Monday, July 9

Purvis Lodge part I


"Haye Park might do," said she, "if the Gouldings would quit it -- or the great house at Stoke, if the drawing-room were larger; but Ashworth is too far off! I could not bear to have her ten miles from me; and as for Purvis Lodge, the attics are dreadful."
Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice
Chapter 50

Part I

After a number of years, Purvis Lodge found itself once again with a tenant. 

The place had been vacant ever since the previous owner’s passing at a very advanced age, and with no children unto whom to leave the old pile, it fell into a sad state of disrepair. Initially, there had been a good deal of interest in the estate, but all the potential buyers seemed frightened off by the decrepit state of the house and furnishings along with the dreadful attics. The oldest part of the house had been built in the 15th century, and the most recent additions and improvements were done in the earliest part of the last century.

The estate itself was lush and green, very happily situated between Haye Park and Stoke, and with no one to hunt the grounds, the overgrown shrubbery teemed with game of every sort.

The first signs of activity at Purvis Lodge came in the way of a cart of workmen ambling down the road past Haye Park. The driver stopped and bid the Gamekeeper there good morning and asked if this was in fact the road that lead to the Lodge. When the gamekeeper confirmed that it was said road, the driver turned to one of his workmen and said, “And see, didn’t I tell you it was?” 

That afternoon, the Gamekeeper informed Mr. Goulding, the Master of Haye-Park, of the encounter, which was passed to Mrs. Goulding over supper that night. The next afternoon, word of the encounter had found its way to all the nearby neighbors of quality.

A fortnight later, a large wagon full of shingles along with a team of roofers was espied passing through the village of Stoke headed toward the old Lodge. This elicited a great deal of comment among the shop owners. Had the old place been purchased? Did anyone know who the new owner might be?

But the sight that excited the most speculation was about a week later when two dozen sailors passed through Stoke on foot. They were a mixed lot of well-dressed men and boys, each one carried a large ditty bag and many carried work boxes full of tools. They all stopped at the local tavern, a tidy little place known as ‘the Plow’, to have a meal at midday. They packed the place full, and Mr. Martin, the owner of the establishment, had to bring in several chairs from his own rooms in the back to accommodate so many men. 

Mr. Martin was heard to report some time later that he was struck by the prodigious good manners of the men and that they hardly uttered a single oath the entire time they were there. When they were finished, Mr. Martin noted that so many sailors seemed terribly far from the sea and asked them in the most congenial manner where they might be headed.

One of the sailors, who was a very well dressed fellow with a long queue wrapped in a red ribbon, introduced himself as Mr. Nithercott and confirmed Martin’s suspicions when he replied, “Purvis Lodge”.

Nithercott pulled out a small purse and inquired if he might be able to purchase two barrels of table beer, as advertised on Mr. Martin’s sign for 15 shillings a piece, to be delivered to the Lodge at his earliest convenience. 

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