Comes at last the time when I must go out of Town. Indeed I have some very agreeable visits to make along with some that are more dutyfull matters.
Biffle and Viola go hold a house-party at Q-, but I have determin’d to depart a few days beforehand of it, and go visit Martha and Jacob in Hampshire and see how Phoebe does. 'Twill also make it an easyer journey for Docket and I daresay for the horses.
'Tis entirely delightfull to arrive at the Admiral’s fine property and see how much matters have come on under Jacob S-'s hand. Martha, the dear creature, comes running out of the front door with little Deborah in her arms to greet me.
O, dear C-, how entire charming to see you! what a becoming hat! do come in and have some tea to refresh yourself from the journey.
Jacob S- comes out after her and tells Ajax where he may take the carriage, says they have put me in the Rose Room, and that Docket and Sophy are invit’d to go take tea in the housekeeper’s room while the trunks are taken up.
I embrace Martha and kiss Deborah and shake hands with Jacob and say, they all look exceeding well, sure these are healthfull parts, and does Deborah walk yet?
Jacob S- laughs and says, does not essay to walk yet, but will creep at a great rate does one put her down.
And how does Phoebe? I ask.
Martha sighs a little and says, sure she and little Lucile come along very well, but she is exceeding anxious, can scarce bear to go sleep in case it comes to Lucile as it did to Camille, tho’ indeed, one cannot wonder, the poor thing. She kisses the top of Deborah’s head. But she will be delight’d to see you.
Sophy hands me out a basket and I say, Euphemia would not let me depart without I brought this basket of good things for all of you, even tho’ I said here you were in the countryside with fine farms all about.
Why, says Martha, 'tis true, but there are no cooks in the neighbourhood to compare with Euphemia or Seraphine: well enough at plain country fare, one cannot complain. But let us go in.
It almost brings tears to my eyes to see the parlour so very much Martha’s room, with a large table cover’d with drawing paper and pens and water-colours and paint-brushes, quite entirely in her old style. I go look and see what she is drawing and see that there are a number of very charming studies of hens.
O, says Martha, ringing for tea, I am become an entire countrywoman and devote myself to the poultry-yard, sure chickens are a deal more interesting than I ever suppos’d. And wait until you taste our eggs, they are quite out of the common good.
I sit down in a very comfortable chair and take my hat off. Deborah does indeed go creep exceeding fast now Martha has put her down.
The tea comes and she pours out. Handing me my cup, she says, and how does this matter of the Marquess and the Earl’s entire family coming live with him go?
Why, says I, the Earl goes sulking off to Washington, where there is some Yankee botanist has desir’d him go visit this age, and he has authoriz’d Lord U-, that excellent young fellow, to take charge of matters of the estate. And all are extreme happy at O- House, and the Marquess goes fit it up so that Lady N- may get about the house in her invalid carriage, and 'tis entirely the prettyest thing to see him with the new Marchioness, they will be ever billing and cooing.
Martha gives a happy sigh and says, ‘tis most agreeable when things fall out so. But how are matters at R- House?
Why, says I, the F-s have gone return to the north for a few months, so that they may see how matters go with the ironworks – tho’ sure Mr D- is a most excellent partner in the enterprize, it greatly relieves their minds now that they are oblig’d to spend so much time in Town or going about visits. And His Lordship and Mr MacD- have gone down to A- for his usual bachelor party before they are about the various visits they are invit’d on.
She goes on to say she hears that I go extend my premises?
Indeed, says I, I was beginning to feel a little crampt in my pretty little house. Sure I was in no position to give dinner-parties: well, I daresay I could have gone take a private room at M. Duval’s, but, sure I am not mistress in my own household, I confide my entire establishment would have up and left.
Martha laughs somewhat immoderate and says, and I daresay your guests would not be at all pleas’d either.
Indeed, says I, Euphemia is a very fine cook.
And do she and Hector go increase?
Not as yet, I say, but there is plenty of time for that. But, my dear, 'tis extreme pleasant to sit and gossip but I should very much like to go see Phoebe.
Of course! cries Martha, I should not hinder you, I confide she is most anxious to see you herself. She lyes in in the Lilac chamber, I will take you up myself.
I go into the room, that has a fine sunny aspect, and see Phoebe sat up in bed nursing Lucile.
O, Your – I mean, C- - 'tis an entire delight to see you, and looking so well. And this, she says looking down very doating, is Lucile.
I go over and sure Lucile looks a fine healthy pretty babe, and I say that I hear that there are those have a superstition that one should not praise an infant’s looks for fear the fairies will come steal it and leave a changeling, so I will say, sure, she is well enough, and you may take my meaning.
Phoebe smiles and says, sure she is a darling, goes take the breast very civil, Aunty Black was exceeding pleas’d with how we did – but then her face falls, and she says, but o, I cannot help but worry, after Camille.
'Tis no wonder, says I, but I would have suppos’d Mrs Black might soothe your concerns?
O, indeed she will say 'tis a rare thing, and lightning does not strike twice, but I cannot help but be foolish fretfull.
Why, says I, I confide that time will prove that. But how is Mr de C-?
Phoebe smiles very fond and says, has got about the neighbourhood that he stays here, and there come those from about the county, even from Portsmouth and Winchester, that would desire him make their portraits. 'Tis indeed gratifying.
And, she goes on, 'tis quite the best thing for him to have some occupation.
But, says I, sure I will suppose that he already goes make some very fine pictures of Lucile.
Indeed he does, says Phoebe with a fond smile. But, if I might ask how matters go in the household, and how Seraphine and her family do? Does Euphemia - ?
Not yet, says I, and they do not seem troubl’d at it. Seraphine’s Joseph is a fine healthy fellow, and of course they go to A- over the summer, 'tis quite the best thing for the children.
And Titus and Tibby still walk out?
Indeed they do, says I, but they seem in no hurry to go marry.
Why, there is Tibby in quite the finest place, says Phoebe, and tho’ Titus does well 'tis ever a precarious matter that he must depend so upon his voice, will go take extreme care when there are colds &C going about.
Sure, says I, that is a concern, but he now goes about to compose – o, as you know has already made some very pretty songs, and finds the matter remunerative – an entire cantata out of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia -
Why, that is a fine ambitious thing in him! and when I think what an idle shiftless fellow was when came to the household, 'tis entire remarkable.
- but 'tis another string to his bow, in the same way as Tibby’s writings as Sheba.
She smiles and says, or my polishes.
Why, dear Phoebe, I would not tire you with business matters, but all goes exceeding well – I have some reports and accounts for you, but they can entirely wait. Is there any matter you desire discuss, Mr Sebastian K- can be here most expeditious.
That is exceeding good of 'em. And how goes the matter of Seraphine and Euphemia’s preserves?
Why, in my absence, Euphemia purposes quite a Grand Tour about orchards and fruit-growers to make sure that the business starts with good quality produce, for has ever been their practice to do so.
Phoebe smiles and says, sure she remembers Seraphine standing at the door arguing with one or t’other that try’d sell her somewhat she thought not up to the mark.
I see her looking a little drowsy and say I shall leave her now, should she like me to put Lucile in her cradle? As I take her, Phoebe says in sleepy tones, and how does Miss Flora?
I put Lucile down in her cradle and say, o, a fine bouncing girl and the darling of my heart as ever.
I look around and see that Phoebe sleeps, sure I confide she needs it. And little Lucile shows every disposition to do the same. I go pull the curtain so that the light does not shine upon 'em, and walk out very softly.
Jacob S- is in the hall when I descend the stairs, sure he looks quite the entire countryman. He says that should I desire to ride about the estate – there are indeed some exceeding pleasant rides to be had – Lady J- most specifick said that I might ride her Callisto. Indeed he confides that she does not get enough exercise at present.
Why, says I, that is most exceeding civil in her, and mayhap I might go take a ride the morn?