Diary of a Goose Girl by Kate Douglas Wiggin
by the author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm - Chapter 2

 

CHAPTER II

July 4th.

Enter the family of Thornycroft Farm, of which I am already a member in
good and regular standing.

I introduce Mrs. Heaven first, for she is a self-saturated person who
would never forgive the insult should she receive any lower place.

She welcomed me with the statement: "We do not take lodgers here, nor
boarders; no lodgers, nor boarders, but we do occasionally admit paying
guests, those who look as if they would appreciate the quietude of the
plyce and be willing as you might say to remunerate according."

I did not mind at this particular juncture what I was called, so long as
the epithet was comparatively unobjectionable, so I am a paying guest,
therefore, and I expect to pay handsomely for the handsome appellation.
Mrs. Heaven is short and fat; she fills her dress as a pin-cushion fills
its cover; she wears a cap and apron, and she is so full of platitudes
that she would have burst had I not appeared as a providential outlet for
them. Her accent is not of the farm, but of the town, and smacks wholly
of the marts of trade. She is repetitious, too, as well as
platitudinous. "I 'ope if there's anythink you require you will let us
know, let us know," she says several times each day; and whenever she
enters my sitting-room she prefaces her conversation with the remark: "I
trust you are finding it quiet here, miss? It's the quietude of the
plyce that is its charm, yes, the quietude. And yet" (she dribbles on)
"it wears on a body after a while, miss. I often go into Woodmucket to
visit one of my sons just for the noise, simply for the noise, miss, for
nothink else in the world but the noise. There's nothink like noise for
soothing nerves that is worn threadbare with the quietude, miss, or at
least that's my experience; and yet to a strynger the quietude of the
plyce is its charm, undoubtedly its chief charm; and that is what our
paying guests always say, although our charges are somewhat higher than
other plyces. If there's anythink you require, miss, I 'ope you'll
mention it. There is not a commodious assortment in Barbury Green, but
we can always send the pony to Woodmucket in case of urgency. Our paying
guest last summer was a Mrs. Pollock, and she was by way of having sudden
fancies. Young and unmarried though you are, miss, I think you will tyke
my meaning without my speaking plyner? Well, at six o'clock of a rainy
afternoon, she was seized with an unaccountable desire for vegetable
marrows, and Mr. 'Eaven put the pony in the cart and went to Woodmucket
for them, which is a great advantage to be so near a town and yet 'ave
the quietude."

Mr. Heaven is merged, like Mr. Jellyby, in the more shining qualities of
his wife. A line of description is too long for him. Indeed, I can
think of no single word brief enough, at least in English. The Latin
"nil" will do, since no language is rich in words of less than three
letters. He is nice, kind, bald, timid, thin, and so colourless that he
can scarcely be discerned save in a strong light. When Mrs. Heaven goes
out into the orchard in search of him, I can hardly help calling from my
window, "Bear a trifle to the right, Mrs. Heaven--now to the left--just
in front of you now--if you put out your hands you will touch him."

Phoebe, aged seventeen, is the daughter of the house. She is virtuous,
industrious, conscientious, and singularly destitute of physical charm.
She is more than plain; she looks as if she had been planned without any
definite purpose in view, made of the wrong materials, been badly put
together, and never properly finished off; but "plain" after all is a
relative word. Many a plain girl has been married for her beauty; and
now and then a beauty, falling under a cold eye, has been thought plain.

Phoebe has her compensations, for she is beloved by, and reciprocates the
passion of, the Woodmancote carrier, Woodmucket being the English manner
of pronouncing the place of his abode. If he "carries" as energetically
for the great public as he fetches for Phoebe, then he must be a rising
and a prosperous man. He brings her daily, wild strawberries, cherries,
birds' nests, peacock feathers, sea-shells, green hazel-nuts, samples of
hens' food, or bouquets of wilted field flowers tied together tightly and
held with a large, moist, loving hand. He has fine curly hair of sandy
hue, which forms an aureole on his brow, and a reddish beard, which makes
another inverted aureole to match, round his chin. One cannot look at
him, especially when the sun shines through him, without thinking how
lovely he would be if stuffed and set on wheels, with a little string to
drag him about.

Phoebe confided to me that she was on the eve of loving the postman when
the carrier came across her horizon.

"It doesn't do to be too hysty, does it, miss?" she asked me as we were
weeding the onion bed. "I was to give the postman his answer on the
Monday night, and it was on the Monday morning that Mr. Gladwish made his
first trip here as carrier. I may say I never wyvered from that moment,
and no more did he. When I think how near I came to promising the
postman it gives me a turn." (I can understand that, for I once met the
man I nearly promised years before to marry, and we both experienced such
a sense of relief at being free instead of bound that we came near
falling in love for sheer joy.)

The last and most important member of the household is the Square Baby.
His name is Albert Edward, and he is really five years old and no baby at
all; but his appearance on this planet was in the nature of a complete
surprise to all parties concerned, and he is spoiled accordingly. He has
a square head and jaw, square shoulders, square hands and feet. He is
red and white and solid and stolid and slow-witted, as the young of his
class commonly are, and will make a bulwark of the nation in course of
time, I should think; for England has to produce a few thousand such
square babies every year for use in the colonies and in the standing
army. Albert Edward has already a military gait, and when he has
acquired a habit of obedience at all comparable with his power of
command, he will be able to take up the white man's burden with
distinguished success. Meantime I can never look at him without
marvelling how the English climate can transmute bacon and eggs, tea and
the solid household loaf into such radiant roses and lilies as bloom upon
his cheeks and lips.

 

 

 

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