After we have din’d, there is no lingering over port on the part of the gentlemen or over tea and ratafia by the ladies, for we must deck ourselves for the ball.
Docket has determin’d that I shall display both my pearls – woven into my hair –and my rubies.
Really, Docket, says I, ‘tis but a provincial ball for county neighbours.
Docket sniffs and says, there are those that need showing what a lady of fine ton is. (By which I suppose her to intend the dreadfull crocodile.)
So, says I, somewhat amuz’d, you go deck me with my wages of sin.
Docket sniffs again and says she doubts that there will be any with pearls of such quality, and the rubies are quite entire remarkable.
So I concede to her and let her deck me as she wishes and considers suit’d to my station.
There is a little tap upon the door, and Sophy goes look. She lets in my dearest Eliza, that looks most exceeding fine and wears her parure of diamonds, black pearls, and fire opals, that suits her so particular.
We look at one another with great pleasure at how well we are turn’d out.
Docket and Sophy go into the dressing-room.
The crocodile, says I, I hazard had heard somewhat of the scandal put about by that satyr of a Bavarian violincellist, and convey’d it somewhat coarse, I apprehend, to Mrs D- K-, with some implications upon myself.
We look at one another and I smile at my dear love. But quite misst the mark, says I.
And what I came here about, says Eliza with a little particular smile of her own, that I would greatly desire to kiss, is to wonder whether the fascinating Lady B- would care to come a little family visit, before we all return to Town. Sure we shall be in great upheaval with the business of packing up, but indeed all would delight in your company. Also, Mr D- could tell you in person matters to do with steam-pumps.
O, you wick’d temptress! says I. I daresay there are many matters I should be about in Town, but I am quite entire unable to resist this solicitation. Indeed, even do I return to Town, there will be so little society that I should be quite Dido in the ruins of Carthage.
My darling laughs, and puts her hand to my cheek very tender, and says that she dares say that the fascinating Lady B- will be about waiting until there is sufficient number in the ballroom that she may make an entrance -
Sure I am an exceeding vain creature, says I.
- gliding like unto a swan, she continues.
Why, so be there are no poets in the company, I confide that I shall contrive that.
We kiss, and she leaves.
O, 'twill be quite entire delightfull to visit my darlings and my sweet treasure Flora and the other dear children: I feel more chearfull than I have done these several months.
Tho’ indeed 'tis still a quandary what may be done with Mrs D- K-.
I could pass the time until I make my entrance at my traveling desk, but that Docket will forbid me, lest I get ink upon my fingers or my gown. Indeed I am not mistress in my own household.
At length I go down.
There is pleasing music comes from the ballroom as well as a little hum and buzz of chatter. I step to the door and a footman goes announce me.
There is a very gratifying dimming of the noise of chatter as I glide like a swan into the room.
Sir B- W- comes over to kiss my hand and to offer that I might care to dance? I smile at him and say indeed, is this not a ball? I do not come to stand against the wall.
Why, he says, it might be possible that you wisht to go at once to the card-tables: tho’, as I recall, you were never greatly fond of play.
Indeed not, says I. 'Twas my dear Miss G- was the gamester.
'Tis most agreeable to dance with one that is as competent at that art as Sir B- W-.
Indeed I enjoy myself more than I suppos’d I would, for between the dances that duty requires me to give to the guests, I contrive to stand up with Josiah, Biffle, Jacob S- and Milord; and Sandy, the weasel, manages to take the supper dance.
I look at him somewhat dubious as he brings me cooling lemonade and a nice little plate of supper.
Dearest C-, he says in low tones, I am entire aware that this is not the time and place to open the several matters that betwixt us we have upon hand. But indeed there is much we need to convoke about.
Nothing, says I, that will not keep until I return to Town. Unless, that is –
I perceive that the dreadfull crocodile comes seat herself rather nearer than I should like, for I confide she hopes to eavesdrop and her hearing is excellent. I kick him surreptitious in the ankle with a little movement of my head to convey this intelligence.
He nods, and says he has late had a very long letter from Lord Geoffrey M-.
O dear, says I.
From which I apprehend that they did, indeed, undertake scenes from Shakspeare for a select audience.
How exceeding glad am I, says I, that I was oblig’d to leave before that event.
I know not how their audience felt, but they are now quite passionate about amateur theatrickals and wonder whether, when the family opens up N- House and they come to town, they might go about to have some instruction in the art.
Why, says I, I daresay there are those among my theatrickal acquaintance that would take on such a matter.
Perchance, says Sandy, I should not have mention’d to him that there are some several fellows that have gone lesson themselves with Mr J- about publick speaking.
Hmmm, says I. I confide that if the young ladies his sisters would also desire instruction there might be some objection to an actor undertaking the matter, for young girls of their years are most extreme susceptible to the charms of actors, but I would suppose that Miss A- might be entire acceptable as a preceptress.
'Tis a good thought. Miss R- is seen about so very openly with that fribble Danvers D- that one might anticipate some objections.
Also, says I, she would probably take dear little Puggsiekins to their lessons: tho’ I daresay Mrs D- has now contriv’d to bring the little rascal into better habits and conduct, I think it most like that he would go brangle with Selina.
We return to the ballroom and go about to show ourselves willing to dance with the county neighbours.
'Tis somewhat late in the next morning when Sophy comes bring me my chocolate, and says that Docket says that I was sleeping so sweet and peacefull, and she dar’d say, worn-out from dancing, that they should let me rest. And she doubts that any of the company will be up betimes this morn.
'Tis true, says I, for 'twas quite exceeding late, indeed so late that it was almost around to be early, that the thing conclud’d.
While Docket decks me for the day, I open to her the prospect of going to the the F-s for a little while. She declares that 'tis quite entirely answerable.
I add that we should take the journey very gentle.
Docket snorts a little, but does not go protest this care for her health. But indeed lately she seems somewhat better; and we have a good supply of her drops, that I confide Mr A- can replenish if needfull. So I am in no great worry in the matter.
When I go downstairs I find that breakfast is still laid tho’ there is none there except Susannah, that sips a little tea and nibbles upon a crust.
We exchange greetings and remarks about how exceeding successful the ball was, sure 'twill be much spoke about in the locality for some time.
But, my dear C-, says Susannah, I have the most surprizing and remarkable news!
Oh? says I, wondering what this could possibly be.
Would you believe it? she goes on. My esteem’d mother-in-law proposes that Mrs D- K- should come to her as a companion -
O, 'tis a matter she has mention’d before, that if she is going to be left alone and desolate by her undutifull son and his jealous wife, and never see her dear grandchildren, she should have some genteel person as a companion, that could read out the newspapers to her, go fetch her books from the circulating library, help her sort embroidery silks, listen to her talk of her past triumphs as a toast of the ton &C&C.
And, she goes on, she thinks Mrs D- K- shows an admirable loyalty towards her benefactress, by which she is extreme prepossesst even does she think it somewhat misplac’d, and thus supposes she would manifest the like to her.
Well! says I. Do you think 'twould answer?
Susannah sighs and says, she will doubtless come to some cause of disagreement or dislike after a few months, for 'tis not the first experiment in the matter, but 'twould at least be a temporary refuge for Mrs D- K- while we go about to settle her affairs. And perchance does the crocodile take her about on her usual round of spaws there may be some fellow takes a mind to marry her.
Indeed that would be a good thing, says I, but that had I been wedd’d to Mr D- K- I should have a certain caution concerning husbands.
Susannah sighs and says, 'tis so, but did not Dr Johnson remark upon the triumph of hope over experience?
He also, says I, remarkt that marriage has many pains: but indeed, I was marry’d for so short a time that I would not know about that.
Susannah smiles and says she thinks that the Great Lexicographer took a somewhat gloomy view of the matter; but then, she has been most exceeding fortunate.