Timothy assures me that he gave my message to Mr MacD-, and the reply is that he will be about the matter, but 'tis nigh on noon when Sandy comes the following day, which gives me somewhat to fret.
He throws himself into a chair and says that how would anyone have suppos’d that the empty-head’d wastrel set would rise in chivalrick defence of Lady B-'s honour? And coffee would be most gratefull he adds, just as Euphemia enters.
He consumes several cups before he speaks again.
Sure, he says, I was in some concern that this comedy might create difficulties for Miss R- within the theatre: but having spent some hours there talking to her and to Mr W- and Mr J- and some others of the company, I think there is a predisposition either to understand the matter in its true light – none said so much in so many words, but I was dealing with actors that can convey a deal of matter without speaking, indeed Mr W- can conduct a conversation entirely with his eyebrows - or else, and I confess that I would not have expect’d this, that it is a device to protect Lady B-'s reputation, now that she is such a Society favourite and one that is so concern’d with good works and must therefore conduct any amours with extreme discretion.
O, I cry, 'tis indeed that they suppose it a case of the merchant to secure his treasure! Well, I am glad for that, and that it does not cause resentment towards Miss R-, for indeed I thought Miss A- most dispos’d towards indignation on my behalf, which is very pretty in her but quite entire unnecessary. But, those foolish fellows! Whoever would have thought?
Is’t so very strange? I doubt not they have a great admiration toward you –
- And my pique-nique baskets! I say
- really, dearest C-, I apprehend that you must be quite entire us’d to evoking admiration quite apart from any pique-nique matters. Sure I daresay that they were in some hesitation about making any suit to you even in the days before your elevation, given G-'s most well-known abilities with sword and pistol.
Oh, says I. Sure I had not thought of that. They are forever talking about wagers and horses and matters of style and how very drunk they have been, but not much about women. Tho’ I daresay they would not talk coarseness in front of me, for exactly that reason you mention.
Well, I continue, I hope that my argument that it would be like to redound adverse upon my reputation will be consider’d telling when Danvers D- puts it to his set, but indeed I think it only sense that Miss R- and the rest of the company maintain a prudent vigilance.
Sandy removes his spectacles and polishes them a while. The matter now, he says at length, is how to inform G- about this brangle, for I have not yet had any chance to acquaint him with the matter – came in most exceeding late last night, or rather early morning and by the time he had spent his wont’d hour of exercise with his fencing master, the steward from A- had arriv’d about some pressing business.
I do not like, he continues, to report ill of a set he has frequent’d for so many years, against which he already believes me entirely prejudic’d - which is indeed the case, for they do not appear to me as anything but extravagant fribbles. He will claim – o, entirely in jest, but there is a grain of truth, I confess – that do I chance to encounter any of them there will appear the Calvinistickal glare that wishes them in hell-fire even do I speak them entirely civil.
Why, Sandy, my dear, they are indeed fribbles. I have ever found them good-natur’d, and I think that not entirely due to fear of Milord’s skills on the field of honour, but somewhat tedious fellows. But I think the way around this is the I should write a little note that you may carry to him, mentioning that you have kindly convey’d warning to Miss R-.
That would most certainly answer. You are a true friend to me, C-.
And you to me, Sandy dear.
I go to my desk and write a note upon the business to Milord, fold it, seal it, and hand it to Sandy with a sigh. Mayhap this was not so happy a contrivance as I suppos’d. Indeed I should mind me that I am not writing a novel or a play, where the characters will behave as I desire.
After he departs I still sit at my desk, where I had been about planning a soirée, but that I was too much in the frets to give it my full mind. I had purpos’d to wait until my darlings had come to Town, but now the T-s have arriv’d I think it entirely my duty to hold one as soon as maybe.
I sigh and stand up, for I should really go take a look around my reception chamber, for I have some concern that it may be in need of a little furbishing, or at least some fresh packs of cards and new counters at the gaming table.
I do not see Hector, that I would have lik’d to discuss this matter with, so I climb the stairs with a view to taking a first look myself.
Outside the door I hear voices within, and wonder if Hector or Dorcas has already decid’d to be about the matter.
It sounds, however, as tho’ whoever they are within, an argument is in progress.
Sure I should not eavesdrop, but yet there seems so much discontent in the household of late that I feel almost oblig’d to listen to find out what’s ado.
I do not recognise the voice at first and then it comes to me that I have never heard Dorcas angry: she will be extreme firm with Prue and Celeste about not scamping their work but never cross.
Cousin Hector, I hear her say, you are quite entirely too harsh with the girls. I have notic’d this and pray’d for guidance in the matter and it comes to me that I must speak of it to you. It is making for bad feeling within the household, that they feel that they are not trust’d, and suppos’d light and giddy creatures, the way you will go about chiding them over followers.
Hector responds that someone has to have a mind for the credit of the household.
You go about, says Dorcas, the best way to make them sly and underhand in their dealings: sure I have seen that in the various households I have been in.
All the households that you had to leave because fellows were saucy to you!
Fellows who did not offer to walk out with me in due form but thought they could be coarse with me in cupboards and on the backstairs! 'Tis nothing like the same thing as offering to walk home from chapel.
There can be sneaking hypocrites under the guise of piety.
Do you not think Prue and Euphemia young women of sense that could see that and would conduct themselves quite entirely proper? Have they not had examples of good practices these several years? Look, she says, at Tibby and Titus, that have gone out from this house and done most exceptional well for themselves and behave with exceeding propriety. I confide 'tis entirely due to the good ways they got into here.
Think you so? asks Hector somewhat less ferocious.
Sure I think Docket gave Tibby some fine lessoning in being disdainfull, but she is a good well-conduct’d girl.
Hector sighs. Indeed she and Titus show very well and do the household credit.
I step softly back down the stairs a little way, then walk up a little noisy, stepping upon the stair that creaks, humming to myself that pretty tune by Purcell that I shall desire Miss McK- to sing, and open the door. How now, says I, I was thinking that do I purpose to hold a soirée very soon there may be matters of furbishing up this room to put in hand, but I see that you are entirely beforehand of me.