Comes the next morn desiring to speak with me, but will not come to the parlour, so I go down to convoke with her in the servants’ sitting room, Mrs Jupp, that is quite tearfull in her gratitude. I beg her to drink the good tea that Euphemia has provid’d, and take a little of this excellent fruitcake.
O, says she at length, 'tis like a dream come true. Sure I thought we should be oblig’d to pack our traps and go, and where might we go? Sure Mr W- was a-offering of characters so that all might go seek out new places, but –
I offer her a handkerchief.
But is’t true, she asks at length, what Jupp told me, that you offer’d undertake repairs to the apartments over the stables?
I concede that 'tis so and she recounts a tale of leaks in the roof and windows that are broke, and chimneys that will not draw, so that I am oblig’d to take out my little memorandum book and make notes of what will be necessary. 'Tis little enough but shows Mr W- a somewhat neglectfull landlord.
Is that all? says I, no improvements you might desire?
She heaves a great sigh and says, would not go be like the wife in the tale that wants this and then 'tis not enough and wants that – but o, Your Ladyship, I have been in great envy of the fine range in the kitchen here.
An entire matter of prudence, says I. A deal safer than an open hearth.
She then says she has took up quite enough of My Ladyship’s time, and I say does she have any concerns, she must come open 'em to me, and she rises, bobs to me, and leaves.
Have a deal of dull calls to make the day, but 'tis a necessary matter is one in Society.
'Tis an e’en when I am not invit’d about anywhere, for a wonder, and sure I am extreme tempt’d to go sit in my fine library and peruse the books upon the Middle Ages that Sandy’s learn’d friend supply’d. But I mind that I should be dutyfull and address my correspondence afore I am found bury’d beneath a barrow of letters.
So I go ring for Hector to desire Euphemia to send me up some light supper, and a little sanitive madeira, and apply myself to the matter.
The matter is beginning to come about, tho’ by now my hands are in a state that will greatly offend Docket, I am quite ink to the elbows and I am resign’d to a scold, when comes Hector to say, Mr Johnson calls at the back door and would be oblig’d for a word or two with You Ladyship.
Why, says I, send him up, and see would he care for some ale or somewhat stronger, and perchance some other refreshment. Hector nods and goes about this.
A few moments later he shows in Matt Johnson, that 'tis very agreeable to see, and I desire him to sit down, and apologise for my dishevell’d state, but sure I am greatly behind upon a deal of business and must try catch up.
Comes Celeste with ale and a platefull of bread and ham.
After he has consum’d the latter, I say that I hope 'tis no heavy matter brings him here?
Why, yes and no, says he. 'Tis something that we have been solicit’d to investigate, by persons of standing, so we may not consider that they go fret unnecessary, but assure 'em that the Runners will sound out the matter and find out what is behind, is there anything behind, that sure we are inclin’d to doubt.
La, says I, 'tis not some lady whose lapdog has run off, and she immediate supposes that that dog-stealing gang is about its nefarious undertakings again, whereas 'tis the joys of spring rise in her dear doggie’s blood?
He laughs and says, not quite so slight a matter as that, but indeed I think they do not need worry. But when two persons come quite separate to Bow Street concerning a lady that has disappear’d from the household in which she resid’d, and one is a lady supposes she was in league with a set of thieves and goes disclose the secrets of the place to 'em so they may sneak in and rob if not murder; and t’other is a gentleman of rank that is in great agitation that she may have been kidnappt; 'tis entire prudent that one goes do somewhat in the way of looking in to the matter.
O, says I, I have some apprehension of what it might be. Did not the lady that suspect’d some burglarious conspiracy look most exceeding like unto a crocodile? – Matt grins and nods: very like unto a crocodile – And the gentleman was a mopish fellow, a very Knight of Dolefull Countenance, somewhere 'twixt thirty and forty years of age, hair thinning?
Matt laughs and says he is not surpriz’d to discover that Lady B- is quite entire beforehand of him in the matter.
Why, says I, I know a little of the business, and I confide that Old Lady W-, the mother of Sir B- W-, that is known quite universal as the dreadfull crocodile, makes a great pother because her companion is run off, after staying with her a deal longer than any predecessor, and makes up this Gothick imagining of thieves and confederacies &C. And has been observ’d about Society that Lord K-, that is the heir of Lord T-, has been making suit to the lady in question, by means of pursuing her very particular and putting himself in her way, and going gape upon her in hangdog fashion when they were in Society together, and looking exceeding resentfull did she give any other fellow a civil word. Was quite tiresome exigeant.
I confide, I go on, that the lady has crept out of Town very surreptitious and gone stay with friends in rustick seclusion. I daresay, I continue, that you might, did you ask about the coaching stations, find one or other that remember’d her – for is a lady of quite striking looks as I daresay you have been inform’d – and where she was bound.
But, I say, as she was by no means under any duress to quit the household or depart from Town, and I am like to suppose has no intention to communicate to any criminals how they might break in upon and steal from Sir B- W-'s fine mansion, I do not think her proceedings fall within the purlieu of the law – a lady’s companion is not a servant that might be took up for breaking her terms of service.
Hah, says Matt, I confide you know a deal more to the matter than you have told, but sure, does a lady of her own free will determine to quit Town and rustickate, there is no law against it. Perchance I might ask about at the coaching stations, but I daresay if any do remember her, they will confirm your story.
I add that 'tis possible that there may have been some gentleman with her help’d with her bags and saw her safe onto the coach, but entire out of kindness and gentlemanly feeling.
Matt chuckles and says, sure you should write plays, Lady B-, 'twould be quite as good as anything at present upon the stage.
O, poo, says I. But, since, I hope, I have set your mind at rest that there is no dread crime at the bottom of the lady’s disappearance, I daresay you may find yourself at leisure this next little while?
We look at one another with amiable affection. Why, he says, 'tis no hour to be going calling at the coaching stations, will wait until the morn.
I stand up and go over to him and hold out my hand. Then, says I, are you not exhaust’d by your exertions in this matter, I would very happyly to bed with you.
He looks up at me with a smile and says, why, he is not so tir’d that he would refuse such an invitation.
So we ascend to my boudoir and pass a very agreeable while there, and we are lying in a pleasing languor and saying that we must rise afore we fall to sleep, when there is a sound of a great to-do and coming and going belowstairs.
O! I cry, ten to one 'tis Euphemia brought to bed, indeed I was in concern her travail would come upon her during my soirée but she would not have me put it off.
Why, says Matt, indeed I thought Hector had an air of preoccupation about him, most unwont’d.
We rise and he dresses and I put on my wrapper, and he says that he will let himself out discreet, confides that the household is in no condition to notice comings and goings.
'Tis so, says I, I mind when Seraphine was brought to bed of Julius.
So I go down belowstairs while Matt makes his departure, and find all in a great taking, except for Dorcas that endeavours calm 'em and suggests a prayer, and then all should go to bed as usual, for 'twill not aid Euphemia for 'em to wake all night.
How now, says I, has Mrs Black been sent for?
Indeed so, says Dorcas, some little while since when Euphemia began feel pains, would have it 'twas naught, but Hector was entire insistent that Aunty Black should look her over, and sent Timothy, and 'tis entire as well, for she is most certain in labour. Celeste goes make up a sustaining posset to take over to the cottage.
'Tis all well, says I, will not go trouble 'em –
Dorcas, that has succeed’d chase the young women off to their bedchambers, then says, but there is Hector goes pace up and down the mews in a very great taking, perchance did Your Ladyship go speak to him –
I mind that I am barefoot and in my wrapper, but at this moment comes Docket with a cloak and shoes to say she dares say I would wish go see that all is in order, and that 'twould be entire advizable did I not stay up all night, but she confides I will not hark to anything I am told in the matter.
Why, Docket, says I, I will mind on your prudent advice, but I will employ my own judgement.