'Tis a very large ball, for Biffle takes the opportunity to invite county neighbours and some leading citizens of the borough of T-. Remarks to me in the ladies’ retiring chamber Viola, that is having a torn ruffle sewn back, sure they do not give out to young ladies ambitious to wear a coronet how much dancing with entire clodhoppers one is oblig’d to undertake to manifest one’s civility. O, my trod-over feet!
Indeed 'tis a well-kept secret, says I. I too, my dear, have done my duty to demonstrate a pleasing condescension in dancing with a deal of clumsy fellows, several with unpleasingly clammy hands. Sure I think I may now go waltz with Sir Vernon, that was ever an exceeding fine dancer, and I daresay has all the latest steps as practis’d in Vienna.
One must observe, says Viola with a sly glance, that Sir Vernon admires you greatly – sure ladies may not themselves be in the Diplomatick, 'tis a great pity, but I confide that a lady might contrive do quite a deal for amity among nations, was she marry’d to a fellow that was.
Well, says I, 'tis rumour’d he anticipates to be preferr’d to St Petersburg, and sure I think of my dear friend Miss G- that was – o, says I, I am in the strongest suspicions that she and her husband, that was a reform-mind’d fellow very imprudent much given to criticizing the Tsar, have been exil’d to the remote fastnesses of Siberia. Yet, was one in those parts, one might contrive to discover what was ado, perchance send comforts, even might one not go plead for their release –
Viola laughs and says, with a meaningfull look, 'twould also she dares say provide a deal of possibilities for Gothick tales. She goes on to say that Sebastian would be going there if this Baltic tour comes about.
'Tis sure give out very fine, says I, but exceeding cold, and was one connect’d with the Diplomatick, one would, I suppose, be oblig’d to wink at the oppressions of the Tsar and keep mum.
So we return to the ballroom, and I go dance with Sir Vernon, and she goes dance with Lord O-, that dances exceeding well for a fellow that has spent so much time in wild and savage places.
And it comes around to having a dance with Lord I-, during which I apologize most effusive and extreme insincere that I am unable to take up his kind invitation, sure I am quite desolat’d, but I should not like to gain the reputation of a lady that cuts does some better offer come along. I gaze at him with my most feather-witt’d look.
He says, alas: for sure, Lady B-, you quite adorn any company you are in.
La, says I, Lord I-, you go make pretty speeches to me! Sure one would think you had designs. (For I think, however matters go with Lady I-, he is not a fellow would desire there to be an on-dit that he hangs out for Lady B-.)
Indeed I see this puts him in some confusion, for he would not wish to insult me by saying he had no such intentions. I flutter my eyelashes at him a little.
'Tis a relief to go dance with Lord U-, that says sure he may say he has done his duty dancing with what his sisters call the fusties and some misses of the neighbourhood that giggle and blush and simper. Lady B- is known for her acute judgements: do I think he has done enough to be consider’d a very well-conduct’d young man?
Why, says I, 'twill serve you well with the fusties, but I fear that young ladies may think you a sad dull fellow – but I smile as I say this, for is a well-set-up young man and I have seen the younger ladies look upon him very approving.
O, you think I should venture somewhat in the Byron strain?
I pray you, Lord U-, do no such thing! While I apprehend that 'twas of a certain poet that the critick Deacon Brodie said one Byron is quite enough, I think 'tis a sentiment of wider application.
He laughs. Why, I must remember that.
The dance ends and he says, he is promis’d to Miss S- for the next: sure his sisters exhort’d him to the matter, out of their friendship to her, but indeed she is an excellent fine dancer, and, do you not think she is in remarkable looks this e’en?
I follow his gaze and indeed, Agnes S-, that has just been dancing with Biffle, looks exceeding well. The exercize suits her, says I. (But I think the notion that there is one aspires to her hand thinking her but a poor dependent, and one to whom she already inclines, makes a deal of difference to her confidence in herself.)
The Marquess comes up and desires me to step to the floor with him, to which I gladly concede. He says that Selim Pasha has been telling his womenfolk about hawking, and Em takes a most exceeding notion to it, especial after seeing the lady in the tapestry that holds a falcon upon her fist. But he doubts that there are many in this land practise that art, and from what he heard in Turkey, 'tis a considerable undertaking to train - he does not suppose one may say tame - a hawk.
I say that sure one gains that impression from the passages in the Bard that allude to the matter. I wonder, says I, will any attain to have Lady Emily fly to their fist.
He sighs and says, does indeed wonder.
Seems to me, says I, that tho’ she will give ardent ear does a fellow go recount tales of the anthropopagi and the men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders &C 'tis no such matter as Desdemona. But does a lady hearken most intent to a gentleman, he is like to suppose 'tis a sign that she inclines to him, and not that she is more interest’d in fine tales of anthropopagi or hawking or the wild Indians of Nova Scotia.
He laughs and then grows more sober and says, he confides that 'tis indeed the like with Em.
I am about to say somewhat of a certain scandal when Lady J- was making her debut and had rather listen to fine tales of naval warfare than indulge in flirtations, and then think, o, o, o, might it be thus? and hold my silence.
But 'tis fortunate that the dance ends, and we must go seek other partners.
'Tis most agreeable to tread a measure with Biffle, during which I am able to communicate to him that Sir Vernon has a great desire to look upon Antipodean Flora, and sure a nod is a good as a wink and I see that he quite apprehends the inwardness of this matter.
He looks around the ballroom and says, indeed it goes, does it not?
Quite entirely, says I, and the house-party as well.
'Tis gratifying to think so, says he. For among those that Viola calls the fusties are a deal that recall that wild young fellow Lord S- and look sidelong to see if I go do somewhat reckless.
Why, says I, I daresay will be report’d as being in entire the best of ton.
He looks very fond over to where Viola dances with Sir Vernon and says, 'twas a lucky day I came across her weeping in the library at N- over that lunatick bigamist’s scoundrelly proposal.
(Why, thinks I, 'twas not altogether a matter of luck, but I will say naught to the matter.)
For, he says, lowering his voice considerable, tho’ Kitty was quite the finest of women and I lov’d her most extreme, I confide that perchance Viola is more suit’d to certain duchessing matters.
Why, says I in the same lower’d tones, I daresay that had it come to her the late Duchess would have contriv’d; but indeed, one sees that Viola is most apt to this business. (For indeed I myself am most prepossesst that Viola, that I daresay would greatly prefer to studying some language or reading Parliamentary reports or recreating herself with a Gothick tale, or playing with Essie and little Cathy, goes about so exceeding effective at the publick duties of her rank.)
In order to change the subject, I say, I daresay has not yet heard from Lady J-?
No, he says, once she is arriv’d at the flagship the Admiral has means for the expeditious dispatch of letters, but until then –
He then sighs and says, he knows not whether to hope that their endeavours are successfull when he remembers how all fell out last time –
But, says I, perchance Lady J- has now come to some appreciation of the exhortations to lye upon a sopha?
He laughs and says, mayhap! as we leave the floor and go look about for our next promist partners.
Sure the hour is quite exceeding advanc’d when carriages are call’d for those that go home.
I go my chamber and find that that good creature Sophy has prevail’d upon Docket not to watch - and is drowsing a little in a chair in the dressing-room. She jumps up at once and says, she dares say those slippers are entire ruin’d?
I look down at 'em and turn 'em up to consider the soles and say, sure, wore entire thro’, but 'tis the nature of fine kid slippers suit’d to a ballroom. I kick 'em off. Sophy goes about to undress me and unlace my stays, unpins my hair and brushes it, and says, Phillips gave a little party of her own in her sitting-room the e’en, very civil, and sure that is a very agreeable young woman she brings on, Jennie. Is being court’d by that fellow that had a notion to Euphemia.
So I hear, says I.
Sophy sighs a little. I wonder is there one she takes a notion to, tho’ sure she is yet young. But I am entire too tir’d at this moment to interrogate further, and perchance 'twould be better to enquire of Docket.
Before I go to sleep, I scribble a few notes in my little memorandum book, that lyes at the bedside.