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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/254

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CHAPTER III.


THE DUCHESS JOSIANA.


I.

IN 1705, although Lady Josiana was twenty-three and Lord David forty-four, the wedding had not yet taken place, and that for the best reason in the world. Did they hate each other? Far from it; but what cannot escape you inspires you with no haste to obtain it. Josiana wanted to remain free; David, to remain young. To have no tie until as late as possible seemed to him to be a prolongation of youth. Middle-aged young men abounded in those rakish times; they grew grey as young fops. The wig was an accomplice; later on, powder became the auxiliary. At fifty-five Lord Charles Gerrard, Baron Gerrard, one of the Gerrards of Bromley, filled London with his successes; the young and pretty Duchess of Buckingham, Countess of Coventry, made a fool of herself for love of the handsome Thomas Bellasys, Viscount Fauconberg, who was sixty-seven. Men quoted the famous verses of Corneille, the septuagenarian, to a girl of twenty, beginning, "Marquise, si mon visage." Women, too, had their successes in the autumn of life,—witness Ninon and Marion. Such were the models of the day.

Josiana and David were carrying on a flirtation of a peculiar kind. They did not love, they pleased, each other. To be in each other's society sufficed them: why hasten the conclusion? The novels of those days carried lovers and engaged couples only to that stage which was the most becoming. Besides, Josiana, while she knew