The news came out in the papers that the old lady had been restored to her fortune. She had been deprived of it so long ago that the real manner of her dispossession had become lost, or at least hidden under the many versions that had been invented to replace lapses of memory, or to remedy the unpicturesqueness of the original truth. The face of truth, like the face of many a good woman, is liable to the accident of ugliness, and the desire to embellish one as well as the other need not necessarily proceed from anything more harmful than an overweighted love of the beautiful.
If the old lady had not been restored to her fortune, her personalia would have remained in the oblivion which, as one might say, had accumulated upon everything belonging to her. But after that newspaper paragraph, there was such a flowering of memory around her name as would have done credit to a whole cemetery on All Saints. It took three generations to do justice to the old lady, for so long and so slow had been her descent into poverty that a grandmother was needed to remember her setting out upon the road to it.
She set out as most people do, well provided with money, diamonds, pretty clothing, handsome residence, equipage, opera-box, beaus (for she was a widow), and so many, many friends that she could never indulge in a small party—she always had to give a grand ball to accommodate them. She made quite an occasion of her first reverse,—some litigation decided against her,—and said it came from the court’s’ having only one ear, and that preempted by the other party.
She always said whatever she thought, regardless of the consequences, because she averred truth was so much more interesting than falsehood. Nothing annoyed her more in society than to have to listen to the compositions women make as a substitute for the original truth. It was as if, when she went to the theater to hear Shakspere and Moliere, the actors should try to impose upon the audience by reciting lines of their own. Truth was the wit of life and the wit of books. She traveled her road from affluence so leisurely that nothing escaped her eyes or her feelings, and she signaled unhesitatingly every stage in it.