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have already explained that I had applied to Miss Planta for advice whether my best chance of admission would be at Windsor, Kew, or London. I had a most kind letter of answer, importing my letter had been seen, and that her Majesty would herself fix the time when she could admit me. This was a great happiness to me, and the fixture was for the Queen's house in town.
The only drawback to the extreme satisfaction of such graciousness as allowing an appointment to secure me from a fruitless journey, as well as from impropriety and all fear of intrusion, was, that exactly at this period the Princesse d’Henin and M. de Lally were expected at Norbury. 1 hardly could have regretted anything else, I was so delighted by my summons; but this I indeed lamented. They arrived to dinner on Thursday: I was involved in preparations, and unable to meet them, and my mate would not be persuaded to relinquish aiding
The next morning, through mud, through mire, they came to our cottage.
Princesse was forced to change shoes and stockings. M. de Lally is more accustomed to such expeditions. Nothing could be more sweet than they both were, nor indeed, more grateful than I felt for my share in their kind exertion. The house was re-viewed all over, even the little pot au feu was opened by the Princesse, excessively curious to see our manner of living in its minute detail.
I have not heard if your letter has been received by M. de Lally; but I knew not then you had written, and therefore did not inquire. The Princesse talked of nothing so much as you, and with a softness of regard that quite melted me. I always tell her warmly how you feel about her. M. de Lally was most melancholy about France : the last new and most barbarous revolution has disheart
ened all his hopes—alas ! whose can withstand it? They made a long and kind visit, and in the afternoon we went to Norbury Park, where we remained till near eleven o'clock, and thought the time very short.
Madame d'Henin related some of her adventures in this second flight from her terrible country, and told them with a spirit and a power of observation that would have made them interesting if a tale of old times; but now, all that gives account of those events awakens the whole mind to attention.
M. de Lally after tea read us a beginning of a new tragedy, composed upon an Irish story, but bearing allusion so palpable to the virtues and misfortunes of Louis XVI. that it had almost as strong an effect upon our passions and faculties as if it had borne the name of that good and unhappy Prince. It is written with great pathos, noble sentiment, and most eloquent language. I parted from them with extreme reluctance-nay, vexation.
I set off for town early the next day, Saturday. My time was not yet fixed for my Royal interview, but I had various preparations impossible to make in this dear, quiet, obscure cottage. Mon ami could not accompany me, as we had still two men constantly at work, the house without being quite unfinished; but I could not bear to leave his little representative, who, with Betty, was my companion to Chelsea. There I was expected, and our dearest father came forth with open arms to welcome us. He was in delightful spirits, the sweetest humour, and perfectly good looks and good health. My little rogue soon engaged him in a romp, which conquered his rustic shyness, and they became the best friends in the world.
Thursday morning I had a letter from Miss Planta,
written with extreme warmth of kindness, and fixing the next day at eleven o'clock for my Royal admission.
I went up-stairs to Miss Planta's room, where, while I waited for her to be called, the charming Princess Mary passed by, attended by Mrs. Cheveley. She recollected me, and turned back, and came up to me with a fair hand graciously held out to me. “How do you do, Ma. dame d'Arblay ?" she cried : “ I am vastly glad to see you again; and how does your little boy do ?” I gave
her a little account of the rogue, and she proceeded to inquire about my new cottage, and its actual state. I entered into a long detail of its bare walls and unfurnished sides, and the gambols of the little man unincumbered by cares of fractures from useless ornaments, that amused her good-humoured interest in my affairs very much; and she did not leave me till Miss Planta came to usher me to Princess Augusta.
That kind Princess received me with a smile so gay, and a look so pleased at my pleasure in again seeing her, that I quite regretted the etiquette which prevented a chaste embrace. She was sitting at her toilette having her hair dressed. The Royal Family were all going at night to the play. She turned instantly from the glass to face me, and insisted upon my being seated immediately. She then wholly forgot her attire and ornaments and appearance, and consigned herself wholly to conversation, with that intelligent animation which marks her character. She inquired immediately how my little boy did, and then with great sweetness after his father, and after my father.
My first subject was the Princess Royal, and I accounted for not having left my Hermitage in the hope of once more seeing her Royal Highness before her departure. It would have been, I told her, so melancholy a
pleasure to have come merely for a last view, that I could not bear to take my annual indulgence at a period which would make it leave a mournful impression upon my mind for a twelvemonth to come.
The Princess said she could enter into that, but said it as if she had been surprised I had not appeared. She then gave me some account of the ceremony; and when I told her I had heard that her Royal Highness the bride had never looked so lovely, she confirmed the praise warmly, but laughingly added, “ 'Twas the Queen dressed her! You know what a figure she used to make of herself, with her odd manner of dressing herself; but mamma said, “Now really, Princess Royal, this one time is the last, and I cannot suffer you to make such a quiz of yourself; so I will really have you dressed properly.' And indeed the Queen was quite in the right, for everybody said she had never looked so well in her life.”
The word quiz, you may depend, was never the Queen's. I had great comfort, however, in gathering, from all that passed on that subject, that the Royal Family is persuaded this estimable Princess is happy. From what I know of her disposition I am led to believe the situation may make her so. She is born to preside, and that with equal softness and dignity; but she was here in utter subjection, for which she had neither spirits nor inclination. She adored the King, honoured the Queen, and loved her sisters, and had much kindness for her brothers; but her style of life was not adapted to the royalty of her nature, any more than of her birth; and though she only wished for power to do good and to confer favours, she thought herself out of her place in not possessing it.
I was particularly happy to learn from the Princess Augusta that she has already a favourite friend in her
new court, in one of the Princesses of Wirtemberg, wife of a younger brother of the Hereditary Prince, and who is almost as a widow, from the Prince, her husband, being constantly with the army. This is a delightful circumstance, as her turn of mind, and taste, and employments, accord singularly with those of our Princess.
I have no recollection of the order of our conversation, but will give you what morsels occur to me as they arise in my memory.
The terrible mutiny occupied us some time. She told me many anecdotes that she had learnt in favour of various sailors, declaring, with great animation, her security in their good hearts, however drawn aside by harder and more cunning heads. The sweetness with which she delights to get out of all that is forbidding in her rank is truly adorable. In speaking of a sailor on board the St. Fiorenzo, when the Royal Family made their excursion by sea from Weymouth, she said, “You must know this man was a great favourite of mine, for he had the most honest countenance you can conceive, and I have often talked with him, every time we have been at Weymouth, so that we were good friends; but I wanted now in particular to ask him concerning the mutiny, but I knew I should not get him to speak out while the King and Queen and my sisters were by; so I told Lady Charlotte Bellasyse to watch an opportunity when he was upon deck, and the rest were in the cabin, and then we went up to him and questioned him; and he quite answered my expectations, for, instead of taking any merit to himself from belonging to the St. Fiorenzo, which was never in the mutiny, the good creature said he was sure there was not a sailor in the
that was not sorry to have belonged to it, and would not have got out of it as readily as himself, if he had known but how."