Nonetheless, there was still a little round of diversions, and Livvy was took a jaunt to Vauxhall with Sophy and Sam and Jerome, and to the menagerie at Exeter Exchange, sure she would have a deal to tell the household when she returned to the manor! And Sophy conveyed her to a fine china warehouse so that she might put herself in possession of pots suited to lotions and washes.
Besides those, Livvy minded that some pretty pieces of chaney would make excellent presents for her fellow-servants upon her return.
But that put her into the thought that she should find some gift for Sophy, that was such a fine friend and guide in the ways of Town and great households. It was a puzzle.
It came to her that she might ask Maurice, that was Sophy’s cousin and might have some knowledge of her tastes. So while she was about helping him tidy after what she must suppose was nigh on the final fittings, making sure there was no fallen pins on the floor &C, while he went about the task of folding the garments – that seemed quite an art – she looked up from her labours and asked him what he thought Sophy might appreciate.
Maurice straightened up. Hmmmm. He looked thoughtful. I have heard her say, he said, that she has seen ladies that had plants growing in pots in their drawing-rooms, and she thought it a very pretty thing. Better than cut flowers that will go wither very soon.
Why, I fancy there are nurserymen sell such things – and sure, you might ask one or other of the gardeners here whether they might advize. He gave her a sidelong glance. I am like to think they would be entire happy to do so.
Livvy blushed. Why, mayhap I will do so, she said. For indeed, that would be a fine out of the common thing to give Sophy.
So a day or so later, when she found herself at liberty with no pressing tasks, she went down to the fine hothouses of Offgrange House – sure, she might be going pick out some flowers for Lady Fairleigh’s sitting-room, or a button-hole bloom for Sir Charles – and peeped about to see might she find a gardener.
She saw a dim figure inside one, and stepped inside.
To her extreme confusion, 'twas no gardener but the Marquess himself, holding little Lady Di and showing off some flower to her – indeed, had been give out that His Lordship was very well reputed for his studies upon plants and flowers and his learning in the matter.
Livvy, exceeding flustered, made a dip.
How now, Bracewell! What do you here? Perchance a flower for your hair when you go promenade?
Livvy blushed, but found herself explaining her mission, at which Lord Offgrange looked exceeding interested. Somewhat that would withstand a living-room – would not require cossetting in a hothouse – would not bloom and die but flower again – do you leave this pretty conundrum with me, I fancy I have some notions –
O, Your Lordship, I would not be presuming –
No, indeed, 'tis just the kind of problem I like to set my mind to – Lady Di, seeing his attention a little distracted, patted his face – Come along, my pet, let us go consider over this together.
Some few days later the Marquess came into the dressing-room as Livvy was putting her various lotions &C into the fine pots she had acquired, and placing them in the very elegant polished wooden box with brass corners that Sophy’s interest had put her into the way of.
She stood up and bobbed.
Why, Bracewell, I think I have the plant for you: might you provide me with a suitable pretty pot I will be about transplanting it, writing up a few little notes on care and watering –
O, said Livvy, somewhat overcome. O, Your Lordship, I did not expect –
Tush. Did I not say, entirely the kind of puzzle I like? Are we not entire grateful for your excellent care of Lady Fairleigh?
Why, 'tis a lady is a pleasure to serve, said Livvy.
The Marquess smiled at her. A pretty pot, he said, about – gesturing with his hands – such a size.
She could not ask Sophy to escort her about this errand, but she had discovered that Jerome was entire willing to squire her about Town did she require it. 'Twas a gratification. She did not think she was about taking any romantic notion towards him, but it was pleasing to a young woman to have such a fine fellow give her his arm, protect her in crowds, show attentive.
At last it came to the time almost to depart. 'Twas considered entire in order that she invited Sophy to a tea-drinking. Sophy came in looking a little sadly – La, Livvy, shall miss you. But, here is a little gift, for a remembrance –
She handed over a fine cambric kerchief, edged with exquisite lace and embroidered with Livvy’s initials.
O, such lace!
Sophy gave a little smile. 'Tis Lady Trembourne’s own making. She was being painted by Sir Zoffany wearing the Trembourne Tiara, that is a quaint old-fashioned thing, and desired me to dress her hair for the purpose, and presented me with the lace.
And, said Livvy, bringing out the bowl with the flowering plant, I have this for you.
Sophy’s eyes grew very wide. O, she said, o, that quite exceeds.
A maid came in with tea.
They exchanged a little gossip, and vows of friendship, and considered over the possibilities that they might meet during the summer as Lady Bexbury went about her visits. They embraced and kissed, and Livvy sent her very best regards to Sam and to all in the Bexbury household and to all of Sophy’s connexion that she had had the pleasure of meeting –
La, I fancy Jerome will be somewhat disappointed that you go leave Town!
Livvy gave a little shrug: why, he is a pretty enough fellow, but very fine –
Sophy giggled and said, there was a piece she collected in a play, when a fellow goes mention marriage to a lady, and she replies that she would only have him might she have another suited to working days.
Livvy laughed. Why, 'tis so, and I fancy Sam is a fellow of that kind.
Sophy smiled very doating, and said, that he is.
They made somewhat tearful farewells.
And here they were, seated at the back of the church, Sir Toby and his groomsman already a-waiting at the altar.
O, said Hettie, such a pity that Lady Fairleigh might not come (for Sir Toby’s parish church was so situated that 'twould be a very difficult task to attain to it with the wheelchair). They sighed a little.
But, squeaked Maria, here she comes. O, is that our Miss Millick?
Livvy smiled. Had had some notion of how she would look thus arrayed, most exceeding fine: on Sir Charles’ arm, that would give her away, there being no father or brother to do so, attended by Lady Emily (Em, said Lady Fairleigh, for all her naughtiness, was ever Milly’s favourite, and 'tis very kind of her to offer); o, indeed she had consequence.
Miss Millick had said, looking about with tears in her eyes the fine presents that had been given her, sure she felt like the Queen of Sheba, only lacking the camels to carry 'em over to Sir Toby’s mansion.
And the pianoforte, had said Lady Emily, is already there. (For that was the gift from Lady Offgrange and her sisters.)
LIvvy sat back and hearkened to the words of the service, and Miss Millick’s clear and Sir Toby’s rather muttered responses, and thought that although had been very agreeable to go to Lunnon, and sample its pleasures, and see dear Sophy, was also very pleasant to be at home and in her rightful place once more.