Altho’ 'tis somewhat to my relief that I am took into dinner by the Marquess of O-, I find upon my other side the Earl of I-, that I confide I have at some time been introduc’d to, but have no great acquaintance of. Yet there is some familiarity to the name, and of a sudden I collect that the dear Contessa mention’d attending a house-party of his, and that in his earlier years as Lord J- had been a fine amuzing young fellow and a favourite of hers (tho’ sure there are a deal of fellows of whom that might be said) but had since those days become quite the complete reacktionary. And was it not, I puzzle my memory, on that same occasion that she encounter’d that horrid creature Mr R- O-?
But during the first course I may converse with the Marquess, that says 'tis quite entirely charming to have such a family about him at D- Chase, altho’ Eddy and Geoff are at present still at Lord R-'s fine bachelor-party, that U- thought it prudent to quit to come here as he thinks 'twill do 'em good in Society does he so.
Indeed, says I, I think he has the right of it. Now he takes on the responsibility of the N- estates, should be about among fellows of a more serious and weighty nature rather than a fribble set - tho’ one hears that the A- house-party this year includ’d a deal of recreation for the mind.
So one hears, says the Marquess, and he confides he should be about asking MacD- might he recommend one that might be a politickal secretary. (For sure, thinks I, his belov’d Hippolyta, that indeed he keeps glancing towards where she sits by Biffle, is not a lady of the like of Susannah or Viola.)
He then laughs and says, sure there is somewhat of a house-party at D- Chase at present. Seem’d a little desolating to leave the Countess and Lady Louisa entirely solitary while the rest of us were about these jaunts, so – after a deal of begging by little Lou - she has Bess F- and Dodo B- to stay a se’ennight or so.
I laugh and say, 'tis an entire prudent measure for that visit to take place while you are away, for when those girls get together there is a deal of laughing and shrieking girlishness, have I not seen the like when they would be about R- House?
He says that he dares say 'twill be agreeable to Lady N-, however. He then lowers his voice a little and says that he would be glad of some private converse with me can it be contriv’d.
I know not what matter this might be and am somewhat perturb’d, but say indeed, I daresay we may contrive somewhat, I will consider upon the matter.
The first course is remov’d and he turns to Viola, that has been conversing with Selim Pasha very amiable, and I turn to the Earl of I-. We exchange a few words upon indifferent matters of social courtesy and then he says he understands that I am acquaint’d with Contessa di S-.
I laugh very merry and say, are there any that do not know the lady? Sure she has a very wide acquaintance, almost, one might suppose, from China to Peru. But indeed, we met when I was in Naples, or rather, at my late husband’s villa that is somewhat outside of the city, about various affairs to do with his estate.
And you did not desire linger in those parts yourself?
I smile and say, unless one is born there, I confide 'twould be extreme deleterious to the complexion to go live there year round. Of course, 'twas a different matter for my late husband, 'tis an entire paradise does one care for classickal antiquities -
I go on to say with somewhat of a titter that I am a deal fonder of the works of the modern day, and commence to talk about the china &C that I go acquire to adorn my pretty house, entire the latest crack.
He says 'tis give out that there are other attractions in those parts. (I wonder whether he comes at the very fine looks of the peasantry, or revolutionary struggles.) I look at him with my most feather-witt’d expression and say, la, there is very fine scenery, but does not compare to the Park in the Season; and sure one would ever be in a fret that Vesuvius would go erupt, even did one not succumb to the mala aria.
He says that is a prudent way of looking at it. But did I not share my late husband’s interests?
I sigh and offer to look tearfull and say, whatever might once have been, when we ty’d the knot he was in very poor case, almost entire an invalid. (For perchance he has heard that tale that the Marquess was sent abroad to rescue him from my toils, that was a confusion in Sir B- W-'s mind with Biffle.) However, I do not think the Earl goes take any implication that I had been marry’d as a nurse to tend a sickly husband.
Did not that fellow that was the heir, endeavour’d a bigamous marriage, and then ran mad, make some trouble over the inheritance?
O, says I, 'tis a harsh and sorrowfull memory that I would not wish to recall.
The Earl nods and says, shocking poor ton
I dab my eyes affectingly with a handkerchief. But he is now, says I, in quite the finest madhouse.
I am exceeding gratefull when Viola rises to withdraw the ladies and leave the gentlemen to themselves.
Sure, says I, going to the window of the drawing-room, this is an excellent fine vista.
Indeed, says Viola, 'tis give out that 'twas design’d thus so that one might look out at it compos’d quite like unto a painting. She gives a little sigh and says, she hopes the weather holds fair these next days. (Sure 'twould be troublesome to have such a crowd upon hands indoors.)
Comes up Lady Emily and says, o, Your Grace, 'tis give out there will be toxophily?
Viola smiles at her and says, indeed, the butts should be set up by the morn.
Oh, prime, says Lady Emily. Viola smiles at her very kindly – for all the style of looks that made her such an effective Titania at the Contessa’s ridotto, Lady Emily is somewhat of a hoyden - and then says, sure she must attend to the fusties, and moves away.
Lady Emily then says, a little uncertain, she confides that 'tis quite proper for ladies to take bow and arrow in hand? She dares say Aunt Laetitia would have said not at all, but does Her Grace provide the matter as an entertainment for her guests, cannot be unsuitable? She sighs. Sure there are a deal of rules that no-one writes down so that one may memorize 'em.
Why, says I, I confide archery is consider’d quite entire proper – I daresay because 'tis entirely a recreation these days, 'tis not a matter of war or even hunting - and is said to show off ladies extreme well.
But not billiards, she says with a grimace.
Alas not, says I.
She goes on, 'tis all exceeding tiresome. There was a fellow at a party lately, was a deal more interesting than most, had been in Nova Scotia and before that at the Cape, and sure he had tales of his travels almost as fine as Tony’s – o, I suppose I should say, His Lordship my brother-in-law?
I say that there are those would consider it in better ton.
- and of the Indians. But that seems a thing that people take exception to?
I look considering and say, some might consider it in excellent ton to converse with a fellow that is somewhat pull’d down in health and therefore might not desire to dance too much but sit out, and of course Captain C- has been out of Town Society and I daresay matters go on differently in the colonies, but indeed showing too much attention to one particular gentleman will get a young lady gossipt upon.
She sighs again. 'Tis enough to make one run away to be an actress.
I laugh, and say, I think she would find that a hard life, and go ask her how their amateur dramaticks come along.
She sighs once more and says, at present they lack that fine instruction that Miss A- gave 'em – o, is she not quite remarkable? Sure I wish I might go to Harrogate, 'tis said they will revive The Gypsy’s Curse and I long to see her in that part.
But she hears there will be charades one e’en and that will be most agreeable, tho’ she dares hazard that 'twould be consider’d most improper did she essay any breeches part?
I am like to suppose so, says I. And I should not, does the opportunity arise, was I you, undertake to present Cleopatra and her asp.
She gives a little snort of amuzement, and then pulls a face.
At this moment come in the gentlemen.
Biffle leads over to us Lord U- and another gentleman, that I recognize from many years ago.
Lady B-, permit me to introduce Sir Vernon H-, that has lately been in Vienna with the Diplomatick.
I curtesy to Sir Vernon, that I enjoy’d some passages with after he had return’d from Washington and then, do I recall aright, was post’d to Madrid, or mayhap Lisbon. Lord U- introduces him to Lady Emily, saying that Sir Vernon was at one time in the Embassy at Washington –
Frightfull place, he says, shocking climate, a deal of feverish miasmas, and barely civiliz’d in its manners (I collect he was ever of that opinion); sure Vienna is a deal more agreeable to a gentleman. He then goes say somewhat of the pleasures and delights of Vienna, and then says, he understands that Lord U- has some filial concerns about Washington.
Indeed, says Lord U-, my father the Earl goes visit some Yankee botanist admirer of his there.
Sir Vernon groans and says, sure the plants of those parts are extreme vicious, you will touch one that seems entire harmless and then break out into a most noxious tormenting rash, had a most disagreeable experience himself.
(I endeavour not to wish this upon the Earl, but I am a wick’d vengefull C-, alas.)