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The Mating of Lydia   By: (1851-1920)

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THE MATING OF LYDIA

by

MRS. HUMPHRY WARD

1913

TO R. J. S.

BOOK I

I

"Aye, it's a bit dampish," said Dixon, as he brought a couple more logs to replenish a fire that seemed to have no heart for burning.

The absurd moderation of the statement irritated the person to whom it was addressed.

"What I'm thinkin'" said Mrs. Dixon, impatiently, as she moved to the window "is that they'll mappen not get here at all! The watter'll be over t' road by Grier's mill. And yo' know varra well, it may be runnin' too fasst to get t' horses through an' they'd be three pussons inside, an' luggage at top."

"Aye, they may have to goa back to Pengarth that's varra possible."

"An' all t' dinner spoilin', an' t' fires wastin' for nowt." The speaker stood peering discontentedly into the gloom without: "But you'll not trouble yoursen, Tammas, I daursay."

"Well, I'm not Godamighty to mak' t' rain gie over," was the man's cheerful reply, as he took the bellows to the damp wood which lay feebly crackling and fizzing on the wide hearth. His exertions produced a spasmodic flame, which sent flickering tongues of light through the wide spaces and shadows of the hall. Otherwise the deepening gloom of the October evening was lightened only by the rays of one feebly burning lamp standing apparently in a corridor or gallery just visible beyond a richly pillared archway which led from the hall to the interior of the house. Through this archway could be seen the dim ascending lines of a great double staircase; while here and there a white carved doorway or cornice glimmered from the darkness.

A stately Georgian house, built in a rich classical style, and dating from 1740: so a trained eye would have interpreted the architectural and decorative features faintly disclosed by lamp and fire. But the house and its contents the house and its condition were strangely at war. Everywhere the seemly lines and lovely ornament due to its original builders were spoilt or obliterated by the sordid confusion to which some modern owner had brought it. It was not a house apparently, so far as its present use went, but a warehouse. There was properly speaking no furniture in it; only a multitude of packing cases, boxes of all shapes and sizes, piled upon or leaning against each other. The hall was choked with them, so that only a gangway a couple of yards wide was left, connecting the entrance door with the gallery and staircase. And any one stepping into the gallery, which with its high arched roof ran the whole length of the old house, would have seen it also disfigured in the same way. The huge deal cases stood on bare boards; the splendid staircase was carpetless. Nothing indeed could have been more repellant than the general aspect, the squalid disarray of Threlfall Tower, as seen from the inside, on this dreary evening.

The fact impressed itself on Mrs. Dixon as she turned back from the window toward her husband.

She looked round her sulkily.

"Well, I've done my best, Tammas, and I daursay yo' have too. But it's not a place to bring a leddy to an' that's the truth."

"Foaks mun please theirsels," said Dixon with the same studied mildness as before. Then, having at last made the logs burn, as he hoped, with some brightness, he proceeded to sweep up the wide stone hearth. "Is t' rooms upstairs finished?"

"Aye hours ago." His wife dropped with a weary gesture upon a chair near the fire. "Tammas, yo' know it's a queer thing awthegither! What are they coomin' here for at all?"

"Well, master's coom into t' property, an' I'm thinkin' it's nobbut his dooty to coom an' see it. It's two year sen he came into 't; an' he's done nowt but tak' t' rents, an' turn off men, an' clutter up t' house wi' boxes, iver sense. It's time, I'm thinkin', as he did coom an' luke into things a bit."

Thomas rose from his knees, and stood warming himself at the fire, while he looked pensively round him. He was as tired as his wife, and quite as mistrustful of what might be before them; but he was not going to confess it... Continue reading book >>




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