As I return from a most agreeable ride the morn upon Charmian, Ajax says that I am prudent to have got in a ride so early, there are those have a weather-eye say we may well have some rain later.
This makes my heart somewhat to sink, but then to consider that Q- is a fine large place and there are many matters indoors that the guests may be about, looking at the paintings in the gallery, or the fine tapestries, or the famous silverware and does not mean that all will be coop’d up and like to brangle.
It does not yet rain, however, and passing by the butts, I see Nan and Em already out with bows and arrows, along with Selim Pasha, and his page that very obliging runs fetch arrows for the archers. He tells me that the bow is not entire like what he is us’d to, but he comes to understand it. O, cries Lady Emily, the Pasha is an entire Robin Hood and has convey’d us some most usefull hints on stance &C.
(Well, I think, provid’d she is with her sister – and also there is a deal of coming and going about the place – perchance there is no great harm to it, and whatever he imports, I confide that Lady Emily is only concern’d to improve her toxophilick skills.)
I go in to breakfast, where I encounter Sir Vernon. On my telling him the intelligence concerning the day’s weather, he says, may come about to serve well for fishing, does it so. He then looks around and sees that there are none but servants that go clear away or bring fresh hot dishes, and says, have I perchanc’d to have much converse with that Turkish fellow?
Naught beyond a few civilities, says I.
Only, he says, 'tis give out that this is as 'twere a Grand Tour he makes, is not at all about the Sultan’s business, but travels entirely in the capacity of a private gentleman. But I collect, he says with a reminiscent smile, that in bygone days you had a considerable capacity of penetration, and that furthermore, gentlemen us’d to be entire eager to confide to you a deal of matters they would not otherwise share.
La, says I, sure you flatter me, Sir Vernon; and indeed, these days I should be somewhat constrain’d in eliciting such confidences, as a respectable widow’d Marchioness. O, 'tis not so much that such confidences are exchang’d upon the pillows, tho’ indeed may be, but that a certain air of promise will incline fellows to boast and brag in the belief that it advances their suit.
Alas that 'tis so, he says, not that 'tis not extreme pleasing to see you so advanc’d in Society. For I remember that matter of the Florentine diplomat – and that Spanish fellow – sure you did the nation fine service.
O, poo, says I, am I not a true-born Englishwoman?
Indeed, says Sir Vernon, was there not also some matter of Hindoo royalty brought to a considerable inclination towards the Hon Company’s designs? Sure I cannot fathom what Lord I- can be thinking when he will mutter that you are almost a tricoteuse of seditious conspiracies.
I go laugh somewhat immoderate at such a notion. Fie, says I, there are those in my circle incline to radickal notions but I confide they do not go about plotting revolution.
Quite so, says Sir Vernon, I confide the Duke would not ally himself with that set if so.
Now, says I, have you not spoke to him about the Pasha, I am like to think he may have more apprehension of what’s afoot.
He takes and kisses my hand most respectfull. Have I not remarkt on your penetration? The problem is entirely how to have some private intercourse with His Grace.
Why, says I, there is a certain exceeding fine painting that he keeps in his study, for there are those might take exception did they see it in the gallery, that you might desire to have sight of.
Oho, says Sir Vernon with a grin, is’t not the painting of a certain lady with a wombatt? Indeed I should greatly like to view it.
I then go change from my riding-habit into somewhat more suit’d to morning-wear in company, and see out of my window as I do so, that it commences upon showering.
I go into the drawing-room, where a deal of the ladies of the party are gather’d. There is a group goes examine some number of La Belle Assemblée and listens extreme respectfull to Viola’s comments (that I daresay she has been rehears’d in by Tibby) on the matter. Lady D- has brought little Arthur for admiration, and I eschew going too near, for is becoming quite a competition in obstetrickal tales. I hope this may bring her to some realization that the sufferings of childbirth are one of the travails common to womanhood: tho’ there will ever be one lady that boasts that, sure, all hers poppt out like unto greas’d pigs.
I write in a few albums - O, Lady B-, that was a very pretty piece of Shakspeare you read to us yestere’en, might you inscribe a few lines for me? - and go look about for a place to sit (sure I wish I had thought to bring my embroidery with me).
Lady I-, that is sat upon a sopha sewing, pats the place beside her and gives a timid welcoming smile. Following my converse with Sir Vernon, I am in some suspicion that her husband may have askt her to go sound me out under a cover of womanly gossip. However, against that possibility stands my observation that they are on terms of matrimonial civility but there is by no means anything like the warmth one may see 'twixt Biffle and Viola, or Lord and Lady O-, nor even that fine affection and respect I have not’d between Lord and Lady T-.
I ask what she sews, for does not look like fancy embroidery. O, says she, perchance 'tis not a matter she should undertake in company, but she goes make baby-clothes - I glance at her and confide that 'tis perchance not for her own use, sure indeed she is more of an age to anticipate a grandchild, but I pick up one of the tiny garments and see 'tis not of the fineness of fabric one might anticipate –
'Tis for the cottagers’ children, she says, we expect a fine crop this year. I ever try to have some by me to send to 'em.
I look at the one in my hand and say, but such exquisite work! – for tho’ I am no great hand at stitchery myself, I can tell when such is particular fine, have I not been lesson’d by Docket in the matter?
She blushes a little and says, sure she endeavours make 'em to last for they will be hand’d on and past down. And she confides 'tis entire proper work to be about.
Indeed, says I. Living in Town as I do one does not have the opportunity to do such work.
But you do other fine work, Lady B-, she says, in what I might almost suppose a wistfull tone.
La, says I, I am an idle creature compar’d to Lady J-.
She smiles and says that sure Lady J- is a lady that does a very great deal. She then looks down at her work, colours a little, and says, Lady B-, we should be most extreme delight’d could you come to a house-party we go hold –
She tells me when 'twill be and I can say entirely truthfull that alas, I am already engag’d (even will it be naught but frolicking about with Belinda in Northamptonshire). She sighs and says, His Lordship her husband will be extreme sorry.
Why, says I, 'twould be a great pleasure (sure this is entire mendacious) but 'twould be uncivil to cut an invitation I have already accept’d.
Indeed, she says with a little sigh, I try’d put it to him that Lady B- is a great favourite in Society, sure did you intend invite her we should have writ a deal earlyer, 'tis most like that by now her entire summer is took up with visits.
'Tis much about the case, I concede.
Mayhap upon some other occasion, she says. I respond with civil vagueness.
Perchance I would not find this invitation so sinister had I not already heard the dear Contessa’s views upon Lord I- and lately had the intelligence communicat’d by Sir Vernon (indeed I remember the dear fellow with much fondness, but, alas, these days 'twould not do).
Come into the drawing-room Nan and Em, that come over to me and Nan says, 'tis entire improper for a young lady to go play billiards, is't not?
Em pouts a little and says, she already confides 'tis, but is there no exception for a rainy day?
I say, alas, there is not. But might you not beguile the time in preparing your charades? I turn to Lady I- in order to beg her leave to go talk over this matter with 'em.
We go over to the window and look out at the rain sweeping across the gardens, and I say, sure 'tis a very fine effect, especial as there are those glints of sunshine thro’ the rain.
Lady Emily sighs and says she dares say all these fusties will frown upon their charades.
Well, my dears, why do you not gather together your actors and come rehearse and I may see might there be any matter for objection.
'Tis some hours later that I go to my chamber quite entire ready to concede to Docket’s desire that I should lye down quietly with cowcumber slices upon my eyes and Sophy pumicing the ink – sure I have got inkt just writing in albums – from my fingers in anticipation of the ball the e’en.
Docket, says I, as I go be very obedient in this matter, do you ever drink tea with Lady I-'s maid? I am like to wonder how matters stand in that household.
Docket says, only so far in general company, but sure she can go about to contrive a tea-drinking and gossip with her, does My Ladyship desire.
'Tis well, says I, and you might see if Tibby will let you use her sitting-room, 'twould manifest a deal of consequence.