The next morn, I look at the pile of letters and cards upon my desk, and determine that instead I should go call upon Phoebe concerning payment for the fine painting of myself dresst as a Neapolitan peasant.
Euphemia desires me to take a few pots of preserves with me, for she doubts not that being away so much of the summer, Phoebe has not had opportunity to put up any herself. But she has had a fine busy summer about such tasks.
When I arrive, Phoebe opens the door to me herself. We quite fall into one another’s arms.
O, Your Ladyship, 'tis most extreme agreeable to see you here. O, you are looking well.
Phoebe still looks somewhat pull’d down: indeed, 'tis not to wonder at. She expresses herself much mov’d at Euphemia’s kindness: indeed there is a deal of matter she should be about getting on hand, tho’ sure Dorcas and Prue have been most exceeding thoughtfull about coming in to clean while they were away.
Will you take a little coffee, Your Ladyship? Alice comes on at the business.
Why, that would be most agreeable, says I.
We go into their little parlour. Phoebe says with a little fond smile that Raoul is already at painting: she confides that the prospect of this exhibition puts heart into him, for 'tis a very fine group of artists he is askt to come in with, should do exceeding well for him.
That is most encouraging news, says I, for indeed, I daresay he is like to have lost some business lately. And in that matter, you must send in your account for that very fine painting of me as soon as maybe.
Oh, no, says Phoebe, drawing herself up. We could not think – after all your kindness – the thoughtfullness – no, indeed, 'tis an entire gift and little enough at that.
She offers to weep and I go pat her shoulder as Alice comes in with coffee.
No, indeed, she says, dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief, we are not so dreadfull bad off, I have lookt over our accounts and we are well enough, and now Raoul goes paint again, sure we shall soon pull round.
(I must go about to recommend him to those that may commission portraits: I wonder does Lord D- object to paintings, or only those which depict a deal of nak’d flesh and immoral subjects – sure a painting of him with his wife should be quite in order. Or perchance the daughters of Lord N- might make a pleasing composition.)
But, she goes on, I mind that Seraphine makes a very fine business out of certain of her receipts, and I collect that I have some very fine receipts for polishes and the like that might be vendable? 'Twould be a little extra – Martha S- tells me she brings in somewhat with drawing of all manner of things for fellows that publish on their scientifick pursuits, it eases the household budget. Tho’ sure one would suppose that their families, now that they are back in grace with 'em, would not wish to see them in want did it come to that.
(I mind that Mr de C-'s family might not show so benevolent.)
Why, says I, I can go talk to my advisors in such matters, I am like to suppose that something might be contriv’d.
Comes in Mr de C- in his wont’d somewhat absent-mind’d way, greets me very civil, and remarks to Phoebe that there is some matter of a colour that need replenishing, so that he may finish a particular painting.
She desires him to take a little coffee, and says that she will be about the matter quite immediate once Lady B- has taken her departure.
I would not, he says with a smile, for the world disturb Lady B- until she is quite ready to go, indeed 'tis most exceeding kind of you to call.
Sure, says I, I should not linger, but I wisht to see how they did, and to express my entire gratitude for the very fine painting, 'twill look most exceeding effective in my reception room, I apprehend Hector is already about the matter.
Phoebe smiles and then says, is all well ‘twixt Hector and Euphemia? only, by now one might expect –
Oh, matters are entire well! says I. One will come upon them in the kitchen still quite as if 'twere their honeymoon.
And, Phoebe goes on, sure one should not fret yet: one need only consider the case of dear Martha S-, that wait’d so long and fear’d she was a barren stock.
I suppose the S-s are still in Hampshire?
Indeed: there is a deal that Jacob S- has to tell Lady J-.
What an excellent fellow he is, says Mr de C-. Sure I should like to paint the three of 'em. I have some sketches I might work up –
Phoebe smiles at him. Indeed there is a very fine mutual affection 'twixt 'em that I confide will see 'em thro’ this hard time of mourning.
I rise and say indeed I must be off, I will go consider upon the matter Phoebe mention’d, and sure, is there anything, anything that I can do for 'em, they should most immediate inform me.
Phoebe accompanies me to the door and is a little tearfull. I kiss her very warm as I make my farewells.
'Tis a quite entirely different matter that I attend to in the afternoon, which is to go to T- House where Lady T- has summon’d a printer concerning her work upon lace. Tho’, thinks I, perchance I could persuade her to a fine portrait of herself at making lace?
We are sat in one of the smaller parlours at T- House when the fellow is shown in. He is dresst very proper and I daresay he is now in a position that he does not need get his own hands inky or operate the press.
He bows very civil tho’ looks somewhat daunt’d by Lady T-, that indeed until one knows her better does have a very chilling effect.
She has already writ him, and several others, concerning the type of thing she desires. He comes well-reput’d (undertook the new catalogue of the paintings at Q-) and has already made a most prepossessing response. He brings with him several works that they have produc’d, some samples of paper and different styles of print as well as kinds of leather that might be employ’d in binding.
He makes very admiring of the propos’d work, which will sure be consult’d by the cognoscenti of lace for many years to come.
Lady T- scrutinizes the samples exceeding closely, and passes them to me for my own verdict. Sure, says I, I would confide you would not want to stint upon this work, 'twould be quite entire false economy.
Indeed, says Lady T-, one cannot make fine lace with cheap cotton thread!
He asks does she have any in mind to undertake the engraving of the plates - (sure 'tis a pity that Martha S- has not been about her intention to learn that craft) – for if not, there is a fellow he recommends, has workt with a good deal, entirely suit’d to this fine work.
We are inclin’d to consider his judgement in such matters exceeding nice, and say that sounds most satisfactory.
He therefore departs with the commission to undertake the work, and Lady T- turns to me and says sure the fellow is a deal genteeler than she had anticipat’d.
Why, says I, I am like to suppose that being in the work of making books must be a very elevating profession. At least, I go on, fine volumes for the connoisseur such as this fellow makes.
She nods, and says she hopes I will remain and take tea with her.
This is so signal a mark of approval that I accept at once.
After tea has been brought, she pours out for both of us, and sighs, and says, perhaps her dear mama’s warnings about those who would be encroaching were somewhat too severe.
(I mind that I have heard that Lady T- is of a family exceeding well-bred but that was in some financial straits when she repair’d their fortunes by marrying Lord T-, that is not only wealthy but commands a deal of interest that was of great assistance in helping her brothers to good positions, &C.)
Why, says I, I confide that in all stations of life there are those that manifest poor ton, and those that are entire models of civility.
'Tis very true, says she, when she considers the D- K-s, both of very good family, and quite the worst behav’d creatures she ever met, and then Mr and Mrs F-, that are so very mannerly, and agreeable company, and Mr F- has been most exceeding helpful to Lord T- over some business he is engag’d upon –
O, says I, quite entirely the best of people!
She smiles a little upon me, and then grows more sober and says, she does not think I have met their son, Lord K-?
No, says I, I was a little surpriz’d not to find him at your shooting-party.
She sighs and says, all summer he was, he said, under physician’s orders to go take the sea-waters at Margate. Sure he goes quack himself when should be thinking of remarrying, 'twould I am sure improve his health –
(I mind Lady T- remarking that dear Viola did not find her marriage overshadow’d by the ghost of her predecessor: Lord K- is a childless widower, his wife having dy’d some half-dozen years previous, and all suppose him too devot’d to her memory to contemplate a second union.)
(I also wonder whether he does indeed have a second union, but one unsanctify’d, to some lady he cannot marry or that his mother would not approve, mayhap some opera-dancer or demimondaine that he goes sport with in Margate. Or perchance is of the disposition.)
Why, says I, I have good friends go to Margate each summer, I will ask 'em (by which I mean, Mrs N-) was he seen in company at all, perchance there is some suit he pursues but does not yet wish to speak of.
Sure that may be the case, she says, brightening a little, for Margate becomes spoke of as a fine genteel place – sure at Bath or Brighton these days one knows not who one may meet. She goes on with a sigh that 'tis a good many years since he confid’d such matters to his mama.
I pat her hand and remark that alas, 'tis too oft the case.