The supposed secret, mentioned in my last Chapter, was of too much importance to be confined to the discoverers. By means of the happy art of inuendoes, the initiated soon disseminated it through the whole circle, in the politest manner imaginable. One lady observed, that the adventures of the third Eloisa would soon be published: another affirmed, that it would be called Werter the Second, with a different catastrophe: 329 a third wished to read the Chapter on Botany: 330 / a fourth thought that that on astronomy would contain the most astonishing discovery: a fifth allowed, that astronomy and botany were both very suitable studies for shepherds and shepherdesses; 331 and every body hoped that the adventures of the poor little lady, who had lost her pellice, and got the rheumatism, would be inserted. The sarcasms of the viscountess were peculiarly piquant; for hers was the most suspected character in company; and it is an invariable rule with ladies of her cast, that the odium with which you bespatter a neighbour’s reputation has a retroactive effect in furbishing your own. Her indignation was chiefly pointed at lord Monteith, who, she said, was certainly anxious to obtain the honour of being a cornuto; 332 and her idea was thought to be the more judicious, as it was known to correspond with the sentiments of the / noble viscount her husband. Envy, idleness, the love of saying good things, and a dearth of conversation, assisted her to propagate the story. For two days the town talked of nothing else, and every relater could add circumstances of fresh atrocity. In two days more, the truth of these adventitious circumstances became doubtful, and, being proved unfounded, the whole fabric fell with them to the ground. At the end of the week every body was heartily sorry for the dear misrepresented countess; and every body, forgetting the part they had themselves taken, 196heartily wished that some law might be invented to prevent defamation. – But to return to the object of these inquisitorial proceedings.