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in front of which, in its neat little garden, was walking up and down a very fat woman about sixty, leaning on the shoulder of a slender girl of sixteen, while her other arm was supported by a tall walking stick.
As soon as the old lady perceived us, she called out in a loud, merry tone, “Welcome, ladies, to Lovegrove, for I suppose you be the new comers.”
Miss Nettleton replied in the affirmative, when our new acquaintance, whose name was Battersby, invited us in. As soon as we were seated, she ordered her young servant to bring in some bread and cheese, and a jug of ale with a toast in it, adding, “ Nothing in my mind can be done without eating and drinking."
Upon Miss Nettleton and myself declining any refreshment, on account of our late breakfast, the old lady said,
“Well, then, I must eat and drink it up myself, for it's a sin to waste it.”
She inquired whether we had seen any of our neighbours, and upon informing her that we had just parted from two young ladies, she
said, “Those Miss Grubbses be very idle young husseys, and never does nothing from morning till night, while their mother works like a horse, and all to make them fine ladies.”
As to the tidy woman, she was loud in her praise, saying she was the quietest and most industrious creature alive, though she had such bad health ; while our first dirty acquaintance, who had only three children, was the most lazy, impudent, good-for-nothing woman in the whole parish.
“ You must look pretty sharp, madam, I can tell you,” said the intelligent, though guttling old lady,“ or you will be finely imposed upon.”
I saw that Miss Nettleton, so far from being thankful for Mrs. Battersby's hints, listened with incredulity to everything which took away from her romantic ideas of rural simpli city.
“ Have you seen our parson, ma'am ?” inquired the old lady. “He be a nice young gentleman, only he be too thin for the pulpit.”
“ Too thin!” exclaimed Miss Nettleton; “What do you mean ?”
“ Why, ma'am, I likes to see a portly gentle. man in the pulpit with a fine rosy face, and a voice as makes one start again.”.
“I must differ from you there,” replied Miss Nettleton; “ I think a slim, gentlemanly appearance is far more interesting than a clumsy, red-faced person."
“Well, ma'am, tastes differ, but give me a jolly man, whether for a husband or a parson;" saying this, the old woman burst out into a hearty laugh. We then took our leave, and as we got again into the village lane, we met an ugly, shrewd-looking little man, whom I had observed several times in the course of the morning hovering about our path.
He now approached, and bidding us good day, offered to show us about the village. Miss Nettleton, who was particularly fond of talking to every body, readily and thankfully accepted his offer, and, untired, set off in his company.
“That be a merry old lady you have just left," he observed.
“Yes; who is she?”
“Why, Miss, she was housekeeper years ago to the squire's father, and she was such a purtikiler favourite, that he left her well off, and she spends almost all her money in good eating and drinking; and I suppose it will kill her at last, for she gets so fat she won't be able to walk at all soon.”
We now arrived in front of a small red brick house, into which, saying it was his, he invited us to enter. We did so, and were met at the door by a tall, thin, vinegar-faced woman, whom he announced as his wife. She looked at us very crossly, saying, “ I'm sure this bean't the time a day to bring in gentlefolks, and I so busy."
Thus rebuffed, we retreated, though urged on by the little man. He therefore took us into his orchard, and showed us all his premises, which were very neat, but as uninteresting as it was possible to be. He afterwards accompanied us home, and was so officious that I began to be thoroughly tired of him. My mistress, on the contrary, accepted with pleasure his offer of calling the next day to
conduct us over that part of the village which we had not yet seen.
In the mean time our very frugal dinner of herbs had been prepared, and when we sat down to the smoked, dingy-looking, coarse potatoes, and watery cabbages, I thought that Miss Nettleton relished them as little as I did.
When we rang for tea in the evening, our unsophisticated rustic damsels were nowhere to be found. I hunted through all the rooms and the garden in vain. At length our sulky Reuben made his appearance, and upon questioning him, I discovered that Honor and Patience were at high romps with a set of fellows in a neighbouring hayfield. Miss Nettleton had joined me just as I received this piece of information, and instead of being angry at being thus neglected by her handmaidens, she was absolutely in raptures at the idea of a real hayfield, with real nymphs and swains sporting in it.
She, therefore, to my no small annoyance and surprise, declared her intention of witVOL. II.