I am seat’d at my desk and feeling in some confidence that I may reach the bottom of the pile of correspondence that I have to deal with, when comes Hector to show in Mrs N-.
I rise and greet her with a kiss and desire Hector to request coffee.
Why, says I, I had suppos’d you must be already on the way to Margate.
Hah, says she, I am in no great hurry to go there, sure might be a different matter could I only prevail upon Mrs O’C- to gossip a little upon her patrons; but she is ever discreet, alas. Indeed, I am sure 'twould quite surprize those that know her as a dispenser of special pleasures to see her upon the sands with her son, building fortifickations or looking in tide-pools, and collecting shells and pebbles.
But then, she goes on, there is nothing a-doing in Town, so one might as well be in the healthfull airs, and mayhap go bathe a little to keep Mr N- company –
Sure, says I, 'twill set you up for some fine adulterous f-----g in dressing rooms when Society returns to Town. I hear Mr J- takes the company to Harrogate?
Indeed he does – says he is getting a little too old and set in his ways for touring and its travails. And is greatly chear’d that Miss R- is out of lying-in and in considerable health –
What! says I, she goes with 'em to Harrogate? (Tho’ indeed, she is a very dedicat’d actress and I daresay desires get back upon the boards.)
Mrs N- laughs and says, o, 'twill be an entire family party: as well as Mr W-, her devot’d fop Danvers D- goes with her, and not only that, his mama goes too, will mind the babe while Miss R- is at the theatre, take her own pug and little Puggsiekins promenade about the town, and take charge of the household generally.
Sure, says I, I have been in such a whirl and flurry of Society that I have had no opportunity to go call upon her. A little boy that she calls Orlando, is’t not?
With lungs that promise a fine future career upon the stage! She then sighs and says, Mr J- and Miss A- have both come separately to her to promise that any romps will be entirely a matter of beguiling provincial tedium –
Tush, says I, there are a deal of fine entertainments in Harrogate and excellent walks about the place, 'tis report'd – you will mind that Mrs F- found the place exceeding beneficial, the T-s lik'd it extremely, and the S-s have also stay’d there because there are matters of geologickal interest in the vicinity. I should have suppos’d Miss A- would know somewhat of the matter.
Mrs N- rolls her eyes and says, I confide she had other amuzements!
She then says, she wonders does Lady B- know more than she tells about this business of Lord N- and the exodus of his family from N- House and this very sudden voyage of his to the Americas.
Why, his light-finger’d ways have long been an on-dit in society and winkt at, until Major S- went become so vociferous about the loss of his dear serpent of Old Hoogly, that none could do so any more.
She looks at me very thoughtfull and says, she sees I am quite silence to the death! upon the matter. So, what is this rumour that Lady Z- already goes find a new cicisbeo in that family?
Why, says I, Mr Edward M- goes gape upon her considerable, and she shows civil to his boyish ardour.
Sure the M- boys are fine handsome creatures, she says. And while 'twas Mr Geoffrey M- saw you first, 'tis rumour’d that Lord U- takes an elder brother’s privilege to cut him out.
O, poo! I cry, Lord U- considers me entirely as a friend of his mother -
Mrs N- begins laugh quite immoderate. And then recovers herself and says, must be away.
I laugh a little myself after she goes. But mind me that, altho’ there is no urgency in the matter, I might go consider upon the young ladies upon the marriage market that might suit for Lord U-. Has no necessity to hang out for fortune but I daresay would desire good breeding. I collect that Lord D- has a sister that must be shortly making her debut in Society.
In the afternoon I take my card-case and go make calls: 'tis most exceeding agreeable to discover how many houses there are where I may merely leave my card and not be oblig’d to make suitable conversation for the proper time.
I end up at O- House, for I greatly desire to see how matters get on there and how Hester does.
I am shown into the exceeding charming room that is her parlour, deckt with a deal of flowers and Selina sitting upon her mistress purring.
I go kiss her and say, sure she looks comfortable. And Selina takes no desire to return, for one hears cats are very attacht to their homes?
Hester laughs and says, sure, she is quite supersed’d in Selina’s affections by Arabella, that will offer tempt her appetite with a little cream, or keep by a little salmon for her. Has never liv’d so high in all her nine lives. But indeed Arabella is an excellent creature: will send up all sorts of little treats to tempt my own appetite, entirely welcomes little Lou, that has taken a passionate desire to learn about cooking, into the kitchens – for Lou comes back from R- House full of tales of how she and Bess and Dodo would go lesson themselves under Seraphine.
Oh, she sighs, she is quite in love with Bess F-, that is so clever and well-instruct’d and understands business, and would desire to see her bowl to her own brothers, for 'twould show 'em what a young lady can do.
I smile very much at this account of the dear hoyden. She is quite the best of girls, says I.
And her sister is a prodigy upon the pianoforte, and her brother has a menagerie of beasts quite entire tame, and there is their little sister that is the prettyest child she ever saw –
- I am near surpriz’d to tears by this praise of my precious jewel –
- indeed, her brothers and sisters are mayhap a little tir’d of her praises of R- House; or rather, Geoff will say 'tis all very well for girls and children, but for manly exercize and learning there is nowhere can compare to the west wing of R- House.
I laugh and say that I hope he benefits.
O, she says, the boys are all quite wild about this party at A-. Oh, the convockations about dress, and what they should take.
She smiles very content’d and says, 'tis really most agreeable.
She then grows a little more serious and says, now Nan is return’d to London she takes Em about a little when she goes into Society, and they were lately at a supper-party at Sir B- W-'s –
Indeed, says I, was there myself, and was struck by how very much in looks they both were.
She smiles very fond, and says, but I take just a little concern over Em, that met some fellow, a friend of the W-s, a Captain C-, that has been at Nova Scotia, and told her a deal of fine tales about the place. Sure she comes and tells me all about the matter, 'tis an excellent thing, but one would like to know who the fellow is.
Why, says I, I know a little of the fellow, that I first met in the company of a fellow-officer of his, Major W-, that is a cousin of Sir B-. And he is currently invalid’d home having suffer’d some very severe fever in those parts, and is under the care of physicians. Is in some concern that may no longer be consider’d fit for active service, talks of selling out and returning to Nova Scotia to cultivate the land, or perchance raise horses. I know little enough of his family, but suppose that, as he has been residing on the W-s’ Somerset estate this while, as more sanitive than staying in Town, either has no family or perchance is not on the best terms with 'em. But I can go interrogate Lady W-, that is quite one of my dearest friends –
My dear C-! Is she not a sad bluestocking that runs her husband, that us’d to be a great fribble?
Not in the least! I cry, why, indeed she is a well-educat’d lady and shows a fine understanding of politicks, better than many gentlemen that sit in Parliament, but a most agreeable creature. There is a pretty mutual devotion 'twixt her and Sir B-, 'tis no matter of wearing the breeches, and he was certainly us’d to be a sad fribble but has quite pull’d round. But indeed, I can find out from her whether she knows any more of Captain C-.
I am probably a very silly creature, says Hester, and live so much out of Society, but when Em, that has never shown any great inclination to gentlemen before, comes be so effusive -
Why, says I, are we not given caution by Shakspeare about young women that come to admire fellows for the dangers they have past thro’? But sure I have heard Captain C-'s tales of Nova Scotia and the Indians there &C and indeed he tells 'em well.
But, my dear, I will just make a note in my little memorandum book to the matter, and then I will be gone.
As I come to the front door I encounter Sebastian K-, that is such a favourite with the M- boys, that is also about leaving. I offer that I might take him at least part of his way in my carriage.
’Tis very kind, he says, he goes to M- House if 'tis not out of my way.
Not in the least, says I.
On the way to M- House, he expresses his gratitude for my putting them in the way of having Herr P- undertake German correspondence for 'em. Shows very well, great apprehension, has even made a suggestion or two demonstrating a very fine grasp upon matters, 'tis most encouraging.
He then adds that his papa is now considering sending him another Grand Tour, this time about the Baltic, mayhap next year.