But, alas, I cannot go be a member of the family forever and once matters are in order in my own pretty house I must return there.
I am render’d almost tearfull the night afore my departure when I go be Flora’s sleepy wombatt, and am tempt’d to be quite excessive in my demonstration of affection. But I think 'twould frighten her, and desist.
I am not the only one is tearfull: my darling Eliza goes sob somewhat immoderate while we are together in my fine reserv’d chamber. Dearest, says I, I am not going to the antipodes or Ultima Thule, I am not even going into Surrey or Shropshire. Shall be in my pretty house near the Park – 'tis no distance.
Josiah and I sit up and put our arms around her and kiss and stroke her.
Indeed I am a foolish creature, she says, wiping her eyes upon the sheet, but 'tis so pleasant when our dearest third may be entire part of the family.
'Tis so, says I, but indeed, I think did we spend too much time in this happy state there might come to be gossip. 'Tis a shocking world.
We sigh. And then I think we all take a mind to distract one another from these heavy thoughts, and become most exceeding entangl’d.
But indeed, 'tis hard to leave, especial when my naughty darling clings at my skirts and pouts. I promise that she may come with her sisters for a chocolate party very soon.
But also 'tis agreeable to return to my own pretty house, to be greet’d by Hector at the door, to go into my pretty parlour – even do I sigh a little at the accumulation of letters and cards - and to be among my own good people. Dorcas comes report upon the state of housekeeping. Euphemia comes all smiles at the thought of the ice-house to consider culinary matters.
Indeed I must be about arranging another drawing-room meeting.
I am sat at my desk about my correspondence when comes Hector with a card upon a tray, very ceremonious.
I take the card and perceive 'tis Lord D- come call upon me, most extreme expeditious upon my return home.
I sigh. I daresay he decides he will go explain himself and perchance ensure that I am truly a penitent magdalene. Sure I should like to refuse to admit him, but I mind that I should desire to maintain, is't possible, some diplomatick relation for the benefit of Miss S- and the unfortunate Lady D-.
You may admit him, says I, but you need not go desire tea of Euphemia.
Comes in Lord D-, makes a leg, catches sight of the fine portrait by Sir Z- R- of Madame C- C- in her fine rubies, blushes a little, hems a little, and then says he confides that he owes me an apology for his very insulting behaviour at my soirée.
O, says I, seating myself and motioning him to a chair, I confide that the drama of Mr H- being sent for very urgent for Lady J- quite overlay’d the incident in everyone’s minds.
He clasps his hands in his lap and looks down upon them. Alas, he says, 'twas a matter of my own guilty conscience, that suppos’d some matter I desir’d to conceal was known and that there was mocking allusion to it.
Can I not look at a fellow and encourage him, quite without words, to speak on and disclose the inwardness of his heart, I shall have lost all my wont’d skills. I wait in silence.
Some few years ago, he begins, I was upon the Grand Tour, and in the course of my travels, went to Naples. I mind, he goes on, that this must have been about the time that you marry’d the late Marquess – for there were several remarkt to me that I must regret not having the opportunity to go visit him at his fine villa and see his collection of antiquities -
(Sure I am hard put not to laugh at the thought of Lord D- and the dear late Marquess’ antiquities, that mostly concern’d the worship of the generative principle, or show’d fellows very admiring of one another’s manly charms.)
- but I met that kindly old lady the Contessa di S- while I was there, and got in with a set of young fellows –
He pauses. Sure I was an unregenerate soul then, he says with a groan. They introduc’d me to this very renown’d courtesan of the place, that would wear the charming garb of the local peasantry but made up in silks and satins and sewn with jewels, and dy’d her hair yellow, and was altogether exceeding alluring. And I was a foolish sinner and fell.
He falls silent again.
And then on the voyage home, he continues, it seem’d to me that, that I had contract’d some - ailment - from her –
(I do not enquire whether he has heard of that usefull invention the baudruche, for I confide he had not.)
- so upon my return to Town I went at once to Mr H-, that is so well-reput’d in the management of such troubles. And told me 'twas no such heavy matter as I suppos’d, but a phthiriasis, that is caus’d by a certain louse that most particular infests those parts, for which he went treat me.
But, I suppos’d he had been about gossiping upon me, and went to confront him, at which he became so irate that I fear’d he would go throw me bodily out of his house.
Sure, says I, you are lucky he did not go about to challenge you or mayhap bring a suit for slander for the imputation.
- But I have repent’d, and been sav’d, and 'tis all behind me now –
Except, perchance, says I very gentle, that you had rather Lady D- did not know?
But because I was out of the country when you marry’d the late Marquess –
Excellent fellow that he was, says I.
- 'twas somewhat of a shock to me when I learnt what you had been before your marriage. And then there were those at my dinner-party gave themselves out most taken aback that I should have a woman of your antecedents at my table, and behav’d, I freely admit, in poor ton and somewhat unChristian. Indeed, one cannot but mind of the Pharisees, that are so spoken against in the Gospels: but, indeed, that gave me to suppose that you were about serving me the like.
But sure, you are widely given out a fine philanthropist, receiv’d in the best society, present’d at Court, and will have quite renounc’d that life, repent’d your sins –
Lord D-, says I somewhat frosty, I do not think the condition of my soul any of your business.
He casts down his eyes and says sure a sinner such as himself should not impertinently intrude upon others’ spiritual condition.
I am pleas’d to hear that, says I, for I was of the opinion that you do entire the like towards your wife.
He looks at me entire shockt.
Lord D-, says I, it does you most entire credit that you perceive that you have been in error and go apologize: shows you not stiff-neckt and obdurate. But has seem’d to me that altho’ 'tis clear that Lady D- loves you exceedingly, she is also frighten’d of you.
Frighten’d? he cries, my dear Theodora, that I would do anything for?
She is a very young woman, says I, and entire devot’d to you, but indeed is in the greatest terror of your disapproval because of the very many matters that you are extreme strict about.
Consider, says I, she is a very young woman, rais’d in the provinces, come to Town for the first time, and finds that there are a deal of metropolitan pleasures that you take a great dislike for, that she would desire to at least taste and judge for herself. She shows a serious interest in philanthropick matters, 'tis very pretty in her, and sure I do not think she would go entire wild after pleasure did she go occasional to the theatre – there could be no objection whatsoever should she be in the M- box under the eye of Her Grace – or even a little jaunt to Ranelagh or Vauxhall in suitable company.
Also, says I, I cannot suppose the reading of novels - in moderation, and provid’d does not distract from duties - to be at all deleterious. Indeed I surmize do you put such limits upon so many forms of innocent recreation, it may lead to most undesirable results.
I think, he says, of how easily I was led astray.
O come, says I, a young fellow, away from home upon the Grand Tour, new acquaintances, temptations – 'tis an entire receipt for youthfull follies. But a young wife, that is entire devot’d to her husband, that goes about in the company of other ladies that are in good Society in Town, where indeed one must be conscious that one’s doings are markt and may be gossipt upon: sure there are many entertainments that she may enjoy without the slightest hint of danger.
Indeed, he says in a considering tone, Her Grace of M- is everywhere consider’d an excellent serious young woman, entire devot’d to her husband, in quite the best of ton –
Entirely! says I. 'Tis not a set in which there is high play, or flirtations; you are more like to find her turning out a bluestocking.
Well, he says, I will go consider over these thoughts. For sure I have seen some little matters in Theodora’s behaviour, that I had suppos’d due to her condition, but very like 'tis as you say, that the fault is in me. I should go open my heart to her –
And 'twould do no harm, says I, did you allude, without details, to your own youthfull follies.
He bites his lip, and then says, you are so very kind, Lady B-, when I have behav’d so ill to you.
O, says I, there are those that have done a deal worse, and yet turn’d out excellent creatures in the end. I confide so may you.
He kisses my hand very fervent, and says that he hopes that I will continue to receive Theodora.
How not? says I. And sure I will come call.
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