Sophy stands back and gives me a little Docket-nod of approval. Sure those pink diamonds are very becoming, she says.
Alas, says I, that I may wear 'em but for one e’en, for they were His Lordship’s mother’s, that he keeps to present to his wife in due course.
Sophy gives a longing look at 'em, and says, sure 'twould be an inducement.
Why, says I, was I ever to dwindle into a wife I daresay 'twould be His Lordship would tempt me to that state, even leaving such fine jewels out of the calculation.
But, says I, I just go pay a quick visit to Mrs L-'s parlour so that I may display myself to her and the girls there, and then go to the west wing.
Because she has begg’d and plead’d and offer’d tears, my precious jewel, lovelyer than any pink diamond, has come about to be permitt’d to stay up to see Aunty C- in her finery, and is sitting with Bess and Meg in Mrs L-'s agreeable little parlour.
Now mind, says Bess, in an endeavour to show severe, straight off to bed after Aunty C- has curtesy’d to us and shown herself off.
My sweet Flora is most prettyly impresst, and I bend down so that she may scrutinize my jewels more closely and so that sleepy wombatts may rub noses as they are wont.
Bess and Meg and Mrs L- also greatly admire the diamonds, that are indeed most exceeding out of the common.
I kiss my adorable child, and go make my way towards the hall of the west wing, where Milord and my darlings go receive guests.
Eliza and I make most effusive civil to one another, Milord bows exceeding low over my hand and remarks upon how the diamonds become me, and Josiah, bowing over my hand, gives a private grin and says, he doubts not I go be a busy bee.
La, says I, raising the fan paint’d in the Chinese style that Milord gave me so long ago, sure you are a great teaze, Mr F-.
There is a crowd up and down the stair and at its head that I daresay linger there to observe precisely this scene, tho’ doubtless would be even better pleas’d did I go smite Milord with my fan and endeavour tear out Eliza’s hair.
Well, says I, sotto voce, I will indeed go improve the shining hour.
Nicely play’d, murmurs Sandy when I encounter him at the top of the stairs.
Why, Mr MacD-, says I, do I not express feelings that I hold in entire sincerity?
He smiles and says 'tis so, then looks at the diamonds and says, he fears the sight of these, and the on-dit that they are intend’d for His Lordship’s bride, will bring him a deal of sieges.
Indeed, says I, as I observe Lady Rosamund looking at 'em exceeding envious and covetous, and confide that were these thrown into the scales, she might bring herself to stoop to a Viscount.
He then observes my fan and laughs a little and says, remembers when he saw the bill for that fine object, and was most heartyly shockt by the price of fans.
But, my dear, says I, we should not linger together but defy scandalmongers by going dance with a great many different partners.
He nods, and we part.
I peep into the musick room, where Cissie B- is delighting the company with Voi che sapete, that I do not wish to interrupt, and go on towards the ballroom. I am accost’d by Biffle, that says that altho’ Viola dances a little still, at present rests, and would I care to, would be delight’d to take the floor with me.
Why, Your Grace, says I, 'tis an entire pleasure.
That minds me, says I as we move thro’ the figures, that I spoke a little while ago to Viola about coming look up somewhat in the M- House library –
He looks down at me with great affection, and says, Lady B-, your secret is safe with me, but sure Viola has convey’d somewhat of the matter.
La, says I, I daresay 'tis on the way to becoming a general on-dit.
He smiles and says, Silence to the death!.
(And to my considerable surprize, I do not go blench or tremble at those words, but make a knowing smile at the allusion.)
At the end of the set, I go make civil to Viola, that sits at the edge of the floor, and say I hope to come visit M- House to see the library very soon, is’t convenable for her, and have some news to tell her about Gretchen P- - sure this is not the place for such matters.
Viola’s happy looks are a little dimm’d, and I confide she apprehends already that there is somewhat of adverse intelligence concerning Herr P-. But her smile brightens as come up to her a pretty little group of Lady Emily, Julia P-, and Rebecca G-.
O! I cry, I grow absent-mind’d and neglectfull, sure I was going to take you ladies to visit Sir Z- R-'s studio, let us fix upon some occasion when we may do so.
O, cries Em, I know I have been there already, but may I come, and bring Cousin Lalage? She would very much enjoy it.
Of course, says I, Sir Z- R- ever loves company to come visit and gaze upon the wombatt and look at his gallery of old masters. Is the most genial of fellows.
Rebecca G- says she hopes that there are some of his own works about the place, is he not one of the most well-spoke-of of modern painters?
Indeed, says I, very well reputed in that line.
Em is telling Julia P- about the wombatt that she confides she will never have seen the like.
Julia P- smiles and says somewhat wistfull that she misses the beasts she was wont to see in Bombay – but not the snakes, she adds, tho’ someone told me that there is a fellow that was in Bengal has a collection of 'em.
Em looks a little conscious at the mention of snakes, then I think takes a thought that Julia P- cannot know the scandal about the Earl, and says, Josh F- - that is the middle son of the F-s – has a mongoose -
Oh, cries Julia P-, losing her usual languor, there were mongooses in our garden in Bombay, quite tame, I was exceeding fond of 'em. O, I should like to see it.
(I should not be entire surpriz’d was the mongoose somewhere about, for a ball must greatly arouse that curiosity it ever manifests.)
Lord U- comes up to Rebecca G- and invites her to dance. She smiles very warm and takes his arm as he leads her onto the floor, saying something that makes him laugh. She is a lively creature. The Honble Edward comes up and asks Julia P- would she care to dance? She nods and they go onto the floor (I daresay he has had brotherly instruction not to make himself particular by dancing too much with Lady Z- - indeed, at this very moment I see her husband leading her out.)
The Duke of H- is making his way in a determin’d fashion towards Em, but before he can reach her, comes up Sandy, makes her an elegant leg, and desires the pleasure.
I am about to sit down myself beside Viola, when Lord O- comes up and says, he will take this unexpect’d opportunity of finding Lady B- unpartner’d to ask will she tread the measure with him?
Why, says I, 'tis an entire pleasure, and does Her Ladyship attend this e’en?
Indeed she does, he says, but will not dance, goes at present sit in the musick room.
He looks about the floor, most particular at Em, and shakes his head a little and says, there is something about Lady Emily that reminds him of Doňa Inès.
What, says I, you think she may go run away and enter a convent?
He smiles a little and says, he does not suppose so, only that she seems very disinclin’d to marriage.
La, says I, have heard what spouses her papa the Earl proposes and they would indeed incline a lady to take the veil.
'Tis true, he concedes, but neither am I in any fears that she will go elope with Lieutenant H- or some other from among her admirers.
Poo, says I, may be that her eye has not yet light’d upon the right fellow (tho’ I do not think this the case). 'Twas a like matter with Lord V-, that show’d no particular interest in the fairer sex, spoke to me once about marriage as if 'twas some physick that he was oblig’d to go take and matter’d little the doctor that administer’d it: and now is quite devot’d to Miss Frances C-.
You may be right, says Lord O-, looking to where Lord V- dances with his inamorata with an expression of great doatingness.
There is of a sudden a little disturbance at one corner of the floor, where Lord K- has been dancing with Lady Rosamund. He has steppt upon her foot – no, upon the hem of her skirt, and tore it, and she goes berate him with a spitefull expression.
But, where most fellows would make civilly apologetick, or look angry, or put on an expression of cool indifference, Lord K- hangs his head in an abasht manner but I perceive a little silly smile upon his lips, and he does not move out of the way of the other dancers but stands stock still. She storms off, leaving him there looking after her in a hangdog fashion.
I see Lord D- go up to him in order to apologize for his sister’s ill-manner’d behaviour. Lord K- waves it away, still looking after where she has gone. Lady D- goes tug her husband’s sleeve and I am like to think from her gestures that she offers go find Lady Rosamund and see can the matter be mend’d.
'Tis a curious little tableau, but I may not stand and gape at it, for the dance is coming to an end, and I see dear Josiah waiting to take the next with me.
La, says I, as we move onto the floor, is there any mention of busy bees, sure I will sting you.
Why, he says in my ear, do not busy bees make the very finest honey?