Cranford eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 217 pages of information about Cranford.
she deposed and adhered to, supported by a consciousness of the secret sympathy of her mistress under the withering scorn with which Miss Pole regarded her.  And not only she, but many others, had seen this headless lady, who sat by the roadside wringing her hands as in deep grief.  Mrs Forrester looked at us from time to time with an air of conscious triumph; but then she had not to pass through Darkness Lane before she could bury herself beneath her own familiar bed-clothes.

We preserved a discreet silence as to the headless lady while we were putting on our things to go home, for there was no knowing how near the ghostly head and ears might be, or what spiritual connection they might be keeping up with the unhappy body in Darkness Lane; and, therefore, even Miss Pole felt that it was as well not to speak lightly on such subjects, for fear of vexing or insulting that woebegone trunk.  At least, so I conjecture; for, instead of the busy clatter usual in the operation, we tied on our cloaks as sadly as mutes at a funeral.  Miss Matty drew the curtains round the windows of the chair to shut out disagreeable sights, and the men (either because they were in spirits that their labours were so nearly ended, or because they were going down hill), set off at such a round and merry pace, that it was all Miss Pole and I could do to keep up with them.  She had breath for nothing beyond an imploring “Don’t leave me!” uttered as she clutched my arm so tightly that I could not have quitted her, ghost or no ghost.  What a relief it was when the men, weary of their burden and their quick trot, stopped just where Headingley Causeway branches off from Darkness Lane!  Miss Pole unloosed me and caught at one of the men —

“Could not you—­could not you take Miss Matty round by Headingley Causeway?—­the pavement in Darkness Lane jolts so, and she is not very strong.”

A smothered voice was heard from the inside of the chair —

“Oh! pray go on!  What is the matter?  What is the matter?  I will give you sixpence more to go on very fast; pray don’t stop here.”

“And I’ll give you a shilling,” said Miss Pole, with tremulous dignity, “if you’ll go by Headingley Causeway.”

The two men grunted acquiescence and took up the chair, and went along the causeway, which certainly answered Miss Pole’s kind purpose of saving Miss Matty’s bones; for it was covered with soft, thick mud, and even a fall there would have been easy till the getting-up came, when there might have been some difficulty in extrication.

CHAPTER XI—­SAMUEL BROWN

The next morning I met Lady Glenmire and Miss Pole setting out on a long walk to find some old woman who was famous in the neighbourhood for her skill in knitting woollen stockings.  Miss Pole said to me, with a smile half-kindly and half-contemptuous upon her countenance, “I have been just telling Lady Glenmire of our poor friend Mrs Forrester, and her terror of ghosts.  It comes from living so much alone, and listening to the bug-a-boo stories of that Jenny of hers.”  She was so calm and so much above superstitious fears herself that I was almost ashamed to say how glad I had been of her Headingley Causeway proposition the night before, and turned off the conversation to something else.

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Cranford from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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