Tuesday, February 26

Purvis Lodge Part VIII

"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


The order of a barrel of Mr. Martin’s beer to be delivered to Purvis Lodge every other week continued to stand all summer long. Martin would deliver the fresh barrel and Mr. Higgins, the sailor that took care of the kitchen, would return the old barrel. Martin had learned that Mr. Higgins was the Captain personal steward when they were aboard ship and that Higgins had been with Sir James in one capacity or another for years.

The talk in the nearby village of Stoke was that a famous artist had taken up temporary residence with Sir James. It was a rumour that Mr. Martin would later be able to confirm to his neighbors’ delight when, as he was passing the walled garden at the back of the house, Sir James called out to him from within.

“Mr. Martin! Mr. Martin, a moment if you please!” he shouted in a voice accustomed to making itself heard.

Martin stopped the cart and made his way through the garden gate. There, against the stone of the house stood Sir James, in full dress uniform, gold lace and medals glistening in the sunlight. A few yards away was the artist in a paint covered smock, seated at a stained, wooden easel that held a great canvas. Martin stopped right next to the artist and took off his hat.

“I’m pleased to have caught you Mr. Martin!” Sir James said whilst striking a heroic pose against the house. He did not move as he spoke and the artist sketched on.

“I plan to host a grand ball here at the house next month and not only would I like to order three extra barrels of beer for the occasion, but I should like to retain you to act as the tapster and serve it to my guests that night if you are willing?”

A gentle clearing of the throat from the artist prompted Sir James to put his right arm back into its original position.

“Why certainly sir,” Martin answered, “it would be my pleasure to do so.”

“Very good!” Sir James bellowed, “Are you a married man Mr. Martin?”

“No sir, I’m afraid not.” he shifted his hat in his hands.

“By God, after my ball, there’ll be wives enough for the whole lot of us! I intend to invite every young woman in the county and even a few of the old ones!” the Acasta captain laughed.

Suddenly aware that he had moved out of his heroic pose, Sir James snapped back, left hand on sword hilt, right hand extended, gazing off into some ethereal distance.

“I’ve not had a proper portrait painted since I was a boy.” Sir James confided, “But I am undecided if this new portrait ought to hang in the sitting room or the dining room”

Mr. Martin felt sure this was not a debate that required his opinion.

Sir James frowned, “I am uncertain I wish to see myself whilst I eat.”

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