Johnny Ludlow, First Series
Johnny Ludlow, First Series
We lived chiefly at Dyke Manor. A fine old place, so close upon the borders of Warwickshire and Worcestershire, that many people did not know which of the two counties it was really in. The house was in Warwickshire, but some of the land was in Worcestershire. The Squire had, however, another estate, Crabb Cot, all in Worcestershire, and very many miles nearer to Worcester.
Squire Todhetley was rich. But he lived in the plain, good old-fashioned way that his forefathers had lived; almost a homely way, it might be called, in contrast with the show and parade that have sprung up of late years. He was respected by every one, and though hotheaded and impetuous, he was simple-minded, open-handed, and had as good a heart as any one ever had in this world. An elderly gentleman now, was he, of middle height, with a portly form and a red face; and his hair, what was left of it, consisted of a few scanty, lightish locks, standing up straight on the top of his head.
The Squire had married, but not very early in life. His wife died in a few years, leaving one child only; a son, named after his father, Joseph. Young Joe was just the pride of the Manor and of his father's heart.
I, writing this, am Johnny Ludlow. And you will naturally want to hear what I did at Dyke Manor, and why I lived there.
About three-miles' distance from the Manor was a place called the Court. Not a property of so much importance as the Manor, but a nice place, for all that. It belonged to my father, William Ludlow. He and Squire Todhetley were good friends. I was an only child, just as Tod was; and, like him, I had lost my mother. They had christened me John, but always called me Johnny. I can remember many incidents of my early life now, but I cannot recall my mother to my mind. She must have died-at least I fancy so-when I was two years old.
One morning, two years after that, when I was about four, the servants told me I had a new mamma. I can see her now as she looked when she came home: tall, thin, and upright, with a long face, pinched nose, a meek expression, and gentle voice. She was a Miss Marks, who used to play the organ at church, and had hardly any income at all. Hannah said she was sure she was thirty-five if she was a day-she was talking to Eliza while she dressed me-and they both agreed that she would probably turn out to be a tartar, and that the master might have chosen better. I understood quite well that they meant papa, and asked why he might have chosen better; upon which they shook me and said they had not been speaking of my papa at all, but of the old blacksmith round the corner. Hannah brushed my hair the wrong way, and Eliza went off to see to her bedrooms. Children are easily prejudiced: and they prejudiced me against my new mother. Looking at her with the eyes of maturer years, I know that though she might be poor in pocket, she was good and kindly, and every inch a lady.
Papa died that same year. At the end of another year, Mrs. Ludlow, my step-mother, married Squire Todhetley, and we went to live at Dyke Manor; she, I, and my nurse Hannah. The Court was let for a term of years to the Sterlings.
Young Joe did not like the new arrangements. He was older than I, could take up prejudices more strongly, and he took a mighty strong one against the new Mrs. Todhetley. He had been regularly indulged by his father and spoilt by all the servants; so it was only to be expected that he would not like the invasion. Mrs. Todhetley introduced order into the profuse household, hitherto governed by the servants. They and young Joe equally resented it; they refused to see that things were really more comfortable than they used to be, and at half the cost.
Two babies came to the Manor; Hugh first, Lena next. Joe and I were sent to school. He was as big as a house, compared with me, tall and strong and dark, with an imperious way and will of his own. I was fa