Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

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 cru, sade," 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

66

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

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 the picturesque group of healthy urchins hang

on

ing over the churchyard palings, or riding a roughcoated donkey in the adjoining shadowy lanes.

The news of old Mrs. Parkinson's death was communicated to her daughter through the friendly medium of Dr. Pennington, who had often unsuccessfully attempted to obtain a mitigation of the parental sentence. In less than a twelvemonth, old Mr. Parkinson followed his wife to the grave; and Hannah, after a fourteen years' silence, condescended to announce the misfortune to her sister. “There is no mention of you," she wrote, “ in his will; but as he said that he forgave you on his death-bed, I see no impropriety in writing to you, and shall be glad to hear from you in return. Inclosed is a fifty pound note for your mourning."

Mr. Wellford halted at the word “impropriety” with an angry "pshaw !” His wife, touched by softened remembrances of home, was sure poor Hannah meant kindly. She wiped away some natural tears, and lost no time in answering her sister's letter. The correspondence languished between them, however, in spite of Mrs. Wellford's endeavours to keep it up; and some months

had elapsed in silence when Mrs. Parkinson at length wrote to the following effect.

Park Place, Stoke Barton,

May 20th. DEAR SISTER,

I received yours of the 23d of February. I am sorry to hear Mr. Wellford was troubled with the tooth-ache when you wrote. Why does not he try nut-gall? Mr. Curtis says there's nothing like it. “Don't tell me,” says he,“ of tooth-achetry nut-gall." Aunt Diana is much the same in health as she used to be, but I think she ages very much. For all her fresh looks, I should not be surprised at her dropping off any day. Mr. Parkinson is uncommon well, though very deaf. As to myself, though I look clear, I'm always ailing. I'm sure I haven't known what it is to have a good night, I don't know how long. Mr. Curtis says

he thinks I should be better for change of

scene, and I think so too, for I am sick of Stoke Barton; but Mr. Parkinson does not like moving. I tell him he is an old man before his time, for he is as fixed in all his ways, and as much nailed to one place, as if he was seventy. However, I don't know, if it came to the push,

« ПредишнаНапред »