'Tis most entire a relief to think that it comes round once more Derby Day and that I will see dear Belinda and the excellent Captain P- and their horsey set, 'twill be a most welcome change.
Also I look out onto the R- House lawn where Josh goes romp with the badger, and think what great concern we were in last year when we heard that he was stricken with the measles, and how fine and healthfull a fellow he is now.
My darling comes up to me where I look out of the window and says, sure, one day our dear equestrian C- will be beguil’d into going live in the countryside among a hunting set and will be following hounds, and taking fences –
And ruining my complexion! says I. O, my dearest love, sure 'tis very agreeable to go into Northamptonshire to visit t’other Lady B- and her Captain, but I confide I should quite perish of ennui was I oblig’d to live there among such a set. For not only are they entire dye-hard Tories, I daresay they never read anything that is not the racing calendar from one year’s end to the next. They are fine agreeable hospitable folks, but I should be an entire fish out of water.
Does not our lovelyest of C-s have a hunting-box of her own in Shropshire? Perchance she might go live there in order to have her hand upon her lead-mine and improvements and go mingle in the hunting crowd.
O, yes, says I, and I daresay take up rough shooting as well, for 'tis give out to be not’d for that in those parts. My sillyest of wild girls, 'tis quite tedious enough going about country house-parties, 'tis only bearable because Town in summer is a desert, and one may see friends. I do not purpose to become some country lady that keeps her own hounds, as well as a few terriers and a spaniel or two, and takes baskets of comforts about to the sick poor of the parish, and bullies the parson does his sermon run too long. And has a fine weather-beaten face, and swears like a trooper -
Eliza is by now quite in the giggles at this picture.
We then both look very doating at Josh, that goes expatiate to Lady Louisa on the excellences of the badger, and, no doubt, the evils of badger-baiting.
Well, says I, I must away betimes, for there will be heavy traffick upon the Epsom road.
Eliza sighs and says, Bess and Meg are quite wild to go to the Derby, but I think it no place for girls of their years.
Entirely so, says I, 'tis the gathering place of rogues and scoundrels from miles around, and there is a deal of coarse talk and unbutton’d behaviour.
There was Tom O- quite hop’d they might join his papa’s party, but even so –
Why, says I, I confide Tom O- would desire there to be some occasion upon which he might defend Bess from rough fellows –
Eliza laughs a little immoderate and says, sure she has seen Bess watching when Hector goes instruct the little boys in the pugilistick art, and then go into the conservatory and practise the like, I do not think she longs for knights to ride to her defence. But, indeed, 'tis pretty to see Tom O-'s boyish liking for her.
He is an agreeable young fellow, she continues, and Josiah has remarkt has a most intelligent apprehension of matters to do with steam. But sure they are still young and 'tis a good number of years before they need to be worrying about marriage.
She then looks very sober and says, do we not see the inadvisability of too early marriage with Lady D-? Have been call upon her, and altho’ she is not fallen into a melancholy, still shows entire overset by the recollection of her ordeal. Shows fond enough of the babe, but –
I sigh. Indeed, says I, I am not sure Lord D- would have been entire happy to serve seven years for her, but I daresay would have conced’d to wait a few years had the matter been put to him.
But, says I, I must away.
Indeed 'tis high time, for there is already a deal of traffick upon the road. But I come to the inn where Belinda and Captain P- are staying, and find her there, saying that the dear Captain has gone with their friends to ensure that they have a good vantage place to observe the race.
She is looking in excellent health and I am very pleas’d indeed to see her. I ask how matters go with 'em and she says, most excellent well, Cherry-ripe has lately borne a colt that they confide will show most remarkable. Do not have anything running in the Derby this year, but should not like to miss it.
She adds that 'tis more than common civil of the F-s to invite 'em to dinner the morrow, what excellent people they are.
'Tis so, says I, the finest in the world: but my dear Belinda, is’t not time we depart’d for the course?
So we make our way thro’ the extreme bustle to the downs, where there is a deal of matter of what I confide to be cheating and cozening going on and I daresay pickpockets and cutpurses moving among the crowd.
I give a little start upon sighting one that resembles Mr R- O-: but sure he is a fellow looks like a deal of other fellows. And even is it him, I daresay he may go enjoy himself at horse-races like any other fellow when he is not about sneaking and spying.
Captain P- and his friends have indeed obtain’d a fine vantage point. Belinda and I are greet’d with great effusiveness and the gentlemen make most civil to me, offer to lay bets for me and generally show amiable. I am less distract’d than I was last year, when I was in such a fret about Josh, and I go ask them what they favour for the race, at which there is a certain amount of argument, with one crying up one horse and one another. I say that sure I know little about racers and was I not adviz’d would I daresay go pick some horse that had a pretty name or handsome looks. They say very jovial but somewhat flattering that they are sure Lady B- has better judgement than she credits herself.
I go pick one and say I will back my fancy to the tune of ten guineas, that is consider’d to show the right spirit; and sure I am most happyly these days in such a condition that I may lose ten guineas without its being any great matter.
I then remark that I have taken the liberty to provide a pique-nique - with which Seraphine very kindly supply’d me – and this is most exceeding well-receiv’d.
As ever, seems to me that the whole business is an extreme great to-do over a matter that is over in very few minutes, tho’ sure makes a fine sight. I am a little embarrasst at the discovery that the horse I laid on has won, tho’ at somewhat short odds. Sure I think I shall give my winnings to Dolly Mutton.
The gentlemen disperse to prizefights and I fear dog- and cock-fights, but Belinda and I return to the inn where we may enjoy a cozy gossip over tea and also discourse of the various matters to do with the B- estates. Belinda sighs that she wishes one might go break the entail, but is adviz’d that the long view that will be taken is that the wretch may recover his wits, and that she may dye and he marry again and beget heirs.
Why, says I, I daresay there are more improbable things have come to pass, tho’, does he recover his wits, might he not find himself arraign’d before his peers for some little matters of attempt’d bigamy and murder? Have heard that peers of the realm are hang’d with a silken cord, but know not have any been transport’d –
Belinda sighs and says, sure the antipodes would be even better than the fine madhouse to keep him safe, but she dares say that did all that come to pass, he would somehow escape the severest penalty. She adds that his keepers do not show sanguine concerning any recovery.
On happyer matters, she says, how does your lovely infant? Sure it must be high time she was put up upon her first pony.
I go babble very effusive about my darling Flora, until such time as the gentlemen return and we are all to go to dinner.
There is an excellent fine dinner serv’d, and the company are appriz’d that they do not have to show at all constrain’d by my presence, for Lady B- is exceeding well-acquaint’d with the ways of gentlemen and does not stand stiff upon propriety, so all is extreme free and easy. Nevertheless, comes a time when Belinda and I deem it prudent to withdraw and leave the fellows to port and coarseness.
Sure I am mindfull that I should be cautious in taking port, a little is entire sanitive and conducive to an elevation of spirits, but too much will leave me in a most disagreeable state the morn; but even so, Belinda and I have a most agreeable conclave together before I return to Town.
When I re-enter R- House I find my darlings in the parlour most anxious awaiting my return. I am in some little perturbation that 'tis some new trouble that arises that may not wait until the morrow, but my dear ones say that 'tis entirely a matter of desiring to be assur’d that the lovelyest of C-s is returned safe and not too much the worse for her celebrations.
Indeed, says I, had somewhat to celebrate for I backt the winner.
Josiah pulls a face and says, 'tis oft the beginning of gambling fever and he dares say I will be around all the race-meetings laying bets.
I laugh and say indeed not, sure I know of more agreeable ways to pass the time.
We all look around at one another and I say, are they quite assur’d that I am return’d safe, sure I will be away to my fine reserv’d chamber. Why, says I, 'tis possible I feel myself a little tipsy and should go lye down.
La, says I a little while later in my fine reserv’d chamber, there are those that will go take advantage of a lady that is a little flown in drink, sure 'tis a shocking world.
And a most agreeable thing 'tis.