A Change of Station
The Comfortable Courtesan
Clorinda returns to Town after her supposed sojourn at Carlsbad helping Miss G- out of a pickle. She is now in a loving triad relationship with the F-s, hindered by distance and concerns for their reputation, and has given them her beloved baby daughter Flora to bring up as their own. Can she regain her former position? Will her circle recover from Miss A-’s wild behaviour?
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Return to Town
After so many months I enter once again at my own front door, where Hector greets me and says he confides that I will find all in very good order. There is a great pile of correspondence and a multitude of cards that have been left since it has been not’d that the house is being open’d up once more.
Tibby takes my bonnet and cloak, and, desiring Hector to ask Euphemia to send up good strong coffee, I go into my parlour. O, how pleasant ‘tis to be home: I look at Sir Z- R‑’s portrait of me in my rubies, my cabinet of pretty china, and then at my dear desk, that is quite bury’d under piles of letters and notes and a tray of cards. It seems I am not quite forgot during my long absence.
I am most delight’d to find that the note at the top of the pile is from dearest Admiral K‑, that finds himself in Town waiting upon the Admiralty, and hopes that he will have the chance to see the finest woman in Town (the dear creature) before receiving his orders. I immediately go dash off a response inviting him to a quiet private dinner and ring for Hector. He comes in, followed by Euphemia with coffee.
O Hector, I say, is Titus return’d to the household? – Indeed, madame, and much improv’d. Mr G- D- gives him a most pleasing character and indeed is most sorry to lose him for their entire household became greatly attacht to him. Also his musickal studies come on well and Mr G- D- confides that he may shortly be ready for publick performance – That is most gratifying to hear, I respond, I hope he is not grown too proud to take messages, for I have a little note for Admiral K‑ – I shall send him at once, madame.
Euphemia, I say, should the dear Admiral be free to dine this evening, do you think you could provide us with a nice little dinner? – That will be no trouble at all, she replies, with Seraphine’s wise instructions and Phoebe’s help (for some of the tradespeople try take advantage of my youth) the pantry, spice cupboard &C are all well-supply’d. However, Hector says that the cellar is getting low and ‘twould be prudent to talk to Mr H- concerning his Sussex friends.
Indeed, I say. This is excellent good coffee such as I have not tast’d in an age. She bobs and leaves.
There is a note from Mr H‑, expressing himself delight’d to hear of my return, hopes that I am well, and still retains the stufft swan against a suitable occasion. I therefore write and say that Leda will sure be making her debut very soon, and also go ask after his trading friends in the region of Brighton.
I deal with the most pressing correspondence and then go change into walking costume to go to the Park. Docket has been about furbishing up my wardrobe and assures me that I am dresst in quite the latest style, but that I should probably go visit Biddy Smith shortly.
Sure ‘tis a great pleasure to be out of mourning.
There is the usual crowd in the Park, for ’tis a fine day and almost summer. I nod to one or two acquaintances and then see Mrs O’C- with her ill-favour’d brat (but, thinks I, sure I would doat upon Flora whatever her looks: tho’ ‘tis indeed agreeable to have such a pretty babe as all who see her remark upon her very admiring). We greet one another and she is most pleas’d to see me. Do I purpose holding my soirées again? she would be entire delight’d to act banque at my card-table.
She and Mr P- did go about to try and provide some substitute during my absence, but somehow it did not answer. She thinks this was due to a most unfortunate occurrence at the very first, when that wick’d minx Miss A- made the most atrocious blatant advances to Mr N‑, with the result that that spitfire Miss D- fell to hair-pulling and face-scratching, for Miss A- was also being gossipt upon about Mr J-.
Good heavens, say I, what dramas have I misst? Mrs O’C- is only too happy to recount the shocking conduct of Miss A‑, though concedes that she seems to have reform’d of late. And how, I continue, do you go on with Mr P-?
At least, she replies, Miss A- did not turn her artillery upon him. Oh, we get along very well, he is most agreeably generous and does not object to my offering special pleasures to other gentlemen. He is a little tiresome from time to time in the manner of gentlemen – t’other week I was quite engrosst with The Gypsy’s Curse – have you read it yet? ‘Tis quite the sensation – and happen’d to lay it down for a moment. Then he picks it up as he is wont to do with anything I am reading – and usually tells me ‘tis sorry trash and I should read Pope – but then takes it away and I cannot get the volume back until he has finisht. I was really in such suspense to know what happen’d next, too. He is also somewhat sarcastick about my going to Mass. But compar’d to Mr O’C-, that, by the way, is now deceas’d, ‘tis really quite a relief to me, and he did at least dye in the rites of the Church, I have no complaints at all.
Well, my dear, I certainly purpose to start my soirées once more and should very much like you to take banque. She then asks me about my excursion to Carlsbad and I beg her not to press for details, the whole thing was quite horrid tho’ reacht a happy conclusion for Miss G‑, I have had to spend some while recruiting from the experience.
She then takes her child by the hand and says she must be getting along, Mr P- likes her to dine with him before he goes to the theatre.
I walk on, and then comes over to me, leading his horse, Sir B- W‑. Dear Madame C-! ‘tis a delight to see you once more. How very well you are looking. But – he looks about him – how does Miss G-? For I continually feel that I must bear some responsibility for her wild courses.
I look fondly at him. He is looking very well. Oh, altho’ I had much ado about the matter – please do not interrogate me about it, I wish only to forget the entire business – she end’d up by making a most excellent match and has gone into very remote parts, that I doubt we shall see her again in Town.
Well, I am glad that she is doing well. But sure I think I am doing better myself, now that I spend no late nights drinking in gambling hells and have my dear wife to think for me. ‘Tis her notion that I should ride a little each day for the good of my health. He goes on to tell me what a wonderfull woman Lady W- is, what a fine son she bore him, and mentions various other news of our set, including that Mr S- has very well-deserv’d been elect’d to the Royal Society. What a splendid fellow S- is, not just an astonishing savant but quite remarkable at billiards. Very fine wife, too.
He then looks somewhat awkward and says he hears that the F-s rejoice in the arrival of a baby daughter. This causes a certain amount of comment, though for his part he has always thought Mrs F- a remarkably fine woman (o, indeed she is, thinks I), somewhat indeed in Miss G‑’s style tho’ not her colouring, and consider’d that conjugal restraint must pose a trial to Mr F‑. Also he understands from his dear lady that Mrs F- often lament’d the sad state of affairs that depriv’d her of further maternity. I have heard so, I reply.
(Sure, I can see that half my acquaintance will be going try find some way to convey this news to me.)
I say that I intend to recommence my soirées, and hope that he will attend: Mrs O’C- has agreed to hold banque again. This leads Sir B- W- to tell me about the disastrous event at Mr P‑’s during which Miss D- fell upon Miss A- as if she intended her murder. Sure there is never anything the like at your soirées – Indeed I should hope not.
He kisses my hand and says he must be away, for he intends to be home for the boy’s bath-time, ‘tis quite the prettyest thing.
I return home to find that the dear Admiral will be dining with me, and go dress for the occasion.
He looks in good health – altho’ he was somewhat knockt about by fever in the West Indies, there is nothing like a good long voyage at sea to set a fellow up again – and comments that I am still the finest woman in Town &C &C, sure time has entirely stood still with me since the occasion when he accost’d me at Vauxhall – his legs trembl’d , his heart beat as if ‘twould jump from his chest, but he mind’d the words of Nelson and went straight ahead. He had hop’d to present me today with a very fine parrot, but on the voyage it pickt up very vulgar and coarse language most unfit for a lady’s household.
He hears I have been about some bother with that wild creature Miss G-: I repeat my prepar’d tale on the matter. He does not seem to have heard the intelligence concerning the increase to the F‑’s family and was of course well away from Miss A‑’s imbroglios.
We linger over port and madeira talking of old times and old friends. We then retire to my boudoir for a boisterous voyage to Cythera. ‘Tis indeed pleasant to see this old favourite and continu’d admirer.