After some consideration upon the matter by Captain P- and Belinda, 'tis determin’d that there is an attic at that side of the house that faces away from the paddocks, and may reasonably be suppos’d that the noise of shooting will not disturb the horses do we go about the matter there.
Captain P- is most prepossesst with the little pistol, says 'tis quite entire what he would expect from such a marksman as Lord R-. 'Tis also entire suit’d to a lady’s hand.
But to begin with, we go about without it charg’d, and I am drill’d in how I should stand, and how I should hold the pistol, and then how I should aim it, and how I should squeeze the trigger, not jerk at it, tho’ we may hope 'twill not come to firing, says Captain P-. But indeed, one would quite suppose you intend’d fire.
And then we progress to loading and charging, and firing, and he is most prepossesst that I do not immediate go jump at the report. La, says I, from my earlyest years was accustom’d to hear stage battles and duels, I daresay 'tis not unlike the training of cavalry horses, that use makes it a matter does not startle one. Sure I would go on copying out parts and my hand not shake, no blots to be seen, and my mother would be a-stitching away, entire calm.
And then we go on to aiming, and firing at a mark, and sure I confide I should need a deal more practice to go hit the mark as oft as I should like. But, says Captain P-, I confide that the matter will only come to firing does the fellow go grapple with you, and 'twill be at such point-blank range that a child could not miss.
Why, says I, I should hope 'twould not come to that. But I confide I go present myself as one that knows one end of the pistol from t’other and what I am about.
Indeed, he says, have seen fellows on the field of honour had less notion of what they were about, trembling like aspens.
Why, says I, there is something very terrible about a duel, for by the time comes to’t 'tis in cold blood rather than the heat of the original quarrel.
He grunts, and says, 'tis so, when one comes think of it, that there will be high words in the passion of a moment, and there may be drink in the matter, but in the chill of dawn, when one goes in all deliberation to the matter, 'tis indeed a very different matter.
He then says, I might wish to practise a little more, to keep my hand in, and I say 'tis a prudent thought, perchance I might come up here for a little while every day while I am here? Sure I know not how I might contrive in my own house. Tho’ at times the street is so noisy I doubt any would notice did a battle go rage across the rooftops.
He agrees that Town is sure a very noisy place.
I laugh and say that to me, 'tis quite a lullaby for 'tis so familiar to me. But here in the country – so quiet, and the noises there are not at all what I am us’d to.
So I go practise, and indeed I think that I become a little more skillfull at the business, but yet 'tis a heavy matter I go about and I know not whether I could fire was’t a person and not a mark that I aim’d at.
But does not take up all my time, and there is a deal of fine riding, and going about looking at the fine horses, and gossiping with Belinda, and reading of Shakspeare, and sure there is company comes dine, and we go dine with 'em, so I am by no means in an eremitickal condition.
Indeed all are most exceeding hospitable, as ever go exhort me to come in hunting season, when there will be fine runs and hunt balls. 'Tis most agreeable to be askt but I fancy I should not find such occasions entire enjoyable, and seems incivil to say, should happyly come to your balls but pray excuse me the pursuit of the fox, for 'tis clear to me that they consider this quite entire the greater pleasure.
Sure there is no accounting for taste.
There is a party comes dines one e’en, and I go up to my chamber to change out of my riding habit into somewhat more suit’d to the occasion, so that the guests may go say they observ’d Lady B- in quite the crack of Town fashion, of course, she can carry it off, 'twould not suit us.
And as I go in I see Sophy sits in the window-seat with a flower in her hair, a-writing up of her book - 'tis very creditable in her – and occasional glancing out of the window. I go over and see that there linger beneath the window several young fellows from the stables.
O Sophy, says I, you sad minx! Sure I daresay they all go ask one another But lo, what light from yonder window breaks? and one will respond It is the East, and Sophy is the sun.
Sophy jumps up in a fluster, makes me a dip, and says, O, Your Ladyship - !
I smile upon her and say, you are a good girl and about your tasks, you are not running off and being idle, you indeed come about to attain a most happy combination of being dutyfull and enjoying a little masculine admiration as you do so. Sure I would not go scold you, for I was a young girl myself once, sure 'twas most amuzing to discover that sitting in the prompt corner for rehearsals I could quite distract certain young actors and make 'em lose their place.
But, I go on, I hope you go be a good sensible girl and are not beguil’d by fellows making wild protestations, such as they will entirely go dye do you not show 'em favour, &C&C.
Oh, no, Your Ladyship, says Sophy. Sure I have been well-warn’d in the matter –
Indeed, says I, was there not some matter of Hector complaining about those fellows at the livery stable standing about ogling, and he dare’d say calling out coarseness?
O, says Sophy, they would not dare that, for Nell says her brother Sam knockt down some fellow that said somewhat of the like. But indeed they will come hang about the door to the stable.
La, says I, he goes show exceeding chivalrick (indeed I mind a matter of a fellow that went asking questions in the tavern the fellows from the stable frequent that Sam went attack.)
Sophy gives a little dimpling smile, and sure I collect that Sam has lately come to look a well-set-up fellow rather than a gangling boy.
Well, says I, let us be about arraying me for this dinner, I think I have not wore my diamond and emerald parure in company lately, so perchance I should dress for that. Sophy looks considering and says we may contrive exceedingly.
There is but a small mirror in the dressing-room, but I confide that I look extreme well when Sophy has finisht.
I touch the secret compartment in the necklace that contains a lock of Flora’s hair, and go down to the drawing-room, where a deal of red-fac’d men and women are already gather’d – indeed the company cannot be above ten in number, but sure they converse in very loud voices and all at once.
Belinda comes introduce me to a Sir T- I-, that is a magistrate and consider’d a fellow of eminence in these parts. She has previous mention’d to me that he is a widower, that looks about him for a third wife, that will be a stepmother to some seven rising offspring. La, said I, dear Belinda, do you go match-make? I daresay he counts as quite the catch in these parts.
At which she laugh’d and said, he may think himself a fine fellow but I confide you are above his touch: but 'twill greatly gratify him to be introduc’d to you and be seat’d next to you at dinner, and 'tis ever usefull to have the friendship of a magistrate.
Say no more, says I, a nod is as good as a wink.
So I make amiable to him by asking about the duties of a magistrate in these parts, and sure I need do very little to keep the conversation going, for he wishes make it known to me what responsibilities he has and the importance of his work in the county.
This continues once he has took me into dinner and we are sat at table, and he goes recount of the ways in which he maintains the King’s order, that is a quite distressing tale of the extreme severe punishments he metes out for matters I should consider entire trivial. He tells me a long anecdote concerning young women that wick’dly go about to swear bastards upon a certain entire respectable gentleman.
(I am like to suppose that he may be by no means as respectable as he is suppos’d, but the poor creatures that I daresay rightly accuse him will be consider’d spitefull jezebels. But 'tis not an occasion in which I might plead like Portia for justice for him and mercy for 'em.)
He says a deal more generally about the immorality of the age: sure the great increase in bastardy is by no means the worst. There is an abominable crime came before him at the last quarter sessions, too horrible to speak of before a lady such as you, Lady B-, 'tis entire unnatural, 'tis of such enormity that he is oblig’d to send such cases before the assizes -
Sure he has a booming voice and the entire table can hear him, including Captain P-, that is at the far end.
I turn towards Sir T- I-, as one that is entire engrosst in his tale, saying, La, Sir T-, you quite freeze my blood and make me shudder –
O! I cry, sure I am a clumsy creature – for I have contriv’d knock over his wine so that it spills upon him. rather than upon me, and the butler quite immediate comes with napkins to wipe him off. I wax most extreme apologetick, with wringing of hands and fluttering of eyelashes.
At this distraction, the conversation turns to the prospects of the new season’s hunting.