I determine to go call upon Lady T-, for her approval would be most material to the Countess and her children, because she is everywhere known so most exceeding exacting.
She is sitting in her drawing-room with her lace-pillow upon her knee, but puts it aside and comes up to me, not only greets me extreme civil but kisses me upon the cheek and says sure has been an age, has it not been a most exhausting Season?
Indeed, says I, quite the whirl. But, dear Lady T-, I know you are not one that seeks out gossip, yet I daresay you have heard somewhat of this matter of the Earl of N-?
She gives a snort and says, sure 'tis a well-known matter that he would go pilfer plants, and one was oblig’d to instruct one’s gardeners to look aside and say nothing, and there were those endeavour’d excuse him by remarking upon his passion for hortickulture, but sure, did he come to dine, one would count the spoons very carefull. There is no sense to the matter, 'tis a freak, as we see with this matter of a serpent. I daresay 'tis not anything would get him clappt up in Bedlam or some discreet private house, but 'tis beyond a little eccentricity.
Quite so, says I, and one must consider that was he in a different station the matter would be lookt upon with considerable severity.
Entirely, says Lady T-. But I daresay that there is somewhat you would come at, Lady B-?
'Tis so, I confess. I have become quite the greatest of friends with the Countess of N- -
Lady T- sighs and says sure, that was a sad case. She was quite the lovelyest creature of the season when she came out – indeed Lady Emily M- has some look of her, have once or twice almost felt that I was seeing a ghost - and there was a young fellow she favour’d, entire suitable, well-bred fellow. But his friend was Lord U- and her parents were quite mad after a title, so that was the one she marry’d.
Then she looks at me very shrewd and says, sure Society holds its breath to see which way the cat will jump before deciding whether to acknowledge this migration from N- House or be shockt by it.
And, says I, dear Lady T-, your opinion on the matter would be consider’d exceeding telling.
Why, she says, 'tis a shocking example to wives and children. And yet, did they stay might seem that they approv’d and were even of like habits…
She shakes her head and says, But there was that matter of an elopement, 'tis a thing one would not desire to encourage.
One must take into account, says I, that Lord O- had spent very little time in Society before his accession, was about a deal of wild and savage places, where I daresay marriage is very largely conduct’d upon Young Lochinvar lines as a general matter –
On the other hand, makes a difference that – so 'tis give out – that her brother was there and gave her away, hardly some hugger-mugger proceeding. And 'twas not some matter of abducting an heiress, for her portion, I confide, is modest. Sure all give ‘em out to be entire besott’d upon one another. She picks up her lace-pillow and there is a little clacking of bobbins for some several minutes. I daresay it helps her think.
At length she remarks that she hears that this new Lady O- is quite the greatest friend of Her Grace of M-, that is such a civil well-conduct’d young woman of excellent ton.
Oh, entirely, I say.
- and Lord T- has spoke several times of Lord U- as an admirable young fellow.
I respond that he has a most prepossessing fondness for his mother and care for his brothers and sisters.
Why, she says, dear Lady B-, you quite persuade me that I should go call upon Lady N- and Lady O- at O- House. Sure 'tis not as tho’ Lady N- has run off with some other fellow, like the wife of that bigamous lunatick that succeed’d your husband. Sure one is very sorry for her, ty’d to such a one – did he not endeavour murder her in church when all was reveal’d? – but 'tis quite over the boundaries of correct conduct.
(Sure I should like to spring to dear Belinda’s defence, but I confide that 'twould not be the diplomatick thing to do at this moment.)
I therefore say that I have some impression that Sir C- F- retains a chivalrous devotion to the Countess, but sure, he is among his apple-trees in Herefordshire.
Excellent fellow! says Lady T-, Lord T- hopes he may come to our house-party this summer, for he is known quite the virtuoso on agrickultural matters.
I say the proper things, but do not mention our previous acquaintance.
And of course, my dear, we shall see you there.
'Twill be delightfull, says I, somewhat mendacious.
She then looks thoughtfull and says, perchance Lady Emily M- is a little on the young side for K-, but of excellent lineage, fine looks, and her livelyness might stir him up, 'twould be most beneficial. Lord T- was already in mind to invite Lord U-.
(I think of Lady Emily, that quite longs to don breeches and play Viola or Rosalind, and is, her brothers give out, an entire virtuosa at billiards, and do not suppose she should sort well with that mopish muff Lord K-. But 'twill do her good going about a little in Society.)
Comes in Lord T- and makes very civil. Lady T- remarks that we have been gossiping upon Lord N- and she is quite determin’d to go visit the poor Countess at O- House.
Quite shocking thing, the Earl’s conduct, says Lord T-, I daresay there are gardener’s boys have been transport’d for taking a few blossoms to make a posy for their sweethearts or carrying a cutting or so to their mother’s cottage garden. But of course in a nobleman 'tis deem’d a harmless eccentricity. What do we suppose he will do now?
He goes on to say that Major S- goes talk very wild, tho’ cannot seem to make up his mind whether he should call the fellow out or accuse him of theft and take it to the courts. And there are some several go get up blackballing at his clubs.
I shake my head and say sure 'tis a shocking matter, do any know why he took the snake?
'Tis entirely consider’d part of his pilfering freak, says Lord T-.
I take a civil leave of 'em and desire Ajax to drive me to M- House.
When I go to the door, Thomas, that tends it, says that Her Grace is quite entire at home to you, Your Ladyship, and is in the garden.
I ask him how he does and how Jennie comes on – why, he says, is entire advanc’d to the post of assistant to Phillips.
I am pleas’d to hear it, says I, and here is somewhat to save towards your wedding.
The gardens at M- House are by no means as fine as those at R- House, but at this time of year they show exceeding well. I see that Nan has come visit Viola, and they sit upon the lawn as little Lady Cathy essays to stand and even contrives to stagger a step or two before falling to the ground again.
They jump up to greet me, and Viola rings for a footman to fetch us tea.
Well, how now, my dears, says I, sitting upon a chair, do you go plot strategy?
Indeed 'tis so, says Viola, for I apprehend that 'tis most material to the interests of Lady O-'s family that they should be entire receiv’d in Society.
Entirely so, says I, and I have already been about prevailing upon Lady T- to come call upon Lady N- at O- House – and you too of course, my dear, I add, turning to Nan.
Nan looks somewhat scar’d, but Viola laughs and says, perchance I have never made the tour of the fine paintings in the gallery at Q-?
I have not yet had that pleasure, says I, but I hope to undertake it this summer.
Only, says Viola, there is a painting there, very old and quaint, of some female saint that contriv’d to tame a dragon and is depict’d leading it about upon a leash rather like unto Lady D- and her pug.
O poo, says I, Lady T- is no dragon.
Comes tea, follow’d by Biffle, that says, here is a charming sight, sure he wishes that he had Sir Z- R- or mayhap Mr de C- here so that they might paint it as a conversation piece. He then goes pick up little Cathy, that we perceive very fond of her Papa.
He sits down with her upon his knee and says that sure this is very agreeable company after what he has been at: he turns to Lady O- and says, have been closet’d with Lord N- these some several hours, but I think he has at last come round to seeing that 'twill entire serve him to go hunt flowers abroad – indeed there is some savant in Washington that has ardently solicit’d him to visit those shores –
(Sure I am like to laugh when I recall how Sandy remarkt that I consider’d the United States as a rubbish pile upon which I might cast those I lik’d not. And then take the more sober consideration that at least 'tis not Philadelphia, for I should greatly dislike the thought of any convokation ‘twixt the Earl and Mr E-, that both bear me such resentment.)
- and has been persuad’d that 'twill be entire convenable does he authorize Lord U- to undertake the necessary management of his estates during his absence, that will, no doubt, be adviz’d by his godfather that is known a prudent and well-inform’d fellow.
Nan quite claps her hands at this intelligence. O, prime! she cries. Has greatly irk’d U- to see so much that he might usefully put his hand to and not be able.
We all look about at one another with great gratification, and then Cathy decides that we do not pay due attention to her and sets up a little wail to remind us of her presence.