Somewhat later in the e’en, Sir Vernon H- comes to my side and says in low tones that sure I must have acquir’d the elixir of youth: 'tis very pretty in him, sure I was ever fond of him, the dear fellow. Sure the Marquess was a lucky fellow, he goes on.
Alas, says I, his health was quite entire done up by the time we wed, from the ravages of the mala aria.
Indeed 'tis a dreadfull malady, says he, gets into a fellow’s bones, tho’ very fortunate has not been afflict’d himself.
During the course of the night I am woke several times by scratchings upon my door, but I take no notice of 'em. (Sure, even in the old days I did not give my favours too readyly, 'twas the prudent counsel of Madame Z- that, whatever fellows may say, does 'em good to wait.)
Next morn I arise somewhat betimes and desire Sophy to array me in my riding-habit; Biffle has commend’d to me the mare Charmian in his stables as entire suitable for me.
Ajax is already about putting my saddle upon her and says he confides she is a sweet-natur’d thing, and that Miss S- but lately rode out upon Mercutio, he dares say I may catch up to her.
'Tis very agreeable to ride solitary in the park, that is indeed exceptional fine, and I do not force on Charmian, for I confide that in due course I will come up to Agnes S-. And so 'tis that at the far end of the ride, before I go turn back, I find her dismount’d and looking up the slight eminence upon which the folly stands. I go dismount myself and join her.
Do you suppose, says she, that 'tis truly Chinese or phantastique imagination?
La, says I, I am an ignorant creature and know not. But sure looks very well. But there was a matter you wisht discourse of to me?
She bites her lip. Indeed, Lady B-, sure 'tis not a matter I would yet wish disclose to Dora or Lord D-. I have had, she says, a letter from my guardian – she produces this from some inner pocket and hands it to me.
I go read it. There is a fellow, writes her guardian, has writ him desiring permission to pay his addresses to her, very proper. Says he is a clergyman that has a tidy living quite able to support him as a marry’d family man, and also has hopes of patronage that may prefer him to one yet better. However, he is not one that runs after ecclestiastickal advancement, but a scholar that would be entire happy in some country parish.
O, says I, I confide that 'tis Mr L-? But how came he to know the direction of your guardian?
O, says Agnes S-, one day he askt was Dora my only relative, so I said no, I had an aunt in Buxton, and also a guardian, that, altho’ no relative, I regard’d as in some sense an honorary grandfather. And indeed my guardian is somewhat of an antiquarian tho’ his gout these days hinders him from coming to Town.
I continue perusing the letter. 'Tis clear that Mr L- is determin’d to establish that he is in a position to support a wife in a reasonable way of living, if not, he concedes, in the style she enjoys at P- House. But there is also a deal about how very great his esteem for Miss S- is.
What, concludes her guardian, is this a fellow that knows nothing of your substantial portion? 'Tis very prepossessing if so.
Why, says I, 'tis not to be wonder’d at. Is not a fellow frequents clubs save for his antiquarian societies, so is unlike to hear the gossip that goes about concerning the present crop of young ladies that are upon the marriage market. Supposes, I confide, that you are a dependent relative that your sister and Lord D- hope to make some suitable match for.
Indeed, I suppose that to be the case, for I would not expect him to understand how in the crack of fashion I dress and how much that costs, says Miss S-, for indeed Maurice ever states that I suit a very plain style, and sure I have no hankering after ruffles and furbelows.
But, my dear, the question is, do you wish to receive his addresses?
O, she says, sure I must at the very least be most prepossesst by one that does not regard me in the light of a pot of gold. But is he not an excellent fellow? quite the kindest of hearts, and such learning!
I smile and say, sure I did not think her desire to provide him with a curate to spare him time for scholarship was entire disinterest’d benevolence and respect for scholarship.
She blushes. But, she says, my poems - sure I do not think I could give up turning verses -
- There is entire no reason why you should –
- but indeed I should have to tell him –
- do you not have firm evidence that he admires your work? –
She smiles and says, 'tis so – but –
And then continues, and apart from that, I apprehend that Lord D- considers him theologickally unsound, for he is not in the least Evangelickal in his tendencies –
My dear Miss S-, Lord D- will go fulminate upon the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, indeed I know not who he considers entire theologickally sound - mayhap some half-dozen of his Evangelickal set? – I would not consider that a hindrance to any match.
Only, I would be in some concern he might not wish to be on terms, and cut me off from Dora –
Why, says I, let us not borrow trouble before it comes to us.
Sure I am being foolish! she says. Let us have a fine canter back and I will go write saying that the gentleman may pay his addresses.
'Tis indeed exceeding pleasant as we ride back, and then go take a very excellent breakfast.
Once I have chang’d into somewhat suitable for morning wear, I go seek out Viola. I say sure I should like to see the lovely Lady Cathy, does her mama have a moment to show me to the nursery.
Why, says Viola, that apprehends that this will provide an excellent occasion for private convockation, we could go now.
So we ascend to the day-nursery, where Betty Higgins keeps a watchfull eye upon her charges, Essie that rides a fine rocking-horse, and Cathy, that will go take a step or two and then fall down and get up again and see whether she may get the trick of walking this time, 'tis entire charming to see.
Betty, says Viola, is quite discretion incarnate: I daresay in days to come the children will come tell her all their secrets.
Betty gives a small smile, and then looks down on the mending in her hands.
I say that I am a little surpriz’d that her brother is not of the party.
Oh, says Viola, Sebastian is a deal too serious, 'tis better he goes frolick with the fribble-set for a little than come here.
A good thought, says I, indeed he gains a name as a responsible fellow but must do him good to kick up his heels a little.
Provid’d, says Viola with a little smile, he can be persuad’d to that rather than discoursing of oeconomick theories with Mr MacD-.
But what I wisht to come at opening to you, was that Papa has an old friend, has been in Bombay these many years, has a daughter he wishes advance in Society.
Why, says I, 'twas somewhat of a similar matter I had from Jacob S-, only 'tis, I apprehend, a niece of his that her mama would wish the same for.
And also exceeding well-dower’d by a doating parent, I confide, says Viola.
She frowns. 'Tis extreme gratifying, says she, to be thought a suitable lady to introduce young women into Society –
I laugh and say, sure a coronet will be consider’d to cover a multitude of sins.
- indeed, that is a consideration. But, she goes on, I am young and altho’ poor Mama was of good family, am consider’d to have come from trade by some of the more exacting ladies in Society, even does Lady T- cry me up for the excellence of my ton. I know 'tis quite possible to misstep. Do we not see how there are those go scrutinize the M- girls, even tho’ they are so high-born, because between the elopement and the extraordinary conduct of the Earl, there is some fear they may become a scandal?
'Tis so, says I. And aside from that, there may be some worry that you go use the power of your position to introduce those that more exacting arbiters would shun.
Quite so, says Viola, and lowers her voice still further. I am in some suspicion that Papa’s friend’s daughter is perchance the offspring of one of those customary liaisons –
Entire possible, says I, 'twould not be the first instance, and one must suppose that if so, she is not so dark as to give any absolute proof in the matter –
We pause and I go consider for a little and say, I do not think you should offer to introduce any young lady into Society sight unseen. But, on the other hand, there is something very distastefull about an inspection – might one encounter 'em in some informal manner – sure, I will go think upon this, there is entire no urgency.
Oh, sighs Viola, 'tis such a relief to give it over to you!
Why, says I, I cannot work miracles but I may be able to come at some contrivance. And sure you show a very nice sense of the constraints in Society.
Viola smiles very warm and says, sure is one marry’d to such a diplomatist, one appreciates such matters.
I look at her very fond. And then Lady Cathy achieves to a good half-dozen steps before she goes plump down again, and Viola runs to embrace and praise her, and also minds not to neglect Essie.