As Sandy finds in himself a considerable curiosity concerning Beatrice, and 'twould be agreeable to get out of Town a little, he accompanies Josh to the Surrey property, Yeomans: had been named Seringapatam Lodge by old General Yeomans, but was so widely known in the locality under his name that it has been assumed.
Josh finds a discreet moment to inform him that he is accustomed, when he visits there, to pass the nights with Hannah.
Why, Sandy says, after a short pause during which he does not find any jealous passion raging in his bosom, indeed she has the older claim – the mother of your child, &C.
Not, says Josh, that we have any purpose to beget another, just yet, but 'tis an antient affection.
Indeed, when he comes to consider over the matter, he minds that there are memories attached to the place, that indeed he has not visited, except for brief calls upon matters of business, since Clorinda was in exile there waiting to lie-in with Flora.
He finds, when they arrive, that he has even been assigned the bedchamber that has most particular memorable associations for him. He sits down upon the bed as the recollections flood upon him. Had been the scene of a most particular significant encounter.
'Twas after he had nigh made a great fool of himself with Clorinda, but instead had had her unravel matters to him like disentangling knotted embroidery silks, in quite the finest office of friendship. His heart had been mightily eased and she had also, with her offer to demonstrate matters 'twixt woman and man as a matter of scientific interest, given him a notion even did he not take her up on it.
There was a thing he had wanted to do for Gervase, that was like to suppose he would find most agreeable, but would by no means demand; and would not, Sandy supposed, concede to it did he have any suspicion that it was being offered merely as a kindness, against his own inclination. But, did he present it as a thing that he undertook out of scientific curiosity, to obtain understanding -
The stratagem had proved entire successful: it also revealed to him things about himself that he had not in the least suspected, that had nothing to do with science or philosophy.
He closes his eyes and bites his lip. He will never again find some excuse to pass by the Raxdell House gallery while Gervase is engaged in fencing practice; and there will never again be that feeling of being possessed by him.
He looks out of the window. The fountain still plays. Flora is walking with her arm tucked into Josh’s: they look entirely brother and sister. Indeed, he thinks, while Flora has her colouring from Clorinda, her features recall Josiah, and her mannerisms are all Eliza. He wonders whether seeing their copies in the younger Ferrabys is something that pleases Clorinda or is distressful to her. He then considers that this reflection mayhap has some bearing on his own reluctance to go down and greet Hannah and the child she plays with upon the lawn.
When he goes down to the garden, and greets Hannah, Beatrice at first shows shy and hides behind her mother. Gradually she comes to peep around a little, and at length is brought to come shake hands with her mother’s great friend Mr MacDonald.
At first glance she is a deal more like Hannah than Gervase, though somewhat lighter-skinned and with her hair going to waves rather than tight curls. But then she finally looks at him, and she has Gervase’s eyes, that could look brown or green or even sometimes gold, and much of the same shape, under brows that show promise of growing in the same winged fashion. But she is not a copy: she is her own particular self.
What a fine girl she is, he says to Hannah, who smiles and says, sure she thinks so, but ‘tis the known habit of mothers to suppose their infants the finest that ever were.
’Tis not the painful thing he expected: there is indeed some gladness that some little part of Gervase survives.
And in spite of the memories, it is agreeable to get out of Town for a little.
One day he is sitting on the grass, listening to Josh tell the children the tales of the very particular haughty hedgehogs that reside in the Park, and the adventures of the ivory elephants, when Flora comes up and says would wish a word or two with him.
He is entire willing to concede to her, stands up, offers her his arm, and they walk towards the little wilderness beyond the formal gardens.
I hope, Mr MacDonald, says Flora, that you do not purpose leave Clorinda just yet.
She entirely has the forthright blunt manner of Eliza Ferraby. Sure Clorinda herself would have gone a deal more roundabout in the matter.
You do not object? he says.
Flora snorts. We have been worried this while about her: will ever go about to conceal her low spirits, will assure us that she is entire happy, but –
First Hector and now Flora: has everybody but himself noticed this? But he considers that did Clorinda truly feel herself Dido in the ruins of Carthage, she would not voice that complaint.
Has ever been observed among us, she goes on, how beneficial was your company to her: would show her old self in your presence. So had you no other plans, we should be most infinite grateful if you would stay with her.
You do not fear scandal?
O, may be those try get up malicious gossip, but she has such friends that command such influence, I think all will quite accept that you stay with her for the convenience of writing some philosophical treatise without domestic distractions.
And you, by which I apprehend your brothers and sisters, are in agreement over this?
Are not all entire conscious of what we owe her? But indeed, ‘tis not a matter of debt: 'tis a matter of love.
He is distressed to consider that he had failed to notice that his dearest friend was in low spirits, and must have been so even before he could plead a like distress of his own for not noticing. What a wretched creature he is to be sure.
But, continues Flora, was an entire other matter we, that is, Hannah and I, wished open to you. Pray, Mr MacDonald, do not look in so much panic fear – we should desire nothing of you that you would not willingly give, sure we are not about to enact a reversal of Lovelace’s entrapment of Clarissa.
I am greatly relieved to hear it.
But may be there is a way might be contrived – tho’ indeed, 'tis but a passing mention of a thing that eminent surgeon John Hunter undertook, that Hannah found while perusing proceedings of the Royal Society. Sure we know not has it become much took up as a practice among the profession; we try to come about at some way we might interrogate Quintus upon the matter. But, according to the report, he found a way to contrive bringing the generative seed into the place where it should go, by artificial means.
Dear Flora, you quite bring me to the blush. (But, is she not Clorinda’s daughter? Have she and Hannah not read most exceeding widely? Are they not both mothers, even are they not wives? They are probably better informed than most Fellows of the Colleges on generative matters.)
Flora laughs. O, I daresay Clorinda would chide me exceedingly for taking the Nelson line and going straight ahead in this way, but I have not her skills in taking the roundabout way.
There is a pause and at length he says, My dear Flora, I am entire flattered that you offer me this opportunity of fatherhood, but as 'tis a thing that I thought would never come my way, will need some time to consider over it.
Entire reasonable, says Flora, as they turn back towards the formal garden. A woman must bear the child within her those tedious months, I dearly wish men would consider over the business rather more than they are wont to do.