I put on the shoes and Docket helps me into the cloak, and indeed 'tis a fairly mild night, so I daresay I shall not catch my death by going out into the mews thus array’d, so Celeste and I go out of the backdoor, and she takes the posset into the mews cottage.
I observe that Hector is indeed pacing up and down along the mews, and I go up to him.
How now, Hector, says I, how do you?
He turns around and says, Your Ladyship, sure I regret that you have been disturb’d –
O, poo, says I. This has never been a household in which above- and below-stairs go on in mutual ignorance.
I take his hand. I doubt not, says I, that you are exceeding worry’d over Euphemia and how she does, but she is a very healthy young woman and has your Aunty Black, that is the most skill’d of midwives, attends her. Sure childbed is ever perilous, but has not shown any of those symptoms that would give cause for particular worry.
Hector looks at me a little sceptickal, as if to say what should I know about childbirth.
La, says I, may not be the mama of a numerous brood myself, but does one sit listen to ladies chattering will hear a deal about the matter of childbed. And there will be those recount the most Gothick narratives of their torments when they bore such and such a one of their brood, and yet, there they are, sipping tea and in fine health and telling the tale.
What I confide you should do, says I, is not wear yourself out pacing up and down thus, but sit down and smoak a pipe or two.
He gives a little smile, and says, as Your Ladyship orders.
Fie, says I, 'tis not an order, 'tis a recommendation I would make to any fellow that is in the like position; sure was the Admiral return’d to Town in time for Lady J-'s lying-in, should give him the same advice.
So Hector perches upon one of the windowsills of the mews cottage and smoaks a pipe, and I wrap the cloak about me.
Madame, says Hector, I mean, Your Ladyship – I smile – you need not stay out here.
Fie, says, I, I watcht for Seraphine and I will watch for Euphemia.
We are silent while he smoaks another pipe and says, 'tis uncommon quiet. Did not Seraphine groan exceeding loud, and – he pauses -
O, says I, I am a weak timid creature, you must not suppose all women are of the like.
He smoaks on a little while and says, I never anticipat’d to have a wife the like of Euphemia, has ever been a fine daily surprize to find myself wedd’d to her –
There is of a sudden a very loud groan from within the cottage. Hector drops his pipe and it shatters upon the cobbles.
We both stand stock still, listening, for some several minutes. There is another groan, and, shortly after, a little wailing cry. We look at one another.
Your Ladyship, says Hector, might you go in and see how matters do? Aunty Black will ever say 'tis women’s business and go snap at men poking their noses in.
Why, says I, do you wish it, I will do so.
I push open the door and go in, and up the stairs to the lying-in chamber, where I knock gently upon the door.
Mrs Black looks out. A fine healthy boy, but there is another one a-coming.
Twins?! I cry.
She nods. Thought it might be so, she says. Inside the room I hear Euphemia cry, O, o Aunty – and Mrs Black turns back, saying, must be about this business.
I go out to where Hector is standing looking exceeding agitat’d, and tell him what’s ado.
I tell him, and he looks quite stunn’d.
'Tis indeed not long afore Mrs Black comes to the door and says somewhat grudging that Hector may go in, has a fine pair, boy and girl. She stands outside the door and says, she takes it exceeding easy, fine wide hips, but two at a birth will come tiring, he should not linger with her overlong. She stretches herself and takes a little nip from a flask she carries in a pocket. Would they were all such little trouble.
Might I, I ask a little timid, go see her?
Mrs Black nods so I go in and up once more to the lying-in chamber and knock upon the door. Euphemia calls to me to come in.
She sits up in bed with one of the babes in her arms, while Hector holds the other, gazing down in wonder.
Are they not the most beautiful of babes? she asks. This is Benjamin, that is the boy, and Hector has Patience.
I look at 'em and say all the proper things, and that she must take a good long rest and obey Mrs Black and not try get up and be about her business, we shall come about to contrive somehow, sure there will be no occasions of grand company, daresay Celeste can manage cook for the household –
And then comes Mrs Black and says indeed she must have quiet now.
Hector says he will go sleep upon the truckle bed in the small chamber, and then says, Twins. Are they not a fine pair, Your Ladyship?
Excellent fine, says I, and find myself yawning. I do not have my little watch about me so have no notion of what hour it may be.
When I go in I find Docket sitting up and convey the news to her before asking why she goes sit up. She scowls and says, Sophy is a young thing that needs her sleep; and begins brush and braid my hair for bed. And, she says, will instruct her to let you sleep in somewhat the morn, tho’ you must be up in time to go to the R- House tiffin-party.
So I must, says I, yawning, as she puts me into my nightrobe.
’Tis considerable late of the morn when Sophy comes wake me with coffee and a light breakfast of muffins and an egg, since they would not send me out upon an empty stomach.
But when I have been array’d for company, I look at myself in the pier-glass and sure I do not look as tho’ I was up 'til all hours. Docket gives a pleas’d nod and says, indeed Your Ladyship does not require rouge.
When I arrive at R- House I am told that, the weather showing so fine, the tiffin-party takes place upon the terrace. When I am come there, I see that I am somewhat late, for there is a deal of company already there enjoying currie puffs, kabobs, pillows &C. I look about to see who is there.
I observe Lord U- and his brothers with Em, Cousin Lalage, also Lady Louisa that is spending a few days as Bess's guest at R- House, and Hester in her invalid carriage, but after a further scrutiny of the company do not observe Lord and Lady O-. I also perceive that Mr H- is absent.
I am about to go over and enquire whether my surmize that Nan has been brought to bed is correct, when Sir B- W- comes up to me and says, understand that Lady W- has already inform’d you that Mrs D- K- has levant’d - and would you believe it, m’mother took a notion 'twas some deep plot to inform robbers when they might come about the house and burgle and went agitate the Runners in the matter. Sure we told her that she had left a note, but she would have it that was to mislead and beguile us.
But we had just got her calm’d, by the application of sal volatile and tea with a little brandy to’t, that she deems entire medicinal, when comes Lord K- fussing about the matter and considering one had kidnappt her and also having set the Runners about the business and desiring us to let 'em search her chamber for clews.
La, says I, Mrs D- K- is a freeborn English gentlewoman and I confide may go where she likes.
Sir B- W- laughs hearty and says, indeed, 'tis entire foolishness.
Entirely, says I, I daresay the Runners have more pressing matters to be about. But, says I, I see Lord and Lady O- are not here, will go enquire how they are.
Sir B- W- informs me that Mr H- was summon’d to O- House early the morn, we may apprehend what that signifies. I nod.
I move on thro’ the crowd, come to my belov’d Eliza and tell her what has come to Hector and Euphemia, at which she is quite delight’d. Twins! she says. Dares say that 'twixt Phoebe and Seraphine will be well supply’d with the necessities for 'em, but –
We are about to convoke further over this when an officious fellow comes and says, was sent here from N- House, told that Lord U- would be here.
Lord U- steps forward. The fellow says, 'twas a matter convey’d in an official dispatch from Washington –
There is a faint groan from Mr Edward and Mr Geoffrey M- and the latter says, not quite sotto voce enough, what is he at now?
The fellow hands a letter to Lord U-, that in his surprize at the suddenness of the matter goes open it at once, when I confide with a little forethought would have desir’d Milord to show where he might peruse it in privacy.
He looks up, rather pale. My father, the Earl of N- is dead, he says.
What, dead? cry his brothers and come look over his shoulder at the letter. A bear? cries Mr Geoffrey. Kill’d by a bear?
Em gives a little hysterickal giggle: Cousin Lalage puts an arm about her, and she calms.
Lord U- straightens up and says, Mama, you should see this, and goes over to Hester. Seems, he says, that my father was hunting plants in the forests of Virginia and came upon a bear, that attackt him, and before could be driven off, had become a fatal matter.
(La, thinks I, 'tis a most Shakspearean end, and comes very pat upon Nan’s being brought to bed – now bless thyself - things dying, and things newborn.)
He looks down at the letter again. But, he says, they write that will be about sending the body home so may be interr’d with his ancestors in the family vault.
Oh, cries Em, lifting her head from Lalage’s shoulder, does this mean that you are the Earl now?