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Having now disposed of the affairs at Lovegrove, I must return to my own.
The situation of attendant to the Countess of Ruperta had been procured for me by my constant friend Lady Eustace, and I now hastened to attend to my duties.
I found my new mistress a most lovely woman. She was about six-and-twenty, and had two little girls, Lady Julia and Lady Emily Fitzrupert, the one two, the other three years of age, who promised to inherit their mother's surpassing beauty.
The earl's establishment was on a scale of great magnificence; I was treated with kindness, and enjoyed every comfort, indeed every luxury I could wish. The countess was fond of society, therefore she was often from home, or received a good deal of company. The earl, on the contrary, was a very literary person, and his chief delight appeared to be in attending scientific meetings, and receiving, at stated times, the most learned men of the day.
Their tastes being so different, it may easily be supposed that the earl and countess, though apparently much attached to each other, never seemed to have any feelings in common.
In consequence, their two sweet little girls very seldom saw either of their parents, certainly I never remember their both receiving the children at the same time. I have known several days pass over without the countess even asking for them, so occupied was she by the loungers in the saloon, or in dressing for parties abroad or at home. She seemed extremely good-natured and easy, but I could not feel that respect for her which I should have done, if I had not observed this total neglect of her little ones.
The nurse, too, who had the care of them, a showy, bold-looking woman, followed the example of her lady, and when the latter was from home, she would leave the poor children to the care, or neglect, of two or three undernurses. And yet, to my surprise, this woman appeared a wonderful favourite with her lady.
As soon as the London season was over we went to Brighton, and as, except when occu
pied at the countess's toilette, my time was at my own disposal, I had ample opportunities of enjoying the sea breezes, and employing myself as I liked. Sometimes I went out in the carriage with the young ladies and their nurse, (Mrs. Smithson,) but I found that woman so bold, talking to gentlemen who lounged on horseback, looking in at the carriage windows, that I gave up accompanying her in the drives, which would otherwise have been pleasant.
The house was generally full of company, but not of that sort which used to infest Lady Dryden’s. They were of the highest rank, and the household, though gay and numerous, were under the judicious control of an excellent house-steward, whose accounts the earl regularly inspected himself every month. Thus there was none of that reckless, disreputable extravagance so glaring and disgraceful in the establishment of poor Sir Thomas Dryden. I sometimes thought that the countess allowed too many young men to flutter about her. Her lord, however, never seemed to notice, or to be disturbed at it, therefore no one else had
a right to think it improper. My wonder was, that she should prefer the attentions and companionship of such a set of dandies, to the delightful task of watching the opening minds and winning ways of her own sweet and lovely little
After an agreeable sojourn at Brighton the family removed for a couple of months to their noble seat in shire, and from thence returned to town for the season. It commenced with the usual gaieties, with which the countess seemed more occupied than ever, while the earl was again absorbed in his literary pursuits, and their children were, as usual, forgotten.
I had been a year in this situation, when one night after the countess had departed for a ball, given by a lady of high rank, I retired to my own room; and, as I knew her ladyship would not return before seven o'clock in the morning, I determined to go to bed, and get up in time to attend her. I had not retired to rest above two hours, when a knocking at my door awoke me. I inquired who was there,
and was answered by one of the undernurses.
I rose instantly, and hurrying on my things, admitted her. She said she was sorry to disturb me, but that Lady Julia was so ill she did not know what to do, and as the head-nurse was not returned, she thought she had better come and consult me.
“Nurse not returned !” I said. “Why where has she gone to at this time of night ? ”
“Indeed I don't know, miss,” said the girl. “But she has been gone these three hours. She often goes out at night, but I did not think she would stop so late, as she knew how very poorly Lady Julia has been all day.”
I was soon dressed, and hastened to the nursery, where I found both the children feverish and restless, but Lady Julia so much so that I was seriously alarmed, and therefore took upon myself to dispatch a messenger to summon the family physician. He soon arrived, and pronounced them both to be suffering from scarlet fever. After giving the necessary directions and prescriptions, and promising to call again