I find that Lady Rosamund goes be somewhat encroaching to me, so I say that I will go take my Shakspeare into the knot-garden and meditate alone with but the Bard for company upon what I might read to the company.
This leaves her to Em, that shows signs of doating upon her, I cannot imagine why should be so, but young girls will take fancies. Sure Lady Rosamund is quite Lady Disdain, but entire without that wit that renders Beatrice so appealing a figure.
So I am seat’d in the knot garden, with a little breeze that wafts most exceeding agreeable scents of flowers towards me, musing upon readings, when comes up to me Nan and sits beside me, saying she hopes she does not go disturb me.
Indeed not, dear Nan, says I, 'twas in large part a stratagem to escape from Lady Rosamund.
Nan laughs, and then sighs, and says, looks as tho’ Em has taken one of her fancies to the lady, thought she had got out of that habit – when we went to dancing classes there would always be some favourite - but alas seems 'tis not so.
Certainly, says I, seems greatly took with her.
She shakes her head. I cannot fathom it, for seems a dull disagreeable creature. Sure I think I had rather hear her brother discourse of theologickal unsoundness than listen to her gossip and boast.
Why, says I, has a certain style of looks and is well-dresst: but indeed, there is something distastefull about a young woman that suddenly makes exceeding over-civil to a lady she has previously scorn’d, as if there could be no memory of the matter.
What, says Nan, did she so?
Oh, says I, I think she count’d me as one of the fusties at Lord P-'s house-party –
Nan laughs very hearty and says, dear C-, might it not be that she took a pet at seeing she would not be at all the belle of the party?
La, says I, might it be so? For she has all the charms of youth upon her side.
Nan laughs somewhat immoderate and says, there are a deal of ladies have come and convey’d to her that Lady B- always manifests the best of ton and would not be about stealing so very recent a husband, and they are entire sure 'tis only that he desires her opinions on matters of taste, for hers is deem’d so extreme exquisite, does he go walk with her among the lime-trees.
O, poo, says I, I am not in the style that the Marquess admires, and we are entire able to have a rational friendship that is, indeed, extreme pleasing.
'Tis quite entire what Tony says. Has quite the greatest admiration for your intelligence, and your understanding of society.
That is most gratifying to hear, says I. But you are entire happy in your marriage?
Oh, cries Nan with something of a blush, quite exceedingly. Tho’ sure I am somewhat daunt’d by the responsibilities of my position – even such small matters as running the household – I realize what a jewel is Mrs Atkins, now I have had to deal with Mrs Bassett at D- Chase.
O, my dear, says I, I am none to come to concerning such matters, for all know I am not mistress in my own household.
Nan looks at me very merry and I think is about to say somewhat about my household, when comes up Lady G- and looks at us very benign. She says she hopes we do not talk secrets, so that she may join us?
Oh no, says Nan, I go seek the reason why Lady B- is so well-serv’d by her household.
Lady G- laughs and says, she remembers when she first marry’d and was oblig’d to take up the management of the household, and o dear, there were those had been in their place since the days of Methusaleh, and matters had always been done thus and so, ever making difficulties.
There is a little discussion of household matters and the problem with servants that have been in their place since the Flood, all very amiable.
But, says Lady G-, I came here with the intention of asking you, Lady O-, whether you and the Marquess might care to come to our little party that we go hold immediate after we leave C- Castle? 'Tis sorry late in the day, but we thought you might not yet have had a deal of invitations for the summer?
Why, says Nan, indeed I should have to ask T – my husband, but sure we do not have any other invitations –
And mayhap your brother and sister as well? (I mind that she has a god-daughter to promote to a good match, and Lord U- is exceeding eligible.)
O, says Nan, U- purposes a visit to Sir C- F-, that is his god-father, but might I bring Em?
Indeed, says Lady G-, Lord G- has remarkt to me what a very fine-looking young woman she is, and shows very pretty-behav’d. 'Twill provide some company for Frances – that is Miss C-, my god-daughter, that I bring to Town in the autumn to give a little society.
She then looks at the volume in my lap and says, ah, we may hope for Lady B- to give us one of her fine readings I apprehend.
Indeed, says I, but o, I just see Lady D- go into the pleacht walk with her sister, and I have a few matters of the philanthropick set to convoke with her about, by your leave?
Lady G- smiles and says, 'twill do her good to have her mind took off motherhood and all the ills that may come to babies.
So I stand up, and leave my Shakspeare upon the bench, and go walk over towards the pleacht walk.
'Tis pleasing shady, so I close my parasol, as I walk towards Agnes S- and her sister, that shows somewhat nervous.
How now, says I, had a matter or two of philanthropy to open to you did I find occasion; and go on to say somewhat to the business.
Agnes S- says, if we go talk philanthropy, she is going to go find somewhat to read in the library, and mayhap take it to the shell grotto.
I am left alone with Lady D-, that begins to brim with tears.
What, says I, how now, what’s ado here?
I put my arm about her and she goes sob upon my bosom.
Please, she says, do not beg me to go show dutyfull to my husband.
Why, says I, 'twas not my intention, but dear Lady D-, pray disclose to me what is the matter troubles you. Sure I know childbed may be an ordeal, but I daresay you were appriz’d of what would come, for Mrs F- spoke to you on the matter and would not leave a young woman to be surpriz’d.
Lady D- sobs some more and says, she suppos’d 'twas one of these tales that older marry’d women tell to young women, that some matter will be of very great heavyness, and she dares say 'tis to put them in a sober frame of mind, but she did not think 'twould be so very bad, for –
She looks up at me and says, sure you have been marry’d and I may talk to you of the matter.
Afore I was marry’d, she goes on, our aunt, being a spinster, desir’d her friend that was the rector’s wife to convey to me a little understanding of what I might expect once I was marry’d. But indeed, she goes on, tho’ she had left me in considerable trepidation concerning the wedding night and wifely duties, apart from a little pain at first, 'twas all quite entire agreeable – there is a little smile comes thro’ her tears – indeed, exceeding pleasant.
(Why, thinks I, Lord D- may have been convey’d a phthiriasis by that fine Neapolitan courtesan, but I daresay she also convey’d him some understanding of the carnal arts that serv’d him well in the marriage bed.)
So, when it came to lying-in I confid’d 'twould be not so bad as I had been told; but 'twas entirely worse, and o – she breaks out in sobs again – I so want’d Agnes with me, that has ever been at my side and sooth’d my hurts: tho’ 'twas no matter of kissing the bruise to make it well, I should have felt less fright’d by the business had she been by me, but had been sent away, put me in a great distress.
('Tis indeed fortunate she knows not what came to pass while Agnes S- was out of P- House and the business with Mr Miles O’N-.)
And sure little Arthur is a sweet thing and I love him most extreme but I am in the greatest terror of a repetition of the ordeal. Mayhap, she says, with an attempt at bravery, in time I may come round to it, but I am in entire fear that Lord D- will go demand his husband’s rights.
Her mouth quivers. And sure, 'twould be hard to resist -
My dear, says I, putting my arm about her shoulders, Lord D- I confide has been warn’d by Mr H- over the matter, and sure he is a husband would not put his own needs afore a concern for his wife’s health, has a very fine affection towards you.
(Alas that I fear 'twould not be proper to go recommend to her the use of spunges, that I daresay Lord D- would consider most exceeding irreligious and sinfull.)
And, says I, supposing that you did find yourself in a like situation in due course, was your sister marry’d herself there could be entire no objection to having her with you.
O, says she, I had not consider’d that, but indeed 'tis so. But, she goes on, I had hop’d for some great marriage for Agnes, that goes throw herself away upon that bald parson.
Fie, says I, do you wish your sister to marry a fellow that considers her the most wonderfull woman that ever walkt the earth, or to some nobleman that sees her merely as the means to repair his fortunes?
She dabs at her eyes with her handkerchief and says, do I put it to her thus, sure 'tis Agnes’ happyness that she should desire.
Quite so, says I.