On our return homewards, as we were crossing the lawn in front of the house, we heard the porter’s bell ring at the lodge, and shortly afterwards, a kind of cavalcade advanced slowly up the avenue. At sight of it my companion paused, considered it for a moment, and then, making a sudden exclamation, hurried away to meet it. As it approached, I discovered a fair, fresh-looking elderly lady, dressed in an old-fashioned riding-habit, with a broad-brimmed white beaver hat, such as may be seen in Sir Joshua Reynolds’ paintings. She rode a sleek white pony, and was followed by a footman in rich livery, mounted on an over-fed hunter. At a little distance in the rear came an ancient cumbrous chariot, drawn by two very corpulent horses, driven by as corpulent a coachman, beside whom sat a page dressed in a fanciful green livery. Inside of the chariot was a starched prim personage, with a look somewhat between a lady’s companion and a lady’s maid; and two pampered curs, that showed their ugly faces, and barked out of each window.
There was a general turning out of the garrison, to receive this new comer. The Squire assisted her to alight, and saluted her affectionately; the fair Julia flew into her arms, and they embraced with the romantic fervour of boarding-school friends: she was escorted into the house by Julia’s lover, towards whom she showed distinguished favour; and a line of the old servants, who had collected in the Hall, bowed most profoundly as she passed.
I observed that Master Simon was most assiduous and devout in his attentions upon this old lady. He walked by the side of her pony, up the avenue; and, while she was receiving the salutations of the rest of the family, he took occasion to notice the fat coachman; to pat the sleek carriage horses, and, above all, to say a civil word to my lady’s gentlewoman, the prim, sour-looking vestal in the chariot.
I had no more of his company for the rest of the morning. He was swept off in the vortex that followed in the wake of this lady. Once indeed he paused for a moment, as he was hurrying on some errand of the good lady’s, to let me know that this was Lady Lillycraft, a sister of the Squire’s, of large fortune, which the captain would inherit, and that her estate lay in one of the best sporting counties in all England.
Verily old servants are the vouchers of
worthy housekeeping. They
are like rats in a mansion, or mites in a cheese, bespeaking the
antiquity and fatness of their abode.
In my casual anecdotes of the Hall, I may often he tempted to dwell on circumstances of a trite and ordinary nature, from their appearing to me illustrative of genuine national character. It seems to be the study of the Squire to adhere, as much as possible, to what he considers the old landmarks of English manners. His servants all understand his ways, and for the most part have been accustomed to them from infancy; so that, upon the whole, his household presents one of the few tolerable specimens that can now be met with, of the establishment of an English country gentleman of the old school.