Sure one would suppose, from Shakspeare, that I should sleep very ill, if at all, and perchance go sleep-walking. But I do not even have my old nightmare of that creeping mad thing; instead, I do not recollect the whole of the dream, but I was walking in a meadow of flowers with my sweet child and Eliza.
Sophy comes with my chocolate and says that Docket says that I was sleeping so peacefull should not be woken.
'Tis curious. But sure, I did not go slay a king in order to advance my own ambitions, mayhap makes a difference?
And when I go wash, I do not cry out upon imaginary spots of blood, but look at my hands, that Docket and Sophy keep so smooth and white, in the water and wonder whether 'twas entire a dream that I shot Mr R- O- and caus’d him to be convey’d to Mr H-'s dissecting-room.
I wonder even more whether 'twas so when I go down to my parlour and find all entire restor’d to what it ever was, the floor clean and polisht and the rugs laid down, the dust-sheets all gone, one would not suppose it the scene of an assassination.
Celeste comes and sets my breakfast, and shows no apprehension that this morning is different from any other morn, and Euphemia has sent up a fine array that I find myself able to do justice to. And after I have breakfast’d comes Dorcas to say she purposes go to Dolly Mutton’s and do I have anything to send or any messages.
La, says I, I am in anticipation of some remuneration for my horrid tales, but have not receiv’d it yet. When it comes will send it at once.
Dorcas makes her dip and leaves.
I look at the letters upon my pretty desk, that I had no mind to attend to yestere’en, and think I must be about 'em. And sure, there is no sign in my parlour of what went forth. Yet, now I have such a fine library that I have hardly yet gone into, mayhap I will take my letters and deal with my correspondence there.
So I ring for Hector and tell him that that is what I purpose, and should there be any callers, tho’ at this season I think it unlikely, they may be shown there.
He says that he takes a thought that tho’ they have shift’d a deal of my books to the shelves there, they may not be arrang’d entire as I should like and I may desire rearrange 'em.
This is a task that strikes me as a pleasing prospect.
So I go thro’ the connecting door, and up the staircase, and into my fine library, and indeed it pleases me mightily to see the shelves and my books, and a press or two for papers, and the comfortable chairs, and a fine desk that one might work at, already equippt with pens and ink and paper and sealing-wax and sand-shaker.
And I turn to my letters, that I only glanc’d thro’ to see was there any ill news, so that I may read 'em more thoroughly. 'Tis entire delightfull to read how well Phoebe is and how flourishing Lucile. And to have a fine letter from the Admiral and Lady J- in the Mediterranean, and also news of my friends that spend the summer in Harrogate, and from Mrs N- in Margate.
I am at last turning to the letter from my dearest ones, that I save until last, when I hear footsteps upon the stairs and Hector shows in Sandy.
My dear! I cry, I had no notion you were in Town, suppos’d you still about your philosophickal perambulations. Sure you look very well for 'em.
He says 'twas indeed exceeding agreeable, but looks less chearfull than I might have suppos’d he would.
Comes almost immediate Celeste with coffee and shortbreads. I pour us both coffee and desire him to help himself to shortbread.
There is a little silence, I pour him a second cup, and at length he says, intend’d come anyway with the payment for your tales, but Matt Johnson came by early the morn, said there had been a troublesome matter here last night.
Indeed, says I, but the upshot is, that Mr R- O- has been remov’d from play.
Sandy looks at me and says, What? how? For how long?
O, says I, for ever, a permanency, stone-dead.
What! I see him consider a little and say, did Hector - ?
No, says I, I would not put the matter upon Hector, I did it myself.
You mean he was confident enough to take somewhat from your hands?
No, says I, was most incivil about refusing food or drink. I shot him, with Milord’s little pistol.
You shot him? Sandy rises and paces over to the window.
He threaten’d Flora, says I.
You shot him?
He threaten’d Flora, says I, and did not even consider that 'twas she he put in harm’s way to bring me to the betrayal of my friends.
I rise from my chair and go over to stand by him. Had contriv’d, I go on, to discover that I was in Surrey when 'twas give out I was at Carlsbad, and that I bore a child there. Sure he got the tale by somewhat of the wrong end – suppos’d the F-s took her in in return for interest and advancement – that the father was someone entire different. And was in great confidence that I should wish conceal my disgrace.
As if I should care for my own disgrace! But I will not have the world look upon Flora as the bastard daughter of a w---e. And I would not go betray the secrets I hold in return for his silence, that I did not in the least trust, would have gone hold it over me to bring me to serve his ends forever I daresay.
Sandy looks at me in silence.
At length he says, The secrets you hold…
Had I not seen how he went about with Mr W- Y- and Mr W- Y-'s poet friend that shot himself? Would find somewhat discreditable that one would not wish reveal’d, so that one would go ferret out the secrets he looks for, that indeed I consider’d entire figments but that he continu’d believe must exist.
Ah, says Sandy, looking somewhat sick. Or those things that one may not consider discreditable, but that the law and society deems abominable and unnatural?
Entirely so, my dear.
He paces up and down. After some while he says, 'Twas not some accident? You did not endeavour threaten him and shoot him because he startl’d you or somewhat of the kind?
I go sit down. 'Twas entire deliberate and carefully plann’d, says I. In cold blood. I could see no other way of stopping him.
Sandy comes sit down again. But what of the body?
Mr H- is give out once more to be obtaining bodies by hugger-mugger means, no questions askt, for his dissecting-room.
There is a long silence as he scrutinizes the carpet at his feet.
Finally, he says, C-, you have been my dearest friend this long while, but I feel that I discover a stranger in your place.
No, says I, I am the same silly creature as ever was: perchance was I cleverer and better-educat’d I might have come at some other less mortal device to halt him.
Why, he says, I cannot come at anything. One might have contriv’d to trepan him to distant parts, but was a cunning fellow that might yet return, and with vengeance in his heart –
Indeed, says I, the like occurr’d to me.
- but I am not sure I could have been bl- -
I hold up my hand. No Scottish play, says I.
He stands up. I should be a brute was I not gratefull to you on more than my own behalf. But, dear C-, this revelation leaves me in an entire turmoil of mind. I need to go –
Of course, my dear, you are ever free to go.
I hear him go somewhat stumbling down the stairs, and feel a little tearfull. 'Tis a sad thing do I lose that easy friendship we have enjoy’d this long while.
But sure 'tis a heavy thing I have done.
I sigh. But I must be about writing my letters and must let my darlings know that this piece has been remov’d from the board.
I must express this somewhat discreet and covert, but I am like to think that they will take my meaning after the discourse we had of the matter while I was with 'em.
I long for 'em very, very much, and also for my sweet darling child, and yet –
I sand and seal my letters and ring for Hector so that he may go send Timothy to post 'em.
And as he comes in I take another thought.
Hector, says I, do you know whether the Contessa has yet left Town to return to Naples?
He says he believes not.
Why, says I, I will go call upon her afore she does.
So I have myself dresst for making calls, and take my carriage, and indeed the footman at her door informs me that she is at home and will be delight’d to see Lady B-.
I find her at her desk, about some matter that I suspect has to do with cyphers. She turns and removes her spectacles and looks at me.
And I find myself throwing myself to my knees to go sob in her lap, as she strokes my hair, and makes soothing noises in Italian.
I look up at length, and say, dear Contessa, may I come with you to Naples? Oh no, says I, as she scrutinizes me, I do not think I am suspect’d, the matter was dispatcht most extreme discreet, but –
Even so, she says, may be prudent to be out of the country for a little while, and a change of scene and company is ever good for the spirits. How soon might you be prepar’d to depart?
Why, says I, as soon as maybe. Daresay 'twill take me longer to persuade Docket that she should not accompany me than to be all packt and ready.
She rises and kisses me and says, 'twill be an entire pleasure to have my company for the journey and in Naples.