As I sit and sip my brandy, I find myself shaking; and I look up and gasp, for 'tis not fear, 'tis anger. He considers my beloved sleepy wombatt child, my darling infant bluestocking, that is also so very greatly lov’d by my dearest ones, as a mere pawn in the game, an embarrassment that I go conceal for fear of my own reputation and not because I would desire her a life I might not give her myself.
But, indeed, I then go consider, that he does not at all apprehend how very much I love her, and he can have no notion at all of how matters stand 'twixt me and my darlings.
'Tis a thought that puts heart into me, and yet, he may still do immense damage to those I care for, and, indeed, a deal more generally, is he not halt’d in this course.
Comes in Euphemia and says, here is a fine fricassee of chicken for Your Ladyship’s supper, and a little cream’d spinach to it, that is your favourite. And 'twould be better you took a little wine to it, rather than brandy.
They are so very good to me.
So I go eat my supper, and take a glass of claret, and then mind me that I still have my letter to Eliza to write, that is a matter I should like to dispatch before I am about going into Northamptonshire. So I go to my pretty desk and take paper and pen and go indite a letter about the matters I have lately observ’d at the house-parties I was about, and then go open to her my thought concerning Miss N- and Mr L-. I should greatly like to say somewhat about this latest troubling matter, but can come at no way to describe it sufficiently discreet and covert. So I merely desire her to convey many kisses to the infant bluestocking from me.
I should also greatly like to convoke with Sandy upon this matter, but he goes tramp about the countryside discoursing of deep philosophickal matters still, and I can come at no way whereby I might communicate with him.
I confide that Mr R- O- will not have gone approach Biffle with his suppositions, for there is a deal of difference 'twixt threatening one of my origins however elevat’d my present rank, and one that is the present incumbent of an antient Dukedom with a deal of power and influence. And tho’ I have quite the greatest fondness for Biffle, I am of the opinion that the fewer that know Flora’s true parentage, the better.
I am still musing and fretting upon the matter after sanding and sealing my letter to Eliza, and putting it in the tray to be post’d the morn, when comes Hector to say, Mr Johnson has call’d at the back door and wonders is My Ladyship able to receive him?
(I perceive that Matt Johnson has gone from being that Bow Street fellow to Mr Johnson when Hector mentions him.)
Why, says I, send him up, see should he desire some ale or would brandy be more gratefull, and also whether he should require any other refreshment, for I daresay malefactors do not go out of Town for the summer and he has been about catching rogues.
Comes in Matt Johnson, doffs his hat and makes civil, and I wave him into a comfortable chair, saying that I hope I see him well.
He says, indeed, as well as maybe, and he confides from my glowing looks I have lately been in the country.
Indeed, says I (and sure I am a vain creature, but pleases me to think I am in looks in spite of the troubles upon my mind). Have been about a deal of house-parties.
Arrives Celeste with a mug of ale and a plate of bread and ham.
I say that I confide that 'tis no time of rest for him, and he concedes that 'tis so. There are those will take advantage that houses are shut up and put in the care of some watchman that may be idle or will take a bribe to look away.
'Tis a wick’d world, says I.
After he has refresht himself somewhat, he says ‘tis ever agreeable to see me, and in such health, but there is a troubling matter that he desires open to me.
Say on, says I, for one would wish to know is there any bothersome business like to come in my way.
He goes on, therefore, to recount to me that he goes call upon Dolly Mutton from time to time –
Oh, I cry, I hope there is nothing adverse comes to her?
- indeed not, quite flourishing, purposes another seaside excursion with the inmates of her house, the one last year answer’d so well.
(Sure I have not yet taken occasion to convoke with Dorcas over matters of housekeeping and how matters go in Covent Garden.)
But, he continues, she is worry’d by one that came about asking questions about Lady B-'s blacks that came so regular to her coffee-house, and what they were about. And of course, she said they were about providing religious consolation to the women of those parts, that may despite their way of life be good pious creatures but have no notion to being denounc’d from the pulpit for fornication. And that 'twas a very creditable matter in Lady B- in permitting her servants to undertake the business.
'Tis entirely true that 'tis what they are about, says I, but, alas, I have other signs that I have enemies and that there is one or another goes seek out matter to my discredit.
Why, he says, even now the Earl of N- is bound for the Americas, so 'tis said?
I sigh and say, I am like to fear that there are others go work against me for one reason or another. I am in some concern, I go on, that there is an intention to find out some discreditable secret of mine, that I would pay to keep conceal’d.
He shakes his head. Indeed there are scoundrels that make that their business, I daresay they consider 'tis a deal safer means of robbery than picking pockets or burglary, but 'tis a very nasty thing. Sure there are even those will go make accusations entire unfound’d, on matters 'twould be exceeding hard to disprove, such as sodomitickal approaches &C.
'Tis entire shocking, says I, and yet one knows that there are many have some secret in their lives, may not even be a criminal matter but a thing they would not desire known for 'twould stain their reputation, perchance make 'em a laughing-stock.
I take some little concern, I go on, that does one go ask about me in Covent Garden, Molly Binns is give out somewhat ill-dispos’d toward me…
Matt laughs and says, sure now Molly Binns goes make such a good thing out of her hat-trimming, will declare 'twas entire the best thing that Mr Perkins went throw her over and she is well rid of him.
Indeed, 'tis most amuzing, and I find myself laughing too, tho’ perchance there is somewhat hysterickal in my mirth.
He says that sure he will keep his ears and eyes open for fellows that go around looking for secrets of mine.
I say that I am most infinite oblig’d to him, and, does he not have to immediate go be about catching malefactors, should be most agreeable to offering an expression of my gratitude.
He says that sure 'twas in no expectation –
I entire know it to be so, says I, but ‘tis somewhat would give me pleasure.
He smiles and says, My Ladyship’s enjoyment is a very pretty thing.
So we go about a most enjoyable romp, 'tis most entirely agreeable and sure quite sanitive.
But as we lye considerable sat’d, I say, what should you think was’t give out that I had kill’d someone?
He guffaws and says, his first thought would be that had been some accident, that I might have pickt up some pistol not knowing 'twas load’d. But, he goes on more soberly, was’t not such a case I would be like to suppose that you had been about defending yourself from some low rogue that endeavour’d force himself upon you; or that you had been defending one that was attackt.
Why, he says, have you been about killing anyone of late? ('Tis clear he does not suppose me entire serious.)
Not lately, says I. There was a fellow, I go on, 'twas an entire accident, when I was in Naples, I came out upon a balcony and startl’d him so that he fell over the edge; and land’d in such a way that he broke his neck.
Why, was a fellow so nervous would be startl’d by the appearance of Your Ladyship, must have had an exceeding load upon his conscience.
I daresay 'twas so, says I. (For I am like to think that I was not the only burden upon the Junker’s conscience, and might even have been worse.)
Well, he says at length, 'tis time I was about my business of chasing malefactors.
So since 'tis still not extreme late of the e’en, I rise myself and put on my peignoir and go down to sit a little in my parlour and meditate over this further intelligence.
And after Matt has left, I am still sitting brooding when Hector comes and says a note has just been deliver’d by one he takes to be one of the Contessa’s footmen.
Oh, says I, I hope 'tis no heavy matter.
But when I break the seal I find that 'tis a note from the dear Contessa that says she is inform’d that Lady B- is at present in Town and as she is purposing a return to bella Napoli, would most greatly desire a rencontre before that parting of our ways.
Indeed, thinks I, a winter there is a deal to be preferr’d to one here, particular is one not us’d to the chill and the fogs &C and indeed, have been surpriz’d that the Contessa has not succumb’d to some seasonal ailment.
I will go call upon her the morrow.