Sure it has been a more agreeable house-party than I anticipat’d, even with the presence of the D- K-s. Mr D- K- has been making himself unpopular over certain matters of cards and billiards, but I do not know the exact story; and the ladies of the party are quite come to apprehend that if they engage in some malicious gossip with Mrs D- K-, they themselves are like to be the next subjects when she talks to others.
I have contriv’d in spare moments to draft out my tale of a daemonick swan and purpose to try it out upon Sandy, and upon my dear loves that I am in great desire to see after I have gone visit the estate.
Miss S-, I confide, has entire taken a girlish enthusiasm towards me, which is extreme pleasing to a vain creature such as myself.
I stand by the lake edge throwing food to the pretty ducks &C and endeavouring not to feed any to the swans, nasty creatures. Mr W- Y- has already quit the party in order to go take the waters against the ill-effects of his submersion.
'Tis an agreeable morn with a soft breeze blowing and the scents of flowers, the gabble-gabble of the waterfowl, when comes up to me Mr D- K-.
I dip my head in a little nod to acknowledge him. Sure he has been making most curiously agreeable towards me these past days.
He sighs and says sure he should have marry’d a lady like you, Your Ladyship: one that had sense and a business-like nature to match her more obvious charms - tho’ indeed, he goes on, there are few if any like you, Lady B-, sure you are a unique creature.
I turn to face him fully, twirling my parasol. O, says I with a giddy laugh, I am but a silly creature of quite the humblest origins, but I have had sense enough not to entrust my fortunes to the hands of a husband. Sure, when I marry’d the late Marquess, a man of most excellent qualities, I ty’d up my own little fortune – 'twas no great matter, but 'twas mine, and I had earn’d it thro’ my own endeavours –
I pause, because I expect Mr D- K- to say something coarse about the nature of those endeavours, for he is the kind to suppose that one becomes a crack courtesan simply by falling backwards, which is indeed not the case at all. But he is silent.
- and the dear fellow, and my man of law, thought it a most admirable proceeding.
You are, he says at length, given out as commanding a deal of interest -
Why, says I, fluttering my eyelashes, the common on-dit will give out a deal of matter, some true and some quite the reverse.
- we find ourselves, he goes on, in some embarrassment -
And why, says I, should I go help you when I can remember – perchance you do not? – the matter of a pretend’d theft at A-, the casting of suspicion upon the servants and a child. O, Mr K-, sure I am not’d as a philanthropist, but I will ever give my money and my efforts to good and deserving causes.
I perceive that he is endeavouring not altogether successfull to hold on to his temper. He turns such a colour that I am in some apprehension that he may have a seizure, makes me an awkward leg, and departs.
I am given to wonder whether he spoke to that b---h his wife about his intention to solicit my interest. I confide not. I am heartily sorry for her marry’d to such a fellow, even is she a b---h.
I turn back to the lake. Feeling somewhat agitat’d, I go walk around it, and come to the bridge. I look down to the shelter’d inlet where the swans nest, and see that there are a covey of cygnets paddling about in the water. Sure they are quaint pretty little things, but will grow up into swans.
I hear footsteps coming up the bridge and turn around. 'Tis Miss S-, that looks a deal better now she is dressing her hair in the new way devis’d by Docket and taking some thought to her clothes.
O, Lady B-, she cries, I hope I do not interrupt your meditations.
Nothing of the kind, says I, I was just looking upon the cygnets.
She looks at me and says that she will be coming to Town with Dora and her husband in the autumn, may she come call upon me?
But indeed, says I, I purpose to go introduce Lady D- and yourself about in my circles.
'Tis most exceeding kind, she says.
Not at all, says I, I am quite of the supposition that the D-s and yourself will entire be assets to our set. I confide that Her Grace the Duchess of M- will like you most extremely.
O! she says and is silent for a moment. She then blushes a little and says, I observe, Lady B-, that you do not keep an album - I agree that 'tis so – but I want’d to give you this poem.
I take the paper from her and commence to read. 'Tis a most well-turn’d sonnet, that flatters me exceeding with a comparison to a swan.
Dear Miss S-, says I, I confide this is your own work?
She covers her mouth with her hand and says, yes, indeed 'tis, but then begs me not to reveal her secret, for she dares say 'tis not at all proper for a young woman to write poetry.
If so be she can write poetry, I would consider it entire proper, says I. Sure when it comes to matters of publication, there is some feeling in favour of ladies employing an incognita, but 'tis far from a universal law – think, for example, of Mrs Barbauld’s fine works that she puts her name to. And sure you write it most exceeding well.
O, Lady B-! She becomes a little tearfull.
Tho’, I go on, I am a silly creature of no education - I am no learn’d critick - but sure I was brought up on the Bard. And I have had the benefit of converse with fellows like Mr MacD- that have learning and will condescend to discuss matters of literature with those that lack such advantages.
Miss S- blushes and says, that horrid creature Mrs D- K- was saying something vile concerning the both of you, that I am quite sure is an entire lye -
Sure, says I, a woman like her I daresay has no experience of the fine friendship that may be 'twixt a man and a woman.
Oh, she says with a fierce look, that ladies might call out one another over such slanders.
My dear, says I, such duels are fought with other weapons - the disdainfull glance, the lift’d eyebrow, the sarcastick laugh, even unto the cut direct. But sure, I confide I should consider her entire unworthy of the field of honour were ladies permitt’d to make challenges.
Oh, Lady B-, you are so wise!
No, indeed, I am a silly creature, but I have had some experience of Society. Now, my dear, I say, leaning over to take her hands and kiss her, I must go make my farewells all round. I shall see you in Town.
Sure I think that Little V will like her extremely.
The company is beginning to break up and farewells, promises to meet again and of eternal devotion are being exchang’d.
I go bid my adieux to Sir H- and Lady Z-, that have most kind offer’d to take Sandy part of his way – this answers most extremely, as we do not wish to leave together, especial if Mrs D- K- is putting about spitefull speculations. But we are to meet again so that he may accompany me to consult with Mr M-, that manages the mining on my estate, going about by separate routes.
Lady Z- is looking very well and in good spirits. There seems, if not the more usual kind of conjugal affection 'twixt her and Sir H-, something like friendship, which pleases me most immense.
I give Sandy several messages suppos’d for conveyance to Milord.
I wave them off – sure saying farewell and seeing people depart is a little melancholy, even does one anticipate to foregather again very soon.
There are several gentlemen make very effusive over their farewells to me: 'tis most gratifying.
I go in, for I daresay Docket wishes to array me in somewhat suitable for travelling. She and Sophy have the matter of packing entire in hand, and footmen are already conveying trunks &C to be load’d onto my carriage.
Once I am array’d, and Docket has set my fine new hat at a most becoming angle and secur’d it extreme firm with a hatpin so that it remains thus, I go to take polite leave of my hosts and Lord and Lady D-.
Extreme good wishes are exchang’d on all sides, and I reiterate that I will welcome calls from Lady D-, send cards for my drawing room meeting and soirée, look forward with the greatest eagerness to their arrival in Town &C&C. I add to Lord P- that I will most certainly tell Lady J- that he would like to conclave with her over cattle, once she has return’d from her conjugal visit.
'Tis with a deal of relief I am hand’d into my carriage and we drive off at a brisk pace. Docket and Sophy convey to me a deal of backstairs gossip concerning my fellow guests. I sigh and stretch a little. I am a little worry’d about what the D- K-s may do next, but it appears to me that they are becoming quite extensive shunn’d in good society.