I go to O- House to see how matters come along and to see the Marquess and find how his matters come along. I find him in the library, where, the chimneys having late been swept, a fire is lit, that is indeed somewhat of a necessity at this season. I therefore put down my muff and remove my tippet.
The Marquess remarks that 'tis a finer library than he remember’d, and do I see anything that I should like to peruse, I am entire at liberty to do so and to take it away to read at leisure.
Sure you have found me out, says I, I am a bookish creature. Is there, perchance, some volume upon the Incas I might read?
He replies that his own books are still packt up, but he confides that there will be space here for 'em. And once he has unpackt ‘em, he will go send me some suitable work.
And, says I, I hear you go talk to the antiquarians about the Incas.
Indeed, he says. Should you like a card?
I smile and say, sure I already have one, there is a Fellow of their company sent it me, very civil of him.
He says that there are scholars that know a deal more about the Incas and the other peoples that flourisht before the Spaniards came, but he has acquir’d some fascinating objects and can say a little to the matter that may be unknown more generally.
Now we have exchang’d these civilities, I go tell him about my endeavours to finding servants for his household.
He sighs and says 'tis very good of you, Lady B- - have not been in the habit of keeping an establishment, and would desire to have all in order for my dear Hippolyta.
I take out my memorandum book and say, and that is another thing I must think on, she must have a lady’s maid: for I daresay that Brownlee will remain with her mother and sisters.
(I take a thought that perchance Connolly would be agreeable to leaving her place with the dreadfull crocodile. I do not think Jennie is yet like to be sufficient advanc’d in the mysteries of the profession to be preferr’d.)
He clears his throat and says, he apprehends that Lady Anna is in some concern about going about with her sister during the Season badly dresst, and 'tis yet another imposition, but, do you, Lady B-, have any notion how one might contrive about the matter? Indeed I should like her to enjoy herself.
Why, says I, I have also been somewhat puzzl’d in the matter, but I am in some hopes that when Lord U- returns from his Grand Tour, which cannot be long now, he may be able to bring it about.
Ah, indeed. Very proper.
I go on to remark that he will require a valet himself.
That I think I can come at, says he. There is one of the servants at the club has been tending to my needs in that respect, and has expresst a desire to go into private service.
There is a knock upon the Library door and comes in Hector, saying that the work is coming along better than he anticipat’d, and they understand what they are about.
Is there nothing else that requires attention, says I, perhaps, Your Lordship, you would like come sit in my own cozy parlour with tea, or perchance some exceeding excellent port that I have lately add’d to my cellar, and we might discuss these matters more comfortable.
That would be agreeable, says he.
Hector goes make sure the fire is smother’d, and we go to my own pretty and warm parlour.
The Marquess says that he is sure that my port is quite excellent, but tea would be entire pleasing. 'Tis not the yerba maté that he grew accustom’d to in the Americas, but 'twill serve.
He goes look at my bookshelves, and also scrutinizes my china, Sir Z- R-'s portrait of me in my rubies, and my mementoes of dear General Y-.
Comes in Celeste with tea, crumpets, and parkin.
O, says I, this is quite the feast!
We sit down vis-à-vis by the fire, and the Marquess says, speaking of feasts, he purposes to hold a small dinner-party – of course it cannot yet be at O- House, but he hears good report of the private rooms at M. Duval’s eating house for the quality, do I think that would answer?
Quite exceedingly, says I.
I suppose, he says, could not be arrang’d in time that Admiral K- might be among my guests.
Does he go to Harrogate to see Lady J-, by the time he returns I am like to suppose that the Admiralty will have his orders and he will be off post-haste.
Excellent fellow that he is! says the Marquess. Tho’ sure I was very surpriz’d to hear that he had marry’d Lady J- - tho’ one apprehends that she is a most excellent woman –
- but when I was with him in the West Indies, he spoke a good deal of the finest woman in the realm or out of it, and I suppos’d that did he marry, 'twould be to her; that is, to you.
Oh, I have quite the greatest fondness for the Admiral, it is a most antient affection, but I could not think that marriage would answer. I am a sad timid creature –
That is not the character you are given at R- House!
- the flattering weasels – and I confide would not do well on shipboard. Nor do I have the talents that would serve in managing the fine property he inherit’d: whereas Lady J- has a fine hand for such matters. They are remarkable well-suit’d, and I daresay you will have heard the very romantick tale of their meeting when he was a poor young lieutenant?
The Admiral mention’d, says I (for I am a true daughter of Eve and rul’d by curiosity), that he was of an impression that you had suffer’d some tragedy of the heart while you were in the Spanish Americas?
The Marquess looks into the fire and says, somewhat of the sort, and that was indeed why I was like to take a prudential approach to matrimony, because I thought that I could not feel such emotion again –
- but sure I was wrong!
There is somewhat of a pause, and he says, 'twas an episode quite like unto some novel. While I was about plant-hunting, I was attackt by some venomous creature – did not even see what 'twas – became quite delirious and indeed do not recall how I got there, but I stagger’d onto some remote estancia, and the fellow who own’d it took me in, and had me nurs’d by his servants until I recover’d.
And gradually I came back to health, and naturally I was exceeding gratefull to him for this care.
He had a daughter – his only child – what they call in those parts mestizo, for her mother had been his Indian mistress, and he quite greatly doat’d upon her, and had considerable concerns about what would be like to happen to her did he dye.
While he was a fellow in the prime of life, he had some affliction of the heart that was fear’d might take him off quite sudden. He desir’d to leave his fine property to her, but her sex, her mingl’d race and her illegitimacy he fear’d would bring her great problems did she not have a trustworthy man to stand by her. He had also, I know not how, gain’d a very elevat’d notion of the character of an Englishman, and I was, as 'twere, an answer to prayer.
And indeed, his daughter – Inès – was a very fine creature, tho’ of course I was not permitt’d to see much of her at first.
I should perhaps mention, he goes on, that I happen’d to be carrying certain documents with me, that could have caus’d a deal of trouble both for those who sent them and those to whom I took 'em, did they fall into the wrong hands. And when I had come to myself, I found that the package had not been restor’d to me along with my clothes and such possessions as I had not lost during my delirium.
I do not think Don Hernando – that was his name – had any leanings to any side in the conflicts then raging – his estancia was indeed remote and he may have thought that 'twas all a storm that would blow over and not touch him. But he quite apprehend’d that these documents were a very persuasive business for me. Without ever being direct, he indicat’d that did I marry the fair Inès, I might then proceed upon my journey with 'em, with the understanding that I would return.
So I agreed. 'Twould take some time for the business to be put in hand, and once we were formally affianc’d, I was able to have some communication with Inès – we would ride out together, for example, attend’d by a groom. I became increasingly prepossesst with her: she had had education at the hands of nuns and was an intelligent inform’d young woman, rode most exceeding well, could shoot -
But as we grew to know one another, I came to understand that she was perhaps even more reluctant for this match than I had been, and at length I discover’d that she had a passionate desire to become a nun, a desire encourag’d by the Mother Superior of the convent wherein she was educat’d. Did she manage to get herself within their walls, they had a deal of influence to keep her there and obtain any dispensations necessary for her to take the veil.
She said she would go extract my package from where her father had conceal’d it, would I accompany her to the convent. She had allies in the household would provide us with horses, supplies, &C.
By this time I had an entire passionate admiration for her, but I could see that altho’ I think she felt a friendship for me, 'twas not love, and her devotion was given to her vocation.
So – o, there were alarums and excursions, but I deliver’d her to the convent, made my own escape, deliver’d my package to those it was destin’d for –
And once a year, he continues, Sor Catarina, that she is now nam’d, writes me a letter.
I sigh and say sure 'tis a most romantick tale.
But, he says, I find another and different romantick tale has come to me.