her maid, and was actually got to the door in order to go up stairs, when the milliner came in with such a distracting variety of beautiful new things, that there was no possibility of letting them go till she had tried every thing on, one after the other. This took up no little time. To determine which she should keep and whieh return, where all was so attractive, took up still more. After numberless vicissitudes and fluctuations of racking thought, it was at length decided she should take the whole. The milliner withdrew; the lady went up-Toinette had just expired.
I found her manners no less fascinating than her person. With all her modish graces, there was a tincture of romance, and an appearance of softness and sensibility which gave her the variety of two characters. She was the enchanting woman of fashion, and the elegiac muse.
Lady Belfield had taken care to cover her work table with Fanny's flowers, with a view to attract any chance visitor. Lady Melbury admired them excessively. “ You must do more than admire them,” said Lady Belfield, “ you must buy and recommend.” She then told her the affecting scene we had witnessed, and described the amiable girl who supported the dying mother by making these flowers. “ It is quite enchanting,” continued she, resolving to attack Lady Melbury in her own sentimental way, “ to see this sweet girl twisting rosebuds, and forming hyacinths into bouquets.” “ Dear, how charming !” exclaimed Lady Melbury, “ it is really quite touching. I will make a subscription for her, and write at the head of the list a melting description of her case. She shall bring me all her flowers, and as many more as she can make. But no, we will make a party, and go and see her. You shall carry me. How interesting to see a beautiful creature making roses and hyacinths ! her delicate hands and fair complexion must be amazingly set off by the contrast of the bright flowers. If it were a coarse looking girl spinning hemp, to be sure one should pity her, but it would not be half so moving. It will be delightful. I will call on you to-morrow, exactly at two, and carry you all. Perhaps," whispered she to Lady Belfield, “ I may work up the circumstances into a sonnet. Do think of a striking title for it. On second thoughts, the sonnet shall be sent about with the subscription, and I'll get a pretty vignette to suit it.”
“ That fine creature,” said Sir John, in an accent of compassion, as she went out, “ was made for nobler purposes. How grievously does she fall short of the high expectations her early youth had raised ! Oh! what a sad return does she make to Providence for his rich and varied bounties ! Vain of her beauty, lavish of her money, careless of her reputation; associating with the worst company, yet formed for the best ; living on the adulation of parasites, whose understanding she despises ! I grieve to compare what she is with what she might have been, had she married a man of spirit, who would prudently have guided and tenderly have restrained her. He has ruined her and himself by his indifference and easiness of temper. Satisfied with knowing how much she is admired and he envied, he never thought of reproving or restricting her. He is proud of her, but has no particular delight in her company, and trusting to her honour, lets her follow her own devices, while he follows his. She is a striking instance of the eccentricity of that bounty which springs from mere sympathy and feeling. Her charity requires stage effect; objects that have novelty, and circum