Sure 'twas entire foolish in me to suppose that Docket would concede to be left behind. For her own consequence she will not let me go among foreigners without she is there to ensure that I am dresst in such a fashion as to demonstrate my own consequence and that of my nation. She also says that, altho’ indeed she confides that Sophy comes on very well, do I not recall the low superstitious way in which Hector and Euphemia were regard’d whilst we were at the villa? Sure she is agreeable to taking Sophy, 'twill be good experience and a treat for her, and indeed, she will admit that 'tis prudent to have one that will take the heavyer matters from her own hands, and she would not be trusting any of those Italians with the matter.
I sigh, but will permit myself to be persuad’d, and go send to the apothecary for a good supply of her drops, that I have packt up very carefull to secure from damage upon our travels.
I cannot bear write to all to say that I am leaving, but send Timothy around to a deal of places with my card saying PPC. Tho’ there are still letters that I must send, even are they dew’d with my tears as with the one I must indite to my darlings. To those to whom it would be entire incivil in the light of our friendship not to write at least a note, I express myself in such terms that I hope that 'twill be give out that may be some matter of health that takes me out of Town.
Indeed there are matters on hand that I am sorry to have to leave before the final act, yet I think the concerns I had over the Earl of N-'s family are resolv’d, that Lord and Lady D- are on restor’d terms of conjugal amity, that Agnes S- is in fine way to marry Mr L-, and that the matter of Miss N-'s marriage is also under hand.
I am still much distresst by the breach that has arisen with Sandy, but I consider that 'tis entire for the best that I go away and do not attempt repair it until he has quite thoroughly cogitat’d upon the matter and I daresay goes discuss it in suitable discreet anonymous terms with his philosophickal set.
Hector I think is mind’d to say he should come with me, but I am not oblig’d to go argue with him that I shall be entire well-defend’d in the Contessa’s train, and that when I come to Naples I am in entire confidence that Marcello’s stiletto will be entire at my disposal.
For one morn I go down to the kitchen to convoke with Euphemia as to whether there be any matters she wishes me convey to Guiseppina, or things she would desire me send her from Naples, and also to say that she should not stint the household while I am gone – tho’ I do not think she would – and that I confide that she will not let our fine reputation for generosity lapse (tho’ now Nell’s father is back upon his feet, tho’ still must employ a stick when walking, their household is in less want).
I find her there seat’d at the kitchen table frowning at a cup of tea.
How now, Euphemia, says I, I hope I do not distract you from some matter.
O no, Your Ladyship, says Euphemia, getting up to make a dip and then rushing most incontinent into the yard.
She returns looking an ashy colour and says, she comes to the apprehension that she goes with child, adding that sure that will put a stop to the questioning and the gossiping among their connexion.
O, Euphemia, says I, I am pleas’d to hear it, if you are.
She smiles a little and says, o, indeed, it feels that 'tis the time. And will go visit Aunty Black once the queasyness goes off, this very day.
So there is very considerable reason why Hector should remain in Town. Tho’ a few days later, after Euphemia has told him their news, she sighs and says, mayhap My Ladyship should take him, for he goes fuss over her like an old hen. But I see that she looks pleas’d at it.
All is nigh on in readyness for departure, and I am in my parlour looking over my books in consideration of what I might take with me – perchance 'twould be an occasion to take another essay at Tristram Shandy? – when comes Hector with a card on the silver tray.
’Tis the Earl of I- comes a-calling.
There is a chill runs down my spine, but I say that I am at home to His Lordship.
Hector shows him in, I curtesy, and say, will he take tea, or should he prefer somewhat a little stronger?
He says that tea will suffice.
I wave him into a chair, and go sit vis-à-vis, and ask after Lady I- while we wait for Celeste to come with tea, that she does most expeditious with the best company set.
I pour out, and then sit back with my own cup and ask to what I owe the pleasure of this visit?
He looks at me, looks over to see is the door shut, and says, he understands that Mr R- O- had some dealings with me.
La, says I, call’d upon me a time or two, seem’d to suppose I was a deal better acquaint’d with Mr W- Y- than I was and would know what had come to him.
The Earl puts cup and saucer down upon the table and says, let us not finesse about the matter, Lady B-, I am appriz’d of the business in which Mr R- O- endeavour’d obtain your cooperation.
I remain silent.
Mr R- O-, he goes on, has disappear’d from his usual haunts, and has not left any messages by way of the usual channels to say what he might be about, so we are in some concern about him.
He pauses. Mr O-, he continues, tho’ a fine dedicat’d servant of his country’s interests, was given to some excess of zeal in pursuing 'em, and in particular would sometimes employ means that, however material to the good of the nation, were somewhat deplorable.
Say you so!
And was inclin’d to take maggots of the mind concerning hidden seditious matters in places one would not suspect. 'Tis not entire unlike that they turn’d his brain and he has become a complete Tom o’Bedlam that wanders the roads having forgot his own name. Tho’ I am more like to suppose that he fell foul of one that he endeavour’d persuade to his ends.
I say nothing.
He was very close when he was on the trail, there was as 'twere a jealousy that some other might take his prize, but I knew that he took an interest in you, Lady B-.
(Oh that I had a fan in my hands to play with.)
But, he says, to my mind, and especial now I have spoke of you with Sir Vernon H-, I am mind’d to suppose Mr O- was very ill-adviz’d endeavouring apply his wont’d means of persuasion, rather than appealing to your sense of patriotick duty. For has been observ’d, Your Ladyship, that you not only have a very fine way of eliciting confidences, you also have very keen apprehension of what such confidences might import.
La, Lord I-, you go flatter me considerable! I cry. But indeed, I confide that I am as patriotick an Englishwoman as ever was, but perchance – for I am an uneducat’d creature that had my learning such as 'twas out of plays - I have a different notion of patriotism to you.
He looks at me somewhat puzzl’d.
(I think 'tis time to hint at the stylish red cap of liberty in my closet.)
I daresay, says I, that there are those suppose that tho’ a deal of my circle are of a reforming and even radickal tendency, that I associate with 'em out of pure womanly affection and antient friendship to fellows that were kind and generous to me when I did not enjoy the state I now do. But, Your Lordship, I have kept house these some several years, and my opinions upon domestick arrangements are very well consider’d and my advice will be askt –
And sure, does one keep house, one wishes be secure behind one’s own front door. But one does not say, o, the house has ever been thus and so, will keep it entire as 'twas first built. Even does one not make enormous changes, such as knocking rooms together or throwing out a wing, there are things need be done. Daresay you will have heard what condition B- House was in when the present Marquess was convey’d to a fine madhouse. Sure, there were those might have said, let us knock it down entirely and build a fine new house in the most modern style, and there may have been those would have said, leave it be. But indeed, there has been work undertaken, and 'tis still the fine house it first was, but has the benefits of modern improvements –
I daresay, says I, that you do not have to deal with kitchen matters, or servants, but indeed, a fine modern range is a deal better than an open hearth and poses less risque of fire and a scullery-maid that has a proper bed will be better rest’d and handyer about her tasks than if she was oblig’d sleep beneath the kitchen table.
I am a foolish soft-heart’d creature mayhap, uninstruct’d, a mere woman with an entire feminine mind, but I have the same opinions about nations.
But, says I, rising to my feet, which obliges him to do the like, as I daresay you have heard, the Contessa di S- has been most pressing in inviting me to go with her to Naples, and indeed there are reasons concerning my late husband’s property in those parts why 'twould be sensible for me to do so. And at present I am very beset with the business of getting ready to depart and having my affairs in order –
The Earl bows over my hand and says, he will not press me, but let me consider over the matter, and mayhap we may talk again when I return from Naples.
I make civil but do not say yea or nay to this proposition.
After he has gone I go flop plump down in my chair with a feeling of exceeding relief. But I am very glad that I shall be out of the country for some several months.