Sandy stroked the lovely back at present turned towards him, body out-flung in relaxation after pleasurable exertions. If Geoff was dog-like, Maurice Allard was more like a cat, and he never knew whether the claws would be out or whether it would be curling up and purring.
Maurice rolled over and looked at him. Is it not time you were leaving?
What, have I over-stayed my welcome?
Maurice glowered. All I may offer now is my company: even if you are not, I am by now entire done.
I am wont to consider myself a somewhat prickly fellow: but you are entire porcupine. Am I supposed to hurry into my clothes and pretend this did not happen?
Maurice sat up and clasped his arms around his knees. Why, are fellows enough will try to pretend 'tis not happening even when 'tis.
That cannot conduce to much felicity in the act. But might I not enjoy your company?
Maurice looked at him in astonishment. How could you so?
Oh come, here you are a fellow of learning, that Chumbell will admit even did you never attend Oxford, and very widely accepted in Society, how could you find my company agreeable?
My dearest friend is a former courtesan that had no education but what she gleaned as a child of the theatre, and is quite the wisest person of either sex that I know. You are a fellow that appears entire accepted and respected at the club –
Maurice snorted. I first entered the club by that discreet back door that admits young fellows that will oblige members for a guinea or so –
Also, while I daresay ladies will go cry up your eye for style and fashion, 'tis also given out that you are a fine businessman, that you manage your money very prudent, have sound investments –
How do you know all this?
Sandy sat up. Because, my dear fellow, I had your relatives coming to me, one by one, to inform me that indeed you were not one to fall into hysterical panic, that were you worried about some matter to do with your establishment there was surely something behind even did you not see clearly what it was, that I should not be put off by your manner, that is entire what is expected in your profession, that you have quite made something of yourself -
My dear, said Sandy, taking him by the shoulders, I fancy that you will feel a deal better once you have dined – is there anywhere nearby we might go do so?
You cannot wish to be seen dining with me! He threw himself off the bed and began looking for the clothes he had quite recklessly discarded.
Do you suppose that must be quite obvious that we have been about committing a capital offence, do we go dine?
Why else would you be in my company?
I might wish to give Lady Bexbury some present – say a fine fan, or a decoration for her hair, or a bracelet – and wish to be assured that 'twill sort with her wardrobe; I might be going to write some piece in a newspaper or even a pamphlet, upon the business of fashion and the sufferings of needlewomen; or, since 'tis given out that I am very clandestine and under a false name a writer of novels, seeking information for some fine tale of the silver fork school now that the Gothic strain is no longer in fashion.
Maurice stared at him.
Sandy slid off the bed and began to gather up his own scattered garments and to remember where he had left his spectacles. He observed Maurice moving about the room and was reminded of Josh Ferraby describing a panther: Josh was wont to enact whatever animal he was talking of, in private conversation, if not when he addressed scientific meetings. Undoubtedly something feline.
Well, said Maurice, when they were both dressed, do you care to dine at a common chop-house there is one in the next street.
So they went around the corner and into the next street and found a comfortable booth in the chop-house and ordered beef-steak and ale, and while it might not be as finely-cooked as anything that came out of Euphemia’s kitchen, it was perfectly wholesome and very welcome. Even did they sit in entire silence.
Eventually, when hunger was satiated, Sandy pushed away his plate and said, why do you stare so at me?
Maurice shook his head. You – surprize me. He fell silent again.
Indeed, said Sandy, in order to do something that looked like making conversation, I fancy that 'twould be a pretty gesture to buy some present for Clorinda that would be somewhat unexpected. Sure I have given her a deal of books over the years –
Jade bracelet, said Maurice. She lately saw some lady wearing one and wondered would it suit her.
I have no experience whatsoever in buying jewellery for ladies –
Say you so! (Well, that had evoked a smile.) I have a fair notion of the kind of thing she meant, and know where I may acquire one: I am also well-acquainted with the dimensions of Her Ladyship’s wrist. I will be about the matter and send it to you.
Or, said Sandy, I might come and collect it.
So you might, had you no more pressing business.
They looked at one another. 'Tis exceeding good of you to take the trouble, said Sandy.
Sure I owe you some favour.
They fell silent again, drank up their ale, and left. The rain had stopped. I can walk from here, said Sandy. Shall, I daresay, see you at the club if not before.
Maurice nodded and turned in the other direction.
Sandy shrugged mentally, and walked off towards Clorinda’s house.
Where he found her, seated at her desk and scribbling away with great ardour.
My dear, surely you have not been all this while at that immense bore Linsleigh’s party for his painting, that I daresay includes a deal of fellows in dishabille.
No, had opportunity to pursue this investigation –
That minds me, I am a sad forgetful Clorinda when I have been burying myself with abbots and monks and priors &C – came a note for you from Geoffrey Merrett, the boy was hoping for a reply but we sent him away. But do you write a reply, we might send William.
Sandy looked up from the note. He writes that something very troubling has occurred and would desire dine with me at his club at my earliest convenience. But I think we may spare William until the morn: I will write something now and he can take it then.
Clorinda got up from the desk and waved him towards it. Be about the matter and we can give it to Hector. Sure I hope 'tis not that he has got the lady with child. And, now I am come back from the Middle Ages, I mind that there was another troubling matter I wished open to you.
After the note had been given to Hector with instruction that he need not dispatch it immediately, and he had brought in port and madeira, Clorinda pushed the book in which she had been writing into a drawer of the desk and went to sit down by the fire.
May be nothing at all, she said, but Lucy Lowndes came call, saying that she had been to call upon Gretchen Paffenrath, and found her in a very great taking, saying that she thinks she saw her husband lately while she was shopping in Oxford Street. But did not want to go too close and did not get a clear view, but ‘twas very like indeed.
Hmm, said Sandy, I am surprized that he did not immediately go call upon her.
He may not know that she was left so very well-provided by Mr Knowles: oh! I hope he tied up any settlement carefully against any claim by that dreadful fellow.
I fancy Sebastian Knowles might know somewhat of the matter: I will go call upon him as soon as maybe.
Sandy suddenly sneezed.
My dear! I hope you do not go take a chill. You had better go to bed at once, I will send Prue up with a warming pan.