When I go dress for dinner, desiring Docket to array me fine enough to compliment the company, but not so much as to appear high and mighty, I mind me of Miss N-'s remarks about Mr L-'s desire for one to write pieces about fashion and style for his newspaper and go mention the matter to Docket.
Docket takes a thoughtfull look.
Why, she says at some length, there is Tibby, quite devours La Belle Assemblée and Ackermann’s Repository &C, has a deal of good notions that she writes up in her fine book - sure that was a most excellent habit she has got into – I confide her thoughts would be worth reading and and very instructive.
But surely, says I, Tibby must have a deal already upon her hands as Her Grace’s maid.
Why, 'tis a position of great responsibility, but in such a large household there is a deal of matter that she does not need to undertake herself, because there are sewing maids &C for matters of mending and so forth, which manifests her consequence, although there will always be some matters that she would keep in her own hands. But indeed I think 'twould be an excellent thing for her.
Well, says I, when we are all return’d to Town I will convoke with Tibby on the matter (tho’ I am somewhat like to wonder is this Docket being entire doating concerning the capacities of her protégé).
I go down to the parlour and find Mr A- already arriv’d with his sister, Lavinia A-, that is a teacher in a girls’ school, and goes look somewhat abasht at the company she finds herself in; I daresay had not expect’d a marchioness. I make exceeding civil towards her. She looks to be some few years older than Miss N-, with whom she goes talk a little upon education.
Mr A- comes talk to me, says he is entire at my service do I need any further supplies of foxglove tincture, and how do I get on with the dispensary plan? Alas, says I, have been going about visits so much have not had the time I should like to give to it. Indeed I have not spoke to Mr H- this age, for in the summer he goes out of Town to his place by the sea-side in Sussex, for the benefit of the sanitive airs and altho’ he will return from time to time to operate or dissect, we must have misst one another with the times we were separately in Town.
He tells me that he has had letters from Mr H-, but they were all upon matters of professional interest. 'Tis a very fine thing to have the benefit of Mr H-‘s thoughts upon matters of surgery and anatomy.
Comes a little after time Mr D-, that apologizes for keeping us waiting, there was some little matter at the works that delay’d him – but I perceive that he must have been home to change into company wear, brush his hair somewhat, &C.
We all go to table. I sit 'twixt Josiah and Mr D-, that commences to tell me about his visit to my lead-mine, which occupys us for the entirety of the first course.
When this is remov’d and the second brought, he minds his manners enough to go turn to Lavinia A-, or perchance 'tis not entire a matter of the usages of society, for they fall into a considerable animat’d conversation, and from what I overhear, allude to their earlier acquaintance.
Josiah smiles and says, he confides that 'tis quite the poorest of ton to go discuss business at the dinner-table, so he will not go discourse about lead, or steam-pumps, or smelting -
Why, says I with a smile, 'tis quite of the greatest interest to me at present, and sure 'tis a deal more interesting than cricket, which was the entire burden of every conversation at Sir P- O-‘s house-party.
He grins and says he confides 'tis a deal genteeler pastime than those he pursu’d as a young fellow: when he was not out tweaking the noses of gamekeepers, there were such sports as wrestling and football, that he confides the quality do not indulge in.
Sure, says I, 'tis curious that gentlemen will consider it in quite the best of ton to go study the pugilistick art with some retir’d prize-fighter, but that 'tis not at all the same thing with wrestling.
And, says Josiah, that 'tis quite entire in order to go shoot game, but snaring or using a sling-shot, that requires a deal of skill, is deem’d criminal. But sure there were a deal of pursuits that I should not care for now, such as cock-fighting: I could not hold my head up before Josh, that writes cannot I not bring Parliament to pass some law concerning the cruelties of badger-baiting, the dear tender-heart’d young soul.
He is a dear creature, says I. We both smile very fond.
Has MacD- ever spoke to you about some fine game he us’d to play in Scotland - goff I think ‘twas call’d – but 'tis scarce known of in England?
(Sure I wonder, does Sandy have a passion for the game, that 'tis not play’d at R- House. Did it require some special court, like tennis, I confide that Milord would go construct one. )
O, says I, I confide Mr MacD- knows better than to discourse to me of manly sports. I do not talk to him of hats and he does not talk to me of rackets and balls.
He laughs, and then looks along the table to our belov’d Eliza. They give one another little nods and she rises to take the ladies into the parlour. I see her somewhat wishfull to say that Harry may have half a glass of port but no more, but not wishing to embarrass him before company.
In the parlour she permits Bess and Meg a very small glass of ratafia apiece. Miss N- takes tea but Lavinia A- accepts a little ratafia.
I have just taken the first sip from my own glass when comes Patty very apologetick and says, 'tis Miss Flora wants her sleepy wombatt and refuses go sleep until she has her.
Eliza looks at me and smiles and says, sure she may have her wombatt.
So I go to the nursery where my naughty darling is sitting up in bed with a stubborn look - o, 'tis quite entire charming – and go over and say, How now, is this not a sleepy wombatt? I was told I might find a sleepy wombatt here.
She holds out her arms to me and indeed I should not reward her naughtiness but I kiss my adorable child, and then she goes be a sleepy wombatt as I lye down beside her to do the like. Sleepy wombatts snuggle together and exchange kisses until one of 'em falls asleep.
When I get up, because my sweet bundle has gone to sleep, Patty remarks how very kind 'tis of me to put up with these whims. O, says I, she is a sweet thing. Patty pulls a face and then says, she is that, one cannot remain cross at her long: and looks down fondly at her.
When I return to the parlour, Meg is seat’d at the piano accompanying Mr A- in a song, for he has brought his music with him. I observe that Mr D- has brought his fiddle: but at this moment, he is sitting next to Lavinia A-, and there is that in their postures that suggests that there is indeed a mutual inclination 'twixt the pair of 'em, tho’ they do not speak together but give their attention to the song.
Bess, I see, sits looking somewhat sullen.
There is a pause in the musical proceedings, and Miss N- most immediate leaps in to say she dares say Mr A-'s sister has not heard Lady B- read Shakspeare: 'tis a most immense treat, would she do so.
There is a general murmur that I confide conveys that the company would desire a reading. I go take the volume from where it sits, and think what would be suit’d to this company. ('Tis not the Family Shakspeare). Sure 'tis only on reflection after I have begun reading that I wonder whether certain passages from Twelfth Night are entire fitt’d to the occasion. For indeed there is somewhat of a green and yellow melancholy comes upon Bess, the poor thing. Sure 'tis a trying time of a young woman’s life.
After I have read, Mr D- obliges us with some music upon his fiddle.
In due course, the guests take their leave, and Mr D- goes walk back with the A-s.
Eliza goes chase the girls and Harry off to bed.
She comes into the parlour where Josiah and I are sitting, stretches and yawns and says sure Bess lookt very mopish – it cannot be that she is upset by Harry’s leaving, for 'tis not as tho’ he had not already gone from home to school – can it?
Josiah remarks that perchance 'tis that Harry goes out into the world, sets forth upon a career, while she is in the schoolroom and facing a different course.
(Indeed, the secret is not my secret to disclose.)
Eliza sighs a little and says that she has not lately had Bess sit with her while she is about business matters, had thought she would give her a little holiday, but perchance would do her good and occupy her mind. She confides that a deal of vapourishness and even greensickness in girls of those years is due to lack of occupation.
We sit and consider this for a while, then I yawn and stretch and say sure I must be off to my fine reserv’d chamber. We all look at one another very fond and I am in great anticipation that I shall not be long alone in my exceeding large bed.