O, 'tis quite delightfull to be at R- House with my darlings and the dear children, would that it might always be thus.
Mrs L- has took Meg to visit the school at Hitchin, and Meg returns most exceeding prepossesst, and indeed chatters about it constantly. O, the fine gardens, and each of the girls has a little plot for her own! Miss Harriett is a fine pianist and the piano is exceeding fine, 'twill be entire ideal, there is even a prospect of playing duets! Such pretty countryside where they may go walks! The girls put on plays! She quite longs go there.
Renders Bess somewhat sulky: comes up to me one forenoon in the conservatory, where I go feed the fish in the fountain and feel 'em nibble at my fingers. Why, says she, was there never any proposal that I should go to school? Why should Meg have this chance?
I desire her to sit down beside me and put my arm around her. Why, says I, you would not have want’d Mrs L- to be out of a place, would you? But now she has the nursery-set learning their letters and numbers, and such matters with Josh as he does not have tutors come for, and you, my dear Bess, nearly out of the schoolroom and thinking about making your debut in Society –
Bess says that she confides that one does not cease learning and studying just because one is consider’d a great girl, nearly a woman, that passes out of the care of a governess. Does not Lady J- still go study the classicks? Is Her Grace not ever about learning some language?
Well, my dear, sure you may pursue any kind of learning you wish, and I am sure Mrs L- is entire capable of directing any studies you may desire take up, but 'tis no longer a matter of formal lessons in the schoolroom. And I daresay you still go study upon matters of business with your Mama.
Indeed, says Bess, one could not do that was one away at some school. And one would not be able go to the theatre &C.
And, I go on, sure you have your own set here that keeps you company.
'Tis so, says Bess, but is’t not the most tedious thing for Lou, to have to go be in mourning this long while? She says 'twill be entire ennuyant.
Poo, says I, while they are in Town they must behave so that all consider they do the proper thing, however much there is a deal of reviv’d gossip about the quite shocking reason why the late Earl came to find himself in America in the first place: but they will be going down to D- Chase for the summer, and I daresay there will be invitations for you and Dodo to go visit.
Lou was saying she fears they may be oblig’d go to Monks’ G-, that gloomy place –
I daresay Lord N- will be oblig’d to go and receive the condolences and congratulations of the tenantry and so forth, but I confide he would not oblige any of his sisters to accompany him. Tho’, I go on, I mind that altho’ the house is indeed somewhat gloomy - but I daresay might be brought about to be somewhat more chearfull – the grounds are exceeding fine and contain the ruins of the former monastery.
O! cries Bess, that is most exceeding romantick! I must ask Lou are there ghostly monks that walk among the ruins.
La, says I, I confide you should write Gothick novels.
But would it not be entire prime was there ghosts?
I shudder and say, I will mind my business and hope ghosts would mind theirs. But, I go on, looking out through the glass of the conservatory, is that Julia P- with Josh?
Bess laughs and says, O, she was very desirous make the acquaintance of the mongoose, and Josh thinks any lady a most bang-up creature does she admire any of his menagerie.
I observe that Julia P- is being climb’d upon by the mongoose and laughing considerable, and Josh goes point out its excellent features.
Sure, says I, Sir Z- R- should paint her with a mongoose, 'twould be entire out of the common. I should go make civil to her.
So I step out into the gardens, that are exceeding fine for the time of year, to where Josh sits on the lawn with the badger, and the wombatt takes advantage of his inattention to go browse a little about the flowerbeds, and Miss P- talks to the mongoose in what I suppose to be Hindoostanee.
O, Lady B-, she says, is this not a very fine mongoose? Quite puts me in mind of home. Do you think I might go acquire one for my own?
Why, says I, I apprehend that there are sailors from East Indiamen hawk 'em around the docks, but 'tis no place for a young woman.
She sighs, and says that mayhap her papa might be able to come at it, has a deal of connexions still with the Company.
(I confide she is somewhat homesick for Bombay.)
Bless my soul, says a voice upon the west wing terrace, is that a wombatt?
I turn around and observe 'tis the Duke of H- with Milord: I am a little surpriz’d and then I mind that, altho’ the Duke is somewhat of a nuisance about young women – no matter of virtue in danger, but taking opportunities that arise for patting and stroking 'em in such fashion as 'twould seem poor ton to object, so that the only remedy is to remain at arm’s length, that cannot always be contriv’d – is a not’d ally of Milord’s in matters of anti-slavery, that I daresay have been convoking about.
The exquisite Lady B-, he says, making me a leg, and I mind also that I am not so fad’d as to be spar’d his fondlings. I make him a curtesy. Your Grace.
His gaze falls upon Julia P-, that clasps the mongoose in her arms, 'tis a most exceeding fetching sight such as Sir Z- R- would quite long to paint. Why, 'tis Miss P-, is’t not? I see him about to do his wont’d patting upon the arm or laying of hand upon her shoulder or waist, and then mind that the mongoose may bite or scratch and withdraws his hand somewhat hasty, asking what kind of beast is that?
Josh is entire delight’d to instruct him at great length about mongooses, to which Miss P- adds her reminiscences of Bombay.
I see him looking at her very attentive, and mind that he has some several children by his first wife, and that altho’ he is by no means pockets to let and does not go hang out for an heiress, indeed has been showing interest in Em, whose portion will be but modest, 'twould be entire agreeable to him to wed into the wealth of the Indies that is reput’d Miss P-'s dower. And that if 'tis a second marriage and he is already well-supply’d with an heir and, I collect, two younger sons in reserve, may think antient aristocratick breeding less of a concern.
Why, she says, with a quite enchanting smile, I must return you your mongoose, as she hands it back to Josh. Sure I am quite tempt’d to make off with it, 'tis like a little piece of home.
His Grace remarks that surely England is her home.
She gives a lovely wistfull smile and says, but spent so many years in Bombay.
And then says, but sure she must be away, Papa will wonder what has come to her, and she must prepare for this excursion to Vauxhall the e’en.
The Duke watches her go, and says, most out of the common lovely – somewhat of the odalisque, eh? he nudges Milord in the ribs.
Milord says, indeed, but – he gazes at me as one who implies, sure there can be no comparison, none at all. I lift my fan to my face and look at him flirtatious over it.
Must make sure she is sent a card for our ball, he goes on. You will be coming, will you not, Lady B-?
I smile and say, but of course, Your Grace.
Milord contrives steer him away and about his business and I desire Josh to show me how his menagerie does, that is an agreeable matter.
But I may not linger a-playing with the pretty dormice, for there is Viola’s jaunt to Vauxhall the e’en and Docket will require me to lye down for a few hours with cowcumber upon my eyes, composing my mind, whilst Sophy endeavours pumice the ink from my hands. I have endeavour’d convince Docket that I am quite entire in the character of a chaperone for the occasion, at which she snorts.
You shall not mind the boat’s motion? I ask Viola as we wait to embark beside the river.
She smiles and says, 'tis only of a morn she is troubl’d.
Lady D- is of the company, and shows some disposition to tuck her hand into my arm and prattle a deal about the philanthropick set, and Lady J-, and little Arthur, but while she is distract’d by the sight of the wire-walkers, I take the occasion to go over to Rebecca G-.
O, Lady B-, she says, I wisht your advice on whether ‘twould be proper to write some note of condolence to Lady Emily and her family?
'Twould be a very pretty thing to do, says I. But, says I – let us withdraw just a little further into this alcove - 'tis of that family I wisht have some convockation with you. The new Earl has askt me open to you – for he may not at present ask himself, as he is not going about in Society – whether 'twould be agreeable to you did he approach your father about paying his addresses to you.
O! cries Miss G-, O! quite overcome and says nothing for some several minutes. Oh, she says at length, indeed I have come to like him exceedingly, but I said to myself, Rebecca, the sons of Earls do not marry the daughters of Jew-merchants. Can this be so?
Indeed 'tis, my dear. Sure he was in concerns that his late father would not give approval, but now he may please himself.
She sheds a few happy tears upon my shoulder. O, she says, you may tell him yes and I am entire sure Papa will be agreeable.
And now, says I, so as not to look particular, let us go view the fireworks.