Sandy most dutifully goes about the various occasions to which he has been solicited. He discovers that Lord Abertyldd is exceeding eager to have his thoughts on various matters that currently go forward in Parliament, and realizes that now that there is no longer the regular morning convocation upon the matter, he no longer has these things at his fingertips. Has not even been perusing the press with his usual avidity.
Having made some passable attempt at giving Abertyldd some answer, he goes home and asks do they still have old copies of the various papers that come into the house? Dorcas says indeed they do, store 'em up against the time that fires are lit again, mostly, or laying down for muddy feet, or wrapping matters.
William delivers several arms-full to the library, and Sandy begins to educate himself again. These are not things that go away; these are the things that Gervase would have wanted him to continue concerning himself with; and he has taken not the slightest notice these past weeks.
He should see if he may make some occasion to converse with Lady Wallace.
Clorinda comes into the library. Fie, she says, 'tis time you went dress for this music party – o, do not pull that face, my dear.
But - , he begins.
La, I am invited too and shall go, and have spoke privily to Meg that I should be grateful was there no songs sung of a kind that would be like, in my present bereaved state, to move me to public tears.
He looks at her 'twixt exasperation and affection. So you go wear the willow?
I was oblig’d, says Clorinda crossly, to undertake the full rites of mourning for an entire year for a husband that I had known a mere matter of weeks, and that even had he inclined to my sex was in no state to consummate our union. At least I may show some respect for the memory of one that I had known these many years and ever stood my friend, even if matters were not as gossip supposes.
Dearest Clorinda, I did not mean to dismiss your loss. And 'twas an entire prudent thought.
She smiles a little tearfully. Go dress, she says.
There is a considerable crowd already assembled in the Knowles’ exceedingly fine music room when they arrive. Sebastian Knowles comes up and shakes his hand and says, 'tis not the time or place, but now he has come in to this independence, may desire some information and advice upon investments? Is ever quite entirely at his disposal in the matter.
'Tis a kind thought, and he says so. Is still, he adds, coming about to the realization of this new state.
Sebastian nods. 'Twas an entire different matter, he says, though I had been working so long with my father, after he died and I had to take over the entire business myself.
Sandy looks about the room, and sees that Clorinda is as ever in the midst of a little throng, and he dares say about a deal of contrivances. Looking further he observes to his surprize that Lady Jane is of the company: she rises and comes over to him and takes his hands and says all the proper things, although he has already had quite the kindest letter of condolence from her. Though she has never said in so many words, he knows that she was long apprized of the situation.
A hush falls upon the company and they all take their seats as Meg goes to the pianoforte. Indeed, the music is all very fine, but there is nothing played or sung that is like to evoke tears, fortunately.
Over supper, where he perceives Clorinda still about stratagems, Lady Jane tells him she comes up to Town about various philanthropic matters, and to enjoy a little music, go to the play &C (and, he supposes, visit her beloved Miss Addington). The Admiral stays upon the estate: 'tis no great distance to the coast, and he keeps a boat there, cannot be kept long from salt-water. Horatio was able pay them a short visit before he took up this fine opportunity of sailing under Captain Gold about this survey he is commissioned to. She sighs a little and adds that she thinks he has a notion to Deborah Samuels – excellent young woman that she is, she adds. But seems like only yesterday was setting off as a midshipman, and here he is, lieutenant and in such a good ship.
He says it must be agreeable to see her son so well-settled in a career.
She smiles and says, indeed he finds the Navy most congenial, but she confides that he also greatly takes to the notion of being a propertied gentleman in due course, has been lessoning himself with Jacob Samuels.
He smiles back and says, does he also take to the study of the classics? She sighs and says shows no inclination in that direction, alas. But mayhap they two might find occasion to converse on the matter, while she is in Town?
He concedes that this would be agreeable.
These are not parties that last on into the small hours of the morning, and 'tis still quite early when he and Clorinda return to her pretty house. My dear, she says, I purpose take a small sanitive glass of madeira afore I go to bed, should you care to join me there is port or brandy.
He agrees, and Hector comes to her parlour with the tray, and leaves a glass and the decanter of port beside him upon a small table. I hope, he says, that Hector does not suppose I go drown my sorrows.
She laughs a little and says she confides not, but considers it proper to let gentlemen make their own judgements concerning their indulgence.
They sip at their glasses in silence for a little while, and then Clorinda looks at him and says, my dear, you bore yourself excellent well the e’en.
He sighs and says, has a deal more sympathy than used to for actors that find themselves obliged to perform in a bad play, as it might be Queen Maud of dread memory, and must manifest their skills even though the matter gives ‘em little to work upon.
Clorinda grins and says, have we not heard Miss Addington being besought to present her For England speech from that play, or that very touching monologue at the end when she entrusts the realm to her son, that 'tis only her talents render telling? But indeed, she goes on, growing sober, indeed 'tis very much the like.
Still? he asks.
She looks reflective and says, No, 'tis no longer quite the like with her. Tho’, she continues, is not a day during which there is not some thought that I wish I might tell one or other or both of 'em. And sighs.
I had supposed, he says, that we should grow old together. But indeed, dearest Clorinda, I do not wish to make you melancholic, or impose my own melancholy upon you.
O, fiddlesticks! there are few enough to whom we may admit our sorrow. With one another we may take off the masks. Has it not ever been so?
It has, he realizes, ever been so.
They sit once more in silence.
I apprehend, says Clorinda at length, that Josh has some intention of going visit Flora and Hannah – 'tis still a se’ennight or so until the Mulcaster House dinner-party, and I confide he would wish to get out of Town a little. Did you wish go as well?
He considers over this and indeed it would be agreeable. But, he says, I am promised to dine with Geoffrey Merrett –
Poo, says Clorinda, I will give it out that Flora has some legal matter that she desires your advice on that will not wait, and I am sure he will not mind.
Dear sibyl, indeed I am not sure I am yet ready to encounter Mr Merrett’s enthusiasm. 'Tis an excellent fine mind, and meritorious ideals, but -
He is really a most remarkable advocate, she says, but sure there are still times he minds me of an eager puppy.
He finds the old quizzical look upon his face as he looks at her. For he quite apprehends that Clorinda will ever find it in her heart to show kind to fellows that demonstrate an admiration for her, so be they do not consider kindness owed to them. She smiles back and murmurs, secrets that are not all mine to disclose.
And then says, but sure I must to bed and not keep Sophy up any longer. Tho’ she stays in the household at present as Sam is off on a buying trip.
How many stables does he have now?
Three, says Clorinda, all doing exceeding well. She covers a yawn with her hand. Sure, she goes on, I am no longer able to wake long into the night as I was used in younger years.
They rise and make their separate ways to bed.
William, that has some thought to training up as a valet, waits for him, though Sandy confides that he can still manage to do for himself. But it is doubtless a kindness to let the young man practice upon him.
Lying in bed, he thinks that sometimes matters are as he described it to Clorinda, and sometimes 'tis like some mansion with a genteel party that goes forth in the public rooms, and in the cellar some gothic horror wails and moans.