Charlotte Mary Yonge (1823-1901) was an English novelist known for her huge output, now mostly out of print. This novel talk about a young family in England who effect a reform among the uncivilized Uphill inhabitants.
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“For thy walls a pretty slight drollery.”The Second Part of King Henry IV.
“A bad lot. Yes, sir, a thoroughly bad lot.”
“You don’t mean it.”
“Yes, ma’am, a bad lot is the Uphill people. Good for nothing and ungrateful! I’ve known them these thirty-years, and no one will do anything with them.”
The time was the summer of 1822. The place was a garden, somewhat gone to waste, with a gravel drive running round a great circle of periwinkles with a spotted aucuba in the middle. There was a low, two-storied house, with green shutters, green Venetian blinds, and a rather shabby verandah painted in alternate stripes of light and darker green. In front stood a high gig, with a tall old, bony horse trying to munch the young untrimmed shoots of a lilac in front of him as he waited for the speaker, a lawyer, dressed as country attorneys were wont to dress in those days, in a coat of invisible green, where the green constantly became more visible, brown trousers, and under them drab gaiters. He was addressing a gentleman in a blue coat and nankeen trousers, but evidently military, and two ladies in white dresses, narrow as to the skirts, but full in the sleeves. One had a blue scarf over her shoulders and blue ribbons in her very large Leghorn bonnet; the other had the same in green, and likewise a green veil. Her bonnet was rather more trimmed, the dress more embroidered, the scarf of a richer, broader material than the other’s, and it was thus evident that she was the married sister; but they were a good deal alike, with the same wholesome smooth complexion, brown eyes, and hair in great shining rolls under their bonnet caps, much the same pleasant expression, and the same neat little feet in crossed sandalled shoes and white stockings showing out beneath their white tambour-worked gowns.
With the above verdict, the lawyer made his parting bow, and drove off along a somewhat rough road through two pasture fields. The first gate, white and ornamental, was held open for him by an old man in a short white smock and long leathern gaiters, the second his own servant opened, the third was held by half a dozen shock-headed children, with their backs against it and hands held out, but in vain; he only smacked his driving-whip over their heads, and though he did not strike any of them, they requited it with a prolonged yell, which reached the ears of the trio in front of the house.
“I’m afraid it is not far from the truth,” said the green lady.
“Oh no; I am sure he is a horrid man,” said her blue sister. “I would not believe him for a moment.”
“Only with a qualification,” rejoined the gentleman.
“But, Edmund, couldn’t you be sure that it is just what he would say, whatever the people were?”
“I am equally sure that the exaction of rents is not the way to see people at their best.”
“Come in, come in! We have all our settling in to do, and no time for you two to fight.”
Edmund, Mary, Dorothea, and Sophia Carbonel were second cousins, who had always known one another in the house of the girls’ father, a clergyman in a large country town. Edmund had been in the army just in time for the final battles of the Peninsular war, and had since served with the army of occupation and in Canada. He had always meant that Mary should be his wife, but the means were wanting to set up housekeeping, until the death of an old uncle of his mother’s made him heir to Greenhow Farm, an estate bringing in about 500 pounds a year. Mary and her next sister Dora had in the meantime lost their parents, and had been living with some relations in London, where their much younger sister Sophy was at school, until Edmund, coming home, looked over the farm, decided that it would be a fit home for the sisters, and retired from the army forthwith. Thus then, after a brief tour among the Lakes, they had taken up Dora in London, and here they were; Sophy was to join them when the holidays began. Disorder reigned indeed within, and hammers resounded, nor was the passage easy among the packing-cases that encumbered the narrow little vestibule whence the stairs ascended.
Under the verandah were the five sash windows of the three front rooms, the door, of course, in the middle. Each had a little shabby furniture, to which the Carbonels were adding, and meant to add more; the dining-room had already been papered with red flock in stripes, the drawing-room with a very delicate white, on which were traced in tender colouring-baskets of vine leaves and laburnums.
Dora gave a little scream. “Look! Between the windows, Mary; see, the laburnums and grapes are hanging upward.”
“Stupid people!” exclaimed Mary, “I see. Happily, it is only on that one piece, but how Edmund will be vexed.”
“Perhaps there is another piece unused.”
“I am sure I hope there is! Don’t you know, Edmund fell in love with it at Paris. It was his first provision for future housekeeping, and it was lying laid up in lavender all these years till we were ready for it.”
“It is only that one division, which is a comfort.”
“What’s the matter?” and the master of the house came in.
“Senseless beings! It must be covered directly. It is a desight to the whole room. Here!” and he went out to the carpenter, who was universal builder to the village, and was laying down the stair carpet. “Here, Hewlett, do you see what you have done?”
Hewlett, a large man with a smooth, plump, but honest face, came in, in his shirt sleeves, apron, and paper cap, touched his forehead to the ladies, stood, and stared.
“Can’t you see?” sharply demanded the captain.
Hewlett scratched his head, and gazed round.
“See here! How do grapes grow? Or laburnums?”
An idea broke in on him.
“What! they be topsy-turvy?” he slowly observed, after looking from the faulty breadth to the next.
“Of course they are. Find the rest of the paper! We must have a piece put on at once, or the whole appearance of the room is spoilt,” said Captain Carbonel. “It will make a delay, but it must be done at once. Where is the piece left over?”
Hewlett retreated to find it, while the captain said something about “stupid ass.”
Presently his gruff voice was heard demanding, “Dan, I say, where’s the remnant of that there fancy paper?”
Dan’s answer did not rise into audible words, but presently Hewlett tramped back, saying, “There ain’t none, sir.”
“I tell you there must be,” returned the captain, in the same angry tones. And he proceeded to show that the number of pieces he had bought, and the measure of which he had ascertained, was such that there ought to have been half-a-piece left over from papering the room, the size of which he had exactly taken. Hewlett could do nothing but stolidly repeat that “there weren’t none left, not enow to make a mouse’s nest.”
“Who did the papering? Did you?”
“Daniel Hewlett, sir, he did the most on it. My cousin, sir.”
The captain fell upon Daniel, who had more words at command, but was equally strong in denial of having any remnant. “They had only skimped out enough,” he said, “just enough for the walls, and it was a close fit anyhow.”
The captain loudly declared it impossible, but Mary ran out in the midst to suggest that mayhap the defect was in the French measure. Each piece might not have been the true number of whatever they called them in that new revolutionary fashion.
Dan Hewlett’s face cleared up. “Ay, ’tis the French measure, sure, sir. Of course they can’t do nothing true and straight! I be mortal sorry the ladies is disappointed, but it bain’t no fault of mine, sir.”
“And look here, Edmund,” continued Mary, “it will not spoil the room at all if Mr Hewlett will help move the tall bureau against it, and we’ll hang the ‘Death of General Wolfe’ above it, and then there won’t be more than two bits of laburnum to be seen, even if you are curious enough to get upon a chair to investigate.”
“Well, it must be so,” returned Captain Carbonel, “but I hate the idea of makeshifts and having imperfections concealed.”
“Just like you, Edmund,” laughed Dora. “You will always seem to be looking right through at the upright sprays, though all the solid weight of Hume, Gibbon, and Rollin is in front of them.”
“Precisely,” said Edmund. “It is not well to feel that there is anything to be hidden. The chief part of the vexation is, however,” he added—shutting the door and lowering his voice—“that I am convinced that there must have been foul play somewhere.”
“Oh, Edmund; French measure!”
“Nonsense! That does not account for at least a whole piece disappearing.”
He took out a pencil, and went again into his calculations, while his sister-in-law indignantly exclaimed—
“It is all prejudice, because that horrid attorney said all these poor people were a bad lot.”
“Hush, hush!” said Mrs Carbonel, rather frightened, and—
“I advise you to think before you speak,” said Captain Carbonel quietly but sternly.
Still Dora could not help saying, as soon as she was alone with her sister, “I shall believe in the French measure. I like that slow, dull man, and I am sure he is honest.”
“Yes, dear, only pray don’t say any more to Edmund, but let us get the book-case placed as fast as we can, and let him forget all about it.”
“Thank you, pretty cow, that gave Pleasant milk to soak my bread, Every day and every night Warm and fresh, and sweet and bright.”J. Taylor.
Darkness had descended before there had been time to do more than shake into the downstair rooms and bedrooms and be refreshed with the evening meal, but with morning began the survey of the new home.
The front part of the house had three living rooms, with large sash windows, almost to the ground, shaded by the verandah. These were drawing-room, dining-room, and study, the last taken out of the entry, where was the staircase, and there were three similar rooms above. These had been added by the late owner to the original farmhouse, with a fine old-fashioned kitchen that sent Mary and Dora into greater raptures than their cook. There were offices around, a cool dairy, where stood great red glazed pans of delicious-looking cream and milk, and a clean white wooden churn that Dora longed to handle. The farmhouse rooms were between it and the new ones, and there were a good many rooms above, the red-tiled roof rising much higher than that of the more modern part of the house. There was a narrow paling in front, and then came the farmyard, enclosed in barns, cow-houses and cart-sheds, and a cottage where the bailiff, Master Pucklechurch, had taken up his abode, having hitherto lived in the farmhouse. He was waiting to show Captain Carbonel over the farm. He was a grizzled, stooping old fellow, with a fine, handsome, sunburnt face; bright, shrewd, dark eyes looking out between puckers, a short white smock-frock, and long gaiters. It was not their notion of a bailiff but the lawyer, who was so chary of his praise, had said that old Master Pucklechurch and his wife were absolutely trustworthy. They had managed the farm in the interregnum, and brought him weekly accounts in their heads, for neither could write, with the most perfect regularity and minuteness. And his face did indeed bespeak confidence in his honesty, as he touched his hat in answer to the greeting.
The ladies, however, looked and smelt in some dismay, for the centre of the yard was a mountain of manure and straw, with a puce-coloured pond beside it. On the summit of the mountain a handsome ruddy cock, with a splendid dark-green arched tail, clucked, chuckled, and scratched for his speckled, rose-crowned hens, a green-headed, curly-tailed drake “steered forth his fleet upon the lake” of brown ducks and their yellow progeny, and pigs of the plum-pudding order rooted in the intermediate regions. The road which led to the cart-sheds and to the house, skirted round this unsavoury tract.
“Oh, Edmund!” sighed Mary.
“Farmer’s wife, Mary,” said her husband, smiling. “It ought to be a perfect nosegay to you.”
“I’m sure it is not wholesome,” she said, looking really distressed, and he dropped his teasing tone, and said—
“Of course it shall be remedied! I will see to it.”
A dismal screeching and cackling here attracted the attention of the sisters, who started towards Pucklechurch’s cottage, and the fowl-house, (a very foul house by the by) in front of which, on a low wooden stool, sat a tidy old woman, Betty Pucklechurch in fact, in a tall muslin cap, spotted kerchief blue gown, and coarse apron, with a big girl before her holding the unfortunate hen, whose cries had startled them.
“Oh, don’t go near! She is killing it,” cried Dora.
“No;” as the hen, with a final squawk, shook out her ruffled feathers, and rushed away to tell her woes to her companions on the dunghill, while the old woman jumped up, smoothed down her apron, and curtsied low.
“What were you doing?” asked Mary, still startled.
“Only whipping her breast with nettles, ma’am, to teach her to sit close in her nest, the plaguey thing, and not be gadding after the rest.”
“Poor thing!” cried Dora. “But oh, look, look, Mary, at the dear little chickens!”
They were in the greatest delight at the three broods of downy little chickens, and one of ducklings, whose parent hens were clucking in coops; and in the kitchen they found a sickly one nursed in flannel in a basket, and an orphaned lamb which staggered upon its disproportionate black legs at sight of Betty.
“Ay! he be always after me,” she said. “They terrify one terrible, as if ’twas their mother, till they can run with the rest.”
Dora would have petted the lamb, but it retreated from her behind Betty’s petticoats, and she could only listen to Mary’s questions about how much butter was made from how many cows milk, and then be taken to see the two calves, one of which Betty pronounced to be “but a staggering Bob yet, but George Butcher would take he in a sen’night,” which sounded so like senate, that it set Dora wondering what council was to pronounce on the fate of the poor infant bull.
Over his stall, Edmund found them, after an inspection of the pig-styes, and having much offended Master Pucklechurch by declaring that he would have them kept clean, and the pigs no longer allowed to range about the yard.
“Bless you, sir, the poor things would catch their death of cold and die,” was the answer to the one edict; and to the other, “They’d never take to their victuals, nor fat kindly without their range first.”
“Then let them have it in the home-field out there, where I see plenty of geese.”
“They’ll spile every bit of grass, sir,” was the growling objection; and still worse was the suggestion, which gradually rose into a command, that the “muck-heap” should be removed to the said home-field, and never allowed to accumulate in such close proximity to the house.
Pucklechurch said little; but his “If it be your will, sir,” sounded like a snarl, and after ruminating for some time, he brought out—as if it were an answer to a question about the team of horses—
“We’ll have to take on another boy, let be a man, if things is to be a that ’en a.”
“Let us, then,” said the captain, and joined his ladies, with the old man depressed and grumbling inwardly.
There was an orchard preparing to be beautiful with blossom, and a considerable kitchen garden at the back and on the other side of the house, bounded by an exceedingly dirty and be-rutted farm road, over which the carriage had jolted the evening before. The extensive home-field in front was shut off from the approach by a belt of evergreens, and sloped slightly upwards towards the hill which gave the parish its name.
“We will cut off a nice carriage road,” said Mary, as she looked at it.
“All in good time,” replied her husband, not wishing further to shock poor Master Pucklechurch, who had to conduct the party to the arable fields—one of which was being ploughed by three fine sleek horses, led by Bill Morris, with his father at the shafts. In another, their approach was greeted by hideous yells and shouts which made Dora start.
“Ay, ay,” said Pucklechurch, “he knows how to holler when he see me a-coming;” and at the same time a black-specked cloud of rooks rose up from the furrows, the old man stamping towards the boy who ought to have been keeping them, vituperating him in terms that it was as well not to hear.
And it was such a tiny boy after all, and in such a pair of huge boots with holes showing his bare toes. However, they served him to run away from Master Pucklechurch into the furthest ditch, and if the ladies had designs on him, they had to be deferred.
On the opposite side were more fields, with crops in various stages, one lovely with the growing wheat and barley, another promising potatoes, and another beans; and beyond, towards the river, were meadows parted by broad hedgerows, with paths between, in which a few primroses and golden celandines looked up beneath the withy buds and the fluttering hazel catkins. Then came the meadows, in one of which fed the cows, pretty buff-and-white creatures, and in another field were hurdled the sheep, among their dole of turnips, sheep and turnips alike emitting an odour of the most unpleasant kind, and the deep baas of the ewes, and the thinner wail of the lambs made a huge mass of sounds; while Captain Carbonel tried to talk to Master Buttermere the shepherd, a silent, crusty, white-haired old man in a green smock and grey old coat, who growled out scarcely a word.
So the tour of the property was made, and old Pucklechurch expressed his opinion. “He’ll never make nothing of it; he is too outlandish and full of his fancies, and his madam’s a fine lady. ’Pon my word and honour, she was frought at that there muck-heap!”
This pleasant augury was of course not known to the new-comers, who found something so honest and worthy about the Pucklechurches that they could not help liking them, though Mrs Carbonel had another tussle with Betty about fresh butter. “It war no good to make it more than once a week. Folk liked it tasty and meller;” and that the Carbonels had by no means the same likings, made her hold up her hands and agree with her husband that their failure was certain. These first few days were spent in the needful arrangements of house and furniture, during which time Captain Carbonel came to the conclusion that no one could be more stupid or awkward than Master Hewlett, but that he was an honest man, and tried to do his best, such as it was, while his relation, Dan, though cleverer, was much more slippery, and could not be depended upon. Dora asked Master Hewlett what schools there were in the place, and he made answer that the little ones went in to Dame Verdon, but she didn’t make much of it, not since she had had the shaking palsy, and she could not give the lads the stick. He thought of sending his biggest lad to school at Poppleby next spring, but ’twas a long way, and his good woman didn’t half like it, not unless there was someone going the same way.
Betty Pucklechurch’s account amounted to much the same. “Dame Verdon had had the school nigh about forty years. She had taught them all to read their Testament, all as stayed long enough, for there was plenty for the children to do; and folks said she wasn’t up to hitting them as she used to be.”
Farmer Goodenough, the churchwarden, who came to see Captain Carbonel about the letting of a field which was mixed up with the Greenhow property, gave something of the like character. “She is getting old, certain sure, but she is a deserving woman, and she keeps off the parish.”
“But can she teach the children?”
“She can teach them all they need to know, and keep the little ones out of mischief,” said the farmer, perhaps beginning to be alarmed. “No use to learn them no more. What do they want of it for working in the fields or milking the cows?”
“They ought at least to know their duty to God and their neighbour,” said Captain Carbonel. “Is there no Sunday School?”
“No, sir,”—very bluntly. “I hear talk of such things at Poppleby and the like,” he added, “but we don’t want none of them here. The lot here are quite bad enough, without maggots being put into their heads.”
Captain Carbonel did not wish to continue the subject. The farmer’s own accent did not greatly betoken acquaintance with schools of any sort.
Of course the wife and sister were amused as well as saddened by his imitative account of the farmer’s last speech, but they meant to study the subject on their first Sunday. They had learnt already that Uphill Priors was a daughter church to Downhill Priors, and had only one service on a Sunday, alternate mornings and evenings. The vicar was the head of a house at Oxford, and only came to the parsonage in the summer. The services were provided for by a curate, living at Downhill, with the assistance of the master of a private school, to whom the vicarage was let. When Captain Carbonel asked Master Pucklechurch about the time, he answered, “Well, sir, ’tis morning churching. So it will be half-past ten, or else eleven, or else no time at all.”
“What, do you mean that there will be none?”
“No, sir. There will be churching sure enough, but just as time may chance, not to call it an hour. Best way is to start as soon as you sights the parson a-coming past the gate down there. Then you’re sure to be in time. Bell strikes out as soon as they sees him beyond the ‘Prior’s Lane.’”
The Carbonels, in Sunday trim, with William the man-servant, and two maids, their Prayerbooks in white pocket-handkerchiefs, following in the rear, set forth for the gate, in the spring freshness. The grass in the fields was beginning to grow up, the hedges were sprouting with tender greens and reds, the polished stems of the celandine were opening to the sunshine in the banks, with here and there a primrose. Birds were singing all round, and a lark overhead—most delightful pleasures to those so long shut up in a town. It was the side of a hill, where the fields were cut out into most curious forms, probably to suit the winding of a little brook or the shape of the ground; and there were, near the bottom, signs of a mass of daffodils, which filled the sisters with delight, though daffodils were not then the fashion, and were rather despised as yellow and scentless.
As they came near the second gate, they saw a black figure go by on an old white horse; then they came out on a long ascending lane with deep ruts, bordered by fresh soft turf on either sides, with hawthorn hedges, and at intervals dark yew trees.
A cracked bell struck up, by which they understood that the clergyman had come in sight, and they came themselves out upon a village green, where geese, donkeys, and boys in greenish smock-frocks, seemed to be all mixed up together. Thatched cottages stood round the green, and a public-house—the “Fox and Hounds.” The sign consisted of a hunt, elaborately cut out in tin, huntsman, dogs, and fox, rushing across from the inn on a high uplifted rod of iron, fastened into a pole on the further side of the road, whence the sound of the bell proceeded, and whither the congregation in smock-frocks and black bonnets were making their way.
Following in this direction, the Carbonels, much amused, passed under the hunt, went some distance further, and found a green churchyard, quite shut in by tall elm trees, which, from the road, almost hid the tiny tumble-down church, from whose wooden belfry the call proceeded. It really seemed to be buried in the earth, and the little side windows looked out into a ditch. There were two steps to go down into the deep porch, and within there seemed to be small space between the roof and the top of the high square pew into which they were ushered by Master Hewlett, who, it seemed, was the parish clerk.
They saw little from it, but on one side, hung from the roof a huge panel with the royal arms, painted in the reign of William and Mary, as the initials in the corners testified, and with the lion licking his lips most comically; on the other side was a great patch of green damp; behind, a gallery, full of white smock-frocked men with their knees thrust through the rails in front. Immediately before them rose the tall erection of pulpit, the fusty old cushion and tassels, each faded to a different tint, overhanging so much that Dora could not help thinking that a thump from an energetic preacher would send it down on Edmund’s head in a cloud of dust. There was the reading-desk below, whence the edges of a ragged Prayer-book protruded, and above it presently appeared a very full but much-frayed surplice, and a thin worn face between white whiskers. The service was quietly and reverently read, but not a response seemed to come from anywhere except from Master Hewlett’s powerful lungs, somewhere in the rear, and there was a certain murmur of chattering in the chancel followed by a resounding whack. Then Master Hewlett’s head was seen, and his steps heard as he tramped along the aisle and climbed up the gallery stairs, as the General Thanksgiving began, and there he shouted out the number of the Psalm, “new version,” that is, from Brady and Tate, which every one had bound up with the Prayer-book. Then a bassoon brayed, and a fiddle squealed, and the Psalm resounded with hearty goodwill and better tone than could have been expected.
Master Hewlett stayed to assist in the second singing, and the children, who sat on low forms and on the chancel step, profited by it to make their voices more audible than the Commandments, though the clergyman had not gone to the altar, and once in the course of the sermon, Captain Carbonel was impelled to stand up and look over the edge of the pew, when he beheld a battle royal going on over a length of string, between a boy in a blue petticoat and one in a fustian jacket. At the unwonted sight, the fustian-clad let go, and blue petticoat tumbled over backwards, kicking up a great pair of red legs, grey socks, and imperfect but elephantine boots, and howling at the same time. The preacher stopped short, the clerk had by this time worked his way down from the gallery, and, collaring both the antagonists, hauled them out into the churchyard, the triple stamping being heard on the pavement all the way. The sermon was resumed and read to its conclusion. It was a very good one, but immensely beyond the capacity of the congregation, and Mary Carbonel had a strong suspicion that she had heard it before.
It was only on coming out that any notion could be gathered of the congregation. There were a good many men and big boys, in smocks, a few green, but most of them beautifully white and embroidered; their wearers had sat without books through the whole service, and now came out with considerable trampling.
The pews contained the young girls in gorgeous colours, the old women, and the better class of people, but not many of them, for the “petit noblesse” of Uphill were very “petit” indeed, in means and numbers; but their bonnets were enormous, and had red or purple bows standing upright on them, and the farmers had drab coats and long gaiters. The old dames curtsied low, the little girls stared, and the boys peeped out from behind the slanting old headstones and grinned. Some of them had been playing at marbles on the top of the one square old monument, until routed by Master Hewlett on his coming out with the two combatants.
Captain Carbonel had gone round to the vestry door to make acquaintance with the clergyman, though Farmer Goodenough informed him in an audible whisper, “He ain’t the right one, sir; he be only schoolmaster.”
And when the two met at the door, and the captain shook hands and said that they would be neighbours, he was received with a certain hesitating smile.
“I should tell you, sir, that I am only taking occasional duty here—assisting. I am Mr Atkins. I have a select private academy at the vicarage, which the President of Saint Cyril’s lets to me. He is here in the summer holidays.”
“I understand. The curate lives at Downhill!” said Captain Carbonel.
“At the priory, in fact, with his father’s family. Yes, it is rather an unfortunate state of affairs,” he said, answering the captain’s countenance rather than his words; “but I have no responsibility. I merely assist in the Sunday duty; and, indeed, I advise you to have as little to do with the Uphill people as possible. An idle good-for-nothing set! Any magistrate would tell you that there’s no parish where they have so many up before them.”
“No wonder!” said Captain Carbonel under his breath.
“A bad set,” repeated Mr Atkins, pausing at the shed where his old grey horse was put up; and there they parted.
The captain and his wife and her sister walked to Downhill, two miles off, across broad meadows, a river, and a pretty old bridge, the next Sunday morning, found the church scantily filled, but with more respectable-looking people, and heard the same sermon over again, so that Mary was able to identify it with one in a published volume.
“You ask me why the poor complain, And these have answered thee.”Southey.
“Hullo, Molly Hewlett, who’d ha’ thought of seeing you out here?”
It was in a wet turnip field, and a row of women were stooping over it, picking out the weeds. The one that was best off had great boots, a huge weight to carry in themselves; but most had them sadly torn and broken. Their skirts, of no particular colour, were tucked up, and they had either a very old man’s coat, or a smock-frock cut short, or a small old woollen shawl, which last left the blue and red arms bare; on their heads were the oldest of bonnets, or here and there a sun-bonnet, which looked more decent. One or two babies were waiting in the hedgeside in the charge of little girls.
“Molly Hewlett,” exclaimed another of the set, straightening herself up. “Why, I thought your Dan was working with Master Hewlett, for they Gobblealls,” (which was what Uphill made of Carbonel).
“So he be; but what is a poor woman to do when more than half his wage goes to the ‘Fox and Hounds,’ and she has five children to keep and my poor sister, not able to do a turn? There’s George Hewlett, grumbling and growling at him too, and no one knows how long he’ll keep him on.”
“What! George, his cousin, as was bound to keep him on?”
“I don’t know; George is that particular himself, and them new folks, Gobbleall as they call them, are right down mean, and come down on you if they misses one little mossle of parkisit; and there’s my poor sister to keep—as is afflicted, and can’t do nothing!”
“But she pays you handsome,” said Betsy Seddon, “and looks after the children besides.”
“Pays, indeed! Not half enough to keep her, with all the trouble of helping her about! Not that I grudges it, but she wants things extry, you see, and Dan he don’t like it. But no doubt the ladies will take notice of her.”
“I thought the lady kind enough,” interposed another woman. “She noticed how lame our granny was with the rheumatics, and told me to send up for broth.”
“We wants somewhat bad enough,” returned another thin woman, with her hand to her side. “Nobody never does nothing for no one here!”
“Nor we don’t want no one to come worriting and terrifying,” cried the last of the group, with fierce black eyes and rusty black hair sticking out beyond her man’s beaver hat, tied on with a yellow handkerchief. “Always at one about church and school, and meddling with everything—the ribbon on one’s bonnet and to the very pots on the fire. I knows what they be like in Tydeby! And what do you get by it, but old cast clothes and broth made of dish-washings?” She enforced all this with more than one word not to be written.
“I know, I’d be thankful for that!” murmured the thin woman, who looked as if she had barely a petticoat on, and could have had scarcely a breakfast.
“Oh, we all know’s Bessy Mole is all for what she can get!” said the independent woman, tossing her head.
“And had need to be,” returned Molly Hewlett, in a scornful tone, which made the poor woman in question stoop all the lower, and pull her groundsel more diligently.
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