William M. Thackeray, The History of Henry Esmond: Vol. 1, Ch. 10

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CHAPTER X.

I GO TO CAMBRIDGE, AND DO BUT LITTLE GOOD THERE.

Mr lord, who said he should like to revisit the old haunts of his youth, kindly accompanied Harry Esmond in his first journey to Cambridge. Their road lay through London, where my Lord Viscount would also have Harry stay a few days to show him the pleasures of the town before he entered upon his university studies, and whilst here Harry's patron conducted the young man to my Lady Dowager's house at Chelsey near London: the kind lady at Castlewood having specially ordered that the young gentleman and the old should pay a respectful visit in that quarter.

Her ladyship the Viscountess Dowager occupied a handsome new house in Chelsey, with a garden behind it, and facing the river, always a bright and animated sight with its swarms of sailors, barges, and wherries. Harry laughed at recognizing in the parlor the well-remembered old piece of Sir Peter Lely, wherein his father's widow was represented as a virgin huntress, armed with a gilt bow-and-arrow, and encumbered only with that small quantity of drapery which it would seem the virgins in King Charles's day were accustomed to wear.

My Lady Dowager had left off this peculiar habit of huntress when she married. But though she was now considerably past sixty years of age, I believe she thought that airy nymph of the picture could still be easily recognized in the venerable personage who gave an audience to Harry and his patron.

She received the young man with even more favor than she showed to the elder, for she chose to carry on the conversation in French, in which my Lord Castlewood was no great proficient, and expressed her satisfaction at finding that Mr. Esmond could speak fluently in that language. "'Twas the only one fit for polite conversation," she condescended to say, "and suitable to persons of high breeding."

My lord laughed afterwards, as the gentlemen went away, at his kinswoman's behavior. He said he remembered the time when she could speak English fast enough, and joked in his jolly way at the loss he had had of such a lovely wife as that.

My Lady Viscountess deigned to ask his lordship news of his wife and children; she had heard that Lady Castlewood had had the small-pox; she hoped she was not so VERY much disfigured as people said.

At this remark about his wife's malady, my Lord Viscount winced and turned red; but the Dowager, in speaking of the disfigurement of the young lady, turned to her looking-glass and examined her old wrinkled countenance in it with such a grin of satisfaction, that it was all her guests could do to refrain from laughing in her ancient face.

She asked Harry what his profession was to be; and my lord, saying that the lad was to take orders, and have the living of Castlewood when old Dr. Tusher vacated it, she did not seem to show any particular anger at the notion of Harry's becoming a Church of England clergyman, nay, was rather glad than otherwise, that the youth should be so provided for. She bade Mr. Esmond not to forget to pay her a visit whenever he passed through London, and carried her graciousness so far as to send a purse with twenty guineas for him, to the tavern at which my lord put up (the "Greyhound," in Charing Cross); and, along with this welcome gift for her kinsman, she sent a little doll for a present to my lord's little daughter Beatrix, who was growing beyond the age of dolls by this time, and was as tall almost as her venerable relative.