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ways ?” said Lady Charlotte, carelessly; "and I beg that you will think my animation innocent, too, although not excited by my husband.”
“I must answer you in your own words,” replied Mr. Willoughby, with a smile of a very equivocal nature, “ who ever thought otherways?" but come, do not let you and me quarrel - rather let us dance.
A flash of indignation darted from the
eyes of Lady Charlotte ; it was but momentary, and was instantly succeeded by the most fascinating smile.
“ You know,” said she, “it is not my forte to say No !"--and she suffered him to lead her into the dance, although by no means unconscious that dancing was far less her forte, than the power
of denial. Mr. Willoughby gently pressed the hand, so flatteringly yielded, and then took credit to himself for the little rebuff that he had given Lady Charlotte, and the warmth with which he had defended Isabella.
How happy would the knowledge of this defence have made her !and still more perhaps would she have been delighted with the praises which he had bestowed upon her person
of her innocence it could never have occurred to her, that he could entertain a doubt; but of his appreciation of her beauty she had now the most mortifying mistrust.
It was not, however, from the admiration of her husband that Isabella was this evening to derive her gratification – she saw him indeed, for the remainder of its festive hours, take a full share in the general amusement; but still Lady Charlotte appeared to be the point of attraction from which he could not withdraw himself; and she turned away her eyes, and removed from their vicinity, that she might not see what robbed her
of all self-possession, and hazarded the betrayal of the inmost recesses of her heart. It was therefore in listening to the flattery of Sir Charles Seymour, that she endeavoured to lose the consciousness of the homage that she believed Mr. Willoughby to be offering to Lady Charlotte, and it was in allowing herself to take pleasure in the incense that was offered to her vanity, that she strove to forget the wounds that were inflicted upon her heart.
But the excitation was too powerful, the effort too great ; — she became feverish and exhausted, and before the splendid apartments had closed upon the last of the numerous guests, Isabella, over-worn, and tortured by a violent head-ache, had retired to her
Judge not what is best
Isabella awoke to no pleasureable recollections. Languid in body and mind, the occurrences of the past evening furnished nothing to cheer either one or the other. This, supposed so important ball, had not established one point of mutual interest between herself and Mr. Wil. loughby; had occasioned no communication; had collected no store of confidential remark or gay observation, from which to draw for after amusement or friendly intercourse. The evening had been, and was gone
and she could not flatter herself that the display of her taste, and her talents for decoration, had advanced her one step in the estimation of her husband, or that he would not as soon forget her ball, as she had invariably seen him do the balls of other people. Before she awoke, he was already gone out to his usual morning engagements; and when she left her room, it was only to look on the deserted and disordered apartments, from whence was already removing the tattered and faded ornaments which had cost such enormous sums to arrange and to affix. Isabella turned from the scene with disgust; but it was only to fix the disgust upon herself.
How was it possible, thought she,