Sure, thinks I as I prepare to depart, 'twill be most exceeding delightfull to go spend a little while rustickating in Northamptonshire with dear Belinda and Captain P-. And perchance I may come to find some way thro’ this maze I find myself in that I have not yet come at in my ponderings.
I daresay 'twill be extreme dull for Sophy. But I confide 'twill be very agreeable for Ajax.
I am greet’d most heartyly by Belinda and Captain P- when I arrive at their place, that say has been quite an age, and convey me news about my sweet Jezebel, that frolicks like an entire filly in the paddock.
Why, says I, let me go change and I may go renew my acquaintance with her and see how matters go here generally – how does Cherry-ripe and her fine colt?
I desire Sophy to put me on my riding-habit, for I should very much like to ride a little now I am here.
Belinda links her arm thro’ mine as we walk out to the paddock, and asks how all my acquaintance do, and how is Josh?
I laugh and say, he and the badger are quite inseparable, 'tis a pretty thing to see 'em play together. One would never know him the sickly boy he was last summer.
My dear Jezzie-girl comes trot across the paddock very gratifying upon seeing me. I give her an apple and pat her nose and tell her she is entirely the best of Jezzie-girls, and turn to Belinda and say, mayhap we might ride out a little.
Belinda laughs and says, sure you have become the entire horsewoman, dear C-! We may yet see you following hounds.
So we both mount up and ride about their property, and she tells me of the various racers they have, and the likely fillies and colts that come up, and that they indeed go about some excellent business of gentle mounts for ladies. I say that Lady O- upon Blackthorn is an exceeding fine sight.
She sighs and says, must be a sight to see. Sure the Marquess spoke very highly of his lady and her equestrian skills.
Why, says I, altho’ I confide he is an entire doating husband, yet I think he is entire right about Lady O-'s abilities on horseback. Indeed I think you would like her, and her sisters, extremely, sure the edicts of society may be very foolish things, for I am sure also that they would greatly admire you.
I go say somewhat of what excellent creatures the Earl’s daughters are, and also about poor Hester.
O, the poor creature! cries Belinda, sure that is a hard life to lead.
Indeed, but she is a very fine woman. And 'tis extreme pretty to see the ways in which Lord U- and the Marquess will go about to think of ways of eazing her lot.
She says that Lord U- has lately writ very civil to 'em to see can they provide a fine pair suit’d to a phaeton -
La, says I, is no fast young fellow himself, but his younger brothers have considerable notions to becoming known as whips - sure the younger acquitt’d himself very pleasing in a late race to York - and there are worser indulgences for young fellows.
Belinda says they go consider over the matter, but 'tis exceeding gratifying to be solicit’d to the business. He apprehends that 'tis like to take a little time. But, come, let us stretch out a little.
O, 'tis most exceeding agreeable to be with 'em, and to be desir’d to read a little Shakspeare of the e’en, and ride a great deal.
But there is another matter that came to me I might be about while I am here.
So one morn when I have come back from riding with Belinda, and she goes see how Cherry-ripe and her colt do, I put Jezzie into Ajax’s hands, and apologize to Captain P-, that has been discoursing with him upon some equestrian matter.
O, says Captain P- very civil, you are both here a while, there will be other occasion.
We walk towards the house, and I say to him that there has lately come about me a very pestering fellow, will not leave me be, I am in the greatest concern he will endeavour press his suit will-I nil-I –
The scoundrel! cries Captain P-, have you no friends that might call the fellow out?
Why, says I, I am in fears that did that come about 'twould cause an entire scandal, and as you may well apprehend, I have to be most particular cautious in such matters. No, I have been puzzling upon the matter, and I was lately looking into my desk and realiz’d that I still have about me a pretty little pistol that Lord R- lent to me when I was going on a journey where there was some fear of highwaymen. And he gave me a little instruction but 'twas a while since. And as I thought over this matter, seem’d to me that did I turn a pistol upon this fellow, and did I have the look of one that knew what she was about with such a thing, might go about to discourage his suit.
And sure I would have desir’d further instruction of His Lordship, but that I was in a concern that he would consider it quite his duty to go call the fellow out. But I mind me that you must be near as fine a shot as he is, and could you be so kind as to spend a little while showing me how to stand, and hold the pistol, and mayhap fire a little so that I do not look like one that will start at the sound of a shot –
Captain P- says he would be entire delight’d, and sure, he takes the thought that winging a fellow would be like to discourage him from any plans of ravishment -
La, says I, might that not bring down the force of law upon me?
He laughs and says, he doubts that such a rogue would be about telling any that he had been shot by a lady, would be mockt about the clubs for a fortnight at least, and the tale would follow him for ever.
I daresay 'tis so, says I.
Let me consider on where we may go practise so that there is no risque of frighting the horses, he says, and I will set up a target and we may be about the matter.
As we approach the house I see that Sophy is sitting with her sewing in the pleasing little portico that was thrown out at some time in such a way as to catch the sun. And a pretty sight she is about it, too, 'tis entire agreeable to me not to keep her mew’d up when she may get the benefit of the sanitive airs of this place.
I then take a thought that may not be the sunlight nor the airs that lead her to sit thus, for there is an unwont’d coming and going about the place of stable-lads and grooms.
Sure Sophy does not conduct herself in any vulgarly flirtatious manner, but has a way of raising her eyes, and then lowering 'em to her work with a little smile, that is most exceeding beguiling.
I might be in some concern about this proceeding, did I not mind that there is a deal of respect in the place for Ajax and I doubt not that she is consider’d under his protection, 'tis like to keep her from any coarseness that might otherwise be offer’d.
But I know not what Docket or Hector might say to this proceeding. I am like to feel a considerable sympathy to Sophy, for have I not been a young girl myself and found how very agreeable 'tis to be admir’d? And I daresay she continues keep a hat-pin about her in case of undue saucyness.
Comes up to us Belinda, that says sure Cherry-bounce comes along a fine creature, but 'tis entire too soon to try his paces.
Captain P- says he will be about looking for a place where I may be lesson’d in shooting a pistol, and I go about to disclose the tale to Belinda, that says 'tis a pity I did not have a little pistol about me when that mad creature came creeping about B- House.
Indeed, says I, as we go in to the parlour. Sure, my dear, you would scarce know B- House any more, 'tis almost entire ready for Lord A- to move in with his bride. 'Tis very agreeable to see it such a fine residence when I consider what 'twas – bats in the attic, rain coming thro’ the roof, holes in the floor, rats in the cellar &C&C and is now quite entire fit for a lord.
Belinda says, 'tis entire delightfull to think upon, but then groans, and says, sure the matter of T- cannot yet even be put before Chancery for they go take their vacation.
She then frowns and says, but what would happen did my undear bigamist spouse dye?
I frown myself and say, 'tis a matter to ask Mr Q-, but I am in some supposition you might yet retain some life-interest: perchance there is even a dower-house set aside – she shudders: should not care to live in that gloomy place – Mayhap there is still some distant cousin that might inherit.
She sighs and says, sure that lunatick never mention’d any cousins save for the ones that would have to dye so that he might become Marquess of B-, did not have a deal of family-feeling any more than he had any friends, there was no going about on visits.
And, says I, has he had any more visitors?
She shakes her head. But indeed I am in some concern that there will be some scandal from the parish that he was mixt up in – o, if we talk of entails and property, mayhap tearing a page from the register to conceal a legitimate birth, am sure he would have done so for a sufficient bribe. And likely kept the page by him so that he might go back for more.
My dear Belinda, says I, sure you should write Gothick novels.