Sure I do not think that the business of Herr P- and his household will prove the better for any delay of my taking the matter in hand – there are other matters must wait upon events - so I determine that I will go call upon Frau P-, at some time when I may anticipate her husband to be about the house (tho’ is he not, may find some excuse to call upon him – sure, I wonder does Reynaldo di S-, that quite basks in the admiration of the Yankees, bother to go communicate with Herr P- how matters go with him).
And, I confide, 'twill distract me from the prospect of the first night of my play The Rivalrous Ladies, that I am in fears none will find in the least amuzing, there will be no laughter, and 'twill be entire hisst from the stage.
So I desire Ajax to drive me to that unfashionable but respectable quarter where the family resides, and am greet’d at the door by Frau H- herself, that supposes at first that I am come about soliciting Herr H- for some musickal occasion, but I say that I would desire see Frau P-, at which she looks a little troubl’d, but then murmurs somewhat beneath her breath in German, and takes me into a small parlour.
Frau P- indeed is not looking as blooming as us’d to, tho’ not sickly. Is seat’d at a table writing with a deal of papers before her, and the infant in a crib that she rocks with her foot.
She jumps up and makes me a little curtesy. O, Lady B-! – she turns to her mother and desires her to bring tea.
I smile at her and say, and this is your son? (looks a fine lusty infant, that I was in doubts would come to, Herr P- being such an ill-looking fellow.)
Yes, she says, looking down, this is Wolfgang - but I will not pick him up, has only just fallen asleep.
I lay my finger to my lips, and make silent gestures that we might go sit a little further away so as not to disturb his slumbers.
Frau H- comes in with tea, stepping very carefull, and then leaves me with her daughter.
I make civil comments about little Wolfgang, and hope she and her husband are well.
I then proceed to the matter of German lessons, and mayhap a revival of the reading circle that Viola began upon: but she sighs and says, looking over at the table, she has a deal to occupy her without she goes gallivanting out of the house.
O, poo, says I, can hardly be call’d gallivanting. But, my dear Frau P-, what are you about? Do you perchance go make translations (for I mind that she was wont to undertake a certain amount of commissions of that nature)?
She says, no, she goes assist Herr P- with his business correspondence, for indeed, he has a great deal of it.
Why, says I, 'tis a fine wifely thing to do (tho’ is’t not what he is being paid for himself?); and am about to enquire further about the matter, when comes in, banging the door open and causing little Wolfgang to wake up and wail, Herr P- himself.
Frau P- rushes to the cradle, takes out the child, and puts him to the breast, the while making exceeding apologetick for a situation creat’d quite entirely by Herr P-.
He lours at me exceeding ferocious and says that he would be oblig’d did Lady B- not come about distracting his wife from her duties as wife and mother.
La, says I, I should have thought that you would consider that Mr K- would be much oblig’d did you permit your wife to resume attendance at his daughter the Duchess of M-'s German reading circle, and might, indeed, somewhat resent your obstructing her.
Herr P- checks himself in what I fear was about to become a tirade, and I see goes mind that I am the greatest of favourites with Viola and that Mr K- entirely doats upon her. Mayhap, he says somewhat ungracious, we might go discourse of this elsewhere in the house.
Excellent, thinks I, and follow him out to be took upstairs to what he refers to as his study.
He gestures me into a chair, seats himself beside his desk and says with patently false amiability that of course he would desire to oblige Her Grace, but I must have observ’d that the child is still at breast, and also inclined to be fretfull.
Why, says I, I will convey that message to the Duchess, but, I say, sitting up straight – indeed I can do no other upon the chair on which I am seat’d – but meantime, 'tis give out that you go conduct yourself very haughty and tyrannickal within a household that took you in when you were a pennyless exile –
Herr P- goes protest that he is now the chief breadwinner of the establishment and should deserve respect.
Respect, says I, not slavish meekness.
He snorts somewhat, doubtless considering this a soft womanish notion.
But since you go do so exceeding well, says I, perchance you go leave your card at the Embassy?
He turns around to look at me directly, his eyes having been upon his desk as if he had more important business to be about than conversing with a foolish featherwit upon frivolity.
Or, says I, convey some aid to other exiles of your nation that are not in such prosperous case?
He looks as I confide I lookt when the cobra emerg’d.
I tilt my head to one side and say, La, Herr P-, can it be that your change of fortune has not been convey’d among your compatriots?
He says, endeavouring a weak smile, that sure he becomes an entire Englishman these days.
Why, says I, is’t so, 'twould I daresay be most unwelcome did one go bruit about your alter’d state. Sure, I continue, I will keep your secret: but upon condition that you conduct yourself like a true-born Englishman and mind that Britons never shall be slaves - and that, Herr P-, includes their wives and their families.
I rise and say, I will go make my farewells to Frau P-, and dip him a very small curtesy.
As I enter the small parlour again, my glance falls upon the table where Frau P- was at her devoirs and something troubles me. I take a moment to consider over this – I had the like feelings from time to time in Naples that were most material in my proceedings, for 'tis that one apprehends somewhat not right that one should examine further – and realize that all the writing is in German, where I would have anticipated notes from Mr K- and his clerks in English, and translations or at least epitomes in the same tongue.
Most curious, thinks I.
I observe that Frau P- still endeavours soothe little Wolfgang and is preoccupy’d.
La! I cry, sure I am an unhandy creature and have gone knock over your inkpot, has spoilt a couple of letters afore I could right it.
I go take a handkerchief from my reticule, into which I have stufft two or so letters, and sacrifice it to dabbing up the ink that I have overset to verify this tale.
They are quite entire spoilt, says I, I am most exceeding heartyly sorry at going hinder your labours.
She sighs, looks down at the babe that finally grows quiet and peacefull, and says, mayhap you might give the spoilt papers to Mutti, when they are dry’d out may be made into spills.
I make my farewells to her – she murmurs that indeed 'twould be agreeable to participate once more in Viola’s reading circle, when Wolfgang is a little older.
While this has indeed serv’d to distract my mind most excellent, by the e’en I am in an entire fret over my play and set off to the theatre as one that is convey’d in a tumbril to the guillotine.
I join Milord and my darlings in the box, along with Lord U- and his brothers, Lord and Lady A-, and Mr and Mrs L-. Sandy goes sit in the pit, in his character as Deacon Brodie, for he considers that one thus discovers the mood of the audience. I observe Biffle and Viola in the M- box – Lady J- is absent on account of her condition – with Lord and Lady O-, Em and Cousin Lalage, Rebecca G- and Julia P-.
O, I feel so sick.
The play begins, with Mr J- coming onto the stage talking to his friends, and declaring sure he is like that fellow in the song, How happy could he be with either, were t’other dear charmer away. Why, thinks I, a fine actor can make somewhat of the meanest words, is not Miss A- sometimes besought to give that entirely fustian speech from Queen Maud, that she makes a great effect with? For I can see that begins to take.
And then Miss R- and Miss A- present a very fine duel of words as the rival ladies.
And then Mr J-'s character is order’d by his father to go woo and wed another young lady, that is perform’d most effective by Miss T-.
Why, thinks I, 'tis not an utter disaster, and feel able to take a little sip of the wine that I have not yet toucht, as I hear the audience laugh.
Indeed, one may even suppose it somewhat of a success, at the end, where a marriage has come about somewhat like unto what is rumour’d of Lord and Lady O-, and the two rivals are reconcil’d into their antient friendship, and Mr W-, as the thwart’d father, speaks the epilogue.
Danvers D- has gone arrange a party in a private chamber at M. Duval’s eating house, and I see that the actors think has entire took and will run for a while.
I do not think Mr P- lik’d it much, but is always such a sour-fac’d fellow 'tis exceeding hard to tell.
I had hop’d to have some opportunity to convey to Sandy the letters I abstract’d (for I read no German myself), but there is no occasion without looking somewhat particular to have discreet converse with him.