The Way We Live Now
Ruby Ruggles Hears A Love Tale
Ruby Ruggles, the granddaughter of old Daniel Ruggles, of Sheep's Acre, in the parish of
Sheepstone, close to Bungay, received the following letter from the hands of the rural
post letter- carrier on that Sunday morning 'A friend will be somewhere near Sheepstone
Birches between four and five o'clock on Sunday afternoon.' There was not another word
in the letter, but Miss Ruby Ruggles knew well from whom it came.
Daniel Ruggles was a farmer, who had the reputation of considerable wealth, but who
was not very well looked on in the neighbourhood as being somewhat of a curmudgeon
and a miser. His wife was dead he had quarrelled with his only son, whose wife was also
dead, and had banished him from his home his daughters were married and away; and the
only member of his family who lived with him was his granddaughter Ruby. And this
granddaughter was a great trouble to the old man. She was twenty-three years old, and
had been engaged to a prosperous young man at Bungay in the meal and pollard line, to
whom old Ruggles had promised to give L500 on their marriage. But Ruby had taken it
into her foolish young head that she did not like meal and pollard, and now she had
received the above very dangerous letter. Though the writer had not dared to sign his
name she knew well that it came from Sir Felix Carbury the most beautiful gentleman she
had ever set her eyes upon. Poor Ruby Ruggles! Living down at Sheep's Acre, on the
Waveney, she had heard both too much and too little of the great world beyond her ken.
There were, she thought, many glorious things to be seen which she would never see
were she in these her early years to become the wife of John Crumb, the dealer in meal
and pollard at Bungay. Therefore she was full of a wild joy, half joy half fear, when she
got her letter; and, therefore, punctually at four o'clock on that Sunday she was ensconced
among the Sheepstone Birches, so that she might see without much danger of being seen.
Poor Ruby Ruggles, who was left to be so much mistress of herself at the time of her life
in which she most required the kindness of a controlling hand!
Mr Ruggles held his land, or the greater part of it, on what is called a bishop's lease,
Sheep's Acre Farm being a part of the property which did belong to the bishopric of
Elmham, and which was still set apart for its sustentation but he also held a small extent
of outlying meadow which belonged to the Carbury estate, so that he was one of the
tenants of Roger Carbury. Those Sheepstone Birches, at which Felix made his
appointment, belonged to Roger. On a former occasion, when the feeling between the two
cousins was kinder than that which now existed, Felix had ridden over with the landlord
to call on the old man, and had then first seen Ruby and had heard from Roger something
of Ruby's history up to that date. It had then been just made known that she was to marry
John Crumb. Since that time not a word had been spoken between the men respecting the
girl. Mr Carbury had heard, with sorrow, that the marriage was either postponed or
abandoned but his growing dislike to the baronet had made it very improbable that there
Should be any conversation between them on the subject. Sir Felix, however, had
probably heard more of Ruby Ruggles than her grandfather's landlord.