I have heard tell old Mr. Alderton wasn’t brought up to be a farmer, but was a scholar when he was young, and had to go into farming when he married Hakes’s daughter as brought the farm with her; and now he had gone back to his books he was more than ever took up with the idea of finding something out—making something new that no one had ever made before—his invention, he called it, but I never understood what it was all about—and indeed Mrs. Blake took very good care I shouldn’t.
She wanted no one to know anything about the master except herself—at least that was my opinion—and if that was her wish she certainly got it.
It was hard work, but I’m not one to grudge a hand’s-turn here or a hand’s-turn there, and I was happy enough; and when the men came in for their meals I always had everything smoking hot, and just as I should wish to sit down to it myself: And when the men come in, Master Harry always come in with them, and he’d say, ’Bacon and greens again, Polly, and done to a turn, I’ll wager. You’re the girl for my money!’ and sit down laughing to a smoking plateful.
And so I was quite happy, and with my first six months’ money I got father a new pipe and a comforter agin the winter, and as pretty a shepherd’s plaid shawl as ever you see for mother, and a knitted waistcoat for my brother Jim, as had wanted one this two year, and had enough left to buy myself a bonnet and gown that I didn’t feel ashamed to sit in church in under Master Harry’s own blue eye. Mrs. Blake looked very sour when she saw my new things.
‘You think to catch a young man with those,’ says she. ’You gells is all alike. But it isn’t fine feathers as catches a husband, as they say. Don’t you believe it.’
And I said, ’No; a husband as was caught so easy might be as easy got rid of, which was convenient sometimes.’
And we come nigh to having words about it.
That was the day before old master went off to London unexpected. When Mrs. Blake heard he was going, she said she would take the opportunity of his being away to make so bold as to ask him for a day’s holiday to go and visit her friends in Ashford. So she and master went in the trap to the station together, and off by the same train; and curious enough, it was by the same train in the evening they come back, and I thought to myself, ’That’s like your artfulness, Mrs. Blake, getting a lift both ways.’
And I wondered to myself whether her friends in Ashford, supposing she had any, was as glad to see her as we was glad to get rid of her.
That’s a day I shall always remember, for other things than her and master going away.
That was the day Betty and I got done early, and she wanted to run home to her mother to see about her clean changes for Sunday, which hadn’t come according to expectations.
So I said, ‘Off you go, child, and mind you’re back by tea,’ and I sat down in the clean kitchen to do up my old Sunday bonnet and make it fit for everyday.