'Tis perchance all to the best that most of the fusties have depart’d by the time the charades take place. Sure indeed I think I shall draw a veil over the event: mayhap 'twas not an entire disaster but I confide that those who took part were exceeding over-ambitious.
But the matter serv’d very well to keep most of the younger set occupy’d and out of mischief while 'twas in preparation, and sure that is a very excellent thing with such a large house-party and such a mingl’d collection of guests.
There is also an archery competition: in the men’s competition there is none may touch Selim Pasha, while with the ladies 'tis a close-fought match 'twixt Lady O- and her sister – 'tis the latter takes the prize in the end. I confide Lord O- will be besought to set up a target at D- Chase has not already done so.
Indeed, I am now myself bound for D- Chase for a few days at what I am promist will be Liberty Hall. Once we are there, I purpose to have Ajax convey Docket to Weymouth so that she may go frolick there with Biddy Smith as in their giddy girlhood.
Now we are in the carriage and on our way and quite private, Docket and Sophy go disclose to me what they have discover’d concerning Lord and Lady I-.
She was, 'tis said, somewhat past her blossoming-time when they marry’d: of excellent lineage, but somewhat plain and quiet, and but a modest dower to offer. He had been lingering some years beyond the usual upon his Grand Tour, only return’d upon the intelligence of his father’s mortal illness, and once he had inherit’d, went look about for a bride. The match was made up very expeditious by way of family connexions.
No great romance, then? says I.
Entirely prudential, says Docket.
And 'twas not one of those unions in which warmer feelings grow on closer acquaintance: sure the Earl ever behaves civil, but not affectionate. An heir, a daughter, and a second son as reserve heir, in short order; and no further increase. Indeed they behave dutyfull to one another, he is not violent, she has a fair if not generous amount of pin-money, but they live almost as strangers or at least, passing acquaintances. Does he womanize, or keep a mistress, does so exceeding discreet. She goes do good works among the cottagers.
Hmm, thinks I, 'tis quite the common tale in their station. Tho’ sure I wonder what he was about all that time upon the Grand Tour, for was not so very long at Naples, I think.
'Tis not so very far to D- Chase from Q- that we are oblig’d to break our journey, and we arrive late in the afternoon.
Lord and Lady O- have already arriv’d, and greet me at the door. They inform me once again that 'twill be entire Liberty Hall, for 'tis just the family and a few close friends, and Nan says that she dares say I should like to go wash off the dust of the journey and go change. The footmen will take my trunks.
There is hot water ready for me, and Docket and Sophy go array me in somewhat suitable for an informal country party among friends. Docket, says I, you are not to go bothering yourself about unpacking &C, you should rest in preparation for your journey tomorrow; sure I confide you may give Sophy her instructions as well seat’d as not.
Docket looks at me for a moment and then nods and says indeed there is nothing that Sophy will not be able to manage.
I was mind’d to go call most immediate upon Hester, but I look out of the window to the lawn and see that her invalid carriage is dispos’d near unto the fountain, and that there is a game of cricket in play, as much as may be contriv’d with but a few players. One, I see, is Bess, so I suppose that Lady Louisa’s guests yet remain.
I go out onto the lawn – I observe that servants are about setting out tea, will come extreme gratefull – and over to where Hester sits watching the game.
Dear Hester, says I, you are looking exceeding well in this fine country air.
O, dearest C-, 'tis an entire pleasure to see you. And not at all showing the effects of the dissipation at Q-: but then, I daresay you did not feel oblig’d to stay up to all hours playing billiards or cards and smoaking as U- did – Tony says he argu’d that he was entire newly-wed, could not be expect’d to neglect his bride –
- indeed, says I, one saw no danger in the least of that –
- or getting quite knockt up over some matter of charades as Em did –
- sure, says I, do I go manifest any ravages from high living, Docket will be about making me lye down with slices of cowcumber upon my eyes and mayhap Sophy brushing out my hair.
Why, 'tis a course one might put to Lorimer that she might do similar.
But indeed, both sisters were very much admir’d in the company.
She sighs and says, as for admir’d, here is Em comes quite raving about this Turk that was at Q-.
I laugh and say, sure I think 'twas his archery she admir’d, and his tales of hawking: I do not think she will go elope to join his seraglio.
She is indeed somewhat of a tomboy, says Hester with another little sigh.
We look over to the game, and I apprehend that the Honble Edward and Geoffrey are return’d from A-, for the latter stands at the wicket as Bess bowls.
O, says Hester, has been so delightfull for little Lou to have her friends come stay, such nice girls, such pretty lively creatures, shall be sorry to see 'em go.
(I am not sure that the Honble Geoffrey, that walks from the wicket shaking his head, is of the same opinion.)
He comes over and makes me a leg, kisses his mother and says, sure 'tis no game of pat-ball does Miss F- play! He thought his own sisters were fine bowlers, but she quite exceeds.
I ask how he lik’d the house-party at A-. (His mother gives a little smiling grimace as if she has heard entire too much on the topick.)
Entire prime, he says, and proceeds to tell me in a deal of detail about their recreations, the fine discussions they had, the excellence of the table set before 'em; and that he and Eddy have been invit’d to go visit Lord V- shortly.
But I said, says Hester, that I should desire to discover a little more about Lord V- before I could be happy with 'em going.
(Sure I cannot see any harm to the matter do they visit Lord V-, that is an amiable young fribble and a well-reput’d whip. But I will discourse of the matter to her later in private, and say somewhat to this effect.)
Comes running over Lady Emily, kisses me very warm and says, pray do not talk of the charades, was’t not an entire debâcle?
I wish, says her brother, Lady B-, you would say somewhat of those charades, because neither she nor Nan will say aught but that they do not wish to talk of the matter. Tell me, did Em go present as an odalisque?
His sister, that I suspect may have been being teaz’d mightyly in such terms, gives him a shove: as he is sat upon the rim of the fountain, he overbalances and falls in. Hester sighs, and tells him to run in and change.
O, Em, she says after he has gone on his dripping way, sure I hope you did not behave thus at Q-.
Lady Emily says that brothers can be very provoking, and will go on and on at a jest until 'tis quite wore out. Can I not say a fellow was a fine archer without they will suppose that I long for the banns to be read upon us? Sure we have heard enough of Lord R-'s skills with the sword, Lord V-'s pretty handling of the ribbons &C&C.
I say that Lady Emily was very pretty-behav’d at Q-, and her own skills with the bow exceedingly admir’d. And one not’d that she did not all want for partners at the ball.
She blushes a little. 'Twas more agreeable than I suppos’d 'twould be, she says, even with the number of fusties there were.
Comes over Lord U-, that has also been got out by Bess, makes a leg, says 'tis delightfull to see me, and hopes have converse with me while I am here.
Why, says I, I am like to suppose there are a deal of fine walks and perchance rides about the place, and I daresay fine things in the house –
I am given to apprehend, says Lord U-, that the library is very fine, quite out of the common, indeed have not been able to tempt MacD- out of it –
O! says I, trying to conceal my delight, Mr MacD- visits here? ('Tis not just that 'twill be an entire pleasure to see Sandy, but that I hope that we may contrive to convoke over my uneasyness concerning the Earl of I-.)
Indeed, says Lord U, before I left A- I besought him, had he no other engagement upon hand, to come along with Eddy and Geoff, for there are a deal of matters Lord O- and I should desire open to his understanding, talk over the matter of secretaries &C, and indeed Lord O- is most exceeding sensible of the assistance he was over the matter of marriage.
Hester looks a little longing and says, she has heard how very well Mr MacD- reads Burns, would it be improper to ask might he do so some evening?
At this moment runs up my dear hoyden Bess, and embraces me very hearty, saying, O, Aunty C-, is this not an entire bang-up place? Was it not that Harry is going to come home for a little visit, should not wish to leave at all.
Come up a little more restrain’d Lady Louisa and Dodo B-, that make civil, follow’d by the Honble Edward, that makes me a very polisht leg (I daresay 'tis an effect of the sojourn at A-) and says somewhat civil about hoping I am not tir’d out from my journey.
O, 'twill be delightfull to spend some few days in this fine company.