I remain in a little concern as to the matter that Miss A- did not have time to open to me; but suppose that did she not quite immediate disclose it upon the departure of Mrs N- - for tho’ we are both very fond of Mrs N-, none can deny that she is entirely the Queen of Gossip – can be no matter of great urgency, and somewhat that may be deferr’d to some other occasion.
Tho’ I also take a consideration that Miss A- is entire a servant of the dramatick muses and telling plays with good strong parts will ever be a business of great moment to her. I must go turn over my latest essays in drama, that I have not yet even shown to Sandy.
Sure I am very tempt’d to sit at my desk and scribble, but I mind that Society imposes its demands and now that I am return’d to Town quite at the height of the Season, should go about making calls and leaving cards.
'Tis somewhat of a tedious prospect: but I think none would blame me was my first calls upon my return paid to very particular good friends.
So I take my reticule and my card-case, and have Docket array me suitable for paying calls, and Ajax has the horses put to my carriage, and I desire him to drive me first to M- House.
I was not sure should I find Little V in, rather than paying calls herself, but she is indeed at home and receiving visitors, and when I am shown into her drawing-room, I see that Lady J- is also there, in a comfortable chair with her feet up upon a footstool, for one quite sees that her endeavours with the Admiral bear fruit.
O, cries Viola, rising to greet me, is this not an entire delightfull treat? Sure I was expecting a deal of bores and fusties the day. But how well you are looking.
I desire Lady J- not to rise. She smiles and says, provid’d one avoids the mala aria and eschews those spots afflict’d with noxious miasmas, sure those parts are exceeding healthfull.
Indeed so, says I, and mention that I saw a little of the Admiral.
And you are quite in health? asks Viola.
O, indeed: mayhap I was a little pull’d down, but 'twas more that I took a whim to travel with the Contessa –
Lady J- raises her eyebrows and remarks that 'twas very unlike Lady B- to rush off upon a whim with so many matters upon hand, sure I must know what malicious tongues are like.
I sigh and say, indeed so. But, my dears, how do matters go on with you?
So they tell me how matters go with 'em, and Lady J- goes complain a little, but in all good humour, upon the constraints her condition imposes, and says that all goes exceeding well upon the Hampshire estate. Viola laughs a little and says that Martha becomes an entire countrywoman, did very well with her hens at an agrickultural show at the local fair.
And they tell me various news of our set, and then – sure I have remain’d entire beyond the proper time for a call – Lady D- is shown in, and 'tis clear she is quite an entire favourite with Lady J-. She greets me very warm, and tells me that Agnes is marry’d and upon her wedding trip, and on their return Mr L- will read himself in to a very fine living has been present’d to by the Marquess of O-, will be rector of the parish and there is a very pretty rectory.
I remark upon how exceeding charming a prospect this is ('tis most exceeding charming to me, for Agnes L- is a young woman of considerable perception, and in Mr L-'s present Surrey parish might hear somewhat about a certain sea-captain’s wife that had been General Y-'s god-daughter, for in such places little enough happens that antient scandals are still fresh food for the gossips).
Lady D- shows some disposition to give the company a very detail’d account of the itinerary of the wedding-trip, so I ask how Lord D- does, at which she gives her pretty dimpling smile and says, o, exceeding well, finds that his megrims are much less troublesome now he goes wear spectacles.
I then say that 'tis excellent fine to hear all her good news, but I have stay’d a shocking long time about my call and should be away. (For I am in some fears that she will go on to matters of the orphanage ladies.)
Lady J- says that she hopes that I will call again at some less formal hour so that we may convoke about various philanthropick matters. Indeed, says I, when I am a little more settl’d.
So I escape, and desire Ajax to take me to call upon Lady W-.
I find dear Susannah alone, for 'tis not her usual day for receiving callers, but I am told, o, she is at home to you, Lady B-.
So I go in to her small parlour, where she is poring over a parliamentary report thro’ her lorgnette, that she immediate puts down to rise and greet me.
Dearest C-! And so much in health! She rings for tea and waves me to a chair.
And, she goes on, since we are unlike to be broke in upon by other callers, I may tell you 'tis now very much consider’d an entire definite matter among our set that that tiresome fellow that was poking and prying about our business has taken his congé, tho’ without leaving PPC cards. Indeed no-one knows what has come to him –
At this moment comes a footman with tea. She pours out for both of us.
When we are alone again she says, so, dear C-, you do not need to worry about being pester’d by him over imaginary plots.
Why, says I, I am pleas’d to hear it. For indeed one felt in a like state to Hermione in The Winter’s Tale, when her husband will by no means believe she has been entire faithfull to him.
Well, my dear, I am glad to see you return’d to us so soon, and not after some sixteen years as a statue. But you had an agreeable sojourn at Naples? Have you been writing anything?
I laugh and say that I was shower’d with so much hospitality whilst I was at the Contessa’s palazzo that I had little enough time for my pen. But then I went visit my villa to see how matters get on there, and the journey home was exceeding leisurely, so I have a few matters upon hand. But, dear Susannah, how are you? and your children? and Sir B-?
She tells me of some very well-thought-of speeches that Sir B- W- has lately made, and that the children are well tho’ Sukey continues show very shy. Barty walks already. She then sighs and says, alas, the dreadfull crocodile is in Town a good deal. I suspect, she says with somewhat of a groan, 'twould bring her a deal of consequence does Mrs D- K- fall to Lord K-‘s siege -
She still holds out? I ask. I am very surpriz’d that she still dithers.
Is’t not remarkable? I cannot fathom it. For while Lady T- does not manifest any great warmth, she is entire civil, shows a very proper conduct towards her – for there is some distant cousinship in the matter – and Lord K- is clearly quite entire besott’d.
Why, says I, may be that she does not want it said that she jumpt with vulgar haste at such an eligible offer –
One might suppose so, says Susannah, but 'tis quite remarkable how little she displays that haughtyness she us’d to manifest, when her late husband was still alive. But, o, there is another thing – that Dutch artist fellow, Mr van H-, goes paint her as some classickal figure - surely one cannot imagine that she inclines to him?
Hmm, says I, he is an amiable enough fellow and does well enough from his painting: was’t not set in the balance against the prospect of being a Countess in due course, 'twould be quite an eligible match. But tell me, does Captain C- still linger in this land?
Alas, yes, the poor fellow: has almost give up any hopes of returning to the colours and goes investigate the matter of selling out and going farm in Nova Scotia.
And, says I, taking a help-meet with him? (For I mind that he show’d considerable attentive to Lady Emily M-, tho’ may consider her above his touch.)
Why, I think 'twould be a good thing for him, the poor fellow, particular could he attach a young lady of fortune. Sure there are some well-dower’d young women in Viola’s set, but I am not sure Miss G- or Miss S- would be suit’d to that life. Very well-looking, nicely-conduct’d young women – have you met 'em? – I shake my head, saying that I left Town before Society began return – as well as bringing a pleasing competence to any match. In particular I cannot suppose that Miss S-, that was bred up in Bombay, would fancy so northerly a residence.
I daresay not, says I, for I recall General Y- would find it chill even in summer here in Town and I fancy 'tis a deal colder in Nova Scotia.
She sighs and says mayhap Cissie B-? But with her sister marry’d so very well, may be hanging out for rank.
La, says I, I do not think Mr and Mrs O- B- would judge a good marriage by that standard: but would it not be a shame did a voice like hers go languish in the wilds?
Susannah says 'tis give out that there is something of the nature of society in Halifax: and then laughs, and says, and as for society on t’other side of the Atlantick, tis report’d that Reynaldo di S- is most greatly fêt’d in Boston society and shows no disposition to go set up an ideal community in the wilderness.
I laugh and say, sure 'tis no surprize. But, my dear Susannah, altho’ 'tis very agreeable to exchange gossip with you, I mind that there are other calls I should make is’t only to leave my card.
She gives her dear crookt smile and says, indeed, society will be agog at the return of Lady B- in such excellent health and displaying her wont’d elegance of figure.