The Comfortable Courtesan
Clorinda has successfully brought about a better state of affairs in the household of Lord D-. However, there are still problems in her circle; in particular, there seems something not quite right in the Earl of N-’s establishment…
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Read Chapter 1 ...
The Contessa’s ridotto is everywhere discusst
One forenoon I am sat at my pretty desk about my correspondence, when Hector shows in Miss A‑.
How now, dear rogue! I cry and send Hector to desire good strong coffee from Euphemia. How do you? and do you hear from Lady J‑?
O, I do well enough, says she, apart from the absence of Lady J‑; sure I confide she does not pull round as much as she hop’d in the sanitive airs of Hampshire. She sighs. But indeed, ’twas not that matter I came about.
Comes Celeste with coffee and Miss A‑’s favourite buns.
Well, dear rogue, what’s ado? I ask.
Miss A‑ casts down her eyes for a moment, then looks up and says that I most kindly put her in the way of giving a little instruction to the Earl of N‑’s children and their friends, and indeed, they come on considerable. But sure at the moment all thought of amateur theatrickals takes an entire second place to thoughts about what they shall wear to the Contessa di S‑’s ridotto.
Why, says I, that is not a topick of conversation that is confin’d to the young and foolish: ’tis quite everywhere discusst.
Miss A‑ smiles and says, she dares say: dressing up is stale old business for her, but she confides ’tis quite different for those that do not earn their living by doing so. But, she says with a sober expression, you may have some apprehension of the situation of the daughters of Lord N‑ —
That he is inclin’d to stint ’em over matters of dress and suppose that they may forever hand down or make over gowns?
Quite exact, says Miss A‑. ’Tis not so bad for the Honble Geoffrey, for his father supposes that young men must have their recreations — tho’ indeed ’tis fortunate that he is not give to extravagant play — but his sisters sigh that they know not what they might do for some costume, without they go as entire unfashionable dowds and pretend ’tis their masquerade.
I sigh deeply and say, ’tis extreme hard for ’em.
So, says Miss A‑, I mind me that there is a great store of costumes at the theatre and I daresay one could find something to fit Lady Anna and Lady Emily.
I smile and say, sure I recall when my dear Mama was mistress of the wardrobe, would make quite a good thing of hiring out costumes for masquerades and those that wisht engage in amateur theatrickals. But I confide that you purpose an entire act of friendship.
O, entirely! Two costumes for a couple of well‑connect’d young women that may be expect’d to marry well.
I look at her very fondly. And for whom, I confide, you take a great liking.
Indeed they are very agreeable young women. I would also offer to fit out Miss S‑, that is their very great friend, but I am not sure one might so easyly find something to fit; besides, she is a well‑provid’d young woman that is dresst at Mamzelle Bridgette’s; I am like to suppose she can well afford a costume. Tho’ I was thinking on the matter, and, would she not look exceeding well in a copy of that robe I wore in Queen Maud?
I consider this. Indeed, says I, I think you hit it off. ’Twould greatly become her. Do you suggest it to her. And do you put it to the Earl’s daughters that you will be lending ’em costumes of yours, for indeed, you are much of a size to ’em —
’Twould sound more tactfull, she concedes. And of course I would make all right with the theatre people.
I stand up and go over and kiss her. Dear rogue, says I, this is very well done.
She blushes. Dear Lady B‑ —
And, says I, returning to my chair, I recollect a very fine costume for Hippolyta that would greatly become Lady Anna, and was there not a costume for Titania in the same production that would look very well on Lady Emily?
O, she says, you quite entire hit it off. I will away at once and open the matter to ’em.
We take a very fond farewell of one another.
I return to my correspondence and find that the letter that is on the top of the pile is from dear Martha S‑ in Hampshire. ’Tis most entirely agreeable to hear from her.
I break the seal. I quickly ascertain that she is well, Jacob is well, and little Deborah thrives exceedingly.
However, she goes on, Lady J‑ is by no means as well as she should like to be, and is ever about over‑doing. ’Tother day she went into the dairy and found her almost a‑fainting while trying to churn butter. Had strong words with her about the need to rest to allow the healing powers of nature to be about their work. But she confides that does Lady J‑ remain at the Admiral’s estate, ’twill ever be a source of temptation to be about matters. Perchance a part of the benefit of going take the waters is the being took away from all normal duties and occupations, may it not be so? She is greatly like to suppose that going to some spaw would do Lady J‑ a deal of good — did not Harrogate answer exceedingly for Mrs F‑?
Indeed, thinks I, going to some spaw I am sure would greatly benefit Lady J‑, could one achieve to persuade her of the matter. I sigh. And then mind me that perchance Miss A‑ might contrive it: has one not seen her upon the stage in most moving beseeching style?
I at once go indite a little note for her opening the topick and dispatch it to her lodgings by Timothy.
I occupy myself about some further correspondence (the orphanage ladies go brangle yet again), and then consider that I have been quite dutyfull enough and I will go make a little visit to R‑ House.
When I come to R‑ House, the footman tells me that Mrs F‑ is at present closet’d with Mrs Wilkins upon household matters. Why, says I, I shall go call upon Seraphine, for ’tis quite an age since I saw her.
The footman I see struggle not to smile, as he says, he confides she goes about to give the young ladies a little instruction in the kitchen arts.
So I betake me to the kitchen, and there indeed I find Seraphine about letting Bess and her friends Lady Louisa M- and Dodo B‑ essay to make sweetmeats under her eye. I go greet her very warm and say, sure I hope she does not go tire herself: for indeed, one may by now observe that she increases.
O, she says, ’tis entire no trouble.
I confide that Bess and Dodo have some experience of kitchens, but that ’tis not the like with Lady Louisa, that keeps looking about her and asking questions as if she has never been in such a place before.
But I would not interrupt, says I.
O, says Seraphine, and looks with affection at Bess, sure I confide Miss Bess may act my deputy in this matter, can she not?
Indeed I can! cries Bess.
We go into Seraphine’s fine sitting‑room and one of the kitchen‑maids brings tea.
’Tis very good of you to go take such trouble with the girls, says I.
Why, she says with a smile, there are worse things they might be up to, and there is no harm in it.
But how do you? I ask. Sure you look exceeding well.
She laughs and says she is quite spoilt: the kitchenmaids ever exhort her to sit and prevent her from undertaking any heavy matter.
Why, says I, you have sure brought ’em into good practices.
Seraphine smiles and says she dares say a good deal is ow’d to Mrs F‑’s hand upon the household.
I smile fondly and say, most like.
What a very excellent woman she is.
Sure, you do not need to convince me of that!
Has mostly kindly said when Julius and Hannah come to the age for’t, may quit the nursery for the schoolroom under Miss N‑, that is such an accomplisht governess.
’Tis an excellent fine plan, says I.
And ’twill entire delight Hannah to be with her belov’d Flora.
Sure I think she is Flora’s belov’d Hannah!
We smile at one another.
She sighs and says she had better go and see that all goes well with those girls.
Indeed it does, and they show us very proud some trays of assort’d sweetmeats. Some are mayhap a little lopsid’d but ’twill make no difference to the taste, I confide.
May I, says Lady Louisa, take some for Geoff and my sisters?
Seraphine finds some paper and tyes up a parcel quite like unto the work of some confectioner. Lady Louisa thanks her very effusive.
Bess looks at the quantity that still remains. Dodo, says Bess, should you wish to take some for your sisters?
O, says Dodo, Charley and Cissie take a freak to suppose that sweets give ’em spots, tho’ they would I daresay be tempt’d.
I was in a mind, says Bess, to take these to the nursery-set.
’Tis a kind thought, says I.
Seraphine smiles and says, so long as ’twill not spoil their appetites for their supper. So they put ’em all into a dish and go off to give the nursery-set a treat.
Comes in Mrs Wilkins and says, they told me she would find Lady B‑ here talking with Mrs Seraphine, and the mistress is now at liberty.
I quite fly up to the family room to see my very dearest love Eliza.