’And what can the thousands upon thousands do for me? Hearts, you know, Lady Anne, are to be won only by radiant eyes. Bought hearts your ladyship certainly would not recommend. They’re such poor things—no wear at all. Turn them which way you will, you can make nothing of them.’
‘You’ve tried then, have you?’ said Lady Catharine.
’To my cost. Very nearly taken in by them half a dozen times; for they are brought to me by dozens; and they are so made up for sale, and the people do so swear to you that it’s real, real love, and it looks so like it; and, if you stoop to examine it, you hear it pressed upon you by such elegant oaths—By all that’s lovely!—By all my hopes of happiness!—By your own charming self! Why, what can one do but look like a fool, and believe; for these men, at the time, all look so like gentlemen, that one cannot bring oneself flatly to tell them that they are cheats and swindlers, that they are perjuring their precious souls. Besides, to call a lover a perjured creature is to encourage him. He would have a right to complain if you went back after that.’
‘Oh dear! what a move was there!’ cried Lady Catharine. ’Miss Broadhurst is so entertaining to-night, notwithstanding her sore throat, that one can positively attend to nothing else. And she talks of love and lovers too with such CONNAISSANCE de Fait—counts her lovers by dozens, tied up in true-lovers’ knots!’
’Lovers!—no, no! Did I say lovers?—suitors I should have said. There’s nothing less like a lover, a true lover, than a suitor, as all the world knows, ever since the days of Penelope. Dozens!—never had a lover in my life! And fear, with much reason, I never shall have one to my mind.’
‘My lord, you’ve given up the game,’ cried Lady Catharine; ’but you make no battle.’
‘It would be so vain to combat against your ladyship,’ said Lord Colambre, rising, and bowing politely to Lady Catharine, but turning the next instant to converse with Miss Broadhurst.
But when I talked of liking to be an heiress,’ said Lady Anne, ’I was not thinking of lovers.’
‘Certainly. One is not always thinking of lovers, you know,’ added Lady Catharine.
‘Not always,’ replied Miss Broadhurst. ’Well, lovers out of the question on all sides, what would your ladyship buy with the thousands upon thousands?’
‘Oh, everything, if I were you,’ said Lady Anne.
‘Rank, to begin with,’ said Lady Catharine.
‘Still my old objection—bought rank is but a shabby thing.’
’But there is so little difference made between bought and hereditary rank in these days,’ said Lady Catharine.
‘I see a great deal still,’ said Miss Broadhurst; ’so much, that I would never buy a title.’
‘A title without birth, to be sure,’ said Lady Anne, ’would not be so well worth buying; and as birth certainly is not to be bought—’