Around the same time, Edmund Jordan arrives with five servants, blowing his saddle horn to signal his approach. Walter says he must’ve expected a grand welcome or at least a busy town, but instead he arrives to a burned-out barn and sees Master Kent, his cousin, helping Mr. Quill carrying the old man’s body away from the pillory and into the manor house courtyard. Part of his leg has been eaten by an errant pig, and the young man is screaming and cursing at them.
Edmund Jordan arrives in a moment of unprecedented upheaval. This grants his entrance an ominous flavor, suggesting that he will undermine the village’s integrity. At the same time, it makes clear that the village’s problems precede him, and—in respect to the strangers—stem from the villagers themselves.
While Walter and Mr. Quill cover the old man’s eyes and put a sheet over him, Master Kent prays over the body. Although he rarely prays, Walter joins in; he feels culpable in the man’s death senses that “a mighty storm of reckoning was on the way.” He wishes he’d done his “common duty” and found a log for the man, instead of leaving it for later.
Just as he did the night of the fire, Walter reconstructs events himself, “without recourse to any constable or magistrate.” Sometime during the night, the old man must have slipped in the mud and broken his neck. They don’t know if he died suddenly or in great agony, and Walter hopes he didn’t slip and fall because one of the hogs was bothering him. When the young man cursed at Master Kent that morning, he must have already been dead.
In the morning, Master Kent had believed the man’s shouts to be unfounded rudeness; now, it’s clear that he was rightfully upset. Since the strangers are innocent of any serious wrongdoing, it’s clear that the villagers have behaved criminally towards them. Their failure to adjudicate this incident justly shows the limits of their ability to self-govern.
For the moment, the village has to welcome Edmund Jordan. The gentlemen pass into the manor house, the three sidemen carry the luggage, and Walter shows the groom where to stable Master Jordan’s horse. He’s annoyed by the servant’s disdainful manner—he’s not superior to Walter in any way, but he acts like he is. Coming back to the door, Walter hears Master Kent giving his cousin an account of recent events and Master Jordan lamenting that the manor house has become so shabby and dilapidated.
From the beginning, Edmund Jordan is characterized by the number of servants he possesses. He contrasts unfavorably with Master Kent, who doesn’t need personal retainers to show his authority. However, although it’s distasteful, this practice also makes him more powerful than his cousin because he has many lackeys to enforce his wishes.
As a servant Walter can’t join the conversation, but he decides to spy, not knowing whether he’s doing so for his master or his neighbors. The manor house isn’t very elaborate; in fact, the villagers scorn the idea that anyone could need more than a small cottage and earthen floor as a dwelling. They’re always astonished when they hear tales of grand houses in other towns, where noble men and women sleep in fine sheets and eat food they can’t even imagine, while servants rise early to keep floors and furniture clean. Even Master Kent’s childhood home was much larger and more imposing.
It’s important that the villagers view reports of grand houses in other towns with disbelief but not envy. Although their life is harsh, they can’t be convinced that it’s in any way inferior. This shows that they’re not just loyal to their lifestyle because they know nothing else, but because it provides satisfactions that material comforts couldn’t replace.
When Lucy Kent was alive, the house was better maintained, and she made sure that the rooms smelled good and that village women came to cook and clean. Since her death, Master Kent has closed off many of the rooms and allowed the woodwork to decay. He himself sleeps on a plain mattress like the villagers, with coarse blankets. His house is more spacious than the village cottages, but Walter doubts it’s more comfortable. Without children or dogs, the abandoned upper floor is dark and melancholy. Walter reaches the landing and stands behind a curtain to hear the men talking in the upper gallery.
Decaying and ill-maintained, the house contrasts with the lovingly cared for fields and tidy cottages in the village. However, it corresponds to the decay in Master Kent’s family and inability to produce a child that leads to Master Jordan’s arrival. Even though the house is technically finer than the village cottages, it’s not attractive to Walter, who implicitly recognizes that it’s different from his self-sustaining lifestyle.
A tall man dressed in a fine doublet, Master Jordan stands at one end of the room. He’s talking to Mr. Quill, and Walter can tell he scorns the disabled man and considers him a “local idiot.” Walter listens for much of the afternoon.
While Mr. Quill and Master Jordan both wear fine clothes and display outward signs of wealth, Master Jordan’s scorn for the kindly man shows that privilege has made him arrogant and unkind, while it’s fostered Mr. Quill’s thoughtful and compassionate character.