Belinda and I consider the notion of going visit the tenant farmers, but conclude that could only be embarrassing do they go complain upon any matter that is not within our power to remedy, and we entire confide that there are a deal of matters that should have been took in hand long since was the estate under proper hand. We sigh. For altho 'tis not quite in the condition describ’d in Goldsmith’s poem, 'tis by no means the fine estate it might be.
We therefore thank the agent very civil and say that we will go do our utmost to exhort Chancery to find some means to undertake the matter, but sure we are not entire sanguine that they would come to any decision afore the crack o’doom.
The agent sighs and says, at least when the late Marquess was in life one might correspond with him, as his late father did, and he would go authorize any matter that was in need of seeing to, even did he have no closer interest in his estate. But now! – 'twixt the present Marquess being entire lunatick, alas, and his affairs in the hands of Chancery –
Belinda and I exchange glances and I apprehend we both take some thought as to the lunatick Marquess’s notorious stingyness and the likelyhood that, was he in his wits, the estate would most like fare no better and perchance even worse.
We commend the way the agent goes on in such very trying circumstance, and declare that, may we ever be of any service to him, we shall be entire happy &C&C. Belinda indeed gives him some recommendations does he ever go to the races, and says, does he ever require a fine hunter for his own use, she can put him in the way of one at a most agreeable price.
We leave him at his premises, after having taken leave, and drive back to the inn, where we purpose stay another night so that we may convoke upon this business and engage in more general gossip.
We go into our private parlour and desire tea to be brought as soon as maybe.
Tho’, says Belinda, when I consider the rack and ruin that is come to what might be an exceeding fine estate, sure I am like to call for brandy, and plenty of it.
Indeed 'tis a melancholick sight, says I. Tho’ I confide may have been a somewhat gloomy place, low-lying as ‘tis, at its best: but I daresay did one cut back those overhanging trees, pull down some of the ivy that creeps up over the windows, bring the gardens back to what they us’d to be, might appear chearfull enough. But sure 'tis an exceeding great contrast to my late husband’s villa at Naples, that was all light and air, and fine open views.
Comes the tea and we indulge in the cup that chears - indeed it brings us to better spirits, and we go consider over how Belinda might present the matter to Chancery, and what is the least one might do. We are both of the opinion that, since the tenant-farmers have been commend’d, 'tis those matters of drainage &C that ought come first, lest they depart.
Sure, says Belinda, I confide they will consider us remarkable business-like - for ladies.
We both laugh somewhat immoderate, for without having undue conceit of ourselves, I think we may consider that we are prudent businesswomen. Sure, says I, I do not think you, dear Belinda, go giving away fine horses simply because you like the cut of a fellow’s jib.
Indeed not, she says. And sure, I will remark that making a gift to Lady B- has led to a deal of solicitations to us to procure fine looking but gentle mounts for ladies.
I laugh somewhat immoderate. O, indeed, 'tis the like of those fellows that send me samples of their china &C. Really, my dear, 'twas entire kindness in you and I am sure you did not think that 'twould lead to that.
Perchance not! For indeed, we had not been in any thought about mounts for ladies that were not bruising riders to hounds, but indeed, 'tis a pleasing addition to our business.
We look at one another with great affection. She says that they greatly look forward to my visit: they are in a little sadness that could not be contriv’d that Josh might come stay a little.
I laugh and say, why, there is the matter of Josh’s traveling menagerie: 'twas a deal of a business getting all in order so that might be safely convey’d north with 'em. But also, his brother Harry comes home for a little while as a holiday from his apprenticeship in engineering, and Josh would not desire to miss his brother’s company.
Belinda says she dares say they might contrive to house a menagerie: tho’ she knows not whether they might have food fit for a wombatt or a mongoose. I laugh and say, 'tis more a matter of preventing the wombatt from eating the carpets &C, and the mongoose is not particular in its diet – except that, 'tis most peculiar, altho’ they will fight and kill snakes, do not eat 'em. I daresay might were they extreme hungry, but 'tis not a dish they relish. So 'twould not be needfull to lay on a diet of serpents
I go stretch myself a little and say that I will go change, and I daresay 'tis country hours and we dine exceeding early?
Belinda agrees that 'tis so.
So I go have Sophy take off my walking-dress, that is in some need of brushing, and dress me in somewhat loose and comfortable, and then return to the parlour, where they are about laying up the table so that we may dine.
'Tis simple fare but well-cookt and there is plenty of it.
When we are come to the end of the meal and go sit with a little entire sanitive port and madeira, Belinda asks do I care to hear how matters go with her undear lunatick husband?
Why, says I, I should like to be assur’d that he is well secur’d and will not go escape again.
Oh, says Belinda, he is well-watcht after that; for indeed, 'twould do little for their reputation did it get about that one of their lunaticks levant’d and contriv’d to get to Town. No, 'tis mostly to say is surly and filthy in his habits &C. But there was a curious matter in the latest report –
Oh? says I. I hope 'tis not that he goes about to be restor’d to his wits. For has come to my attention that, altho’ he committ’d crimes, as he is a peer of the realm he may go cry privilege over a first offence for anything short of murder or treason, and go entire free from penalty.
Belinda expresses shock and horror over this. No, she goes on, he does not come about to show sane - what 'twas, was that he had a visitor -
What, says I, who would go visit him? I had not suppos’d he had many friends, that would go call upon him in his durance.
Indeed, says Belinda, she confides 'twas not a friend – indeed, she does not collect he had any – but some fellow that the keepers suppos’d conduct’d an investigation into some dubious matter in his Surrey parish. Sure one might quite imagine that he would have been readyly brib’d to undertake the office hugger-mugger over some runaway match – or indeed to tear from the register some birth or marriage that is now found inconvenient to be known of –
Did they, says I, say what the fellow’s name was? (Tho’ was’t Mr R- O-, as I am in considerable suspicion 'twas, I daresay he would give some incognito.)
No, she says, did not say. But his visit greatly agitat’d the poor Marquess, they report, set him off into one of his raving fits about that wanton jezebel, that suppos’d sea-captain’s wife, that temptress that was no better than she should be.
I am struck with a chill, tho’ there is sunlight pours in at the window and the room is by no means cold.
Why, says I, I confide they suppose that the lady is some phantasm of a sickly mind.
Most like, agrees Belinda. My dear, take a little more madeira, 'tis entire good for you.
So Mr H- gives it out, says I, and sure he is reput’d one that understands these matters of the bodily oeconomy. I sigh and go on, tho’ sure he is an imprudent fellow in the pursuit of the understanding of such matters: 'tis not at all long since that scandal about resurrection men, and 'twas very much rumour’d that he had had to do with 'em, but did he so, such dealings never came into court. One would think 'twould render him cautious; but lately his man said somewhat to Hector that leads me to suppose that he still dabbles in the business.
Say you so! a shocking matter.
Indeed, says I, and yet his intention is to advance knowledge, that one would suppose praiseworthy.
We shake our heads: 'tis a tangl’d problem that I daresay was I a philosopher I might unknot and determine the rights and wrong of, but as 'tis, cannot come at what I should think in the light of Universal Law.
To change the subject to something more agreeable, I go show Belinda the little painting of Flora by Mr de C-, that I keep in the secret compartment of my traveling desk, and she exclaims upon what a fine girl she is grown, and says she looks out for a pony for her.
We go to bed betimes but I find myself lying wakefull in somewhat of a fret over the likelyhood that Mr R- O- has been about interrogating the mad Marquess, and what he may suppose he might discover by that means, especial given the craz’d ravings that are report’d. 'Tis greatly worrysome.
But at least, thinks I, I am in some suspicion that he is about this matter, and forewarn’d is forearm’d.