THE GREAT TAMASHA COOKBOOK AND FAMILY
Summer’s End at Tamasha
Ginger Dessert Biscuits
1 lb. flour, 1/2 lb. butter, 1/2 lb. castor sugar, 6 egg yolks, 1/2 – 1 tsp. ginger to taste. Butter should be at room temperature; beat by hand to a cream. Gradually add flour, then sugar & ginger. Beat egg yolks well & add. Mix well. Drop spoonfuls onto buttered paper, leaving a distance between each, as they spread. Bake in a very slow oven from 12 to 18 min. Should not be too coloured. Makes 3 - 4 doz.
Introductory Note by Katy Widdop
Some of this chapter is a reconstruction, as several pages of the manuscript, Our India Days, were missing. However, we had a great piece of luck, because after Julie and Cassie had decided that a blog would be the way to go and had stuck all the initial draft of the first six chapters on it (or is it in it?—whatever), and had of course spent months groaning that they were sure nobody was looking at it except Bob and Terri Darling, they had an email from, of all places, Little Froissart in Kent! Here’s what it said:
Dear Julie and Cassie,
We’ve been following your blog and the story of Tamasha with great interest. Coincidentally, we own Little Froissart, in the village of Little Shrempton. As soon as we realised that the story was about our part of Kent we dashed up to the attic and had a good hunt round, but there was nothing much there except a very old top hat and a couple of broken Windsor chairs. (Bill’s brother Jack is going to restore them, as he’s very keen on that sort of thing.) But then we remembered Miss Thomas from the village, as there’s a Thomas family in the story, so we went round to see her, and she produced a positive treasure trove of old letters and diaries! It is the same family, and she can trace her ancestry directly back to the Mr Thomas who had a house near here in the mid 19th-century, and in fact, her name is Madeleine, just like your Antoinette’s friend. (She is a very old lady and we didn’t know her Christian name until now.) Bill thinks you might like to see her family tree so he’s scanned it for you (attached). He thought of scanning the letters for you but there are quite a few so he’ll photocopy them and the diaries and post them.
Dear old Miss Thomas has got all excited and though she’s never used a computer before is eagerly coming round to our place to read the latest instalment in your blog, so keep it up, won’t you?
I've been trying out the recipes and Miss Thomas has got very keen, too. She’s asked me to pass on her old family recipe for “Ginger Dessert Biscuits” (attached). I’m not sure why “dessert”, as she serves them for tea.* They’re delicious but you do have to watch the oven—I singed my first 2 batches!
We did have some of the cottage’s history and had traced the origin of the name “Little Froissart”, but were most intrigued to hear about the Partridges. We think that the cottage must have gone to one of Miss Partridge’s and her brother’s nephews, because back before the War our grandfather bought it from a Roger Partridge! He was a very old man at the time, but that’s all we know about him. Bill is going to undertake some serious genealogical research and we’ll pass on anything that looks relevant.
Looking forward with great excitement to the next instalment!
Jane and Bill Cooper
* Subsequent research has discovered that this is actually one of Mrs Beeton’s recipes, from The Book of Household Management, 1861. She just calls them “Dessert Biscuits”. They would have been served as part of a dessert course in those days, though this doesn’t mean that they might not also be served for “tea”. (Afternoon tea, to us Colonials!) Ginger is just one of the flavourings Mrs Beeton recommends. –Cassie Babbage.
We were able to flesh out all the second part of this chapter from the letters, which included a whole set written by Madeleine Thomas that summer to her older married sister, Adelaide, who was living in Sussex but seems to have returned to Little Shrempton after her husband died. At all events, a lot of letters written to her were included in the exciting parcel from the Coopers. There were also a lot sent by Antoinette to Madeleine in later years, after they were both married, and a great wad which turned out to be those sent to Antoinette herself, spanning a period of sixty-odd years, right up to the early years of the 20th century.
The first part of Chapter 8 of Our India Days was intact.
From the unfinished MS., circa 1899: Our India Days
Chapter 8: A Last Proposal Before We leave for India
Now, little ones, you are all to go in the pony-cart, for Nurse has promised you the treat, and with our good Logan driving, you will be perfectly safe and comfortable! –Thank you, Logan. Matt, were you not intending to ride Trusty? Dear boy, if his legs are rather short, yours are not very long! Your Papa will not permit you to ride the roan, pray do not be absurd.—Exactly, Logan.—And our good Logan has far too much sense to let you have him, in any case. Dear boy, when you are older of course you will be able to go off with your Papa for the glorious twelfth, but not just yet. Now, shall we have Trusty brought round? But you will be bored at home with Antoinette and three old ladies! The end of the story? Er—it is not the end, but—Yes, there is a little more about our summer at Tamasha, but not all of it fit for young ears. Though of course the picknick was quite hilarious, certainly as Ponsonby sahib would tell of it—Very well, you may stay to hear about the picknick. Yes, pull up that chair: the servants have rearranged the terrace furniture again! That’s better. Now…
The warm August had devolved into a hot September and several had been heard to complain of the tiresomely sultry weather. Forbes memsahib, alas, was not affected, and indeed had blossomed, though she had been pretty well in full bloom all along, in frilled muslins of the most diaphanous kind. Dozens of them: Tamasha had not seen her in the same muslin twice. Though certainly, as Josie noted, muslin was cheap and plentiful in India.
Alfred came into Ponsonby’s study looking wary. “Sir, there’s young gentlemen come.”
“Thank you, Alfred. Who is home?”
All the young ladies and Mlle Dupont were on the terrace and Alfred had shown the young gentlemen out there.
“Who are they? Young Mr Forbes and Mr Partridge?”
“Yessir. Only there’s two more, sir! What we don’t know.”
It was like drawing teeth. Patiently Ponsonby got it out of him that one of them was a Lord, and here was his card, and t’other was a Mr Atton.
“Hatton? But surely Hatton’s still in India. Wait: a young gentleman?”
“Yessir. So I h’informed you immediate, Colonel!” he congratulated himself.
“Thank you. The young ladies certainly know Lord Welling,” said Ponsonby levelly. “And I think this Mr Hatton must be the son of an old India friend.”
“Yessir,” he said respectfully. Not to say, expectantly.
“I shall join them. Er—Miss Tiddy is there, is she?”
“Yes, sir. She was reading her book, sir.”
“Mm. Thank you, Alfred.”
Alfred bowed and retreated. Ponsonby went slowly over to his French doors. They were slightly ajar, but the doorway was veiled by the long muslin curtains which he had retained in despite of his sister’s representations that they were odd, and un-English, and he should get rid of them. Cautiously he peered down the awninged terrace, to be greeted by a scene highly reminiscent of those which had once graced the verandah of the Lucas house in Calcutta. Miss Lucas was seated on a little sofa, her stitchery laid by, smiling kindly at the elderly Miss and Mr Partridge, whom apparently Alfred did not count as being of the party. Next her, Tonie was looking coolly polite. Tiddy was perched on a small pouffe by Mlle Dupont’s chair and Mr Junius Brutus Partridge, riding boots and all, had sat himself down on the flags beside her. Josie’s giggle could be heard: she was surrounded by young men. The artfully arranged light brown hair and expensive coat of Mr Adrian Forbes were instantly recognisable. That left two fair heads… Yes, it must be Charlie Hatton: the eldest son, Jimmy Hatton, was with John Company and somewhere in the mofussil, and the Major’s third boy would be still at school. Well, at least Forbes memsahib was not with them today. Ponsonby took a deep breath and went out.
It was Charlie Hatton: he had grown very like his father, with the same square, fair-skinned face, and the same thick thatch of yellow curls. Though Hatton’s were used to be worn cut very short, where his son’s were even more artfully arranged than young Forbes’s. Very clearly he had all of his father’s charm as well as his looks, and knew it. Though certainly his manner to Ponsonby was frank and pleasant enough, with nothing over-eager or encroaching about it. Ponsonby shook hands, refrained from asking him what the Devil he was doing at large in England instead of back in India with the regiment, and allowed the excited Miss Partridge, who had jumped to her feet immediately on perceiving him, to introduce Lord Welling.
Welling was a very tall, broad-shouldered young man: somehow Ponsonby, he knew not why, had envisaged him a little yaller-haired weedy fellow. Fair skin, guileless blue eyes, an undistinguished nose, and light-coloured hair about summed him up. There was very little personality discernible—though, on the other hand, that was possibly better than over-much charm.
|"Sketch, Study for Vernon, Viscount Welling, as a Young Man."|
Pencil, white chalk. Atrrib. to Frederick Greenstreet, circa 1822.
Formerly in the Welling Collection.
Courtesy of the Maunsleigh Collection
He was probably, as had been reported by Ponsonby’s wards, around the same age as Graham Wells, though his manner was that of a much younger fellow. Well, possibly better than too much self-assurance? Eagerly Miss Partridge assured Ponsonby that she knew his dear mother very well—very well indeed.
He sank into a chair and allowed Miss Partridge, with some help from the gentleman to whom she normally referred as “Brother,” to tell him the whole of the widowed Lady Welling’s sad, sad story. True, Miss Partridge specialised in sad, sad, stories but admittedly Lady Welling’s history fitted the case. Though as her only child was a well-grown, healthy, and evidently happy individual perhaps in the end it had not turned out so sadly as all that?
“Mamma would have come herself; in fact, she had planned a visit to Cousin Paulina Grant in Folkestone for this autumn, sir,” explained Lord Welling helpfully, “only for the death of Coriander the Second.”
As that was, surely, a spice, the English word for dhania, Ponsonby sahib blinked. “I’m sorry to hear that, Welling. A relative, was it?” –Though if the Wellings had Royal connections, would not Miss Partridge long since have apprised Tamasha of the fact?
“No, a dog,” said Tiddy blandly.
“That’s right,” agreed the Viscount simply. “A great-grandmother, y’see: had her forever. Mamma was terribly cut up over it, but as rather fortunately she was in her blacks already for Second Cousin Josiah Symington, did not have to get into ’em.”
“Thought she always was in her blacks, Welling?” said Junius Brutus Partridge, grinning.
Unperturbed, Lord Welling replied: “Usually, yes. Did come out of ’em once, for Cousin Giles’s wedding. Never thought I’d live to see the day. Mind you, it was Ditterminster Cathedral, all the fol-de-rol, out of course. Purple. Hardly recognised her,” he said, shaking his fair head.
“That, you know, is the Marquis of Rockingham!” squeaked Miss Partridge.
“Cousin Giles: aye,” confirmed his Lordship mildly. “Terribly decent fellow. No, well, there you are. Went into her blacks for old Symington, poor old Coriander the Second pops off, stays in ’em, prostrated, unable to get down to Kent.”
“Er—oh,” said Ponsonby sahib on a limp note. “Quite. So you are down in these parts to visit a relative, are you, Welling?”
“Cousin Paulina Grant, yes. Expecting me mother as well: dare say she’ll be miffed. Nothing for it, though. Well, terribly glad to take the opportunity to see Miss Josie again, of course!” he said eagerly.
“Yes, of course. And you two are acquaintances, are you, Charlie?”
“That’s right, sir. Know him through Forbes, here.”
“We’re connections on Mamma’s side, Colonel,” said Mr Forbes. “Lady Welling was a Harbourne.”
“Only a cousin,” said Lord Welling modestly. “Tell you the truth, never been to Harbourne Manor: the old boy don’t care for Papa’s side. Don’t know why.”
“There can be no reason at all!” fluted Miss Partridge. “For that, you know, is the Hammond side! You might not think it, for female succession is so unusual in England, but two generations back—” She told it all. If one had bothered to listen it no doubt would have explained why in spite of his different surname Lord Welling, if Rockingham and his sons popped off, would be next in line for the marquisate—yes.
“I didn’t know that was possible,” said Tiddy with interest.
Unfortunately this set her off again and she explained the difference between a lady’s being able to hold a title in her own right, Salic law as practised in the Court of France—all its members, guillotined or not, seemed to be in there—and the English law of Royal succession…
During this discourse Charlie Hatton managed to disengage himself from Josie’s fluttering eyelashes, giggles, and not sufficiently muffled whispers, and to sit down on the flags on Tiddy’s other side. Ponsonby sahib watched him drily, reflecting that there was no doubt that Major Hatton would have heard about the girls’ expectations. And what Hatton knew, she knew within the hour. And Mrs Hatton always had been ambitious for her children. He found he was doing calculations in his head involving the time letters might reasonably take between Calcutta and England, and grimly stopped. Wait and see. –But why in God’s name was Charlie Hatton, at his age, free to idle about the southern counties?
Since Mlle Dupont, seconded by Tess, invited the lot of them to dine that very night, plus, alas, Forbes memsahib, it was not so very long before he was enlightened. Mrs Forbes was determinedly performing on the instrument, with Brother Partridge professing himself delighted to turn for her. She had not looked so delighted at this offer from a little, prim, plump, confirmed bachelor whose main interest in life was antique silverware, but had accepted with a good enough grace. Charlie Hatton pulled up a chair beside Ponsonby.
“Like old times, ain’t it, sir?” he murmured.
Charlie’s clever blue eyes twinkled, but he did not go so far as to make any inappropriate comment, though he did allow his gaze to linger for a moment on the fair performer. “Dare say you may be wondering what the Devil I’m doing in England,” he said easily.
“I own, I had thought you must be with the regiment, by this time, Charlie.”
“Aye, well, Papa would have preferred it. But old Uncle Algernon Fitzpatrick died a handful of years back: left the lot to me. Well, it ain’t a great fortune, by any means, but it’s an independence, y’see. So when Papa agreed that I had best take the time to think what I wished to do, thought I would go up to the university, since Forbes was up.”
“And have you come down with your degree?” asked Ponsonby evenly.
“Well, yes, though I’m no scholar, sir! Mamma suggested I might go into the Church, but I ain’t cut out for it. Added to which, don’t need a living: Uncle Algie left me the house—snug enough. Can’t compare with Tamasha, out of course!” he said with a laugh.
“Where is it, again?”
It was in Hampshire, quite convenient to London, really, and at the moment had respectable tenants in it. And old Uncle Algie’s man of business was looking to “all that”, for he, Charles Hatton, had no head for figures.
“A pity. You might have put some of your inheritance into business: I heard Tim Urqhart is looking for a partner, since Jubb has retired from active participation in the firm.”
“Er—well, I know Urqhart’s a gazetted nabob, but can’t say I’d fancy it,” he said on an uncomfortable note. “Added to which, y’know, the fellow owns a decent property in Rockingham’s county, and the family is received at Daynesford Place: can’t imagine why he don’t sell out his interest in the firm and settle down to a decent life!”
“Is that what you intend? To settle down to farm your old uncle’s little property?”
“Oh, well, it do have a decent farm attached. Why not? Eventually. Don’t know that I want to settle down just yet, though!” he said with his charming smile.
“No. You’re not considering returning to India? I had heard there was a scheme that you and young Carruthers were to manage one of the new tea estates for Urqhart, up in the hills. Lucas & Pointer’s Lucas Hills estate is its neighbour. It would not be an unpleasant life.”
“No, of course. But rather out of the way, sir!”
That was true. There would certainly be no parties or dances. And it would involve rather a lot of hard work, too. No, well, it was fairly clear that Mr Charles Hatton fancied the life of a gentleman of leisure very much more than he fancied anything approaching a man’s life. The way of the world, no doubt, and no doubt one should not condemn him for it.
—Why, yes, Matt: these were the days when the tea experiments in the hills had just begun to bear fruit, as it were! How percipient of you, dear boy! Yes, the first shipments from Lucas Hills had already come to England, and been very well received. Describe a tea bush? Er, this may not sound very likely, Matt, but it is a kind of camellia bush.
Similar to the ones in tubs which are kept in the conservatory over winter, yes, but they are not suitable for making tea. Possibly it would not poison you, no, but it would very likely give you a horrid belly-ache. Did Charlie Hatton go up to the tea plantations in the end? you ask. It is not giving away any secrets to say no, he did not. Yes, dear, too much like hard work. Shall we go on with the story? Very well. Great-Aunt Tess will tell the next part.
The Story Continued (As Told by Great-Aunt Tess)
The evening ended with Josie awarding the gratified Welling a smack on the arm with her fan and promising to drive out with him on the morrow, as his Lordship had his curricle with him, and, less predictably, with Brother Partridge, who appeared very struck by Tamasha’s collection of Indian souvenirs, making an appointment to look at them with Tiddy
“Tiddy,” said our dear Ponsonby sahib cautiously as the house party prepared for bed, “it would not do, you know, to encourage Mr Partridge for a joke.”
“I am not doing so. No-one else is interested in Papa’s Indian souvenirs, and at least he has the merit of being perfectly genuine,” returned Tiddy baba grimly. “Unlike some.” With a general glare around the room, which by now contained only Mlle Dupont, Ponsonby sahib and myself, she walked out.
“Tess, my dear,” said Mademoiselle immediately, “I know you are tired, but I think you must tell us without delay what you know of this Mr Charlie Hatton.”
“Exactly,” said Colonel Ponsonby grimly, shutting the door which Tiddy had left open and resuming his seat.
I fear I floundered. “But I— But— Surely you are not implying that Tiddy meant that Charlie Hatton is not perfectly genuine? We have known him forever.”
“Rather, you have not set eyes on him since he was around ten years old, and sent back to England to school,” said our guardian firmly.
I supposed that was true, and reminded him that Charlie and Tiddy were used to play together, when they were very little.
|"The Library at old Ma Maison, Calcutta"|
Pen & ink, circa 1815, artist unknown
(from a portfolio of mounted sketches, Maunsleigh Library)
From the estate of Jarvis Wynton, Fifth Earl of Sleyven.
Courtesy of the Maunsleigh Collection
“Under the table in the library, yes. It would assume the rôle of a fort, palace, hill or even man-o’-war, as required. I remember that, but I remember almost nothing of Charlie, except that he would customarily take the rôle of commander of the troops, leaving Tiddy and Romesh to alternate those of vanquished enemy and second-in-command.”
“Y— Um, who was Romesh?” said I blankly.
“The son of one of your servants.”
“Oh!” said Mlle Dupont brightly. “Then an English boy of course could not be expected to resign command to him!”
Ponsonby sahib was eying her with considerable appreciation—I could not see why, exactly, as she had not said any more than anyone might say. “Precisely,” he agreed. “And Tiddy was a mere girl, you see.”
“Oh, exactly, my dear sir! So, a conventional mind, non?”
“Mm. Rather like Major Hatton—his father.” He paused. “Hatton, Senior, is a very decent fellow, though he does make conscious use of his charm when the circumstances require it.”
“Colonel,” I objected, feeling myself flush up, “I hardly think that would justify your assumption that the son is not perfectly genuine.”
Ponsonby sahib rubbed his chin. “No. But the interesting thing is, that it was not my assumption, but Tiddy’s.”
“Précisément,” agreed Mademoiselle. “Think, my dear! Is there nothing more you recall of him?”
There was nothing, alas—no.
Ponsonby sahib and Mademoiselle were now exchanging sufficiently grim glances.
“This,” said the little governess, “is not a coincidence, monsieur.”
“No, quite. At one point I did draw up a mental list of old India acquaintances who might be expected to turn up at Tamasha, but I confess that Charlie Hatton’s name was not on it.”
“No; I think I had gathered that,” she murmured. “How old is he?”
“About three years older than Tiddy, I think, Mademoiselle,” I ventured.
Our dear Mlle Dupont of course had the most logical of minds, and, I fear, was not above expressing conclusions which others would have left unsaid. “Then he is perhaps just of age, in the which case he has not yet had time, unless of course he borrowed on his expectations, to dissipate whatever it was this old uncle left him,” she said with complete calm.
I looked in some horror at Ponsonby sahib but he seemed unmoved, and said simply: “I shall institute exact enquiries in Hampshire.”
“It would be wise,” she agreed. “And I shall speak to Tiddy. –Oh, rassurez-vous, monsieur: I shall be tactful!”
He thanked her and asked what she had thought of Welling? To which Mademoiselle replied frankly: “Not bright, but I think vairy amiable?” Adding: “Eugh—I think I should warn you, monsieur, that although his mother is definitely an eccentric, the incessant mourning being, you understand, her hobby, she appears to rule him with a rod of iron. He is too soft-natured ever to disobey her, you see? And she is vairy ambitious for him. Miss Partridge did not tell me this in so many words, but she made sure that I took her meaning.”
“Good for Miss Partridge,” he said evenly. “We must invite her to dinner more often.”
I was nodding in agreement, simple-minded goose that I was, but I could see that Mademoiselle’s beady little brown eyes were twinkling, though she did not allow herself to laugh. “She will be delighted to receive any invitation from Tamasha,“ she said smoothly, rising. “I shall retire, now, if that is convenient? Come along, Tess, my dear, it is late. Good-night, then, monsieur.”
Ponsonby sahib came to open the door for us. He bowed and said solemnly: “Bonne nuit, Mlle Dupont. Et mille remerciements.”
Mademoiselle stopped dead. “C’était donc d’un Turc que vous avez appris le français, M. le Colonel?”
Seldom have I ever seen our dearest Ponsonby sahib look so disconcerted! “Plus ou moins, oui,” he admitted very weakly indeed.
“J’ai reconnu l’accent,” she explained kindly. “Alors, bonne nuit.”
“Bonne nuit, Mademoiselle,” he croaked feebly.
—Yes, she recognised the Turkish accent, Matt, very good! You will realise, having heard the tale, that Ponsonby sahib had undoubtedly picked it up during his months in the service of the late Felix Abdullah. Oh, Mr Thomas told you that a knowledge of foreign languages is a useful skill, did he? Well, he is quite right, of course. What a pleasant, sensible young man he is! Not like Charlie or Lord Welling, no, dear. More? Well, perhaps your Grandmamma Tiddy could pick up the tale.
The Story Continued (As Told by Great-Aunt Tiddy)
I was usually up the earliest of the household: this morning Mlle Dupont, though never a slugabed, was also down to breakfast betimes. We were alone: there was no sign yet of Ponsonby sahib, normally also an early riser.
“Well, that was a surprise, I think, yesterday, Tiddy, to see an old friend from India?” said Mademoiselle, pouring coffee.
I put jam on my roll. “Yes. –Mademoiselle, do you think Ponsonby sahib would allow us to have kitcheree for breakfast?”
“I have no idea what that might be, my dear, but if it is a thing which ladies are allowed to eat, I dare say he will.”
“Ye-es. The only thing is, Cook will not know how to prepare it and so Nandinee or Sushila would have to do it.”
“My dear Tiddy, the man is good-natured and generous, but he is not an imbecile! Let those two women loose in the good Cook’s kitchen? The household would be in an uproar!”
“That’s what I thought,” I admitted glumly.
“Marry the pretty Mr Hatton and set up house for yourself; then you may order things as you wish!” she said lightly.
This remark was typical of Mademoiselle, but I was not precisely prepared for it and growled: “Don’t be silly. I haven’t seen him for years. I don’t even know him as a—a grown-up person.”
“No, of course. So, there are no warmer feelings?” she enquired calmly.
Mademoiselle merely looked mild.
“Um, well, when I was very little,” I admitted, going very red, “about six, I suppose, I was hopelessly in love with Charlie. Well, he had a wonderful yellow pony with a white mane and tail, and—um—well, that wonderful yellow hair, in positive ringlets! None of the others will ever admit to always having been in love from the time they could walk, but I always have been. Do you think I’m peculiar, Mademoiselle?”
“Mais non!” she cried, throwing up her hands in a very French gesture—much admired by the retired majors-general of Folkestone. “I think you are honest, ma petite!”
“Oh, good,” said I with a grateful sigh.
Mademoiselle took a roll and added calmly: “With me, at that age, it was Meurice Palmier. He had glorious red curls. And freckles, which I found vairy attractive!” she said with a twinkle.
“What happened to him?” I asked eagerly.
“Hélas: he grew up, married an unattractive widow with a squint but a large fortune, prospered in business, became fat and vair-ree bald, and is presently the mayor of Le Mans!”
At this I collapsed in delighted giggles.
Mademoiselle smiled, but asked calmly: “And plus tard? You forgot all about Master Charlie Hatton?”
“Well, they sent him home to school, you see. Major Hatton said a boy should not stay on in India after the age of ten or eleven. But when I asked him why, of course he could not explain. Or would not. Josie maintains that the parents fear they will pick up native ways. I asked Papa if that was so,” said I artlessly, “and he said that it was, rather, that the parents feared they would pick up native women!”
Mademoiselle’s thin lips twitched but she returned repressively: “I think you know you should not repeat that remark, my dear. May I ask, have you thought about him, since?”
“Well, no: I have not given him a thought until he turned up on our terrace yesterday, for you see, a month after they sent him away, Mr Feathers arrived to tutor the Carruthers boy: he had been sent home to school but it hadn’t resulted in his passing any examinations, so they had brought him back to India to be under his father’s eye! Mr Feathers was of course quite elderly—all of twenty-two,” I explained primly: Mademoiselle’s lips twitched but she did not permit herself to laugh; “and not very tall, but amazingly beautiful, with very white skin, large dark eyes, and masses of tiny dark brown ringlets.”
“An Adonis,” she said placidly.
Pen & wash, circa 1822. Attrib. to Antonia Lucas.
From the Widdop family papers
“Oh, yes. A little like Mr Edward Wells, but handsomer. And wore the most delightful ring on the small finger: gold, and large: something like a seal ring, but with a heart-shaped amethyst set in the corner of it! His Papa had had the amethyst added when his Mamma died, as it was her favourite stone, and passed it on it to him with his dying breath: the most Romantick story! All the girls adored him, of course: I was but one of a crowd, panting unavailingly in the wake of such feminine creatures with their curls almost up as Tonie, or Martha and Emily Carruthers, or Catherine Doolittle.”
“I see,” said Mlle Dupont neutrally. “Et puis?”
I looked at that very neutral face and had to set my coffee cup down somewhat hurriedly! “I have to admit, chère Mademoiselle, that older and wiser reflection has indicated that Mr Feathers was very nearly almost as feminine as ourselves, and that the whole story about the ring was probably a hum, for Mrs Carruthers, who did not at all share her daughters’ partiality, told Mamma that the father had been a draper in a small provincial town and that Mr Feathers had only had an education because his prowess at the local school had been brought to the attention of the local lord of the manor, who became his patron and sent him up to Oxford. But at the time he drove every thought of Charlie out of my fickle head.”
“Most understandable, my dear!” she said, breaking down and laughing at last.
At which I laughed too, finished my coffee, and took another roll. “Josie always maintained Charlie was conceited. He was used to say she was a sluggard at her books, and when he found that enraged her, though it was perfectly true and she and Emily Carruthers both affected to despise bookish girls, he called her Slug. Not a mark of favour from Charlie, though I grant you from some boys, it might have been!”
Mademoiselle smiled very much. “Indeed! Meurice used to pull my hair… Oh, well. It is all vairy long ago, and even then, I was aware that he was not half as bright as I myself.”
“Mademoiselle, that is exactly what I felt about Charlie!” I cried in amaze.
“It is a sentiment to which an intelligent woman should accustom herself,” she said calmly.
I had to gulp. “I see.”
She gave me a somewhat ironic glance, but said only: “I think you implied last night that young Hatton was not perfectly genuine?”
“Something like that,” I owned grimly. “Well, he’s been in England ever since we have, and this is the first time we’ve laid eyes on him.”
“I suppose it is natural, after all,” she said without emphasis.
“What, to seek out a fortune? Yes, indeed!”
Mademoiselle sipped coffee. “Is what you remember of Charlie the boy so vairy bad that it inclines you to think so hardly of the man, then?”
“Not bad, no. But he was spoilt, because he was so good-looking. I know he couldn’t help that, but he always used to take advantage of it to get the best of everything for himself.”
Mademoiselle winced, but nodded.
“And he liked to have his own way in everything.”
She eyed me shrewdly. “Yes, but Tiddy, mon ange, did not you also like that?”
“Yes, of course, but the thing is, I would have been content to share half-and-half, but Charlie never would. He always had to choose the game, and then he always had to take the best part in it. And he bullied Romesh. Well, Romesh was the sort of person who asks to be bullied, he had no steel in his nature at all, but Charlie took advantage of the fact. He never let him command the regiment once.”
“Eugh— Oh, I see! In your games: yes, I understand. And did you let him?”
“Yes, but there is a difference between commanding a troop composed of only one person, and one composed of two, and he felt it, poor Romesh. So you see, though I do not know him as a grown-up person, I do know Charlie Hatton’s character. And I do not think that that changes fundamentally, with age?”
Mlle Dupont swallowed a sigh and agreed: “No, indeed, my dear.”
“So I shall certainly not fall in love with him,” I concluded grimly.
I could see her repress another sigh. She did not, however, express her thought—the which was, later and more mature reflection has suggested, that Mr Charlie was so very attractive that, knowledge of his character notwithstanding, even the most grimly determined of maidens might not be able to help falling in love with him. For that, alas, is the sort of thing that everyone has to discover for themselves.
—Salutary, Antoinette? Well, yes, dear one, possibly it is. But we have not remarked any young gentlemen over-endowed with the sort of charm which covers a complete selfishness in this neighbourhood! –Yes, Matt, we are agreed that Mr Thomas is a very good sort of man: there is no need to belabour the point, though we are glad that you like him. You would have knocked that Hatton down? Good for you! Now, let us see: what came next? The picknick? Well, yes, that was very soon after Charlie’s arrival. Matt, dear boy, go along to the study and find the big volume of letters marked “Letters to & from Indian Friends.” To the rear of the desk, dear boy, on one of the lower shelves. And Matt: do not run with it, if you please! No, you will not miss anything, we shall not tell of the picknick until you return.
By this time, Antoinette, dear, as perhaps you will have surmised, Mrs Goodenough’s calls had become incessant; and her son was almost as frequent a visitor at Tamasha.
Now, the following is largely what we had from Ponsonby sahib quite some years later, and not fit for little Matt’s ears. He had remarked that Tess seemed very fluttered by Dr Goodenough, but not precisely encouraging, and was even overheard refusing an invitation to drive out in his trap. Eventually he was driven to consult Mlle Dupont on the point. The little Frenchwoman owned that Tess had a strong sense of what was proper, and perhaps it was the fact that it was less than a year since her stepmother’s death that was preventing her from encouraging the good doctor. The which phrase prompted our shrewd guardian to ask whether Mademoiselle did not, then, like Dr Goodenough? Mlle Dupont replied composedly that she felt his charm, but she doubted if he had a firm or a steadfast character—and did not M. le Colonel find him a little like Mr Charlie Hatton? Wincing, Ponsonby agreed that he did. And was there, to her knowledge, any other reason than the recent death of her stepmother that was hindering Tess from encouraging him? Mademoiselle shook her head slowly, admitting that she, too, found it odd, but as far as she knew, there was nothing specific.
In the wake of this interview Mlle Dupont made a point, next time she and Tess were out in the barouche, of directing it to drive past the house of Mr and Mrs Richards. She pointed the pretty little cottage out brightly.
“Yes, is it not charming?” returned Tess innocently. “I own, I quite envy persons of that walk of life. Mrs Richards has the most flourishing kitchen garden, and she keeps bantams and rabbits. And as you can see, the front garden is so very pretty!”
Mademoiselle concluded that the girl could know nothing of the doctor’s preference for the buxom Mrs Richards, then, and duly reported as much to Colonel Ponsonby.
—Goodness, there is no need to blush, Antoinette! These things are very common, in especial if the man be the sort who believes that women of any walk of life are negligible and less worthy of consideration than men. You are no longer a little girl, dearest, and it is best to be aware of such things. And a decent man of course will not behave so. Er, well, yes, a decent man would marry the woman, as Ponsonby sahib did little Indira, but we did not intend that precise comparison… Ah! There you are, Matt! Thank you, dear boy! Put it down here. Now, to the picknick!
The Picknick (Matt’s heading)
|"The Picknick", known as "Where is the picknick basket, Mamma?"|
Oil on canvas, circa 1827, by Frederick Greenstreet.
Courtesy if the Maunsleigh Collection
Dr Goodenough and his mother lived in a very small house in the village, and did not entertain, but very soon after the arrival of Lord Welling and Mr Hatton in the district, Mrs Goodenough got up a picknick to which we and our friends were all invited. Tiddy baba pointed out sourly that Mrs Goodenough’s notion of a picknick seemed to be a series of heavy hints that other persons’ kitchens should supply the food, but was frowned down. Her next sour remark, that she did not wish to go, was ignored, and in the end, we all went. Now, one endures some frightful picknick expeditions in India, and Ponsonby sahib in his time had certainly had his share, but this, he was to own later, was to count amongst the worst. Though at least it was not too hot and we were not plagued by a tribe of shrieking, thieving monkeys!
It was considered that as the Romantick remains of what some claim is a mediaeval monastery are at a convenient distance, that should be the destination. Well—you have been there, it might be anything: the Romantick view consisted then, as now, of several large oaks and one pile of stones which might once have been a piece of wall, or even an arch, as Miss Partridge claimed immediately our assortment of vehicles arrived. The journey took fully twice as long as the actual drive, because of all the decisions about who was to drive with whom and who was to sit with her back to the horses, Miss Bartlett and Miss Partridge both having to be almost forcibly prevented from martyring themselves, and whether parasols should be up or down, and whether there were enough rugs, or too many rugs, and whether Mr Forbes should abandon his horse and ride with his mother, and whether Miss Tiddy should abandon Miss Tonie and the pony cart and ride with Mrs Forbes and Mr Forbes—what Josie had done to blot her copybook, unspecified, but it possibly had something to do with her sitting beside Viscount Welling in his curricle, smirking under a very new bonnet and parasol even more frilled than Forbes memsahib’s own—and whether Junius Brutus Partridge should just pop back to Little Froissart to fetch that pie, for with all the gentleman in the party Miss Partridge was sure it would be needed after all…
—Oops! Pick the notebook up for your cousin, Matt, dear boy! You think Miss Partridge was a silly old thing and not funny? She could be irritating, and at the time some of us were irritated by the poor little lady, but looking back, we all find her as funny as does Antoinette!
|"Our dear Cousin, Myrtle Partridge"|
Pencil, circa 1830, artist unknown
(from a portfolio of mounted sketches, Maunsleigh Library)
From the estate of Jarvis Wynton, Fifth Earl of Sleyven.
Courtesy of the Maunsleigh Collection
Some discussion took place about exactly where we should all sit, the gentlemen’s opinions as to the direction in which the sun could be expected to move being solicited and Forbes memsahib going into a girlish giggling fit amidst cries of: “Silly me! But of course it is all different in India!”—Not really, Matt, dear: large parts of India are very tropical, but it is still above the equator.—But eventually a choice was agreed to, rugs were spread and we all began to make ourselves comfortable. In spite of the time it had taken to get there it was a little too early to eat, but baskets were set out and anxiously peeked into, Miss Bartlett being particularly relieved that her bowl of very special cold potato something-or-another had travelled well, and Miss Partridge reporting with a terrific sigh of relief that the cold raised pies had not suffered on the journey. And some of the younger persons decided that they must inspect the terribly Romantick spot in detail.
“That,” said Mr Charlie Hatton courteously to Tiddy, “is a pile of stones, y’see. Or arch.”—Tiddy had to bite her lip and did not dare to glance at Miss Partridge.—“But I dare say if one was to stroll up, there would be a decent view from the top of the rise. Care to?”
“Do let us!” cried Josie vividly. “Though I am sure the views of our tame little Kent cannot compare with those of your Welsh mountains, dear sir!” She fluttered the lashes and dimpled up at Welling.
“Um, we ain’t actually in Wales, Miss Josie: on the border. Though it’s true we have some splendid hills. This is very pretty, though,” he said kindly, offering his arm.
“I know you have seen it a thousand times, Miss Lucas,” said Dr Goodenough with a twinkle in his attractive brown eyes, “but I should be gratified if you would view it with me.”
“Oh, well, not a thousand,” said Tess, pinkening. “It is pretty, though: thank you, Doctor.”
“Miss Tonie,” said pleasant Adrian Forbes immediately, “I’d be honoured if you’d point out the finer aspects of the view to me and allow me, should you wish to sketch, to carry the paraphernalia!” Thanking him, Tonie owned she had her sketchbook, but the paraphernalia was just a pencil. And off they went.
“Oh, dear, oh, dear,” lamented Miss Partridge ere the young couples were scarce out of earshot, “there are not enough young ladies for all you young gentlemen!”
“Out of course there are, Aunt Myrtle,” said Junius Brutus solemnly, “and I insist you take my arm and show me this famous monastery immediately! And if you think it will not be all round the whole neighbourhood that I am fast, perhaps you would care to take my other arm, Miss Bartlett?” Bridling and giggling terrifically, the two spinster ladies seized young Mr Partridge’s arms and proceeded to tug him up the slope. A rose between thorns: quite.
Which left Ponsonby sahib, “Brother” Partridge, Mrs Goodenough, Forbes memsahib, and Mlle Dupont.
—Matt, dearest, would you open the volume? Ye-es… Further on than that, dear. Ah! Yes, this will refresh our memories, though of course he described the scene to us later—not immediately, no, Antoinette, have you not gathered that we were not as yet on those terms?
Extract from a letter from Ponsonby to Dr Little dated “Sept. 1828”
“So pleasant to see the young people enjoying themselves, is it not, Colonel?” said Mrs Goodenough immediately. A fair volley, this, designed not merely to underline our social equality but to place us on an equal footing as the older people of the expedition, unconcerned about forming that sort of a couple, whilst at the same time indicating unmistakably that we had a joint interest in certain of the young persons’ constituting a couple.
I had already formed squares and replied properly: “Indeed: it was so good of you to get up the expedition.”
Forbes memsahib was in excellent position to perform a flanking manoeuvre and did so immediately. “Oh, indeed, dear ma’am! It reminds one so much of those picknicks of dear Mrs General Hayworth’s, does it not, Colonel?”
I stood pat, bayonets at the ready. “I suppose it does, mm.”
Her big guns being now in position, she fired. “Do you recall the day we went to the ruined temple? –Hindoo, and one still comes across the odd little shrine in the walls, although the place itself has long since been abandoned,” she explained to the company. “There was dear Mrs Hayworth, of course, and dearest ‘Poppy’ and Corinna Frayn—I think you do not know Lady Frayn?” she said graciously to Mrs Goodenough. “The Dowager Countess, as she is now, of course: my! Does not time fly? And poor dear Lytton-Howe: the late Earl of Spotton,” she explained graciously, “with his Famille verte tea-set, as usual, but without his elephant! And Mr Vereen—of course with the donkey,” she said to yours truly with a giggle, “and that wonderfully stern Colonel Wynton—dear Mr Partridge’s connection: presently the Earl of Sleyven,” she said, smiling brightly at Brother Partridge, “and several others, I think. Oh, yes: Mrs Kitty Marsh, now the Baronessa d’Orsio: her first husband was one of the Marshes of Rennwood. And naturally dear Dr Little!” she beamed, nodding conspiratorially at me—not sure why, Little, old man!
I could see that the others were waiting to hear of your august connections or later title, or both, so I said kindly: “Since retired, and not a connection of anybody.” Little old Brother Partridge don’t like her, so he gave a high-pitched giggle and cried: “Naughty!” and at this Mademoiselle and Mrs Goodenough—they don’t like her either, oddly enough—both permitted themselves to smile.
“I suppose I vaguely remember it,” I conceded, “but they’ve all become rather blurred—run together into one horrible combined memory. Was that the time a tribe of monkeys descended upon us, and we had to give up and go home?”
|"Monkeys on a hillside"|
Mughal art, 16th century
(from a portfolio of mounted Indian miniatures, Maunsleigh Library)
Courtesy of the Maunsleigh Collection
“No, no, no! That time,” she said significantly, “Colonel Wynton was not with us, but K.M. was.”
Given Jarvis’s very happy marriage and given that Mr Partridge is his relation, I had no desire whatsoever to rake up dead and gone gossip, so I returned a vague and uninterested reply and excused myself in order to stretch my legs. Alas and alack: this was the wrong tactic entirely, for Forbes memsahib shot to her feet, grabbing my arm before I could draw breath. She would so adore to see the view! But I must not take those great long strides of mine, because “little me” was a very poor walker...
Resignedly I hauled down the colours, and bore her off.
Our India Days, Chapter 8: A Last Proposal Before
We Leave for India (Continued)
The meal itself was about as odd as could be expected, with the contributions from Tamasha ranging from cold chicken, a robust ham, and an excellent sponge cake provided by Cook—not a fruit-cake this time, Matt, no—to cold Indian savouries and pickles provided by the ayahs at Tiddy baba’s request, and those from the other guests ranging from Miss Partridge’s excellent English cold raised pies, to Miss Bartlett’s cold potato something-or-another. The potatoes were chopped small, lightly sprinkled with vinegar and chives.
“Like an aloo chutney,” decided Tiddy, spooning some up with a bite of cold samosah.
Poor, dear Miss Bartlett beamed all over her horse-like face, so we kindly agreed, and did not point out that a real Indian potato chutney would be much, much tastier!
A Fresh Chutney of Potatoes (An Indian Receet)
Boil four large potatoes till tender. Chop in small pieces. Mix with hot green chillies to taste, finely chopped. Lastly sprinkle with salt, black pepper & lemon juice, & serve cold.
—One would not necessarily eat the aloo chutney with meat, Matt, dear boy, for the majority of the population eat no meat at all, nor meat products, neither. And very few Indians will touch pork of any description. Not even ham or bacon, no, for the pig is an unclean animal to them. And Hindoos, of course, will not touch beef, as the cow is a sacred animal to them. Yes, lovely pale grey cows wandering all over the streets, Matt: so you remember our telling you of them! The people do drink cows’ milk, yes, or turn it into curds, as milk does not keep in the hot climate, but often it is not gai milk—cows’ milk—but that of the water buffalo! Huge black animals, dear, with wide, heavy horns, but generally very placid: they have been domesticated for centuries, you see, and are commonly used to pull ploughs. Why “water”? They love to go into the rivers and soak themselves, or wallow in the mud. It cools them down, you see. And we have seen carts a-plenty in the country areas drawn by water buffalos! –Where were we? Oh, the food at the picknick! Sammy-sos. Matt? Er—little savouries, stuffed pastry cones, dear boy.
Nandinee Ayah’s Samosahs (Indian Savouries)
Make a plain firm pastry dough with 2 tablespoonsful of butter to 2 cups of flour & 5 tablespoonsful of sour milk [yoghurt]. Shape into small balls, roll out perfectly round & very thin, about 5 inches across. Cut in half & shape each semicircle into a cone. Put in stuffing of a leftover kitcheree or any cooked vegetables, with a little chopped onion, some green herbs, salt, cayenne pepper, & a touch of jeeruh spice or caraway, as liked. Fold over the mouth of the cone to close, using a touch of water to fasten down safely. Fry in deep oil till crisp. These may be served hot with a chutney.
Mrs Goodenough, for her part, provided quantities of bread and butter and hard-boiled eggs, plus a basket of tiny, dainty cakes. And a couple of jars of raspberry jam.
It was hard to know how to combine these offerings, and it was clear poor Ponsonby sahib was at a loss! Eventually he added an egg to Miss Bartlett’s putative aloo chutney, and added to that a spoonful of what Miss Partridge had assured him was fresh cold bean salad—haricots verts, not the dried beans which one is accustomed to eat in India—and ate it up!
Miss Partridge’s French Bean Salad
Cold boiled French beans make a very nice salad. A little chopped parsley should be mixed with them, and the salad-bowl can be rubbed with a bead of garlic if liked. Some soak the beans in vinegar first, & then add oil. This would suit a German palate. A better plan is to add the oil first, with pepper & salt, mix all well together, & then add the vinegar.
—Exactly, Matt! It does make one laugh! Make up a party for a picknick? Hush: the fact that your Papa and Mamma are no longer here is—is irrelevant, dearest child! If the weather holds there seems no reason why we should not—and perhaps Madeleine and Mr Thomas might care to come. Why do you not choose a day which suits them, Antoinette? Matt, do not be selfish: of course the little ones must come! –Indian food? But Cook only knows a few receets. Well, certainly the sev “worms”, since you like them; and we do have all that narial to use up— Sujee cakes as well? No, well, they are not too sweet, certainly not compared to the goolab jamoons and jullerbees we used to—No, Matt, the kitchen is not going to use up a lakh of sugar making sweetmeats which your Mamma would say you should not be eating! Uncle Henry mentioned the fried vegetables last time he was home, some name like pukka? You are confusing two words, dearest boy, the fried vegetables are called pukkorahs, but they are best eaten hot. Yes, they were ever your Uncle Henry’s favourite snack, bless him… Goodness, we have not even told you of the brawn! The brawn that was not, so to speak!
Mr Partridge reported it, dear ones—in the most mournful of tones! They had wished to provide a brawn, for his sister made an excellent one, but alas, in the sultry weather it was not possible to attain a set. Immediately Mrs Goodenough, in the most gracious of tones, gave Miss Partridge her infallible receet for a brawn; but as she had not brought one either…!
No, Matt, most children do not like brawn and very many adults dislike it, also; in fact, were there more than two or at the most three people at that picknick who would have enjoyed a brawn? Oh, dear! …Yes, quite ridiculous, dear boy! Hand Antoinette back her pencil. There is no need to write that down, Antoinette, it was but a—a side-dish to the main course! Oh, dear, we’re off again! ...Well, well, it was all very silly. No, that was it for the picknick, Matt, or certainly as much as anyone here remembers. Ponsonby sahib may have writ a little more to Dr Little—oops, there we go again! –As we say, he may have writ a little more, and if you wish to consult the letters, you must do so: but you had best take them indoors and lay the volume on the desk in the study, dearest boy: there is a breeze sprung up. –Carefully, Matt!
Doubtless he will find the writing too difficult: Ponsonby sahib’s is one of those male hands which look amazingly neat and regular from a distance but once one tries actually to read, resolve themselves into beetle tracks! But never mind, the letters will keep him occupied while we tell you of Dr Goodenough and our dearest Tess. Just bear in mind, Antoinette, that although she was older than you are now she was in truth but the slip of a girl, and that any female creature may be swayed by her emotions. The trick is to realise that it is so while one is being sw[ayed.]
Note by Katy Widdop
The rest of that section is missing. Here is our reconstruction of what followed. The letters from Madeleine Thomas to her sister Adelaide were a great help in rounding out the personalities. Madeleine seems to have loathed Dr Goodenough, far from assuming he must have been attractive, like you might have expected in a girl of her age (about 17 or 18, we think), so good for her! A lot of Tess’s later letters and a portion of her diary were found in the old tin trunk, and she makes several references to the proposal, at one stage giving quite a detailed account of it to a granddaughter, apparently in order to warn her off a certain gent who seems to have been horribly like Dr Goodenough, so we think it’s reasonably accurate. Well, possibly it was all a storm in a teacup, as Julie remarked at one point when the research wasn’t going all that well, and these days no-one expects a young man to behave like a monk, but heck! Compare him to the scoundrels in Jane Austen, only a few years earlier! The randy ones that have it away with various girls are always cast as the villains, aren’t they? So it was a no-no in their society. Not that we could figure out exactly how old Dr Goodenough was, presumably old enough to have done his medical degree, though mind you they apparently went to university younger in those days. At any rate we don’t think he can have been more than thirty. Besides, even in the 21st century you wouldn't want to marry a creep that was having it away on the side at the same time as he was doing it with you, would you? No. And that would be the equivalent, these days.
And I must admit, even Pete and Glenys’s Belle, at the great old age of 13, gave Goodenough the thumbs down. “Ugh, yuck!” in fact was the verdict. We didn’t think she’d be interested at all, but actually she’s got quite keen. Well, she's reading the blog, she hasn't yet volunteered to read the original sources or help with the research, but it’s a big leap forward for someone who wouldn't even read the Harry Potter books because they’re too long, unquote, and isn’t ploughing through the rest of the Twilight saga like most of her contemporaries, but waiting for the movies to come out, also unquote. Cassie was making noises about maybe she might turn out to like Jane Austen after all, and she, Cassie, read her first one at the age of fourteen, but Julie and me had to point out that at around 17 or 18 Antoinette and Madeleine hadn’t even read any J.A.! Added to which, Cassie then graduated to SF and detective stories, and these days only reads cookery books, so, literate though Jane Grigson may well be, Cassie, (who?) I dunno that that proves much!
The Conclusion to “A Last Proposal Before We leave for India”
A certain somnolence was observed amongst the older members of the party after the meal, so Ponsonby said firmly: “I don’t know what the custom is at English picknicks, but in India one generally dozes off on the rug after the meal; so if nobody minds, I think I will.”
There were shrieks of protest, of course, and Forbes memsahib assured everybody that he was teasing and one did not, at all: but as she was yawning as much as anyone her protests were not heeded, and eventually the two older gentlemen and the older ladies all settled down comfortably amidst the rugs and cushions. The young people of course could not understand this laziness at all, and since a pretty little lake, or pond, if one believed Tiddy baba, had been espied in that direction, were graciously given permission to go and view it. And Mlle Dupont appointed herself to accompany them. Josie was again on Welling’s arm, Tess again with Dr Goodenough, Tiddy now between Charlie Hatton and Junius Brutus Partridge, and Tonie and Mademoiselle both walking with the good-natured Adrian Forbes.
None of the Lucas sisters could have said precisely how it happened, but not so very long after reaching the little lake, Tess and Dr Goodenough became separated from the rest of the party.
|"A Walk to the ruins"|
Watercolour, circa 1827, artist unknown.
Courtesy of the Maunsleigh Collection
Doubtless Mlle Dupont could have said exactly how it happened, but she was of the opinion that as Tess had known him for over two years, it was high time she made up her mind about him. Like many French persons, Marie-Louise Dupont was constitutionally incapable of conceiving that anyone might prefer just to let things drift. Let alone of understanding a temperament that, perceiving that the attentions of a Sir William Hathaway were becoming pressing, would do nothing to resolve the situation, but just hope that it would all go away.
“This is pretty,” said Tess, discovering a briar rose already covered in hips, but with a few last blooms showing.
“The view as a whole is charming!” replied Dr Goodenough with a meaning look, plucking a rose and presenting it to her.
“Oh—thank you,” said Tess with a blush, taking the rose and avoiding the look.
Naturally the young doctor took this behaviour as encouragement, and urging her to be seated on a fallen log, took up a place very close beside her. “I heard,” he said in a confidential tone, “that the squire had been annoying you, dear Miss Lucas.”
“Oh—yes,” said Tess faintly. “But Colonel Ponsonby came to my rescue. He was so brave!” she said, looking at him earnestly.
Of course rumours were all around the district as to precisely why Ponsonby sahib had sprung so fiercely to Miss Lucas’s defence, and Dr Goodenough had doubtless heard them. The version popular in the local tavern was that Squire had got her skirt quite up and that the lady’s guardian had rushed in just in time, the throwing across the room and down the steps following as night the day. The local gentry favoured an alternative version, which involved the opinion that Colonel Ponsonby intended to have Miss Lucas himself.
“I am sure,” said the doctor, smiling his nicest smile. “He is a terribly good fellow.”
“We think so,” said Miss Lucas in what for her was quite a firm voice.
It could not have seemed likely to him that the dark-visaged, grim-looking middle-aged soldier might be a better bet than his attractive self, but nevertheless the doctor said casually: “I think he was your father’s friend?”
“Yes. In India. We did not see so very much of him, for he was not in Calcutta very often, but he would come to see Papa whenever he was back.”
“Of course. He knew him for many years, then?”
“Yes, from before we were born,” said Miss Lucas naïvely.
“Really? Good gad! How old is the fellow, then?” said the handsome young doctor with a little incredulous laugh that the innocent Tess did not perceive was entirely feigned.
“Oh, well, I am not absolutely sure, but we think he must be about forty-seven.”
“I see. After all those years of the soldiering life,” he said with malice aforethought, “he must have been very glad to come home.”
Tess’s wide, pale brow wrinkled. “He does not speak very much of his military career. I could not honestly say whether he is glad to be home… I rather miss India,” she said on a wistful note. “Though it was terribly hot—looking back, I wonder how we supported it. And not so pretty as England. I confess, I like Kent so very much,” she said with a smile.
“Oh, so do I! The garden of England! Mamma was quite reluctant to come down here, but once I had seen the place, I confess my heart was quite captured!” he said gaily.
“I can understand that,” she agreed innocently.
“And then later, of course, once I had met some of the local inhabitants,” said Dr Goodenough with a meaning look, “I would not have left for anything.”
“Um—no. Oh!” said Tess confusedly, going very pink. “No, I am sure.”
Laughing a little, he took her hand. “Dear Miss Lucas, may I say I am very glad to see you take the reference?”
Tess’s heart beat very fast. She looked helplessly into the smiling brown eyes, with the charming crinkles at the corners, and the long, very thick, very curled lashes, and was incapable either of utterance or of withdrawing her hand from his.
Smiling, the doctor turned her hand over and softly pressed his mouth into the palm.
“Do not,” said Tess very, very faintly.
Proper young ladies such as Miss Lucas of course required a very different technique from jolly, eager persons such as Mrs Richards: had the latter been in question, the doctor would by now have been in pretty much the position that Squire was reputed to have been with this very lady. James Goodenough, there is no doubt, was equally capable in either case. He did not urge another kiss on her, or require her to respond, but released the hand gently and murmured: “I think you must be aware of my sentiments, dearest Miss Lucas.”
“Pray do not,” said Tess faintly.
“You have nothing to fear from me, dearest Miss Lucas,” he said lightly. “My name is not, I am thankful to say, Hathaway.”
“No,” she said in a muffled voice, flushing. “Of course not. I—I did not mean to imply—”
Thus could not but provoke the thought, did the villagers have the story right? The doctor looked at her with veiled amusement, and murmured: “I hope you will allow me to speak to your guardian.”
Tess looked away from him, and licked her lips. “I—I am very flattered, Dr Goodenough,” she said shakily. “But I—I think it is too—a little too soon.”
Goodenough could scarcely have thought it too soon, in especial with a definite portion being set aside for her and a lot more coming when Ponsonby married her sister. “I do not mean to rush you into anything,” he murmured. “Merely, I hope to get the Colonel’s approval of my continuing to see you.”
“Um—yes,” said Tess faintly. “I see.”
The doctor was very satisfied with this reply, and picked up the hot little hand again, and kissed it again, very softly. This time he held onto the hand, quite lightly, for some time, and Miss Lucas said nothing at all, just looked at the view of the pretty little stretch of water and breathed hard.
Eventually he said regretfully: “I suppose we should rejoin the others.”
“Oh—yes!” said Tess with a little gasp.
He stood up, smiling, and helped her up, then placing her hand in his arm. Docilely Miss Lucas allowed herself to be led off.
The Aftermath of the Proposal
Dr Goodenough turned up the very next day, asking for the Colonel. It appears that Ponsonby sahib let him get right through a very proper and well phrased speech, the which demonstrated considerable feeling on the speaker’s part. There was the small point that Tess had been heard crying in her room in the wake of the picknick, and it seemed unlikely these were maidenly tears of joy. However, he informed the young man that he had no objection to his paying his addresses, provided that Tess wished for it. Dr Goodenough appeared very sure that she did. And readily gave a most proper account of his income and prospects. On being asked if he would give up his profession should his circumstances change he gave his easy laugh, saying that a man could not say absolutely what he might do, but as his family was a genteel one, his mother and uncle would certainly prefer to see him settled on a pleasant little estate. Subsequently Ponsonby sahib sourly wrote to his friend Lord Sleyven that he sincerely doubted that the fellow perceived that this was not an answer. And since his speaking in such terms was answer enough, he did not press the point.
He did not speak to Tess immediately; instead, he got Mlle Dupont to arrange to take the other girls out, so that they might speak uninterrupted. Mademoiselle volunteered, very politely, to ascertain Miss Lucas’s true feelings herself; Ponsonby as politely refused. By now he was more than aware that Marie-Louise Dupont was capable of arranging the lives of the entire household and could have done so, indeed, with both hands tied behind her back. However, in spite of his genuine respect and liking for her, he was not about to let himself by bullied by her. Nor to let the girls be jockeyed into anything for which they did not wish.
Tess was alone in the pretty upstairs sitting-room. It was the girls’ own room, and Ponsonby had scarcely been in it; he looked about him with appreciation.
“Very pretty. It puts me a little in mind of Mrs Lucas’s morning-room at Ma Maison.”
“Yes,” said Tess, smiling: “this is the very chair that used to stand in that room. It has a new cushion on it, but it is the same dear old chair. It was my own mother’s, in fact. I don't remember her very much. I do recall that she was very fond of blue, so I have used blue touches in this room.”
He duly admired them, and admired the tapestry work of the seat cover.
“Thank you, sir,” said Tess, very pink and pleased. “I am very fond of tapestry work.”
“Yes, of course: the girls mentioned you did a seat cover for Mrs Lucas.”
“A chaise longue: yes. I was so very glad she lived to see it finished.”
“Mm.” He looked at her narrowly. “You were very fond of her, I think? Very close?”
“Yes,” said Miss Lucas, her gentle mouth trembling. “I confess, I miss her very much; I think, more than the others do. I saw more of her, I suppose, being the oldest. And then, she was—she was a very sympathetic personality.”
Oh, dear! Had he made the wrong move entirely, inviting the determined Mlle Dupont into the house? “Tess, my dear,” he said gently, “if you are finding Mlle Dupont, well-meaning though she is, too trying to live with, I shall get rid of her.”
“Oh, why no!” she gasped. “Truly not, Colonel! We are all fond of her, and then, she was a close friend of Josie’s and Tiddy’s mamma, and was so glad to come to our rescue.”
“I know all that,” he said, pulling up a chair beside hers and taking her hands firmly in his, “but it is all beside the point. Do you wish her to stay on?”
“Yes, of course. We are all very fond of her. And then, she is so very practical, and I am afraid I do not always know what orders to give Cook, or Mrs Drover. And she handles Tiddy and Josie so very well. I am sure I do not know how we could manage without her.”
“Well, if you’re sure?” he said dubiously, releasing her hands.
“Very sure,” said Miss Lucas in a positively firm voice.
He supposed he had best be content with that. “Good. I actually wished to speak to you on another matter.”
Tess licked her lips uneasily. “Yes, sir?”
She did not look to him, though admittedly he was inexperienced in the field, like a maiden trembling in expectation of the news of an offer from the adored object. More like a nervous filly about to shy. Or was it merely that she feared he was about to tell her he had refused Dr Goodenough permission to pay his addresses? “Dr Goodenough has spoken to me, very properly, and requested permission to pay his addresses to you, my dear.”
“He cannot have!” she cried. “He said he would not!”
“Did he?” he said neutrally. “What, exactly, did he say, Tess?”
“I—um—he—he said,” she said in a shaking voice, “that he hoped to get your approval of—of his continuing to see me. And that he would not—not wish to rush me into anything. And—and I did say it was too soon, but he did not take any notice of me. At least, I thought he did, only then I realised that he was—was ignoring what I had said; but I thought it would be all right, because then he said that he would only ask if he might continue to see me.”
Ponsonby sahib scratched his jaw slowly. “Mm… He most certainly gave me the impression that you were expecting an offer from him, and would not be averse to it.”
“No,” she said faintly, looking into her lap.
He looked at the bowed head with a certain feeling of despair. Not that he wanted to see the girl married to an opportunistic fortune-hunting nonentity like James Goodenough, with only his d— smile to recommend him. But she certainly did not seem indifferent to the fellow. Was there any way of getting her to tell him what she actually wanted, not to say, felt? Er—was it perhaps only maidenly hesitation?
“Tess, my dear, I think we must speak frankly about this,” he said as gently as he could. “Do you mean, No, you were not expecting an offer from Goodenough, or No, you would not be averse to such an offer?”
After a long moment of silence she said, still looking into her lap: “Not expecting. He said he would not.”
“I see. And would you be averse to such an offer, or would you welcome it?”
A tear dripped down her cheek and there was another long moment of silence. Then: “Both,” said Tess very, very faintly.
Ponsonby passed his hand over his forehead.
“I do not think you can understand, sir, and Sushila Ayah has already told me I am just experiencing maidenly nerves. But—but it is more than that.”
“I think I can understand,” he said slowly, “but I would like you to tell me in your own words.”
Miss Lucas swallowed painfully. “I fear he is not an honourable man,” she said stiffly.
“Yes? Why?” said Ponsonby evenly.
“He—when Papa was alive, he was used to call, but—but one day Papa spoke to me and said that although he was an agreeable enough person, he did not think he would muh-make a very suitable husband. And he was not forbidding it, but he thought he might not call again for some time. And—and he did not. The others put it down to his mother’s having failed to—to ascertain what portion Papa intended for me, but—but I do not think it was that.” With trembling hands she pressed a handkerchief to her lips.
Ponsonby sahib now knew several stories to the doctor’s discredit which were circulating locally and of which Henry Lucas might well have got wind, only one of them involving the buxom Mrs Richards. Further afield there was a Mrs Hill, a farmer’s wife, and her daughter, the former Miss Hill, both said to have been favoured by the doctor’s attentions. Since Ponsonby’s initial informant had been Brother Partridge, the story had been full of circumlocutions, but as it finished with Miss Hill’s hurried marriage to a Master Johnson from a neighbouring farm, that was clear enough. Ponsonby knew Henry Lucas well enough to know that he would not have condemned the doctor for the thing itself: but carrying on with local women while he was ostensibly courting Tess?
“I think I see,” he said neutrally.
“No, there is more. He did begin to call again and Papa said nothing, so I thought perhaps he did not object, after all. But after Papa died, his mother found out about the will, and he did not call again.”
“He has called very often over these last few months, however,” he said mildly.
“He has only called since you came to Tamasha, sir,” said Tess faintly. “And—and his mother has made it quite clear that she expects you to offer for Tonie.”
“Mm. Er—all this indicates he is weak and easily led, and perhaps a rather opportunistic fellow, Tess, but if you care for him—”
“No,” she said faintly, the handkerchief pressed to the lips: “I could not. Papa was right about him, and he is not an honourable person; I could not contemplate it.”
“I see. Er, so why did you not tell him outright that you did not desire him to speak to me?”
There was a long silence. Was she going to say that, as in the affair of the squire, she had hoped it might all go away if she said nothing?
“I blush to admit it, Colonel,” said Miss Lucas stiffly, duly blushing, “but I—I do affect him.”
Poor girl. When it came to the point she had been unable to resist the fellow—quite. Or not enough. He swallowed a sigh and did not ask what she had imagined the outcome would have been if Goodenough had merely asked him if he might continue to see her. For he did not, truly, think that she had had thought that far.
“I perfectly understand, Tess, and I shall not suggest you do anything you do not care for. If you feel he is not an honourable person, so be it. But I must say this: had you thought that perhaps, if you were to marry him, you might make something of him?”
Tess looked at him wanly. “No. I suppose a determined woman could contemplate it: Tonie, for instance. But I know I could not do it. And if I tried, his mother would not let me.”
“Ye-es,” he said, gnawing on his lip. “I agree with you, there. It is just— Well, your sisters seemed so sure you affected him, my dear. And if he could be the right man for you—”
“I could never respect him,” she whispered, the tears rolling down her cheeks.
“No,” said Ponsonby heavily. “No.” He got up, touched her shoulder briefly, and left her.
The Last Word on the Subject of Tess and her Unsuitable Suitor
(Madeleine and Antoinette both seem to have been particularly impressed by this part of the old ladies’ story, and Madeleine wrote a verbatim account of it to her sister Adelaide. –K.W.)
“What have you done?” shouted Tiddy fiercely, rushing into the study later that day. “You have forbidden Tess to marry Dr Goodenough, when you know she wants him!”
Ponsonby got up. “Shut it, Tiddy. You are too young to understand.”
“I am NOT!” she shouted furiously. “What did you come to England for, if it was only to ruin all our lives?”
“I came to England because I owed it to Henry. Tess does not wish to marry a man she cannot respect, and has told me as much herself. You may not believe me, but I did my best to put your point of view.”
“But she loves him!” said Tiddy angrily.
“Yes,” said Ponsonby grimly. “She loves him and at the same time she does not respect him enough to marry him. A tragic situation. And while we are on the subject, let me just say that you run the same risk with regard to young Charlie Hatton.”
“I do NOT!” she shouted, turning puce.
“You’d be highly unnatural if you didn’t. He’s a d— pretty boy, with all of his father’s charm, if none of his steadfastness of character. And you do not seem averse to his company. Or have you merely been leading him on to make a fool of him, like the unfortunate Ned?”
“No! And I know exactly what he is like, and you do not need to lecture me!”
“Just watch it, Tiddy. He’s too dashed attractive. And demonstrably, knowing what a man is like is no barrier to falling in love with him.”
“Tess was in love with Dr Goodenough before she found out what he is like!”
“That certainly makes her situation the more tragic.”
“If I did wish to marry Charlie Hatton—and I don’t, for he is a selfish imbecile—then you could not stop me!”
“I certainly could, until you are of age. And after that, I could see to it that your money remained tied up: I don’t think he’d like that.”
Tiddy opened her mouth angrily. She paused.
“Yes?” said Ponsonby coolly.
“Of course he would not. I tell you, I know what he’s like, and I’ve always known it.”
“Mm. And always been in love with him?”
“NO!” she shouted, bursting into tears and rushing out of the room.
Ponsonby sahib sat down heavily, and sighed. Six years old and playing soldiers under the table, or just eighteen and a budding young lady, or, like Tess, pushing twenty-six and with a London Season to her credit, they were all the same. Show ’em a pretty face and handsome figure, and anything approaching judgement went right out of the window. Women, in short, were their own worst enemies. ...They and the other half of humanity: quite.