When Lord Colambre expressed some surprise that an old gentleman, as he conceived Mr. Ralph Reynolds to be, should change places so frequently, the old woman answered, ’That though her master was a deal on the wrong side of seventy, and though, to look at him, you’d think he was glued to his chair, and would fall to pieces if he should stir out of it, yet was as alert, and thought no more of going about, than if he was as young as the gentleman who was now speaking to her. It was old Mr. Reynolds’s delight to come down and surprise his people at his different places, and see that they were keeping all tight.’
‘What sort of a man is he;—Is he a miser?’ said Lord Colambre.
‘He is a miser, and he is not a miser,’ said the woman. ’Now he’d think as much of the waste of a penny as another man would of a hundred pounds, and yet he would give a hundred pounds easier than another would give a penny, when he’s in the humour. But his humour is very odd, and there’s no knowing where to have him; he’s gross-grained, and more POSITIVER-like than a mule; and his deafness made him worse in this, because he never heard what nobody said, but would say on his own way—he was very odd but not cracked—no, he was as clear-headed, when he took a thing the right way, as any man could be, and as clever, and could talk as well as any member of Parliament,—and good-natured, and kind-hearted, where he would take a fancy—but then, maybe, it would be to a dog (he was remarkable fond of dogs), or a cat, or a rat even, that he would take a fancy, and think more of ’em than he would of a Christian. But, Poor gentleman, there’s great allowance,’ said she, ’to be made for him, that lost his son and heir—that would have been heir to all, and a fine youth that he doted upon. But,’ continued the old woman, in whose mind the transitions from great to little, from serious to trivial, were ludicrously abrupt, ’that was no reason why the old gentleman should scold me last time he was here, as he did, for as long as ever he could stand over me, only because I killed a mouse who was eating my cheese; and, before night, he beat a boy for stealing a piece of that same cheese; and he would never, when down here, let me set a mouse-trap.’
‘Well, my good woman,’ interrupted Lord Colambre, who was little interested in this affair of the mouse-trap, and nowise curious to learn more of Mr. Reynolds’s domestic economy, ’I’ll not trouble you any farther, if you can be so good as to tell me the road to Toddrington, or to Little Wickham, I think you call it.’
Little Wickham!’ repeated the woman, laughing—’ Bless you, sir, where do you come from?—It’s Little Wrestham; surely everybody knows, near Lantry; and keep the Pike till you come to the turn at Rotherford, and then you strike off into the by-road to the left, and then again turn at the ford to the right. But, if you are going to Toddrington, you don’t go the road to market, which is at the first turn to the left, and the cross-country road, where there’s no quarter, and Toddrington lies—but for Wrestham, you take the road to market.’