Alls Well

Emily Sarah Holt
All's Well
Alice's Victory
By Emily Sarah Holt
"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
"What, you hold by the old rhyme, do you--?
"`A spaniel, a wife, and a walnut tree, The
Continue reading on your phone by scaning this QR Code

 / 81
Tip: The current page has been bookmarked automatically. If you wish to continue reading later, just open the Dertz Homepage, and click on the 'continue reading' link at the bottom of the page.