The Hand of Ethelberta eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 541 pages of information about The Hand of Ethelberta.

‘Then she holds the reins?’

’She do!  There was a little tussle at first; but how could a old man hold his own against such a spry young body as that!  She threatened to run away from him, and kicked up Bob’s-a-dying, and I don’t know what all; and being the woman, of course she was sure to beat in the long run.  Pore old nobleman, she marches him off to church every Sunday as regular as a clock, makes him read family prayers that haven’t been read in Enckworth for the last thirty years to my certain knowledge, and keeps him down to three glasses of wine a day, strict, so that you never see him any the more generous for liquor or a bit elevated at all, as it used to be.  There, ’tis true, it has done him good in one sense, for they say he’d have been dead in five years if he had gone on as he was going.’

‘So that she’s a good wife to him, after all.’

’Well, if she had been a little worse ’twould have been a little better for him in one sense, for he would have had his own way more.  But he was a curious feller at one time, as we all know and I suppose ’tis as much as he can expect; but ’tis a strange reverse for him.  It is said that when he’s asked out to dine, or to anything in the way of a jaunt, his eye flies across to hers afore he answers:  and if her eye says yes, he says yes:  and if her eye says no, he says no.  ’Tis a sad condition for one who ruled womankind as he, that a woman should lead him in a string whether he will or no.’

‘Sad indeed!’

’She’s steward, and agent, and everything.  She has got a room called “my lady’s office,” and great ledgers and cash-books you never see the like.  In old times there were bailiffs to look after the workfolk, foremen to look after the tradesmen, a building-steward to look after the foremen, a land-steward to look after the building-steward, and a dashing grand agent to look after the land-steward:  fine times they had then, I assure ye.  My lady said they were eating out the property like a honeycomb, and then there was a terrible row.  Half of ’em were sent flying; and now there’s only the agent, and the viscountess, and a sort of surveyor man, and of the three she does most work so ’tis said.  She marks the trees to be felled, settles what horses are to be sold and bought, and is out in all winds and weathers.  There, if somebody hadn’t looked into things ’twould soon have been all up with his lordship, he was so very extravagant.  In one sense ’twas lucky for him that she was born in humble life, because owing to it she knows the ins and outs of contriving, which he never did.’

’Then a man on the verge of bankruptcy will do better to marry a poor and sensible wife than a rich and stupid one.  Well, here we are at the tenth milestone.  I will walk the remainder of the distance to Knollsea, as there is ample time for meeting the last steamboat.’

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The Hand of Ethelberta from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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