124 Pages

All's Well - Alice's Victory


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Published 08 December 2010
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Language English
The Project Gutenberg EBook of All's Well, by Emily Sarah Holt This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at Title: All's Well Alice's Victory Author: Emily Sarah Holt Illustrator: M. Lewin Release Date: April 27, 2007 [EBook #21233] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ALL'S WELL *** Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England Emily Sarah Holt "All's Well" Chapter One. Friends and neighbours. “Give you good-morrow, neighbour! Whither away with that great fardel (Bundle), prithee?” “Truly, Mistress, home to Staplehurst, and the fardel holdeth broadcloth for my lads’ new jerkins.” The speakers were two women, both on the younger side of middle age, who met on the road between Staplehurst and Cranbrook, the former coming towards Cranbrook and the latter from it. They were in the midst of that rich and beautiful tract of country known as the Weald of Kent, once the eastern part of the great Andredes Weald, a vast forest which in Saxon days stretched from Kent to the border of Hampshire. There was still, in 1556, much of the forest about the Weald, and even yet it is a well-wooded part of the country, the oak being its principal tree, though the beech sometimes grows to an enormous size. Trees of the Weald were sent to Rome for the building of Saint Peter’s. “And how go matters with you, neighbour?” asked the first speaker, whose name was Alice Benden. “Well, none so ill,” was the reply. “My master’s in full work, and we’ve three of our lads at the cloth-works. We’re none so bad off as some.” “I marvel how it shall go with Sens Bradbridge, poor soul! She’ll be bad off enough, or I err greatly.” “Why, how so, trow? I’ve not heard what ails her.” “Dear heart! then you know not poor Benedict is departed?” “Eh, you never mean it!” exclaimed the bundle-bearer, evidently shocked. “Why, I reckoned he’d taken a fine turn toward recovery. Well, be sure! Ay, poor Sens, I’m sorry for her.” “Two little maids, neither old enough to earn a penny, and she a stranger in the town, pretty nigh, with never a ’quaintance saving them near about her, and I guess very few pennies in her purse. Ay, ’tis a sad look-out for Sens, poor heart.” “Trust me, I’ll look in on her, and see what I may do, so soon as I’ve borne this fardel home. Good lack! but the burying charges ’ll come heavy on her! and I doubt she’s saved nought, as you say, Benedict being sick so long.” “I scarce think there’s much can be done,” said Alice, as she moved forward; “I was in there of early morrow, and Barbara Final, she took the maids home with her. But a kindly word’s not like to come amiss. Here’s Emmet (See Note 1) Wilson at hand: she’ll bear you company home, for I have ado in the town. Good-morrow, Collet.” “Well, good-morrow, Mistress Benden. I’ll rest my fardel a bit on the stile while Emmet comes up.” And, lifting her heavy bundle on the stile, Collet Pardue wiped her heated face with one end of her mantle—there were no shawls in those days—and waited for Emmet Wilson to come up. Emmet was an older woman than either Alice or Collet, being nearly fifty years of age. She too carried a bundle, though not of so formidable a size. Both had been to Cranbrook, then the centre of the cloth-working industry, and its home long before the days of machinery. There were woven the solid grey broadcloths which gave to the men of the Weald the title of “the Grey-Coats of Kent.” From all the villages round about, the factory-hands were recruited. The old factories had stood from the days when Edward the Third and his Flemish Queen brought over the weavers of the Netherlands to improve the English manufactures; and some of them stand yet, turned into ancient residences for the country squires who had large stakes in them in the old days, or peeping out here and there in the principal streets of the town, in the form of old gables and other antique adornments. “Well, Collet! You’ve a brave fardel yonder!” “I’ve six lads and two lasses, neighbour,” said Collet with a laugh. “Takes a sight o’ cloth, it do, to clothe ’em.” “Be sure it do! Ay, you’ve a parcel of ’em. There’s only my man and Titus at our house. Wasn’t that Mistress Benden that parted from you but now? She turned off a bit afore I reached her.” “Ay, it was. She’s a pleasant neighbour.” “She’s better than pleasant, she’s good.” “Well, I believe you speak sooth. I’d lief you could say the same of her master. I wouldn’t live with Master Benden for a power o’ money.” “Well, I’d as soon wish it too, for Mistress Benden’s body; but I’m not so certain sure touching Mistress Benden’s soul. ’Tis my belief if Master Benden were less cantankerous, Mistress wouldn’t be nigh so good.” “What, you hold by the old rhyme, do you—? “‘A spaniel, a wife, and a walnut tree, The more they be beaten, the better they be.’” “Nay, I’ll not say that: but this will I say, some folks be like camomile—‘the more you tread it, the more you spread it.’ When you squeeze ’em, like clover, you press the honey forth: and I count Mistress Benden’s o’ that sort.” “Well, then, let’s hope poor Sens Bradbridge is likewise, for she’s like to get well squeezed and trodden. Have you heard she’s lost her master?” “I have so. Mistress Final told me this morrow early. Nay, I doubt she’s more of the reed family, and ’ll bow down her head like a bulrush. Sens Bradbridge’ll bend afore she breaks, and Mistress Benden ’ll break afore she bends.” “’Tis pity Mistress Benden hath ne’er a child; it might soften her master, and anyhow should comfort her.” “I wouldn’t be the child,” said Emmet drily. Collet laughed. “Well, nor I neither,” said she. “I reckon they’ll not often go short of vinegar in that house; Master Benden’s face ’d turn all the wine, let alone the cream. I’m fain my master’s not o’ that fashion: he’s a bit too easy, my Nick is. I can’t prevail on him to thwack the lads when they’re over-thwart; I have to do it myself.”