A CRANFORD CARD PARTY
MRS GASKELL (Cranford)
THE HON. MRS JAMIESON.
Miss MATILDA JBNKYNS.
Miss BETTY BARKER, a, retired milliner.
PEGGY, Miss Barker’s maid-servant.
CARLO^ a small dog.
PERIOD . . About 1831.
SCENE. Parlour at Miss BETTY BARKER’S. Door R.
Window B. Fireplace L. A card table upon
which are cards and candlesticks L.C. A large easy
chair is placed C., and near it another chair, not so
large and not so comfortable. A sofa R.
When the curtain rises Miss BETTY BARKER and PEGGY
are discovered lighting the candles upon the card table
and the chimney piece. A knock is heard off. PEGGY
crosses to door R.
Miss BARKER. Wait, Peggy, wait, while I arrange
these cushions. When I cough, open the front foor. I’ll
not be a minute.
76 A CR AN FORD CARD PARTY
(Miss BARKER takes a cushion from sofa R, and deposits
it upon the chair of honour 0. She then surveys her
handiwork critically and coughs loudly, ” a sound
between a sneeze and a crow”)
PEGGY. Miss Matilda Jenkyns.
Enter Miss MATTY.
Miss BARKER. Ah, this is indeed a great honour you
are paying me, madam. Will you please to be seated,
madam ? There, if you please.
(She signifies the sofa, standing the while in front of the
chair of honour C., and displaying some uneasiness
lest Miss MATTY should wish to appropriate it.)
Miss MATTY. Mrs Jamieson is coming, I think you said .
Miss BARKER. Yes. Mrs Jamieson has most kindly
and condescendingly said she would be happy to come.
Mrs Jamieson dines at five, and has kindly promised not to
delay her visit beyond half past six. She made one little
stipulation, however, and that was that she should bring
Carlo. I told her if I had a weakness it was for dogs.
Miss MATTY. Oh, yes. And Miss Pole is to be one
of the party, I believe.
Miss BARKER (with deprecation). Yes, Miss Pole is
coming. Of course I could not think of asking her until
I had asked you, madam, the rector’s daughter, madam.
Believe me, I do not forget the situation my father held
Miss MATTY. And Mrs Forrester, of course ?
Miss BARKER. And Mrs Forrester. Although her
A CRANFORD CARD PARTY 77
circumstances are changed, madam, she was born a
Tyrell, and we can never forget the alliance with the
Biggs of Bigelow Hall.
Miss MATTY. And also she plays a very good game of
Miss BARKER. So I believe, madam.
Miss MATTY. Mrs Fitz-Adam I suppose
Miss BARKER (decisively). No, madam, no. I had to
draw the line somewhere. Mrs Jamieson would not, I
think, like to meet Mrs Fitz-Adam. I have the greatest
respect for Mrs Fitz-Adam, but I cannot think her fit
society for such ladies as the Honourable Mrs Jamieson
and Miss Matilda Jenkyns. Although, madam, I am a
retired milliner, I am not a democrat, and if you will
allow me to say so, I do understand the difference of ranks.
PEGGY. Miss Pole and Mrs Forrester.
Enter Miss POLE and MRS FORRESTER.
Miss POLE (in the doorway). After you, ma’am.
(Miss BARKER rises and hastens forward to greet the
Miss BARKER. I am indeed flattered, ladies, to welcome
you to my little dwelling. Miss Pole, I beg you to be
seated next to Miss Matty. Mrs Forrester, I trust you
will find this chair to your liking. This (she signifies the
place of honour) I am keeping for the Honourable Mrs
(She conducts MRS FORRESTER to the second place of honour
a seat arranged something like Prince Albert’s, near
Queen Victoria’s good, but not so good.)
78 A CR AN FORD CARD PARTY
Enter PEGGY. She stands in the doorway making violent
signs to Miss BARKER, who at first attempts to ignore
them, but eventually crosses over to her.
Miss BARKER. Well, Peggy, what is it ?
PEGGY. If you please, miss, I’ve seen Mrs Jamieson’s
sedan-chair a-comin’ down the street. (There is a loud
Miss BARKER. Very well, Peggy, I’ll come. (Exit
PEGGY.) Ladies, I beg you to excuse me for one moment.
(She drops them all a swimming curtsey and exit. )
Miss POLE. Miss Betty told me it was to be a choice
and select few.
MRS FORRESTER. Yes, not even Mrs Fitz-Adam.
Miss POLE. I should think not, indeed. I do not
know who Mr Fitz-Adam was, but I do know that Mrs
Fitz-Adam appeared in Cranford very soon after his
death, a well-to-do widow in rustling black silk.
Miss MATTY (reflectively). Yes, perhaps, bombazine
would have shown a deeper sense of her loss.
MRS FORRESTER. I have always understood that Fitz
meant something aristocratic. There was Fitz-Roy I
believe some of the king’s children have been called that.
Then there is Fitz-Clarence the children of dear good
King William are called that. Fitz-Adam ! it is a pretty
name, and probably means ” child of Adam.” I am sure
no one who had not some good blood in their veins would
dare to be called Fitz. There is a great deal in a name.
I had a cousin who spells his same with two little ” f ‘s ”
ffoulkes, and he always looked down upon capital letters.
He said they belonged to lately invented families. I was
afraid he would die a bachelor, he was so very choice.
However, when he met with a Mrs ffarringdon, two little
” f ‘s ” at a watering place, he took to her immediately,
A CR AN FORD CARD PARTY 79
and a very pretty, genteel woman she was a widow, with
a good fortune, and my cousin, Mr ffoulkes, married her,
and it was all owing to the two little f’s.
( There is a sound of some heavily-built person ascending
the stairs, accompanied by sounds of a puffing and
Miss POLE. That must be Mrs Jamieson.
( The door is thrown open and Miss BARKER enters.)
Miss BARKER. Ladies, Mrs Jamieson.
Enter MRS JAMIESON, carrying Carlo. She greets the
company with as much of stately dignity as her figure
Miss BARKER. I have reserved this chair for you I
pray you to be seated.
(Mas JAMIESON does so.)
Miss BARKER (patting Carlo). Oh, ze poor itte doggie.
It shall soon have its tea, it shall.
Enter PEGGY, bearing a heavy tea – tray, loaded with
many good things.
Miss BARKER. Ladies, Mrs Jamieson, a cup of tea,
(PEGGY hands round the tea-tray, Miss BARKER busily
fussing round her the while.)
MRS JAMIESON. I am told that a number of very
bad-looking men have been seen lurking around Cranford
Miss POLE. Oh yes, two very bad looking men have
gone three times past my house, very slowly ; and an
Irish beggar woman all but forced her way hi past Betty,
saying her children were starving and that she must
see the mistress. You see, she said ” mistress,” though
8o A CRANFORD CARD PARTY
there was a man’s hat hanging up in the hall, and it would
have been more natural to hare said ” master.” But
Betty shut the door in her face, and came to me, and we
got the spoons together, and sat in the parlour window
watching till we saw Thomas Jones going from his work,
and we called to him and asked him to take care of as into
the town, and we went straight to Miss Matty’s and told
her there was a plan to rob our house, and asked her if we
might stay the night with her. Did we not, Miss Hatty ?
(She pauses far breath.}
Miss MATTY. Yes. indeed.
MRS JAMDSSOH. Then I believe they most have tried
to attack my house, for there were footprints on the
flower-beds underneath the kitchen window, and Carlo
backed all through the night. I expect he frightened
them away. Good doggie.
Miss BARKER. Oh, it’s dreadful, dreadful. We shall
all be murdered in our beds next.
MRS FORRESTER. Tes. Then I am told that Mr
Hoggins was robbed at his very own door, in the
interval between his ringing his bell and his servant’s
(General amazement, except on the part of Miss POLE, vjho
shows considerable pique at any one besides herself
having dared to have had adventures, and snorts audibly.)
Miss POLK. After all, Mr Hoggins is too much of a
man to own that he was robbed last night.
ATJ.. What, not robbed ?
MESS POLE. Don’t tell me. I, for one, believe he was
robbed, and that he is ashamed to own it, for, to be sure,
it was very silly of him to be robbed just at his own door.
I daresay he feels that such a thing won’t raise him in the
eyes of Cranford society, and is anxious to conceal it,
A CRAWFORD CARD PARTY 81
but he need not have tried to impose upon me by saying
I must have heard an exaggerated account of some petty
theft of a neck of mutton, which, it seems, was stolen out
of the safe in his yard last week. He had the impertinence
to add that he believed it was taken by the cat. I have
no doubt that it was that Irishman dressed up in woman’s
clothes who came spying about my house, with the story
of starving children.
(During the foregoing, MBS JAMIESON, having finished her
tea and several large pieces of seed cake, has been
gradually dropping off to sleep.)
Miss BABKEB (rising). Shall we have a game of cards,
AT.T. (eagerly). By all means certainly.
Miss BABKEB. Will Mrs Jamieson oh !
(She perceives MBS JAMIESON’S somnolent attitude and tip-
toes towards her. MBS JAMIESON gives a loud snore.)
Miss BABKEB (in a hushed whisper). Ladies, I think
Mrs Jamieson is asleep. Well, I am sure I shall be
delighted to take a hand, although I declare I do not
know spadille from manille. (They att seat themselves at
the card table.) It is very gratifying to me to see how
completely Mrs Jamieson feels at home in my poor tittle
dwelling. She could not have paid me a greater com-
pliment. Will you deal, Miss Pole ?
Miss POLE. With pleasure, ma’am.
(She does so, and they att take up their hands and begin
MBS FOBBESTEB. I declare all these stories about the
ruffians who tried to rob Miss Pole and Mrs Jamieson
have made me feel quite creepy, though I, for my part,
feel more secure since I have borrowed a boy from one
82 A CRANFORD CARD PARTY
of the neighbouring cottages, and promised his parents
a hundredweight of coals for the loan of him at nights.
Finding him sensible I have given him my late husband’s
sword, desiring him to put it very carefully behind his
pillow at nights, turning the edge toward the head of the
pillow. He is a sharp lad, for, on spying my husband’s
cocked hat, he asked if he might have that to wear, as he
was sure if he had he could frighten two Englishmen and
four Frenchmen any day. But I impressed him that he
was to lose no time putting on hats, or anything else, but
if he heard a noise he was to rush at it with his drawn
sword. My maid, Jenny, suggested that he might rush
on her when she was getting up to wash and spit her
before he had time to discover she was not a Frenchman.
I told her, however, I did not think that likely, for he is
such a very sound sleeper, and generally has to be well
shaken or cold pegged in the mornings before we can
( They play a few moments in silence, and finish a hand
accompanied by the snores of MRS JAMIESON. At the
conclusion o the hand they all burst into conversation
except Miss BARKER, who in a shocked undertone says,
” Ladies, ladies, MRS JAMIESON is asleep.”)
Miss MATTY (dealing the cards afresh). Well, I will own
that ever since I was a girl I have dreaded being caught
by my last leg as I am getting into bed, by some one
concealed underneath it. When I was younger and more
active I used to take a flying leap from a distance, and
so bring both legs up safely into bed at once, but now
I have bought a penny ball, and I roll it under my bed
every night. If it comes out the other side, well and
good ; if not, I always take care to have my hand on
A CR AN FORD CARD PARTY 83
the bell-rope, ready to call out John and Henry just as if
I expected men-servants to answer my ring.
Miss BABKER. Most ingenious, I am sure, madam.
( Another short pause as they play the hand out. The door
flies open, and PEGGY, carrying a tray with bottle and
glasses, appears. MRS JAMIESON awakes with a
start. Miss BARKER rises.}
MRS JAMIESON. I have been so interested in listening
to your amusing and interesting conversation and the
room was so light that I was glad to keep my eyes closed,
but what is this, Miss Barker ?
Miss BARKER (who has filled a glass from the bottle and
stands before MRS JAMIESON offering it with an ingratiating
manner.} It’s cherry brandy. Just a leetle glass, Mrs
Jamieson, allow me.
(Mas JAMIESON takes it doubtfully, and, finding it good,
drinks it with zest.}
Miss BARKER (taking another glass from PEGGY’S tray
and offering it to Miss POLE, who shakes her head vigor-
ously}. Oh, please, just a tiny drop.
Miss POLE. Well, to please you. (She tastes it and
simulates a terrible coughing noise.} It’s very strong ; I
do believe there’s spirit in it.
Miss BARKER (supplying Miss MATTY and MRS
FORRESTER). Only a little drop just enough to make
it keep. You know we put brandy paper over the pre-
serves to make them keep. I declare I often feel quite
tipsy myself from eating damson tart.
(They all drink their cherry brandy with great enjoyment.}
MRS JAMIESON (breaking the silence}. My sister-in-law,
Lady Glenrnire, is coming to stay with me.
84 A CRANFORD CARD PARTY
ALL (with interest). Indeed.
Miss BARKER (to PEGGY, who is standing open-mouthed
at this intelligence) . That will do, Peggy, you may go now-
PEGGY makes a reluctant exit.
MRS JAMIESON. Yes, she is coming next Tuesday.
Miss BARKER. Indeed, indeed, Mrs Jamieson. That is
very gratifying news. I am sure that Cranford will be
honoured by her visit.
PEGGY. If you please, here’s Mrs Jamieson’s sedan
come to the door, mum.
(MRS JAMIESON rises heavily.)
MRS JAMIESON. Pray do not allow my withdrawal to
break up this pleasant party. Good evening, ladies.
Come along, Carlo.
Miss BARKER. Permit me to accompany you to my
humble lobby, madam. After you, madam, after you.
Exeunt MRS JAMIESON and Miss BARKER, followed by
MRS FORRESTER. Who is this Lady Glenmire ?
Miss MATTY. She’s the widow of Mr Jamieson, that’s
Mrs Jamieson’s late husband, you know widow of his
Miss POLE. You will all think me strangely ignorant,
but, do you know, I am quite puzzled to know how we
ought to address Lady Glenmire ? Do you say ” Your
ladyship ” where you would say ” you ” to a common
person, and are we to say ” My lady ” instead of
” Ma’am ” ?
Miss MATTY (taking off her glasses and rubbing them,
and then, with a puzzled expression on her face, putting
A CRANFORD CARD PARTY 85
them on again). ” My lady ” ” Your ladyship.” It
sounds strange and as if it was not natural. I never
thought of it before, but now you have named it I am
all in a puzzle. What do you say, Mrs Forrester ?
(MRS FORRESTER shakes her head vigorously.)
Miss POLE. We must certainly find out, for it would
never do to have Lady Glemnire think we were quite
ignorant of the etiquette of high life in Cranford.
(They all repeat ” My lady Your ladyship ” to them-
selves as Miss BARKER re-enters.)
MRS FORRESTER (rising). Miss Barker, I fear I must
(The others also rise.)
Miss BARKER. Oh, but, ladies, I beg none of you will
think of such a thing. I beg at least you will honour me
with just one little game of preference.
MRS FORRESTER. Well, it must be only one.
( They all resume their seats at the card table, and Miss
Miss BARKER (aside as she, too, takes her seat at table).
This has indeed been a gratifying evening. I only wish
my poor sister had been alive to see it.
(THEY TAKE UP THEIR HANDS AND BEGIN TO PLAY
WITH GREAT INTEREST AS THE CURTAIN FALLS.)