Mrs Becher's Diary


Hodges and Mrs Hodges

She was a Devonshire lass. At 6½ she went to work on a farm and could make cheese and butter at 12. She could neither read nor write, having gone out to work before she was old enough to acquire these accomplishments. It seemed to put her at a disadvantage. She had the face and hands of a woman who has worked too hard all her life – and worked doggedly without rest or recreation.

He is a small man with small pale blue eyes set in a face devoid of colour. He is a gardener by trade and has worked as a jobbing gardener to most of the older inhabitants of the village. He took a leading part in the doings of the Wesleyan Reform Chapel and his somewhat sanctimonious talk was an unconvincing mixture of the earthly and the Heavenly. He has been ill for some years and his wife’s devotion and patience has been a wonderful thing. When he reached convalescence he would sit on a chair on the common outside his cottage watching all the passers-by and he would take short walks round the village, – his sharp eyes missing nothing, nor would he fail to waylay anyone whom he met for a friendly chat. His capacity for conversation was inexhaustible and he had his own way of saying what he wanted to say – very slow and sure. He would begin a long way off and work up with many cautious remarks to the final piece of information. He would take advantage of one’s frantic efforts to bring the end more quickly in site, by turning aside to deal with one’s remarks at great length before returning to the point of interruption.

There was never any hope of dealing with the slow insistent working of his mind and tongue. It seemed as though he was like a woman travailing to the birth. One took refuge in pleading an urgent appointment and hurrying off and still he would stand waving his stick and continuing with what he wished to say for as long as one was in earshot.

He was a familiar figure with his light grey overcoat which intensified the colourless face. I can see him now with the curious habit of tossing his head while he spoke and the little eyes darting to and fro even when they lit up with the smile which never spread to his features. He would make anything grow and his wife was passionately fond of flowers. There is a little glass shelter by the side of their old cottage and under it, during the winter, there is a table massed with chrysanthemums. It seemed as if she had been starved of love and had sought it in her flowers.

Of her two children, one is the village idiot and when complaints of his behaviour brought officials to remove him to a home, she fought like a tigress for her young and succeeded in hiding the boy till the accident had been forgotten!

The other son had TB and resembled his mother in his good natured obstinacy. He married and has two children.

The eldest, a girl, was in my Sunday School class and for some weeks before her birthday she used to tell me that she had some flowers or chocolates which was bringing me the next day. She would take the trouble to come up to my house on purpose to tell me this on many. occasions.

As a baby she was the pride and delight of her grandmother, who would perhaps see in her the small daughter she had lost in infancy, so long ago.