'Tis very agreeable to ride out of a morn upon my lovely Jezebel, when I shall not have to make civil quite constant. There may be a few about the Park, but 'tis not the fashionable hour when come all those that desire see and be seen.
However, I observe one that rides upon a mare I take to be Elvira, follow’d by a groom, and tho’ at first I suppose it to be Lady Emily, ‘tis their Cousin Lalage. I ride over and make civil to her.
She says that Nan – Lady O-, she corrects herself – most kindly said she might have the use of their stables, and she would not venture ride Blackthorn, so took Elvira, and sure 'tis an entire pleasure to ride out on such a fine creature, and – she looks about the Park – sure this is a very fine place to do so. May be very pretty countryside in which Papa holds his cure of souls, but 'tis most entire familiar to me in all its aspects.
You are enjoying your visit, then? says I.
O, she says, 'tis quite delightfull. All so very welcoming and kind, and thoughtfull in matters of entertainment. And 'tis very pleasing to see Cousin Hester – I mean, Lady N- - in such very good spirits.
She goes on to say somewhat in praise of my drawing-room meeting, showing excellent good ton, and says, she sees that there is a much wider field for endeavour in the matter of philanthropy in Town. There is no great want in the parish, so 'tis a matter of comforts for invalids and teaching Sunday-school –
Indeed, says I, 'tis so.
She goes on to say, that she apprehends that the M- family regard Lady B- entirely in the light of a fairy godmother -
O, poo, says I.
- and she doubts not that I have heard somewhat of this proposal that she should come reside at N- House with Lady Emily in order to bring the household into somewhat better order –
'Tis so, says I –
- and would greatly desire to talk to me about the matter privately.
Why, Miss F-, says I, I should be entire delight’d. Why do you not come take a little breakfast with me – I confide the kitchen can find somewhat for your groom – and we may discourse of the matter over muffins.
O, Lady B-, that would be entire charming! and I doubt not that Kelly would be gratefull to have some convockation with the renown’d Ajax.
I smile and say, I will not go interrogate whether there is some betting-book being kept about the O- House stables.
Miss F- shows most gratifying prepossesst by my pretty house and parlour.
Celeste brings coffee and muffins most expeditious, and says there will be more very shortly.
I desire Miss F- to help herself, and do the like.
Celeste returns with kedgeree, bacon and eggs, and more muffins.
Why, this is an entire feast! cries Miss F-.
La, says I, 'tis to demonstrate the consequence of the household, and 'twill all get eat up somehow, for there are young creatures still getting their growth about the place.
There are also two cats, that apprehend that there is somewhat a-doing in the parlour, and perchance they may succeed to persuading one or another that they are cruelly starv’d, and come around the door to make exceeding pathetick.
O, what fine pusses, says Miss F-, that is beguil’d and holds out pieces of bacon for Dandy and Pounce.
Sure, says I, they are but common cats, by no means as fine as Selina that has such fine long silky hair.
And requires a deal of brushing!
In due course we are quite done, and Celeste comes clear the table, leaving us with fresh coffee. We go sit vis-à-vis in my comfortable easy chairs.
I look at Miss F- with my listening face.
She looks at me and says, Sure Lady B- must quite apprehend that 'tis most gratifying and agreeable to be invit’d come live at N- House –
'Tis a sad gloomy place, says I.
But, oh, she says, need not be, have already had disclos’d to me the very fine thoughts you had about brightening it up, and indeed one sees that need not be so dingy. And sure one feels that could be made more comfortable. And 'twould, she continues, be very delightfull indeed to live in Town.
I do not suppose, she goes on, that Mama and Papa would at all mind, indeed, I am like to think they would be in hopes that I might even come about to find some fellow that would make me an offer. For sure I was not like to meet any likely suitors in the parish; o, in earlyer days would go to local assemblies, but did not take and indeed saw few enough I lik’d –
But I apprehend, says I, that you were affianc’d?
She gives a little sigh. Why, she says, Mr D- came as curate when my father had had a bad attack of the influenza and remain’d somewhat knockt up for several months. But aim’d at the mission field, and the mission societies look with more favour upon fellows that are marry’d -
One quite sees why 'tis so, says I.
Entirely. But – sure 'twas a very prudential matter, for I was unlike to have other offers, and I did not dislike Mr D-, so I conced’d to the match. And he purpos’d go out to the South Seas, where a friend of his was already about saving souls.
But one day he came to me in very considerable agitation, saying that he had had a letter from his friend, that was in very distressfull state, for his wife had run off with the captain of a trading vessel –
Say you so!
- a very shocking matter, I thought. And then he pac’d up and down and said, had always been 'twixt him and his friend as 'twixt David and Jonathan, that their souls were knit together, surpassing the love of woman –
(O, thinks I, 'twas so, was’t?)
- and thus was in consideration that he should go out to him most immediate – for had intend’d do so anyway, to prepare the way, once we were wed, and I should follow – in order to convey comfort to him. And I said indeed he should, 'twas entire a matter of Christian duty. And so he went, and 'twas purpos’d I should put my trousseau in order and go be lookt over by the missionary society to be approv’d as a suitable helpmeet, and he would send for me when all was in order with a house and such, and we could be marry’d out there –
She sighs. But then we had a letter from some trader in the place, saying that there had been an outbreak of fever, and they had both done most meritorious service in tending the sick until both succumb’d themselves and dy’d of it.
(Well, mayhap and perchance, thinks I, for I daresay there are many very noxious fevers in those parts, but yet, 'tis a very long way away, and two fellows that come to a realization that their affection to one another surpasses the love of women, I am perchance a naughty suspicious C- that considers that 'tis a most convenient tale.)
I lean over and pat her hand and say, must have been a shocking blow.
She looks considering and says, sure I hardly had time to become very attacht to Mr D-, but 'twould have been a change of circumstance. But, she continues, his very fine remarks about their devotion and the Biblickal precedent made me consider upon that story in the scriptures I had always found most exceeding fine, that is the book of Ruth -
(Oho, thinks I, entreat me not to part from thee &C.)
- and so I bethought me that there must be similar devotion 'twixt women?
'Tis so, says I.
She blinks a little and says, she confid’d must be so. And seems to her a very beautyfull thing.
(Why, thinks I, must be most suitable to have a lady that comes to some apprehension of her disposition to be a companion to Em and may perchance guide her in the matter.)
I smile at her and say, mutual devotions are indeed very beautyfull things. And after a short pause, add that I confide this plan for N- House shows exceeding answerable.
She smiles and says, she hopes that she may call upon Lady B-'s fine taste.
Entirely, says I.
In the afternoon I go call at R- House, taking the miniature tea-service to give to my sweet jewel. She is most gratifying delight’d with it, handles the pieces very delicate and carefull, and desires Eliza to put it somewhere where rough clumsy boys will not come at it.
Or, says I, does there come a tiger into the room.
My precious darling does not grow too great and educat’d a girl that she will not enjoy a game of tigers. Eliza laughs very hearty and says, we quite see that Lady B- is by no means in a decline, after I have gone chase Flora around the room with growls.
I then go take tea with Mrs L- in her apartments. She is still the same good unaffect’d creature, that I see wears the pearls about her neck: 'tis very wise, says I, 'tis consider’d a good thing for pearls to be worn rather languish in chests.
She expatiates considerable upon the excellencies of Mr L-, and upon how very well this arrangement answers, and that she never expect’d live so fine.
But, she says at length, do you, Your Ladyship, hear how Fraulein – I mean, Frau P- - does this while? I wonder does she purpose to keep up her connexion in German lessons, for really, she was very well lik’d in the matter, the girls ask is she like to come back.
Why, says I, I am appriz’d that she bore a fine son, but indeed, I should go call upon her and see how she does, and open this matter of German lessons &C. But is her husband now earning 'em a living, along with what her brother’s playing brings in, may consider it proper to keep at home with her child.
Mrs L- nods and says, indeed, she may not have to undertake lessons: but I thought she got some pleasure from 'em.
(Why, thinks I, this supplies an entrée to that household.)
But then I go ask does she hear at all from her sister in the antipodes.