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of Lady Charlotte, or the indifference of Mr. Willoughby, at times awakened her resentment, or sunk her into sadness. She owed to his apropos anecdote, or ludicrous remark, the raHying moment, which gave her power to laugh when others laughed, and to be gay when Sir Charles Seymour would still attempt to make her sentimental.
Lord Burghley gave the word that there was nothing so delightful as “the Soirees” of Mrs. Willoughby; and Lady Rachel had sanctioned the opi. nion, by having broken through her general rule, and establishing herself almost every evening in Isabella's drawing-room. As Isabella was understood to be always “at home," all who were upon her visiting list might present themselves between the hours of nine and twelve; and even of the gayest and the busiest, there were few who, from curiosity to see "what sort of a thing it was," did not sometimes find their way thither. But the more habitual party was of such who, not being overwhelmed by engagements from home, or who, finding no attractions at home, eagerly seised this escape from solitude, and the tedium of conversing with their own thoughts, and this substitute for dissipation, which from various causes they could no longer partake of elsewhere.
To this part of her visitors, Isabella furnished the resource of the card table; while she found her own amusement amongst the few of superiorintellect, and cultivated taste, whom Lady Rachel and Lord Burghley had drawn around them. The group, of which Isabella formed the centre, assumed from hence something of a literary aspect, and gave a colour to the sarcasms of Lady Charlotte, that “ Mrs. Willoughby was become a blue
stocking.” To pick up anecdotes to which she could give a ludicrous turn, and to ascertain as well as she could what was really passing in Isabella's mind, Lady Charlotte not unfrequently passed ten minutes or a quarter of an hour at Mrs. Willoughby's, on her progress to gayer scenes, and more interesting parties. If she found Mr. Willoughby at home, she would offer to set him down at his evening's engagement; or she would sometimes enter with him and some hanging on female companion, at the latest period of Isabella's assembly, and tell her, with an insolent air,“ see, I have brought your wanderer home.”
Patiently as Isabella had brought herself to bear these impertinencies, she was not sorry to have an active defender, and sometimes an avenger, in her young friend Mr. Burghley.-He was one of her most certain vi
sitors ; and he had no greater delight than to make himself a torment to Lady Charlotte. As he was consi. dered merely as a good-natured rattle, though felt at times to be a sharp one, it would have been beneath the dignity of Lady Charlotte to have been offended by what she called “his intolerable nonsense;" but the buzzing bee would often make her feel his sting, and then fly off to enjoy the honey
of Isabella's smile. At other times he would attach himself so closely to Lady Charlotte, that she could not. shake him from her, and he would oblige her to carry him away in her carriage, that he might be at hand, he said, “ to amend her report,” which he gravely assured her “was often very faulty, from her not at all understanding what had been passing under her eyes thus instituting himself both as a spy, and a restraint upon Lady Char
lotte, by which he not unfrequently rendered Isabella the most essential service, in bringing over the laugh to his side; which, had it remained on Lady Charlotte's, might have found its way in a graver form to the apprehensions of Mr. Willoughby.
But the most indefatigable and assiduous of Isabella's visitors was Sir Charles Seymour. Do what she would to put him out of his play, he was too experienced a gamester to be foiled by so truly ingenuous and artlesss an opponent. She could not but bow to the opinion that she knew Lady Rachel entertained of him ; but now that she had no weaknesses of her own to make her afraid of him, she was not able to discover any thing in the manners of Sir Charles that could distinguish his attentions to her from those of any
other well-bred man whom the constant intercourse of society allowed