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37. CHAPTER XXXVII: THE SIGNORA NERONI, THE COUNTESS DE COURCY, AND MRS PROUDIE MEET EACH OTHER AT ULLATHORNE (continued)
But while the mother of the last of the Neros was thus in he full splendour, with crowds of people gazing at her and the elite of the company standing round her couch, her glory was paled by the arrival of the Countess De Courcy. Miss Thorne had now been waiting three hours for the countess, and could not therefore but show very evident gratification when the arrival at last took place. She and her brother of course went off to welcome the titled grandee, and with them, alas, went many of the signora's admirers.
'Oh, Mr Thorne,' said the countess, while the act of being disrobed of her fur cloaks, and re-robed in her gauze shawls, 'what dreadful roads you have; perfectly frightful.'
It happened that Mr Thorne was way-warden for the district, and not liking the attack, began to excuse his roads.
'Oh yes, indeed they are,' said the countess, not minding him in the least, 'perfectly dreadful; are they not, Margaretta? Why, dear Miss Thorne, we left Courcy Castle just at eleven; it was only just past eleven, was it not, John? and--'
'Just past one, I think you mean,' said the Honourable John, turning from the group and eyeing the signora through his glass. The signora gave him back his own, as the saying is, and more with it; so that the young nobleman was forced to avert his glance, and drop his glass.
'I say, Thorne,' whispered he, 'who the deuce is that on the sofa?'
'Dr Stanhope's daughter,' whispered back Mr Thorne. 'Signora Neroni she calls herself.'
'Whew-ew-ew!' whistled the Honourable John. 'The devil she is! I have heard no end of stories about that filly. You must positively introduce me, Thorne; you positively must.'
Mr Thorne who was respectability itself, did not quite like having a guest about whom the Honourable John De Courcy had heard no end of stories; but he couldn't help himself. He merely resolved that before he went to bed he would let his sister know somewhat of the history of the lady she was so willing to welcome. The innocence of Miss Thorne, at her time of life, was perfectly charming; but even innocence may be dangerous.
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