Sure there are a deal of matters I feel I must be about, having neglect’d 'em for so long. 'Tis a puzzle which of 'em I should be about first, yet there are some things may not be contriv’d entire immediate.
Altho’ Dorcas reports that matters go on well with Dolly Mutton’s establishment, and my darlings have ensur’d that there is no worry about funds I greatly desire go see Dolly and find out how she does and that all is well.
So I desire Docket to array me in such fashion as I may be taken for an Evangelickal lady that goes about Covent Garden in hope of saving souls, and have Ajax drop me from the carriage several streets distant, and walk to Dolly Mutton’s.
The coffee-house is doing fine business, with some several women about the place taking coffee and in some cases breakfast, and all look down at their plates or into their cups in order not to meet my eye for fear I will go about to start saving 'em. But Pussy comes out from behind the counter and comes make exceeding civil to be pickt up and made much of, and I observe they all relax a little at this sign of favour, for Pussy is a cat of very great discrimination that will not make pleasant to just any that comes into the place. So I stroke her in the fashion she likes and she purrs, and I ask has she been a naughty wanton puss lately, and tell her how her offspring do (sure Dandy and Pounce have only just ceas’d to give me the cut for abandoning 'em to the cruelty of the household for so long; 'tis a slander entire bely’d by how plump and sleek they are).
And as I go make amiable to Pussy, comes out Dolly Mutton with plates of ham and eggs for her customers. She gives me a broad smile and says that she is entire glad to see I am return’d from foreign parts - I daresay the patrons of the coffee-house take this as an allusion to missionary endeavours amongst the heathen - and I am welcome to go step into her parlour.
So I do so and a few moments late she comes in and says 'tis exceeding pleasant to see me in such fine health, for there was a deal of gossip and rumours that I had gone to Naples to dye. La, says I, I suppose I might have done had Vesuvius took a notion to erupt, but indeed 'twas entire sanitive.
She pours me out some coffee and says, she was like to think from what Matt told her that I was not in ill-health, but somewhat shaken in the spirits by some coarse fellow that try’d dig up scandal.
Indeed, says I, 'twas a very nasty business, but I am recover’d now and am able to bring you some funds and am in hopes of more, and I hope all goes well here?
Excellent fine, she says, they are quite full up except for the two little chambers she keeps for emergencies. And tho’ 'tis early yet, she goes consider over taking 'em to some seaside place in the summer, for they are a sufficient number that one would need be beforehand over reserving lodgings, even do they not go to any fashionable resort. And she hopes persuade Molly Binns to come with 'em, for 'tis not as tho’ there will be a great deal of business in hats at that time o’year.
She does well in the matter of hats, then?
Very well indeed, and there was one provid’d her with the means to rent a little shop, answers exceedingly – sure 'twas a good day for her when that dreadfull fellow Perkins gave her the go-by, even did she not think so when he did. And comes join Mrs Dorcas’s congregation and will sing hymns very lustyly.
Why, says I, I am very glad to hear it. And you are well?
She declares that praise God, she still has her health, and then asks how Josh does.
We part in excellent good feeling and satisfaction at the way the endeavour goes.
'Tis perchance a little less agreeable to go hold a drawing-room meeting for the fine work Abby and her husband and Ellie N- are about among the unfortunate convicts in New South Wales, for I daresay that a deal of ladies will come in order to scrutinize Lady B- very close to see whether rumour tells true. But does this work to the benefit of the undertaking, I will concede to be scrutiniz’d.
A deal of good things have been sent to be raffl’d, and I myself have give some pretty lava trinkets from Naples. Meg will play upon the piano, Mrs O- B- with Cissie and Dodo will sing - Charley, that is now Lady A-, I hear already goes about to provide the O- B-s with a grandchild so at present only performs a little at home at B- House. I shall read some suitable extracts from Abby’s latest letters, and Mrs Atkins at O- House has sent me copies of some very telling matter writ from her husband by Ellie N-'s hand, and I am in anticipation that I shall make a tidy sum for the convicts.
There is also an excellent fine spread of sandwiches, savoury patties, cakes and tarts prepar’d by Euphemia, or more like by Celeste under Euphemia’s orders.
I go fidget about the reception room, rearranging the articles for raffle, &C, until Hector shows in my dearest wild girl Eliza with Bess and Meg, follow’d by Mrs O- B- with Cissie and Dodo. She looks at me and says, she hears 'twas in fact some little matter of business to do with my properties at Naples?
La, says I, sometimes naught will avail but to go out there and see what’s ado and deal with it in person: sure I was a little troubl’d at the matter, for 'tis a terrible place for bribery and corruption, but there is a very good notaio - that is, a man of law – understands the intricacies of the legalities of the business, that serv’d the late Marquess.
Cissie says, are there not banditti? they lately read a most thrilling novel –
I laugh gently and say, sure I think some of the lawyers in the place are worse than banditti, but we rout’d 'em. I add that 'twas a great advantage to have the counsel of the Contessa, and of course she is of great renown in those parts, weigh’d the scales in our favour.
Mrs O- B- nods and says, must make a difference, and goes on to tell me about some matter of business Mr O- B- was oblig’d to undertake abroad.
I am quite astonisht to see that Lady J- has come with Viola, attend’d by Lady D-, that indeed merits the description of pretty little dumpling, and I most immediate go desire her to be seat’d. She smiles and says, she hears I left her dear spouse entirely in health?
Quite entirely, says I.
She smiles and looks down at her belly, that shows the results of their conjugal endeavours.
And I daresay, says I to Viola, that you too should sit down? She smiles and says, apart from a little queasyness of the morn, is as well as ever was at present.
I then turn to Lady D-, and say I am delight’d to see her in such good health, and how is little Arthur? – o, she says, a bouncing fellow that can almost stand now – and Lord D-? - Excellent well, she says – and Lady Rosamund? – very well, she says, but I think she does not find her sister-in-law congenial. I also ask have they lately heard from her sister, and am oblig’d to listen to a deal about their travels.
A little flurry of company arrives, including Mrs D- that is the mother of Danvers D-, Lady G- with her goddaughter the Honble Frances C-, Mrs L- J-, Mrs P- and Miss W-, Mrs V-, Lady Z-, Susannah, and a deal of other ladies. All are making their greetings to one another and finding seats as comes in the party from O- House, Nan, Em and little Lou, along with a lady I do not know.
I go over and desire Nan to be seat’d at once – she smiles and says, sure she finds she needs a deal of rest - and Em goes introduce me to Hester’s Cousin Lalage, that is not the drab spinster I had anticipat’d. I doubt that she can yet have quite attain’d the age of thirty, altho’ dresses like one that has put on her cap and retir’d from thoughts of courtship. But I am prepossesst by her dress, that is by no means so provincial as I would have suppos’d, tho’ 'tis in subdu’d colours and might be took for half-mourning. Also has very fine eyes. She declares that this is an entire treat, what a fine house, and she hears we are to hear some excellent musick.
Lou has rusht over to go sit with Bess and Dodo, but I go settle the other ladies of the party, ask Nan should she desire a footstool, &C.
I am just looking about the room and determining that all must be arriv’d by now and 'tis nigh upon time to commence the proceedings, when the door opens and Lady I- is shown in.
Sure, I sent her a card in order to show civil, as I heard that they were in Town, but did not at all expect that she would come. I go over to greet her, and she says, has brought a bundle of baby-clothes for the raffle, 'tis shamefull little but ‘twas all she had at hand.
I go show her to a chair, and hand the bundle to Bess, desiring her to make out a ticket for it, and go stand at the front of the room to say why we are here and what an excellent good cause we provide for. I say somewhat of the entertainment, and the fine things that have been give for the raffle, and then look over to Meg, that goes seat herself at the pianoforte, with Dodo to turn her musick for her.
And sure, I think it goes.