The little letter-case, at all events, was safely hers; and for many a night Vera slept with it under her pillow.
DINNER AT RANELAGH.
Here is the whole set, a character dead at every word.
It was the fag end of the London season; people were talking about Goodwood and the Ryde week, about grouse and about salmon-fishing. Members of Parliament went about, like martyrs at the stake, groaning over the interminable nature of every debate, and shaking their heads over the prospect of getting away. Women in society knew all their own and their neighbours’ dresses by heart, and were dead sick of them all; and even the very gossip and scandal that is always afloat to keep up the spirits of the idlers and the chatterers had lost all the zest, all the charm of novelty that gave flavour and piquancy to every canard that was started two months ago.
It was all stale, flat, and unprofitable.
What was the use of constantly asserting, on the very best authority, that Lady So-and-so was on the eve of running away with that handsome young actor, whose eyes had taken the female population by storm, when Lady So-and-so persisted in walking about arm-in-arm with her husband day after day, with a child on either side of them, in the most provoking way, as though to prove the utter fallacy of the report, and her own incontestable domestic felicity? Or, what merit had a man any longer who had stated in May that the heiress par excellence of the season was about to sell herself and her gold to that debauched and drunken marquis, who had evidently not six months of life left in him in which to enjoy his bargain, when the heiress herself gave the lie to the on dit in July by talking calmly about going to Norway with her papa for a month’s retirement and rest after the fatigues of the season?
What a number of lies are there not propounded during the months of May and June by the inventive Londoner, and how many of them are there not proved to be so during the latter end of July!
Heaven only knows how and where the voice of scandal is first raised. Is it at the five o’clock tea-tables? Or, is it in the smoking-rooms of the clubs that things are first spoken of, and the noxious breath of slander started upon its career? Or, are there evil-minded persons, both men and women, prowling about, like unclean animals, at the skirts of that society into whose inner recesses they would fain gain admittance, picking up greedily, here and there, in their eaves-dropping career, some scrap or morsel of truth out of which they weave a well-varnished tale wherewith to delight the ears of the vulgar and the coarse-minded? There are such men and such women; God forgive them for their wickedness!
Do any of these scandal-mongers ever call to mind, I wonder, an ancient and, seemingly, a well-nigh forgotten injunction?