Harry and Josh are expect’d home from school, along with their school-fellow Bellairs. I wonder should I leave the family to itself, but have been besought to go visit.
So I set off for R- House, and when I arrive the footman tells me that the family is in the parlour. Sure I am us’d to running in and out and seeing my darling in the family room, the girls in the schoolroom, my precious darling in the nursery, &C quite without any ceremony, but he escorts me to the door and announces me most ceremonious.
All look up as I enter.
The girls and Josh are playing some simple game of cards and counters with Quintus, Harry and one that I suppose to be Bellairs is standing near the fireplace with Josiah and Sandy who are in animat’d conversation.
My naughty precious darling is standing gazing with great longing upon Sandy’s spectacles.
My dear wild girl Eliza is looking quite tame, being engag’d upon the womanly work of winding wool with the aid of Miss N-.
'Tis quite the prettiest family scene.
Up jumps Josh and comes to hug me. I tousle his hair.
O, Aunty C-, he says, I have a present for you. He runs over to the sideboard and takes some papers held together with a string from it. I made a fair copy for you of my composition upon the wombatts
Oh, Josh, says I, almost tearfull, that is most exceeding kind of you. Sir Z- R- would be most extreme delight’d did you go make a visit to see his wombatt, that took to you so greatly.
I see Bellairs’ mouth practically hanging open.
Since my dear Eliza’s hands are taken up at present, I go to the group by the fire, and shake hands most exceeding formal with Josiah, Sandy and Harry. Harry introduces to me Bellairs, at which I declare myself quite enchant’d. Bellairs swallows and says it is a great pleasure to meet Lady B-.
We were just talking, says Harry, about balloons. We had an excursion from school to observe an ascent, 'twas a most remarkable thing.
'Tis a great question, says Josiah, whether they will ever become a means of travel. Sure at present there are great problems of steering and a dependence upon atmospherick conditions.
Also, says Sandy, I doubt they would replace canals for the transportation of goods, because of the question of weight. But 'tis a very fine sensation to go up in one.
You have been up in a balloon? asks Harry, looking envious.
There was a friend of mine in Edinburgh was quite an aeronaut.
Bellairs sighs and says 'twould be exceeding prime to ascend in one.
(Sure I am not sure whether I should wish this experience. But I am a timid creature.)
I feel something pull at my skirts. 'Tis my lovely darling. I stoop down to pick her up: I confide that this is an entire contrivance of hers to make an essay at grabbing Sandy’s spectacles, that are now almost within reach of her dear little fingers.
She shows exceeding cross and puts on the horrid scowl when I move away, and continues to reach towards Sandy. I take her over to where my love and Miss N- are tidying away the wound wool.
Here is a naughty darling for you, says I, putting her down. She shows some mind towards making her way back to those entirely fascinating spectacles.
Alas, I go on, in parlour company I daresay I should not be about distracting her with tigers. (For I confide that Harry and Josh would be embarrasst before their friend did I so.)
Perchance not! says Eliza. She picks Flora up, puts her on her knee, and bounces her a little. This is the way the lady rides – Flora laughs and begins to bounce as my darling recites the rhyme to her.
I ask Miss N- how she does. Excellent well, she says, for she has the very delightfull news that the family her sister is governess in go away on a visit and do not take her with them. It has been very long since they were able to see one another, and the F-s have most exceeding kindly said she may come and stay here. So she will arrive shortly by the stage, o, 'twill be such a pleasure!
And tomorrow, she continues, there is a family excursion to Astley’s Amphitheatre, 'tis a pity that Ellie will not be here yet, but she confides that it is so that Master Bellairs may be of the company before he goes home to his parents. She hears that 'tis a sight one must see at least once.
And how, I ask, is Mr L-?
She displays a very pretty blush. O, he has accept’d the editor’s post, but there are matters of notice to be workt out. She goes on to say that she has a notion, if he still desires her to write for his paper, that she might do something on scientifick matters - notes upon interesting astronomickal phenomena of the changing seasons, &C – sure she is no Miss Herschel but she thinks she could contrive something that would be of interest.
Why, my dear, 'tis a most excellent thought. And are there not fine lectures given at the Royal Institution that you might report upon?
Oh yes! she cries, that is a very happy notion. But Lady B-, do you give any thought to writing for the paper yourself?
Oh, says I, I never had the advantages of education beyond learning to read and write, and enough simple arithmetick that I am not oblig’d to count upon my fingers.
But indeed you write most exceeding well, sure I feel that I have almost been to Naples myself.
'Tis very kind of you to say so.
Josh comes over to me and says can I show them that fine game with cards that I taught him, but he does not mind all the rules?
I am about to say that I think it may be a little too difficult for Quintus, but see that he is now playing pat-a-cake with Flora, while Harry and Bellairs have join’d Bess and Meg at the card-table.
Well, says I, provid’d that your parents do not think I am leading you astray into gamester habits, I will come show you it again. Miss N-, do you play? She shakes her head.
Sure I am not as fine a gamester as dear Abby was us’d to be, but Madame Z- taught us well about knowing how to play, to perform an elegant shuffle and a deal that show’d off pretty hands. Tho’ sure I am not making the kinds of stakes that I was once wont to make.
Bess in particular picks the matter up most remarkable. I think Bellairs takes an admiration toward her.
When I finally take my leave, I find Sandy, that had left some while previous, lingering about the hall.
He looks about him to make sure that we are not overheard – the footman having gone to desire Ajax to bring round my carriage – and says that Herr F- has still not depart’d these shores.
I daresay, says I, that he is still not in any condition for travel.
Mayhap, agrees Sandy, but he has been telling Matt Johnson more about the business, that he says he now recollects.
Or that he makes up? says I.
Very like, yet there is some grain or so of truth. He says that Herr H- askt him for a meeting at a coffee-house to see whether a reconciliation might be brought about, and when they left, led him into the hands of a vicious mob. Herr H- does not deny the meeting, but said that when they left the coffee-house, he turn’d on his heel and left Herr F- there, because of the vile things the latter had said about Fraulein H-, that put him in some concern that he would be tempt’d to violence. Knows nothing about what might have happen’d after that.
Sure there are some several that might feel inclin’d towards dealing out punishment to Herr F-. Did he give any description?
Says that one clapt a bag over his head so that he could not see, and that others held him so he could not run -
Hmmmmm. Sure 'tis a fine dramatick story and even implies conspiracy, but – Indeed, they could have done a deal worse did they have several hands to the business, unless there is matter that has not been told me because 'tis so very shocking, such as gelding.
Sandy looks at me and says he confides that Matt Johnson quite rightly considers my stomach a deal stronger than his own and that in such matters one should not be over-nice, so was it not mention’d he dares say 'twas not part of the business. It was mention’d that there had been no harm to Herr F-'s hands but for a few bruises and scrapes, which would have been a severe matter to one that lives by a skill in them.
Sure, my dear, they could have done much worse, tho' I doubt that consideration will weigh with Herr F-. Well, here is my carriage.