In order not to look particular or give any reason for unwant’d gossip, I go ride my lovely Jezzie-girl in the Park at the fashionable hour. Tho’ I see a number of little groups engag’d in exchanging some fresh on-dit, none turn to look somewhat conscious at myself, so I confide that my own matter remains under the cover of discretion.
I see Lord A- driving Charley B- and go greet 'em, and ask do they go to the Z-s’ rout the e’en? Indeed, says Lord A-, would not miss it for the world, Sir H- ever knows what’s what and ‘twill be a fine affair.
They then go on to speak of the various matters that go on at B- House – sure they proceed a little slowly, but they do not intend go live there until Society begins return to Town in the autumn, all should be in hand by then – and Lord A- adds, there is one chamber rather curious fitt’d out, confides ‘tis a tennis-court. Was not the late Marquess once a most renown’d tennis-player?
I sigh, and say that, by the time of our marriage, was in no condition to pursue such sports, and 'twas not a thing we ever discours’d of. But I daresay there may be a court somewhere about B- House. I confide that Lord R- would certainly know, for they were quite the greatest of friends.
Why, indeed, exclaims Lord A-, R- would of a certainty know. I daresay will be at the Z-s the e’en, shall go ask him then. Sure 'tis a fine game and one that one may play year round.
I ride on and see Mrs O’C- walking without her son, that I daresay is at school. I go greet her and dismount to converse. She says she supposes I will be holding no more soirées until the autumn, and I say that I confide not, I am invit’d out such a deal at present, even tho’ Society begins leave Town.
She says that one may hardly call him Society but Mr O’N- lately took his congé, goes running back to Ireland. She sighs and says, sure he was once the most agreeable of young fellows, but has become a sad feckless creature that hangs out for a wealthy wife. Why, she says, in the manner of one that has made a success in business – as indeed she has, tho’ ‘tis a very curious one – did he go address himself more regular and business-like to his horses, she dares says he might do exceeding well, for he has an excellent eye and a fine hand in schooling, tho’ 'tis a matter to wonder at that his eye somehow fails him when comes to betting on races, that is, she doubts not, why he finds himself in difficulties.
Why, Mrs O’C-, says I with a smile, perchance did you go school him to the bridle, he might come around.
Mrs O’C- laughs and then says, sure that would be a most tedious matter in a marriage. Did she have any mind to remarry, 'twould be a husband that was for a straightforward gallop very occasional. But she cannot like to give her boy a step-father. She adds that they are for Margate as usual this summer, sure he greatly loves Margate.
We take an amiable leave of one another and I turn dear Jezebel towards R- House.
There is sure a great throng at the Z-s the e’en, so at first I do not think anything to the matter do I not immediate lay eyes upon the Marquess and Marchioness of O- and Her Ladyship’s brothers and sister.
I go remark to Lady Z- that I do not see her new cicisbeo - for the Honble Edward M- has been showing most markt attentions – and she smiles and then frowns and says, indeed, she hopes all is well at N- House, for was a note came most apologetick that none of them may come, and the same from O- House. She fears the poor Countess may have taken some adverse turn and thus they do not like to go into company.
Poor lady, says I. (Tho’ I wonder considerable at this, for I have heard nothing.)
But there is a deal of other society and a number of matters wherein I must improve the shining hour in this company and I do not have time to think more upon this.
And sure, then I return to my fine reserv’d chamber at R- House, and none are so tir’d by life in Society that we may not spend some little time in the contemplation of triangles.
’Tis therefore somewhat later than usual when Sophy brings my chocolate, and says, sure there is some to-do the morn but none knows quite what 'tis about.
When I am dresst and go to the family room I find not only my darling Eliza, but also Josiah, Sandy and Milord, that are all in a state of considerable excitement. I desire to be give some coffee and inform’d of what the news may be.
Why, 'tis a most exceeding brangle! says Milord. Should strongly advize that you sit down before we go about recounting the matters to you.
I do as bidden, and drink my coffee, and say, well, then, inform me.
Joisah says, 'tis report’d that Lord N-'s family have all gone quit his roof and depart’d to take up residence at O- House –
What, says I, Lady N- as well?
All of 'em, says Josiah, and have not said why, but must be some serious matter that leads 'em to such a step.
'Tis perchance a business that certain low scurrilous rags may shed some light upon, says Sandy. For there appear pieces that refer to a certain larcenous lord, that has long been rumour’d to be light-finger’d in certain matters to do with hortickulture, but now expands his operations to the ophidian creation. For there is late come to Town a gallant officer of the Hon Company’s Bengal forces with a fine collection of serpents of those parts, has been about the clubs accusing this lord of making off with one of his pets. And indeed 'tis not consider’d an improbable tale, for His Lordship’s eccentricity is widely-known, but was it confin’d to filching flowers, 'twas consider’d no more than that, but does he go be more general in his pilfering, Society may become reluctant to extend invitations to one that may walk off with the spoons, or mayhap some pretty piece of china that lyes about.
And, he continues, there is already in circulation a very badly-drawn print of a fellow that must be taken as the Earl that goes create an Eden of stolen plants, and introduces a snake to make the picture complete.
I look at him and he looks back and shrugs and says, indeed, had nothing whatsoever to do with the matter, Major S- has been going to and fro, and walking up and down, in great indignation telling any that would hearken about the Earl stealing his fine cobra; and indeed the Earl is none so popular a fellow that none would pay attention to such a tale, but would at once themselves recount occasions upon which he had visit’d their hothouses or those of some relative or friend, and 'twas strongly suppos’d that he had taken cuttings or seedlings or bulbs.
Comes a tray with a nice little breakfast for me, and I fall to’t.
Why, says I, hoist with his own petard, is’t not so? Has digg’d a pit, and fallen therein himself. Sure 'tis quite entirely proverbial.
I then go think over matters a little and say, sure, 'twould be entire the civil thing to go call upon Lady N- at O- House: and I daresay I could find out more of the matter concerning this decampment.
None can see any objection to the matter, but then comes a footman saying that the Marquess of O- and Lord U- have call’d and beg a moment of Lady B-‘s time.
Why, says I, taking some more coffee, do you show 'em into the small parlour, and send 'em up some coffee and I will convoke with 'em as soon as maybe.
So I go to the small parlour, where the Marquess and Lord U- are standing with the air of fellows that would desire pace up and down.
How now, says I, I understand that Lord U- has sought sanctuary at O- House for his mother and his brothers and sisters – 'tis quite scandal enough, but there is also a deal of scurrility goes about concerning the stealing of a serpent.
Lord U- sighs deeply and says, sure he feels his father’s conduct justifies this exodus even does one not disclose his murderous intentions, and His Lordship shows most exceeding kind and hospitable in putting 'em up in O- House, but –
Why, says I, let me think on this a little – sure, I go on after a moment’s cogitation, I confide that 'tis now the time to enter into diplomatick negotiations. Would it not serve very well did the Earl go out of the country for some while, until the gossip dyes down and is forgot, tho’ sure I think 'twill take some considerable while, for stealing some fellow’s snake is really quite out of the common.
But, says I, 'twould be prudent to make some provision for the management of his estates in his absence –
He will never agree, says Lord U- very gloomy.
What you require, says I, is one that may act the diplomat and go undertake negotiations as a neutral party that desires bring about concord; mayhap, I go on, you have heard of His Grace of M-'s abilities in that direction?
They look at one another. 'Twould be somewhat of an imposition, says the Marquess, but indeed he is a very fine fellow and 'tis give out has resolv’d a deal of matters that might have come to serious fallings-out or open scandal, and that had his father not dy’d so suddenly, would have advanc’d considerably in the Diplomatick, likely become an ambassador.
Let me, says I, write him a little note advancing your interests in the matter, for we are quite the oldest of friends.
They look at me a little uneasy, and then I confide mind that dear Viola and I are on quite the best of terms, and look somewhat less worry’d.
I sand and seal the note and hand it to the Marquess and say that I purpose come call at O- House the afternoon.