They Make Ready For The Illustrious Stranger
Preparations for Matilda's welcome, and for the event which was to follow, at once
occupied the attention of the mill. The miller and his man had but dim notions of
housewifery on any large scale; so the great wedding cleaning was kindly supervised by
Mrs. Garland, Bob being mostly away during the day with his brother, the trumpet-major,
on various errands, one of which was to buy paint and varnish for the gig that Matilda
was to be fetched in, which he had determined to decorate with his own hands.
By the widow's direction the old familiar incrustation of shining dirt, imprinted along the
back of the settle by the heads of countless jolly sitters, was scrubbed and scraped away;
the brown circle round the nail whereon the miller hung his hat, stained by the brim in
wet weather, was whitened over; the tawny smudges of bygone shoulders in the passage
were removed without regard to a certain genial and historical value which they had
acquired. The face of the clock, coated with verdigris as thick as a diachylon plaister, was
rubbed till the figures emerged into day; while, inside the case of the same chronometer,
the cobwebs that formed triangular hammocks, which the pendulum could hardly wade
through, were cleared away at one swoop.
Mrs. Garland also assisted at the invasion of worm-eaten cupboards, where layers of
ancient smells lingered on in the stagnant air, and recalled to the reflective nose the many
good things that had been kept there. The upper floors were scrubbed with such
abundance of water that the old-established death-watches, wood-lice, and flour-worms
were all drowned, the suds trickling down into the room below in so lively and novel a
manner as to convey the romantic notion that the miller lived in a cave with dripping
They moved what had never been moved before--the oak coffer, containing the miller's
wardrobe--a tremendous weight, what with its locks, hinges, nails, dirt, framework, and
the hard stratification of old jackets, waistcoats, and knee-breeches at the bottom, never
disturbed since the miller's wife died, and half pulverized by the moths, whose flattened
skeletons lay amid the mass in thousands.
'It fairly makes my back open and shut!' said Loveday, as, in obedience to Mrs. Garland's
direction, he lifted one corner, the grinder and David assisting at the others. 'All together:
speak when ye be going to heave. Now!'
The pot covers and skimmers were brought to such a state that, on examining them, the
beholder was not conscious of utensils, but of his own face in a condition of hideous
elasticity. The broken clock-line was mended, the kettles rocked, the creeper nailed up,
and a new handle put to the warming-pan. The large household lantern was cleaned out,
after three years of uninterrupted accumulation, the operation yielding a conglomerate of
candle-snuffs, candle-ends, remains of matches, lamp-black, and eleven ounces and a half
of good grease--invaluable as dubbing for skitty boots and ointment for cart-wheels.