The next morning Josh, Sandy confides, has gone to Raxdell House to examine Lady Raxdell’s sickly pup, and Clorinda has gone about acting the diplomat amongst the other Ferrabys. This will no doubt take some time, as when she visits Bess she will always complain that Clorinda never comes visit, they are entire neglected, and have a deal of matters she desire to open to her. And does she visit Harry, he doubts not that Lady Louisa will desire a cozy gossip while she is there.
If he is going to be a pet philosopher, perchance he should go and consider over some of his old writings in the library.
He does wonder if this is a somewhat self-indulgent setting – 'tis hardly Diogenes’ tub when fresh coffee is brought to him at regular intervals, usually when he is chewing on the end of his pen having just crossed out several lines after writing them.
It is somewhat of a welcome distraction when Hector brings in various letters and notes that have been delivered for him. Adding that Euphemia asks would he care for a little light nuncheon?
He looks up and ponders for a moment. He has not thought one way or the other about hunger for this while, merely consuming anything that has been set before him without having to consider the matter. Mayhap some bread and cheese, he says after hesitation, in some concern that Euphemia will feel she has to demonstrate her skills.
Hector nods but does not immediately leave. He clears his throat and says, he apprehends that Mr MacDonald will be staying in the household some little while yet?
Sandy replies that Lady Bexbury has very kindly said that he is welcome to remain.
Hector says, perchance 'tis a liberty to say so, but he is very glad of it. Her Ladyship has lately been inclined to spells of lowered spirits and he confides that Mr MacDonald's companionship will cheer her.
Lowered spirits? he says, for has not noticed anything of the kind: but Clorinda is far too adept at concealing such matters.
Hector nods. Her losses, he says.
He then pulls himself together, says, bread and cheese and leaves the room.
Indeed, she has lost her beloved Ferrabys, and Docket, that had been with her a great many years, and – he makes various calculations – must be coming around to that climacteric stage of a woman’s life, not that he knows any more of the matter than Mr Hacker has been occasionally wont to disclose, but apprehends may be attended with diverse ailments of the body and mind.
He is busy about dealing with his correspondence – an invitation from Lord Abertyldd to play golf, a card for the next musical party at the Knowles', a note from Geoffrey Merrett about dining together, and a solicitation to go dine at Mulcaster House. He sighs, considers that 'twould look particular did he continue to eschew society, and scribbles acceptances – when Euphemia herself comes with a fine plate of bread and cheese and fresh coffee, desiring to know whether ‘tis really all he requires?
She looks at the sealed notes upon the desk and says she will send William to take and deliver them.
'Tis very kind of you, he says.
Fie, Her Ladyship has give her instructions.
He returns to his writing, and of a sudden finds a train of thought that he should get down even does he refine it later, and is so entirely absorbed in the task that 'tis only when he looks up and stretches that he sees that Josh has entered the library.
You are very soft-footed, he remarks.
Josh grins and says, 'tis an entire necessity when one endeavours observe creatures in their natural surroundings, as it might be a philosopher that philosophizes in a library.
And how was Lady Raxdell’s dear doggie?
Josh grins again and says, is in the way to becoming a mother: one must hope that she did not contract too disastrous a mesalliance with some low cur from the streets.
And Lady Raxdell herself? – for I daresay she finds Town life disagrees with her herself somewhat.
Poor lady, says Josh. But grows entirely in love with Clorinda, and is prepossessed by the very good and civil set she introduces her to, after having an encounter with that harpy Lady Trembourne that nearly sent her scurrying back into the country. But, as for Town life – He looks down at the papers in his lap – sure I have a deal of invitations I should attend to – I purpose pay a visit to Flora and Hannah when I can find some convenable time.
'Tis no great matter to travel into Surrey these days – a deal of railways, one can contrive it quite within a day.
But I should wish spend a few days at least. Clorinda said you had some thoughts to go there yourself? There is a pause and he goes on, I am given to apprehend that you know the circumstance –
It is a relief to hear that Josh also knows the circumstance. He nods.
So I may tell you that I have a fine son, Johnny, by Hannah, that grows up there and should wish spend a little time getting to know.
Sandy blinks a little and takes off his spectacles to polish them. Why, he says at length, when I consider the perilous life you lead, 'tis perchance prudent to leave a copy.
That is one way of looking at it. But indeed I have both a fondness for Hannah and considerable esteem, and one must be conscious that quite apart from the difficulties that women experience in this world of ours, she has the additional burden of her African heritage. There are very few men that are anything like up to her mark would wish to marry her, even does she have a agreeable little competence from her share in the business of preserves and pickles. Sure it must answer a deal better that she lives as she does and may pursue her interests, while enjoying the companionship of the friend of her heart and the pleasures of maternity.
I confide, says Sandy, that Clorinda will have preached a deal of sermons upon the matter. No, not sermons, he continues, but e’en so, those who heard her will have come to a right apprehension. He then gives a small smile and says, 'tis quite the antithesis, I would suppose, of that experiment that is uncovered in her story of The Hidden Door. Sure had that scoundrel Evenden looked about him a little, perchance he would not have supposed he needed to experiment rather than observe -
Evenden? asks Josh curiously.
Sandy minds that there are secrets that are not his to disclose in the matter.
’Twas a fellow had some notion about an experiment like unto to that in The Hidden Door: planted the idea in her. (He wonders does Evenden still live, is he like ever to return to England, does Julius know the full tale of his begetting.)
Josh does not pursue the matter further.