After entirely too short a visit, Mr F- departs for the W- estate and Sir B- W-'s house-party. He is in hopes of reaching a mutually beneficial arrangement to improve the workings of the quarry, for the management of the operation was let slide for many years. I advise him to consult with Lady W- on the matter, as he will receive no decision from Sir B- W- until he has done so, furthermore, Lady W-, that has had the command of her own fortune since she came of age, has a very good head for business. Though, I remark, I daresay at the moment she will be preoccupied by other matters. (For Mr H- says he has his bag packed and his instruments in order daily awaiting the call to her lying-in.)
I am rendered quite ridiculous melancholy at his departure. Anyone would think, I tell myself, that you had been left desolate like Dido among the flaming towers of Carthage (Mr G- D- has introduced Miss McK- to a most touching lament from an opera on the subject by Purcell). Whereas Major W- is still in Town though has hopes that the regiment may finally depart for Canada. He has not told me himself, but I have discovered roundabout, that he was close to fighting a duel with a fellow-officer who had seen Mr O'C-'s nasty squib and repeated it to him. But with the intervention of Sir B- W-, and the other fellow-officer who had spoke to me in the Park and seen my blooming health, it was brought to an apology at repeating scurrilous libel and the meeting was called off.
Furthermore, although many of the little notes desiring better acquaintance with antipodean Flora came from aspirants quite out of consideration, there are a few where I think I may at least proceed to a preliminary meeting.
Dear Admiral K-, however, has now been ordered still further away on a mission along the shores of the Southern Americas and I know not when I shall see him again.
I get occasional letters from Miss A- on tour, which are full of the trials and even catastrophes of such an enterprise (the rustick nature of provincial theatres, the cart with costumes and scenery going astray and getting bogged down in mud, &C), but nonetheless I can discern that the tour is being a roaring success. I also wonder do I discern, or am I being unduly suspicious, that she and Mr J- are finding consolation with one another in their separation from their dearer loves.
I do not of course open this possibility to Miss D- when she calls with her usual budget of gossip, and to collect the letters to herself from Mr J- which he prudently sends under cover to my address. She tells me that Mr N- has been persuaded that the business of the nation will survive his absence from the Home Office for a few weeks, and he is planning an excursion to Margate, which his own physician deems far more suited to his constitution than Brighton. It will probably be a dead bore, she says, but at least a change.
Mr H- tells me that pressure of business is like to keep him in Town for most of the summer, for a fine crop of babies is in prospect: but my dear, he says, should you wish to recruit by the seaside (though really, as he pinches my cheek, you are looking remarkably well) my little Sussex place is ever at your disposal and I have indeed instructed the servants to that effect. That is most kind, I respond, and I may well take your kind offer, for there is always some point in the summer at which London becomes a desert as far as one's circle is concerned. Sir Z- R-, I am given to understand, plans a sketching holiday in Wales, though I have no intelligence as to whether the wombatt will accompany him. Mr B- takes Miss McK- to Brighton as usual, and I hear that Signor V- has obtained some very excellent engagements in Bath for himself and Miss L-. Really, I say, our set will be quite scattered for a while.
I am therefore most exceeding chear'd to receive a note from Mrs F- to say that she has contrived a way to visit and if I can keep a certain afternoon clear of visitors, hopes to be able to call upon me, have a sight of Julius, obtain Seraphine's receipt for kedgeree, &C.
Thus we are all entirely happy when she arrives. She and I fly to one another's embrace. O, my dear Mrs F-, I say, however did you contrive this stratagem? I thought surely Lady J- would have you fastened up tight.
Ah, says Mrs F-, I was able to persuade her that it would not be at all fitting, indeed quite unsuitable, to interview governesses at M- House, which would give an entirely misleading impression of the standing of the household they will be entering. I also managed to reject her offer of, at least take one of the carriages, by saying I did not want to convey any suggestion that we were in fine society and raise their expectations. I have therefore, my dearest, managed, once my business was despatched, to come to Islington Green.
O, you wicked creature, I say, as Euphemia comes in with the tea-tray, to thus mislead Her Ladyship.
Mrs F- sits down and laughs. One does need to manage the lady, I find, for although she has a good heart and ever desires the best for others, she will always suppose that she knows best. I see His Grace leaning heavily upon his training in the Diplomatick, and Her Grace biting her lip.
But, she says eagerly, may we go and see Seraphine and Julius? So we proceed down to the kitchen, where Seraphine makes effusive thanks for the baby-clothes, and offers to let Mrs F- hold Julius.
Mrs F- takes him in a practised grasp (unlike myself, who always fears to drop him or do some other mischief) and looks down at him. What a fine boy, she says, and I see a kind of yearning in her face. She blinks several times as if to disperse tears. What a very fine boy, may I hold him for a little? My own dear little Quintus is now come to the toddling stage. Seraphine poses several questions to Mrs F- as from the new mother of a child to one that has borne and raised several.
They then proceed to an exchange of receipts, Mrs F- still holding Julius, until he stirs and begins to whimper, and she passes him back so that Seraphine may feed him. Mrs F- commends this practice very highly, saying that because she was left so weakly after little Quintus's birth they had been oblig'd to find a wet-nurse, which caus'd her some sadness for she had fed all the others herself. But they had found a good healthy country-girl, that now stays on as nursery maid.
We return to the parlour and Mrs F- remarks that it must be sadly tedious for me to hear all this discourse of babies. She hardly dares ask, but have I ever -? I miscarry'd once, I say, in a manner which I hope indicates that it is a matter I had rather not talk of, even to my dearest friend, adding, it was a very long time ago.