Sure I must be about visiting Dolly Mutton, for I am entire certain that the woman that went insult me after the play was Molly Binns and I am in considerable concern over what may be done about her has the Earl cast her off, or made trouble for her. Dolly I daresay will know more of the business and whether there is some remedy that might be put on hand.
I sigh. 'Tis sure a tangl’d web, tho’ the deceit that was first practis’d was that of Lord N-, the wretch.
I turn back to making up a packet to send to New South Wales, for the dear Admiral has put me in the way of certain fellow-officers of his that will be able arrange for messages to be convey’d there with quite unusual expedition. So I put together my own letter for dear Abby, that I miss so much, a letter from Miss N- to her sister, a communication from Mrs Atkins in hopes that it may reach her husband thro’ the kind offices of the T-s, and some other letters from sympathizers and members of the scientifick set.
I have seal’d this up all very proper to be took to the Admiral’s old shipmate that now occupies some place at the Admiralty, and am about to ring for Hector to give it to Timothy, when comes in Hector with a card on a tray and the expression I last saw when a dead rat was discover’d in the wainscoting, or mayhap when Mr E- call’d to solicit my interest in his intentions for Julius.
I look at the card, that is of one Mr R- O-, that is no-one I know: and then it comes to mind that the Contessa mention’d him to me as a fellow to be wary of.
Why, thinks I, I will trust the dear Contessa’s instincts in such matters, and tell Hector that he may admit the gentleman but that there is no necessity to bother Euphemia. Hector and I look at one another in entire mutual understanding.
I put away any sign that I have been about writing and go place my embroidery upon a low table, very prominent. 'Tis time to enact the feather-wit once more, methinks.
Comes in Mr R- O-, that is a gentleman approaching middle years, with a face that is one that would be easily forgot, dresst in a fashion to match these looks – 'tis not so out of style as to be not’d, nor is it in the crack of the mode.
I look at him in bewilderment, for sure one might well be in some confusion as to whether or not one had met him.
I do not think, sir, says I, that I have your acquaintance? I hope 'tis not incivil in me, but indeed one meets so many people, I know not how one may remember them all, I add, simpering somewhat.
Mr R- O- says that indeed, he has not formerly had the pleasure, and makes a leg, but he intrudes upon me in the hope that I have some intelligence of the whereabouts of Mr W- Y-.
Why, says I, I have not been in company with him this while – tho’, I say, as one that wishes be helpfull, saw him in the pit at the theatre within the past se’ennight. Indeed, says I, in somewhat injur’d tones, has not come read me his poems these several months.
He was in the habit of reading you his poems?
La, says I with somewhat of a pout, I would not say 'twas a habit.
And do you remember anything of the poems he read?
O, says I with a titter, I did not comprehend 'em in the least, but seem’d give him pleasure to read 'em to me.
When would you say you were last in company with Mr W- Y-?
I frown, and go count upon my fingers, and bite my lip in the effort of recollection, and say, was't not at Lord P-‘s house-party, when he was fright’d by a swan? And then say, no, of course, he was at the house-party at Sir V- P-'s, but left us early –
Was’t not on that occasion he had some quarrel with the late Mr D- K-?
I frown prettily and say, I confide he did, but, sure, Mr D- K- was a very quarrelsome fellow over matters to do with the shoot, had words very general with the other gentlemen there.
I look at him and blink slowly several times, and go tilt my head on one side with an expression of puzzlement. But no! I cry, sure 'twas give out that 'twas an apoplexy.
And he has never given you anything to keep for him?
O no, says I, and then, o, he gave me a book of his poems that came out last year – was there not some scandal about 'em?
Do you have the book?
I bite my lip and look thoughtfull and go over to my bookshelves and spend some while running my fingers along 'em and squinting and at length pulling out the slender volume and handing it to Mr R- O-, that ruffles thro’ the pages, many of which remain uncut. He pokes about it a little as if it might conceal some message.
At length he says, but you have not seen him since?
O, says I, perchance at some rout or ball but I do not think we have converst since Sir V-P-'s house-party.
Only, says Mr R- O-, to the great anxiety of his friends he seems to have vanisht -
Say you so! I exclaim.
- and we go about among his acquaintance to see whether any knows where he has gone. Do you hear anything to the matter, Lady B-, I should be most extreme gratefull could you inform me. A message to my club will ever find me.
Why, says I, I should be entire delight’d to relieve his friends’ anxieties over him – have I not heard that his behaviour of late has been strange and wild, even for a poet? - but he is at present quite the stranger to me.
I gaze at Mr R- O- in the fashion of one that would desire be helpfull but apprehends not quite how she might go be so.
Sir R- O- smiles at me as one might at a child that goes recite to company: because 'tis a pretty sight and not because the recitation has any merit. He makes me a leg and says he dares say he will not need to trouble me further in the matter.
I dip him a curtesy and ring for Hector to show him out.
After this has been accomplisht, comes Hector with an expression as if an entire hecatomb of rats has been discover’d in the wainscotting. Fellow askt me, he said, when did Mr W- Y- last call, as if could not trust Your Ladyship’s word.
La, says I, he suppos’d me a silly creature that scarce knows what day o’ week 'tis.
Hector and I look at one another. I wonder, says I, might you go have a word with Matt Johnson about fellows that might come watch out to see are there other fellows set to spy upon the house.
Hector nods and says 'tis a prudent thought.
Sure I should greatly like to get word to Sandy and convoke over this matter, but 'twould look somewhat particular to send for him at once. I also bite my lip and determine that much as I should desire the company of my dearest loves that is already promist for the e’en, 'twould be entire imprudent.
I daresay, says I, that there is a certain number of notes pass to and from 'twixt Euphemia and Seraphine upon culinary matters and this proposal concerning preserves and pickles. Hector concedes that 'tis so. Suppose, says I, that Euphemia went write somewhat to Seraphine, sure I might convey a note to Mrs F- thereby? Hector nods and says that indeed he minds that Euphemia was saying she runs very low on certain spices, would be extreme gratefull could Seraphine lend her a pinch or two until she may restock.
I sigh and say sure 'tis a somewhat arduous matter for Timothy, but does he take this packet to the Admiralty, he might then go on with her message to R- House?
'Twill do him good, says Hector somewhat severe, at present does naught but laze around cleaning the boots very desultory. I fear he relishes young Nell’s admiration over-much.
I go to my desk and scribble a little note for my darling Eliza, that I confide will appear entire innocuous, for 'tis a question as to what she purposes wear for the ball, as I shall not be seeing her until that very e’en; but will, I am in hopes, be taken at its true meaning by my loves.
That matter seen to, I find myself in some disposition to pace up and down, but go sit at my pretty desk and address myself to certain tangl’d matters in the philanthropick set, for 'twill sure distract my mind.
This business accomplisht, I go ride a little in the Park upon my lovely Jezzie-girl, in hopes it may clear my head somewhat.
'Twould be entire too much to hope that Milord might be riding there as well and thus might I find opportunity to convey some intelligence to R- House. But do I collect aright there is some matter goes forward in the Lords, that he must be about.
Comes up to me Reynaldo di S-, that says, he dares say I must have heard the news, that Lady Z- has gone bear a very fine daughter: and then goes sigh very deep, and say, sure she displays a most beautiful maternal character in her devotion to her children.
I say that indeed many women have the greatest love for their children whatever they may feel towards the father.
And he hopes that may prove some consolation to her –
Consolation? says I.
- for altho’ my heart remains entire in her hands, I am persuad’d that 'tis my duty to the cause to go rouse Herr P-'s adherents in the Americas and stiffen their resolve, and mayhap make new converts.
O, says I, 'tis a very noble thing you purpose.