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Chapter 22
Say that my beauty was but small,
Among court ladies all despised,
Why didst thou rend it from that hall
Where, scornful Earl, 'twas dearly prized?
No more thou com'st with wonted speed,
Thy once beloved bride to see;
But be she alive, or be she dead,
I fear, stern Earl, 's the same to thee.
The ladies of fashion of the present, or of any other period, must have allowed that the
young and lovely Countess of Leicester had, besides her youth and beauty, two
qualities which entitled her to a place amongst women of rank and distinction. She
displayed, as we have seen in her interview with the pedlar, a liberal promptitude to
make unnecessary purchases, solely for the pleasure of acquiring useless and showy
trifles which ceased to please as soon as they were possessed; and she was, besides,
apt to spend a considerable space of time every day in adorning her person, although
the varied splendour of her attire could only attract the half satirical praise of the precise
Janet, or an approving glance from the bright eyes which witnessed their own beams of
triumph reflected from the mirror.
The Countess Amy had, indeed, to plead for indulgence in those frivolous tastes, that
the education of the times had done little or nothing for a mind naturally gay and averse
to study. If she had not loved to collect finery and to wear it, she might have woven
tapestry or sewed embroidery, till her labours spread in gay profusion all over the walls
and seats at Lidcote Hall; or she might have varied Minerva's labours with the task of
preparing a mighty pudding against the time that Sir Hugh Robsart returned from the
greenwood. But Amy had no natural genius either for the loom, the needle, or the
receipt-book. Her mother had died in infancy; her father contradicted her in nothing; and
Tressilian, the only one that approached her who was able or desirous to attend to the
cultivation of her mind, had much hurt his interest with her by assuming too eagerly the
task of a preceptor, so that he was regarded by the lively, indulged, and idle girl with
some fear and much respect, but with little or nothing of that softer emotion which it had
been his hope and his ambition to inspire. And thus her heart lay readily open, and her
fancy became easily captivated by the noble exterior and graceful deportment and
complacent flattery of Leicester, even before he was known to her as the dazzling
minion of wealth and power.
The frequent visits of Leicester at Cumnor, during the earlier part of their union, had
reconciled the Countess to the solitude and privacy to which she was condemned; but
when these visits became rarer and more rare, and when the void was filled up with