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The reluctant card player

In my day we knew how to play cards.

I bring her here, after months of pleading and sulking, and she refuses to play cards. I am obliged to sit beside her and play both hands as if this is perfectly usual, and all mothers do this. Perhaps they do. Perhaps more daughters than mine are incapable of observing the simplest courtesies towards their elders.

Bored, she says. Bath is tedious, she says. Yet she was so desperate to come here. If her father were here he would be very disappointed to see this. But my dear husband is gone, and I am left to raise the children and run the household.

I do not object to my task, for it is what I promised when I promised to marry Edward, here at this very spot, years ago. I remember it clearly: he had danced with me time after time until everyone remarked on it - and the we played cards, over and over, sometimes losing to each other on purpose, a private joke between us. With my parents' blessing he took my sister and me on drives into the country, lending us his carriage, and he riding alongside on that beautiful horse, what was its name. His brother was back from the Navy at that time, I recall, and there were hope for my sister, although that was not to be. But she's been happy enough with the Doctor, I dare say, and not everyone is blessed with romantic love, as I was.

But for the present moment I am here again in Bath, and the city has not aged well. Dare I say, I am faring better than Bath - my cheeks are not covered in soot, and my conversation is, I trust, a little less full of epithet than I have heard lately here.

Poor Jane, I suppose, not to have known Bath twenty years ago. A ball then was something to long for. Now it is all subscription efforts, and anyone with a guinea can join in. The pleasure gardens are greatly expanded, however, and I look forward to taking her there - the grotto, and maze, and the musical entertainments may keep her modern mind occupied for a while, I hope. Of course I know what she will say - that it is nothing to Vauxhall. Nothing, at present, is anything to London, although to have heard her speak last season you would have imagined that London was the dullest of places and that Bath represented paradise itself.

Our lodgings here are very reasonable, however; we can even entertain ourselves, in a small way, should we send out for a hot dinner. I must get Jane to some of the smarter assemblies. She has seen too many retired generals and too few likely young men. If I can get her to a proper ball, I hope this enduring ennui will come to an end.

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