Sandy returned to Clorinda’s house from an afternoon of agreeable exercize upon Lord Abertyldd’s tennis court – a fine contrivance for those seasons of the year when the weather was such as to preclude a round or two of golf, and only the hardiest would dare swim - to discover that had been a day for her to receive callers, that were, fortunately, upon departing.
Hector was just assisting Susannah Wallace into her outer garments.
Mr MacDonald! You must come take tea some day very soon, there are a deal of matters going forward in Parliament I should desire your thoughts upon.
That would be entire delightful, Lady Wallace.
And might I beg you to use your influence to persuade dear Clorinda to resume her soirées? I cannot believe that she judges the matter justly when she claims that they would be stale old matter, that the younger set might attend as if they viewed a cabinet of antiquities.
Why, have I not encountered several of the younger set talking of her famed soirées with great interest, regretting that there is nothing quite of the same kind these days?
Of course, she went on, there would be those very greatly missed from our former number, but she has such a talent for the thing –
Well, I will do what I can to persuade her.
Indeed he wondered if Clorinda could bring herself to resume holding the soirées that had begun, well before her elevation, with a view to promoting Josiah Ferraby’s interests in Town.
He looked at Hector.
Lady Wallace was the last to leave, he said.
So Sandy entered the parlour in confidence that he was not intruding upon a ladies’ tea-party and gossip-exchange, and found Clorinda seated by the fire, reading a letter.
My dear, there is a note for you came while you were out, upon my desk.
He picked up, saw the handwriting, and sighed. 'Tis Geoff Merrett’s hand am I not mistaken, he said, breaking the seal. Invites me to dine – oh, at his club -
La, my dear, you may take it he has no designs upon your manly virtue, then –
Sandy glowered at her briefly and looked back at the note. Has a delicate matter wishes open to me.
I wonder what that might be, murmured Clorinda. Some family matter perchance? – surely cannot be that he at last goes wed. But, my dear, I have not told you the news that comes in this letter from that excellent woman that married Reynaldo di Serrante, the fair Quakeress Priscilla.
He sat down vis-à-vis and said, tell on. I hope Reynaldo has not been getting himself into trouble as a fiery abolitionist agitator.
Mayhap and perchance! For she writes that he goes a-traveling into those benighted regions of the country, without her, and meanwhile she goes visit family connexions in Philadelphia –
Ah! And do her connexions have aught to do with the university?
Most assuredly they do, excellent learned people I apprehend and entire devoted to abolition. And not at all give to gossip, but somehow she has been brought to an understanding that there is a considerable degree of scandal attaches to Professor Evenden. Sure he is agreed a very clever learned chymist, and his discoveries and the patents he has upon 'em assure him a fine independence; but quite shockingly, he is known to have divorced his wife, that was rumoured to have been on the stage afore their marriage, for adultery and desertion. Are we, my dear, in the least surprized that the quondam Miss Minton, or mayhap Mrs Gaffney, levanted?
Why, only to be anticipated, for sure.
As a result, is said to have become almost a recluse but for the discharge of the duties of his post. Clorinda sighed. Is he so, most like he has happily no intention to return to these shores.
We may hope so.
But I wonder what became of her: went become a strolling player in those parts, perchance. I did mention the matter to dear Miss Addington a little while ago, that has heard nothing of her from any that have tried their fortunes over there: but added that mayhap she had changed her name yet again, and most of those that have lately been there are not of an age to remember her and recognize her did they see her.
Found some other fellow might be beguiled into wedlock, mayhap.
They looked at one another. Well, said Clorinda, I think we find ourselves at stand in that investigation at present. But I remain in some concern, for Julius begins make a considerable name for himself, is a son any man might like to own now 'tis entire clear what credit 'twould do him.
Yes: Evenden is a fellow would take the credit for himself, rather than put it down to capacities inherited from Seraphine, and the fine training he received from Roberts, that has ever been most entire fatherly to him.
Clorinda gave a wicked smile. That minds me, do we converse of fatherhood, that Hannah comes to Town shortly –
Is’t not imprudent of her to travel at this time? asked Sandy, finding himself curiously agitated in the matter.
O, poo, 'tis still early on, has not yet quickened, feels herself entire well. But indeed, my dear, your concern does you credit.
Well, 'tis a thing I never anticipated would come to me.
Clorinda smiled at him. Let me distract your mind, she said, by talking a little of how I get on in our other investigation. Have disclosed to Madame Francine my intention to go be dressed by her, and had a note back, very high and mighty, I see she purposes display her consequence, declaring she has a deal of business upon hand and can only just find time to fit me in within this se’ennight. 'Twould not, I confide, have been so was Docket still alive, 'twould have been entirely at your convenience, Lady Bexbury. She pulled a face. Sure I lose consequence.
Perchance, said Sandy, this modiste is ill-acquainted with the leaders of fashion.
Dear Sandy, 'tis kind of you to say so, but while I ever had the most useful advice on style from Milord, that was one of those interests of his you did not share, and I must confess that I would not entirely trust your judgement in such matters.
Dearest sibyl, you are entire right that I know little of the matter, but I have every confidence that you are still one of the most fashionable ladies in Town.
O, poo. But, my dear, surely 'tis time you went dress for the theatre?
Sandy groaned. I have the lowest possible hopes of this play.
'Tis the harsh lot of the critic. Euphemia has put you up a little light supper, so that hunger does not render you too ferocious critical.
He laughed, and went to change and to eat the very excellent little supper Euphemia had put ready for him, and went to the theatre, and tried to keep his mind upon the play, but indeed it was sorry stuff, even had he not had other thoughts upon his mind.
Later, lying in bed, sleepless, he found his mind turning to ways in which he might pursue the present investigation while encountering Maurice Allard as little as possible. And yet –
If he did not mince and prance, neither did he screech. Sure his voice was pitched somewhat high, but entirely mellifluous: and he spoke well.
Sandy could not keep denying to himself those sudden urges to push the fellow up against the wall, kiss those full lips, and make himself a good deal better acquainted with that slender body. And if Allard was not the kind of man he had ever supposed to his own taste, that was not wonted behaviour of his own either.
He wondered what Clorinda would say did he open the matter to her: la, my dear, you have lived quite like unto a monk since you gave Geoffrey Merrett his congé; and then either consider upon their acquaintance to see were there any fellows of the disposition to whom he might incline, or go about to find out about the entrée to that certain club.
It was really very tempting to resume the liaison with Geoffrey. However, Universal Law would suggest to the contrary. He could not bring the mutual devotion he apprehended Geoffrey would desire.