Mr. B. was abroad when her ladyship came, and I expected him not till the next day. She sent her gentleman, the preceding evening, to let me know that business had brought her as far as Wooburn; and if it would not be unacceptable, she would pay her respects to me at breakfast, the next morning, being speedily to leave England. I returned, that I should be very proud of that honour. And about ten her ladyship came.
She was exceedingly fond of my two boys, the little man, and the pretty baby, as she called them; and I had very different emotions from the expression of her love to Billy, and her visit to me, from what I had once before. She was sorry, she said, Mr. B. was abroad; though her business was principally with me. “For, Mrs. B.,” said she, “I come to tell you all that passed between Mr. B. and myself, that you may not think worse of either of us, than we deserve; and I could not leave England till I had waited on you for this purpose; and yet, perhaps, from the distance of time, you’ll think it needless now. And, indeed, I should have waited on you before, to have cleared up my character with you, had I thought I should have been so long kept on this side of the water.”—I said, I was very sorry I had ever been uneasy, when I had two persons of so much honour—“Nay,” said she, interrupting me, “you have no need to apologize; things looked bad enough, as they were presented to you, to justify greater uneasiness than you expressed.”
She asked me, who that pretty genteel Miss was?—I said, a relation of Lord Davers, who was entrusted lately to my care. “Then, Miss,” said her ladyship, and kissed her, “you are very happy.”
Believing the Countess was desirous of being alone with me, I said, “My dear Miss Goodwin, won’t you go to your little nursery, my love?” for so she calls my last blessing—“You’d be sorry the baby should cry for you.” For she was so taken with the charming lady, that she was loth to leave us—But, on my saying this, withdrew.
When we were alone, the Countess began her story, with a sweet confusion, which added to her loveliness. She said she would be brief, because she should exact all my attention, and not suffer me to interrupt her till she had done. She began with acknowledging, that she thought, when she first saw Mr. B. at the masquerade, that he was the finest gentleman she had ever seen; that the allowed freedoms of the place had made her take liberties in following him, and engaging him wherever he went. She blamed him very freely for passing for a single man; for that, she said, since she had so splendid a fortune of her own, was all she was solicitous about; having never, as she confessed, seen a man she could like so well; her former marriage having been in some sort forced upon her, at an age when she knew not how to distinguish; and that she was very loth to believe him married, even when she had no reason to doubt it. “Yet this I must say,” said she, “I never heard a man, when he owned he was married, express himself with more affectionate regard and fondness than he did of you; which made me long to see you; for I had a great opinion of those personal advantages which every one flattered me with; and was very unwilling to yield the palm of beauty to you.