Why, says I at length to Hester, perchance I shall go wander in the maze – am I not return’d by the time to dress for dinner, you might send one to search for me.
She laughs gently and says, she confides that Lady B- is ever able to find her way out of a predicament.
Oh, poo, says I, I do not think I have ever before contriv’d to traverse a maze. Sure I may come to crawling thro’ hedges, sure 'tis a good thing that Docket is not with me to chide me for spoiling my gown.
I stand up and follow the path that she tells me will take me in the direction of the labyrinth. I am approaching the place where one begins venture into its windings when comes quite panting up to me the Honble Geoffrey M-, that desires me very effusive to permit him to conduct me thro’ the maze, for sure, Lady B-, 'tis most exceeding confusing do you not have the trick of it.
Why, says I, that is most exceeding civil of you, Mr M-, for I am sure that you have more entertaining matters to be about the day.
He blushes mightyly and declares that naught could be so congenial as to accompany Lady B-.
I smile upon him and say, sure you make pretty speeches. But indeed, sure I am an Ariadne that would wish some Theseus to guide her (it then comes to me that 'twas Ariadne that guid’d Theseus: but no matter).
I slip my hand into his arm and desire him to lead on.
'Tis, I confide, an occasion he has long desir’d in order to unbosom himself to me about how matters go with him.
He has a thought, he tells me, to go in for law, for a fellow should have some occupation and not be an idle fribble and wastrel.
'Tis most meritorious, says I, sure one sees a deal of idle young fellows about Town, and while there are those can afford a life of entire frivolity there are many that cannot.
Indeed, says Mr M-, altho’ U- has lookt over the accounts and thinks he may increase Eddy’s and my allowances, sure a deal of high living would ruin us very shortly: but U- has very kindly said that he does not see why we should not be able to run a fine new phaeton, and while we were at A- spoke to Lord R- and Lord V- about who might be the best carriage-makers in that line.
He then pauses and says, we must take this turn, that one is deceptive and will lead us into a dead end.
Why, says I, sure you are so well-spoke of as a whip, 'twould be entire proper for you to have some better vehicle.
He blushes and says, when the matter comes about, he hopes he may take me driving?
Indeed, says I, 'twill be an entire pleasure.
And sure, he goes on, there is no harm in healthfull recreation when one is set upon a course of study.
Indeed not, says I, but tell me more about this proposition that you should study law.
So he tells me, with interruptions to determine which way we should turn, and I am not in the least surpriz’d that he has been greatly influenc’d by his conversation with Sandy as to the utility of studying law, for even does he not practise there are a deal of matters in which it comes in usefull, and provides valuable training of the mental capacities, &C.
(And of course, thinks I, 'tis consider’d one of the gentlemanly professions along with the Army and the Church, and I cannot suppose either of those particular congenial to the Honble Geoffrey.)
Why, says I, 'tis a fine thing for a fellow to have a profession to his name and a means to earning a living, and not be hanging out in hopes of inducing some heiress to marry him.
He blushes and says, sure his sisters – you must know what girls are, Lady B- - go advance Miss S-'s interest. And indeed, she is a very amiable young woman and acts very pleasing, Miss A- greatly commends the clarity and apprehension with which she speaks her lines, but really, a fellow does not like it for his sisters to go match-make for him.
(I smile to myself. Sure they are young and have not yet learnt those subtle arts by which one may prefer a lady whose interest one wishes advance to a gentleman’s attention, but I confide that they will improve in the matter. Tho’ I then collect that Lady J- entire lackt any subtle art in the matter for all her years.)
We come, to my considerable relief, to the centre of the maze with the quaint sundial. It has some motto carv’d around it, but 'tis in Latin, so I do not attempt read it.
We pause for a little, and Mr M- asks should I care for snuff. I say, thank you, o, but do indeed indulge yourself.
(I am like to suppose that he has been about practising the elegant taking of snuff, and indeed manages the matter very pretty.)
He says that Lord R- has a very pretty snuffbox, that he says I gave him?
Indeed, says I, 'twas a gift to celebrate our long friendship (I confide that Milord did not go demonstrate the hidden naughty device, that is quite out of the common, and that we both find most amuzing).
Is he not an excellent fine fellow? cries Mr M-, and goes expatiate at some length upon Milord’s virtues, his aptitude at manly sports, his apprehension of a deal of politickal questions, his exceeding nice opinions upon the theatre, and the very fine manly affection he displays towards Mr MacD- despite the difference in their stations. But, of course, Mr MacD-'s qualities are such that must recommend him very widely within Society.
'Tis so, says I, very demure to conceal my amuzement. I have quite the greatest admiration for Mr MacD-'s qualities of mind myself.
I am then oblig’d to hear Mr M- expatiate at length upon this topic as we go wend our way out of the maze, tho’ he does mind what he is about and continues turning in a direction that will not leave us maz’d.
We come out nigh unto the hothouses, within which I see Lord and Lady O- with their heads together over some plant.
Geoffrey says sure Nan becomes quite besott’d with botany, he supposes it must be to make civil to her husband that she takes interest in such dry matter.
(I have no idea whether Mr M- has read that most entertaining and instructive work by Dr Darwin upon The Loves of the Plants, that must lead one to suppose that the study of botany is not so very far from the warmer passions of humanity.)
They look up and see us and wave, indicating that we may come in.
O, says Nan, Tony was just telling me of where he found this specimen, 'tis a most exciting tale – do you tell it 'em.
The Marquess smiles somewhat doating, says he doubts not that she is entire prejudic’d but does she desire he will recount the tale over again.
'Tis indeed a most thrilling narrative and I hear Mr M- sighing in wonder and envy beside me. Sure can Lord O- tell of his adventures thus, 'tis a great pity he cannot write 'em as effective. But perchance I may come at some stratagem in the matter.
'Tis a little close in the hothouse, and I say that I should desire go tell Lady N- that I have succeed’d in braving the labyrinth and was not oblig’d to encounter a minotaur, that I should not like at all to do, for I am exceeding frighten’d of cows.
(I perceive that Mr M- greatly desires protect me from furious bulls.)
Alack, says I, that I must go to Lord P-'s, that cannot come to believe that there are none do not suppose cows the finest thing in creation, and will boast 'em the gentlest tenderest creatures.
Nan suddenly snorts and says, and are not the swans upon his lake deem’d exceeding vicious? (I confide she has heard the tale of Mr W- Y-.)
Lord O- says sure the cattle he has seen about in England seem fine placid creatures, 'tis an entire different matter in other parts of the world, and goes tell us some fine tales of wild cattle upon the pampas and the very savage buffaloes that may be found at the Cape.
Mr M- follows on by saying Sir C- F- has remarkt that even the most placid and amiable of cows in his herd will become fierce do they have a calf and fear for it.
Indeed, says I, have heard the like.
Lord O- says he confides such extreme manifestation of maternal feeling is common in the animal creation, and recounts some tales.
O dear, says I, I hope that the hinds in the deer-park do not take exception to the girls, that go walk there to see the pretty fawns.
Mr M- says, has heard that the only time 'tis imprudent to walk about the herd is when the stags are in rut, for they become exceeding ferocious and as they have those wick’d antlers, might do one a considerable mischief. But, he says, seeing my look of concern, 'twill not be until the autumn that they do thus.
And, says Lord O-, one will hear when they are, a deal of bellowing.
Mr M- escorts me to his mother, that sits among the girls that tell her about the darling little fawns, how sweet they are, how pretty &C. Mr M- remarks that they will grow up into very delicious venison, at which they cry upon him mightyly and I fear Lady Louisa may go hit him.
O, says Bess to me, will not Josh be jealous? – she turns to Hester and says, that is my middle brother, has a great fondness for animals –
O, says little Lou, sure I told you, Mama, he has a menagerie, with a wombatt and a badger and ferrets and dormice, and a mongoose that is the most inquisitive thing in creation.
Mr M- sighs and says, all they had were white mice -
- that, his sister goes on, you let escape and sure Selina manifest’d herself a mighty huntress upon 'em.