First published in 1857
The Signora Neroni, the Countess De Courcy,
and Mrs. Proudie Meet Each Other at Ullathorne
“Upon my word I don’t know,” said the Lady Margaretta, “for I was half-asleep. But I do know that I was called some time in the middle of the night and was dressing myself before daylight.”
Wise people, when they are in the wrong, always put themselves right by finding fault with the people against whom they have sinned. Lady De Courcy was a wise woman, and therefore, having treated Miss Thorne very badly by staying away till three o’clock, she assumed the offensive and attacked Mr. Thorne’s roads. Her daughter, not less wise, attacked Miss Thorne’s early hours. The art of doing this is among the most precious of those usually cultivated by persons who know how to live. There is no withstanding it. Who can go systematically to work and, having done battle with the primary accusation and settled that, then bring forward a countercharge and support that also? Life is not long enough for such labours. A man in the right relies easily on his rectitude and therefore goes about unarmed. His very strength is his weakness. A man in the wrong knows that he must look to his weapons; his very weakness is his strength. The one is never prepared for combat, the other is always ready. Therefore it is that in this world the man that is in the wrong almost invariably conquers the man that is in the right, and invariably despises him.
A man must be an idiot or else an angel who, after the age of forty, shall attempt to be just to his neighbours. Many like the Lady Margaretta have learnt their lesson at a much earlier age. But this of course depends on the school in which they have been taught.
Poor Miss Thorne was altogether overcome. She knew very well that she had been ill-treated, and yet she found herself making apologies to Lady De Courcy. To do her ladyship justice, she received them very graciously, and allowed herself, with her train of daughters, to be led towards the lawn.