Clarissa: Chapter Seven

It was just after noon when Roland de Villebois pulled into Market Weighton, to the __________ inn there. He tipped the driver of the chaise and then walked up to the innkeeper to get a room and also to ask if he had any information about where the Bennetts were in town, as he was a recent friend of the family. The innkeeper looked at him with considerable interest, and wondered if he could send a message to Orient Hall on his behalf. Roland smiled and agreed that such a note would be worthwhile, and was told that he was in luck as there was to be an assembly that night in the inn that would be celebrating the young women of the area, and that it would be good for him to enjoy the dance. He agreed that this would be worthwhile, and said that after having a nuncheon he would enjoy walking around the town.

He had his nuncheon, enjoying the fare at the inn, which proved to be hearty and filling, exactly what one would want after having spent hours traveling, and with a smile and another tip, Roland got up from his chair and went to take a walk around Market Weighton. He looked around to see the sturdy buildings of a town that represented the sort of place that Clarissa came from. It was by no means a large city, but it was a friendly one, and as he was well-dressed and smiling, his appearance as a stranger in their midst proved to be something that drew the curiosity of the people around rather than their hostility as might have been the case in less friendly areas.

It did not take too long of a walk before Roland found himself standing before a finely built home at the edge of town that was labeled as the Bennett House. He figured it was worth a shot and so he walked up to the front door to knock. He was greeted by a butler.

“This is the Bennett house, may you state your business?”

“I am a friend of the family on my way to Newcastle, but hoping to get to know the family a bit better here.”

“And who are you, sir?”

“My name is Roland de Villebois. I met a Clarissa Bennett in London recently at the ball which introduced her into society after she was presented at St. James Palace.”

The butler here paused. “Please wait here.”

“No problem, sir.”

Roland waited at the door while the butler closed the door and then went inside. Before too long, a stout gentleman came to the door and invited Roland inside to sit in the reception area not too far inside the house on one of the comfortable chairs.

“I am always pleased to meet a friend of my daughter’s.”

“Clarissa is your daughter? I assume you are related to Lord and Lady Lipton, then?”

“Ah, you know my nephew and his wife as well?”

“Yes, I have met your nephew on a couple of occasions, once at his home in London and another time when he came visit our anti-Jacobin club in London.”

“You are recently French then?”

“I am indeed. My father and I heard a tip that the revolutionaries wished to put our heads on a pike and decided that exile was a fate preferable to death, and so we fled to London with as much as we could bring with us in a hurry, which was not as much as we would have preferred.”

“I hope that England has been welcoming to you, then. You did well in befriending my nephew, who is quite intensely anti-revolutionary.”

“So I have heard. Is there a reason why?”

“He has personal experience with revolutions that have been less than enjoyable. He grew up in East Florida after my late sister and his late father married, and had a difficult time dealing with the revolutionary fervor in our American colonies. If you want to know more details, you will have to talk to him.”

“That would make sense, then, that the French Revolution reminded him of his own troubles, and that he feels kindly to those who suffered as he did.”

“You are indeed right there.”

“I am pleased to know at least something of his background. Lord Lipton seems to be a bit of a mystery.”

“He will likely remain so. He is a mystery to me, and I have known him all his life. That is not to say that he is an unpleasant mystery, though.”

“A great many mysteries can be enjoyable, so long as one does not feel that one understands everything.”

“That is precisely the right approach to have when dealing with complicated people like Lord Lipton.”

“I appreciate any such insight as you can give.”

“Now I would like to know more about you.”

“Ask away.”

“What is the level of relationship that you have with my daughter.”

“I have danced with her a couple of times after having been invited to her ball and spoken with her and Lord and Lady Lipton, for some hours, and dined with them at a family supper.”

“That is to say that you are interested in knowing her better but are not yet a close friend of the family.”

“That would be fair to say.”

“And what is your profession?”

“I am a newly minted officer in the Lincolnshire regulars, due to report in Newcastle in a week and a half or so.”

“So you do not have much time at present to know her as well as you would like.”

“That would also be fair to say.”

“But though you have only a little bit of time, you have wished to spend it by getting to know an old man like me and other relatives of hers.”

“Yes, simply because one does not have much time does not mean that one should waste what little time one has.”

“That is a wise philosophy, and rare for one so young as yourself. Most of us, you know, waste far too much time and then find ourselves missing it when it is too late to do anything about it.”

“I am aware that this is a common problem. None of us know, though, whether we have a lot of time or only a little bit of time.”

“You are quite right there. Are you a student of philosophy?”

“I suppose you could say that,” Roland said, pursing his lips a little.

“Come now, there is no need to be ashamed of having studied.”

“When I was younger, before the world was turned upside down, I had spent some time studying Thomist thought not too far away from where my family lived along the Loire, near Nantes.”

“I cannot imagine you will find much study of Thomism here.”

“You are familiar with it?”

“Not as much as my nephew thinks I ought to be. He is always the one reading books about law and philosophy and seeking to understand how the wise have seen the world. It has come up in conversations with me, though, so I am familiar with the name, and when I have visited Orient Hall I have seen volumes of Thomas Aquinas on the shelves, and even more remarkably, looking as if they had been read.”

“That makes me even more interested in getting to know your nephew better.”

“I am sure he will enjoy having someone to talk about philosophy with. He is, like some people, rather self-taught. Due to the early death of his father and his need to support himself, he did not have the sort of education in Europe that he would have received otherwise as a member of his class, but he has always sought to increase his own knowledge and demonstrate his credentials as a Christian gentleman.”

“I can relate to the sentiment, and share it.”

“That is a relief to hear. I hope you do not find me too tiresome in that I lack such familiarity with high culture. To be sure, my sister’s connection with that family has been of great benefit to me in opening up many horizons, but such gains took a long time to happen, seeing as I had to spend most of my years as a merchant learning and mastering the ways of making money to support myself and my family and did not have the leisure to study as some have.”

“I may have lived my youth in some leisure, but my adulthood has pressed upon me the need to support myself as best as I am able, so I will not criticize someone for having to make the best of the life that providence has proved for them.”

“I must say, I am impressed at your English.”

“When I studied with the Thomists, I was not only a student of philosophy. As it happened, they had a very international student body, and there were some Anglo-Catholics I befriended, who taught me their native language, which has been of great use to me.”

“It is worthwhile to make useful friends.”

“It has always been the case that good friends can provide much unexpected help, and sometimes the benefit that they provide becomes fully evident only later.”

“I trust you have heard about the assembly that is tonight?”

“I was told about it by the innkeeper at the ____________.”

“Oh yes, that is a wonderful place. Do you know that my nephew stayed in that very same inn the first night he had returned to England?”

“Ah, so the inn has a bit of family history for you?”

“Very much so, I have always been fond of it, and seeing it connected with friends and family only makes it more so.”

“It is good to be at a place where one is sure to be taken care of, then.”

“Yes, they will take care of you well, and hopefully you may enjoy the opportunity to dance with my daughter a couple more times this evening.”

“She will come here?”

“My daughter dearly loves to dance and socialize. She has attended the assemblies here for many years, long before she was able to stand up and dance, enjoying the conversation at the table with me and with Lord and Lady Lipton. She will enjoy it even more being able to dance, and may perhaps be surprised at your arrival, unless she knows you have come.”

“I suspect she may be aware of it, as the innkeeper offered to send a note to Orient House.”

“Ah, yes. If they get a note about a gallant French gentleman dressed in officer’s clothes, they will likely be able to determine that it was you who have arrived.”

“I hope it will be that clear.”

“I hope so too. In the meantime, I await the report of my eldest son on how business is doing, and look forward to dining with you this evening before the assembly. You will be taking your supper there, I assume?”

“I plan on doing so.”

“Very well, I hope you will not mind having my eldest son and I as guests.”

“Not in the least. I look forward to it.” And with that he was graciously dismissed to return to the inn and to ponder over what he had heard.

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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