‘Mysteries of the tender passion,’ said Mr. Ely. ’I am not initiated yet, you know.’
Here Mr. Farquhar’s carriage was announced, and as we have not found his conversation particularly brilliant under the stimulus of Mr. Ely’s exceptional presence, we will not accompany him home to the less exciting atmosphere of domestic life.
Mr. Ely threw himself with a sense of relief into his easiest chair, set his feet on the hobs, and in this attitude of bachelor enjoyment began to read Bishop Jebb’s Memoirs.
I am by no means sure that if the good people of Milby had known the truth about the Countess Czerlaski, they would not have been considerably disappointed to find that it was very far from being as bad as they imagined. Nice distinctions are troublesome. It is so much easier to say that a thing is black, than to discriminate the particular shade of brown, blue, or green, to which it really belongs. It is so much easier to make up your mind that your neighbour is good for nothing, than to enter into all the circumstances that would oblige you to modify that opinion.
Besides, think of all the virtuous declamation, all the penetrating observation, which had been built up entirely on the fundamental position that the Countess was a very objectionable person indeed, and which would be utterly overturned and nullified by the destruction of that premiss. Mrs. Phipps, the banker’s wife, and Mrs. Landor, the attorney’s wife, had invested part of their reputation for acuteness in the supposition that Mr. Bridmain was not the Countess’s brother. Moreover, Miss Phipps was conscious that if the Countess was not a disreputable person, she, Miss Phipps, had no compensating superiority in virtue to set against the other lady’s manifest superiority in personal charms. Miss Phipps’s stumpy figure and unsuccessful attire, instead of looking down from a mount of virtue with an aureole round its head, would then be seen on the same level and in the same light as the Countess Czerlaski’s Diana-like form and well-chosen drapery. Miss Phipps, for her part, didn’t like dressing for effect—she had always avoided that style of appearance which was calculated to create a sensation.
Then what amusing innuendoes of the Milby gentlemen over their wine would have been entirely frustrated and reduced to nought, if you had told them that the Countess had really been guilty of no misdemeanours which demanded her exclusion from strictly respectable society; that her husband had been the veritable Count Czerlaski, who had had wonderful escapes, as she said, and who, as she did not say, but as was said in certain circulars once folded by her fair hands, had subsequently given dancing lessons in the metropolis; that Mr. Bridmain was neither more nor less than her half-brother, who, by unimpeached integrity and industry, had won a partnership in a silk-manufactory, and thereby