The weather has turn'd extreme horrid, with sleetish rain battering at the windows. We are snug inside but yet I feel a little melancholick. Sure I had not realised that I was so vain of my looks until catching sight of myself unawares in a mirror and observing that none would mark me as the exquisite Madame C- at present. I console myself that there are those that love me no matter what, and indeed that Mr F- displayed great delight in my present shape.
(I do so miss my darlings.)
As I cannot suppose that Sandy will brave the elements to take a morning cigar on the terrace as he is wont, I daresay I shall find him in the trophy-room which also serves as a smoaking-parlour for gentlemen.
I do indeed find him there contemplating the General's fine collection of Hindoo curios. I am sure, say I, that there are those that would appreciate these as they ought to be, and that it is a shame that they should be kept here where none may see them. Is there not an East India Museum in the City? - Sandy replies that indeed that is so. - There are a few things I should like to keep as mementoes of the dear General, such as the painting of his bibi, and the little statuette of the lady that rides upon a tiger - I believe that to be one of their goddesses, tho' I have not made a particular study of the Hindoo religion. - but do you think they would accept them? If I made the donation quite anonymous?
Since I am given to understand that you have been of great service to the Hon Company's diplomacy, if the tale about your rubies be true, why should they spurn so fine a gift did it come from you?
Sure I will never fully understand the unwritten laws of society, but I prefer not to test them. I sit down in the armchair. But to other matters, do you yet find what is ado with Prue?
Sandy leans against the billiard table. I am not yet confirmed in my suppositions but I go about finding occasion to lead into conversations with members of your household. Did you, he asks, note that Prue did not venture upon playing snapdragon?
I sigh. No doubt she considers it a heathenish superstitious practice, or mayhap symbolickal of hellfire.
Mayhap, but I am not persuaded. Phoebe tells me that she has noted a certain clumsiness, which has fortunately not resulted in any particular bad breakages, but she attributes that to Prue having reached that gawky time of life.
He pauses and says, he hopes I do not mind, but he thinks that at dinner today we shall be served with a certain Scottish dish as he needed some excuse to talk to Seraphine -
Pray reassure me 'tis not haggis, say I, for I could never like the sound of it.
No, 'tis a sweet dish of oatmeal and cream and a little whisky, very delicious and entirely wholesome. Euphemia I had already had a chance to talk to through her being requir'd to make apologies to me. Similarly with Tibby.
My dear, I say with a smile, you do greatly love searching into mysteries, do you not?
He blushes and admits that 'tis so, whether it be the authorship of a scurrilous libel or why a fountain fails to play as it should, there is something he finds most congenial about sounding out the matter.
'Tis a talent, say I, that I have found of great service.
It is indeed a pleasure. I also find out much that is not, perhaps, particularly pertinent to the matter in hand.
Anything, say I, that I should know concerning the household (wondering if, perhaps, Seraphine may have disclos'd some matter of her feelings towards Roberts)? - that is, that you would not feel it indiscreet to communicate?
I am sure it is not news to you that all heartily detest Mr G- -
He does not go about to make himself beloved, or even respected, I reply -
- and they only wish that the F-s were nearer at hand, though Hector has explained to me with great approbation the excellent contrivance with the pigeons -
Pigeons? I say.
Did you not know? Perhaps there was some concern that you might endeavour to climb into the loft, out of curiosity.
But what contrivance is this, I continue, are they to serve at table?
He looks at me. I see that I have reveal'd something that was being kept from you - they are carrier pigeons that can reach Mr F- far quicker than the post, particularly in winter, in case any emergency should arise.
O, I say, that is so like Mr F-, so sensible and practical, tho' I could wish that he had inform'd me of the plan. Indeed I should greatly like to look upon them but I do not think I am presently in any condition to climb into lofts.
(Also, I think, 'tis a terrible temptation to me to have this means of summoning my darlings so close to hand, tho' I do entirely understand that it is only intended for matters of extremity.)
Indeed, says Sandy, it is a great reassurance to your friends to think that Mr F- has such care for you and is altogether so responsible.
(Sure, I think, this makes him sound much like Mr N-, tho' he could hardly be more different.)
Especially, I reply, as I am but a weak and incompetent woman.
Sandy pauses to give me one of his looks. You may persuade Mr G- of that, because that is what he expects to see, but none that know you think it. Mr F- certainly does not suppose you weak and incompetent - if he did I am sure he would have undertaken prudent measures of protection, such as a reliable companion - but one that may be in a situation that requires help.
I sigh. You are indeed a very excellent friend to me. Indeed it is merely that I find myself in some lowness of spirits that renders me contrary. Also, I do very greatly miss Mr F-'s company (I do not think I can reveal, even to Sandy, quite how much I miss both my darlings), however reassur'd I am about his care over me.
That is very understandable. But I should not have kept you lingering in this chilly room, for I see you start to shiver: you should go at once and sit by the fire in your parlour.