I go visit Lady N-: 'tis alas no weather to take her driving: 'tis cold with a chill rain that sometimes turns to sleet, but 'tis agreeable to go see her and observe how much interest she finds in the matter of furbishing O- House.
O, she cries as I enter her chamber and find her, with Selina’s assistance, perusing some samples of wallpaper, quite the most amuzing thing.
Really, my dear? says I. Say on.
She smiles and looks for a moment like a naughty child, and says, her husband the Earl came talk over with her this matter of how skittish our dear Nan goes over this fine propos’d match, that he does not see how she could have any objection to, and can I not bring a mother’s advice to the matter to show what an excellent thing it would be.
Why, I say to him, she goes on, 'tis entire pity you did not open the matter to me before you disclos’d your intent to her, for I could then have prepar’d her mind for it, given her maternal counsel about the benefits of a suitable match. Instead you have fright’d her by putting it to her so sudden, so she goes act like a nervous filly, 'tis entire understandable.
Oh, says he, indeed I will mind of that when it comes to her sisters. But meanwhile, might you endeavour to bring her into a better frame of mind? Sure this volatility of hers gives the Marquess some concern and I am in great fears that he may cry off.
I laugh somewhat immoderate, and Selina, that has been about curling up in my lap, gives me an affront’d stare, and jumps down again.
Indeed, says Lady N-, 'tis quite the comedy. She then looks a little melancholick and says, she sometimes feels most entire envious of her girls when they come in and tell her about when they go to the play with Her Grace.
I give a little grin and say, alas, I confide that amateur theatrickals are not quite the same thing.
But sure, she says, it keeps 'em busy and out of mischief: 'tis excellent to see how they continue practice while Miss A- is in Harrogate.
Why, says I, 'tis most exemplary and perchance I should offer go see how they get on some time.
My dear Lady B-, they would be quite ecstatick! Most exceeding kindly of you.
Sure, says I, I feel some responsibility for the matter.
We go convoke a little over wallpaper.
There is a noise outside the door and a sound as of scuffling, and then the door opens and quite tumble in two young gentlemen and Lord Geoffrey, follow’d by an older fellow.
O, cries Lady N-, holding out her arms, my dearest U-! and Eddy! sure I did not expect to see you this age.
They both go make exceeding affectionate to their mama, exclaim that she looks extreme well, sure they have a deal of matter to tell her and presents when they unpack their trunks.
But, my dears, do you not observe that I have company? – they both stand up and put themselves a little more in order – Lady B-, may I present my sons Lord U- and Lord Edward?
Enchant’d, says I, extending my hand and making a curtesy.
Once these introductions have been made, Lord U- turns to Lord Geoffrey and says, sure I thought this was just one of your exaggerations, you dog.
He and his brother go punch one another in the shoulder and scuffle affectionately.
The older fellow clears his throat and says, he fears this boisterousness will upset the Countess.
'Tis an entire delight to have my boys back safe and in good spirits, says Lady N-, but, Lady B-, permit me to introduce Sir C- F-, that is U-'s godfather and has very kindly bear-led U- and Eddy about the Grand Tour.
Sir C- F- and I look at one another and both give a little private smile; for, some several years since, we spent a most delightfull summer together at Brighton. I make him a curtesy and he makes me a leg. He then looks again at Lady N- and I confide he has a very chivalrous devotion towards her.
Indeed you are looking well, Lady N-, he says, but who would not when you have such excellent company?
Lord U- and Lord Edward go perch beside their mother on the chaise-longue.
Why, says I, this is a family reunion, sure I should be leaving.
There is some clamour that indeed they would not drive me away, but I am determin’d, and say I will return another day to talk over the matter Lady N- and I were about.
Lord U- notes the wallpaper samples and says, what, has Papa finally been persuad’d to a redecoration?
Lord Geoffrey snorts and says, is the moon blue? I confide 'tis for the furbishment of O- House.
Sir C- F- remarks that indeed he had heard that Lord Anthony had succeed’d as Marquess and 'twould be like that he would be opening up O- House. But he takes a little surprize that Lady N- is bother’d over the matter.
He then glances at me and I see him speculate that perchance I go marry another Marquess, and adds, tho’ Lady B- shows a fine appreciation of Lady N-'s taste -
And, blurts Lord Geoffrey, 'tis hop’d that 'twill be to Nan’s liking, that still goes dither over this proposal.
Both his brothers start speaking at once: I apprehend that they have not yet heard about this intend’d marriage.
Really, says I, this is family business and I must be gone.
Sir C- F- escorts me to the door and says he is delight’d to see me in such fine state. Indeed, while they were in Prague and afterwards they heard a deal about Lady B- from my great admirer young Mr K- - an excellent fellow, exceeding good ton.
He then sighs and lowering his voice, says, he confides that the Earl is still the same nip-cheese about domestick expenditure?
I nod. 'Tis not just my own observation, then?
Alas, no, I have been friend of the family these many years and have endeavour’d to bring him to a more generous practice.
Dear Sir C-, says I, why do you not come and take tea with me – or I have some exceeding excellent port in my cellar – for I see that you are a great friend to the family and indeed one sees that there are certain matters that perchance an old friend might contrive to improve.
When my carriage comes round, he looks at the box and says, what, is that Ajax, that rode so many winners?
Indeed, says I, was oblig’d to give up the turf.
And is that fine fellow Hercules – no, Hector? – still in your service? Sure Sir B- W- was most put about that his intend’d prizefighter had found other occupation.
But indeed, he says, you have risen in the world. I am entire delight’d for you – tho’, 'tis true, I am most glad that you have not been oblig’d to go write your memoirs to supply your retirement.
O, fie upon it! I cry, 'tis exceeding poor ton.
The tales you might tell – he goes on with a smile.
Silent as the grave, says I, tapping a finger to my lips.
He looks out of the window and says, still the same charming house? Would have thought you might be found in state at B- House.
O, says I, I daresay you heard the shocking tale of the present Marquess, the intending bigamist and incarcerate lunatick? that was living there in entire squalor until he was convey’d to that fine madhouse in Sussex.
He laughs and says, sure he has been being a country gentleman these several years and seldom hears the on-dits of Town. Does he look at the newspapers 'tis to see how fat-stock prices go.
We go in and he greets Hector very civil. I desire Hector to bring port, and some tea for myself.
Sir C- looks about my pretty parlour and says, why, is that not good old General Y-'s portrait of his bibi? Had it in his trophy-room at his fine place in Surrey: those were fine bachelor parties.
Comes Hector with port, follow’d by Celeste with tea and what I observe to be currie-puffs.
O, so you still have that fine cook?
I explain that Seraphine is now marry’d and in Milord’s employ, but that Euphemia, that is marry’d to Hector, was school’d by her in the culinary arts.
We sit vis-à-vis by the fire. He sips his port – most excellent, he says, you must tell me your wine merchant – then gazes into the fire a little and says that indeed he is concern’d for the poor Countess.
One sees that you are very fond of her.
He sighs and says he had hop’d to marry her, but her parents were extreme eager for her to marry an Earl’s heir. And in those days he had not become the penny-pinching wretch he later show’d.
Does not pinch pennies over everything, says I. Spends a deal upon his hobby-horse of botany and hortickulture.
Indeed, says Sir C-. But 'tis a delicate matter to point out a fellow’s miserly ways and the hurt they do to his family. Sure 'twas entirely my pleasure to take the young fellows about a Grand Tour, in my position as young U-'s godfather; but I confide 'tis not my place to go provide a fine comfortable invalid carriage for Lady N-, much tho’ I should like to. 'Twould look somewhat particular.
Indeed, says I with a sigh, but your sentiments do you a deal of credit. I am now become quite an intimate of the household, and go about to see is there anything I can do –
He gives a little laugh and says, sure, he recalls certain contrivances when we were in Brighton.
I put on an innocent expression.
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