Return Of The Native Son: Chapter Nineteen

So it was that after the solicitor left and the Sandwells went back home so that Mrs. Sandwell could convalesce a bit more, that the remaining party enjoyed a fine family dinner. This was the first time that Clarissa had enjoyed this sort of dinner with a larger group of people, and she saw that if Lord Lipton could be a bit imposing as a person asking questions about what was being learned or taught or experienced, he was a far more sparkling and witty person in a crowd of others much like himself. This was a lesson that she filed away as they ate the courses of an enjoyable meal, cooked very well by the Sydneys’ skilled servants, much like their own, in fact.

For Lord Sydney, the day had been very useful in better understanding the political approach of Lord Lipton. He remarked that Lord Lipton was by no means a partisan person, and that it was strange that the attacks on him should automatically push him towards a certain voting bloc. He pondered about how foolish it was that someone would drive someone into the strongest opposition on so slender a cause. What was it that would create such an enemy? Lord Sydney pondered to himself that the only enemies of that kind of severity that Lord Lipton was likely to have was someone who crossed swords with him in the colonies, and that sort of evidence would most likely be found in the colonial office. He resolved to look as soon as possible to see what sort of people in particular Lord Lipton may have offended through his commentary. And how would someone know that he was such a deadly enemy? This demanded careful investigation.

Concerning personal matters, Lord Sydney found much to enjoy in what he saw. After all, Lord Lipton and Sarah were sitting next to each other and talking in a very friendly manner with each other. They were everything charmming and friendly, clearly very companionable, and all of this was to the pleasure of those watching. If Lord Lipton was not lacking in civility to those around him, he certainly had no issue showing his preference for the conversation of his dinner partner. There were conversations about what sort of food one most enjoyed, and the enjoyment of literature and architecture and horticulture. Lord Lipton was found to be fond of the melancholy poems of Cowper and even of the poems of Phyllis Wheatley, an obscure American poetess, and someone who was fond of good novels and plays, although a bit mistrustful of the excesses of emotionalism that could sometimes be found in both. Sarah was herself similarly expressive of her love of reading, including writings in foreign languages. They found a shared love of the comedies of Moliere and the historical plays of one Lope de Vega, which Lord Lipton had read, at least in part, in the original Spanish.

Lady Sydney was fond of what she saw. If she had no place in the business that was going on among the men, she could certainly see that Lord Lipton was a cultivated and educated man, that he was a person of friendliness and sociability, and that he had an enjoyment of literature and culture. Though Lord Lipton had not gone to any of the usual formal schools and so his education had been highly irregular, it was not to be disputed that he had done a good job of forming an education through intense study. Lady Sydney was also very interested to hear about the travels that Lord Lipton had done in the course of his youth and young adulthood. He commented that he had purchased his walking stick, which he called a wandelstok, while he was visiting Paramaribo one time on business, and got it for a reasonable price. It was quite a lovely walking stick if you asked her.

Miss Wood was quite intrigued by what she saw. It must be admitted that both Viscounts Sydney and Lipton were relatively new creations, but their behavior was far less eccentric than what she would have considered the aristocratic norm. Perhaps the fact that both had strong evangelical connections had something to do with the way that they celebrated with considerable restraint, and spent so much attention on their families rather than on households with kept women and trips to places of low repute. She had always heard negative things about the way that the higest lived, but there was little difference between what her own family had enjoyed before the premature death of her father and the entail of his estate on a cousin who was not fond of her or her mother and what had been enjoyed in both households. She was pleased by the fact that she could herself discuss matters of interest as well as observe the behavior of the others. She wondered where the families had acquired their wealth, and what allowed them to be ennobled, and what it meant to be a part of their cicles. She had already found herself, much to her chagrin, viewed by people as someone purporting to be a governness when it was clear that she was precisely that, just a governness to a girl who was a relative of a viscount. She wondered if that is all she would ever be, and for how long.

Sarah was enjoying herself. She had found out a fair amount about Lord Lipton, had understood that he was someone who was interested in a wide variety of art and writing and was someone who could be trusted upon to be quite fond of culture, within certain moral boundaries. All of this bode well for the time they would spend being entertained in the future, she allowed herself to think. She wondered if he felt the same way and how he would commuicate that to her and how long it would take. She figured, if this dinner was typical of what it would be in the future, that she would very much enjoy many years of such interaction.

Lord Lipton, lthe other members of his party, had enjoyed the day and found it to be very profitable. He was able to figure out a strategy on how to address the problem of the libels that had been made agaisnt the two of them and knew that he would have some strong administration support when he spoke out in the House of Lords, which would not be long away. All of this helped him to determine how he wanted to spend his time as he prepared to introduce himself to the peers.

Concerning his personal life, Lord Lipton was if anything even more satisfied with how the evening was going. He saw everyone interacting in a friendly manner and assumed this would be a combination of people who might be dining together often in the coming weeks and months. It was obvious that Sarah was very interested in what the two of them were saying. He did not know how far her imagination went, but he figured that she would be very enjoyable company if she was anything like the conversations they had enjoyed so far. She had a striking way of noticing patterns and was very concerned in how other people were doing and those were qualities he appreciated a great deal. It just remained to see how far the two of them were interested in each other and how far each of them considered their happiness to be in the other one’s hands. And though he was not yet sure, he definitely thought that his happiness could be safe in her hands. The only difficulty was how this was to be determined in a reasonable fashion without pushing things too quickly or letting them drag on too long. He was certainly not skilled in such matters.

But what he was skilled in was setting up a fine conversation, and given that no one was interested in gambling, they had a friendly set of card games that they played, with no stakes, simply as a means of getting people to enjoy the game. Lord Lipton had played a complex game in his youth that had been taught to him by his family, and so he found a deck of cards for each person and had each person deal out two sets of eleven cards out of the mixture and then pass them on to the next person. Then various rounds of the game progressed, everyone trying to throw away their 3’s while collecting sets of seven cards, some of them with 2’s and jokers and some of them not. The result was an enjoyable evening of strategy, and when it was done he was happy that he had taught the group a card game that they had not known, and one that could take hours of time without making anyone feel guiltly about having lost too much money or bidding too high as was the case with many other games.

The group was curious as to how it was that he had learned such a game, and he explained to them that he had picked it up in his family but he did not know where they had learned it from. They were intrigued to know that his family had been such a card-playing one and they wondered what sort of card games were played in the Southern colonies. Lord Lipton had at least some fresh information to give them, informing them that most of the time the people there played the same kind of games as in Europe, sometimes with European names and sometimes not. They were intrigued to find out that in some colonies there were a lot of gamblers and a lot of fighting that resulted from the games and the winning or losing, and that sometimes cheating was a major problem. For the most part, this crowd was used to people who played games honorably and expected debts of honor to be repaid, but that was not always the case everyone, he informed them, which was filed away by Lord Sydney for future reference in dealing with the Americans.

The conversation of the colonies sparked many other questions about matters of politics as well as the institution of slavery. Lord Lipton noted that not all of the colonies had slaves, and that there were wide differences between colonies and sometimes within them. He noted, for example, that people in the mountains tended to have fewer slaves and be far poorer as a result of poor transportation to the coast, and that the wealthiest people lived on the coast as well as on the rivers which took their crops quickly to market, and that there were always fights between who held political power and whose votes were counted and where. Though politics was viewed to be a men’s subject, the ladies had their own opinions about how it was that things should go and they were interested to hear how apportionment was such a pressing problem in a land where the counting of votes made all the difference in the world.

“Do you think it will get like that here,” Sarah asked.

“I do indeed.”

“What makes you think that?”

“It is the way of the world for people to fight over everything. Why should it be any different here?”

“Do you think that the Peace of Paris means peace?” Lord Sydney asked.

“How permanent of a peace was the last one?”

“What, twelve years?” Lord Sydney replied.

“We would be lucky if it lasted that long.” And with that there was, at least for a little while, silent meditation. They were not, of course, that lucky.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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