A continuing series by Persuasion’s Mary Musgrove
In March, one’s thoughts turn toward planning a lovely spring holiday for the family.
And why not? Spring is the perfect season for a visit to The Metropolis. So charming! So fashionable!
And I would be packing my trunks this very minute if I were married to someone other than Charles Musgrove. How I yearn for a fortnight at an elegant hotel in Mayfair, such as my father enjoys each year! And yet my dear husband is instead making summer plans to go … camping.
Camping! I ask you, what good is that? It sounds completely horrible to me. Rustic living. Communing with nature. Gazing through glasses, not at the opera stage but at birds and flowers! Please. The only flowers I care about are of the silk variety. That is to say, those that adorn the crowns of the newest spring hats!
But does Charles care? He says that I will enjoy a rustic retreat. I think not.
The Uppercross estate is not extensive enough for camping. It’s wretched to live as gypsies for a fortnight, traveling about like vagabonds, but must we trespass on other people’s land as well? Shall we call at the mansion houses to ask permission? Risk seeing someone we know?
The Bedouin lifestyle is vastly overrated. Who in their right mind wishes to live in a tent? This is England, not the Sahara. Trust me, there is a reason my forefathers built castles (while everyone else’s built crude stone houses with thatched roofs). It’s called rain. Our ancestors wished to stay away from nature, not commune with it! In a house one is beyond the reach of foraging rodents, crawling insects, and rabid squirrels. I fail to see how lying on a cot in a tent can be anything but nightmarish.
Our servants will resent the extra work. Yes, they will—and Charles’ idea of giving them a holiday away from serving us is absurd. What do we know about cooking? And pitching tents? And fitting up mattresses from leaves and cut grasses, as Charles so imprudently envisions? He says we will cook our meals over an open fire—hamburgers and frankfurters. I say that Charles can take himself to Saxony if he wants German food.
Sleep deprivation is unhealthful. So too are bug bites, bruises from lying on rocks, and exposure to the damp night air. And then there are those flaming arguments that erupt over nothing.
Camping does not improve family values. Charles thinks we’ll sit around a rough-hewn table by lamplight with the boys and play card games. Such a scene is anything but appealing, for we’ll be constantly slapping at insects! Moreover, the games Charles proposes are outrageous. Slapjack. War. Gin-Rummy. Cheat. These do not sound at all suitable for young children! Look, I have enough trouble with their grandmother as it is, without her putting her oar in when they come home from camping and ask to play something called Cheat.
It is impossible to keep clean. I might be the sole woman in a family of males, but no matter. Personal hygiene is not up for the democratic vote. I have no intention of using a make-shift outdoor toilet or of being without clean linen. Moreover, although my young sons may run about and shout like savages, they do not need to be encouraged to eat and dress like them.
This summer our family will not be camping. If Charles wishes to play Army and bivouac himself in a tent like a soldier, I say he ought to join up. But that would never do. For of course he would get himself sent to some foreign place like Spain or France and be killed in the fighting. And then, being dead, he couldn’t inherit. And I’d never become mistress of Uppercross.
If he is so eager to be close to nature, Charles may “camp out” in the dog kennel, I think.
Mary Elliot Musgrove
Daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, Bart.
Future Mistress of Uppercross
Have you discovered Mercy’s Embrace?
Romance, adventure, and Admiral Patrick McGillvary are waiting …
Mary’s “portrait” is Afternoon Stroll by Giovanni Boldini