The next morning, as soon as the latest writing against Lord Lipton and others came out, there was a messenger with a note from Lord Sydney arriving at Lord Lipton’s place, and Lord Lipton took the opportunity say that he was ready to come over with his cousin and the governess and then call for his solicitor to make a clean sweep of it. When he arrived at the Sydney residence, he received an apology for Lord Sydney having been away from home. It was no problem for Lord Lipton, as he finally was able to talk to to someone about the gossip that had been swirling around for days and the possibility of a positive resolution was at last in view.
Lord Sydney commented that he thought that the opposition had gone too far and to this Lord Lipton readily assented, figuring that they must think themselves invulnerable to have made such comments without giving serious thought to the likely consequences of their actions. By mentioning at least four people in the stories, two of whom were referred to by name, it was clear that there was some degree of recklessness.
Lord Sydney took a close look at the way that Lord Lipton interacted with his cousin, and heard the story of how it was that Lord Lipton got to take care of her in the first place. Lord Sydney looked at her with honest sympathy and explained that the situation was similar to that which led him to take care of his own foster daughter. He also got to meet the governess and hear about what an apt pupil Clarissa had shown herself to be. All of this was very much to the point as they sought to figure out a proper response to the libels that had been printed and which were starting to spread far beyond the narrow target they had started with.
It did not take Lord Lord Sydney long to realize that Lord Lipton had a rather paternal sort of feeling for Clarissa and that no one who looked at their interactions for any length of time would think anything differently. If Lord Lipton had never had any children, he had the sort of approach to children that tended to win their respect. He took them seriously, treated them as beings with their own thoughts and feelings and showed a genuine curiosity for what they had to say without having any desire at all to seek privacy.
Interestingly enough, the same thing was obvious to Sarah. “Are you like her bug mother?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“A bug mother is someone that kids are drawn to because one is affectionate and protective and is obviously not going to hurt someone else.”
“I never thought of it that way.”
“That’s what it looks like to me, though.”
“I’ll have to keep that expression in mind, it might be a useful one.”
The two of them laughed a bit while they chatted. Lord Lipton looked with a high degree of appreciation how Sarah managed to talk to Clarissa and how the two of them got on with each other. Clarissa seemed inclined to view Sarah like a big sister, which was highly gratifying to him to see, and perhaps to Sarah as well. Similarly, Miss Wood looked at Sarah and saw her as a sisterly figure as well, obviously having a certain degree of the same accomplishments as a result of having had a similar education between the two of them. Lord Lipton looked with some envy at all of that. If the education of young women was certainly not very systematic, his own education had been pretty chaotic as well and not unlike their own. The lack of private schools where he had grown up made it imperative for people to have their own tutors and the quality of tutors could be wildly uneven. Lord Lipton had been fortunate to have a good one who understood his desire to be (eventually) accepted in England, and so that helped a lot.
Over the course of the day a strategy was determined for Lord Lipton to deal with the drama. Discussions with solicitors as well as other political leaders led to a determination that a combined approach needed to be done. There would likely need to be trials in the House of Lords as well as in the courts, and possibly even the willingness to challenge people to duels, although Lord Sydney thought that would be a very dangerous alternative, and Lord Lipton agreed, thinking that some of the people involved were likely pretty violent people who could possibly be looking to limit the opposition through the use of insults designed to provoke violence.
At least one of the situations was resolved easily enough. When Mr. Sandwell found himself invited by Lord Sydney after having read further rumors that he knew to be untrue, he was a bit abashed that he had been lacking in sympathy and understanding for Lord Lipton, and he saw that a genuine friendship existed between Lords Sydney and Lipton, a friendship that allowed them to make the most out of the chance to share thoughts and come to a common strategy of how to deal with problems. Mr. Sandwell was glad that he was able to walk back some of his comments and behavior over the last few days and not be subject to the pain of being shot at by a man who meant business.
Of course, it was not as if Lord Lipton was going to duel and shoot Mr. Sandwell over a simple snub. That may have been the behavior of the hotblooded squires he had been familiar with in his youth and young adulthood, but that was not the way that he operated, at any rate. He did not feel it necessary to inform Mr. Sandwell that he was fortunate to be able to deal with phlegmatic English nobles instead of their more choleric American cousins, but it was not the time or the place for that. Before too long Mr. Sandwell saw that Lord Lipton was not a noble hardened in wickedness but rather someone who was conscientious and deeply concerned with right conduct. This somewhat surprised him, but he kept his counsel to himself, seeing that this conscientiousness could also be seen as a rebuke to more latitudinarian attitudes like his own.
While the men were engaged in discussions of who was responsible for the libels and what should be done about it, including responses by the government itself, should the responsible people prove recalcitrant to a proper adjustment, the ladies of the house enjoyed pleasant conversation themselves. Clarissa was pleased to be around other women who were friendly and gracious, seeing as she had not been used to more than token female company since the time her mother had died. She found herself being doted over and telling about her mother and father and brothers and the kindness of her cousin and her love of riding ponies and learning. In particular, Lady Sydney found much to compare her experience with that of their own foster daughter who had been a relative of hers who had needed to be taken care of because of problems in her birth family.
And Clarissa was able to get a sense of what it was that Lord Lipton was trying to do in teaching her how to act and comport herself like a lady. Clarissa had remembered what it was like to live with her mother among the singers and actresses of London and she knew that they were expected to be an adornment to men, but not with any sort of security. As soon as one’s health was gone and one’s looks were gone, one’s status was gone. This did not appear to be the case for the ladies among whom she was now spending time. Mrs. Sandwell was by no means very healthy, and a vicar was not a high member of society, but her position was secure, she was not ostracized from society on account of being sickly. It had been different when her mother had died of consumption, she remembered with a bit of a chill. Even someone like Miss Wood, whose family had apparently fallen on difficult times for reasons that she was not aware of, was in a secure place and was obviously being taken care of even if she was forced to work. How hard was it to be a governess? Was it hard to teach children and young people to become ladies? She wondered that to herself, understanding that the only way to be like a well-functioning adult was to learn what it was like from someone who knew. It was an apprenticeship that she had been called on to do, and it was the same for lords and ladies that it was for less elevated folk who had to learn the techniques of their craft however they supported themselves.
For the women, there was much to observe. Clarissa seemed to them to be a quick and apt pupil, eager to learn, of a kind and affectionate nature, and all of this was much to their pleasure. It was, of course, easy for people to be kind and affectionate with those of like nature. She obviously knew what it was like to be loved, and had seen more of life than some children do, but without being tormented by what she had seen. She was obviously not involved in any sort of evil purposes, and this was something to rejoice in.
Sarah herself wondered what it would be like to be a foster mother to a child such as this, and thought it would be a very good thing indeed. She could imagine riding ponies with the child and the governess, helping to teach, being able to have enjoyable conversations, all while being somewhat young herself. She, of course, hoped to have her own children but knowing what it was like to be well cared for as a foster child herself she gloried in the opportunity to take care of someone else in the same way that she too had been taken care of. She supposed that Lord Lipton was a person similar, in certain respects, to her own foster father. She remembered the passionate hug he had given, and knew that he was a man given to love, even if he had been somewhat awkward in conversation and by no means as suave as some men she had seen practicing on single young women. So she was left with the understanding, that he was a man who had known what it was like to love and certainly had a passionate and affectionate nature, but neither was she someone who forced himself on others or was very used to others being interested in him. He had said as much to her, after all, but she could feel how this was the case. She hoped that he felt some sort of love for her, and that he would be able to profess it to her.
Lady Sydney looked upon the scene and saw that her daughter was growing quite fond of Clarissa and inferred from that an affection for Lord Lipton as well. This pleased her, and she pondered how it was to encourage the two of them to spend more time with each other in order to get closer and to know each other better. She wondered how she could do so without causing too much trouble, but she figured times like this would make it easy for them to meet and chat in the course of other business without feeling singled out or put upon. She supposed that they would not mind being thrown together, since they were obviously fond of each other’s company. But would that fondness mean anything more, and was it better to hurry things along or let things take a natural course? She supposed that someone who had not married until such an age while obviously being interested in marriage was going to be a bit of a shy person, perhaps a bit of a timid one, and it was tricky to encourage without putting too much pressure. This would require some skill and effort to reach the desired end, she decided, but it was no insuperable barrier to success. Quite apart from any advantages such a connection would bring to both of them, it would be an affectionate union. And with such pleasant thoughts the day progressed.