Becomes apparent to the entire company that a rivalry is in train 'twixt Lieutenant H- and Captain C- over Lady Emily, that listens most intent to their tales of adventure and danger but I confide takes no notion to either of 'em.
Indeed, when we ride out one morn she says sure this is a pack of fusties, but at least one hears fine tales of foreign parts and naval actions &C.
I say that indeed 'tis a particular staid affair, but 'twill do 'em a deal of good to be known lookt well upon by Lord and Lady G- and the L- J-s, that are very much about in Society, and precisely because they are no wild young things nor elderly debauchees, their good opinion is to be valu’d.
O! cries Em, sure 'tis a hard matter to have to live down a prodigal father!
Indeed, my dear, entirely so. But while the scandal is yet so fresh, 'tis entire advizable to conduct oneself in the most exacting of good ton.
She sighs considerable. Nan was saying 'tother e’en, that sure Papa gave more attention to cultivating his flowers than to bringing us up in the proper ways of Society.
Alas, says I, 'tis by no means a unique case amongst fathers of his rank, particular as regards daughters.
Em is silent for a moment and then says, sure Geoff gets hold of some very strange notions, and sometimes one must suppose has the matter by entire the wrong end, but he was saying that Mr MacD- will often deplore the position of women in society and declare that 'tis by no means natural but the result of law and custom, and that in a better state of things women would be entire upon an equality with men.
Why, says I, Mr MacD- is in a good set in which he has the opportunity to be about ladies such as Her Grace and Lady J-, that demonstrate quite entirely the capacity of the female sex for learning, and he finds Lady W-'s apprehension upon politickal matters most superior. And has remarkt that did some accident come to Mr F- such that he was unable to be about business, Mrs F- could manage the ironworks quite entire satisfactory and still keep household matters at R- House up to the mark.
But are they not most exceptional ladies? Or perchance had the advantage of better education than we did: sure Milly is a darling, but even had we not been such idle creatures in the schoolroom, do not think she could have give us the learning that Her Grace has, or taught us the fine matters Bess F- boasts of.
La, says I, do you not find that for all the trouble is taken over gentlemen’s education, there are a deal of 'em that are none so clever or well-inform’d? A lady may go educate herself is she so inclin’d. But look, the field ahead is not standing corn and I confide we may let the horses out into a brisk canter.
'Tis most agreeable and we come back with fine appetites, but I go change into suitable morning dress before I go breakfast. Sophy tells me she is invit’d to a fine tea-drinking the afternoon by Heston that is Lady G-'s woman, along with Lorimer, and the other ladies’ maids. Why, says I, 'tis very civil in her, but mind you behave in such a manner that they will go away and remark upon the fine training you receive from Docket, and how much you do her credit.
Indeed, says Sophy.
And o, says I, is’t Heston that attends upon Miss C- while she stays here? You might offer to undertake dressing her hair, for I think it might be a deal more becoming than 'tis.
Sophy agrees that Miss C- has excellent fine hair, a good colour and very abundant, but she has took the same thought herself.
So I go down to breakfast dresst most extreme respectable. Em is there still in her riding-habit; sure I must mind to convey some thought in the matter to Nan to pass on to her. She is attending to Lieutenant H- that tells her about some time that he was in a hurricane in the West Indies: and there was Admiral K-, as calm as if 'twas some light breeze. (The dear creature, thinks I. I should greatly like to ask Lieutenant H- has he lately seen the dear Admiral, but mind that the matter is a little delicate, having met him first upon my little cruise aboard the Admiral’s flagship, and the Lieutenant being some connexion of Lady J-'s.)
Comes over Sir Vernon and offers fetch me a little plate of something or other. I say, was not Lord G- expatiating upon the virtues of his pigs and the very excellent hams they come to? I daresay one should go try the ham.
'Tis indeed most excellent ham.
After we have conclud’d our breakfast, Sir Vernon offers that I might care for a turn around the gardens, there is some very amuzing topiary that I might care to view.
Why, says I, 'twould be most agreeable.
'Tis a very pleasant morning as we go out into the gardens, with my arm thro’ Sir Vernon’s as we converse of idle matters. I know not whether he desires convey some matter of diplomacy to me, or whether he goes advance a suit. La, thinks I, in the past, was't not both? I hope he is not about desiring I should demonstrate favour to Selim Pasha, that is a well-set-up enough fellow but not to my taste. Sure in the past would not have been entire averse, but these days I need only accept such offers as I find myself in a particular inclination to.
He remarks that he doubts I have any leanings towards a second match, now I am so well-establisht a widow’d marchioness, but he confides I should make a most excellent diplomatick wife.
O, poo, says I, you go flatter me.
Indeed not, he says, for he confides that those talents that make me so greatly accept’d in Society among the most exacting would serve exceedingly in advancing our nation’s interest abroad. He then smiles and says, but indeed you have other qualities that a fellow would greatly desire in a wife.
He goes on to remark that he is come to that stage upon his career in the Diplomatick when 'tis consider’d that a man should acquire a wife.
We are now come to a distance from the house and we can see none of the other guests anywhere near.
I am in particular mov’d to this proposal, says Sir Vernon in lower’d tones, because I fear that you have enemies in this country that have heard entire lying tales about you and I am like to suppose mean you no good. 'Tis quite complete foolishness and I have endeavour’d put it to those that might act in the matter, but, these fellows that deal with matters internal to this nation, there is, I might say, a narrowness in the way they view things that one cannot keep does one look at the larger picture as one is oblig’d to when going abroad and dealing with other powers.
I take his hand and squeeze it. I am most exceeding prepossesst, says I, at your very fine concern for me – I daresay besides Lord I-'s mutterings upon me, there was some fellow came asking questions of you about me? – he concedes that 'twas so – but altho’ I am greatly mov’d by your kindness in making this offer, as you suppose I am not inclin’d towards a second marriage and I should find it very hard to quit England. Indeed, I find it not entirely to my taste to leave Town, I am a sad cockney.
He squeezes my hand back and says, sure, he thought 'twas like to be so, but hopes that I will ever consider him a friend that will have my interest at heart. And should I ever find it prudent to make a jaunt abroad, would be entire delight’d to see me in St Petersburg.
We then go look at the topiary so that we may talk about it to the company.
(Alas that I feel 'twould be a little undiplomatick to say to Sir Vernon that a romp, might we contrive one, would be exceeding pleasant.)
We return to the drawing-room, and talk of the quaint and curious topiary creatures, and Sir Vernon is invit’d to go play billiards by Captain C- (Lady Emily looks exceeding longing, but I observe Nan kick her in the ankle to mind her of proper conduct).
Mrs Robert G- is looking over the latest Belle Assemblée with Miss C-, both of them exclaiming over the fine styles. Mrs Robert G- sighs somewhat and says she doubts they would do in their provincial society – they reside upon the family estate in Cumberland - sure, she says, excellent fine scenery she dares say, there are those make a deal of it ('tis clear she would rather be in Town among Society).
I look over Miss C-'s shoulder. I remark upon how hair is being worn at present. My dear Miss C-, says I, you have exceeding pretty hair – she blushes – but I wonder how 'twould look was’t dresst a little different. Should you like, I could send my maid – has a very nice touch with hair – to arrange it for you.
Mrs Robert G- says even they have heard of Lady B-'s fine lady’s maid – La, says I, 'tis not Docket comes with me at present, 'tis as 'twere her apprentice that gains experience, so I like to give her the chance to try her hand with other ladies.
'Tis very kind, says Miss C-, I should like that exceedingly.
Why, says I, are you at leisure now we might go up and see whether she might undertake to make some experiments, and then come dress your hair for dinner the e’en once we have consider’d upon the matter.
Sophy is entire delight’d when I bring Miss C- to my dressing-room, where she is about a little mending, and we all spend an agreeable while about the matter.