Posted on: 2011-06-21
No, Isabella Thorpe did not miss James Morland. He had not lived up to her expectations, and once she'd found out that her life with him would be quite different from what she'd dreamed that they'd have to live on a couple of hundred pounds only, which would hardly even pay for the gowns she wished to wear she had been at pains to be rid of him, and had set her sights on worthier prey.
It was bad luck that Captain Tilney had seen through her game right from the start; and instead of permitting her to take advantage of him he'd taken advantage of her, the scoundrel! Now Isabella was back in London and trying to come up with another plan for catching an eligible husband. She had better not show her face anywhere near Bath for a while she knew; not until the scandal her engagement and her flirt with Tilney had caused had died down, but luckily there were other watering-places of a similar cut where she could make the acquaintance of suitable gentlemen, and she was not going to lose any time to do so.
"We will spend the summer in Brighton," she decided.
Her mother looked up from her embroidery, startled. "My dear, we cannot afford it!" she cried.
"Never mind about that," Isabella snapped. "If I catch a rich husband there we need not worry about the cost of our lodgings. Ever."
"My dear, what if you do not catch a rich husband? We went to Bath with that object in view, and you know what came of that!"
"Don't blame me! It was John who thought the Morlands were as rich as Golden Ball, not me! How was I to know he was mistaken? Serves him right to be punished and to be obliged to give up his gaming and horse-racing for a month or two; and if he sells one of his hunters we'll be able to take a house in Brighton for the season."
Mr John Thorpe, who had, so far, not taken part in the discussion, looked up from his newspaper and exclaimed, "I'll be damned if I do! You must have rats in your upper storey to even make the suggestion!" Ever since that silly chit Catherine Morland had turned him down, John had had the temper of a bear with the toothache, but Isabella was not going to take any cheek from him. The whole affair, in her opinion, had been his fault from beginning to end.
"You can't afford to keep them anyway," she retorted. "The only reason why you won't sell any of your horses is that you cannot find anyone fool enough to pay you the sum you gave for them. Even I am a better judge of horseflesh than you, and I can hardly tell the difference between a horse and a mule!"
"Then how is one of my hunters to bring the sum we'll need to take a house in Brighton for the summer, sister dear?" John sneered. "Your ideas aren't getting any better of late. You get stupider with every meal you have!"
"You needn't come with us if you don't like in fact I'd much rather you did not but to Brighton I must and will go! Mama, only think everyone who is anyone in this country spends the summer there! Think of the opportunities!"
Mrs Thorpe considered the matter. Her dearest Isabella had a point, she had to admit one could probably meet dozens of eligible gentlemen in Brighton; half the Ton spent their summer there after all.
"Half-pay officers and hangers-on," John laughed. "That's who you'll end up with, my dear! The whole place is shock-full of them! Trust Isabella Thorpe to find 'em!"
"You must know a thing or two about hangers-on," Isabella replied acidly. "Being one yourself."
"Careful, sister. Don't forget that it's one of my hunters that is to pay for your trip to Brighton."
"I suppose," Mrs Thorpe observed, "we could stay with your uncle Horace, in Worthing. That way we could avoid the expense of a house in Brighton."
"Worthing? For Heaven's sake, Mama, do you never think? Whom does one find in Worthing apart from dowagers and their dependants? I do not want to become engaged to a man with a mere three hundred a year again! I've no time to waste!"
"No; you're not getting any younger," John remarked mercilessly. "Only the other day I thought you were looking like a hag."
"Ever looked into a mirror recently, John? That paunch of yours is not making you look any better. If you don't take care you'll have to settle for a girl with a dowry of a mere two thousand, if not less! Not that you've ever been handsome to start with! Mama, Worthing is a dowdy place! I wouldn't be seen dead there!"
"It is not far from Brighton, however. We can attend the assemblies in Brighton, and meet people there, without having to pay a fortune for lodgings there," Mrs Thorpe pointed out.
"And everyone will know we cannot afford to stay in Brighton, and the eligible men will stay away from us! Besides you cannot seriously consider staying under the same roof with my Aunt Honoria! Aunt Honoria, Mama!"
Mrs Thorpe shuddered. "No, indeed! You are quite right, my dear, we will have to find lodgings in Brighton after all. John, will you see to it?"
"Do you think I've nothing better to do?" Mr Thorpe flared up.
However, Mrs Thorpe was well able to handle her recalcitrant son. She pointed out to him that he had been spending rather more money lately than his quarterly allowance, and where did he think that had come from? Unless he did as he was told, she informed him, he had better cut down his expenses, for she might think twice before untying her purse-strings for his sake again.
"And make sure the lodgings are in the right part of town," Isabella told him. "For if they are not we might as well reside in Worthing."
Before she had finished her reminder, her brother had already slammed out of the room.
It had not been a good evening, Richard Wainwright thought as he tottered back to his lodgings in Ryder Street. Jack Wilson had risen from the card table a good six hundred pounds richer than he'd been when he'd sat down at it. If those six hundred had not previously belonged to Richard, he would not have grudged them to his friend, but as it was he resented it. Richard could ill spare the money. He was up to his ears in debt already, due to the worst run of bad luck he'd ever had. The horses he'd betted on had either come in last or, in two cases, stumbled and fallen down a mere couple of yards from the finish. Even the worst card players had unaccountably won when playing with him, and the dice had been even worse. Richard Wainwright, who'd grown up trusting his luck, and always depended on it, began to wonder if it might be possible that good fortune had abandoned him.
It had to be said in his favour that he did not, not even for a moment, consider leaving his gambling debts unpaid. He'd always been scrupulous in matters of play and pay, simply because it would not do for him to be banned from the clubs. But once he'd paid Wilson his six hundred, he'd have to leave Town for a spell. His gaming debts he paid, but there were tradesmen in the city who, if he did not start paying his bills soon, would take matters into their own hands, he feared. It would be a good thing to stay away for a while, until his financial situation had improved again until his luck at the gaming tables turned.
For Richard knew that his brother was not going to assist him. Not this time. No more than three months ago Freddy had paid Richard's bills, which had cost him some two thousand, and after that he'd told Richard in no uncertain terms that this was the last time he was going to help him out of his difficulties.
"Stay away from the card table and the dice, Richard, and you'll be fine," he'd recommended. "I won't say anything against your betting on horses now and then, as long as you don't overdo it. But stop gaming; it'll be the death of you one day!"
Richard was well aware that his way of life might cause his death one day, but he could not stay away from the gaming hells. Most of his friends were regular visitors there, and besides a man needed some excitement in his life, didn't he? It was not as if he had anything better to do. After a sleepless night during which he'd come no nearer to a solution to his pecuniary problems, he received a call from his friend, Mr Petrie.
Tom Petrie had been at the club the night before and knew exactly how matters stood.
"You'll end up in King's Bench prison one of these days," he remarked as he sat down at Richard's breakfast table, accepting a tankard of ale.
"Dash it, Tom, my luck is bound to change at one point," Richard protested.
"I'm not saying that it won't, but will you live to see it?" Tom inquired. "At the rate you're going you won't even be able to afford a rope to hang yourself with!"
"I'm not planning to hang myself," Richard replied.
"Then what are you planning?" Tom wanted to know.
"I think I'm going to leave Town for a while," Richard told him.
"Where will you go?"
"I've no idea. That was as far as I got," Richard confided with a grin.
"Brilliant," Tom said dryly. "May I make a suggestion?"
"I'll be happy to listen to any suggestion of yours." Richard had a great deal of respect for his friend's good sense. Even leaving Mr Petrie's affluence out of the consideration he was a profitable friend to have.
"Why don't you go to some watering place or other and find yourself a rich widow?"
"Me get leg-shackled? You must be joking, or in your cups. Or both. I'm not the marrying kind."
"I am in earnest, Richard. Think about it. If you could get your hands on an heiress, or a widow with a large fortune, it would put an end to all your problems!"
"It would also cause quite a lot of other ones."
"Well, just think about it, will you? If you like you can go down to Brighton with me. I'm to visit my aunt there Lady Carmichael, you know and if I ask her to she'll house you as well. She likes to have young people about her, so she'll have no objection."
Richard thought for a while. The idea did not sound half bad, he had to admit. Brighton was not Town, but it had a great deal of amusement to offer. If he took Tom up on his offer and stayed at Lady Carmichael's house, he'd be residing in the best part of Brighton without having to spend a penny on his board and lodging. Besides, even though he did not seriously consider marriage there was no denying that Brighton was full of eligible females.
There was the other kind too, of course; quite a few penniless chits and their ambitious mamas hunting for rich husbands went to watering places to bag a matrimonial prize of the first water. But Richard, who'd been on the town for years, prided himself on his ability to spot those predatory females and steer clear of them. Not that he needed to make much of an effort in that respect; it was well-known that Mr Richard Wainwright was a younger son, with neither fortune nor profession to recommend him, and that his elder brother was a married man and had produced the necessary heir and spare. Yet, in Brighton he might meet an eligible woman who was not yet acquainted with his family history; and one with whom the thought of marriage did not positively repulse him.
"Do you think Lady Carmichael will want me to stay in her house?" Richard asked. "Doesn't she have any daughters she fears I might seduce?"
"My cousin Sylvia is already married," Tom said, and added, grinning, "and my cousin Penelope is nine or ten years old and still in the schoolroom. She won't be thinking of marriage for a while yet."
"No maidens of susceptible age in the household? My damnable luck again!"
"Much as I like you, dear friend, I would hardly invite you to my aunt's house if there were any," Tom retorted. "To say the truth I wouldn't like to see you married to one of my cousins. Or sisters, for that matter."
"You don't have a sister."
"Yes; and I am quite glad I haven't. So, are you coming?" Tom asked.
After a short pause, Richard nodded. "Yes, I'm coming."
For even if he did not find a rich widow or heiress in Brighton, staying there with Tom's aunt would enable him to leave Town for the summer, and by the time he returned quarter day would have restocked his purse.
Posted on: 2011-07-10
When hunting for a husband, a girl could leave nothing to chance. Isabella knew as much. It helped to have brothers, who could be counted on to introduce one to eligible gentlemen. Or it would help, if one's brothers were not as empty-headed as John, or far away seeking fame and fortune at sea like her brother William, or too young to be of any use, like Edward. John's assistance in the matter had not got her very far, and Isabella did not choose to depend on him again. This time she had to employ other means.
One could, of course, form a friendship with a young man's sister, provided one knew the family's circumstances. This had worked well enough with Catherine Morland until Captain Tilney had come into the picture and had spoilt everything. Isabella should have known better than to offend that prim and proper girl's strict sense of propriety by flirting with Tilney, but on the other hand where had been the harm in that? If only Tilney had done the decent thing and proposed after she'd obligingly released James Morland from their engagement, but Tilney had dropped her like a hot potato the moment she'd been free to accept his hand in marriage. Maybe if Catherine had not been what she was, she would have been able to make peace between her brother and Isabella, but she'd chosen not to do that, that hypocrite! As if she hadn't been casting out lures to the younger Tilney all the while! She knew well how the game went, yet she turned up her nose at Isabella! The cheek!
In a sea-bathing resort, however, one never lacked the opportunity to run into eligible young men of marriageable age. All she would have to do was view the field thoroughly before embarking on her venture. With this, she guessed, their landlady would be of great assistance. Casual questions about their neighbours would soon lead to a discussion of the company to be had in Brighton, and would supply Isabella with the necessary information. Her brother could then set out to ascertain whether that lady had not been mistaken - he could have no reason to complain about that; after all it was his fault that she was obliged to continue her hunt for a husband. Had he come up with a truly eligible candidate right from the start, she'd be married by now, for she would not have let him slip through her fingers.
It would not do to be too easy to get, of course. Gentlemen liked the chase, and if one wanted to get anywhere with them one had to humour them in that particular point. The best thing to do, she supposed, was to involve them in some kind of accident. The apologies that usually followed such an event put one on terms of intimacy at once, and from that moment on a man could hardly escape the acquaintance. Isabella was not going to let him.
As for the first part of her plan, their landlady, Mrs Griffin, was the best thing that could have happened to her. It did not take Isabella more than five minutes to discover that Mrs Griffin delighted in gossip, and that it would be easy to pump her for information. Things were going well, indeed.
Yes, this was certainly the best neighbourhood in Brighton, Mrs Griffin told them. She was able to supply them with the names of all their neighbours, and continued by telling them everything there was to know about them - Mrs Griffin was well-informed and not afraid to acknowledge it. A mere half an hour spent in that lady's company was enough to put Isabella in possession of all the facts.
There was one single gentleman living in Number Four. He was rather old - he would not see forty again - and a widower. As far as Mrs Griffin knew he had no children; at any rate he had no children staying with him. Still, Isabella decided, one had to be careful. She was not going to take the risk of being saddled with a couple of brats to look after. She was not that desperate. So Mr Brooke was out of the running. For the time being. Isabella might resort to him if all else failed, but she trusted she had not yet lost her touch completely.
There were three officers billeted in Number Eight, just across the street. All of them were very kind, well-bred gentlemen, Mrs Griffin had assured her, but in Isabella's experience officers were, more often than not, younger sons and permanently short of money. It would not do to fall for one of those. Besides, her failure with Captain Tilney still rankled. A military man would not do for her.
Number Five looked promising. According to Mrs Griffin, a Lady Carmichael was living there. Lady Carmichael was a rich widow from the North, Mrs Griffin knew, who had spent every summer in Brighton for as long as Mrs Griffin could remember. Lady Carmichael had several children, and, which was much more important, she had a single nephew of marriageable age staying with her; a Mr Petrie. According to Mrs Griffin, Mr Petrie was a paragon of men; he had everything - looks, manners and fortune. He also had brought a friend with him from London, Mrs Griffin said. She was not yet acquainted with this Mr Wainwright, although she had seen the two young men walk past the house a couple of times since their arrival, and they looked like a pair of very fashionable young gentlemen. Isabella took a mental note to become acquainted with Mr Petrie and Mr Wainwright as soon as possible. If all else failed, her mother would have to call on Lady Carmichael and somehow insinuate herself into that lady's good graces. It had worked with Mrs Allen in Bath - though one had to admit that Mrs Allen had been an old acquaintance of her mother's - but maybe Mrs Thorpe could also claim an old acquaintance with that lady. If not, she would have to find some other way to approach her. But first Isabella decided to set her brother on to those two gentlemen, to discover the precise state of their circumstances. Isabella hoped he would not botch the matter this time. If he did she'd have to get someone to drown him.
Lady Carmichael had been delighted to invite Richard to stay with her in Brighton. Any friend of her nephew's was welcome in her house, she had told him as he'd arrived in Tom Petrie's wake. She was much obliged to him for being willing to keep his friend company for, she confessed, she had been afraid her nephew would be bored.
"None of his cousins will keep him company this year, except Penelope, naturally, but I am not fool enough to suppose that a ten-year-old girl will offer a young man of six-and-twenty much in the way of amusement; on the contrary - I'll have to take care she does not make a nuisance of herself. Nor do I expect Tom to take much pleasure in escorting me to my friends' parties - he often does so, the dear boy! He never says anything, the poor dear, but he must dislike it excessively! But this year he'll have you to amuse him, and do the kind of things with him that young men do! I'm sure I don't know what they are; it is better not to know, don't you agree?"
"Er " Richard began.
"My husband, may the Lord rest his poor soul, always said so, and he was a man of excellent sense so he must have been right!"
"No doubt, ma'am. - Do you have any sons, Lady Carmichael?"
"Oh yes, I have two of them, but none of them will be with us this time. Sir Rupert, the eldest, has only just got married and is touring the Lakes with his wife. It is not to be expected that a pair of newly-weds should spend too much time with their parents; nor do I wish them to! Alan, my younger son, is an officer in the Army and currently stationed in Spain, and not likely to return soon. I have one more daughter, Sylvia, but she is married and I have not seen her in ages. Such is the way of things, however; it does not do to repine. It is such a comfort to me to know that she is happily settled!"
"I can imagine," Richard said politely.
"Now if only but it is early days yet. - Here is your room, Mr Wainwright. I hope you will find it comfortable, and if there is anything you need, do not hesitate to ask for it."
As Tom later said, Lady Carmichael was fond of talking, and since she was such a kind-hearted lady no one had the heart to offend her by pointing that fault out to her.
"My uncle used to say that he does not have to hear everything she says," Tom told Richard. "A knowing one, my Uncle Rupert was."
"So his wife has told me," Richard said.
"He died six years ago, and my aunt still misses him. This is partly why I often visit her - to prevent her from feeling lonely. Especially now, with both Rupert and Sylvia married."
Since they entered, at that moment, a busy tavern, they changed the topic. One did not discuss the private affairs of one's family in such a public setting. The tap-room was packed with men of all classes; everyone from fishermen up to noblemen appeared to frequent that particular hostelry. With some effort they made their way to the bar, where Tom ordered a pint of ale for each of them. The tapster, having met Tom before, jovially welcomed him to Brighton and inquired after Lady Carmichael's health. His hopes regarding a generous tip were not disappointed, and so he made his way from behind the bar to a table at the back of the tap-room. Two men were already sitting there, but they got up and offered Tom and Richard their seats when the tapster told them to do so. He then proceeded to wipe the table clean, and went back behind the bar to continue his duties there.
"Johnson is an original," Tom said. "I've known him for years - very helpful, as long as you grease his fist accordingly. A heart of gold, but well-hidden."
"He only shows it for sufficient payment you mean?" Richard chuckled. "Now, what are you planning for my entertainment, Tom?"
"Oh, there's plenty to do here. We'll have to do the polite thing and escort my aunt to the Assemblies, of course, and there will be parties too, I know. We can go riding, too, and there is usually a mill or two to be seen around this time of the year, but I have not yet heard anything about it so far. This place here is a kind of meeting point of all kinds of people; if there's anything worth doing we'll find out what it is soon enough. The officers often host card parties, and I'm acquainted with a few of them, thanks to my cousin Alan, so we may get some invitations from them. I advise you to stay away from these, however - after all you came here to recover your finances."
"And what better way is there to recover one's finances than a run of luck at cards?" Richard retorted.
"Work?" Tom suggested with a grin.
Deigning this sally not worthy of a reply, Richard got up and went back to the bar to buy some new drinks. As he made his way back through the crowd, someone jostled him, and Richard nearly spilled the beer.
"Watch what you're doing!" Richard protested.
The offender apologised profusely, and followed Richard to his table.
"Damned crowded in here," he said. "Can't stretch my arms without jostling someone. I'm very sorry."
"It's of no moment," Richard replied.
"But it is! I hope I didn't make you spill your drink! Such a pity it would be, what?" He grinned ingratiatingly. "To say nothing of your waistcoat - I'd hate to see that one ruined! Dashed fine waistcoat, that!"
"As I said, everything is fine."
"Tell you what; I'll stand a round of drinks by way of compensation. What do you say?"
"Thank you, but it's not at all necess " Richard began, but by that time the man was already gone. With a shrug, Richard sat down at the table and told Tom how he'd obtained this new devoted friend.
The tapster arrived with three tankards of ale, and put them on the table. Richard's new friend - at least this was how he seemed to see himself - followed the tapster, and politely asked if he might sit down. Richard suspected that this was the reason why the fellow had bought the drinks - knowing that one did not turn the man who'd paid for one's ale away. Tom nodded encouragingly, and the man sat down.
"Here's to this place," he said, raising his tankard. "Best beer I've drunk in a fortnight!"
Tom politely agreed that the beer in this tavern was certainly worth drinking.
"That's why the place is always so full, I expect."
Richard said that the tavern's reputation must be well established among the residents and visitors of Brighton.
"Do you live here, sir?" the man asked.
"No; I am merely on a visit," Richard replied.
"I'm here with my mother and sisters," the man said. "Nothing would do for them but to spend the summer in Brighton. Damned foolish of them, I thought, and it's a dashed nuisance to be obliged to escort them I thought, but this tavern has almost reconciled me to my fate." He grinned. "My name's Thorpe, by the way. John Thorpe."