'Tis most agreeable to go to O- House for a small dinner-party with good friends, even do I still feel somewhat shaken.
I find occasion to speak privyly to Lord U- and desire him to call upon me the next morn, for I have an exceeding troubling matter to communicate to him, and he declares himself quite entire at my disposal in the matter. I then go on to enquire as to how his mother does, and after his sisters and brothers.
He says that his mother does exceeding well, and he is pleas’d to see his brothers getting into such a good set, and Lou would ever be at R- House with Bess F- was she permitt’d, and Em has a deal of admirers but inclines to none of 'em so far –
Indeed, says I, she is consider’d quite one of the toasts of this Season.
He looks gratify’d.
We then discourse a little of our summer plans, and he sighs and says usually his father will consider it the proper thing to hold a house-party at some time while they are at Monks’ G- but he is still so much in the sulks that does not seem as if he would wish society. But O- has invit’d 'em come stay at D- Chase that would quite be entire Liberty Hall, and sure 'tis a tempting prospect, can they ensure that dear Mama may be of the party, for they would not leave her with Papa does he continue in this grumpy condition.
And, he adds, of course he and his brothers are to go to the very well-spoke of bachelor-party at A-, 'twill be quite the most agreeable thing.
The first course is remov’d and I turn to Biffle, that is at my other side, and say that sure we are quite strangers. He smiles and says indeed we have not contriv’d to have much discourse even have we found ourselves in the same places of late. But sure, now I have engag’d myself to come to their house-party at Q-, perchance we may convoke there, for he is quite sure that Lady B- has a deal of news.
Mayhap! says I.
'Tis all most entire delightfull to be with such friends, and most exceeding soothing to my ruffl’d spirits.
Over the teacups in the drawing-room after the gentlemen have come in, the Marquess says to me in a low voice, does the Earl really filch cuttings when he visits other fellows’ hothouses, or is’t that 'tis suppos’d I now should delight in hearing incivil gossip about him?
Why, says I, 'tis give out by those that are no malicious gossips – Roberts, that is a Methodist lay-preacher o’ Sundays, has had suspicions – but formerly you were consider’d quite his greatest friend and that he was your patron and might even go tittle-tattle to him was you told.
He grimaces and says, sure 'tis a needless matter when most would give him cuttings out of civility or because of his rank.
Quite so, says I, 'tis some strange freak.
He sighs and says, sure one would wish to restore diplomatick relations, but –
Perchance, says I, you should convoke with His Grace, that is greatly esteem’d for diplomacy.
The next morn I am up betimes so that I may be in the small parlour ready to receive Lord U-. Also I have retriev’d the bag containing the snake from the ice-house.
He comes in, makes me a leg, and I ring for coffee to be brought. While we wait we exchange some indifferent converse concerning the dinner-party, and I remark upon how well Lady O- lookt.
He smiles and says, 'tis a happy thing to see, and also how very affectionate the Marquess shows to her.
After the coffee has come and I have pour’d us each a cup, I begin open to Lord U- the reason for summoning him here.
Yesterday, says I, I receiv’d a most unwont’d gift, a snake -
A live snake? cries Lord U-.
Live, and venomous, says I. By great good fortune Josh F-'s mongoose came into the room and dispatcht it most expeditious. The corpse, I add, lyes in that bag there: 'twas a cobra that was stole from Major S-'s snakery -
One hears, says Lord U-, that he has a deal of the creatures and considers 'em quite in the light of pets. But, Lady B-, why would anyone send you a venomous snake?
Indeed, says I, I am not in the condition of Cleopatra, to desire one to send me an asp conceal’d in a basket of figs so that I may cheat the Roman triumph. But, I sigh, I have enemies -
Enemies, Lady B-? You? and then I observe an expression cross his face that I daresay is the recollection of some most incivil remark about me that his father has made. He swallows. Sure, he says, I know Papa remains most extreme put about concerning Nan’s elopement, will not come to reconcile, almost pouts like unto a child in the nursery that has not yet learn’d better, and has been heard to suppose that that sly trollop Lady B- was mixt up in it –
Well, says I, indeed I was, for the Marquess and your sister are my dear friends, and he is not. But, you will recollect that there was a matter of bringing him to see the requirements of good ton in providing for the ladies of his household –
Indeed, says Lord U-, I am still like to suppose that there was more behind that than you would disclose.
'Tis so, says I. I had come to discover quite by chance a matter somewhat discreditable to your father –
- This sneaking business of taking cuttings surreptitious when he goes visit hothouses? –
Indeed, says I, that does him no credit whatsoever, but there was another matter. I pause for a moment and say, sure 'tis not a thing one likes to disclose to a fellow’s son, in particular one that has such a fine fondness for his mother –
Womanizing? exclaims Lord U-. (Sure he is a young fellow of excellent apprehension.)
Why, says I, I do not think keeping one Covent Garden Miss is what is normally consider’d womanizing, demonstrates a certain fidelity, but 'tis what he was about, giving himself out a prosperous middling sort of fellow nam’d Perkins, and maintaining an establishment in those parts, until, taking a pet at having it known, even tho’ I am silent as the grave, goes cast her off and leaves her in penury.
The wretch! cries Lord U-. The poor creature – is there anything one may do to keep her from the poorhouse?
I smile upon him and say, 'tis a concern does him great credit, but I am appriz’d that some benefactor has set her up with the means to establish a connexion in millinery -
Sure, he says with a frown, you know a deal more than one would expect concerning what goes forth in Covent Garden.
O, says I, I have some charitable interests in that area, and my housekeeper Dorcas, that is a very pious Methodist, goes read the Bible and have prayer-meetings with some of the poor creatures there.
But, says I, tho’ I had promis’d silence did he show somewhat more generous towards your mama and sisters, I think that the agreement has been breacht upon his side – indeed, had I expir’d of snakebite, or from any other suspicious cause, my manservant Hector had letters to hand that I had instruct’d should be sent to certain of my acquaintance, for the Earl did look upon me very grim and as if he would be happy to serve me some ill turn – even tho’ I still live, thanks to Josh F-‘s fondness for the animal creation that led him to introduce a mongoose into the household.
But what will you do now? asks Lord U-.
I sigh and say, tho’ I confide that a trial of an earl for attempt’d murder before his peers in the House of Lords must be a very fine and remarkable thing, I take a consideration that 'twould be a very hard thing to prove upon him, and I have no doubt that many imputations would be cast upon my character, and antient scandals rak’d up.
We are silent for a while, and then he says, mayhap he will go convoke with his brother-in-law the Marquess on the matter, for he confides that 'twould only distress Mama to go tell all this to her, and would not lay it upon his brothers, that are yet young and reckless. Sure he would be glad of his godfather’s counsel, but Sir C- F- will be bury’d in Herefordshire at present watching his apple trees bloom.
I am further inclin’d, says I – but you must tell me do you like it not – that did one go spread the intelligence of his covert proceedings in Covent Garden 'twould I daresay become quite gossipt upon, and indeed there are low scurrilous fellows that purvey scandalous matter about Holywell Street would go have prints made with, mayhap, doggerel verse upon the matter compos’d by the low hacks about those parts.
Lord U- purses up his lips and says, sure he cannot say that 'twould be undeserv’d, but has a mind to the more general reputation of the family and thinks that, could it be kept quiet they would be much indebt’d.
Why, says I, I will go keep entire mum, tho’ with a thought that the matter may came out by some other route that I do not have my hand upon.
'Tis entire fair, says Lord U-. But do you provide me with the direction of the unfortunate creature in Covent Garden I shall go discreetly about making some provision.
That is exceeding good of you, says I.
Why, says he, I have some notion of who may be her benefactor.
La, says I, there is some Evangelickal lady goes about in those parts endeavouring to save souls and 'tis suppos’d she aims at preventing Mrs Binns from falling back into sinfull paths.
Lord U- looks at me and his lips twitch and he says, he wonders is the lady what Lord D- would consider theologickally sound, even is she of the Evangelickal persuasion.