Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.
Robberies start occurring a little after Signor Brunoni’s show. The ladies begin to think he must be a French spy and that he’s somehow connected with these robberies– even though he’s no longer in the town. For he wore a turban and Mrs. Forrester once saw an engraving of French authoress Madame de Stael wearing a turban. Miss Matty is reluctant to believe it until they hear of robberies in Mardon, a nearby town, where the robbers entered the house by holes in the wall by silently removing the bricks of the house. Who could do such a trick but the Signor?
Miss Matty doesn’t hide her fear and she, Mary Smith, and Martha go around and check the house each night before going to bed often scaring themselves with a noise they’ve made. Each day these rounds become earlier and earlier. Miss Pole professes she’s not afraid of buglars but she begs Mr. Hoggins for one of his worn out hats to hang up in her hall.
One night there is trouble brewing afoot, Miss Pole is sure of it! Two men lurked around her house and a beggar women came asking to speak with the mistress of the house, how did she know it wasn’t a master? She goes to Miss Matty’s house for protection bringing her plate with her. Mary Smith is quite
afraid lest the robbers should have seen, from some dark lurking-place, that Miss Pole had carried off her plate, and thus have a double motive for attacking our house.
But the trouble happens at Mrs. Jamieson’s. Noises were heard outside through the night and large footprints found in the garden the next morning Mr. Mulliner had bravely challenged the supposed robbers to come up and fight him but as he was on the top floor and they would have to pass Mrs. Jamieson’s and Lady Glenmire’s rooms it wasn’t of very much comfort to the ladies. Poor Carlo had barked throughout the night as if sensing something and
whether the gang who infested the neighbourhood were afraid of him; or whether they were revengeful enough, for the way in which he had baffled them on the night in question, to poison him; or whether, as some among the more uneducated people thought, he died of apoplexy, brought on by too much feeding and too little exercise; at any rate, it is certain that, two days after this evenful night, Carlo was found dead, with his poor little legs stretched out stiff in the attitude of running, as if by such unusual exertion he could escape the sure pursuer, Death.
Poor Carlo! Mrs. Jamieson feels his death more than she did that of her husband’s. She goes to Cheltenham with Mr. Mulliner accompanying her for she’s so out of spirit she doesn’t eat or sleep well and since those two things are dearest to her heart clearly something is quite wrong. Lady Glenmire is happy to be left in charge of the house.
Miss Pole was very much inclined to instal herself as a heroine, because of the decided steps she had taken in flying from the two men and one woman, whom she entitled ” that murderous gang.” She described their appearance in glowing colours, and I noticed that every time she went over the story some fresh trait of villany was added to their appearance. One was tall — he grew to be gigantic in height before we had done with him; he of course had black hair — and by-and-by, it hung in elflocks over his forehead and down his back. The other was short and broad — and a hump sprouted out on his shoulder before we heard the last of him; he had red hair — which deepened into carroty; and she was almost sure he had a cast in his eye— a decided squint. As for the woman, her eyes glared, and she was masculine-looking — a perfect virago; most probably a man dressed in woman’s clothes: afterwards, we heard of a beard on her chin, and a manly voice and a stride.
Mrs. Forrester, who lives just a little out of Cranford in Over Place, invites everyone to come to celebrate her wedding anniversary but she understands if they can’t come for the roads are not at their safest. Perhaps if they took the sedan chair? They brave going through Darkness Lane for Mrs. Forrester’s sake. They couldn’t let her reminisce her rather unhappy and unfortunate life with her husband.
As another show of bravery they confront their biggest fears by relating them to each other. Miss Matty has always been fearful that there might be a man hidden under her bed, she would take a fearful leap into it, so if there was, he couldn’t catch her by the leg. Deborah thought it unrefined for she thought everything should be done gracefully so since it would be terrible to actually look underneath and find someone staring at you she took to rolling a ball under it.
Mrs. Forrester hires on a boy from the cottages to keep watch at her house giving him strict instructions that if he were to hear any noises to rush a them with the Major’s sword,
He was a sharp lad, she was sure; for, spying out the Major’s cocked hat, he had said, if he might have that to wear he was sure he could frighten two Englishmen, or four Frenchmen, any day. But she had impressed upon him anew that he was to lose no time in putting on hats or anything else; but, if he heard any noise, he was to run at it with his drawn sword. On my suggesting that some accident might occur from such slaughterous and indiscriminate directions, and that he might rash on Jenny getting up to wash, and have spitted her before he had discovered that she was not a Frenchman, Mrs. Forrester said she did not think that that was likely, for he was a very sound sleeper, and generally had to be well shaken, or cold-pigged in a morning before they could rouse him. She sometimes thought such dead sleep must be owing to the hearty suppers the poor lad ate, for he was halfstarved at home, and she told Jenny to see that he got a good meal at night.
She is also quite fearful of ghosts! Her maid Jenny had sworn she saw a lady in white with no head! By the end of their visit they’ve scared themselves so much they have a frightfully dreadful trip back home.