Comes Hector while I am at my desk at my correspondence, in what I may observe is an extreme genial state. Has been, says he, about opening negotiations with various tradesmen concerning this matter of our improvements, and he finds that there is great eagerness to have the commission for Lady B-'s works, for her taste and understanding in such matters is most widely prais'd and they confide 'twill be of considerable value to 'em to be known as those that undertook works for her.
Inclines 'em, he goes on, to offer us most agreeable terms.
Also, he says, unable to resist breaking into a grin, there are cabinetmakers and carpenters wonder might they enter into some wholesale arrangements over Phoebe's polishes.
Why, says I, 'tis exceeding agreeable news. Of course, we shall not let ourselves be beguil’d but judge 'em entirely by the quality of their work, for sure, I find I have a reputation to sustain -
Quite so, Your Ladyship, says Hector. He adds that sure he is considerable confidence that we may begin as soon as maybe once my soirée is over.
'Tis excellent news.
Further excellent news is the letter from dear Belinda that I discover at the top of the pile upon my desk, saying that as ever, they go make up a party for the Derby and should be quite ecstatick could I join 'em. She adds that the news of the runaway match of the Marquess of O- has reacht even into Northamptonshire and now she apprehends why he desir’d her to send Blackthorn to D- Chase. Hopes that the lady in question is one that entire deserves such an excellent fellow.
Indeed 'twill be delightfull to see the dear creature again. I go write to her at once even do I have other pressing matters to be about.
There is also a note from Reynaldo di S-: sure most fellows would leave a card with PPC in one corner, but no, he will go write a letter that, altho’ 'tis discreet enough – for did it fall into hands other than mine, he does not name the lady of his heart that he is oblig’d to leave, when desiring me to give her what consolation I may – is perchance not quite entire so, by revealing that there is any lady in the case at all. However, I confide that the Contessa, dear creature, has not disclos’d to him that Mr W- Y- will be a fellow-traveller of his: does any revelation occur – for I fancy Mr W- Y- has little inclination to present as a livery’d servant once 'tis no longer a necessary masquerade - I hope that 'twill not do so until they are on shipboard and well clear of these shores.
I sigh a little, for I am in some concern that Mr R- O- will not cease troubling us just yet, and indeed, does he believe that there is some deep matter very cunning conceal’d, I know not how we may stop him. Also I fear we may have to be extreme carefull about those that desire interest with our coterie for fear they may be his informers.
Sure 'tis a nasty business.
In the afternoon I distract my mind from the prospect of my soirée by attending a meeting concerning the optickal dispensaries. The two we already have in operation do so exceeding well in the matter of supplying spectacles to the weak-sight’d poor that there is some consideration that mayhap we should go open a third. But I am somewhat inclin’d to fear that we may over-extend.
But today we have visitors from the provinces that are exceeding prepossesst by what we have done and wish to learn how they might go about somewhat similar. All go about to be entire diplomatick and present an appearance of harmony in our discussions and Lady J-, indeed, seems to have gone lesson herself with Biffle upon diplomacy.
When tea is serv’d I go take a cup to Lady D-, that I am surpriz’d to see has turn’d out at all for this meeting, for she is by now most exceeding great with child. I say somewhat to this, exceeding tactfull, and she says that she does not want to be one that makes excuses for not being about good works (I fear this may be her husband’s influence).
('Twould not, I confide, be proper to say that 'tis probable not advizable to go to meetings of philanthropick enterprizes in such a condition that all must be in some fret lest she go into labour.)
I say somewhat soothing that no-one would suppose being so advanc’d towards childbed an excuse rather than prudence.
But sure, she says a little pettish, 'tis most exceeding tedious, will there ever be an end?
Why, says I, 'tis what I have heard all the ladies of my acquaintance say in such case, and indeed, they have all borne fine offspring in due course.
She manages a little smile and says, she is glad 'tis not just because she is young and silly that she feels thus.
I take a quick look about me and say, why, I daresay did Lady J- go bear a pledge of her affections to the Admiral, she would say quite the same thing at this time.
Lady D- chokes a little upon her tea.
(Sure she is indeed very young. Mr H- has been heard go mutter about girls that are barely come to their full growth being got with child as a most undesirable thing. I should like to know Mrs Black’s thoughts upon the matter. But, younger than she are happy mothers made.)
At this moment comes over Lady J- herself, very solicitous and hoping Lady D- does not go overdo. We look a little conscious.
(I daresay either of us might be more soothing to her spirits was we known to have borne a child ourselves: but to mention in even the vaguest terms that I had done so would be like to cause speculations. Sure I should not mind it remarkt upon me, but that it might lead to my belov’d Flora.)
The meeting at last breaks up, with expressions of great appreciation from our visitors.
As we wait for our carriages, Lady J- tells me that she goes to the Mediterranean once more, and do I have any messages I should like her to carry to the Admiral she will be entire happy to do so.
'Tis very kind, says I. Sure I am not sure that I have any particular matter – o! I cry, mayhap I might send a pot or two of Euphemia’s strawberry preserves, that he relishes extremely. And there is a pickle, that she had of General Y-'s cook, that he greatly lik’d.
Lady J- looks at me and smiles and says, sure there must be a deal of his likes that you would know from your long acquaintance, we should talk of this some time.
Her carriage comes up and she gets in. I stand blinking somewhat at this conversation until Ajax brings round my own carriage.
Once I am home I go fidget a little at my desk, until 'tis time to go be dresst for my soirée. By the time 'tis accomplisht to Docket’s satisfaction, when I go into my reception room the musicians are already there, and so is Mrs O’C- with Mr P-.
I ask Herr H- after his sister and he indicates more by expression than word that matters have not improv’d. 'Tis a matter that I daresay I should be about.
Come Mr H- and Sir Z- R-, with Mr and Mrs N- on their heels, follow’d very shortly by Mrs P- and Miss W-, that come express their gratitude for the business that has been put their way for O- House and B- House. Why, says I, I purpose a little expansion myself, and can Hector’s connexion not provide the extra hands I shall require, I will most certain come to you.
Is’t not, says Miss W-, most excellent news that Mrs Atkins has had?
Quite the best, says I, and I apprehend has some thought to going out to the antipodes when her husband has serv’d his term.
Arrives the R- House party along with Sir B- W- and Susannah, and then almost immediate after Biffle, Little V, and Lady J-. Viola looks at me with a meaning expression and says, sure, she was as surpriz’d as any at this romantick elopement.
Were we not all quite astonisht? says I.
Why, Martha must have known somewhat beforehand if Jacob was in the plot, but she kept it very close. Indeed one is sorry to have so misjudg’d the Marquess –
O, says I, sure the business did cast him in a bad light.
Biffle remarks that tho’ 'twas not as shocking a matter as at first thought, there was a certain disregard for les convenances -
I raise my eyebrows.
- sure, he says, when I was a young fool I did a deal worse, but the Marquess is a man of mature years, should know better.
Come, Beaufoyle, says Lady J-, he spent little time in Society before his succession. Even tho’, she goes on, I had undergone several Seasons as a young woman, when I return’d from N- I had to relearn a deal of proper conduct.
We all look at her in amazement.
She adds that her husband, that has very fine judgement of character, had only the highest commendation for the Marquess, thought him quite one of the finest of fellows.
We continue to look at her in amazement.
Enters Lord D-, that comes up and makes apologies for Lady D-, but indeed he did not think it prudent for her to come out this e’en.
Lady J- remarks on how meritorious in her 'twas to come to the optickal dispensary meeting, so charmingly conscientious. Lord D- looks most gratify’d by this praise of his wife.
The room begins fill up most satisfactory and there is a genial buzz of conversation. I am a little worry’d that the V-s have sent apologies that they cannot be present and wonder does the Earl of N- go set them against me.
I did indeed send a card to the Earl, but his sons arrive without him, and say he will not come – continues, says Lord Edward, to imitate Achilles and sulk in his tent –
Tho’ 'tis in this case a hothouse, says Lord Geoffrey.
I see Lord U- take a consideration that aiming elder-brotherly cuffs at 'em would not be in the best of ton.