An Honourable Estate
The Comfortable Courtesan
Volume 10

An Honourable Estate Cover

Clorinda has brought about a happier state of affairs in the Earl of N-’s family, but fears that this may have earned her the Earl’s enmity. The bad poet Mr W- Y-’s behaviour is becoming increasingly and worryingly erratic. Bets are being laid on the likelihood of Clorinda’s remarriage, and the identity of the groom. There are still a deal of contrivances upon hand.

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Read Chapter 1 ...

Matters get on at O‑ House

There are still heapt‑up piles of grimy snow in many places but the streets are a deal clearer as I go to O‑ House. Indeed, there is the very faintest hint in the air that spring may come again, that is most exceeding good to feel, even do my feet still rest upon a box of fine hot coals and are my hands still tuckt into my muff.

Sure matters get on at O‑ House. ’Tis now in sufficient trim that the Marquess has decid’d to move in, even does he not yet entertain Society, and even are there still works go on around him. He remarks to me that sure has slept in worse places on his expeditions, even does he not count the occasional prison cell — sure, says I, you must recount me your stories some day — and Plender, that has left the club for a post as his valet, contrives make him most exceeding comfortable.

He says, looking me in the eye, that sure we must sit down some day and tell stories, and, by the way, there was a fellow at the club lately show’d him a most horrid tale concerning a carnivorous flower.

Say you so! is’t in a book, or where, I love a horrid tale. (I doubt I shall be able to preserve my incognita from him for long, for is a fellow of considerable perception and doubtless recalls that I went ask him several questions about carnivorous plants. Does he come across my tale, that is not yet publisht, about the Inca curse, I daresay the game will be up most entirely.)

He thinks ’twas in some newspaper.

But on the subject of stories, says I as we walk through the fine hall, where one can see the fine gold leaf and marble ceiling no longer plain grey with dust, I think you should be tippt the wink that there is an on‑dit concerning your rides with a Fair Unknown in the Park at the unfashionable hours, that rouses speckulations.

He makes an uneasy shrugging movement of his shoulders. When else are my dear Hippolyta and I able to meet to converse freely? Are we in company we must still act the comedy, and sure one may not have much conversation in a ballroom.

O, says I, I contrive to do so but sure I have had a deal of practice. Also I daresay my conversations are not of the kind you would desire with Lady Anna.

He sighs and then smiles and says, sure has greatly improv’d her spirits now she and her sisters do not feel themselves dowdy frumps.

Sure there is a deal of pleasure in feeling oneself dresst entire proper for the occasion and that do people go look, ’tis in admiration and even envy, rather than so that they may go titter behind their fans.

Some day, says he, you must tell me how you brought the Earl to these concessions.

Sure, says I, I think ’tis knowledge that should be shar’d, but yet I do not suppose it a matter that should be disclos’d to his children.

The Marquess raises his eyebrows, and doubtless considers that even is Lady B‑ quite in Society and entire respectable, she may well retain antient connexions. He nods, and adds, that while he desires his future bride — he smiles very doating — should have the enjoyment of the Season, he is somewhat impatient for the time he may call her wife. Not merely, he adds, so that we need not meet so sub rosa, but so that I may have a place in the family and be able mayhap to moderate Lord N‑’s freaks.

Does you entire credit, says I. And now, I daresay, I should go about and personate one that understands all the intricacies of housekeeping about your domestick establishment.

I go first to the kitchens, for I have a few messages for Arabella from Seraphine, along with some spices &C that she may not yet be provid’d with. I find Arabella seat’d at the kitchen table with Mrs Atkins, that is the housekeeper, comes with very fine recommendations from Mrs P‑ and Miss W‑. I am pleas’d to see that they are on good terms, for indeed ’tis of great importance to the harmony of a household that housekeeper and cook should be upon diplomatick terms.

They look up and show a disposition to stand up and bob to me, but I wave ‘em to sit down. Sure, says I, I perceive you are at your elevens. I hand over the package from Seraphine to Arabella, that opens it and say, o, ’tis the Indian spices! ‘Tis kind of her, for may be some while until I may acquire my own supply.

She then looks thoughtfull and says do I think His Lordship might go hold a tiffin party?

Why, says I, ’twould be a quite excellent notion and I will open the matter to him, for indeed he must begin take part in Society, and to do something a little out of the common way would serve well to introduce him.

That is, Arabella goes on, do you do think Seraphine would not dislike it?

My dear, says I, has Seraphine give you the fine receipts she had of General Y‑’s Hindoo cook, and a supply of spices, ’tis no matter she will go take a jealous pet over.

Indeed, says Arabella with a smile, she is most unlike M. Duval.

Mrs Atkins stands up and says, has been exceeding pleasant convoking about household matters, but she should be about her own business now.

That minds me, says I, that by now Hector should have brought to your housekeeper’s room a selection of very excellent polishes and preparations for cleaning, that are not yet generally available, but that we would go recommend to you.

Why, that is kind, she says, as we walk towards her room. As the house has been clos’d up so long, there was no regular tradesman dealt with over such matters, and I am beleagur’d with a deal of circulars desiring our custom.

Indeed Hector has plac’d a fine basketfull of the first products of the enterprize making up Phoebe’s fine receipts for cleaning and polishing. Mrs Atkins goes look at ‘em, opens some to sniff and says sure they have a most agreeable odour.

’Tis the mark of rank for a housekeeper in a large establishment such as this to be call’d Mrs and may not import that she is a marry’d woman. But I observe that there is a mark on the ring finger of her left hand altho’ she does not wear a wedding ring. I confide that, as with the generality of those helpt to good places by Mrs P‑ and Miss W‑, there is some sad story behind.

I am about to go, when Mrs Atkins clears her throat and says, ’tis a very great liberty she knows, but has heard that Lady B‑ has connexions in New South Wales?

Indeed, says I.

Only, she says, her husband was transport’d some few years since — she adds that ’twas for agitation and endeavouring to form a combination — and she does not hear from him. Before he left he curst his foolishness that would leave her alone and in straits, and adviz’d her to forget him and give herself out a widow. But she would like to know is he still alive, and how he does, and sure, she does not forget him.

Why, says I, as I daresay you know, takes a deal of time to communicate with the antipodes, but I will write to my friends there, and mayhap you might write a note for your husband that I might go enclose?

She thanks me a little tearfull, then recovers herself and says somewhat about laundry.

There are a deal of maids go bustle about: I hope ’tis not just because they see me and wish show diligent.

Hector comes down the stairs and says has been convoking with Carew, that is the butler, has heard about the extreme fine wines that are serv’d at Lady B‑’s soirées and wonders whether we might supply the name of our merchant.

Hmm, says I, I think I shall have to go talk to Mr H‑ about the practickalities of the matter. (I also take a thought that perchance the Marquess may have views on smuggl’d goods.)

Hector then says, he observes a fine train of horseflesh that heads towards the stableyard and he doubts not Captain P‑ and his lady come with ’em.

I go put my tippet on again — for ‘tis still so chilly that I do not like to venture outdoors without it — and make my way into the stableyard.

Sure there is indeed a deal of very fine horseflesh to be seen: for tho’ I do not suppose that the Marquess purposes setting up as a whip, there are still matters of carriage horses as well as riding cattle, to sustain his position.

I see him in converse with dear Belinda, and quite run over to ’em so that I may greet her and see how she does.

She is looking exceeding well, claps me hearty upon the shoulder and says the same of me, and adds that sure I have been missing some fine hunting staying mew’d up in Town. She goes continue tell the Marquess of some particular fine run they late had: sure I am of the Contessa’s views upon fox‑hunting, ’tis an eccentricity I am unable comprehend.

She then turns to me and asks is’t true I go marry Lord A‑? (I apprehend from the Marquess’s expression that he has not heard this on‑dit.) Sure, she goes on, he is a fine rider to hounds, but I should not have suppos’d the two of you particular suit’d.

Indeed we are not, says I.

The Marquess says, let us not stand around here becoming chill’d, I have order’d a collation to be laid in the small parlour.