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I need not say how I shall rejoice to see you again, nor how charmed we shall both be to make a nearer acquaintance with Mr. Broome; but, for Heaven's sake, my dear girl, how are we to give him a dinner ?-unless he will bring with him his poultry, for ours are not yet arrived from Bookham; and his fish, for ours are still at the bottom of some pond we know not where; and his spit, for our jack is yet without one; and his kitchen grate, for ours waits for Count Rumford's next pamphlet ;not to mention his table-linen ;--and not to speak of his knives and forks, some ten of our poor original twelve having been massacred in M. d'Arblay's first essays in the art of carpentering ;-and to say nothing of his large spoons, the silver of our plated ones having feloniously made off under cover of the whitening-brush ;-and not to talk of his cook, ours being not yet hired ;--and not to start the subject of wine, ours, by some odd accident, still remaining at the winemerchant's !
With all these impediments, however, to convivial hilarity, if he will eat a quarter of a joint of meat (his share, I mean), tied up by a packthread, and roasted by a log of wood on the bricks,—and declare no potatoes so good as those dug by M. d'Arblay out of our garden,—and protest our small beer gives the spirits of champagne,—and make no inquiries where we have deposited the hops he will conclude we have emptied out of our table-cloth,—and pronounce that bare walls are superior to tapestry,--and promise us the first sight of his epistle upon visiting a new-built cottage,—we shall be sincerely happy to receive him in our Hermitage; where I hope to learn, for my dearest Charlotte's sake, to love him as much as, for his own, I have very long admired him.
Manage all this, my dear girl, but let us know the
day, as we have resumed our Norbury Park excursions, where we were yesterday. God bless you, my love, and grant that your happiness may meet my wishes ! Ever and ever yours most affectionately,
Madame d'Arblay to Mrs. Phillips.
Westhamble, December, '97. This moment I receive, through our dearest friend, my own Susanna's letter. I grieve to find she ever waits anxiously for news; but always imagine all things essential perpetually travelling to her, from so many of our house, all in nearly constant correspondence with her. This leads me to rest quiet as to her, when I do not write more frequently; but as to myself, when I do not hear I am saddened even here, even in my own new paradise, for such I confess it is to me; and were my beloved Susan on this side the Channel, and could I see her dear face, and fold her to my breast, I think I should set about wishing nothing but to continue just so. For circumstances-pecuniary ones I mean-never have power to distress me, unless I fear exceeding their security; and that fear these times will sometimes inflict. The new threefold assessment of taxes has terrified us rather seriously; though the necessity, and therefore justice, of them, we mutually feel. My father thinks his own share will amount to 801. a-year! We have, this very morning, decided upon parting with four of our new windows-a great abatement of agrémens to ourselves, and of ornament to our appearance; and a still greater sacrifice to l'amour propre of my architect, who, indeed -his fondness for his edifice considered, does not ill deserve praise that the scheme had not his mere consent, but his own free proposition.
Your idea that my builder was not able to conduct us hither, I thank God, is unfounded. His indiscretion was abominable, but so characteristic that I will tell it
you. Some little time before, he brought me home a dog, a young thing, he said, which had hit his fancy at Ewell, where he had been visiting M. Bourdois, and that we should educate it for our new house-guard. It is a barbette, and, as it was not perfectly precise in cleanliness, it was destined to a kitchen residence till it should be trained for the parlour: this, however, far from being resented by the young stranger as an indignity, appeared to be still rather too superb; for “Muff" betook to the coalhole, and there seemed to repose with native ease. The purchaser, shocked at the rueful appearance of the curled coat, and perhaps piqued by a few flippancies upon
the delicacy of my present, resolved one night to prepare me a divine surprise the following morning; and, when I retired to my downy pillow, at eleven o'clock, upon a time severely cold, he walked forth with the unfortunate delinquent to a certain lake, you may remember, nearly in front of our Bookham habitation, not very remarkable for its lucid purity, and there immersed poor Muff, and stood rubbing him, curl by curl, till each particular one was completely bathed. This business was not over till near midnight, and the impure water which he agitated, joined to the late hour and unwholesome air, sent him in shivering with a dreadful pain in the head and a violent feverish and rheumatic cold.
This happened just as we were beginning to prepare for our removal. You will imagine, untold, all its alarm and all its inconveniences; I thank God, it is long past, but it had its full share, at the moment, of disquieting and tormenting powers.
We quitted Bookham with one single regret that of
leaving our excellent neighbours the Cookes. The father is so worthy, and the mother so good, so deserving, so liberal, and so infinitely kind, that the world certainly does not abound with people to compare with them. They both improved upon us considerably since we lost our dearest Susan—not, you will believe, as substitutes, but still for their intrinsic worth and most friendly partiality and regard.
We languished for the moment of removal with almost infantine fretfulness at every delay that distanced it; and when at last the grand day came, our final packings, with all their toil and difficulties and labour and expense, were mere acts of pleasantry: so bewitched were we with the impending change, that, though from six o'clock to three we were hard at work, without a kettle to boil the breakfast, or a knife to cut bread for a luncheon, we missed nothing, wanted nothing, and were as insensible to fatigue as to hunger.
M. d'Arblay set out on foot, loaded with remaining relics of things, to us precious, and Betty afterwards with a remnant glass or two; the other maid had been sent two days before. I was forced to have a chaise for my Alex and me, and a few looking-glasses, a few folios, and not a few other oddments; and then, with dearest Mr. Lock, our founder's portrait, and my little boy, off I set, and I would
dearest Susan could relate to me as delicious a journey.
My mate, striding over hedge and ditch, arrived first, though he set out after, to welcome me to our new dwelling; and we entered our new best room, in which I found a glorious fire of wood, and a little bench, borrowed of one of the departing carpenters : nothing else. We contrived to make room for each other, and Alex disdained all rest. His spirits were so high upon finding
two or three rooms totally free for his horse (alias any stick he can pick up) and himself, unincumbered by chairs and tables and such-like lumber, that he was as merry as a little Andrew and as wild as twenty colts. Here we unpacked a small basket containing three or four loaves, and, with a garden-knife, fell to work; some eggs had been procured from a neighbouring farm, and one saucepan had been brought. We dined, therefore, exquisitely, and drank to our new possession from a glass of clear water out of our new well.
At about eight o'clock our goods arrived. We had our bed put up in the middle of our room, to avoid risk of danıp walls, and our Alex had his dear Willy's crib at our feet.
We none of us caught cold. We had fire night and day in the maids' room, as well as our own-or rather in my Susan's room; for we lent them that, their own having a little inconvenience against a fire, because it is built without a chimney.
We continued making fires all around us the first fortnight, and then found wood would be as bad as an apothecary's bill, so desisted; but we did not stop short so soon as to want the latter to succeed the former, or put our calculation to the proof.
Our first week was devoted to unpacking, and exulting in our completed plan. To have no one thing at hand, nothing to eat, nowhere to sit-all were trifles, rather, I think, amusing than incommodious. The house looked so clean, the distribution of the rooms and closets is so convenient, the prospect everywhere around is so gay and so lovely, and the park of dear Norbury is so close at hand, that we hardly knew how to require anything else for existence than the enjoyment of our own situation. At this period I received my summons.
I believe I