The Comfortable Courtesan
Clorinda is now most happily reconciled with Mr F- and has found unexpected female friendship with Mrs F-. Her position is a good deal more secure as a result of General Y-’s bequest. Biffle, Duke of M-, is now happily married to the former Miss T-. Mrs O’C- has obtained a separation from her scoundrel husband. Mr O’C-’s malign plots have been thwarted. Mr E- has been prevailed upon to pay a substantial sum to Seraphine to provide for their child, and has left Town under a cloud. But Clorinda shortly finds that she has a new worry…
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On the education of daughters
Mr F- looks upon the table set for breakfast and says, my love, are we expecting guests? O no, I say, ‘tis entirely a demonstration of Seraphine’s pleasure at having a gentleman in the house that appreciates a good table before him to cook for. Also, I am sure ‘twill all get eat up by someone or other even do you not consume everything, for there are young people in the household that are still getting their growth.
He lifts the covers and helps himself to the devill’d kidneys, some bacon and eggs, and – what is this, my dear? – ‘tis kedgeree, says I, I will take a little myself for ‘tis really very good. He butters a pikelet and I pour coffee as he sets to upon his platefull.
‘Tis rather more than I normally take at breakfast, but I think that I am in requirement of unusual sustenance after an unwont’dly active night.
Mr F- concedes that there is still plenty left for the young people, drinks his coffee, and takes out his little memorandum book. Today he has made arrangement to interview three ladies that have been advanc’d to his notice as possible governesses. He says that he and Mrs F- visit’d the school recommend’d by Mr MacD- and consider that ‘twill answer admirably for the boys. Altho’ Mr M- is in orders, he reminds Mr F- very much of Mr T‑, as one that loves learning and the study of the beauties of creation though doubtless would not be approv’d by the Evangelickal interest. His wife is an excellent woman and their household includes her sister, a lady of very remarkable learning, tho’ crippl’d and in a wheel’d chair. There is a good homely feel to their establishment and the boys look happy and well-fed, and their own two could come home at weekends. Mrs F- was entirely satisfy’d by the housekeeping.
Would, he says, that there were similar establishments for girls but we have as yet not heard of any along those lines rather than about ladylike accomplishments. Many would doubtless think his dear girls sad hoydens, tho’ they are well-advanc’d with their needle and made themselves most usefull about the house when their mother was so very pull’d down, but he would rather that than fearfull missish creatures that squeak yes and no and tremble to dirty their clothes.
Lord, he says, when I think of my first meeting with the future Mrs F‑, in her nightgown with a shotgun on her arm at the farmhouse door, because she had heard the dogs and thought there was a fox in the henhouse – her father, he adds, was sleeping off market-day. I was a foolishly wild boy – I did not even have the excuse of filling the family pot by going out of nights, ‘twas purely to show off that I was as bold as any other of the lads even was I my uncle’s heir to the works – but then I saw her there, looking most greatly unimpresst by me and in two minds whether to tell the dogs to chase me off, and she was the finest woman I had ever seen. I had rather my girls of that metal.
Sure but they must be, I remark. I am sure any governess that comes with Mr MacD‑’s recommendation will be entirely suit’d to your ideas of their training, fitting ‘em to be rational companions to their future husbands or competent to earn a respectable living if necessary. I have the very greatest confidence in his judgement.
Perhaps there is a particular warmth in my tone, for Mr F- raises his eyebrows for a moment and says with a smile that he hopes he has no reason for any jealousy concerning Mr MacD‑. I assure him that the rumour of his hopeless passion is one I have gone put about to draw the sting of a malicious tale set about to cause trouble with Lord R‑. I am indeed most exceeding gratefull to Mr MacD- for his most helpfull services on legal matters &C, but as Mr F- has himself observ’d, I look upon him as a dear brother and he returns the sentiment.
He laughs and says that ‘tis just that after hearing Mrs F- describe the stir her dear friend caused in Harrogate he is surpriz’d that any young man that spends as much time in my company as Mr MacD- remains completely unmov’d. O, I say, but you know that he conducts himself on entirely rational principles and to sigh for me would be quite irrational.
Mr F- then goes on to say that once he has seen the governesses, he intends to defer any final decision until Mrs F- has also had a chance to consider ‘em face to face. To come up from the W- estate is no great matter, and she has an open invitation to stay at M- House whenever she chuses, being such a great favourite with Lady J- and also with Her Grace. O, I say, I would most happily have her here, but I do see that ‘twould really not do. I am sure, he says, she would greatly prefer that, but alas, indeed ‘twould not do. I sigh. For if she is staying at M- House I am sure there will be little opportunity for her to pay me a visit.
He departs for his encounter with the prospective governesses, and I sit down at my desk to deal with my accounts, correspondence &C.
Comes in Docket to say that she has had a very delightfull letter from Williams, enclosing a generous compliment from Her Grace, and an inner letter addresst to you, madame. She hands this over and I turn it over once or twice in my hands examining the hand. ‘Tis seal’d with a plain blob of wax.
Once Docket has gone I break the seal and discover ‘tis a letter to me from Her Grace the Duchess, that writes a very pretty well-form’d hand. The burden of her message is that she would greatly desire another meeting with me, in hopes that I may be able to advize her on a family matter, that is, that she and
Biffle His Grace are like to be sent to the madhouse for the quality that is in Sussex if something is not done about Lady J‑, that is the best and kindest of sisters and making their lives quite intolerable.
Particularly in the absence of Miss A‑, Lady J‑, I consider, has a deal too much time upon her hands. At N- she had the running of the estate generally as well as her particular interest in dairying to keep her busy, but now she lacks occupation and is not one that can sit with fold’d hands. She also has, I consider, tho’ mayhap ‘tis not my place to be searchingly critickal about a duke’s daughter, something of a conceit in her own judgement, and while her judgement is often excellent, in some cases her confidence in her own rightness is misplac’d: although she has demonstrat’d the admirable quality of mending her opinions on certain matters.