The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson Vol. 2
Category: History
Level 6.98 13:02 h
Harriette Wilson was the author of The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson: Written by Herself (1825). Wilson was a famed British Regency courtesan who became the mistress of William, Lord Craven, at the age of 15. Later in her career, she went on to have formal relationship arrangements with Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, and other significant politicians.

The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson

Harriette Wilson

Volume Two

The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson Vol. 2

Chapter XIX

On the morning of the day fixed on for our dining at the mess-room, Lord Worcester received a severe reprimand from Colonel Quintin for neglecting the drill.

We sat down at least thirty at table, and I was the only lady in company. However, as I had my station near Colonel Palmer, and was not presented to any strangers, I enjoyed the same sort of liberty as I might have done at any table-d’hôte.

I was already acquainted with the present Duc de Guiche and several other officers. A very fine young man who had joined only a month previous was present, and, I remember, that nobody said a single word to him; but I have entirely forgotten his name. I inquired his history, and was told that he was a man of good fortune but of no family, as they denominate those who cannot boast recorded ancient blood in their veins. However, instead of complaining to the Prince, or calling out the colonel, he put a good face on the thing, and always came into the mess-room whistling. He was a very fine young man and, while he carefully avoided any appearance of making up to his proud brother-officers, was ever ready to prove, by his politeness in handing them salt, bread, wine or whatever happened to be near him at table, that he was not sufficiently wounded by their cutting to be sulky with them, neither was his appetite at all impaired by it. Of this fact nobody in their senses could entertain the smallest doubt.

The Duke of Clarence’s and poor Mrs. Jordan’s eldest son, Captain FitzClarence, I remember had a forfeit or a fine to pay, for coming to dinner in dirty boots, or something of that kind. He was indeed voted by the whole mess a very dirty fellow in his person, and one who evidently conceived himself so much better than his brother officers, from being the bastard of the Duke of Clarence. Everybody acknowledges him to be brave; but I certainly should take him to be about as heartless as any man need be in order to make his way in the world. He had a trick or two which used to make the officers sick, and he ate so voraciously that he well nigh bred a famine in the mess-room. On one occasion poor Captain Roberts, who happened to come in later than FitzClarence, got nothing but bubble-and-squeak in the dog-days.

Colonel Palmer scolded me very much indeed about Worcester’s missing parade of a morning. I assured him that I had done and would do all I possibly could to make him more attentive. The colonel declared that, if he again missed the drill, he feared Colonel Quintin would act in a way to disgust Lord Worcester with the army altogether, and he should regret much his going out of the regiment.

As soon as we had left the mess-room, I told Worcester that he really must be at parade by eight o’clock to-morrow.

Worcester again promised, and again broke his word, for which he was immediately put under arrest, and desired not to wear his sword.

“By G — , if he vas de king’s son, I vould put him honder arrest,” exclaimed Quintin.

This was reported to Lord Worcester, who said it was the most vulgar and disgusting speech he had ever heard, adding: “What has a king’s son or a duke’s son to do with the usual discipline observed towards lieutenants in the army?”

When Colonel Palmer came to condole with Worcester, his lordship was a good deal agitated and confused. I passed my word to the colonel, that, if he would get Worcester’s sword restored to him, I would accompany him to drill rather than he should miss it. The next morning I actually accomplished being up, dressed, and on my road to the barracks by half-past eight o’clock, accompanied by Worcester.

Will Haught, who was in a terrible bustle on this occasion, asked, “Where is Miss Wilson to wait during parade, my lord?”

“In my barrack-room,” said the marquis.

“Why, my lord, there is nothing at all in it but a large trunk, and, you see, the room has never been put square like, and I should have wished to have got Miss Wilson a neat comfortable breakfast.”

“Well, do your best,” said Worcester, as we drove off.

I found Lord Worcester’s barrack-room in a dismal state. However, though it was quite impossible for Mr. Will Haught to make all square, yet he procured absolute necessaries for my breakfasting every morning at the barracks. It was quite as much as we could possibly do to get dressed in time for parade; and breakfast at home was wholly out of the question.

Behold me now, regularly attending parade like a young recruit, dressed in a blue riding habit and an embroidered jacket or spencer worn over it, trimmed and finished after the fashion of our uniform, and a little grey fur stable-cap with a gold band.

From the window of Worcester’s barrack-room I used to amuse myself reviewing our troops, but not after the fashion of Catharine of Russia. Sergeant Whitaker, teaching the sword exercise, used to amuse me the most. It began thus:

“Tik nuttiss! the wurd dror is oney a carshun. At t’wurd suards, ye drors um hout, tekin a farm un possitif grip o’th’hilt! sem time, throwing th’shith smartly backords thus! Dror!” Here the men, forgetful of the caution which had just been given them, began to draw. “Steady there! Never a finger or a high to move i’th’hed. Dror suards!”

This said Sergeant Whitaker was a highly respectable man no doubt, only rather solemn-looking or so; but that was all the better perhaps, as it inspired more respect among his motley pupils.

I fancy it was the sight of Worcester and me together, so Darby and Joan-like, that first put the good soldier in mind of matrimony. He certainly did cast many a longing glance after us, as we used to drive out of the barrack-yard. One morning in particular, he made a full stop when close to us, and his lips moved as though he had been about to address us, if Worcester’s haughty glance had not frightened away his speech and made him, on second thoughts, honour us with no more favours than a mere military salute.

“There is something on Sergeant Whitaker’s mind,” said I, and Worcester laughed heartily at the idea.

We continued punctual at parade for more than a fortnight. Some of Worcester’s friends generally joined us on our way from the barracks, to which place I frequently rode on horseback when the weather would permit.

Young Edward Fitzgerald, who is a cousin of the Duke of Leinster, on one occasion galloped after us, and addressed Worcester: “What do you think? there is a d — d old gallipot-fellow has been gossiping about you, and tells everybody he meets the story of your being put under arrest, and having your sword taken away from you for making such a fool of yourself about Harriette.”

Worcester, reddening with indignation, said, “I must take the liberty of acquainting you, Fitzgerald, that the lady you call Harriette I consider as my wife; and, when I assure you that you will wound and offend me if ever you treat her with less respect than you would show to the Marchioness of Worcester, I am sure you will desist from the familiarity of calling her by her christian name.”

Fitzgerald good-naturedly assured him he had spoken with his usual thoughtlessness.

Worcester now inquired who had been making so free with us.

“Why that stupid old Doctor Tierney is the man,” answered Fitzgerald.

Worcester said he should call on him to desire he would hold his tongue.

“And,” interrupted Fitzgerald, “confine his attention to his draughts and pills.”

Worcester asked what sort of a man Tierney was, and if at all like a gentleman.

Fitzgerald did not recollect to have seen him.

I assured them I had known him of old, and that he attended me when I lived on the Marine Parade. He was a pedantic, disagreeable, affected fool, who visited his patients in leather breeches and topped boots. He had formerly made sentimental love to my sister Amy when she came over from France. She passed herself off on the amorous doctor, comme une grande vertu, on purpose to laugh at him. As to his vulgar wife, she was ugly and unattractive enough to disgust a man with the whole fair sex, since such unfair things formed part of it.

Lord Worcester, on that very day I think, accompanied by the Duc de Guiche — but I am not certain whether it was His Grace or another officer of the Tenth — paid his visit of ceremony to Doctor Tierney. I cannot repeat the conversation which passed, but I know the substance of it was that Worcester requested that he would not make his actions the subject of conversation, but mind his own business, supposing he had any to mind; and, if not, he had better advertise for it, instead of publishing anecdotes of persons with whom he was not likely to have the slightest acquaintance.

The doctor, as Worcester and his friend both assured me, duly apologised for having indulged himself in using the name of a marquis, in common with thousands of low-minded people who always love to talk of the great, and promised to do so no more.

Some time after this I received a long letter from my sister Fanny, to acquaint me with the absence of Colonel Palmer from Portsmouth on particular business, and of her intention of passing a month with me at Brighton: it being nearly five weeks since she had become the mother of a lovely little girl, and her physician having recommended the bracing air of Brighton for the recovery of her strength.

This was delightful news to me, and put me in high spirits as well as Julia, who loved Fanny better than ever she had before imagined it possible to love one of her own sex. Worcester also looked forward to Fanny’s proposed visit with much satisfaction, as he had always, he assured me, felt the affection of a brother towards her.

Fanny’s arrival was a holiday for us all. Lord Berwick hoped much from her extreme good-nature and obliging disposition. Sophia, between Julia, Fanny and myself, was the more certain of not being left tête-à-tête with her night-mare, Lord Berwick, and Julia, whose very friendship partook of passion, shed tears of joy when she pressed her friend to her heart. My affection was calm, for it was fixed, and shall be eternal, if eternity is to be mine, with memory of the past.

Fanny declared we should all become good horsewomen before she left Brighton. She was herself a most beautiful rider. Accordingly, the morning after her arrival beheld a cavalcade about to start from my door in Rock-gardens: it consisted of Lords Berwick and Worcester, Mr. Fitzgerald, two young dragoons, whose names I have forgotten, Julia, Fanny, Sophia and me. Lord Berwick was too nervous to trust himself on horseback, except on very great and particular occasions. I found much amusement in tickling up my mare a little, as I rode it close to his horse in order to put a little mettle into them both. It was rather wicked; his lordship declared he was not frightened for himself, but only for Sophia.

Lord Worcester took the opportunity to give Sophia a few instructions about holding her whip and bridle. Suddenly, when we were at least five miles from Brighton Sophia quietly walked her horse towards home, leaving us to proceed without her.

“What can be the matter with Sophia?” we all inquired at once.

Fitzgerald feared he had said something to offend her.

Lord Worcester and Fanny galloped after her, to ascertain what was the matter, and how she expected to find her way home alone.

“Oh nothing is the matter,” said Sophia, very innocently, “nothing whatever is the matter, only he will go this way,” alluding to her horse.

Lord Worcester’s natural politeness was not proof against this, and he laughed loudly, as he led Sophia’s horse towards the rest.

The whole party dined at my house, and Lord Worcester did the honours of the table with infinite grace.

When the ladies withdrew from the room they had a thousand questions to ask each other. Fanny took upon her to say to Sophia, that she conceived she was treating Lord Berwick very ill in accepting so much from him, unless she meant to live with him.

Sophia began to cry and I to laugh. Julia showed us some very romantic love-letters from Napier, whom she shortly proposed joining in Leicestershire.

Sophia, at Fanny’s persuasion, now began to waver.

“Come,” said Fanny, “what does it signify to you, whether your lover is old or young, handsome or ugly, provided he gives you plenty of fine things; since you know you are the coldest girl in all England?”

The gentlemen soon after came upstairs, and before the evening was over his lordship was led to hope, from what Sophia said, that, if he were to furnish an elegant house, she might probably be induced to inhabit it with his lordship sooner or later.

Some few days after this important business was decided, and Lord Berwick had written to his agent in town to engage a comfortable residence in some airy situation, as Lord Worcester and I were returning home from our ride, we met the brave Sergeant Whitaker, who this time was not to be brow-beaten from his purpose by Worcester’s proud salute.

“My lord,” said he, coming up close to Lord Worcester’s horse, and touching his cap, “my lord, if you please, I wants to be married.”

“What the devil is that to me?” Worcester observed.

“Well, my lord,” continued the sergeant, looking sheepish, “you see, if you would just mention it to Colonel Quintin?”

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