Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford: Summary and Thoughts – Chapter 11

Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.

Miss Pole and Lady Glenmire go on a morning walk to visit an old lady famous for knitting socks but on their way they have a bit of an adventure. They can’t remember which path to take, so they stop to inquire at the public house. Before you imagine all sorts of things, such as robberies and fisticuffs, as our dear ladies might have done, let me clarify and put your mind at rest; An adventure in Cranford usually is discovering a piece of news or information.

Well, Mrs. Roberts, the proprietor’s wife relates the story of the current lodgers, whose child was nearby. Their spring cart had broken down and inside it were two men, a woman, and the young girl. The two men were twins, one seriously injured and currently upstairs, the other continued on a little later with the cart, a very curious box, and the horse. Miss Pole begins to wonder if these people might be swindlers! Mrs. Roberts is affronted as if she was the one being accused and to clear Miss Pole’s injustice goes and fetches the injured mans wife.

She bursts into tears at Lady Glenmire’s kind inquiries about her husband, but Miss Pole is still wary. When they go up to visit the injured man who should it be but Signor Brunoni! His real name is Samuel Brown and he’s British to the backbone. This really brings out the humor of the last chapter where they’d put him down as a French spy. Lady Glenmire offers to have Dr. Hoggins look at him and little by little the family are taken into the wings of Cranford, who help them find more permanent lodgings.

In return for this the Browns dispel their fears. Mrs. Forrester is no longer afraid of the headless ghost about the lane, for why would she harm her when she does such good? She brought them some of her lovely bread jelly, a recipe that was a profound secret and that she had willed to Miss Matty. Miss Matty took her penny ball and decorated it with colorful worsted for Phoebe, the Brown’s daughter, to play with… although to the last they call Mr. Brown the Signor. It’s curious to wonder that Gaskell chooses the surname ‘Brown’ for another family entering Cranford.

As Mary Smith is conversing with Mrs. Brown she learns of their time in India. The Signor had been a surgeon in the 31st regiment and she went out with him, glad she wouldn’t have to languish in worry at home. But during that time she lost six children.

“Yes! Six children died off, like little buds nipped untimely… I thought, as each died, I never could — I never would — love a child again; and when the next came, it had not only its own love, but the deeper love that came from the thoughts of its little dead brothers and sisters.

At last, when pregnant with Phoebe she tells her husband she can’t bear to loose another child — she’ll go mad if she does! So, she asks to go back to England. They save up, when Phoebe is born and Mrs. Brown strong enough she sets off on the journey by foot to Calcutta, from where she can sail home. She feels as though she’s running away from death who wants to snatch her little baby but as she passes villages the people are so kind offering milk, rice, and flowers. When she was near despairing, for Phoebe had a fever, she came to Chunderabaddad, and among the villagers lived an Englishman: Aga Jenkyns. Who helped nurse the baby and mother back to health.

Jenkyns? Could it be, Peter? But wait, Mary.

I was tired of being called indiscreet and incautious; and I determined for once to prove myself a model of purdence and wisdom. I would not even hint my suspicions regarding the Aga. I would collect evidence and gather it….

Speaking of being indiscreet, did you hear the latest about the Cranford panic? According to Lady Glenmire the only reports of wrong doing were two boys who stole some apples from an orchard and some stolen eggs at Sunday market! But don’t tell Miss Pole for it’s quite a touchy subject. She was quite upset with Lady Glenmire and put it down to her having married and abused the state of matrimony until Miss Matty was quite worried she had daunted Mary from the idea.

She begins to tell Mary of her thoughts of the future when she was younger and how fond she is of children. There’s a yearning in her heart when she sees a mother with a baby nestled in her arms. She had planned to marry –no one in particular, you understand but it was a hope. Deborah mentioned wanting to marry an archdeacon so she could write her sermons. How different their lives turned out from how they imagined. When they were young their father made them keep a journal, once side had all the thoughts and hopes of how the day would be and the other what actually happened. But Miss Matty has such dear and kind friends, she is quite content with how things have turned out.

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