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A Divinely Attractive Arrangement

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My darling wife, Lady Susan Vernon Martin -- and how splendid it looks all written down like that! Just as it looked on our marriage papers! Only on the certificate I suppose it was her name in her hand, and her hand is so pleasing. Such distinction! Such feminine frailty and elegance!

That paragraph is rather a mess come to think of it.

Lady Susan has suggested that I start keeping a Diary. This is in order that my reflections might one day serve as both entertainment and education for my future heir (or heirs!!). In fact the very word she used was e l u c i d a t i o n





I am leaving a gap on the page to represent the past ten minutes. What happened during this time was: I rang for Smith who fetched the dictionary from the library so that I could spell the word. Also make sure of its meaning. I spent a diverting time trying to find it under L. One would think that a word beginning with the sound L would be there but no! No indeed! I looked from Luscious to Lusty and nowhere could the thing be found, until Smith had the happy idea of asking me to use it in a sentence. Then he obligingly picked up Volume I and pointed it out to me.

Elucidate: to explain, to clear.

"Ha! Ha!" I said. "I mean, not like the parlourmaid might clear the tea-tray. I assume. That would make no sense at all."

"No, sir," said Smith. "I believe it is to make plain."

What a jolly thing the English language is!

Fine day today. Not so fine as last week's Wednesday, which we all agreed was extremely pleasant for this time of year. But fine nonetheless! Galloway took me through the rents from the last quarter which are apparently just as normal and no concerns there. Manwaring and I took the dogs for a marvellous walk. Didn't come across anything worth shooting. But marvellous.

Jugged hare at dinner. Also syllabub with sugared almonds.

***

Chilly afternoon. I suggested to Pace that I might wear my blue coat and he reminded me that the blue coat was scorched last month when I stood too close to the fire and perhaps I might wear the green one, and so I did.

Susan has told the housekeeper to let one of the parlour maids go. I'm sure she knows best.

Manwaring has bought a new mare and she was delivered to the stables today.

He is not a man of many words, Manwaring. On first meeting I thought him a trifle dull. But you know, I barely think of it now. His company is so relaxing, and he is such an amiable man! Such a patient ear! Indeed I think I might count him as an intimate friend! Most days we walk about the grounds. Not dull at all! How can it be, when we have so many interests in common?

For example on today's walk we were talking of Susan. We are agreed that her current Delicate Condition has made her not delicate at all. She is prettier than ever, with such delightful colour in her cheeks.

Manwaring nodded at many of my points, and he actually volunteered a comment that Susan reminded him of a painting he had seen in a gallery, of the Roman goddess Diana, where she is -- astride a horse, I believe he said, and in fierce pursuit of...something.

Then he looked stiff, and apologised for speaking so familiarly about my wife.

"Nonsense, man!" I said. "What is the possible harm, between friends? And as it happens, that is the exact thought I had when I was proposing marriage to her. Yes indeed. Diana. Did I ever tell you how it happened?"

Manwaring cleared his throat in that solemn way he has, clearing the way for whatever wise remark might come out of his lips. (So not clearing as in making plain. Or like a tea-tray. Not like a tea-tray in any way.) He admitted to me that he had not had the pleasure of hearing that story.

Here it is exactly as I told it to Manwaring:

I was at my London house when Lady Susan Vernon (as she was, then) was announced, and of course I was delighted.

"Of course," I said, "I am delighted --"

Upon which Susan swept into the room, hat at an angle on her head, her sweet little hand outstretched to me.

"Oh, Sir James!" she declared. "I knew you would see me! I know that you, of all the men in London, could be relied upon for consistency of emotion. But perhaps," she added, spinning to look at the footman, "you wish to exchange words with me...in private?"

"I do? I do! Certainly."

When we were alone she took my hands in hers! both of them! and looked exceedingly distressed.

"Lady Susan!" I said. "You look exceedingly distressed."

"I have just come from seeing Alicia," she said.

"Did you quarrel?" I hazarded. The friendships of women are not solid, reliable things like those of men. I understand they are prone to these little tempests.

"We spoke at length," Susan continued, "of you, Sir James, and it is only through Alicia's advice and insight that I have come to realise the true meaning behind your actions! All of your attention so kindly paid to my poor dear Frederica!" She raised her eyes to mine. "If only I had realised that when you made your gallant offer to take care of her, you were in fact delicately hinting at your deeper feelings towards her mother."

"I...was?"

"How cold you must have thought me! The agonies of disappointment you must have suffered! But sir, you must believe me, it is only that I had not dared to hope, to pray, that my feelings might be returned!"

"Your feelings?" I managed.

"Which I have kept hidden, for propriety's sake!" she said, and I believe she was close to tears, her voice had that funny throb in it that ladies get sometimes. "But Sir James, if you can forgive a silly woman for her blindness, her insensitivity, if you can find it in your heart to excuse the dreadful tardiness of my reply...then I accept your offer. Yes. I will consent to marry you."

I admit my head was whirling with the speed of all this. But...Lady Susan Vernon! The most charming and intelligent of women, agreeing to be my wife! Perhaps I could not quite remember making up my mind to propose to her, but it sounded as though I must have, and why not, after all?

"You...consent?"

"Yes," she breathed, and then she was very close and she smelled very nice, like some sort of agreeable garden, and she was blushing and her -- bodice region -- was moving with the height of her emotion and in any case that's when I had the thought about Diana, you see.

"Or at least," I said to Manwaring, "I thought she looked like a painting. And it could very well be that one I was thinking of. The Diana one. As you said."

When I had told him the story Manwaring looked thoughtful for a while. And then he said that Lady Susan's accepting my offer was yet another demonstration of her excellent judgment and that I was the ideal husband for such a fine woman.

I declare I have never been paid as handsome a compliment in my entire life.

***

Enjoyable morning with Collings who is full of Ideas for the beds on the west border of the garden. Perhaps agricultural methods are not the most exciting interest for a gentleman but I think it's marvellous to be eating the literal fruits of one's labours, and Lady Susan encourages me in the strongest and fondest of terms to pursue my interest, outdoors, for as many hours as I wish. She is the best and most understanding woman.

"Collings," I said, once he had gone on for a while about spinach and marigolds. "Have you encountered these cunning little green balls -- oh, blast, what were they called? About this big," I demonstrated with two fingers, "and so sweet! Delicious! Had them for dinner at Churchill. Which, would you believe it, has neither a church --"

"Do you mean P's, sir?"

"The very thing!" I said. "Fascinating! Now what does it stand for?"

Collings looked at me for a while. He's a solid man, Collings. Devoted to the Martin name. Has a way with a row of lettuce like you wouldn't believe. But sometimes I wonder if he is all that bright. He does a fine impression of a stone wall, only less chatty.

"Stand for, sir?"

"The P!"

Well it took us another few minutes to sort that one out.

P e a.





Pea: a well known kind of pulse.

I am of half a mind to write to Mr Sheridan and tell him that it's no use telling the readers of his otherwise very fine dictionary that something is well known when clearly there are people in the world who are still experiencing the happy joy of discovery, and maybe those people might want a little more explanation than that.

You know what it is, it is the lack of pictures. I shall suggest to Mr Sheridan that the next edition include drawings of every object thus named. I suppose it would have to be only the sensible words that were illustrated in that way. One could hardly draw love or heat or taste.

But something like pea, you know, I think that would be quite simple.

I have told Smith of this idea and he agrees it an excellent one.

***

When it comes to this new venture of diary-keeping, my beloved Susan has shown herself as obliging as she always is, and as wholly devoted to my comfort. She bought me this book herself, along with the pen, as a wedding gift. And she encourages me to set time aside each evening to write in my study. She has directed the servants to bring me a large glass of port and a bowl of shelled nuts, and then not to disturb me unless I ring for them.

She and Manwaring both retire to their rooms, and I exist in a state of total peace. It has become an enjoyable part of the Martindale routine.

I say, these nuts are really rather good.

We have a great deal of nuts in the house at the moment. Lady Susan has become very partial to them and wishes to have them with every meal. She tells me this is a quirk of her Condition.

"With Frederica," she said, "it was a particular marmalade. Nothing else would do!"

In any case we are drowning in pistachios and cashews and walnuts. The kitchen will shell them for us but Susan says the sound of them cracking is also something she takes pleasure in. She does spend an awful lot of time watching Manwaring crack walnuts in his hands.

It looks like fun, and so I have had a go myself. I do not have the knack of it yet. The two walnuts flew apart and out of my hands, and one of them smashed a saucer. The nut itself remained intact.

So I have started watching Manwaring as well, to try and catch the trick of it. He does have fine specimens of hands. His fingers are just what a man's fingers should be: strong, and broad. And there is something soothing about the motion. And the noise, c-runch! It is both violent and not violent. Like watching a horse-race, or having a really good dance.

Manwaring was cracking nuts for us this evening.

"I say," I said after some time. "It is very warm in the parlour. Are you comfortable, Susan? Should we ask them to bank down the fires?"

"My dear," said my wife, "is it not time for you to retire to your study, and write in your diary?"

She must have also found the sight of Manwaring's fingers soothing, because she did not glance away from them as she spoke. She was also, I suspect, affected by the fire, as her cheeks were flushed. I suppose it is natural for husband and wife to experience this kind of sympathy of feeling! How blessed we are! I should recommend the state of matrimony to every man.

"Of course!" said I.

And here I am.

***

We are lucky enough to have visitors at present! My dear adopted daughter Frederica, now Mrs Reginald de Courcy, is showing a natural interest in her mother's Condition and the fact that soon she will have an infant brother or sister. She and her husband have come to stay with us a full week.

Marriage agrees with Frederica. She used to be such an odd girl, quite skittish and wobbly and shy! So prone to dashing from the room as soon as one entered it! Now she will come up to me quite freely and take my arm for a turn about the room, or walk with me in the rose garden and talk of nothing in particular.

It seems so silly to me now, the idea that I once thought I wished to have her for my wife. A mere misunderstanding! Happens all the time! Susan has explained it to me several times over and it is very clear that I wanted to protect and care for the girl, and that is all. She is very sweet and has a charming singing voice but, poor thing, can't hope to ever have her mother's impressive intellect. Nor her impeccable judgement. Nor (if I am to be completely honest) her striking looks.

In any case I am pleased to report that Frederica is of exactly my mind when it comes to the preferable nature of the current state of affairs.

"I am so pleased to be able to call you Father, Sir James," she said, as we were admiring the rows of herbs. Some of them are looking nibbled. I think if Collings could sleep out here at night and fight the rabbits away like Lord Nelson repelling the French, he might do it.

"Yes, indeed!" I could not help but beam at her. "And I suppose I should accustom myself to hearing it said! Ha ha!"

"Ye-es," she said. A hint of concern crept over her bird-like face.

"No need to worry, my dear," I said. I tried to sound encouraging and paternal. "I am sure one day you, too, will have the honour to present your husband with an heir. Plenty of time yet!"

"Sir James," she said then, hesitantly. "What is your opinion of Lord Manwaring?"

Well of course I told her at great length. She could not have been left in any doubt of the esteem in which I hold the man.

I wonder if she finds him imposing, with his impressive demeanour and all of his silences. Or if she has been listening to the ridiculous gossip that some of the chaps in the club make sure to repeat to me when I'm in town, so we can all laugh about it together. Poor dear Frederica, her female brain is so fragile, so moldable. So susceptible to the influence of untrustworthy sources. She can't be expected to tell the difference between absurd gossip and true rumour.

When I had finished explaining to her in simple and heartfelt terms exactly how greatly Manwaring added to our happiness here at Martindale, it occurred to me to add, "Why do you ask?"

Frederica gazed at me, in a very Collings-like way. Then heaved a sigh. I do fear her own childless state is weighing on her mind. But she was good enough to summon a smile and to pat my arm fondly.

"Never mind, Sir James."

***

Manwaring's new mare is called Artemis and she is a splendid piece of horseflesh. I must remember to ask him who does his buying for him. We went riding today for most of the afternoon and I almost let Merrick have more of his head than is good for him, I fear, because I was distracted admiring the bunch of her flanks as she took a fence at speed. And the equally admirable tension of Manwaring's thighs, directing her. There is almost nothing I would rather look at than a strong man astride a strong beast. It is a mark of true civilization.

"Do you know," I said at one point. "I don't think I've ever met a man with a finer seat."

Manwaring directed Artemis in a tight circle to face me.

"You're a fine sportsman yourself, Martin," he said. It was the longest sentence he has uttered all week.

"Oh," I said. "Well. Cheers. Very much so!" and with that exchange of emotion completed, we finished out the ride in an easy silence.

We returned to find that Susan had been taken slightly ill and was lying prone on a couch with the new maid bringing her a jug of cold water. My wife's usual perfect good humour was, I fear, under siege from the necessary changes to her body. I hear this is a normal phase of every woman's confinement.

No! I forget! I am not to use the word confinement, as the last time I said it aloud Susan threw her shoe at me and cried that she refused to be confined to anything for anyone, and then she burst into tears and looked astonished.

The strain of producing New Life does tax women so. It makes one want to go out and do something very tender and protective, like conquer a castle.

"Oh," Susan said weakly, when the two of us entered, "I am so hot," and she looked like something between a hothouse flower and a kitten with a thorn in its paw, all wilting and pinched.

Manwaring, best of comrades, knelt at once by Susan's side and began to fan her with a newspaper.

”That is a fine locket," he said to her presently. Trying to take her mind off her state of exhaustion, no doubt.

"Why, thank you, Lord Manwaring. I hope you will not be so ungallant as to demand to see its contents." Susan drew her finger beneath the chain of her necklace, then paused. "But perhaps I may relent. Among friends."

The locket was a silver thing about the size of a shilling, and I had not noted that she was wearing it until then. When opened, it showed nobody's likeness. In one side were engraved the initials JM and on the other nestled a lock of dark brown hair.

There was a suitable silence while we all took in this evidence of my wife's romantic soul.

Manwaring was the first to break it.

"I wonder," he said, "if the owner of that hair knew it was being stolen."

I, James Martin, will be the first to admit I am not the wittiest of men, but even I can recognise when a flirtatious game is being played with me. All those men who say such games end after marriage are clearly quite wrong!

"Indeed!" I said, joining in. "You must have a very light touch, my dear."

"Or have stolen it from a very heavy sleeper," said Susan.

"I wonder who it could be?" I said. I was trying to be as solemn and matter-of-fact as the joke demanded, but I fear I could not keep a laugh from escaping me.

"Who indeed?" Manwaring murmured, and went back to fanning.

Susan's eyes had quite regained their usual sparkle. She looked at me and stretched out her hand for mine, then pressed my fingers tight in hers. Then she looked back at Manwaring.

"One of life's little mysteries," she said.

***

Rained heavily all day. We are quite flooded. This would have been of no account except that Mrs Alicia Johnson arrived today, and one of her many trunks full of clothes fell into a large puddle as it was being unloaded, and unfortunately the buckle broke and a great many dresses and shawls and petticoats and things were soaked nearly to the point of ruination.

"Not to worry," I told Mrs Johnson. "The laundry maids are so good with stains."

"Thank you, Sir James," she said.

Oh! Yes! I had quite forgot to mention that Mrs Johnson was expected, before this point! We are becoming quite the Refuge for those of our friends and acquaintances who have been poorly treated by their own spouses.

And in any case I understand that Mr Johnson intends to spend most of his time in the New World: he has indefinite business interests in Hartfield, Conect Connetycut Connecticut. Poor Mrs Johnson, my wife has told me, cannot abide a sea journey; such a thing would be altogether d e l e t e r i o u s





Deleterious: destructive, deadly.

For her health. Bad for her health. Possibly deadly!

Very understandable. Nasty, unpredictable things, boats. Much better for her to stay on land. And much better, instead of being all alone in London, for her to come here to Martindale where all her friends are. Susan has confessed to me how much she has longed to have her closest confidante dwelling beneath our roof now that she has seen how much enjoyment I receive from having my closest friend here.

I do enjoy how lively the house is these days. The more company the better, I say!

***

I had meant to spend three days in town, but most of my business was completed after two, and the dinner I was to attend at Frank Kinley's was called off as his youngest is down with the measles. Jolly refreshing ride from London to Martindale. Slight drizzle.

The house was quiet when I returned. One of the maids told me that Mrs Johnson was out for a walk with her watercolours and that Lady Susan had pleaded fatigue and retired to her room for a nap. I thought I would stick my head in, pat her sleeping hand, that sort of thing.

When I opened the door to my wife's chamber, it was to see her lying on her back on the bed with her skirts folded up above her waist, her hair undone and neck shining with sweat, her legs laid entirely bare, and Lord Manwaring seated on the bed with his hand between her legs and an expression of rapt concentration on his face.

Well of course my first thought was that the baby must be coming!

"The baby is coming!" I exclaimed, in a spasm of joy.

Both of them had frozen as soon as I stepped into the room, and jumped a little as the door closed behind me. Now Manwaring looked at the position of his hand, then at Susan, then back at me.

"No-o, dear," said Susan, in a voice like she was trying not to upset a teacup balanced on a hedgerow. "It would be ten weeks or so early for that. However," she went on, her voice firming up, "the doctor did visit today."

"The doctor? My God, is everything all right?"

"Yes, yes, darling, of course." Susan settled back into the pillows. "He only said that it is vital for me to begin these preparations today. A particular massage, to stimulate blood flow, so that when the baby comes --"

And I admit that I cannot actually remember what she said next, it was full of horrifying feminine detail that I am quite sure no man is ever meant to hear, and I felt like Jonah being beaten around the head by the whale and then tossed overboard. I met Manwaring's eye in deepest masculine sympathy. He looked as pale and awkward as I felt, poor fellow.

I finally surfaced when Susan was saying "-- would not for the world delay such a necessary treatment, but I'm sure you see that I could not have a servant do it."

She paused. Something seemed expected of me.

"No?"

"And then," Susan went on, looking more animated by the second, "I remembered your remarking to me, dearest, that Lord Manwaring had such strong and dexterous fingers, and he was kind enough to set aside his natural reticence and do us this significant favour."

For a long and colourful moment I thought about Manwaring cracking walnuts.

"That is sensible," I said. "And of course! Very grateful to Manwaring! Very good of you to do us this favour, sir! But I am here now, my love. I must be allowed to perform this service for you."

Manwaring straightened with a great deal of dignity, as if to say: of course you must.

I unfastened my cuffs and had a go at rolling back my sleeves, and knelt up on the bed.

Then I paused. It is a strange thing, but That Area is not a part of the female anatomy that I have ever had cause to look at for any long period before. Usually the eyes are, ah, at a remove from the business end of the business. As it were.

But this was medicine and as such I was determined to pitch in and do my best.

"Perhaps you could, er, advise me as to the technique?" I said.

"Of course, John," said Susan, with a faint tremble in her voice. "You must show Sir James exactly how the doctor directed it be done."

So Manwaring resumed his position, took my own hand in his dextrous one, and showed me how and where to apply the manual pressure. A sort of circling motion seemed required. It was not difficult. I soon got the hang of things -- ha! hand! -- though Manwaring was good enough to keep his own fingers there as well, guiding mine. I imagine it is doubly effective that way!

After a while my poor Susan began trembling and shifting and making noises. No doubt the pressure was painful for her, as medical procedures often are. I couldn't help but admire her courage in enduring this discomfort, and so many others, for the sake of producing a healthy child that might soon be running and smiling and catching the measles all on its own!

Apparently the procedure must be performed on a weekly basis for best effect.

***

Did you know that peas do not grow each on their own tiny twig, as berries do? I complained today to Collings that there was something wrong with the seedlings he had planted, as instead of cunning little bunches of peas the things were growing long, ugly things like the finger of a woman wearing green gloves.

Or one with a terrible skin condition I suppose.

Collings took one of the pea-fingers and broke it open to show me the peas inside -- inside!! -- a row of them like juicy bird shot.

"Oh!" I said.

Collings said, "That's how they come, sir. Ain't you never heard the saying, snug as peas in a pod?"

"Why, yes!" I said. "My old nurse used to say that to me, as she tucked me in!"

"What'd you think she meant by it, sir?"

I had to confess I had never thought about it. Nursie used to say all sorts of things that made no sense, but in such a comforting voice that it did not seem to matter.

"Capital!" I said. "We shall have them for dinner. As many of them as are ready."

The pea plants are still young but we had three peas each with the pork roast tonight and everyone agreed they were quite delicious.

***

Mrs Alicia Johnson has decided to take up Novel-Writing. She caught a chill while roaming the grounds in search of the perfect watercolour vista and declared to us all between sneezes that she has never liked the outdoors and she thinks she is better suited to a more interior creative pursuit.

Can't understand such a thing myself! Nothing like fresh air!

In other news, Susan has been interviewing women for the role of nurse to the soon-to-be inhabitant of the Martin nursery. It is sad to think that my own Nursie will not also tend to my children, but she is so infirm now that there could be no question of it. I must send her a basket and a note soon.

I have told Susan to pay special attention to the voice of each applicant. There can be no substitute for a comforting tone.

***

The most extraordinary thing happened last night. Scarcely had Pace helped me into my night-shirt and bid me good night, there was a further knock on my bedchamber door. It was Susan's personal maid, Lucy, who informed me that Lady Susan had requested that I attend her in her own chamber.

"The baby is coming?" I cried, springing out of bed.

"No, sir," the girl said quickly. "I don't believe so."

We are close enough to the date now that this is an increasing possibility, you see. And a Martin baby is eager to greet the world! I myself was near a sennight earlier than expected!

In any case, I thanked the girl and took myself the short distance down the corridor to Susan's room. She had lit candles enough that the room was positively aglow. And there, standing to one side of her bed, was Manwaring.

"Is it time for another medical session?" I asked, casting my mind anxiously back. "Have we forgot one?"

"My dear," Susan said. "I am overcome with guilt that I have been neglecting, these past few months, the proper duties of a wife towards her husband."

It took me a second to grasp her meaning. I thought at first she was talking of ordering silverware or some such thing.

"Oh, no, my love!" I exclaimed. "You are carrying my heir! Surely nobody could expect --"

"No, I won't hear a word of it! I will see you satisfied!" Susan exclaimed in return. She could exclaim for England. It is hard to remember what one is saying, or thinking, or arguing, when her voice is in full force and backed up by those glorious eyes.

"Er," I said. "But is it...quite safe?"

"Oh, not with me," Susan said. She waved a hand. "Our dear Manwaring will help."

"Help?"

Again it took me some time. Susan had to explain things. Some of the words she used were, I am sure, a kind of slang so newfangled it has not yet reached my ears. But I am sure she knows best, and I trust her judgement in all things. She was so touchingly concerned for my welfare!

And there was something sweet about the way she said our Manwaring, as though she knows how much I admire the fellow.

Of course I am not a stranger to such acts as Susan was describing. These things happened at school with some regularity. Only natural, among healthy young chaps! The things that would go on amongst the second eleven after a game, cricketing whites discarded...

If thinking of those days made my heart do a doorknocker thing in my chest and the rest of my body begin to, er, stand to attention, I am sure it is only that, as Susan said, it had been some time since the Pleasures of the Nuptial Bed had been a possibility.

"And you, Susan…" I ventured, still a little at sea.

"I," declared my self-sacrificing wife, "will watch."

With that she plumped up one of the cushions behind her, arranged her nightgown, and settled herself.

"After all," she added after a moment. "You are my husband and my great friend. It would be almost unseemly if I were not present."

"He is a great friend to us, indeed," I said hastily, directing a look of apology to Manwaring for talking about him as though he were on the other side of the house when he was, in fact, just there. "But this is -- the bounds of friendship, Susan! The favours one might ask! Only stretch so far!"

"Nonsense," Susan said. "Manwaring has just today been telling me how keenly he feels your generosity as his host, and how much he wishes there was something he could do to show his appreciation. And I am sure the both of you are good enough to defer to me, as the lady of the house, in matters of hospitality."

Well, what can one say to that? It cannot be argued with!

"And besides," Susan added sweetly, "I have given him certain details which have convinced him that he might be getting the best of this bargain."

A very burning kind of look passed between them. Then Manwaring looked at me, coughed a little, spread his large hands on his large thighs, and said handsomely, "Indeed, sir. No imposition. I assure you."

I said, "What walnuts? I mean, what details?"

"My dear," said Susan, "would you lift the hem of your nightshirt above your waist?"

This made as little sense as anything else, but I had already seen that the pleasantest evening would be had if I placed myself in Susan's hands and simply did as I was bid. And so I did.

Susan said, after some silence, "You see, John?"

"Hmm? Does he see what, my love?" I inquired, but Manwaring -- John -- was looking rather surprised and all he would say was that he did see, and both of them appeared gratified by the fact of them both seeing. Whatever it was.

And then he

And then I

And then we

On reflection there is no need to write about that, not the sort of thing one imagines one's future offspring having any interest in, ha ha! And in any case it is getting late and I am so very tired! Fire in here very warm! Have drunk two glasses of port instead of my usual one!

Best be heading to bed.

***

The day has arrived! I am the father of a son!!

Susan said at once he has exactly my eyes. And she would not hear of anything except that he be named for my own late father, Sir John Martin. Very proper! So delightful!

***

John. My son John. I cannot stop saying the words, and our John -- ha! Our John Manwaring, how droll that I have to specify! -- is showing a touching interest. I assured him today we consider him quite a member of the family and not to stand on any kind of silly ceremony. I am sure my son will have the most doting of uncles! In name if not in blood!

In any case all of us here at Martindale call the new arrival Baby Jack and he is the grandest baby in the county. He simply must be. I cannot imagine a finer baby.

I must say, I never thought I was a chap to go silly over domestic scenes, but in the evening when everyone is in the sitting room, the nurse rocking the baby, Mrs Johnson at her writing-desk, and Manwaring and Susan are playing quietly at cards...well, I do not think there is a happier household in all of England.

Rained a little in the afternoon. Peas growing well. Splendid!