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OUR SOCIETY AT CRANFORD.

IN the first place, Cranford is in possession
of the Amazons; all the holders of houses
above a certain rent, are women. If a married
couple come to settle in the town, somehow
the gentleman disappears; he is either fairly
frightened to death by being the only man in
the Cranford evening parties, or he is
accounted for by being with his regiment, his
ship, or closely engaged in business all the
week in the great neighbouring commercial
town of Drumble, distant only twenty miles on
a railroad. In short, whatever does become
of the gentlemen, they are not at Cranford.
What could they do if they were there? The
surgeon has his round of thirty miles, and
sleeps at Cranford; but every man cannot be
a surgeon. For keeping the trim gardens
full of choice flowers without a weed to speck
them; for frightening away little boys who
look wistfully at the said flowers through the
railings; for rushing out at the geese that
occasionally venture into the gardens if the
gates are left open; for deciding all questions
of literature and politics without troubling
themselves with unnecessary reasons or
arguments; for obtaining clear and correct knowledge
of everybody's affairs in the parish;
for keeping their neat maid-servants in
admirable order; for kindness (somewhat
dictatorial) to the poor, and real tender good
offices to each other whenever any are in
distress, the ladies of Cranford are quite
sufficient. "A man," as one of them observed
to me once, "is so in the way in the house!"
Although the ladies of Cranford know all
each other's proceedings, they are exceedingly
indifferent to each other's opinions. Indeed,
as each has her own individuality, not to say
eccentricity, pretty strongly developed,
nothing is so easy as verbal retaliation;
but somehow good-will reigns among them to a
considerable degree.

The Cranford ladies have only an occasional
little quarrel, spurted out in a few peppery
words and angry jerks of the head; just
enough to prevent the even tenor of their
lives from becoming too flat. Their dress
is very independent of fashion; as they
observe, "What does it signify how we dress
here at Cranford, where everybody knows
us?" And if they go from home, their
reason is equally cogent: "What does it
signify how we dress here, where nobody
knows us?" The materials of their clothes
are, in general, good and plain, and most of
them are nearly as scrupulous as Miss Tyler,
of cleanly memory; but I will answer for it,
the last gigot, the last tight and scanty
petticoat in wear in England, was seen in
Cranfordand seen without a smile.

I can testify to a magnificent family red


silk umbrella, under which a gentle little
spinster, left alone of many brothers and
sisters, used to patter to church on rainy days.
Have you any red silk umbrellas in London?
We had a tradition of the first that had ever
been seen in Cranford; and the little boys
mobbed it, and called it "a stick in petticoats."
It might have been the very red silk
one I have described, held by a strong father
over a troop of little ones; the poor little
ladythe survivor of allcould scarcely carry it.

Then there were rules and regulations for


visiting and calls; and they were announced
to any young people, who might be staying in
the town, with all the solemnity with which
the old Manx laws were read once a year on
the Tyne-wold.

"Our friends have sent to inquire how you
are after your journey to-night, my dear,"
(fifteen miles, in a gentleman's carriage);
"they will give you some rest to-morrow, but
the next day, I have no doubt, they will call;
so be at liberty after twelve;—from twelve
to three are our calling-hours."

Then, after they had called,

"It is the third day; I dare say your
Mamma has told you, my dear, never to let
more than three days elapse between
receiving a call and returning it; and also,
that you are never to stay longer than a quarter
of an hour."

"But am I to look at my watch?  How
am I to find out when a quarter of an hour
has passed?"

"You must keep thinking about the time,
my dear, and not allow yourself to forget it
in conversation."

As everybody had this rule in their minds,
whether they received or paid a call, of course
no absorbing subject was ever spoken about.
We kept ourselves to short sentences of
small talk, and were punctual to our time.

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