’And where are you, my lord, to be found!—as I have a parcel of Miss Nugent’s for you.’
Lord Colambre instantly turned back, and gave his direction.
‘Cleverly done, faith!’ said the major. ’I did not hear her say when Lady Dashfort is to be in town,’ said Captain Bowles.
’What, Bowles! have you a mind to lose more of your guineas to Lady Dashfort, and to be jockied out of another horse by Lady Isabel?’
’Oh! confound it—no! I’ll keep out of the way of that—I have had enough,’ said Captain Bowles; ’it is my Lord Colambre’s turn now; you hear that Lady Dashfort would be very proud to see him. His lordship is in for it, and with such an auxiliary as Mrs. Petito, Lady Dashfort has him for Lady Isabel, as sure as he has a heart or hand.’
‘My compliments to the ladies, but my heart is engaged,’ said Lord Colambre; ‘and my hand shall go with my heart, or not at all.’
‘Engaged! engaged to a very amiable, charming woman, no doubt,’ said Sir James Brooke. ’I have an excellent opinion of your taste; and if you can return the compliment to my judgment, take my advice: don’t trust to your heart’s being engaged, much less plead that engagement; for it would be Lady Dashfort’s sport, and Lady Isabel’s joy, to make you break your engagement, and break your mistress’s heart; the fairer, the more amiable, the more beloved, the greater the triumph, the greater the delight in giving pain. All the time love would be out of the question; neither mother nor daughter would care if you were hanged, or, as Lady Dashfort would herself have expressed it, if you were d-d.’
’With such women, I should think a man’s heart could be in no great danger,’ said Lord Colambre.
’There you might be mistaken, my lord; there’s a way to every man’s heart, which no man in his own case is aware of, but which every woman knows right well, and none better than these ladies—by his vanity.’
‘True,’ said Captain Bowles.
‘I am not so vain as to think myself without vanity,’ said Lord Colambre; ’but love, I should imagine, is a stronger passion than vanity.’
‘You should imagine! Stay till you are tried, my lord. Excuse me,’ said Captain Bowles, laughing.
Lord Colambre felt the good sense of this, and determined to have nothing to do with these dangerous ladies; indeed, though he had talked, he had scarcely yet thought of them; for his imagination was intent upon that packet from Miss Nugent, which Mrs. Petito said she had for him. He heard nothing of it, or of her, for some days. He sent his servant every day to Stephen’s Green to inquire if Lady Dashfort had returned to town. Her ladyship at last returned; but Mrs. Petito could not deliver the parcel to any hand but Lord Colambre’s own, and she would not stir out, because her lady was indisposed. No longer able to restrain his impatience, Lord Colambre went himself—knocked at Lady Dashfort’s