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Cranford by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

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verses sent me by my honoured husband. I thowt to have had a
letter about killing the pig, but must wait. Mem., to send the
poetry to Sir Peter Arley, as my husband desires." And in a post-
scriptum note in his handwriting it was stated that the Ode had
appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine, December 1782.

Her letters back to her husband (treasured as fondly by him as if
they had been M. T. Ciceronis Epistolae) were more satisfactory to
an absent husband and father than his could ever have been to her.
She told him how Deborah sewed her seam very neatly every day, and
read to her in the books he had set her; how she was a very
"forrard," good child, but would ask questions her mother could not
answer, but how she did not let herself down by saying she did not
know, but took to stirring the fire, or sending the "forrard" child
on an errand. Matty was now the mother's darling, and promised
(like her sister at her age), to be a great beauty. I was reading
this aloud to Miss Matty, who smiled and sighed a little at the
hope, so fondly expressed, that "little Matty might not be vain,
even if she were a bewty."

"I had very pretty hair, my dear," said Mist Matilda; "and not a
bad mouth." And I saw her soon afterwards adjust her cap and draw
herself up.

But to return to Mrs Jenkyns's letters. She told her husband about
the poor in the parish; what homely domestic medicines she had
administered; what kitchen physic she had sent. She had evidently
held his displeasure as a rod in pickle over the heads of all the
ne'er-do-wells. She asked for his directions about the cows and
pigs; and did not always obtain them, as I have shown before.

The kind old grandmother was dead when a little boy was born, soon
after the publication of the sermon; but there was another letter
of exhortation from the grandfather, more stringent and admonitory
than ever, now that there was a boy to be guarded from the snares
of the world. He described all the various sins into which men
might fall, until I wondered how any man ever came to a natural
death. The gallows seemed as if it must have been the termination
of the lives of most of the grandfather's friends and acquaintance;
and I was not surprised at the way in which he spoke of this life
being "a vale of tears."

It seemed curious that I should never have heard of this brother
before; but I concluded that he had died young, or else surely his
name would have been alluded to by his sisters.

By-and-by we came to packets of Miss Jenkyns's letters. These Miss
Matty did regret to burn. She said all the others had been only
interesting to those who loved the writers, and that it seemed as
if it would have hurt her to allow them to fall into the hands of
strangers, who had not known her dear mother, and how good she was,
although she did not always spell, quite in the modern fashion; but
Deborah's letters were so very superior! Any one might profit by
reading them. It was a long time since she had read Mrs Chapone,
but she knew she used to think that Deborah could have said the
same things quite as well; and as for Mrs Carter! people thought a
deal of her letters, just because she had written "Epictetus," but
she was quite sure Deborah would never have made use of such a
common expression as "I canna be fashed!"

Miss Matty did grudge burning these letters, it was evident. She
would not let them be carelessly passed over with any quiet
reading, and skipping, to myself. She took them from me, and even
lighted the second candle in order to read them aloud with a proper
emphasis, and without stumbling over the big words. Oh dear! how I
wanted facts instead of reflections, before those letters were
concluded! They lasted us two nights; and I won't deny that I made
use of the time to think of many other things, and yet I was always
at my post at the end of each sentence.

The rector's letters, and those of his wife and mother-in-law, had
all been tolerably short and pithy, written in a straight hand,
with the lines very close together. Sometimes the whole letter was
contained on a mere scrap of paper. The paper was very yellow, and
the ink very brown; some of the sheets were (as Miss Matty made me
observe) the old original post, with the stamp in the corner
representing a post-boy riding for life and twanging his horn. The
letters of Mrs Jenkyns and her mother were fastened with a great
round red wafer; for it was before Miss Edgeworth's "patronage" had
banished wafers from polite society. It was evident, from the
tenor of what was said, that franks were in great request, and were
even used as a means of paying debts by needy members of
Parliament. The rector sealed his epistles with an immense coat of
arms, and showed by the care with which he had performed this
ceremony that he expected they should be cut open, not broken by
any thoughtless or impatient hand. Now, Miss Jenkyns's letters
were of a later date in form and writing. She wrote on the square
sheet which we have learned to call old-fashioned. Her hand was
admirably calculated, together with her use of many-syllabled
words, to fill up a sheet, and then came the pride and delight of
crossing. Poor Miss Matty got sadly puzzled with this, for the
words gathered size like snowballs, and towards the end of her
letter Miss Jenkyns used to become quite sesquipedalian. In one to
her father, slightly theological and controversial in its tone, she
had spoken of Herod, Tetrarch of Idumea. Miss Matty read it "Herod
Petrarch of Etruria," and was just as well pleased as if she had
been right.

I can't quite remember the date, but I think it was in 1805 that
Miss Jenkyns wrote the longest series of letters--on occasion of
her absence on a visit to some friends near Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
These friends were intimate with the commandant of the garrison
there, and heard from him of all the preparations that were being
made to repel the invasion of Buonaparte, which some people
imagined might take place at the mouth of the Tyne. Miss Jenkyns
was evidently very much alarmed; and the first part of her letters
was often written in pretty intelligible English, conveying
particulars of the preparations which were made in the family with
whom she was residing against the dreaded event; the bundles of
clothes that were packed up ready for a flight to Alston Moor (a
wild hilly piece of ground between Northumberland and Cumberland);
the signal that was to be given for this flight, and for the
simultaneous turning out of the volunteers under arms--which said
signal was to consist (if I remember rightly) in ringing the church
bells in a particular and ominous manner. One day, when Miss
Jenkyns and her hosts were at a dinner-party in Newcastle, this
warning summons was actually given (not a very wise proceeding, if
there be any truth in the moral attached to the fable of the Boy
and the Wolf; but so it was), and Miss Jenkyns, hardly recovered
from her fright, wrote the next day to describe the sound, the
breathless shock, the hurry and alarm; and then, taking breath, she
added, "How trivial, my dear father, do all our apprehensions of
the last evening appear, at the present moment, to calm and
enquiring minds!" And here Miss Matty broke in with -

"But, indeed, my dear, they were not at all trivial or trifling at
the time. I know I used to wake up in the night many a time and
think I heard the tramp of the French entering Cranford. Many
people talked of hiding themselves in the salt mines--and meat
would have kept capitally down there, only perhaps we should have
been thirsty. And my father preached a whole set of sermons on the
occasion; one set in the mornings, all about David and Goliath, to
spirit up the people to fighting with spades or bricks, if need
were; and the other set in the afternoons, proving that Napoleon
(that was another name for Bony, as we used to call him) was all
the same as an Apollyon and Abaddon. I remember my father rather
thought he should be asked to print this last set; but the parish
had, perhaps, had enough of them with hearing."

Peter Marmaduke Arley Jenkyns ("poor Peter!" as Miss Matty began to
call him) was at school at Shrewsbury by this time. The rector
took up his pen, and rubbed up his Latin once more, to correspond
with his boy. It was very clear that the lad's were what are
called show letters. They were of a highly mental description,
giving an account of his studies, and his intellectual hopes of
various kinds, with an occasional quotation from the classics; but,
now and then, the animal nature broke out in such a little sentence
as this, evidently written in a trembling hurry, after the letter
had been inspected: "Mother dear, do send me a cake, and put
plenty of citron in." The "mother dear" probably answered her boy
in the form of cakes and "goody," for there were none of her
letters among this set; but a whole collection of the rector's, to
whom the Latin in his boy's letters was like a trumpet to the old
war-horse. I do not know much about Latin, certainly, and it is,
perhaps, an ornamental language, but not very useful, I think--at
least to judge from the bits I remember out of the rector's
letters. One was, "You have not got that town in your map of
Ireland; but Bonus Bernardus non videt omnia, as the Proverbia
say." Presently it became very evident that "poor Peter" got
himself into many scrapes. There were letters of stilted penitence
to his father, for some wrong-doing; and among them all was a
badly-written, badly-sealed, badly-directed, blotted note:- "My
dear, dear, dear, dearest mother, I will be a better boy; I will,
indeed; but don't, please, be ill for me; I am not worth it; but I
will be good, darling mother."

Miss Matty could not speak for crying, after she had read this
note. She gave it to me in silence, and then got up and took it to
her sacred recesses in her own room, for fear, by any chance, it
might get burnt. "Poor Peter!" she said; "he was always in
scrapes; he was too easy. They led him wrong, and then left him in
the lurch. But he was too fond of mischief. He could never resist
a joke. Poor Peter!"


Poor Peter's career lay before him rather pleasantly mapped out by
kind friends, but Bonus Bernardus non videt omnia, in this map too.
He was to win honours at the Shrewsbury School, and carry them
thick to Cambridge, and after that, a living awaited him, the gift
of his godfather, Sir Peter Arley. Poor Peter! his lot in life was
very different to what his friends had hoped and planned. Miss
Matty told me all about it, and I think it was a relief when she
had done so.

He was the darling of his mother, who seemed to dote on all her
children, though she was, perhaps, a little afraid of Deborah's
superior acquirements. Deborah was the favourite of her father,
and when Peter disappointed him, she became his pride. The sole
honour Peter brought away from Shrewsbury was the reputation of
being the best good fellow that ever was, and of being the captain
of the school in the art of practical joking. His father was
disappointed, but set about remedying the matter in a manly way.
He could not afford to send Peter to read with any tutor, but he
could read with him himself; and Miss Matty told me much of the
awful preparations in the way of dictionaries and lexicons that
were made in her father's study the morning Peter began.

"My poor mother!" said she. "I remember how she used to stand in
the hall, just near enough the study-door, to catch the tone of my
father's voice. I could tell in a moment if all was going right,
by her face. And it did go right for a long time."

"What went wrong at last?" said I. "That tiresome Latin, I dare

"No! it was not the Latin. Peter was in high favour with my
father, for he worked up well for him. But he seemed to think that
the Cranford people might be joked about, and made fun of, and they
did not like it; nobody does. He was always hoaxing them;
'hoaxing' is not a pretty word, my dear, and I hope you won't tell
your father I used it, for I should not like him to think that I
was not choice in my language, after living with such a woman as
Deborah. And be sure you never use it yourself. I don't know how
it slipped out of my mouth, except it was that I was thinking of
poor Peter and it was always his expression. But he was a very
gentlemanly boy in many things. He was like dear Captain Brown in
always being ready to help any old person or a child. Still, he
did like joking and making fun; and he seemed to think the old
ladies in Cranford would believe anything. There were many old
ladies living here then; we are principally ladies now, I know, but
we are not so old as the ladies used to be when I was a girl. I
could laugh to think of some of Peter's jokes. No, my dear, I
won't tell you of them, because they might not shock you as they
ought to do, and they were very shocking. He even took in my
father once, by dressing himself up as a lady that was passing
through the town and wished to see the Rector of Cranford, 'who had
published that admirable Assize Sermon.' Peter said he was awfully
frightened himself when he saw how my father took it all in, and
even offered to copy out all his Napoleon Buonaparte sermons for
her--him, I mean--no, her, for Peter was a lady then. He told me
he was more terrified than he ever was before, all the time my
father was speaking. He did not think my father would have
believed him; and yet if he had not, it would have been a sad thing
for Peter. As it was, he was none so glad of it, for my father
kept him hard at work copying out all those twelve Buonaparte
sermons for the lady--that was for Peter himself, you know. He was
the lady. And once when he wanted to go fishing, Peter said,
'Confound the woman!'--very bad language, my dear, but Peter was
not always so guarded as he should have been; my father was so
angry with him, it nearly frightened me out of my wits: and yet I
could hardly keep from laughing at the little curtseys Peter kept
making, quite slyly, whenever my father spoke of the lady's
excellent taste and sound discrimination."

"Did Miss Jenkyns know of these tricks?" said I.

"Oh, no! Deborah would have been too much shocked. No, no one
knew but me. I wish I had always known of Peter's plans; but
sometimes he did not tell me. He used to say the old ladies in the
town wanted something to talk about; but I don't think they did.
They had the St James's Chronicle three times a week, just as we
have now, and we have plenty to say; and I remember the clacking
noise there always was when some of the ladies got together. But,
probably, schoolboys talk more than ladies. At last there was a
terrible, sad thing happened." Miss Matty got up, went to the
door, and opened it; no one was there. She rang the bell for
Martha, and when Martha came, her mistress told her to go for eggs
to a farm at the other end of the town.

"I will lock the door after you, Martha. You are not afraid to go,
are you?"

"No, ma'am, not at all; Jem Hearn will be only too proud to go with

Miss Matty drew herself up, and as soon as we were alone, she
wished that Martha had more maidenly reserve.

"We'll put out the candle, my dear. We can talk just as well by
firelight, you know. There! Well, you see, Deborah had gone from
home for a fortnight or so; it was a very still, quiet day, I
remember, overhead; and the lilacs were all in flower, so I suppose
it was spring. My father had gone out to see some sick people in
the parish; I recollect seeing him leave the house with his wig and
shovel-hat and cane. What possessed our poor Peter I don't know;
he had the sweetest temper, and yet he always seemed to like to
plague Deborah. She never laughed at his jokes, and thought him
ungenteel, and not careful enough about improving his mind; and
that vexed him.

"Well! he went to her room, it seems, and dressed himself in her
old gown, and shawl, and bonnet; just the things she used to wear
in Cranford, and was known by everywhere; and he made the pillow
into a little--you are sure you locked the door, my dear, for I
should not like anyone to hear--into--into a little baby, with
white long clothes. It was only, as he told me afterwards, to make
something to talk about in the town; he never thought of it as
affecting Deborah. And he went and walked up and down in the
Filbert walk--just half-hidden by the rails, and half-seen; and he
cuddled his pillow, just like a baby, and talked to it all the
nonsense people do. Oh dear! and my father came stepping stately
up the street, as he always did; and what should he see but a
little black crowd of people--I daresay as many as twenty--all
peeping through his garden rails. So he thought, at first, they
were only looking at a new rhododendron that was in full bloom, and
that he was very proud of; and he walked slower, that they might
have more time to admire. And he wondered if he could make out a
sermon from the occasion, and thought, perhaps, there was some
relation between the rhododendrons and the lilies of the field. My
poor father! When he came nearer, he began to wonder that they did
not see him; but their heads were all so close together, peeping
and peeping! My father was amongst them, meaning, he said, to ask
them to walk into the garden with him, and admire the beautiful
vegetable production, when--oh, my dear, I tremble to think of it--
he looked through the rails himself, and saw--I don't know what he
thought he saw, but old Clare told me his face went quite grey-
white with anger, and his eyes blazed out under his frowning black
brows; and he spoke out--oh, so terribly!--and bade them all stop
where they were--not one of them to go, not one of them to stir a
step; and, swift as light, he was in at the garden door, and down
the Filbert walk, and seized hold of poor Peter, and tore his
clothes off his back--bonnet, shawl, gown, and all--and threw the
pillow among the people over the railings: and then he was very,
very angry indeed, and before all the people he lifted up his cane
and flogged Peter!

"My dear, that boy's trick, on that sunny day, when all seemed
going straight and well, broke my mother's heart, and changed my
father for life. It did, indeed. Old Clare said, Peter looked as
white as my father; and stood as still as a statue to be flogged;
and my father struck hard! When my father stopped to take breath,
Peter said, 'Have you done enough, sir?' quite hoarsely, and still
standing quite quiet. I don't know what my father said--or if he
said anything. But old Clare said, Peter turned to where the
people outside the railing were, and made them a low bow, as grand
and as grave as any gentleman; and then walked slowly into the
house. I was in the store-room helping my mother to make cowslip
wine. I cannot abide the wine now, nor the scent of the flowers;
they turn me sick and faint, as they did that day, when Peter came
in, looking as haughty as any man--indeed, looking like a man, not
like a boy. 'Mother!' he said, 'I am come to say, God bless you
for ever.' I saw his lips quiver as he spoke; and I think he durst
not say anything more loving, for the purpose that was in his
heart. She looked at him rather frightened, and wondering, and
asked him what was to do. He did not smile or speak, but put his
arms round her and kissed her as if he did not know how to leave
off; and before she could speak again, he was gone. We talked it
over, and could not understand it, and she bade me go and seek my
father, and ask what it was all about. I found him walking up and
down, looking very highly displeased.

"'Tell your mother I have flogged Peter, and that he richly
deserved it.'

"I durst not ask any more questions. When I told my mother, she
sat down, quite faint, for a minute. I remember, a few days after,
I saw the poor, withered cowslip flowers thrown out to the leaf
heap, to decay and die there. There was no making of cowslip wine
that year at the rectory--nor, indeed, ever after.

"Presently my mother went to my father. I know I thought of Queen
Esther and King Ahasuerus; for my mother was very pretty and
delicate-looking, and my father looked as terrible as King
Ahasuerus. Some time after they came out together; and then my
mother told me what had happened, and that she was going up to
Peter's room at my father's desire--though she was not to tell
Peter this--to talk the matter over with him. But no Peter was
there. We looked over the house; no Peter was there! Even my
father, who had not liked to join in the search at first, helped us
before long. The rectory was a very old house--steps up into a
room, steps down into a room, all through. At first, my mother
went calling low and soft, as if to reassure the poor boy, 'Peter!
Peter, dear! it's only me;' but, by-and-by, as the servants came
back from the errands my father had sent them, in different
directions, to find where Peter was--as we found he was not in the
garden, nor the hayloft, nor anywhere about--my mother's cry grew
louder and wilder, Peter! Peter, my darling! where are you?' for
then she felt and understood that that long kiss meant some sad
kind of 'good-bye.' The afternoon went on--my mother never
resting, but seeking again and again in every possible place that
had been looked into twenty times before, nay, that she had looked
into over and over again herself. My father sat with his head in
his hands, not speaking except when his messengers came in,
bringing no tidings; then he lifted up his face, so strong and sad,
and told them to go again in some new direction. My mother kept
passing from room to room, in and out of the house, moving
noiselessly, but never ceasing. Neither she nor my father durst
leave the house, which was the meeting-place for all the
messengers. At last (and it was nearly dark), my father rose up.
He took hold of my mother's arm as she came with wild, sad pace
through one door, and quickly towards another. She started at the
touch of his hand, for she had forgotten all in the world but

"'Molly!' said he, 'I did not think all this would happen.' He
looked into her face for comfort--her poor face all wild and white;
for neither she nor my father had dared to acknowledge--much less
act upon--the terror that was in their hearts, lest Peter should
have made away with himself. My father saw no conscious look in
his wife's hot, dreary eyes, and he missed the sympathy that she
had always been ready to give him--strong man as he was, and at the
dumb despair in her face his tears began to flow. But when she saw
this, a gentle sorrow came over her countenance, and she said,
'Dearest John! don't cry; come with me, and we'll find him,' almost
as cheerfully as if she knew where he was. And she took my
father's great hand in her little soft one, and led him along, the
tears dropping as he walked on that same unceasing, weary walk,
from room to room, through house and garden.

"Oh, how I wished for Deborah! I had no time for crying, for now
all seemed to depend on me. I wrote for Deborah to come home. I
sent a message privately to that same Mr Holbrook's house--poor Mr
Holbrook;--you know who I mean. I don't mean I sent a message to
him, but I sent one that I could trust to know if Peter was at his
house. For at one time Mr Holbrook was an occasional visitor at
the rectory--you know he was Miss Pole's cousin--and he had been
very kind to Peter, and taught him how to fish--he was very kind to
everybody, and I thought Peter might have gone off there. But Mr
Holbrook was from home, and Peter had never been seen. It was
night now; but the doors were all wide open, and my father and
mother walked on and on; it was more than an hour since he had
joined her, and I don't believe they had ever spoken all that time.
I was getting the parlour fire lighted, and one of the servants was
preparing tea, for I wanted them to have something to eat and drink
and warm them, when old Clare asked to speak to me.

"'I have borrowed the nets from the weir, Miss Matty. Shall we
drag the ponds to-night, or wait for the morning?'

"I remember staring in his face to gather his meaning; and when I
did, I laughed out loud. The horror of that new thought--our
bright, darling Peter, cold, and stark, and dead! I remember the
ring of my own laugh now.

"The next day Deborah was at home before I was myself again. She
would not have been so weak as to give way as I had done; but my
screams (my horrible laughter had ended in crying) had roused my
sweet dear mother, whose poor wandering wits were called back and
collected as soon as a child needed her care. She and Deborah sat
by my bedside; I knew by the looks of each that there had been no
news of Peter--no awful, ghastly news, which was what I most had
dreaded in my dull state between sleeping and waking.

"The same result of all the searching had brought something of the
same relief to my mother, to whom, I am sure, the thought that
Peter might even then be hanging dead in some of the familiar home
places had caused that never-ending walk of yesterday. Her soft
eyes never were the same again after that; they had always a
restless, craving look, as if seeking for what they could not find.
Oh! it was an awful time; coming down like a thunder-bolt on the
still sunny day when the lilacs were all in bloom."

"Where was Mr Peter?" said I.

"He had made his way to Liverpool; and there was war then; and some
of the king's ships lay off the mouth of the Mersey; and they were
only too glad to have a fine likely boy such as him (five foot nine
he was), come to offer himself. The captain wrote to my father,
and Peter wrote to my mother. Stay! those letters will be
somewhere here."

We lighted the candle, and found the captain's letter and Peter's
too. And we also found a little simple begging letter from Mrs
Jenkyns to Peter, addressed to him at the house of an old
schoolfellow whither she fancied he might have gone. They had
returned it unopened; and unopened it had remained ever since,
having been inadvertently put by among the other letters of that
time. This is it:-

"MY DEAREST PETER,--You did not think we should be so sorry as we
are, I know, or you would never have gone away. You are too good.
Your father sits and sighs till my heart aches to hear him. He
cannot hold up his head for grief; and yet he only did what he
thought was right. Perhaps he has been too severe, and perhaps I
have not been kind enough; but God knows how we love you, my dear
only boy. Don looks so sorry you are gone. Come back, and make us
happy, who love you so much. I know you will come back."

But Peter did not come back. That spring day was the last time he
ever saw his mother's face. The writer of the letter--the last--
the only person who had ever seen what was written in it, was dead
long ago; and I, a stranger, not born at the time when this
occurrence took place, was the one to open it.

The captain's letter summoned the father and mother to Liverpool
instantly, if they wished to see their boy; and, by some of the
wild chances of life, the captain's letter had been detained
somewhere, somehow.

Miss Matty went on, "And it was racetime, and all the post-horses
at Cranford were gone to the races; but my father and mother set
off in our own gig--and oh! my dear, they were too late--the ship
was gone! And now read Peter's letter to my mother!"

It was full of love, and sorrow, and pride in his new profession,
and a sore sense of his disgrace in the eyes of the people at
Cranford; but ending with a passionate entreaty that she would come
and see him before he left the Mersey: "Mother; we may go into
battle. I hope we shall, and lick those French: but I must see
you again before that time."

"And she was too late," said Miss Matty; "too late!"

We sat in silence, pondering on the full meaning of those sad, sad
words. At length I asked Miss Matty to tell me how her mother bore

"Oh!" she said, "she was patience itself. She had never been
strong, and this weakened her terribly. My father used to sit
looking at her: far more sad than she was. He seemed as if he
could look at nothing else when she was by; and he was so humble--
so very gentle now. He would, perhaps, speak in his old way--
laying down the law, as it were--and then, in a minute or two, he
would come round and put his hand on our shoulders, and ask us in a
low voice, if he had said anything to hurt us. I did not wonder at
his speaking so to Deborah, for she was so clever; but I could not
bear to hear him talking so to me.

"But, you see, he saw what we did not--that it was killing my
mother. Yes! killing her (put out the candle, my dear; I can talk
better in the dark), for she was but a frail woman, and ill-fitted
to stand the fright and shock she had gone through; and she would
smile at him and comfort him, not in words, but in her looks and
tones, which were always cheerful when he was there. And she would
speak of how she thought Peter stood a good chance of being admiral
very soon--he was so brave and clever; and how she thought of
seeing him in his navy uniform, and what sort of hats admirals
wore; and how much more fit he was to be a sailor than a clergyman;
and all in that way, just to make my father think she was quite
glad of what came of that unlucky morning's work, and the flogging
which was always in his mind, as we all knew. But oh, my dear! the
bitter, bitter crying she had when she was alone; and at last, as
she grew weaker, she could not keep her tears in when Deborah or me
was by, and would give us message after message for Peter (his ship
had gone to the Mediterranean, or somewhere down there, and then he
was ordered off to India, and there was no overland route then);
but she still said that no one knew where their death lay in wait,
and that we were not to think hers was near. We did not think it,
but we knew it, as we saw her fading away.

"Well, my dear, it's very foolish of me, I know, when in all
likelihood I am so near seeing her again.

"And only think, love! the very day after her death--for she did
not live quite a twelvemonth after Peter went away--the very day
after--came a parcel for her from India--from her poor boy. It was
a large, soft, white Indian shawl, with just a little narrow border
all round; just what my mother would have liked.

"We thought it might rouse my father, for he had sat with her hand
in his all night long; so Deborah took it in to him, and Peter's
letter to her, and all. At first, he took no notice; and we tried
to make a kind of light careless talk about the shawl, opening it
out and admiring it. Then, suddenly, he got up, and spoke: 'She
shall be buried in it,' he said; 'Peter shall have that comfort;
and she would have liked it.'

"Well, perhaps it was not reasonable, but what could we do or say?
One gives people in grief their own way. He took it up and felt
it: 'It is just such a shawl as she wished for when she was
married, and her mother did not give it her. I did not know of it
till after, or she should have had it--she should; but she shall
have it now.'

"My mother looked so lovely in her death! She was always pretty,
and now she looked fair, and waxen, and young--younger than
Deborah, as she stood trembling and shivering by her. We decked
her in the long soft folds; she lay smiling, as if pleased; and
people came--all Cranford came--to beg to see her, for they had
loved her dearly, as well they might; and the countrywomen brought
posies; old Clare's wife brought some white violets and begged they
might lie on her breast.

"Deborah said to me, the day of my mother's funeral, that if she
had a hundred offers she never would marry and leave my father. It
was not very likely she would have so many--I don't know that she
had one; but it was not less to her credit to say so. She was such
a daughter to my father as I think there never was before or since.
His eyes failed him, and she read book after book, and wrote, and
copied, and was always at his service in any parish business. She
could do many more things than my poor mother could; she even once
wrote a letter to the bishop for my father. But he missed my
mother sorely; the whole parish noticed it. Not that he was less
active; I think he was more so, and more patient in helping every
one. I did all I could to set Deborah at liberty to be with him;
for I knew I was good for little, and that my best work in the
world was to do odd jobs quietly, and set others at liberty. But
my father was a changed man."

"Did Mr Peter ever come home?"

"Yes, once. He came home a lieutenant; he did not get to be
admiral. And he and my father were such friends! My father took
him into every house in the parish, he was so proud of him. He
never walked out without Peter's arm to lean upon. Deborah used to
smile (I don't think we ever laughed again after my mother's
death), and say she was quite put in a corner. Not but what my
father always wanted her when there was letter-writing or reading
to be done, or anything to be settled."

"And then?" said I, after a pause.

"Then Peter went to sea again; and, by-and-by, my father died,
blessing us both, and thanking Deborah for all she had been to him;
and, of course, our circumstances were changed; and, instead of
living at the rectory, and keeping three maids and a man, we had to
come to this small house, and be content with a servant-of-all-
work; but, as Deborah used to say, we have always lived genteelly,
even if circumstances have compelled us to simplicity. Poor

"And Mr Peter?" asked I.

"Oh, there was some great war in India--I forget what they call it-
-and we have never heard of Peter since then. I believe he is dead
myself; and it sometimes fidgets me that we have never put on
mourning for him. And then again, when I sit by myself, and all
the house is still, I think I hear his step coming up the street,
and my heart begins to flutter and beat; but the sound always goes
past--and Peter never comes.

"That's Martha back? No! I'LL go, my dear; I can always find my
way in the dark, you know. And a blow of fresh air at the door
will do my head good, and it's rather got a trick of aching."

So she pattered off. I had lighted the candle, to give the room a
cheerful appearance against her return.

"Was it Martha?" asked I.

"Yes. And I am rather uncomfortable, for I heard such a strange
noise, just as I was opening the door."

"Where?' I asked, for her eyes were round with affright.

"In the street--just outside--it sounded like" -

"Talking?" I put in, as she hesitated a little.

"No! kissing" -


One morning, as Miss Matty and I sat at our work--it was before
twelve o'clock, and Miss Matty had not changed the cap with yellow
ribbons that had been Miss Jenkyns's best, and which Miss Matty was
now wearing out in private, putting on the one made in imitation of
Mrs Jamieson's at all times when she expected to be seen--Martha
came up, and asked if Miss Betty Barker might speak to her
mistress. Miss Matty assented, and quickly disappeared to change
the yellow ribbons, while Miss Barker came upstairs; but, as she
had forgotten her spectacles, and was rather flurried by the
unusual time of the visit, I was not surprised to see her return
with one cap on the top of the other. She was quite unconscious of
it herself, and looked at us, with bland satisfaction. Nor do I
think Miss Barker perceived it; for, putting aside the little
circumstance that she was not so young as she had been, she was
very much absorbed in her errand, which she delivered herself of
with an oppressive modesty that found vent in endless apologies.

Miss Betty Barker was the daughter of the old clerk at Cranford who
had officiated in Mr Jenkyns's time. She and her sister had had
pretty good situations as ladies' maids, and had saved money enough
to set up a milliner's shop, which had been patronised by the
ladies in the neighbourhood. Lady Arley, for instance, would
occasionally give Miss Barkers the pattern of an old cap of hers,
which they immediately copied and circulated among the elite of
Cranford. I say the elite, for Miss Barkers had caught the trick
of the place, and piqued themselves upon their "aristocratic
connection." They would not sell their caps and ribbons to anyone
without a pedigree. Many a farmer's wife or daughter turned away
huffed from Miss Barkers' select millinery, and went rather to the
universal shop, where the profits of brown soap and moist sugar
enabled the proprietor to go straight to (Paris, he said, until he
found his customers too patriotic and John Bullish to wear what the
Mounseers wore) London, where, as he often told his customers,
Queen Adelaide had appeared, only the very week before, in a cap
exactly like the one he showed them, trimmed with yellow and blue
ribbons, and had been complimented by King William on the becoming
nature of her head-dress.

Miss Barkers, who confined themselves to truth, and did not approve
of miscellaneous customers, throve notwithstanding. They were
self-denying, good people. Many a time have I seen the eldest of
them (she that had been maid to Mrs Jamieson) carrying out some
delicate mess to a poor person. They only aped their betters in
having "nothing to do" with the class immediately below theirs.
And when Miss Barker died, their profits and income were found to
be such that Miss Betty was justified in shutting up shop and
retiring from business. She also (as I think I have before said)
set up her cow; a mark of respectability in Cranford almost as
decided as setting up a gig is among some people. She dressed
finer than any lady in Cranford; and we did not wonder at it; for
it was understood that she was wearing out all the bonnets and caps
and outrageous ribbons which had once formed her stock-in-trade.
It was five or six years since she had given up shop, so in any
other place than Cranford her dress might have been considered

And now Miss Betty Barker had called to invite Miss Matty to tea at
her house on the following Tuesday. She gave me also an impromptu
invitation, as I happened to be a visitor--though I could see she
had a little fear lest, since my father had gone to live in
Drumble, he might have engaged in that "horrid cotton trade," and
so dragged his family down out of "aristocratic society." She
prefaced this invitation with so many apologies that she quite
excited my curiosity. "Her presumption" was to be excused. What
had she been doing? She seemed so over-powered by it I could only
think that she had been writing to Queen Adelaide to ask for a
receipt for washing lace; but the act which she so characterised
was only an invitation she had carried to her sister's former
mistress, Mrs Jamieson. "Her former occupation considered, could
Miss Matty excuse the liberty?" Ah! thought I, she has found out
that double cap, and is going to rectify Miss Matty's head-dress.
No! it was simply to extend her invitation to Miss Matty and to me.
Miss Matty bowed acceptance; and I wondered that, in the graceful
action, she did not feel the unusual weight and extraordinary
height of her head-dress. But I do not think she did, for she
recovered her balance, and went on talking to Miss Betty in a kind,
condescending manner, very different from the fidgety way she would
have had if she had suspected how singular her appearance was.
"Mrs Jamieson is coming, I think you said?" asked Miss Matty.

"Yes. Mrs Jamieson most kindly and condescendingly said she would
be happy to come. One little stipulation she made, that she should
bring Carlo. I told her that if I had a weakness, it was for

"And Miss Pole?" questioned Miss Matty, who was thinking of her
pool at Preference, in which Carlo would not be available as a

"I am going to ask Miss Pole. Of course, I could not think of
asking her until I had asked you, madam--the rector's daughter,
madam. Believe me, I do not forget the situation my father held
under yours."

"And Mrs Forrester, of course?"

"And Mrs Forrester. I thought, in fact, of going to her before I
went to Miss Pole. Although her circumstances are changed, madam,
she was born at Tyrrell, and we can never forget her alliance to
the Bigges, of Bigelow Hall."

Miss Matty cared much more for the little circumstance of her being
a very good card-player.

"Mrs Fitz-Adam--I suppose" -

"No, madam. I must draw a line somewhere. Mrs Jamieson would not,
I think, like to meet Mrs Fitz-Adam. I have the greatest respect
for Mrs Fitz-Adam--but I cannot think her fit society for such
ladies as Mrs Jamieson and Miss Matilda Jenkyns."

Miss Betty Barker bowed low to Miss Matty, and pursed up her mouth.
She looked at me with sidelong dignity, as much as to say, although
a retired milliner, she was no democrat, and understood the
difference of ranks.

"May I beg you to come as near half-past six to my little dwelling,
as possible, Miss Matilda? Mrs Jamieson dines at five, but has
kindly promised not to delay her visit beyond that time--half-past
six." And with a swimming curtsey Miss Betty Barker took her

My prophetic soul foretold a visit that afternoon from Miss Pole,
who usually came to call on Miss Matilda after any event--or indeed
in sight of any event--to talk it over with her.

"Miss Betty told me it was to be a choice and select few," said
Miss Pole, as she and Miss Matty compared notes.

"Yes, so she said. Not even Mrs Fitz-Adam."

Now Mrs Fitz-Adam was the widowed sister of the Cranford surgeon,
whom I have named before. Their parents were respectable farmers,
content with their station. The name of these good people was
Hoggins. Mr Hoggins was the Cranford doctor now; we disliked the
name and considered it coarse; but, as Miss Jenkyns said, if he
changed it to Piggins it would not be much better. We had hoped to
discover a relationship between him and that Marchioness of Exeter
whose name was Molly Hoggins; but the man, careless of his own
interests, utterly ignored and denied any such relationship,
although, as dear Miss Jenkyns had said, he had a sister called
Mary, and the same Christian names were very apt to run in

Soon after Miss Mary Hoggins married Mr Fitz-Adam, she disappeared
from the neighbourhood for many years. She did not move in a
sphere in Cranford society sufficiently high to make any of us care
to know what Mr Fitz-Adam was. He died and was gathered to his
fathers without our ever having thought about him at all. And then
Mrs Fitz-Adam reappeared in Cranford ("as bold as a lion," Miss
Pole said), a well-to-do widow, dressed in rustling black silk, so
soon after her husband's death that poor Miss Jenkyns was justified
in the remark she made, that "bombazine would have shown a deeper
sense of her loss."

I remember the convocation of ladies who assembled to decide
whether or not Mrs Fitz-Adam should be called upon by the old blue-
blooded inhabitants of Cranford. She had taken a large rambling
house, which had been usually considered to confer a patent of
gentility upon its tenant, because, once upon a time, seventy or
eighty years before, the spinster daughter of an earl had resided
in it. I am not sure if the inhabiting this house was not also
believed to convey some unusual power of intellect; for the earl's
daughter, Lady Jane, had a sister, Lady Anne, who had married a
general officer in the time of the American war, and this general
officer had written one or two comedies, which were still acted on
the London boards, and which, when we saw them advertised, made us
all draw up, and feel that Drury Lane was paying a very pretty
compliment to Cranford. Still, it was not at all a settled thing
that Mrs Fitz-Adam was to be visited, when dear Miss Jenkyns died;
and, with her, something of the clear knowledge of the strict code
of gentility went out too. As Miss Pole observed, "As most of the
ladies of good family in Cranford were elderly spinsters, or widows
without children, if we did not relax a little, and become less
exclusive, by-and-by we should have no society at all."

Mrs Forrester continued on the same side.

"She had always understood that Fitz meant something aristocratic;
there was Fitz-Roy--she thought that some of the King's children
had been called Fitz-Roy; and there was Fitz-Clarence, now--they
were the children of dear good King William the Fourth. Fitz-
Adam!--it was a pretty name, and she thought it very probably meant
'Child of Adam.' No one, who had not some good blood in their
veins, would dare to be called Fitz; there was a deal in a name--
she had had a cousin who spelt his name with two little ffs--
ffoulkes--and he always looked down upon capital letters and said
they belonged to lately-invented families. She had been afraid he
would die a bachelor, he was so very choice. When he met with a
Mrs ffarringdon, at a watering-place, he took to her immediately;
and a very pretty genteel woman she was--a widow, with a very good
fortune; and 'my cousin,' Mr ffoulkes, married her; and it was all
owing to her two little ffs."

Mrs Fitz-Adam did not stand a chance of meeting with a Mr Fitz-
anything in Cranford, so that could not have been her motive for
settling there. Miss Matty thought it might have been the hope of
being admitted into the society of the place, which would certainly
be a very agreeable rise for ci-devant Miss Hoggins; and if this
had been her hope it would be cruel to disappoint her.

So everybody called upon Mrs Fitz-Adam--everybody but Mrs Jamieson,
who used to show how honourable she was by never seeing Mrs Fitz-
Adam when they met at the Cranford parties. There would be only
eight or ten ladies in the room, and Mrs Fitz-Adam was the largest
of all, and she invariably used to stand up when Mrs Jamieson came
in, and curtsey very low to her whenever she turned in her
direction--so low, in fact, that I think Mrs Jamieson must have
looked at the wall above her, for she never moved a muscle of her
face, no more than if she had not seen her. Still Mrs Fitz-Adam

The spring evenings were getting bright and long when three or four
ladies in calashes met at Miss Barker's door. Do you know what a
calash is? It is a covering worn over caps, not unlike the heads
fastened on old-fashioned gigs; but sometimes it is not quite so
large. This kind of head-gear always made an awful impression on
the children in Cranford; and now two or three left off their play
in the quiet sunny little street, and gathered in wondering silence
round Miss Pole, Miss Matty, and myself. We were silent too, so
that we could hear loud, suppressed whispers inside Miss Barker's
house: "Wait, Peggy! wait till I've run upstairs and washed my
hands. When I cough, open the door; I'll not be a minute."

And, true enough it was not a minute before we heard a noise,
between a sneeze and a crow; on which the door flew open. Behind
it stood a round-eyed maiden, all aghast at the honourable company
of calashes, who marched in without a word. She recovered presence
of mind enough to usher us into a small room, which had been the
shop, but was now converted into a temporary dressing-room. There
we unpinned and shook ourselves, and arranged our features before
the glass into a sweet and gracious company-face; and then, bowing
backwards with "After you, ma'am," we allowed Mrs Forrester to take
precedence up the narrow staircase that led to Miss Barker's
drawing-room. There she sat, as stately and composed as though we
had never heard that odd-sounding cough, from which her throat must
have been even then sore and rough. Kind, gentle, shabbily-dressed
Mrs Forrester was immediately conducted to the second place of
honour--a seat arranged something like Prince Albert's near the
Queen's--good, but not so good. The place of pre-eminence was, of
course, reserved for the Honourable Mrs Jamieson, who presently
came panting up the stairs--Carlo rushing round her on her
progress, as if he meant to trip her up.

And now Miss Betty Barker was a proud and happy woman! She stirred
the fire, and shut the door, and sat as near to it as she could,
quite on the edge of her chair. When Peggy came in, tottering
under the weight of the tea-tray, I noticed that Miss Barker was
sadly afraid lest Peggy should not keep her distance sufficiently.
She and her mistress were on very familiar terms in their every-day
intercourse, and Peggy wanted now to make several little
confidences to her, which Miss Barker was on thorns to hear, but
which she thought it her duty, as a lady, to repress. So she
turned away from all Peggy's asides and signs; but she made one or
two very malapropos answers to what was said; and at last, seized
with a bright idea, she exclaimed, "Poor, sweet Carlo! I'm
forgetting him. Come downstairs with me, poor ittie doggie, and it
shall have its tea, it shall!"

In a few minutes she returned, bland and benignant as before; but I
thought she had forgotten to give the "poor ittie doggie" anything
to eat, judging by the avidity with which he swallowed down chance
pieces of cake. The tea-tray was abundantly loaded--I was pleased
to see it, I was so hungry; but I was afraid the ladies present
might think it vulgarly heaped up. I know they would have done at
their own houses; but somehow the heaps disappeared here. I saw
Mrs Jamieson eating seed-cake, slowly and considerately, as she did
everything; and I was rather surprised, for I knew she had told us,
on the occasion of her last party, that she never had it in her
house, it reminded her so much of scented soap. She always gave us
Savoy biscuits. However, Mrs Jamieson was kindly indulgent to Miss
Barker's want of knowledge of the customs of high life; and, to
spare her feelings, ate three large pieces of seed-cake, with a
placid, ruminating expression of countenance, not unlike a cow's.

After tea there was some little demur and difficulty. We were six
in number; four could play at Preference, and for the other two
there was Cribbage. But all, except myself (I was rather afraid of
the Cranford ladies at cards, for it was the most earnest and
serious business they ever engaged in), were anxious to be of the
"pool." Even Miss Barker, while declaring she did not know
Spadille from Manille, was evidently hankering to take a hand. The
dilemma was soon put an end to by a singular kind of noise. If a
baron's daughter-in-law could ever be supposed to snore, I should
have said Mrs Jamieson did so then; for, overcome by the heat of
the room, and inclined to doze by nature, the temptation of that
very comfortable arm-chair had been too much for her, and Mrs
Jamieson was nodding. Once or twice she opened her eyes with an
effort, and calmly but unconsciously smiled upon us; but by-and-by,
even her benevolence was not equal to this exertion, and she was
sound asleep.

"It is very gratifying to me," whispered Miss Barker at the card-
table to her three opponents, whom, notwithstanding her ignorance
of the game, she was "basting" most unmercifully--"very gratifying
indeed, to see how completely Mrs Jamieson feels at home in my poor
little dwelling; she could not have paid me a greater compliment."

Miss Barker provided me with some literature in the shape of three
or four handsomely-bound fashion-books ten or twelve years old,
observing, as she put a little table and a candle for my especial
benefit, that she knew young people liked to look at pictures.
Carlo lay and snorted, and started at his mistress's feet. He,
too, was quite at home.

The card-table was an animated scene to watch; four ladies' heads,
with niddle-noddling caps, all nearly meeting over the middle of
the table in their eagerness to whisper quick enough and loud
enough: and every now and then came Miss Barker's "Hush, ladies!
if you please, hush! Mrs Jamieson is asleep."

It was very difficult to steer clear between Mrs Forrester's
deafness and Mrs Jamieson's sleepiness. But Miss Barker managed
her arduous task well. She repeated the whisper to Mrs Forrester,
distorting her face considerably, in order to show, by the motions
of her lips, what was said; and then she smiled kindly all round at
us, and murmured to herself, "Very gratifying, indeed; I wish my
poor sister had been alive to see this day."

Presently the door was thrown wide open; Carlo started to his feet,
with a loud snapping bark, and Mrs Jamieson awoke: or, perhaps,
she had not been asleep--as she said almost directly, the room had
been so light she had been glad to keep her eyes shut, but had been
listening with great interest to all our amusing and agreeable
conversation. Peggy came in once more, red with importance.
Another tray! "Oh, gentility!" thought I, "can yon endure this
last shock?" For Miss Barker had ordered (nay, I doubt not,
prepared, although she did say, "Why, Peggy, what have you brought
us?" and looked pleasantly surprised at the unexpected pleasure)
all sorts of good things for supper--scalloped oysters, potted
lobsters, jelly, a dish called "little Cupids" (which was in great
favour with the Cranford ladies, although too expensive to be
given, except on solemn and state occasions--macaroons sopped in
brandy, I should have called it, if I had not known its more
refined and classical name). In short, we were evidently to be
feasted with all that was sweetest and best; and we thought it
better to submit graciously, even at the cost of our gentility--
which never ate suppers in general, but which, like most non-
supper-eaters, was particularly hungry on all special occasions.

Miss Barker, in her former sphere, had, I daresay, been made
acquainted with the beverage they call cherry-brandy. We none of
us had ever seen such a thing, and rather shrank back when she
proffered it us--"just a little, leetle glass, ladies; after the
oysters and lobsters, you know. Shell-fish are sometimes thought
not very wholesome." We all shook our heads like female mandarins;
but, at last, Mrs Jamieson suffered herself to be persuaded, and we
followed her lead. It was not exactly unpalatable, though so hot
and so strong that we thought ourselves bound to give evidence that
we were not accustomed to such things by coughing terribly--almost
as strangely as Miss Barker had done, before we were admitted by

"It's very strong," said Miss Pole, as she put down her empty
glass; "I do believe there's spirit in it."

"Only a little drop--just necessary to make it keep," said Miss
Barker. "You know we put brandy-pepper over our preserves to make
them keep. I often feel tipsy myself from eating damson tart."

I question whether damson tart would have opened Mrs Jamieson's
heart as the cherry-brandy did; but she told us of a coming event,
respecting which she had been quite silent till that moment.

"My sister-in-law, Lady Glenmire, is coming to stay with me."

There was a chorus of "Indeed!" and then a pause. Each one rapidly
reviewed her wardrobe, as to its fitness to appear in the presence
of a baron's widow; for, of course, a series of small festivals
were always held in Cranford on the arrival of a visitor at any of
our friends' houses. We felt very pleasantly excited on the
present occasion.

Not long after this the maids and the lanterns were announced. Mrs
Jamieson had the sedan-chair, which had squeezed itself into Miss
Barker's narrow lobby with some difficulty, and most literally
"stopped the way." It required some skilful manoeuvring on the
part of the old chairmen (shoemakers by day, but when summoned to
carry the sedan dressed up in a strange old livery--long great-
coats, with small capes, coeval with the sedan, and similar to the
dress of the class in Hogarth's pictures) to edge, and back, and
try at it again, and finally to succeed in carrying their burden
out of Miss Barker's front door. Then we heard their quick pit-a-
pat along the quiet little street as we put on our calashes and
pinned up our gowns; Miss Barker hovering about us with offers of
help, which, if she had not remembered her former occupation, and
wished us to forget it, would have been much more pressing.


Early the next morning--directly after twelve--Miss Pole made her
appearance at Miss Matty's. Some very trifling piece of business
was alleged as a reason for the call; but there was evidently
something behind. At last out it came.

"By the way, you'll think I'm strangely ignorant; but, do you
really know, I am puzzled how we ought to address Lady Glenmire.
Do you say, 'Your Ladyship,' where you would say 'you' to a common
person? I have been puzzling all morning; and are we to say 'My
Lady,' instead of 'Ma'am?' Now you knew Lady Arley--will you
kindly tell me the most correct way of speaking to the peerage?"

Poor Miss Matty! she took off her spectacles and she put them on
again--but how Lady Arley was addressed, she could not remember.

"It is so long ago," she said. "Dear! dear! how stupid I am! I
don't think I ever saw her more than twice. I know we used to call
Sir Peter, 'Sir Peter'--but he came much oftener to see us than
Lady Arley did. Deborah would have known in a minute. 'My lady'--
'your ladyship.' It sounds very strange, and as if it was not
natural. I never thought of it before; but, now you have named it,
I am all in a puzzle."

It was very certain Miss Pole would obtain no wise decision from
Miss Matty, who got more bewildered every moment, and more
perplexed as to etiquettes of address.

"Well, I really think," said Miss Pole, "I had better just go and
tell Mrs Forrester about our little difficulty. One sometimes
grows nervous; and yet one would not have Lady Glenmire think we
were quite ignorant of the etiquettes of high life in Cranford."

"And will you just step in here, dear Miss Pole, as you come back,
please, and tell me what you decide upon? Whatever you and Mrs
Forrester fix upon, will be quite right, I'm sure. 'Lady Arley,'
'Sir Peter,'" said Miss Matty to herself, trying to recall the old
forms of words.

"Who is Lady Glenmire?" asked I.

"Oh, she's the widow of Mr Jamieson--that's Mrs Jamieson's late
husband, you know--widow of his eldest brother. Mrs Jamieson was a
Miss Walker, daughter of Governor Walker. 'Your ladyship.' My
dear, if they fix on that way of speaking, you must just let me
practice a little on you first, for I shall feel so foolish and hot
saying it the first time to Lady Glenmire."

It was really a relief to Miss Matty when Mrs Jamieson came on a
very unpolite errand. I notice that apathetic people have more
quiet impertinence than others; and Mrs Jamieson came now to
insinuate pretty plainly that she did not particularly wish that
the Cranford ladies should call upon her sister-in-law. I can
hardly say how she made this clear; for I grew very indignant and
warm, while with slow deliberation she was explaining her wishes to
Miss Matty, who, a true lady herself, could hardly understand the
feeling which made Mrs Jamieson wish to appear to her noble sister-
in-law as if she only visited "county" families. Miss Matty
remained puzzled and perplexed long after I had found out the
object of Mrs Jamieson's visit.

When she did understand the drift of the honourable lady's call, it
was pretty to see with what quiet dignity she received the
intimation thus uncourteously given. She was not in the least
hurt--she was of too gentle a spirit for that; nor was she exactly
conscious of disapproving of Mrs Jamieson's conduct; but there was
something of this feeling in her mind, I am sure, which made her
pass from the subject to others in a less flurried and more
composed manner than usual. Mrs Jamieson was, indeed, the more
flurried of the two, and I could see she was glad to take her

A little while afterwards Miss Pole returned, red and indignant.
"Well! to be sure! You've had Mrs Jamieson here, I find from
Martha; and we are not to call on Lady Glenmire. Yes! I met Mrs
Jamieson, half-way between here and Mrs Forrester's, and she told
me; she took me so by surprise, I had nothing to say. I wish I had
thought of something very sharp and sarcastic; I dare say I shall
to-night. And Lady Glenmire is but the widow of a Scotch baron
after all! I went on to look at Mrs Forrester's Peerage, to see
who this lady was, that is to be kept under a glass case: widow of
a Scotch peer--never sat in the House of Lords--and as poor as job,
I dare say; and she--fifth daughter of some Mr Campbell or other.
You are the daughter of a rector, at any rate, and related to the
Arleys; and Sir Peter might have been Viscount Arley, every one

Miss Matty tried to soothe Miss Pole, but in vain. That lady,
usually so kind and good-humoured, was now in a full flow of anger.

"And I went and ordered a cap this morning, to be quite ready,"
said she at last, letting out the secret which gave sting to Mrs
Jamieson's intimation. "Mrs Jamieson shall see if it is so easy to
get me to make fourth at a pool when she has none of her fine
Scotch relations with her!"

In coming out of church, the first Sunday on which Lady Glenmire
appeared in Cranford, we sedulously talked together, and turned our
backs on Mrs Jamieson and her guest. If we might not call on her,
we would not even look at her, though we were dying with curiosity
to know what she was like. We had the comfort of questioning
Martha in the afternoon. Martha did not belong to a sphere of
society whose observation could be an implied compliment to Lady
Glenmire, and Martha had made good use of her eyes.

"Well, ma'am! is it the little lady with Mrs Jamieson, you mean? I
thought you would like more to know how young Mrs Smith was
dressed; her being a bride." (Mrs Smith was the butcher's wife).

Miss Pole said, "Good gracious me! as if we cared about a Mrs
Smith;" but was silent as Martha resumed her speech.

"The little lady in Mrs Jamieson's pew had on, ma'am, rather an old
black silk, and a shepherd's plaid cloak, ma'am, and very bright
black eyes she had, ma'am, and a pleasant, sharp face; not over
young, ma'am, but yet, I should guess, younger than Mrs Jamieson
herself. She looked up and down the church, like a bird, and
nipped up her petticoats, when she came out, as quick and sharp as
ever I see. I'll tell you what, ma'am, she's more like Mrs Deacon,
at the 'Coach and Horses,' nor any one."

"Hush, Martha!" said Miss Matty, "that's not respectful."

"Isn't it, ma'am? I beg pardon, I'm sure; but Jem Hearn said so as
well. He said, she was just such a sharp, stirring sort of a body"

"Lady," said Miss Pole.

"Lady--as Mrs Deacon."

Another Sunday passed away, and we still averted our eyes from Mrs
Jamieson and her guest, and made remarks to ourselves that we
thought were very severe--almost too much so. Miss Matty was
evidently uneasy at our sarcastic manner of speaking.

Perhaps by this time Lady Glenmire had found out that Mrs
Jamieson's was not the gayest, liveliest house in the world;
perhaps Mrs Jamieson had found out that most of the county families
were in London, and that those who remained in the country were not
so alive as they might have been to the circumstance of Lady
Glenmire being in their neighbourhood. Great events spring out of
small causes; so I will not pretend to say what induced Mrs
Jamieson to alter her determination of excluding the Cranford
ladies, and send notes of invitation all round for a small party on
the following Tuesday. Mr Mulliner himself brought them round. He
WOULD always ignore the fact of there being a back-door to any
house, and gave a louder rat-tat than his mistress, Mrs Jamieson.
He had three little notes, which he carried in a large basket, in
order to impress his mistress with an idea of their great weight,
though they might easily have gone into his waistcoat pocket.

Miss Matty and I quietly decided that we would have a previous
engagement at home: it was the evening on which Miss Matty usually
made candle-lighters of all the notes and letters of the week; for
on Mondays her accounts were always made straight--not a penny
owing from the week before; so, by a natural arrangement, making
candle-lighters fell upon a Tuesday evening, and gave us a
legitimate excuse for declining Mrs Jamieson's invitation. But
before our answer was written, in came Miss Pole, with an open note
in her hand.

"So!" she said. "Ah! I see you have got your note, too. Better
late than never. I could have told my Lady Glenmire she would be
glad enough of our society before a fortnight was over."

"Yes," said Miss Matty, "we're asked for Tuesday evening. And
perhaps you would just kindly bring your work across and drink tea
with us that night. It is my usual regular time for looking over
the last week's bills, and notes, and letters, and making candle-
lighters of them; but that does not seem quite reason enough for
saying I have a previous engagement at home, though I meant to make
it do. Now, if you would come, my conscience would be quite at
ease, and luckily the note is not written yet."

I saw Miss Pole's countenance change while Miss Matty was speaking.

"Don't you mean to go then?" asked she.

"Oh, no!" said, Miss Matty quietly. "You don't either, I suppose?"

"I don't know," replied Miss Pole. "Yes, I think I do," said she,
rather briskly; and on seeing Miss Matty look surprised, she added,
"You see, one would not like Mrs Jamieson to think that anything
she could do, or say, was of consequence enough to give offence; it
would be a kind of letting down of ourselves, that I, for one,
should not like. It would be too flattering to Mrs Jamieson if we
allowed her to suppose that what she had said affected us a week,
nay ten days afterwards."

"Well! I suppose it is wrong to be hurt and annoyed so long about
anything; and, perhaps, after all, she did not mean to vex us. But
I must say, I could not have brought myself to say the things Mrs
Jamieson did about our not calling. I really don't think I shall

"Oh, come! Miss Matty, you must go; you know our friend Mrs
Jamieson is much more phlegmatic than most people, and does not
enter into the little delicacies of feeling which you possess in so
remarkable a degree."

"I thought you possessed them, too, that day Mrs Jamieson called to
tell us not to go," said Miss Matty innocently.

But Miss Pole, in addition to her delicacies of feeling, possessed
a very smart cap, which she was anxious to show to an admiring
world; and so she seemed to forget all her angry words uttered not
a fortnight before, and to be ready to act on what she called the
great Christian principle of "Forgive and forget"; and she lectured
dear Miss Matty so long on this head that she absolutely ended by
assuring her it was her duty, as a deceased rector's daughter, to
buy a new cap and go to the party at Mrs Jamieson's. So "we were
most happy to accept," instead of "regretting that we were obliged
to decline."

The expenditure on dress in Cranford was principally in that one
article referred to. If the heads were buried in smart new caps,
the ladies were like ostriches, and cared not what became of their
bodies. Old gowns, white and venerable collars, any number of
brooches, up and down and everywhere (some with dogs' eyes painted
in them; some that were like small picture-frames with mausoleums
and weeping-willows neatly executed in hair inside; some, again,
with miniatures of ladies and gentlemen sweetly smiling out of a
nest of stiff muslin), old brooches for a permanent ornament, and
new caps to suit the fashion of the day--the ladies of Cranford
always dressed with chaste elegance and propriety, as Miss Barker
once prettily expressed it.

And with three new caps, and a greater array of brooches than had
ever been seen together at one time since Cranford was a town, did
Mrs Forrester, and Miss Matty, and Miss Pole appear on that
memorable Tuesday evening. I counted seven brooches myself on Miss
Pole's dress. Two were fixed negligently in her cap (one was a
butterfly made of Scotch pebbles, which a vivid imagination might
believe to be the real insect); one fastened her net neckerchief;
one her collar; one ornamented the front of her gown, midway
between her throat and waist; and another adorned the point of her
stomacher. Where the seventh was I have forgotten, but it was
somewhere about her, I am sure.

But I am getting on too fast, in describing the dresses of the
company. I should first relate the gathering on the way to Mrs
Jamieson's. That lady lived in a large house just outside the
town. A road which had known what it was to be a street ran right
before the house, which opened out upon it without any intervening
garden or court. Whatever the sun was about, he never shone on the
front of that house. To be sure, the living-rooms were at the
back, looking on to a pleasant garden; the front windows only
belonged to kitchens and housekeepers' rooms, and pantries, and in
one of them Mr Mulliner was reported to sit. Indeed, looking
askance, we often saw the back of a head covered with hair powder,
which also extended itself over his coat-collar down to his very
waist; and this imposing back was always engaged in reading the St
James's Chronicle, opened wide, which, in some degree, accounted
for the length of time the said newspaper was in reaching us--equal
subscribers with Mrs Jamieson, though, in right of her
honourableness, she always had the reading of it first. This very
Tuesday, the delay in forwarding the last number had been
particularly aggravating; just when both Miss Pole and Miss Matty,
the former more especially, had been wanting to see it, in order to
coach up the Court news ready for the evening's interview with
aristocracy. Miss Pole told us she had absolutely taken time by
the forelock, and been dressed by five o'clock, in order to be
ready if the St James's Chronicle should come in at the last
moment--the very St James's Chronicle which the powdered head was
tranquilly and composedly reading as we passed the accustomed
window this evening.

"The impudence of the man!" said Miss Pole, in a low indignant
whisper. "I should like to ask him whether his mistress pays her
quarter-share for his exclusive use."

We looked at her in admiration of the courage of her thought; for
Mr Mulliner was an object of great awe to all of us. He seemed
never to have forgotten his condescension in coming to live at
Cranford. Miss Jenkyns, at times, had stood forth as the undaunted
champion of her sex, and spoken to him on terms of equality; but
even Miss Jenkyns could get no higher. In his pleasantest and most
gracious moods he looked like a sulky cockatoo. He did not speak
except in gruff monosyllables. He would wait in the hall when we
begged him not to wait, and then look deeply offended because we
had kept him there, while, with trembling, hasty hands we prepared
ourselves for appearing in company.

Miss Pole ventured on a small joke as we went upstairs, intended,
though addressed to us, to afford Mr Mulliner some slight
amusement. We all smiled, in order to seem as if we felt at our
ease, and timidly looked for Mr Mulliner's sympathy. Not a muscle
of that wooden face had relaxed; and we were grave in an instant.

Mrs Jamieson's drawing-room was cheerful; the evening sun came
streaming into it, and the large square window was clustered round
with flowers. The furniture was white and gold; not the later
style, Louis Quatorze, I think they call it, all shells and twirls;
no, Mrs Jamieson's chairs and tables had not a curve or bend about
them. The chair and table legs diminished as they neared the
ground, and were straight and square in all their corners. The
chairs were all a-row against the walls, with the exception of four
or five which stood in a circle round the fire. They were railed
with white bars across the back and knobbed with gold; neither the
railings nor the knobs invited to ease. There was a japanned table
devoted to literature, on which lay a Bible, a Peerage, and a
Prayer-Book. There was another square Pembroke table dedicated to
the Fine Arts, on which were a kaleidoscope, conversation-cards,
puzzle-cards (tied together to an interminable length with faded
pink satin ribbon), and a box painted in fond imitation of the
drawings which decorate tea-chests. Carlo lay on the worsted-
worked rug, and ungraciously barked at us as we entered. Mrs
Jamieson stood up, giving us each a torpid smile of welcome, and
looking helplessly beyond us at Mr Mulliner, as if she hoped he
would place us in chairs, for, if he did not, she never could. I
suppose he thought we could find our way to the circle round the
fire, which reminded me of Stonehenge, I don't know why. Lady
Glenmire came to the rescue of our hostess, and, somehow or other,
we found ourselves for the first time placed agreeably, and not
formally, in Mrs Jamieson's house. Lady Glenmire, now we had time
to look at her, proved to be a bright little woman of middle age,
who had been very pretty in the days of her youth, and who was even
yet very pleasant-looking. I saw Miss Pole appraising her dress in
the first five minutes, and I take her word when she said the next
day -

"My dear! ten pounds would have purchased every stitch she had on--
lace and all."

It was pleasant to suspect that a peeress could be poor, and partly
reconciled us to the fact that her husband had never sat in the
House of Lords; which, when we first heard of it, seemed a kind of
swindling us out of our prospects on false pretences; a sort of "A
Lord and No Lord" business.

We were all very silent at first. We were thinking what we could
talk about, that should be high enough to interest My Lady. There
had been a rise in the price of sugar, which, as preserving-time
was near, was a piece of intelligence to all our house-keeping
hearts, and would have been the natural topic if Lady Glenmire had
not been by. But we were not sure if the peerage ate preserves--
much less knew how they were made. At last, Miss Pole, who had
always a great deal of courage and savoir faire, spoke to Lady
Glenmire, who on her part had seemed just as much puzzled to know
how to break the silence as we were.

"Has your ladyship been to Court lately?" asked she; and then gave
a little glance round at us, half timid and half triumphant, as
much as to say, "See how judiciously I have chosen a subject
befitting the rank of the stranger."

"I never was there in my life," said Lady Glenmire, with a broad
Scotch accent, but in a very sweet voice. And then, as if she had
been too abrupt, she added: "We very seldom went to London--only
twice, in fact, during all my married life; and before I was
married my father had far too large a family" (fifth daughter of Mr
Campbell was in all our minds, I am sure) "to take us often from
our home, even to Edinburgh. Ye'll have been in Edinburgh, maybe?"
said she, suddenly brightening up with the hope of a common
interest. We had none of us been there; but Miss Pole had an uncle
who once had passed a night there, which was very pleasant.

Mrs Jamieson, meanwhile, was absorbed in wonder why Mr Mulliner did
not bring the tea; and at length the wonder oozed out of her mouth.

"I had better ring the bell, my dear, had not I?" said Lady
Glenmire briskly.

"No--I think not--Mulliner does not like to be hurried."

We should have liked our tea, for we dined at an earlier hour than
Mrs Jamieson. I suspect Mr Mulliner had to finish the St James's
Chronicle before he chose to trouble himself about tea. His
mistress fidgeted and fidgeted, and kept saying, I can't think why
Mulliner does not bring tea. I can't think what he can be about."
And Lady Glenmire at last grew quite impatient, but it was a pretty
kind of impatience after all; and she rang the bell rather sharply,
on receiving a half-permission from her sister-in-law to do so. Mr
Mulliner appeared in dignified surprise. "Oh!" said Mrs Jamieson,
"Lady Glenmire rang the bell; I believe it was for tea."

In a few minutes tea was brought. Very delicate was the china,
very old the plate, very thin the bread and butter, and very small
the lumps of sugar. Sugar was evidently Mrs Jamieson's favourite
economy. I question if the little filigree sugar-tongs, made
something like scissors, could have opened themselves wide enough
to take up an honest, vulgar good-sized piece; and when I tried to
seize two little minnikin pieces at once, so as not to be detected
in too many returns to the sugar-basin, they absolutely dropped
one, with a little sharp clatter, quite in a malicious and
unnatural manner. But before this happened we had had a slight
disappointment. In the little silver jug was cream, in the larger
one was milk. As soon as Mr Mulliner came in, Carlo began to beg,
which was a thing our manners forebade us to do, though I am sure
we were just as hungry; and Mrs Jamieson said she was certain we
would excuse her if she gave her poor dumb Carlo his tea first.
She accordingly mixed a saucerful for him, and put it down for him
to lap; and then she told us how intelligent and sensible the dear
little fellow was; he knew cream quite well, and constantly refused
tea with only milk in it: so the milk was left for us; but we
silently thought we were quite as intelligent and sensible as
Carlo, and felt as if insult were added to injury when we were
called upon to admire the gratitude evinced by his wagging his tail
for the cream which should have been ours.

After tea we thawed down into common-life subjects. We were
thankful to Lady Glenmire for having proposed some more bread and
butter, and this mutual want made us better acquainted with her
than we should ever have been with talking about the Court, though
Miss Pole did say she had hoped to know how the dear Queen was from
some one who had seen her.

The friendship begun over bread and butter extended on to cards.
Lady Glenmire played Preference to admiration, and was a complete
authority as to Ombre and Quadrille. Even Miss Pole quite forgot
to say "my lady," and "your ladyship," and said "Basto! ma'am";
"you have Spadille, I believe," just as quietly as if we had never
held the great Cranford Parliament on the subject of the proper
mode of addressing a peeress.

As a proof of how thoroughly we had forgotten that we were in the
presence of one who might have sat down to tea with a coronet,
instead of a cap, on her head, Mrs Forrester related a curious
little fact to Lady Glenmire--an anecdote known to the circle of
her intimate friends, but of which even Mrs Jamieson was not aware.
It related to some fine old lace, the sole relic of better days,
which Lady Glenmire was admiring on Mrs Forrester's collar.

"Yes," said that lady, "such lace cannot be got now for either love
or money; made by the nuns abroad, they tell me. They say that
they can't make it now even there. But perhaps they can, now
they've passed the Catholic Emancipation Bill. I should not
wonder. But, in the meantime, I treasure up my lace very much. I
daren't even trust the washing of it to my maid" (the little
charity school-girl I have named before, but who sounded well as
"my maid"). "I always wash it myself. And once it had a narrow
escape. Of course, your ladyship knows that such lace must never
be starched or ironed. Some people wash it in sugar and water, and
some in coffee, to make it the right yellow colour; but I myself
have a very good receipt for washing it in milk, which stiffens it
enough, and gives it a very good creamy colour. Well, ma'am, I had
tacked it together (and the beauty of this fine lace is that, when
it is wet, it goes into a very little space), and put it to soak in
milk, when, unfortunately, I left the room; on my return, I found
pussy on the table, looking very like a thief, but gulping very
uncomfortably, as if she was half-chocked with something she wanted
to swallow and could not. And, would you believe it? At first I
pitied her, and said 'Poor pussy! poor pussy!' till, all at once, I
looked and saw the cup of milk empty--cleaned out! 'You naughty
cat!' said I, and I believe I was provoked enough to give her a
slap, which did no good, but only helped the lace down--just as one
slaps a choking child on the back. I could have cried, I was so
vexed; but I determined I would not give the lace up without a
struggle for it. I hoped the lace might disagree with her, at any
rate; but it would have been too much for Job, if he had seen, as I
did, that cat come in, quite placid and purring, not a quarter of
an hour after, and almost expecting to be stroked. 'No, pussy!'
said I, 'if you have any conscience you ought not to expect that!'
And then a thought struck me; and I rang the bell for my maid, and
sent her to Mr Hoggins, with my compliments, and would he be kind
enough to lend me one of his top-boots for an hour? I did not
think there was anything odd in the message; but Jenny said the
young men in the surgery laughed as if they would be ill at my
wanting a top-boot. When it came, Jenny and I put pussy in, with
her forefeet straight down, so that they were fastened, and could
not scratch, and we gave her a teaspoonful of current-jelly in
which (your ladyship must excuse me) I had mixed some tartar
emetic. I shall never forget how anxious I was for the next half-
hour. I took pussy to my own room, and spread a clean towel on the
floor. I could have kissed her when she returned the lace to
sight, very much as it had gone down. Jenny had boiling water
ready, and we soaked it and soaked it, and spread it on a lavender-
bush in the sun before I could touch it again, even to put it in
milk. But now your ladyship would never guess that it had been in
pussy's inside."

We found out, in the course of the evening, that Lady Glenmire was
going to pay Mrs Jamieson a long visit, as she had given up her
apartments in Edinburgh, and had no ties to take her back there in
a hurry. On the whole, we were rather glad to hear this, for she
had made a pleasant impression upon us; and it was also very
comfortable to find, from things which dropped out in the course of
conversation, that, in addition to many other genteel qualities,
she was far removed from the "vulgarity of wealth."

"Don't you find it very unpleasant walking?" asked Mrs Jamieson, as
our respective servants were announced. It was a pretty regular
question from Mrs Jamieson, who had her own carriage in the coach-
house, and always went out in a sedan-chair to the very shortest
distances. The answers were nearly as much a matter of course.

"Oh dear, no! it is so pleasant and still at night!" "Such a
refreshment after the excitement of a party!" "The stars are so
beautiful!" This last was from Miss Matty.

"Are you fond of astronomy?" Lady Glenmire asked.

"Not very," replied Miss Matty, rather confused at the moment to
remember which was astronomy and which was astrology--but the
answer was true under either circumstance, for she read, and was
slightly alarmed at Francis Moore's astrological predictions; and,
as to astronomy, in a private and confidential conversation, she
had told me she never could believe that the earth was moving
constantly, and that she would not believe it if she could, it made
her feel so tired and dizzy whenever she thought about it.

In our pattens we picked our way home with extra care that night,
so refined and delicate were our perceptions after drinking tea
with "my lady."


Soon after the events of which I gave an account in my last paper,
I was summoned home by my father's illness; and for a time I
forgot, in anxiety about him, to wonder how my dear friends at
Cranford were getting on, or how Lady Glenmire could reconcile
herself to the dulness of the long visit which she was still paying
to her sister-in-law, Mrs Jamieson. When my father grew a little
stronger I accompanied him to the seaside, so that altogether I
seemed banished from Cranford, and was deprived of the opportunity
of hearing any chance intelligence of the dear little town for the
greater part of that year.

Late in November--when we had returned home again, and my father
was once more in good health--I received a letter from Miss Matty;
and a very mysterious letter it was. She began many sentences
without ending them, running them one into another, in much the
same confused sort of way in which written words run together on
blotting-paper. All I could make out was that, if my father was
better (which she hoped he was), and would take warning and wear a
great-coat from Michaelmas to Lady-day, if turbans were in fashion,
could I tell her? Such a piece of gaiety was going to happen as
had not been seen or known of since Wombwell's lions came, when one
of them ate a little child's arm; and she was, perhaps, too old to
care about dress, but a new cap she must have; and, having heard
that turbans were worn, and some of the county families likely to
come, she would like to look tidy, if I would bring her a cap from
the milliner I employed; and oh, dear! how careless of her to
forget that she wrote to beg I would come and pay her a visit next
Tuesday; when she hoped to have something to offer me in the way of
amusement, which she would not now more particularly describe, only
sea-green was her favourite colour. So she ended her letter; but
in a P.S. she added, she thought she might as well tell me what was
the peculiar attraction to Cranford just now; Signor Brunoni was
going to exhibit his wonderful magic in the Cranford Assembly Rooms
on Wednesday and Friday evening in the following week.

I was very glad to accept the invitation from my dear Miss Matty,
independently of the conjuror, and most particularly anxious to
prevent her from disfiguring her small, gentle, mousey face with a
great Saracen's head turban; and accordingly, I bought her a
pretty, neat, middle-aged cap, which, however, was rather a
disappointment to her when, on my arrival, she followed me into my
bedroom, ostensibly to poke the fire, but in reality, I do believe,
to see if the sea-green turban was not inside the cap-box with
which I had travelled. It was in vain that I twirled the cap round
on my hand to exhibit back and side fronts: her heart had been set
upon a turban, and all she could do was to say, with resignation in
her look and voice -

"I am sure you did your best, my dear. It is just like the caps
all the ladies in Cranford are wearing, and they have had theirs
for a year, I dare say. I should have liked something newer, I
confess--something more like the turbans Miss Betty Barker tells me
Queen Adelaide wears; but it is very pretty, my dear. And I dare
say lavender will wear better than sea-green. Well, after all,
what is dress, that we should care anything about it? You'll tell
me if you want anything, my dear. Here is the bell. I suppose
turbans have not got down to Drumble yet?"

So saying, the dear old lady gently bemoaned herself out of the
room, leaving me to dress for the evening, when, as she informed
me, she expected Miss Pole and Mrs Forrester, and she hoped I
should not feel myself too much tired to join the party. Of course
I should not; and I made some haste to unpack and arrange my dress;
but, with all my speed, I heard the arrivals and the buzz of
conversation in the next room before I was ready. Just as I opened
the door, I caught the words, "I was foolish to expect anything
very genteel out of the Drumble shops; poor girl! she did her best,
I've no doubt." But, for all that, I had rather that she blamed
Drumble and me than disfigured herself with a turban.

Miss Pole was always the person, in the trio of Cranford ladies now
assembled, to have had adventures. She was in the habit of
spending the morning in rambling from shop to shop, not to purchase
anything (except an occasional reel of cotton or a piece of tape),
but to see the new articles and report upon them, and to collect
all the stray pieces of intelligence in the town. She had a way,
too, of demurely popping hither and thither into all sorts of
places to gratify her curiosity on any point--a way which, if she
had not looked so very genteel and prim, might have been considered
impertinent. And now, by the expressive way in which she cleared
her throat, and waited for all minor subjects (such as caps and
turbans) to be cleared off the course, we knew she had something
very particular to relate, when the due pause came--and I defy any
people possessed of common modesty to keep up a conversation long,
where one among them sits up aloft in silence, looking down upon
all the things they chance to say as trivial and contemptible
compared to what they could disclose, if properly entreated. Miss
Pole began -

"As I was stepping out of Gordon's shop to-day, I chanced to go
into the 'George' (my Betty has a second-cousin who is chambermaid
there, and I thought Betty would like to hear how she was), and,
not seeing anyone about, I strolled up the staircase, and found
myself in the passage leading to the Assembly Room (you and I
remember the Assembly Room, I am sure, Miss Matty! and the minuets
de la cour!); so I went on, not thinking of what I was about, when,
all at once, I perceived that I was in the middle of the
preparations for to-morrow night--the room being divided with great
clothes-maids, over which Crosby's men were tacking red flannel;
very dark and odd it seemed; it quite bewildered me, and I was
going on behind the screens, in my absence of mind, when a
gentleman (quite the gentleman, I can assure you) stepped forwards
and asked if I had any business he could arrange for me. He spoke
such pretty broken English, I could not help thinking of Thaddeus
of Warsaw, and the Hungarian Brothers, and Santo Sebastiani; and
while I was busy picturing his past life to myself, he had bowed me
out of the room. But wait a minute! You have not heard half my
story yet! I was going downstairs, when who should I meet but
Betty's second-cousin. So, of course, I stopped to speak to her
for Betty's sake; and she told me that I had really seen the
conjuror--the gentleman who spoke broken English was Signor Brunoni
himself. Just at this moment he passed us on the stairs, making
such a graceful bow! in reply to which I dropped a curtsey--all
foreigners have such polite manners, one catches something of it.
But when he had gone downstairs, I bethought me that I had dropped
my glove in the Assembly Room (it was safe in my muff all the time,
but I never found it till afterwards); so I went back, and, just as
I was creeping up the passage left on one side of the great screen
that goes nearly across the room, who should I see but the very
same gentleman that had met me before, and passed me on the stairs,
coming now forwards from the inner part of the room, to which there
is no entrance--you remember, Miss Matty--and just repeating, in
his pretty broken English, the inquiry if I had any business there-
-I don't mean that he put it quite so bluntly, but he seemed very
determined that I should not pass the screen--so, of course, I
explained about my glove, which, curiously enough, I found at that
very moment."

Miss Pole, then, had seen the conjuror--the real, live conjuror!
and numerous were the questions we all asked her. "Had he a
beard?" "Was he young, or old?" "Fair, or dark?" "Did he look"--
(unable to shape my question prudently, I put it in another form)--
"How did he look?" In short, Miss Pole was the heroine of the
evening, owing to her morning's encounter. If she was not the rose
(that is to say the conjuror) she had been near it.

Conjuration, sleight of hand, magic, witchcraft, were the subjects
of the evening. Miss Pole was slightly sceptical, and inclined to
think there might be a scientific solution found for even the
proceedings of the Witch of Endor. Mrs Forrester believed
everything, from ghosts to death-watches. Miss Matty ranged
between the two--always convinced by the last speaker. I think she
was naturally more inclined to Mrs Forrester's side, but a desire
of proving herself a worthy sister to Miss Jenkyns kept her equally
balanced--Miss Jenkyns, who would never allow a servant to call the
little rolls of tallow that formed themselves round candles
"winding-sheets," but insisted on their being spoken of as "roley-
poleys!" A sister of hers to be superstitious! It would never do.

After tea, I was despatched downstairs into the dining-parlour for
that volume of the old Encyclopaedia which contained the nouns
beginning with C, in order that Miss Pole might prime herself with
scientific explanations for the tricks of the following evening.
It spoilt the pool at Preference which Miss Matty and Mrs Forrester
had been looking forward to, for Miss Pole became so much absorbed
in her subject, and the plates by which it was illustrated, that we
felt it would be cruel to disturb her otherwise than by one or two
well-timed yawns, which I threw in now and then, for I was really
touched by the meek way in which the two ladies were bearing their
disappointment. But Miss Pole only read the more zealously,
imparting to us no more information than this -

"Ah! I see; I comprehend perfectly. A represents the ball. Put A
between B and D--no! between C and F, and turn the second joint of
the third finger of your left hand over the wrist of your right H.
Very clear indeed! My dear Mrs Forrester, conjuring and witchcraft
is a mere affair of the alphabet. Do let me read you this one

Mrs Forrester implored Miss Pole to spare her, saying, from a child
upwards, she never could understand being read aloud to; and I
dropped the pack of cards, which I had been shuffling very audibly,
and by this discreet movement I obliged Miss Pole to perceive that
Preference was to have been the order of the evening, and to
propose, rather unwillingly, that the pool should commence. The
pleasant brightness that stole over the other two ladies' faces on
this! Miss Matty had one or two twinges of self-reproach for
having interrupted Miss Pole in her studies: and did not remember
her cards well, or give her full attention to the game, until she
had soothed her conscience by offering to lend the volume of the
Encyclopaedia to Miss Pole, who accepted it thankfully, and said
Betty should take it home when she came with the lantern.

The next evening we were all in a little gentle flutter at the idea
of the gaiety before us. Miss Matty went up to dress betimes, and
hurried me until I was ready, when we found we had an hour-and-a-
half to wait before the "doors opened at seven precisely." And we
had only twenty yards to go! However, as Miss Matty said, it would
not do to get too much absorbed in anything, and forget the time;
so she thought we had better sit quietly, without lighting the
candles, till five minutes to seven. So Miss Matty dozed, and I

At length we set off; and at the door under the carriage-way at the
"George," we met Mrs Forrester and Miss Pole: the latter was
discussing the subject of the evening with more vehemence than
ever, and throwing X's and B's at our heads like hailstones. She
had even copied one or two of the "receipts"--as she called them--
for the different tricks, on backs of letters, ready to explain and
to detect Signor Brunoni's arts.

We went into the cloak-room adjoining the Assembly Room; Miss Matty
gave a sigh or two to her departed youth, and the remembrance of
the last time she had been there, as she adjusted her pretty new
cap before the strange, quaint old mirror in the cloak-room. The
Assembly Room had been added to the inn, about a hundred years
before, by the different county families, who met together there
once a month during the winter to dance and play at cards. Many a
county beauty had first swung through the minuet that she
afterwards danced before Queen Charlotte in this very room. It was
said that one of the Gunnings had graced the apartment with her
beauty; it was certain that a rich and beautiful widow, Lady
Williams, had here been smitten with the noble figure of a young
artist, who was staying with some family in the neighbourhood for
professional purposes, and accompanied his patrons to the Cranford
Assembly. And a pretty bargain poor Lady Williams had of her
handsome husband, if all tales were true. Now, no beauty blushed
and dimpled along the sides of the Cranford Assembly Room; no
handsome artist won hearts by his bow, chapeau bras in hand; the
old room was dingy; the salmon-coloured paint had faded into a
drab; great pieces of plaster had chipped off from the fine wreaths
and festoons on its walls; but still a mouldy odour of aristocracy
lingered about the place, and a dusty recollection of the days that
were gone made Miss Matty and Mrs Forrester bridle up as they
entered, and walk mincingly up the room, as if there were a number
of genteel observers, instead of two little boys with a stick of
toffee between them with which to beguile the time.

We stopped short at the second front row; I could hardly understand
why, until I heard Miss Pole ask a stray waiter if any of the
county families were expected; and when he shook his head, and
believed not, Mrs Forrester and Miss Matty moved forwards, and our
party represented a conversational square. The front row was soon
augmented and enriched by Lady Glenmire and Mrs Jamieson. We six
occupied the two front rows, and our aristocratic seclusion was
respected by the groups of shop-keepers who strayed in from time to
time and huddled together on the back benches. At least I
conjectured so, from the noise they made, and the sonorous bumps
they gave in sitting down; but when, in weariness of the obstinate
green curtain that would not draw up, but would stare at me with
two odd eyes, seen through holes, as in the old tapestry story, I
would fain have looked round at the merry chattering people behind
me, Miss Pole clutched my arm, and begged me not to turn, for "it
was not the thing." What "the thing" was, I never could find out,
but it must have been something eminently dull and tiresome.
However, we all sat eyes right, square front, gazing at the
tantalising curtain, and hardly speaking intelligibly, we were so
afraid of being caught in the vulgarity of making any noise in a
place of public amusement. Mrs Jamieson was the most fortunate,
for she fell asleep.

At length the eyes disappeared--the curtain quivered--one side went
up before the other, which stuck fast; it was dropped again, and,
with a fresh effort, and a vigorous pull from some unseen hand, it
flew up, revealing to our sight a magnificent gentleman in the
Turkish costume, seated before a little table, gazing at us (I
should have said with the same eyes that I had last seen through
the hole in the curtain) with calm and condescending dignity, "like
a being of another sphere," as I heard a sentimental voice
ejaculate behind me.

"That's not Signor Brunoni!" said Miss Pole decidedly; and so
audibly that I am sure he heard, for he glanced down over his
flowing beard at our party with an air of mute reproach. "Signor
Brunoni had no beard--but perhaps he'll come soon." So she lulled
herself into patience. Meanwhile, Miss Matty had reconnoitred
through her eye-glass, wiped it, and looked again. Then she turned
round, and said to me, in a kind, mild, sorrowful tone -

"You see, my dear, turbans ARE worn."

But we had no time for more conversation. The Grand Turk, as Miss
Pole chose to call him, arose and announced himself as Signor

"I don't believe him!" exclaimed Miss Pole, in a defiant manner.
He looked at her again, with the same dignified upbraiding in his
countenance. "I don't!" she repeated more positively than ever.
"Signor Brunoni had not got that muffy sort of thing about his
chin, but looked like a close-shaved Christian gentleman."

Miss Pole's energetic speeches had the good effect of wakening up
Mrs Jamieson, who opened her eyes wide, in sign of the deepest
attention--a proceeding which silenced Miss Pole and encouraged the
Grand Turk to proceed, which he did in very broken English--so
broken that there was no cohesion between the parts of his
sentences; a fact which he himself perceived at last, and so left
off speaking and proceeded to action.

Now we WERE astonished. How he did his tricks I could not imagine;
no, not even when Miss Pole pulled out her pieces of paper and
began reading aloud--or at least in a very audible whisper--the
separate "receipts" for the most common of his tricks. If ever I
saw a man frown and look enraged, I saw the Grand Turk frown at
Miss Pole; but, as she said, what could be expected but unchristian
looks from a Mussulman? If Miss Pole were sceptical, and more
engrossed with her receipts and diagrams than with his tricks, Miss
Matty and Mrs Forrester were mystified and perplexed to the highest
degree. Mrs Jamieson kept taking her spectacles off and wiping
them, as if she thought it was something defective in them which
made the legerdemain; and Lady Glenmire, who had seen many curious
sights in Edinburgh, was very much struck with the tricks, and
would not at all agree with Miss Pole, who declared that anybody
could do them with a little practice, and that she would, herself,
undertake to do all he did, with two hours given to study the
Encyclopaedia and make her third finger flexible.

At last Miss Matty and Mrs Forrester became perfectly awestricken.
They whispered together. I sat just behind them, so I could not
help hearing what they were saying. Miss Matty asked Mrs Forrester
"if she thought it was quite right to have come to see such things?
She could not help fearing they were lending encouragement to
something that was not quite"-- A little shake of the head filled
up the blank. Mrs Forrester replied, that the same thought had
crossed her mind; she too was feeling very uncomfortable, it was so
very strange. She was quite certain that it was her pocket-
handkerchief which was in that loaf just now; and it had been in
her own hand not five minutes before. She wondered who had
furnished the bread? She was sure it could not be Dakin, because
he was the churchwarden. Suddenly Miss Matty half-turned towards
me -

"Will you look, my dear--you are a stranger in the town, and it
won't give rise to unpleasant reports--will you just look round and
see if the rector is here? If he is, I think we may conclude that
this wonderful man is sanctioned by the Church, and that will be a
great relief to my mind.

I looked, and I saw the tall, thin, dry, dusty rector, sitting
surrounded by National School boys, guarded by troops of his own
sex from any approach of the many Cranford spinsters. His kind
face was all agape with broad smiles, and the boys around him were
in chinks of laughing. I told Miss Matty that the Church was
smiling approval, which set her mind at ease.

I have never named Mr Hayter, the rector, because I, as a well-to-
do and happy young woman, never came in contact with him. He was
an old bachelor, but as afraid of matrimonial reports getting
abroad about him as any girl of eighteen: and he would rush into a
shop or dive down an entry, sooner than encounter any of the
Cranford ladies in the street; and, as for the Preference parties,
I did not wonder at his not accepting invitations to them. To tell
the truth, I always suspected Miss Pole of having given very
vigorous chase to Mr Hayter when he first came to Cranford; and not
the less, because now she appeared to share so vividly in his dread
lest her name should ever be coupled with his. He found all his
interests among the poor and helpless; he had treated the National
School boys this very night to the performance; and virtue was for
once its own reward, for they guarded him right and left, and clung
round him as if he had been the queen-bee and they the swarm. He
felt so safe in their environment that he could even afford to give
our party a bow as we filed out. Miss Pole ignored his presence,
and pretended to be absorbed in convincing us that we had been
cheated, and had not seen Signor Brunoni after all.


I think a series of circumstances dated from Signor Brunoni's visit
to Cranford, which seemed at the time connected in our minds with
him, though I don't know that he had anything really to do with
them. All at once all sorts of uncomfortable rumours got afloat in
the town. There were one or two robberies--real bona fide
robberies; men had up before the magistrates and committed for
trial--and that seemed to make us all afraid of being robbed; and
for a long time, at Miss Matty's, I know, we used to make a regular
expedition all round the kitchens and cellars every night, Miss
Matty leading the way, armed with the poker, I following with the
hearth-brush, and Martha carrying the shovel and fire-irons with
which to sound the alarm; and by the accidental hitting together of
them she often frightened us so much that we bolted ourselves up,
all three together, in the back-kitchen, or store-room, or wherever
we happened to be, till, when our affright was over, we recollected
ourselves and set out afresh with double valiance. By day we heard
strange stories from the shopkeepers and cottagers, of carts that
went about in the dead of night, drawn by horses shod with felt,
and guarded by men in dark clothes, going round the town, no doubt
in search of some unwatched house or some unfastened door.

Miss Pole, who affected great bravery herself, was the principal
person to collect and arrange these reports so as to make them
assume their most fearful aspect. But we discovered that she had
begged one of Mr Hoggins's worn-out hats to hang up in her lobby,
and we (at least I) had doubts as to whether she really would enjoy
the little adventure of having her house broken into, as she
protested she should. Miss Matty made no secret of being an arrant
coward, but she went regularly through her housekeeper's duty of
inspection--only the hour for this became earlier and earlier, till
at last we went the rounds at half-past six, and Miss Matty
adjourned to bed soon after seven, "in order to get the night over
the sooner."

Cranford had so long piqued itself on being an honest and moral
town that it had grown to fancy itself too genteel and well-bred to
be otherwise, and felt the stain upon its character at this time
doubly. But we comforted ourselves with the assurance which we
gave to each other that the robberies could never have been
committed by any Cranford person; it must have been a stranger or
strangers who brought this disgrace upon the town, and occasioned
as many precautions as if we were living among the Red Indians or
the French.

This last comparison of our nightly state of defence and
fortification was made by Mrs Forrester, whose father had served
under General Burgoyne in the American war, and whose husband had
fought the French in Spain. She indeed inclined to the idea that,
in some way, the French were connected with the small thefts, which
were ascertained facts, and the burglaries and highway robberies,
which were rumours. She had been deeply impressed with the idea of
French spies at some time in her life; and the notion could never
be fairly eradicated, but sprang up again from time to time. And
now her theory was this:- The Cranford people respected themselves
too much, and were too grateful to the aristocracy who were so kind
as to live near the town, ever to disgrace their bringing up by
being dishonest or immoral; therefore, we must believe that the
robbers were strangers--if strangers, why not foreigners?--if
foreigners, who so likely as the French? Signor Brunoni spoke
broken English like a Frenchman; and, though he wore a turban like
a Turk, Mrs Forrester had seen a print of Madame de Stael with a
turban on, and another of Mr Denon in just such a dress as that in
which the conjuror had made his appearance, showing clearly that
the French, as well as the Turks, wore turbans. There could be no
doubt Signor Brunoni was a Frenchman--a French spy come to discover
the weak and undefended places of England, and doubtless he had his
accomplices. For her part, she, Mrs Forrester, had always had her
own opinion of Miss Pole's adventure at the "George Inn"--seeing
two men where only one was believed to be. French people had ways
and means which, she was thankful to say, the English knew nothing
about; and she had never felt quite easy in her mind about going to
see that conjuror--it was rather too much like a forbidden thing,
though the rector was there. In short, Mrs Forrester grew more
excited than we had ever known her before, and, being an officer's
daughter and widow, we looked up to her opinion, of course.

Really I do not know how much was true or false in the reports
which flew about like wildfire just at this time; but it seemed to
me then that there was every reason to believe that at Mardon (a
small town about eight miles from Cranford) houses and shops were
entered by holes made in the walls, the bricks being silently
carried away in the dead of the night, and all done so quietly that
no sound was heard either in or out of the house. Miss Matty gave
it up in despair when she heard of this. "What was the use," said
she, "of locks and bolts, and bells to the windows, and going round
the house every night? That last trick was fit for a conjuror.
Now she did believe that Signor Brunoni was at the bottom of it."

One afternoon, about five o'clock, we were startled by a hasty
knock at the door. Miss Matty bade me run and tell Martha on no

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