The Hand of Ethelberta HTML version

1.A Street In Anglebury - A Heath Near It -
Inside The 'Red Lion' Inn
Young Mrs. Petherwin stepped from the door of an old and
well- appointed inn in a Wessex town to take a country walk.
By her look and carriage she appeared to belong to that
gentle order of society which has no worldly sorrow except
when its jewellery gets stolen; but, as a fact not generally
known, her claim to distinction was rather one of brains than
of blood. She was the daughter of a gentleman who lived in
a large house not his own, and began life as a baby
christened Ethelberta after an infant of title who does not
come into the story at all, having merely furnished
Ethelberta's mother with a subject of contemplation. She
became teacher in a school, was praised by examiners,
admired by gentlemen, not admired by gentlewomen, was
touched up with accomplishments by masters who were
coaxed into painstaking by her many graces, and, entering a
mansion as governess to the daughter thereof, was stealthily
married by the son. He, a minor like herself, died from a chill
caught during the wedding tour, and a few weeks later was
followed into the grave by Sir Ralph Petherwin, his
unforgiving father, who had bequeathed his wealth to his
wife absolutely.
These calamities were a sufficient reason to Lady Petherwin
for pardoning all concerned. She took by the hand the forlorn
Ethelberta--who seemed rather a detached bride than a
widow--and finished her education by placing her for two or
three years in a boarding-school at Bonn. Latterly she had
brought the girl to England to live under her roof as daughter
and companion, the condition attached being that Ethelberta
was never openly to recognize her relations, for reasons
which will hereafter appear.