Indeed, they had scarce finished their tea-drinking, and Livvy was just about washing her hands so that she might commence once more upon the task of unpacking, when came Sir Charles pushing Lady Fairleigh’s wheelchair, saying, Livvy, while 'twas an entire delight to Lady Fairleigh to see her family, sure they are a boisterous set when they are together –
Lady Fairleigh gave a little laugh and said, they are that, sure I am not as used to it as I was.
- so I said I thought 'twould be prudent for her to take a little rest afore we all go dine.
Livvy nodded, and said, Mayhap did she take down and brush out My Lady’s hair?
Lady Fairleigh nodded. 'Twould be most exceeding soothing, she said.
So Sir Charles said he would leave her in Livvy’s good hands and go back to the crowd, and assure them that 'twas no matter of sickness but merely a little retreat and would be at dinner.
Livvy helped Lady Fairleigh to the chair at the dressing table and started to take her hair down – o, a few strands of gray, but most of it still that fine rich brown – and to brush it with slow strokes to the accompaniment of remarks on how well the children did – what a dear little thing was baby Gussie – how little Di came on – and Rebecca – what a very fine creature was Rebecca – went about to present dear Nuttenford with an heir very shortly.
That must be very pleasing, said Livvy. What a pretty child is Lady Diana – came running in here –
Indeed, Nan said so, that she takes after her father that was an explorer. Well, do you help me to bed, I will have a little nap to be fresh for dinner.
So Livvy went make sure all the pillows were plumped up and all in place for Lady Fairleigh’s comfort, and made sure the curtains were drawn, and heard her already begin to breathe sweet and regular in a refreshing sleep. She left the bedroom door just a little ajar, just in case there might be any matter that needed her, and went very quietly about finishing the unpacking and seeing that all was in order, and readying the gown that she supposed Lady Fairleigh would wear the e’en.
Later, when Lady Fairleigh had woken once more looking entire refreshed, and Livvy had dressed her and arranged the cushion in her chair just so and helped her into it, Sir Charles came smiling in to say that the family went assemble in the drawing-room, raised his lady’s hand to his lips and said, she was looking very fine, had Livvy been busy with rouge?
Tush, Sir Charles, a lady of my years, painting! – Alas, I fear 'tis not unknown! – but I have had a nice little rest and am ready for company again.
He took the handles of the chair and steered it out of the door.
Livvy began to tidy up, and to wonder herself about where she was supposed to dine.
A few moments later Lorimer came in and said, of course Bracewell would be dining at Mrs Atkins’ table belowstairs, she would take her down, but perchance she would desire to tidy a little first?
Indeed she would, but it did not take long, and Lorimer led her down to where Mrs Atkins and the other upper servants – that were not immediate engaged about the business of serving dinner – dined themselves.
Sure they did themselves exceeding well!
Partway through their first course came in a very well-looking woman that must be the cook? – dabbing at her face with a kerchief and smiling considerable, remarking that had got all off very satisfactory, did not need to stand over any longer. And this must be Bracewell?
Livvy rose to make her a dip.
Fie, child, make no ceremony! She sat down and helped herself from the dishes upon the table. After she had satisfied her immediate hunger, she turned to Livvy and said, Heard Lady Fairleigh did most exceeding well? and that Selina went about to become a mother?
O, said Livvy, has already had one litter.
What, Selina! sure country life wreaks a change! And Miss Millick goes marry?
So Livvy, while sopping up the exceeding fine gravy with some bread, recounted once more the tale of Sir Toby’s wooing, and all thought it a very proper match, and they dared say Sir Toby already had an establishment?
Well, said Livvy, has been somewhat of a bachelor household these many years since his first wife died. But is a fine kindly fellow –
She could see that all went consider upon whether there were those among their connexions might suitably be preferred to some place in his household –
I daresay, she went on, that Miss Millick will be in requirement of a lady’s maid in particular.
And then yawned exceedingly. She apologized profusely, but Lorimer said, sure she must have had a very long day, and doubted not that Lady Fairleigh would not be lingering late –
Indeed, I should go be on hand for her.
Sure she had already fallen into a little doze in her chair when Sir Charles pushed his lady’s wheelchair into the dressing-room, but quickly jumped up to be about readying her for bed and making sure she was entirely comfortable.
I go sit up a little with Nuttenford and Offgrange, said Sir Charles. You will not mind, my dear?
Not in the least, I would not hinder you from masculine converse: I am sure there are a deal of matters you might convoke upon.
He raised her hand to his lips. I will not disturb you the night – has been a long day for you, and I fancy you should sleep in, and orders have been given that you will breakfast in your sitting-room.
She smiled at him. Everyone is so kind. That will be entire charming.
The next morn Lorimer took Livvy down to breakfast belowstairs – indeed there was no stinting in this household! – and then she scurried back to make sure that Lady Fairleigh had not already woke and had need of her. But no, she slumbered on most exceeding peaceful, until she woke up smiling and said, that she fancied she was ready to face the day –
- as came toddling into the dressing-room and on into the bedroom little Lady Diana, that cried out, Gramma! and held out her chubby little arms to be lifted up to be cuddled.
Livvy looked at Lady Fairleigh, that nodded and smiled, so she lifted the infant, and disposed her in such a way that she hoped 'twould bring no hurt to her grandmother, that seemed entire delighted at this visit, kissing the little girl very warm. Livvy went about drawing open the curtains, and opening a window a little, for she did not like to leave, just in case.
But very shortly came in a gentleman – Livvy made a curtesy – Dear Mama-in-law, I am sorry that our dear Di makes such impetuous early visits, but I see she takes greatly to her grandmama –
Why, said Lady Fairleigh, I should like to fancy 'tis so, what a darling she is. But I daresay she should go back to the nursery, and mayhap I might come call upon her and little Gussie there later?
An excellent plan!
So the Marquess, for must be he, picked up his daughter, and kissed her very doating, and said, Grandmama would come visit later on; and she waved goodbye over his shoulder as they left.
Lady Fairleigh heaved a happy sigh. What an excellent fellow he is! Such a fine doating father as well such a good husband – indeed it all fell out far better than one would have anticipated.
Let us, said Livvy, get you up, and they have brought plenty of good hot water so that you may wash, and will you have your wrapper, or put on your morning dress?
O, morning dress I think. I fancy I may have callers already is it known that we come to Town.
So once dressed and set very comfortable in her chair with the rightly placed cushions, Livvy pushed her into the sitting-room, and rang to say that Lady Fairleigh was entire ready for her breakfast.
That came far sooner than one might have supposed, borne on a tray by Mrs Stevens the cook herself.
O! Arabella! So very kind! sure you must have more to do the morn than run to and fro with trays.
Fie, Lady Fairleigh, 'tis an entire pleasure to see you and looking so very well. Sure country life suits you.
Country life and, I confide, Sir Charles’ company, said Lady Fairleigh with a pretty smile.
And we hear Selina also does well in the country and goes become a mother.
Indeed she does, the naughty puss.
Arabella poured tea and handed the cup to Lady Fairleigh. She paused for a moment, cast down her eyes and said, she did not wish to presume, but was the kittens not all spoken for, should greatly like to have one of 'em –
Lady Fairleigh laughed. Why, you should be entire welcome! But I should tell you, that when the whim comes upon dear Selina, 'tis entirely like the lady in the ballad that cares no more for her goose-feather bed, but will be off with the raggle-taggle gypsy-o, and we fear that her kittens are sired by some very disreputable tom that lurks about the farmyard.
Arabella giggled. Selina! That was quite the proudest of cats and would deliver the cut to any she considered beneath her notice.
Mayhap 'tis the effect of country air. Also becomes quite a mighty huntress and will bring in offerings of mice and voles &C.
Well, I will leave you to breakfast in peace.
Livvy remarked that Selina had made herself quite the favourite – had been a deal of asking after her. Indeed, she is an out of the common fine cat.