The Black Moth (Chapter 7, page 2 of 10)

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Chapter 7

Whatever Diana thought of the quiet, she at least made no complaint, and adapted herself to her surroundings quite contentedly.

In the morning they would all walk as far as the Assembly Rooms, and Miss Betty would drink the waters in the old Pump Room, pacing sedately up and down with her friend on one side and her niece on the other. Madam Thompson had very few acquaintances in Bath, and the people she did know were all of her own age and habits, rarely venturing as far as the crowded fashionable quarter; so Diana had to be content with the society of the two old ladies, who gossiped happily enough together, but whose conversation she could not but find singularly uninteresting.

She watched the monde with concealed wistfulness, seeing Beau Nash strut about among the ladies, bowing with his extreme gallantry, always impeccably garbed, and in spite of his rapidly increasing age and bulk still absolute monarch of Bath. She saw fine painted madams in enormous hoops, and with their hair so extravagantly curled and powdered that it appeared quite grotesque, mincing along with their various cavaliers; elderly beaux with coats padded to hid their shrunken shoulders, and paint to fill the wrinkles on their faces; young rakes; stout dowagers with their demure daughters; old ladies who had come to Bath for their health's sake; titled folk of fashion, and plain gentry from the country-all parading before her eyes.

One or two young bucks tried to ogle her, and received such indignant glances from those clear eyes, that they never dared annoy her again, but for the most part no one paid any heed to the unknown and plainly clad girl.

Then came his Grace of Andover upon the stage.

He drew Diana's attention from the first moment that he entered the Pump Room-a black moth amongst the gaily-hued butterflies. He had swept a comprehensive glance round the scene and at once perceived Diana. Somehow, exactly how she could never afterwards remember, he had introduced himself to her aunt and won that lady's good will by his smoothness of manner and polished air. Madam Thompson, who left to herself, never visited the Assembly Rooms, could not be expected to recognise Devil Belmanoir in the simple Mr. Everard who presented himself.

As he had told his sister, Diana was cold. There was something about his Grace that repelled her, even while his mesmeric personality fascinated. He was right when he said that she feared him; she was nervous, and the element of fear gave birth to curiosity. She was intrigued, and began to look forward to his daily appearance in the Pump Room with mingled excitement and apprehension. She liked his flattering attention, and his grand air. Often she would watch him stroll across the floor, bowing to right and left with that touch of insolence that characterised him, and rejoiced in the knowledge that he was coming straight to her, and that the painted beauties who so palpably ogled and invited him to their sides could not alter his course. She felt her power with a thrill of delight, and smiled upon Mr. Everard, giving him her hand to kiss, and graciously permitting him to sit with her beside her aunt. He would point out all the celebrities of town and Bath for her edification, recalling carefully chosen and still more carefully censured anecdotes of each one.

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