Clarissa: Chapter Five

In their small room, the Marquis du Villebois and his son woke up a bit late, as they had expected after having stayed up so late to talk and party the night before. Neither of them was as energetic as they usually were, and the sluggishness was something that neither of them liked but figured was a necessary part of life for them to deal with.

“Are you going to head to the club today, dear father?”

“I will, if only for at least one good meal, when I’m hungry at least.”

“The Viscount Lipton and his family sure fed us well yesterday.”

“That they did, no doubt about it. And there was not even waste in it.”

“Not at all, it is impressive to see people manage that.”

“It makes me a bit envious of the days when we used to host such parties ourselves.”

“Hopefully those days will come again.”

“Yes, we have to hope, dear son, lest we despair of life altogether.”

“What do we do now, though?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I made it pretty obvious that I was interested in Miss Bennett by dancing with her so openly and probably so often, but where does one go from here?”

“I must admit I am not aware of the English rules for courtship.”

“I would know how to conduct such a matter in the French way, but I think that might cause offense here.”

“It is probably better not to do things the French way. We are strangers here and unfortunately our country and its ways are not very popular at present in this land.”

“I can’t say I blame them. The ways of France right now are certainly no more congenial to ourselves.”

“Then we need to find someone who can inform us of English ways in this sort of matter.”

“Where should we go, then?”

“Let us go to the one place where we can be sure that there will be people who may communicate to us the ways of the English in a way that we can understand.”

“To the club, then, I assume?”

“That is right, we can go to the club and see if someone can give us some worthwhile advice.”

With some purpose animating their conduct, the two of them dressed as well as they could and then walked down together to the nearby club where emigres mixed with the English folk who were at least professedly sympathetic with their plight. As they were regulars at the club, they were let in and showed to a table where an acquaintance was already waiting for them.

“You’re late.”

“I didn’t know we were on a schedule.”

“You have t imes you are usually here.”

“My son and I are admittedly a bit tired today and were not our usual chipper and awake selves.”

“That is true. I trust you found the party very enjoyable.”

“Very much so,” the son piped in.

“From what I hear you caught the attention of Miss Bennett with your skillful use of an officer’s uniform. It is a pretty standard trick, but all the better that you have at least some awareness of it.”

“It worked in France as well, so I figured it would be a good thing here.”

“It is good to know things that can work across boundaries. So long as people are inclined to think well of their militaries, and are the right sort of patriotic people, an officer’s uniform gives you some social advantage. I would shudder to think of how bad a military would have to be in order to lose such favor.”

“There is something that we wanted to know, related to that, though.”

“And what did you wish to know about English culture?”

“I wished to know the proper way to express interest in Miss Bennett, in getting to know her better.”

“You are not interested in mere seduction.”

“I do not think Miss Bennett is the right sort of girl for that sort of scheme. She strikes me as the sort of person one would want for honorable purposes.”

“Well, it is good that you think so. She has been raised up as a young lady, and her family is certainly well-disposed to you, which is remarkable in its open-mindedness both on account of the fact that you are French emigres and many patriotic people here are hostile to the French in general, and also the fact that they are not judging you by your present relative poverty.”

“I was concerned when I received the invitation that it would be a mere show of friendliness, but they seemed generally interested in our well-being and social comfort.”

“Yes, so the odds are good that they considered you appropriate company, and perhaps more, for their foster daughter.”

“But how is one to get to know them better. I cannot imagine they plan on staying long here in London at this season.”

“No, you are quite right. They are not the sort of people who stay in London longer than necessary to accomplish their business here. Their business was to see Clarissa introduced and to get home in time for a restful delivery of the Viscount’s latest child. That business has been done, so I imagine they might already be on the road home.”

“Nor do I have an abundance of time myself, seeing as I must report within two weeks to my own regiment in Newcastle.”

“I assume that you did not get a specific address to their estate in Yorkshire.”

“No, we did not. I suppose such a thing was not thought to be necessary.”

“It may not be necessary, but I suppose you would want to do more than merely get to see their estate.”

“What did you mean?”

“Did you want to see something of where Clarissa’s family is from?”

“You know all that information?”

“Such things are generally and widely known. Clarissa’s father, Lord Lipton’s maternal uncle, is a merchant based out of Market __________, and checking out the place where she was from would be a worthwhile experience for you. Also, it is close to where the Lipton estate is, and so it is a worthwhile place to go.”

“That is very useful. I will take you up on that, thanks.”

“My pleasure, as always.”

“One more thing, who are you anyway?”

The man silently thought for a bit, long enough for an uncomfortable air to hang over the table. “Perhaps it would be best for you to think of me as a friend, but a friend who dwells in the shadows.”

“Very well then,” the father responds, with a bow of the head.

The man left the two of them to themselves, and they ate and thought about logistics.

“You will be fine, father, while I am gone?”

“I will be able to manage. The four percents will allow us to keep up our present housing and the club membership will give at least one good meal a day.”

“I should have enough spending money to make it to Yorkshire and Newcastle without any trouble. I imagine that I will be able to be a houseguest with the Lord and Lady for a bit, and should not have to worry about expenses.”

“Yes, though I do not think you will take advantage of it to any great degree.”

“I think that would be unwise, but I do not think that money plays very much into what Lord Lipton is about.”

“We are refugees, but we are not fortune hunters. As long as you do not appear to be hunting for a fortune in Clarissa, I think it will be fine.”

“And what will you do here?”

“I will try to learn more about English society and more about English if possible. I think that will be enough for me.”

“That makes sense. I will have much work to do with the regiment soon enough, but before then it will be interesting to see more about Clarissa’s background and the way that Lord and Lady Lipton behave when they are at home.”

There was a great more that the marquis wanted to say. He wanted to caution his son about trifling with the heart of a young lady, but he did not know if such a thing needed to be said. He wanted to confide in his son about how lonely it would be to have his son far away, but it was good for him to have some sort of occupation. His older son and heir had already found a comfortable place in Vienna, working alongside various anti-revolutionaries who were associated with the Austrians. His wife and daughter were still in France, and it was unclear when he would be able to see them again. But these were not things that could be openly said. Much could be felt and thought that could not be communicated by words. One hoped that what one could say and what one showed was enough.

For his part, the son had much to do. He packed up his clothing and other belongings, like a few treasured books, into a small trunk, and then after saying farewell to his father, he took his trunk down and took a post bound for Market _________, where he hoped to find out more about Miss Clarissa Bennett. Before long the clattering hooves left the Marquis alone with his thoughts, hopeful that the safety and well-being of his family could be preserved in these dangerous revolutionary times.

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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