Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

on the other, kitchen and et ceteras behind, stairs up and down at every corner, and four oddly shaped bedrooms above. The garden, separated from the churchyard by a ruinous paling, was filled on one side with potatoes, on the other with cauliflowers run to seed; and the walks were verdant with moss. Such was the home to which Henry Wellford, who had only been presented to the vicarage just before his marriage, brought the young bride who had hitherto been accustomed to every comfort except that of kindness. Without complaining of their lot, they immediately set about the improvement of the face of things around them. The parlour chimney was cured of smoking, the walls were papered, book-shelves and curtains put up, the garden walks cleared, evergreens planted, and the palings mended and painted. Having made this promising beginning, Mr. and Mrs. Wellford had leisure to study each other's characters and those of their neighbours. Henry found his wife possessed of an ardent, enquiring mind which had hitherto been little cultivated, and a disposition which not even constant irritation had been able to spoil, prone to repent of its hasty errors, and full of charity and

melting kindness. In each other's society they felt no weariness, but neither of them was of a temper so fastidious as to turn with distaste from those among whom Providence had placed them, because their habits were less refined than their own. Almost immediately opposite the church, in a residence known as Okely Park, and which only required better keeping up to make it rank as a handsome country seat, lived old Lady Worral. The only two houses with sash windows in the village were tenanted, the one by Mr. Good the apothecary, the other by Mr. Greenway, a retired schoolmaster. Farmer Holland, the happy parent of three bouncing daughters, occupied a substantial dwelling in the midst of his corn-fields, about half a mile from Summerfield. The remaining population consisted of tradespeople and peasantry, who received the conciliatory visits of the new vicar and his wife with civility and gratitude. On nearer acquaintance with the superior class of their neighbours, they discovered that old Lady Worral was busy and interfering, eccentric in her dress and blunt in her manners; Mr. and Mrs. Good the best people in the world; Mr. Greenway a martyr to the rheumatism, and his

wife a fetcher and carrier of other people's observations; Farmer Holland a complete John Bull, with his joke and tankard; and the three Miss Hollands handsome, cheerful, and bustling. Young Mrs. Wellford was at first rather annoyed by the constant supervision of her titled neighbour; for old Lady Worral was always popping in upon her, in the garden, the parlour, or the kitchen; but she soon ceased to care whether she was caught in a coarse apron, or a gown pulled through the pocket hole, shelling peas or making a pudding; for Lady Worral had no notion of a "parson's wife sticking up to be a fine lady." Indeed the character of a fine lady was the object of her supreme contempt; for though she piqued herself much on her ancient birth, "being descended from the De Barneville that went on the first crusade," yet she considered it no degradation of her dignity to check her steward's accounts, look after her turkeys, scold the village children, and give Mrs. Wellford a receipt by word of mouth for that "heterogeneous combination of culinary ingredients" ycleped a hodge-podge.

The defunct Sir John Worral had been something of a humourist. "Knowledge is power,"

said he, "the power of making one's self disagreeable." That he might not make himself disagreeable, he never opened a book after he became his own master; but devoted himself to the gratification of an extraordinary passion for bell-ringing. At first he used to practise in the parish church, but his constant peals disturbing the studies or the slumbers of Mr. Wellford's predecessor, a quarrel ensued between baronet and vicar, and Sir John set up an opposition belfry in his own grounds. Here he and his men servants amused themselves many a long hour; ding-donging the good people of Summerfield out of their senses, and wearing Mr. Greenway to a thread with low spirits, except when a north wind carried the noise to Heeley and nearly put a stop to the business of the place. Sometimes they pealed, at other times they tolled; at length, Death, out of patience at so much tolling without any burials, took off Sir John. His relict sold the bells, and the campanile fell into decay.

Mrs. Wellford, from her cheerful, complying disposition, became a great favourite with the old dowager; a character which entailed on her so much vexatious interference that she was often

led to regret its attainment, and could only be reconciled to it by the reflection that Lady Worral, whom no affront could possibly force into indignant silence, would be ten times more noisily troublesome as an enemy than as a patronizing friend. She wondered that Henry appeared insensible to the annoyance, and was often momentarily provoked at the hearty cordiality of his

66

My dear Lady Worral, how kind of you to look in upon us with so little ceremony!" Men have small sympathy with female vexations at being caught mending shirts or dressed in ginghams.

Beyond these trials, Mrs. Wellford had few that do not fall to the lot of every housekeeper with a limited income and increasing family. She had occasionally a little difficulty in making both ends meet, but her husband smilingly reminded her that they were better off than Dr. Johnson's country friend, who brought up nine children on apple dumplings. Her boys and girls throve admirably on their plain fare; and often did the traveller, whom the beauty of the scenery had allured to pass through Summerfield, pause to gaze on the picturesque group of healthy urchins hang

B 3

« ПредишнаНапред »