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CHAPTER III.

THE TRAVELS AND ADVENTURES OF A SECRET.

an Ancient Fragment.

I was begot in a certain cabinet, whence, not. withstanding the oaths of the members not to divulge the R-1 Secrets, I escaped by the follow, ing means:-One of the most Honourable Privy Gentlemen was of that description of easy men, who are denominated the best husbands in the world -- that is, he suffered the grey mare to be the better horse. His lady was not satisfied with the influence which she possessed over him, without giving her acquaintance to understand how fully she possessed it, and the consequence of this vanity was, that whatever secrets she extracted from him, she jerked out again in broken sentences, nods, winks, and other impor. tant signs. His grace the Duke of Cowheel was aware of the weakness, not to say treachery, of his confiding his master's secrets even to his other half: but what could he do? The means by which they were pumped out of him, were the most powerful in nature; – in short, whenever he returned from the Council-Board, he was sure to undergo a strict examination; and if he refused to betray his trust, or hesitated or prevaricated in doing it, - why, besides her grace's frowns and sulkiness, (which, in polite life, are only proscribed among strangers, and not between husband and wife,) he was shut out from those privileges which the law had given to him, and which nature cannot well do without; so that he was at last, fairly, or foully, starved into compliance. His grace, however, did not enjoy an exclusive monopoly in those privileges; and, on that very day on which I was hatched, as his grace was expected to be detained much longer than he really was, a certain gallant colonel, who was one of the partners in the firm, was entertaining her grace with some nonsense or other. However frail she was in this respect, it was certain that she was very circum. spect in keeping her backslidings secret from

all the world, particularly her husband, except her own maid, of whom it was necessary to make a confidante. Whenever the colonel was tête-àtête with her grace, Mrs. Secondhand, the maid, was placed as a sentinel to prevent any surprise of the outposts, while the colonel was manning those within: his grace's carriage no sooner drew up before the door, than Mrs. Secondhand flew to give notice of it to her grace. What was to be done with the colonel ? His grace was hastening to the dressing-room to pay to his wife the customary tribute of disclosing all that had passed in the Cabinet ; and the colonel could not leave it without passing him.-.-. Not a moment was to be lost; but the prudent parties had provided against such an accident. It had been previously agreed, in case of its happening, that the colonel and Mrs. Secondhand should retire into a closet which adjoined the dressing-room, and that, if his grace's curi. : osity should draw him thither, Mrs. Secondhand should not hesitate to sacrifice lier own reputa- : tion to her mistress's - (a vast sacrifice, and for which, no doubt, a valuable consideration was to be paid !) by owning the colonel to be her VOL. III.

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gallant, and that they had retired to the closet on hearing her grace unexpectedly coming to her dressing-room. By the time that his grace had given a rap at the door, for he was too fashionable to intrude on his wife's privacy without giving the usual signal, every thing was apparently as it should have been ; that is to say, her grace was employed at the toilette, and the colonel was out of sight.

The suddenness of the alarm, notwithstanding all the ease and confidence of the haut-ton, which her grace possessed in perfection, had thrown her into a little embarrassment, and the blood, from being checked, had rushed more violently over the extremities. She good-humouredly chid his grace for his impatience, in not sending to know if she was in a situation to receive him.

6. Why, my lady, you are always so very anxious to hear news, that I thought I could not possibly break in upon you at an improper season, when I was the bearer of any, -- especially of such important ones as I now bring.”

“ This is, indeed, something like an excuse, my lord; but I am really so very much press

ed for time at present, as to have none to throw away on curiosity.--You know, I am engaged, to be of the Duchess of Dicebox's dinner-party; so, pray make haste to tell me what news you have brought, whilst I rouge my cheeks.”

66 Indeed, my lady, they do not require it;I never saw you with such a natural bloom.”

“ Recollect that I am in a very great hurry, my lord.”

66 Well then, my lady, you know that I was summoned to a council, and the business was —

- Out I popped!" .6 It is certainly a very important affair, my Iord; and I am almost in love with you, for the confidence which you place in me." .

" Why then, my lady, you must - not refuse to give me a small token of your love; as, upon my soul! you look so enchanting in this dishabille, that I am as much in love with you as I was the first day I saw you."

66 Poh-poh! I have no time now to throw away on such trides.”

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