It was morning when Lord Lipton stepped into his carriage and went to St. James palace. He had a book to read while he waited for his interview with His Majesty and with Lord Sydney, neither of whom he had ever met in person, and it appeared as if there was a large variety of carriages that were there. He did not know why they were there, and it is unclear if he would have been unhappy to learn that the carriages were bringing young women who were celebrating their entrance into society. It might have been of more interest to him that included among these carriages was the carriage of Lord Sydney and his own family, as their ward and adopted daughter was also entering society at this point. Again, though, Lord Lipton was unaware of what all was going on and was, as was often the case, concerned mainly with his own business. After most of the carriages were clear, he was told that it was time for him to enter the palace through the entrance and enter into the drawing room where King George III sat on his throne. Lord Sydney was already beside him, along with Lady Sydney, celebrating the debut of Sarah, their adopted daughter, who was dressed in a beautiful white dress and had just made her bows to the King and Queen and was at that moment stepping backwards out of the drawing room when Lord Lipton found himself stepping in.
We cannot blame Miss Sarah for not having eyes in the back of her head as she stepped backwards towards the advancing Viscount, whose gait was a silent one and who could not easily be heard by those around him. The soft tread seems to have been a result of his long years of being involved in delicate business where a heavy tread would draw too much attention to his steps. It perhaps requires some explanation as to why it is that Lord Lipton was so distracted by his thoughts about what he was going to say to the king that he did not notice he was walking rapidly into a beautiful young woman. The fact that he had remained single for nearly four decades of existence can probably at least partly be accounted for by his lack of sufficient awareness of beautiful young women around him, though, it must be admitted.
At any rate, the inevitable collision occurred, and Lord Lipton, startled out of his reverie in the antechamber to the drawing room, made quiet apologies and introduced himself, and she responded in kind, hearing with pleasure that this man was on the way to speak with her adopted father. If he was not a handsome man, he was certainly a pleasant one, with a smile and a sense of politeness, and she eagerly enjoyed his unwillingness to blame her for their unfortunate run-in. With a tip of his hat on his side and a curtsy on hers she exited the building and he walked into the drawing room for his own short conference.
“You just missed my daughter,” Lord Sydney said.
“No, as it happens I bumped into her just as she was leaving and I was entering,” Lord Lipton replied.
“How literally do we mean bumped into?” the king said, a bit mischievously.
“Very literally, your highness,” Lord Lipton said, bowing to his sovereign.
“It is a pleasure to meet you at last, Lord Lipton,” the king said.
Lord Lipton expressed his pleasure to the king and queen in response.
“I am curious to hear more about you and your history,” the king said.
“What did you want to know, Your Highness?”
“As far as I understand it, you have done work on my behalf?”
“I have indeed, your Majesty. Before returning to England, I helped settle some slaves who escaped from rebel masters in search of their own freedom in New Providence. Before that I was involved in confidential business in the Southern Colonies as well as the Caribbean for years. My father, before he died, was also involved in diplomacy in the Southern colonies working with the local tribes in the area of East Florida and Georgia.”
“I am glad that you have been able to return to England to take up the family seat.”
“I am glad to be able to do so as well, Your Majesty.”
“Do you wish to talk with me more about the specifics of your reports?” Lord Sydney added.
“I would like that very much,” Lord Lipton answered.
“Will we be seeing you at any of the royal levees?”
“I plan on going to them whenever I am in town for sessions of the House of Lords.”
“That is very good to hear.” Lord Lipton and Lord Sydney exited politely into a smaller room. The two of them then began to look over the confidential reports.
“What do you think about the issue of slavery?” Lord Sydney began.
“I have always been opposed to the institution. That said, I do not believe that it is just to deprive people of property that they are accustomed to, regardless of whether or not I feel that to be legitimate, without some sort of fair and just compensation. Nor do I think that slaves should be set free without some sort of proper education as to how one is to live freely successfully.”
“Very well said. What were your observations on slavery in the American South?”
“I have long been struck by the irony that those who have owned slaves have cried the loudest about their own freedom being taken away, but Mr. Johnson already noticed that, I believe.”
“Indeed he did. Did you have a lot of personal relationship with slaveowners?”
“I did indeed, quite a lot, in both the loyal as well as rebel areas. I did not find any great difference in the treatment of slaves between the two.”
“Has your family ever owned any slaves?”
“Not to my knowledge, but I must admit I am still learning about my own holdings.”
“Are there any ways that you want to serve the interests of British well-being through your financial interests?”
“I would like to do so, though I believe I will have to determine what sort of interests I have.”
“I look forward to hearing that.”
“I’m sure you will. It is a pleasure to meet you at last, though.”
“I’m glad you have been able to come to London. I look forward to having you enjoy a family dinner with me and my family tonight.”
“Hopefully it is time well spent for everyone involved. I have always enjoyed a good family dinner and look forward to getting to know you all better.”
“I do have a personal question to ask.”
“How has your governess been?”
“I have been pleased so far. My cousin has had a good time learning and developing those areas of knowledge that she has been learning, and the governess appears to be very good not only when it comes to knowledge but also in deportment.”
“Is your cousin your ward, then?”
“That is correct, much like your daughter.”
“I am glad to hear that.”
Lord Lipton inquired further with Lord Sydney about other matters, including the question of prisoners and transportation, as that was an issue that Lord Lipton had been reading about and knew that Lord Sydney would have an interest in. He heard about the issues that Lord Sydney had in sending prisoners to the now-independent colonies and where else they could go. He enjoyed finding out that there was a plan for how this problem was to be addressed.
After the meeting was done, Lord Lipton returned to his carriage and retuned home, doing a bit of reading and visiting with people and spending a bit of time at Whie’s enjoying tea before it was time for him to go to supper. While he did so, he was unaware that he drew the attention of others, who found out through the grapevine (as these things tend to happen), that the mysterious man with the striking walking stick was in fact a Viscount of more than ten thousand a year and single as well, gracious and not extravagant, not given to gaming or seduction but someone who had charmed more than one person in the course of dropping in to visit others over the course of the few days that he had already been in town. From such little steps a reputation was being formed.
Not everyone who saw him was pleased, though. There were those who saw his unpretentious ways as a rebuke of others, who saw his restraint as a sign of disapproval of the flamboyant behavior of many in the city, and who saw in his wit a mind that concealed what he thought behind gentle jest and polite bromides. His habitual reserve, formed by years spent in unsafe circumstances where it was not free to reveal what was thought and felt inside, made him seem untrustworthy to those who valued either the affectation or the reality of unreserved communication, and whatever else one could get, one would not get an absence of reserve.
But on the whole, Lord Lipton had reason to be pleased as he went through the day and prepared for a family dinner. He tried to remember the last time he had been able to enjoy such a thing. I had been quite a while. If one did not count his own dinners with polite but hardly sparkling wit with his cousin and her governess, or the family dinners that he had sometimes enjoyed with his mother and stepfather in Nassau, it had been a very long time indeed, not since the days of the occupation of Savannah and Charleston, and who knows what had become of such people in the intervening years of war? Certainly none of them sent him messages inviting him to their dances or encouraging his awkward efforts at courtship with their maiden aunts and sisters and debutante daughters. No, it had been a very long time since such a thing happened, and Lord Lipton looked forward to the dinner, but also felt a sense of apprehension in that he was not at all sure of how he would appear to his company and what exactly was expected or wanted from him in such a performance. And they, it must be admitted, were similarly curious to see how he would think of them and enjoy their own company, seeing as he was a man known mainly for his abstraction and for his writing to the family thus far.