One morn I go to the stables to give my lovely Jezzie-girl an apple or two, and pat her upon the nose and say, alas, there will be no riding today for I have some several calls to make among the philanthropick set, and then go take tea at N- House. Sure I know not what that will be like in what they call their bachelor establishment.
And as Jezzie and I make amiable to one another, I see from the corner of my eye Ajax, with such an aspect that I confide he desires a word with me, so I pat my lovely mare upon the neck and turn to say, how now, Ajax, was there some matter you wisht open to me?
He indicates that 'tis indeed so, looks about to ensure that Nick is not by – I daresay he goes in take his elevens – and beckons me into an empty stall.
He says that I will mind that Sam Jupp came t’other morn to hold converse with him – I nod – and what is afoot is that the owner of the livery stables takes a mind to sell up and go live as a gentleman in the country.
O, says I, and thus the Jupps will find their occupation gone, and indeed also their home?
Ajax shrugs and says, 'tis like he will try sell it as a going concern - for 'tis an exceeding prime location for a livery-stable – but even that may bring down trouble – would a new owner want to keep on the fellows that are already there, might he have other plans for the accommodation – they are all in a great fret about the matter, just as they were getting back upon their feet, with Mr Jupp recover’d, several of the children now out in good service –
Let me consider upon the matter, says I. I suppose, even had they had some money put by, 'twould not have been enough to buy the place themselves.
I walk away, thinking. Sure I daresay I might go find places as grooms for Mr Jupp and Sam among those with whom I have interest, but 'twould still likely mean breaking up the family.
'Tis a conundrum.
And sure I find other conundrums when I go make my calls among the philanthropick set where a deal of matters gang aft aglay and I am oblig’d to make many notes in my little memorandum book. But, 'tis very agreeable when people will go say that there is none can hold a drawing-room meeting to match Lady B-'s: sure I am a vain creature. Matters go less awry than I fear’d with the optickal dispensaries, for I confide they have been got into good practices: but, even so, there are a few brangles that I must go soothe.
But at length I am done with 'em for the time being, and may instruct Ajax to go convey me to N- House.
The footman at the door is brisk enough in answering and showing me in but as I look about the hall as I enter I observe those signs of a household that has no lady keep her hand upon it. I frown a little at this, for I confide that the housekeeper is still the same, and before, tho’ ‘twas a gloomy place, did not show such signs of neglect.
I am shown into a drawing-room in which sits Lady Emily along with her brothers, that all rise to make me a leg upon my entrance.
La, says I, let us not stand upon ceremony.
Em minds that she should ring for tea and does so. This comes fairly expeditious in a good, tho’ not ostentatious, tea-service, and is a good fresh hot brew.
Mr Geoffrey M- takes a sip and looks up from his cup and says, 'tis not the tea we are accustom’d to be serv’d.
Em says, she doubts not 'tis the best company tea in honour of Lady B-.
Lord U- sighs and says that sure they do not need to make such a difference, but he dares say that the household has got into that miserly habit. But they should not be discoursing of domestick troubles before Lady B-.
Sure, says I, why should you not? For I am in considerable supposition that well-run domestick matters are the basis of a comfortable household, and even do you go furbish up the place so that 'tis brighter and less gloomy, 'twill still be somewhat uneasy do you not have those under hand.
They all sigh, and Lord U- says that they would not oblige Mama to return to this house, that she takes in considerable dislike, even was she not so well-suit’d at O- House.
I see Em frown a little. Mayhap – she begins – o, very like 'tis an entire foolish notion – but sure I have seen how Nan has been oblig’d take up the domestick affairs at O- House and D- Chase, and lamenting that she did not give enough mind to studying upon the matter afore she was wed, and saying that she does not how she might contrive was it not for that pearl amongst housekeepers, Mrs Atkins. And, she goes on with a great sigh, I daresay that one of these days I shall have an establishment of my own to manage, tho’ sure I hope 'tis later rather than sooner. So, might I not move back here, and undertake the matter?
Mr Edward M- bursts into a laugh and says, you would go practise upon your brothers, is that it? For cannot matter does any ill come to 'em from domestick mismanagement -
Lord U- gestures to him and he is silent. Why, Em, he says, 'tis a most generous offer, for I fear 'twould be a tedious thankless business. But indeed I think we might be more comfortable here.
She looks at me and say, O, Lady B-, do you think it might answer?
(Had I not had precisely this thought in my own mind?)
Why, says I, 'tis a likely plan. Perchance you might go lesson yourself a little with some lady that is us’d to the management of an establishment of this size.
I see them all considering over this proposal and then Mr Edward frowns and says, but should Em not have some chaperone?
Em groans loudly and says, what, have some fusty about the place? 'twould be an entire bore.
No, says Lord U-, Eddy has the right of it, you are a young unmarry’d lady, and moreover, we are oblig’d to conduct ourselves most particular proper -
Indeed, says Mr Geoffrey, when I think of the jests we are oblig’d to smile at concerning snakes.
They all sigh.
And then Mr Edward says, but what about Mama’s Cousin Lalage?
They look about one another.
Why, says Em, one could have no objection to Cousin Lalage, tho’ indeed, have not seen her for a very great while. But – o, sure I let family gossip pass over my head – was she not affianc’d to some clergyman?
Really, Em, says Mr Geoffrey, do you not recall the tragick story? The fellow went visit some college friend of his that had gone into the mission field, for he had some notion to that line himself, contract’d a fever out there in the South Seas, and dy’d.
O, cries Em, now I mind me of the tale. And she has had no other offers?
Living as quiet as she does in her papa’s vicarage? says Lord U-. Besides, 'tis give out that her heart is in the grave.
Em turns to me and says, Oh, Lady B-, do you think that might answer? She must be thirty at least, a vicar’s daughter, I daresay she has some knowledge of housekeeping –
Hmm, says I, might your dear mama invite her for a visit to O- House, so that you could look her over then and see if 'twould answer? But, says I, that is in longer prospect – why do you not take me around the house a little so that I might advize upon how it might be furbisht up somewhat more chearfull?
So we do so, and sure I feel does the Earl not go cast a general pall of gloom over the place, may be brought to some very pleasing effects. Will require, I point out, some disbursement of funds; and Lord U- says that he has been in consultation with their men of business, and he confides that they will not come to penury do they so.
I make a deal of little notes in my memorandum book and say, I will write these up fair for 'em.
They say they go dine at O- House, entire informal, just family, will I not join 'em?
Alas, says I, am not free to take up this exceeding kind invitation: perchance upon some other occasion.
Mr Geoffrey remarks that he dares say that now Lady B- is return’d to Town she has a deal of invitations.
'Tis so, says I.
Tho’ 'tis not that I am bidden about in Society: ‘tis that my darlings come visit me for a nice little supper together and triangular matters.
So I return home, and go change my gown, and then go sit in my library a little while inditing my thoughts upon how N- House might be quite vastly improv’d, and when I have done that, spend a little time about arranging my books, and mind that there are some volumes that I must return to Lord O-, and also that I must find out somewhat concerning the history of Sicily in the Middle Ages, without I go enquire of Mr N-.
'Tis most exceeding agreeable, but even more agreeable is to return to my pretty parlour as the time draws near, and take a quick look at the miniatures of my sweet Flora, and 'tis not long at all afore Hector shows in my best belov’ds and we go embrace one another very close.
And they remark that sure, they have not yet seen over all these fine improvements I have made; so I take them into the newer part of the house and show off my dining-room and my fine library, and sure there are a deal of kisses exchang’d and my dear wild girl shows some disposition to becoming saucy.
So I say that I confide we should go meditate a little upon triangles and I daresay 'twill give us a fine appetite for supper. And 'tis conced’d a most excellent plan and we go be about it.
O, 'tis a most happy thing to be thus remet with my darlings.