I stir and wake for a moment to hear a gentle tapping at my door in a particular pattern that signifies that our plan has succeed’d – sure I might like to hear more, but 'tis the middle of the night and much as I might like dear Josiah in my bedchamber, ‘twould not be prudent to invite him in.
So go I back to my slumbers, until I am quite wrencht out of 'em by a scream and a deal of running to and fro and crying out.
Alack that the role I have cast myself in requires that, instead of running out to find out what’s ado, I should be cowering in my bed with my head beneath the blankets.
I thus sit up in bed and try to discern from the noises what is afoot.
There is a gentle tap upon my door that I recognize to be Eliza; I unlock the door and let her in.
O, my dearest C-, she cries, such a to-do!
I apprehend, says I, sitting down upon the bed and drawing my feet under me, that there has been a to-do. Sure even a silly creature of no education might consider that the unwont’d noises in the middle of night were due to some to-do.
Eliza kisses me upon the nose and says she confides that their most curious of C-s is in quite a state of agitation to know what went forth.
O, you wick’d wild girl, do not teaze!
She sits down next to me and clasps her hands in her lap. You must apprehend that Mrs K- was taken in the very act of removing the leather bag containing her necklace from one of the hot-house beds –
Sure, says I, I am appriz’d of that matter –
- and while I doubt she may be taken up as a thief for purloining her own property, I confide that the story will get about extreme expeditious within Society and will not be to her credit. So, she was conduct’d to her chamber, along with her treasure.
And 'twas suppos’d that the both of them would be departing very early the morn. But scarce had all made their way back to their own beds, and been in their first sleep, when there was a horrible scream and a deal of noise and so there was a very general rush to the spot to see what went forth.
And will you ever arrive at what went forth? say I somewhat ill-temper’d.
Why, says Eliza, that provokingly kisses my nose again, 'twas Mr D- K- that had set about his good lady as if he intend’d murder, crying out upon her, and she screaming, and then – sure I do not know how it was he just happen’d to be passing, for his own chamber is nowhere near – Sir H- Z- broke in upon them and endeavour’d to drag Mr K- away from his victim –
And sure they made enough racket betwixt them all about the matter that it brought a deal of the company running.
Sure, says I primly, I understand that the law permits a husband to chastise his wife but this sounds somewhat in excess of what the law might approve.
Indeed I should hope so! So they are taken off to separate chambers with some distance between 'em, and her maid comes out to tend her injuries, and there is some talk of sending for a surgeon. So as I am sure she did not greatly desire a crowd standing about gaping upon her and exclaiming, I came at once to tell you the matter.
Well! says I, when thieves fall out! Sure, I go on, were I to engage in a plot that requir’d me to steal my own jewels, I think I would do somewhat that it would not look particular, by taking some that were not my own –
Sure she is not the equal of our most contriving of C-s!
But I daresay they should not be thrown out of the house too precipitate for fear he will then continue his attack. And while she is an entire b---h, and somewhat of a w---e, I would not have her murder’d by one who was her confederate.
That is our tenderest-heart’d of C-s!
This is our sleepiest of C-s, says I, sure this has been a broken night, and moreover tomorrow is Sunday and I confide that we must be up betimes in order to go to church.
My darling sighs. Indeed we must.
She leaves me (tho’ indeed I wish she might stay), and I crawl back into bed. I settle myself for sleep, for I do not need to puzzle about how Sir H- Z- came there. I confide that he must have had some assignation somewhere in the upper floors, for I daresay there are those among the footmen that are quite willing to be obliging to a gentleman.
I am woken rather earlier than I should entirely like by Docket with my chocolate, and the news that there was a great brangle in the house last night to do with those nasty creatures the K-s.
Well, Docket, says I, today is Sunday, and we should try to be in charity with our fellow-men.
Docket sniffs, and says she supposes I will be going to church?
Indeed, I say, 'tis proper behaviour.
I go down to breakfast dresst suitably sober to go to church after. I see Milord looking somewhat troubl’d, but making a hearty breakfast at least. I assure him that I do not require an account of the night’s occurrences. I am mostly heartily reliev’d to hear it, says he in an undertone, tho’ I should desire you to apply your talent for contrivances to the imbroglio we now find ourselves in.
I daresay, says I, that 'tis not like when two children have been fighting, and one makes them shake hands and be friends once more.
He sighs and says sure one sees better ton in the nursery at R- House. But let me get you a little breakfast, Lady B-.
I look about the room. The B-s are present, and Lord and Lady T-, Sir B- W- and Susannah, Biffle, Lady Z- (but not Sir H- Z-), and my darlings. I sit down in the place next to Milord, and he brings me a nice little plate of breakfast and a cup of coffee.
Lady Z- moves towards me and says how very providential ‘twas that Sir H- was sleepless last night, and did what he will usual do on such occasions, go see if he can climb onto the roof and look up at the night sky (sure, thinks I, I have never heard it called that before), for altho’ Mrs K- made herself very disagreeable, 'twould be even more disagreeable was she murder’d by her husband. And she cannot suppose that he did not know what she was about, for they ever had their heads together like confederates.
Entirely so, says I. I look around the room and say sure I confide that there will be several that sleep thro’ the sermon.
When we foregather in the hall to go to church Sandy is there looking upon us with the expression of one that will be beguiling the time by reading the sermons of John Knox: I confide that he will in fact be beguiling the time by smoaking a cigar upon the terrace and then going to read the works of Mrs Behn in the library, of which I inform’d him.
'Twould indeed be hard to remain awake during the sermon even if the company had not had such a broken night: the text is from one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament and the sermon very long and under several heads, deliver’d in a monotonous mutter. Sure we should have taken a deal more coffee beforehand.
But afterwards we return to where Seraphine has laid an extreme fine collation, and without the K-s present – they have been taken up trays to the chambers where they are confin’d – we are a far more congenial company. Lord T- comes to have some converse with me about the T-s’ work in the antipodes, which is entirely pleasing to me for I know he commands considerable interest that may be to their advantage.
Afterwards, I go see if there is anything I may do for Mrs K-. Her maid admits me to the room, where she is reclining in a chair with her feet upon a stool. One of her eyes has been blackt, even though her collar is cut high I can see bruising upon her neck, and there is a red puffiness about her hands that argues that she did not lye passive but fought back with fists.
She looks at me very hostile and says, What, Lady B-? come to gloat?
No, indeed, says I. I came to see was there anything you need’d.
She laughs very sarcastick and says that they are not objects of philanthropy that hold out their hands for charity, even are they quite roll’d up.
I see, says I, that I need not supply a recommendation for an asylum for penitent magdalenes; but you may wish to consider a matrimonial separation. There was a friend of mine had a very bad husband indeed, that manag’d to contrive the matter, 'tis possible to find out how 'twas done –
He is my husband! she flares out. I will not leave him. Sure he was in a great temper, but 'tis not a habitual matter, he was most greatly incens’d that our plans had come to ruin and that I had manag’d the matter so ill, was already in an evil mood and endeavouring to provoke fights. I daresay, she says very venomous, that you will not understand the kind of feeling there exists between spouses -
I daresay not, says I, for did a fellow raise his hand to me, I should close my door upon him. (Tho’ I do not say, after his unconscious body had been convey’d several streets distant by Hector.)
I cannot tell, from her expression, whether she despises me for my timidity or envies me the door I may close.
I rise and say, that as there is nothing she requires that I may supply, I will take my leave.