Tibby said to Sandy that sure she would have brung him passes for Titus’s next recital, but 'twas a benefit he gave for Mr Gordon Duncan, that was such a fine mentor to him in days gone by. Not at all in health, poor fellow – but sure he must be a considerable age – and impoverished through that pack of offspring he brought into the world. Though indeed, are not undutiful, but go scrape their livings in such fashion as have very little to spare.
'Tis very good of him, Sandy remarked, and would indeed take a ticket for himself.
Tibby smiled and said, sure Her Ladyship has already took up places for a party. But, this dreadful matter of one that goes steal Maurice’s notions – sure if any can fathom it 'tis you and Her Ladyship.
Sandy gave a small smile and said she gave them too much credit, 'twas an entire maze at present, could not yet see a way through. But he confided that she had managed to have conversation with the needlewomen &C of the establishment?
Indeed yes, said Tibby, settling herself in the chair. Sure Euphemia’s cakes and a cup or so of the good tea will loosen their tongues! But either they are such good actresses that they should be on the stage, for 'tis scarce more precarious a living than seamstress, or 'tis none of 'em that is about the matter.
At least, she added thoughtfully, not with any deliberate intention. But sure there are errand-boys come to and fro, and footmen to fetch ladies’ gowns, and I daresay there are flirtations go on, and they might let somewhat drop, particular if the fellow went about with questions.
Why, said Sandy, that is a thought. Or was there some fellow that has that unusual gift of memory that some have, might be able to carry away impressions and sketch 'em down at leisure.
Say you so! O, perchance like unto those fellows that need only hear a piece of music once and can play it over entire accurate.
Much of the same thing.
Sandy was ever struck by the intelligence and abilities of the extensive family connexion of Hector and Euphemia, an entire riposte to any claims for the inferiority of those with black skin. There was Titus Marshall, not merely in possession of a most exceeding fine voice but a talented composer, and Tibby, that from attaining to be lady’s maid to a duchess had turned her hand to writing newspaper columns upon fashion for those ladies that could not aspire to be dressed by Mayfair modistes. And sure 'twas no matter of any admixture of European blood that conveyed them their talents, for Titus and Tibby were quite entirely African in their looks, quite ebony. He had not yet, however, come at some way he might compose a pamphlet upon the subject without the individuals upon whom he based his arguments being recognized. (Perchance he should ask Clorinda?)
And do your children take to music? he asked.
Tibby laughed. Oh, although young Gordon had a fine boyish treble, 'tis none so remarkable after its change, but most fortunate, his great desire is to be a newspaperman: I purpose see might I prefer him to Mr Lowndes to learn somewhat of the business.
May be a somewhat rackety life, remarked Sandy.
Tibby sighed and said, indeed. But now, little Clo – not so little now, a fine bouncing girl – shows a fine musical talent. The others are yet young.
She then said, but, has she conveyed all the matter she can think of concerning Maurice’s establishment, she promised have a word with Sophy about going to lay flowers upon dear Docket’s grave, and then take tea with Euphemia.
Indeed, I would not detain you, 'tis most greatly obliging of you.
Why, Maurice is family, anything we might do to help.
She rose, shook out her skirts, and left the library.
Sandy sighed. He would have to go back to that temple of the vanities and that mincing molly of a modiste –
Though, to be fair, he thought to himself, in spite of his effeminate airs Maurice Allard did not mince or prance, but was merely somewhat unmasculine graceful in his deportment. Sandy frowned. Had not Gervase been the epitome of – entirely manly – gracefulness? Wherein lay that difference?
He shrugged. He dared say that Clorinda would be having tea in her parlour, and he might as well join her.
When he went in, he found that she was not alone, but in amiable converse with Admiral Knighton. Looking from one to the other, he was in the greatest suspicion that they had very lately been enjoying amorous intimacies. And indeed, why not? 'Twas a most longstanding affection 'twixt the two of them, entirely understood by Lady Jane, whose own exceeding affection for that talented actress-manager Miss Addington was quite entirely accepted by the Admiral.
Clorinda had writ some exceeding fine tales, but surely her masterpiece was the tale, still sighed over in Society as so romantic, about the poor young naval lieutenant with his career to make and the country at war, in no position to offer suit to a Duke’s daughter, that had finally come into property and able to ask for her hand. And she remaining unmarried herself, all those years –
Whereas there had been the most happy conjunction of the Admiral’s need for someone to oversee his property while he was at sea, the necessity to counteract spiteful scandal about Lady Jane, and their mutual desire for offspring, along with fine friendship.
He and the Admiral nodded to one another, and the Admiral said that he was just telling Lady Bexbury that he had had a fine letter from Horatio, mentioning running into Josh Ferraby somewhere in South America, and nearly being beguiled into taking a pet sloth on his voyage.
Why, sure a sloth would be more convenable as a shipmate than a llama -
And talking of the Ferrabys, happened to be visiting old comrades at the Admiralty t’other day, ran into young Sir Harry – surely he cannot have a son old enough yet to be seeking a midshipman’s berth? Should be entire delighted to use any interest I still have, if so.
Indeed, young Hal is only just out of dresses and into the schoolroom. I daresay 'twas some matter to do with steam navigation, Harry is most well-reputed in matters of steam.
So he is, now I collect the matter. Does he not have the finest look of his late father?
He does so. Clorinda blinked a little and then said, but how does Janey? Do you find the school to answer for her?
The Admiral had most exceeding praise for the school – had even been at the trouble to find a mathematics tutor for Janey, that had gone beyond what they could teach. But went on to say he dared say Lady Bexbury would like to learn more of how Josh was doing, and withdrew the letter from an inner pocket so that she might read the passages in question.
After he had gone, pleading a dinner-party at Mulcaster House, Sandy looked at Clorinda and grinned, saying, still Venus’ votaress?
O, poo, Mr MacDonald, you cannot be shocked that I still enjoy a romp or two with old favourites.
Of whom there are quite some several! But I mind that I would be extreme glad of a word or two with Matt Johnson, is he like to come about the house.