I spend a very agreeable few days at the Admiral’s fine property. Phoebe seems to be pulling round, tho’ still lyes in. I have many fine rides upon Callisto. I open to Jacob the concerns that Belinda and I have about the fine B- estate at T-, that we fear falls to rack and ruin, and that we go visit in hopes that we may come at some means to persuade Chancery to do somewhat. He says that he had heard us’d to be an extreme fine place – was there not a not’d folly and remarkable gardens? - alas, says I, for all one knows the folly has long since tumbl’d down, one hopes without injuring any, and I daresay the gardens are like unto a wilderness.
He laughs and says, sure does one require a fellow that is acquaint’d with wildernesses, he hears that Lady B- is most extreme esteem’d by the Marquess of O-, that has had a deal of experience in such places.
I say, why, he may still have a matchet or two about him that might come most usefull in the matter. But once we have took a look at the place, might be that we should desire the advice of one such as yourself as to what might practickable be done.
Sure, he says, he should greatly like to see the place, even if 'tis fallen to rack and ruin; and sure may be a matter of, looks very bad, but might not need a deal of work to bring it back to a better state.
Why then, says I, we may call upon you in the matter, tho’ indeed, with Chancery mixt up in the business, one fears there could go grow up around the house a thicket like unto that in the tale of Sleeping Beauty.
I also spend a deal of time with dear Martha, and go help her feed the hens, and listen to her observations upon 'em, that are most exceeding acute.
They also go invite several neighbours to dine one e’en. I am most exceeding prepossesst at the esteem in which they hold Jacob S-, that is ever delight’d to give 'em the benefit of his understandings of rocks and soils, and how one might most effective go about draining some marshy field.
'Tis entirely pleasant to see how well they do in these parts. Indeed, when the ladies withdraw for tea and ratafia, there are those say, some other lady show’d 'em a charming sketch Mrs S- made of their house (or some fine feature of their property). Sure there is somewhat or other about their own property that might inspire Mrs S-? Martha I confide is somewhat taken aback, but responds very civil that tho’ of course she is not an artist to compare with Mr de C-, that has exhibit’d at the Royal Academy Exhibition and she dares says will shortly be admitt’d a Fellow, she confides that 'tis a matter of waiting upon one of the present Fellows to dye, she has a little knack for water-colours. Sure there are a deal of very pretty possibilities in the neighbourhood.
They show a little shy of me, so I say that sure 'tis said among some quite eminent artists that water-colours require a deal of skill. But I hear that several of 'em go have portraits took by Mr de C ? There is a deal of remark about his skills in the matter and the civility of his manners, sure one would not know him a Frenchman, indeed you would not know him from his speech anything but English.
Why, says I, was but a child in arms when his family fled The Terror and has liv’d in this realm ever since. I confide that they all think that shows most excellent taste that has not return’d to those shores.
There is a little pause in the conversation, and then Martha says to one of the ladies that she hears she keeps some very fine bantams and the conversation moves on to matters of poultry, ornamental waterfowl, &C. I can see that some of Martha’s remarks upon chickens are consider’d most exceeding telling.
And then the gentlemen come in, none of 'em, I am pleas’d to see, very much the worse for drink. There are several of 'em come most immediate to converse with the fascinating Dowager Lady B-, and ask me have I seen this or that fam’d local site, do I stay long, &C&C.
La, says I, did I remain longer sure I would go visit Winchester and see the Cathedral and the Round Table, and mayhap a jaunt to Portsmouth, but I stay but a few days on my way to the Duke of M-'s house-party at Q-.
There is general remark that alas, did My Ladyship remain longer, there would be a deal of invitations to dine and to local balls, parties of pleasure of various sorts, 'tis a great pity that I do not linger, but indeed, one hears Q- is most exceeding fine and the Duke very hospitable.
O, entirely, says I. His and Her Grace are quite among my dearest friends (sure 'tis entirely true).
(Sure I daresay it does no harm to the S-s’ consequence in this neighbourhood that their close family connexion to the Duke of M- is known.)
Also, I say, I am very glad to see my old friend Admiral K- fall heir to such a fine property as this is.
(I wonder do they go speculate upon the nature of these antient friendships.)
There are also ladies come discourse with me upon dress, to know what the latest Town styles are, and also to wonder whether Lady J-, that is so very not’d for her philanthropick work, might be brought to an interest in various causes of their own in the locality? There is a plan they go about for almshouses, Mr S- has already gone give 'em most usefull advice –
(I confide that they have only heard of Lady J- and not encounter’d her.)
Why, says I, there is hardly a philanthropick enterprize in Town can contrive to get on without Lady J-, but sure when I see her, tho’ cannot be for some months as she goes visit the Admiral upon his flagship –
I perceive that 'tis believ’d the most entire romantick story in these parts just as 'tis in Town.
- I will most certain mention the matter to her. I ask somewhat about the almshouses, to make civil.
Sure 'tis a relief when the company’s carriages come and bear 'em away. I think this emotion is shar’d by Raoul de C-, for a deal of fellows have been asking does he paint dogs or horses or cows, there is even one fellow has some particular fine pig he would desire commemorat’d in oils.
He does not feel, he says, that his talents lye in that direction, but he will most certain go remark upon this desire to any artists of his acquaintance that feel their brushes apt for the depiction of the animal creation -
Why, says I in low tones, observing that Jacob and Martha S- are still waving off their guests, I thought you hit off the dormouse exceeding well.
He gives a little smile. Why, he says, 'tis a different matter – sure he thought there was a very fine effect to be had of Josh F- and the badger - not, look at my fine possession, that has won such and such a race, or took the prize at some agrickultural show –
I consider upon this and say, I think I see what he means.
Jacob and Martha S- return from the front steps. Well, says Martha, there is our duty to local society done for a while. Jacob S- looks at her very fond: dear Matty, he says, all went exceeding well, and puts an arm about her. She leans against him and says, sure, she knows that these matters are necessary do we live in society, but sure she is glad she is not little V, that has to hold this enormous house-party.
Indeed, says I, 'tis the first one they have give, must give her some concern.
Martha smiles very proud and says, but did not the M- House ball go off most exceeding well? I daresay 'twill be entire the same at this house-party. Tho’ sure I am glad that we do not have to attend.
We all troop off to our bedchambers – I take a little peep in at Phoebe, and smile to see that she slumbers very peacefull.
Indeed 'tis come time that I must up sticks and travel on to Q-: Martha begs cannot I stay but one more day, to which I say, ‘twould make it too long and tiring a journey for Docket; and also I think Ajax might not go have words with me about overdoing the horses, but sure he can communicate a deal of such matter without words.
Martha looks at me very fond and says, she dares say I was not listening to that conversation about servants taking advantage and that one must not indulge 'em -
My dear Martha, says I, do I not indulge Docket I confide she will send me out into Society looking an entire fright while telling me 'tis the latest crack.
O, says Martha, sure you will go pretend 'tis entire prudential. But on more interesting matter than servants - can they find no other matter to discourse of? – do you have any novel coming out?
I sigh and say, sure I have been in such a whirl of Society that my very horrid tale of Cornish wreckers and sea-monsters is still not yet complet’d, mayhap I shall have time over the summer, tho’ indeed there is still a deal of Society, and 'tis spread all about the country with a deal of travelling between. But there is a tale of mine comes out shortly, I will send you a copy when it appears.
'Tis very kind, she says.
I go make my farewells to Phoebe, that looks a deal better now she sleeps better. She clasps my hand and says, 'tis ever good to see me, and hear news of the household, and also about dear Miss Flora, that grows such a great girl now.
I kiss her and kiss the sleeping Lucile, shake Raoul de C-'s hand, and go downstairs, embrace Martha, shake Jacob S-'s hand, and get once more into my carriage, that I daresay I shall become extreme tir’d of within the next months.