‘’Twould be difficult, in some cases,’ thought many present.
‘’Pon honour, di’monds are cursed expensive things, I know!’ said Heathcock. ‘But, be that as it may,’ whispered he to the lady, though loud enough to be heard by others, ’I’ve laid a damned round wager, that no woman’s diamonds married this winter, under a countess, in Lon’on, shall eclipse Lady Isabel Heathcock’s!—and Mr. Gray here’s to be judge.’
Lady Isabel paid for this promise one of her sweetest smiles; with one of those smiles which she had formerly bestowed upon Lord Colambre, and which he had once fancied expressed so much sensibility—such discriminative and delicate application. Our hero felt so much contempt, that he never wasted another sigh of pity for her degradation. Lady Dashfort came up to him as he was standing alone; and, whilst the count and Sir James were settling about the diamonds—
‘My Lord Colambre,’ said she, in a low voice, ’I know your thoughts, and I could moralise as well as you, if I did not prefer laughing—you are right enough; and so am I, and so is Isabel; we are all right. For look here: women have not always the liberty of choice, and therefore they can’t be expected to have always the power of refusal.’
The mother, satisfied with her convenient optimism, got into her carriage with her daughter, her daughter’s diamonds, and her precious son-in-law, her daughter’s companion for life.
‘The more I see,’ said Count O’Halloran to Lord Colambre, as they left the shop, ’the more I find reason to congratulate you upon your escape, my dear lord.’
‘I owe it not to my own wit or wisdom,’ said Lord Colambre; ’but much to love, and much to friendship,’ added he, turning to Sir James Brooke; ’here was the friend who early warned me against the siren’s voice; who, before I knew Lady Isabel, told me what I have since found to be true, that,
alternately govern her fate—
Her business is love, but her pleasure is hate.’
‘That is dreadfully severe, Sir James,’ said Count O’Halloran; ’but I am afraid it is just.’
‘I am sure it is just, or I would not have said it,’ replied Sir James Brooke. ’For the foibles of the sex, I hope, I have as much indulgence as any man, and for the errors of passion as much pity; but I cannot repress the indignation, the abhorrence I feel against women, cold and vain, who use their wit and their charms only to make others miserable.’
Lord Colambre recollected at this moment Lady Isabel’s look and voice, when she declared that ’she would let her little finger be cut off to purchase the pleasure of inflicting on Lady de Cresey, for one hour, the torture of jealousy.’