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SOUBRETTE; OR, on Lord Henry Villeroi's when he heard this hurried detail. Turning from me, he gave a look of such mild yet sorrowful reproach on Lady Henry, as seemed to pierce her to the heart ; and rising from the couch, where she had been sobbing like a child, she threw herself on her husband's bosom, saying,
“ Enrico, my darling Enrico, I will not, I do not suspect you. Forgive me for having for one moment done so. She, she alone, must be to blame.” Saying this, she pointed to me, desiring I would leave her.
“No, she must remain, Clara," said Lord Henry; "you must tell me, before her, of what she is accused, and the name of her accuser ; at present, I have only her account of the affair, in which it appears I am implicated, and must be, if half the marchesa's story be true, equally or rather more guilty than Theresa.”
The quiet and cold way in which he said this seemed to bring my unhappy lady to her senses; and after some hesitation she recapitulated all Madelina had told me, together with a
variety of other accusations (of which I had hitherto been ignorant) on the same subject. She added that she was driven nearly frantic by finding from the marchesa, who seemed well-informed on the subject, that my giving notice to quit Lady Henry was merely to blind her, as I was in reality about to sail in another ship to Madeira.
Lady Henry had never been able to obtain from the marchesa the name of her informant, and she had, at the same time when she detailed these particulars, urged upon Lady Henry the necessity of silence. When this strange account was concluded, at once so inconsistent in its parts, and so improbable altogether, I could not help feeling astonishment at the easiness with which she had been deluded.
“So,” said Lord Henry, “ you really believed these infamous, these gratuitous lies; you really believed me capable of being false to you, Clara, from whom I have never kept a thought since we married; you have willingly believed that poor girl guilty, abandoned, and treacherous, and you have in your own mind given up as infamous wretches (for such we must be if this be true) a doating husband and a faithful attendant, because a weak, wicked and intriguing woman chooses to pour (for her amusement, I suppose,) these slanders about your husband into your willing ear?”
“Oh! not willing ear," exclaimed Lady Henry.
“ Then why listen again and again to her poisonous tale ? ” asked Lord Henry, " and keep me in ignorance of her infamous accusations. Unless you had believed what this woman said, you would have dismissed her with indignation, or insisted upon her repeating her slanders before my face, and have given your husband an opportunity of defending himself.”
“For your satisfaction I will in detail contradict every word that shameless woman has said of me and this injured girl, (to her face,) though I can scarcely believe my senses that it is necessary thus to humble myself. I once never could have thought it possible that you
would give credit to the aspersions of an almost utter stranger against the husband of your bosom."
“Enrico, my dear Enrico,” cried Lady Henry, “ forgive me, I feel, I see, what a wretch I have been. I will never speak to the marchesa again.”
“Once more you must, my poor Clara, and in my presence. Write a note begging to speak to her this afternoon, and request that she will bring a female friend with her. I will write to entreat Lady L- , who you know stands the highest both in rank and virtue amongst our English residents, to come here at the same time, and she will, I have no doubt, do us the favour to assist us in probing this affair to the bottom. Her dignity and impartiality make her well qualified to act as judge upon this important occasion.”
His lordship then dismissed me, saying, he had no doubt our calumniators would feel ashamed to be brought face to face, and desired that I would be at hand, as he should send for me upon the marchesa's arrival.
Lady Henry said nothing as I left the room, but was still sobbing on the sofa.
I felt truly grieved at the cruel imposition which had been practised upon her, as I greatly feared that in her present situation she might suffer.
Lady L- arrived half-an-hour before the marchesa, and was fully informed by Lord Henry, in the presence of his wife, of all that had passed, and the reason why he had taken the liberty of entreating her presence.
“You are not the first wife who has been made miserable by the manæuvring marchesa,” said Lady L- to Lady Henry. “She is notorious for mischief-making, and at one time was excluded from our English society, on account of a sad and nearly lasting separation which took place solely from her cruel misrepresentations.
“I was in hopes she was becoming sensible of the folly and wickedness of her conduct, but I see she must be at once and for ever banished from the parties of our hospitable countrymen and countrywomen.”