I am therefore in somewhat of a fret and a worry about how Phoebe does when I go about on the morrow about matters of china and furniture. But sure even was one in Hampshire, one could do naught but wait upon events.
Sure I am most exceeding civil receiv’d at the warehouses and workshops I go visit. I would be in some suspicion of the very flattering remarks upon Lady B-'s taste, but that does not seem some matter in form but shows some knowledge of the business, so 'tis extreme gratifying from those that, I confide, see a deal of people that are about furbishing up their houses and may have ill-adviz’d notions.
So I have a most usefull day putting matters in hand, and think with considerable pleasure of how these things will look when all are brought together within my pretty establishment, but by the end of it I am exceeding tir’d and am glad I do not go out the e’en but may stay at home, have some nice little supper, and read a little. 'Tis a while since I have had that pleasure.
I go to my dressing-room to change out of the walking-dress I have wore all day, and put on some comfortable matter suit’d to sitting at home with my stays somewhat loosen’d, and find Docket and Sophy busy about my wardrobe. Docket says that the new gowns for the summer have been deliver’d from Biddy’s, but there are other matters need furbishing up ready to go away.
Why, says I, I am in every confidence I may leave the matter in your hands, Docket, and I daresay I may have agreeable surprizes when we come to the various places I am invit’d.
Docket snorts and Sophy giggles.
Docket then says, Biddy has writ inviting her to go to Weymouth with her for a little while – she has a fancy to try Weymouth this year –
Sure, says I, I daresay 'twill be about the time I go visit the F-s in the north, or mayhap go into Northamptonshire and visit t’other Lady B- (for Biddy Smith has already spoke to me on the matter, to know whether Docket will feel herself oblig’d to remain with me); and even if 'tis not, why, if 'tis when I go to Q-, I daresay Sophy might ask Phillips was there any need. And I am assur’d that the party at D- Chase will be quite Liberty Hall. And Sophy was with you at Lord P-'s and C- Castle last year, 'twould all be familiar to her.
Docket nods and says, sure Sophy comes about to be able to cope with the business –
Sophy looks most exceeding gratify’d at this praise.
- and 'twould be most agreeable to spend some time in the sea airs, with Biddy, if My Ladyship has no objections she should very much like to accept.
Why, says I (as if I had not incit’d Biddy Smith to the offer), I think you might be spar’d and 'twould be usefull experience for Sophy.
Docket looks positive doating at Sophy, and says, does she suppose she could manage in the circumstance?
O, says Sophy, I need only mind on what you, Docket, would do to aid me in any difficulty.
They look at one another very fond, and then Sophy says, but even tho’ you shall be in such good healthfull airs, Docket, you should take a good supply of your drops and mind that Mamzelle Bridgette knows about their administration.
Oh, says Docket, Biddy is already well-instruct’d in the matter.
When I am chang’d, I go down to my pretty parlour. There is still no news from Hampshire concerning Phoebe, but I daresay one could not expect word yet.
'Tis somewhat after I have had a nice little supper and sit with a small glass of madeira – for 'tis extreme restorative – reading the plays of Mrs Behn, for I do not feel like any heavyer matter the e’en.
I am in this agreeable state when Hector comes and tells me that Matt Johnson is at the back door, says 'tis no urgent or dangerous matter, but should be glad of a word or two am I at liberty.
Why, says I, send him in, and bring him some ale, and ask has he eaten and if not, perchance Euphemia might make him up a platefull. For I daresay he has been about matters of keeping us safe from rogues and malefactors and may not have had opportunity to dine.
So within a few minutes comes Matt Johnson, follow’d by Celeste with a mug of ale and a plate of bread and ham. He makes me a leg, and I desire him to sit down and refresh himself before we proceed to any business. He assures me that 'tis no great matter but a question of curiosity over a business that he dares say I know a little of.
I raise my eyebrows and smile and say, perchance.
After he has eat his snack, and drunk the ale, he says, he hears that the Earl of N- has been convey’d somewhat hugger-mugger upon shipboard, and the ship is said bound for the United States of America. And there is this tale about a stolen snake, and his entire family leaving his roof, and sure, he has a certain curiosity about the matter.
I flutter my eyelashes at him but say nothing.
Confides, he goes on, that 'twould never come to court, there would be some device – the value of a snake set very low, or he dares say some clever lawyer might contrive to throw it upon some person unknown, or even one of the servants – sure there are cases when some lowly person has been brib’d to confess, or threaten’d with accusation of some heavyer crime.
Mr MacD- says, I say, that he might plead privilege of a peer, that if 'tis a first offence - save the matter be treason or murder - they may 'scape any penalty.
As far as theft goes, growls Matt, ‘twas far from his first offence one hears, tho’ none had dar’d take him to court. But sure one is surpriz’d that he extend’d his larcenies to serpents.
I ask would he care for more ale, and he concedes 'twould be agreeable, so I ring for Hector.
When he has fresh ale in hand, he says that he minds that when I was pursuing enquiries about the fellow Perkins that has since thrown over Molly Binns, that curses his name to any that will give ear, the trail led to N- House. 'Tis also rumour’d about that matters much improv’d for the Countess and her daughters around that time, the young ladies were seen of a sudden dresst in the crack of fashion.
Sure, says I, 'twould have been around then that young Lord U- return’d from his Grand Tour, perchance he was able to bring his father into a more generous frame of mind.
Mayhap, says Matt, but 'tis give out that the Earl was heard speaking very unpleasant about a certain meddlesome marchioness, and that he was like to suppose you had been some confederate in the elopement of his daughter, and bore you a deal of resentment.
Why, says I, I will indeed confess that as a friend to the Marquess of O- and to Lady Anna M-, that indeed the Earl was very eager to make a match between until taking a pet over the matter, I was an accomplice to their union in holy matrimony, an honourable estate, institut'd of God.
He smiles and says, 'twas indeed very well and tidyly done, 'twas not some matter like that scoundrel Irishman’s abduction conspiracy. But must have caus’d the Earl a deal of chagrin, and is a fellow, I hear, wont to hold himself high.
Indeed, says I, 'twas my consideration that his affairs in Covent Garden would not accord well with his reputation and thus he would not care to have 'em known. Sure, I continue, I would have kept mum on the topick, but does a fellow send me a snake, why, as they say, all bets are off.
He looks at me and says, he wondered whether 'twas some such matter, for these fellows that have that curious eccentricity will usually have special tastes - there is a certain nobleman, will take books from other fellows’ libraries – and 'twas a very sudden change in the Earl to be about prigging snakes.
He then smiles and he says that he hears that there are those in the Indies that charm snakes so that they will not bite 'em –
Alas, says I, I can claim no such power – do they not play a pipe? dear General Y- would tell me of the matter – 'twas most indeed fortunate, Josh F- had bought a mongoose some while previous, and they are most ferocious and effective enemies to snakes.
Matt grunts and says, he might have known that there was something entire out of the common mixt up in the business. But he is most extreme glad that I took no hurt, and it relieves his mind mightyly that the Earl is gone out of the country.
I sigh and say, I daresay 'tis too much to hope that he may be scalpt by savage Indians or perchance eat by a bear, the tiresome fellow. But really, dear Matt, I think by now you may confide that I am born to be hang’d -
Never! he says very fervent.
Why, says I, We know what we are, but not what we may be, and who knows what may come to pass?
He smiles and says 'tis hard to imagine. He goes on to say that he hopes that fine resourcefull young lady took no hurt from her adventure?
Indeed not, says I.
Excellent young woman, he remarks.
There is a little silence 'twixt us. I pour myself a little more madeira, and say, I apprehend that 'tis a most commendable concern for me brings Mr Johnson to my door the e’en –
’Tis not, he says with a serious expression, in any anticipation of reward -
- and I am exceeding gratefull, but has been a day of a deal of going about in this close weather and I am entire exhaust’d, should not feel capable of demonstrating my gratitude as I should like.
We smile at one another and he says, indeed he thought I lookt a little weary and he will trouble me no further this night.