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...opped near Mr. Eshton’s chair,
and said something to him in a low voice, of which I heard only the
words, “old woman,”—“quite troublesome.”
“Tell her she shall be put in the stocks if she does not take
herself off,” replied the magistrate.
“No—stop!” interrupted Colonel Dent. “Don’t send her away,
Eshton; we might turn the thing to account; better consult the
ladies.” And speaking aloud, he continued—“Ladies, you talked of
going to Hay Common to visit the gipsy camp; Sam here says that
one of the old Mother Bunches is in the servants’ hall at this
moment, and insists upon being brought in before ‘the quality,’ to
tell them their fortunes. Would you like to see her?”
“Surely, colonel,” cried Lady Ingram, “you would not
encourage such a low impostor? Dismiss her, by all means, at
“But I cannot persuade her to go away, my lady,” said the
footman; “nor can any of the servants: Mrs. Fairfax is with her just
now, entreating her to be gone; but she has taken a chair in the
chimney-comer, and says nothing shall stir her from it till she gets
leave to come in here.”
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“What does she want?” asked Mrs. Eshton.
“‘To tell the gentry their fortunes,’ she says, ma’am; and she
swears she must and will do it.”
“What is she like?” inquired the Misses Eshton, in a breath.
“A shockingly ugly old creature, miss; almost as black as a
“Why, she’s a real sorceress!” cried Frédérick Lynn. “Let us
have her in, of course.”
“To be sure,” rejoined his brother; “it would be a thousand
pities to throw away such a chance of fun.”
“My dear boys, what are you thinking about?” exclaimed Mrs.
“I cannot possibly countenance any such inconsistent
proceeding,” chimed in the Dowager Ingram.
“Indeed, mama, but you can—and will,” pronounced the
haughty voice of Blanche, as she turned round on the piano-stool;
where till now she had sat silent, apparently examining sundry
sheets of music. “I have a curiosity to hear my fortune told:
therefore, Sam, order the beldame forward.”
“My darling Blanche! recollect—”
“I do—I recollect all you can suggest; and I must have my will—
“Yes—yes—yes!” cried all the juveniles, both ladies and
gentlemen. “Let her come—it will be excellent sport!”
The footman still lingered. “She looks such a rough one,” said
“Go!” ejaculated Miss Ingram, and the man went.
Excitement instantly seized the whole party: a running fire of
raillery and jests was proceeding when Sam returned.
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Jane Eyre 274
“She won’t come now,” said he. “She says it’s not her mission to
appear before the ‘vulgar herd’ (them’s her words). I must show
her into a room by herself, and then those who wish to consult her
must go to her one by one.”
“You see now, my queenly Blanche,” began Lady Ingram, “she
encroaches. Be advised, my angel girl—and—”
“Show her into the library, of course,” cut in the “angel girl.”
“It is not my mission to listen to her before the vulgar herd either:
I mean to have her all to myself. Is there a fire in the library?”
“Yes, ma’am—but she looks such a tinkler.”
“Cease that chatter, blockhead! and do my bidding.”
Again Sam vanished; and mystery, animation, expectation rose
to full flow once more.
“She’s ready now,” said the footman, as he reappeared. “She
wishes to know who will be her first visitor.”
“I think I had better just look in upon her before any of the
ladies go,” said Colonel Dent.
“Tell her, Sam, a gentleman is coming.”
Sam went and returned.
“She says, sir, that she’ll have no gentlemen; they need not