So the morn I have Sophy array me in my riding-habit, and go to the stables, where Ajax informs me that sure they are not giving Callisto enough exercize: but there is no wick’dness in her nature, none at all.
Callisto is a deal taller than my own sweet Jezzie, 'tis not to wonder at is she Lady J-'s favour’d mount, but Ajax helps me into the saddle, and I settle myself comfortable and take the reins as he holds her head. We set off at an eager trot and once we are into open countryside move to a brisk canter, that I find myself enjoying quite exceeding, for her gait is most agreeable.
'Tis a most pleasant morn, promises that 'twill be hot later but at present there is a refreshing breeze. I pass by a field of the fine cows of the place, and am exceeding glad to be mount’d so high and safe. There is a dairymaid goes among 'em quite fearless, slaps 'em upon the rump to move 'em so she may pass, strokes 'em upon the poll, sure I could not do the like.
As I turn to return, and bring Callisto to a slower pace to cool her down, I see Jacob S- upon a steady cob as he goes look about the estate, and come up by him.
We remark on what an agreeable morn 'tis, and I say somewhat in praise of Callisto. He says that 'tis an excellent thing that she may have someone give her a little more exercize than the stable-lad has time for. I say that I daresay they will not yet have heard from Lady J-, and he says that 'tis so – can hardly have yet attain’d to her husband’s flag-ship.
What an excellent fellow is the Admiral, he goes on, has took the trouble to send me a deal of fine geologickal specimens and fossils from about those parts, says 'tis somewhat that will keep the middies occupy’d and out of mischief to send 'em about hunting for interesting rocks &C – I smile, for 'tis so like the dear creature - has also, he goes on, solicit’d that we might stay on at the estate to keep it under hand. And Lady J- quite concurs in the design, for says she cannot suppose that she would like to reside out of Town as a permanency.
And do you incline to the plan? I ask.
He looks about him with great pleasure and says, sure, he had never suppos’d himself a countryman, but he finds the business extreme absorbing, and 'tis so exceeding healthfull a place for Martha and Deborah. There are several fine local scientifick societies in the locality, 'tis not so distant from Town that he may not get to meetings of the Royal Society &C, and friends and colleagues may come visit.
Why, says I, 'tis exceeding good to hear. Martha, I confide, comes round quite completely to restor’d health?
Quite entirely, and we may even hope that Deborah might have brothers and sisters, Mrs Black was most exceeding reassuring in the matter when we took the liberty of consulting her while she was attending upon Phoebe’s lying-in lately.
I say this is all quite exceeding good news, and add that is he not already acquaint’d with Sir C- F-, that is very not’d among agrarian improvers, I should be entire happy to bring about an introduction.
Sure you have a wide acquaintance, Lady B-! Indeed he is a fellow one should like to know, has writ some most interesting essays.
I smile and say sure I knew him many years since, but lately had an unexpect’d rencontre with him in his capacity as Lord U-'s godfather.
Excellent young fellow! says Jacob S-. But was another matter I should desire to open to you, that is so well-acquaint’d with Society and its convenances -
O, poo! says I, sure you flatter me. But say on.
I have an older sister, he says, was marry’d very young to a wealthy associate of my father’s, now has a daughter that is coming to a marriageable age, very pleasing looks, and will be well-dower’d. My sister dreams of an exalt’d match -
Aha! says, and doubtless desires that you may advance her interest to your sister-in-law, that marry’d so exceeding well?
'Tis so, he concedes, but one would not wish to look encroaching. I have less knowledge of the girl than I might have due to the estrangement with my family. Seems well-brought-up enough – nothing vulgar in her manner –
I frown a little in thought and say, let me consider upon the matter. Indeed Her Grace is now the preceptress of a fine circle of young women, two excellent marriages in the past Season made among 'em, I apprehend that the Marchioness of O- and Viscountess A- will be making their curtesies as marry’d ladies next Season under her sponsorship. But I must think a little how one might go about it.
Lady B-'s judgement in such matters is consider’d most exceeding nice, I apprehend.
O, fiddlesticks, says I, as we approach the stableyard once more, you go flatter me.
There is a very fine scent of breakfast, such that I am disinclin’d to go change from my riding-habit, and instead go into the dining-room, where I see Raoul de C- already at table.
He stands up and makes a leg and says, sure he was most exceeding late yestere’en, was desir’d to stay to dine at the house where he had been making portraits of the family, seem’d only civil to remain. And when he return’d Phoebe was slumbering most exceeding peacefull, as she has not ever since Lucile’s birth.
Why, says I, I would consider that 'tis the healing power of nature: when one has been so wakefull so long, sleep will quite o’erpower.
He dares say that 'tis so.
I butter myself a muffin and look about the well-spread table. I am just in contemplation of what I might take, when comes a maid and lays before me a very large boil’d egg, that Mrs S- desir’d 'em to cook fresh for Lady B-.
Indeed, 'tis a very fine fresh egg, and has a double yolk, sure one never gets such fine eggs in Town.
I ask Mr de C- how he does, and he says, sure, he thought he would be eating the bread of idleness here, but he supposes that the S-s have gone cry him up about the neighbourhood and he has a deal of commissions upon hand.
Why, says I, I am like to think that after that exhibition in the early part of the year, your renown spreads considerable.
He says indeed, 'twas extreme gratifying. But, he says, to change the subject, I am quite infinite gratefull for the assistance you have been in this matter of Phoebe’s polishes &C, 'tis not only that it quite relieves our minds of any frets about how we may live, but has serv’d most exceedingly to distract her mind with occupation.
Indeed, he says, when you have conclud’d your breakfast, if you would care to come to the chamber that has been set aside as a studio I have a small token for you.
O, says I, 'tis not at all needfull, but 'tis very good of you.
After I have finisht breakfasting – sure a morning ride in country air gives one a fine appetite - I therefore go to his studio, that I confide was perchance meant in the first place for an orangery or such, for has fine large windows.
There are a deal of canvases in assort’d states of completion about the place, but he goes to a bureau at one side of the room, and opens a drawer.
I thought, he says, that you would desire somewhat that you might readyly conceal from casual observers, so I workt on a smaller scale than I am wont.
O, says I, as tears start to my eyes, how can I thank you? For 'tis a painting of my belov’d precious child Flora, holding a dormouse in her hands and smiling down upon it.
He says that, to manifest his gratitude to the F-s for their very great help in Phoebe’s enterprize, he went to R- House to make 'em some paintings of the children – Bess and Meg with the toy theatre, Josh in his menagerie, Quintus at his lessons – that gave him the opportunity also to make this one.
I cannot resist my desire to kiss her dear face.
Indeed, he says, one sees that she is greatly belov’d in that family, but –
Oh, says, I fear I should make a dreadfull mama, spoiling, and fretting, 'tis entire better for her, my sweet darling, but sure I miss her.
He sighs and says, had they been told that Camille would live, did they give him up – sure, 'twas a brave thing to do.
(No, I cannot tell him that only my great love for my best darling Eliza could have brought me to it.)
I say that I will go put it away safely, and 'twill be greatly treasur’d.
I go therefore to my chamber, and am somewhat astonisht to discover that Docket and Sophy are nowhere to be seen. I go look a little along the corridor, and eventually hear a noise as of some brangle.
I go along to where I can this sound of voices, and find that 'tis Docket and Sophy that go thro’ Martha’s closets and set aside those gowns &C that are in requirement of furbishing or making over to bring them more into style, much to Martha’s indignation.
I go in and put my arm about Martha’s shoulders and say, dear Martha, I confide that you and Mr S- go be invit’d about somewhat in country society, is’t not so? And I daresay there are those in the neighbourhood that are scientifick amateurs? Sure are you going to go about in company, my dear, 'tis entire proper to be well-dresst.
Martha pouts a little, but says, indeed they do get invit’d to dine about the locality, and to assemblies &C.
Docket says, after all, 'tis only provincial society, she dares say they can bring on one or other of the maids to undertake matters, once they have her wardrobe in good order.
Martha sighs and says, she supposes 'tis sensible.