Chapter 162362832

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Chapter NumberII
Chapter TitleMISS PRISCILLA CALLS
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162362832
Full Date1896-09-26
Page Number37
Corrections0
Word Count1913
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleThe Ducies of Dulverton
article text

CHAPTER TT.

MI3H PKIrtCILLA CALLS.

"Miss Priscilla Dueie, corrected the old lady, iu a very stately manner. "The fact is," turning to Cissy, "mv sister Dorothea is really Miss Ducie, hut sho generally delegates all social functions to me, and so people natnrally take me.for Miss Duoic."

She sar. down and looked benevolently round. She seemed very old, hut her cheeks were rosy and her hair lovcably white. There was goodness imprinted on every feature of her face. It was not an aggressively mis

taken philanthropy which would never mat. until it had ' provided cummerbunds . 'with Scriptural texts oh them for the -unen lightened-Cingalese, but an irresistible good ness which seemed to emanate'from her-and

steal at once into the hearts of- thosei^with, whom she.came in contact. TfVas evident: that she did not go much' into the giddy '

worldj her attire alone was sufficient to indicate - that.; whenever she moved her ample old-: fashioned skirts tho wholesdme odour of lavender diffused itself around. >: Her man

ners had all the stately courtesy of what is generally if somewhat vaguely known as the. old school. She gave one the impression of being an old lady whom it. would be very easy to love but not very easy to take a liberty with. But, then, people did not want to tako liberties with her—thoy preferred to gain her

heart. i Miss Priscilla evidently did not think it good breeding to state the object of her visit until she had engaged in a little preliminary conversation about the weather. Though Dulverton Grange was only ten miles off, she

had started at 12 o'clock, and it was now past ]

three.

Cissy wondered how she could possibly have ' been all that time on the road, until, glancing through the window, she saW the Bleek old

carriage horses and the venerable coachman | and footman. The latter waB a mere boy of i seventy; the horses'might have been coltoof

twenty. They seemed asleep; the coach- I man's powdered wig was a little oh one side, and the reins hung loosely in his hand. Cissy

fancied that she could almost hear one vast comprehensive snore proceeding from horses, coachman, and footman in har monious unison. The stately carriage, hung on tremendously high springs, ^looked a3 if it had been rolled out of some old coaobhouse and done up for tho occasion. The very varnish on the panels had a Cre

mona-JiKe tint, wnioh could only navo come

from a ripe old age. What did it all mean? Would sne be borne away in this ancient vehicle, and fall asleep and never wake again? She found herself almost yawning as she looked at this reposeful group. There was none of the feverish activity of the nine teenth century about Miss Priseilla's retainers. A lady-help in such a circle would be an ana chronism—an outrage.

"I am afraid that your coachman is tired," suggestedvCissy. "Hadn't they better take the horses out for a little while? You must let mo give you some tea."

And before Miss Priscilla could gratefully protest 'Porkins was awakening tho ancient

coachman.

Cissy felt relieved when the carriage vanished in the direction of the stableyard. It did not mako any sound on the crisp gravel. She afterwards examined tho wheels, and found

that they were covered with indiarubbor j tires. _ |

" You are very good," said Miss Priscilla, -evidently regarding Cissy as her hostess. Mrs. L'Estrange was far too nervous to do tho

honours, and so Cissy had to take tho load, j " It is years since I have boon over hero, and I j had almost forgotten the way."

" Papa is comparatively a new comer, as he ! inherited the placo from his uncle," said

Cissy. " He has only lived here for the last j ten years." |

"Of course, that is a very little time," said i Miss Priscilla, to whom ft evidently did not seem much more than a day or two. " It must take a long time to settle down in a place. We

have been at Dulverton all our lives, and very - rarely leave it. We have always so much to do. As you aro doubtless aware, my brother is vicar of Dulverton j my father and grand father were both vicars of Dulverton; in fact, for the last two hundred years a Ducie has beety vicar, but my brother James is unmar ried, and there are no other Ducies in Holy

Orders." _ _ ,

Miss Priscilla said all this in a tone of gentle j pride. She apparently thought that some

national step should bo taken to proservo the j English Church from the disasters which i would overtake it in tho event of anything j happening to her brother James. i

It was very refreshing to meet some one j who evidently believed that tho world would 1 come to a stop if there wasn't a Ducie in Holy ] Orders at Dulverton. j

The Ducics had been benevolent despots for | so long in that small hamlet that they had I gradually come to believe whatever happened j outside it could not be of any very material im- | portance. Empires might rise arid fall, pooplo | grow up and dio. but as long as thcro were j

lliioina to minister t.o the. wants of the Ttulver- I

tonians it was an eminently well-ordered world. Some of their newer neighbours had been unkind enongh to nay that, in the simple innocence of her heart, Miss Priscilla believed that the Pucies had been created as an anti dote to original sin. Their lives certainly bore out this idea, for they were always doing good in a gentle, kindly, matter-of-fact way which did not expect thanks, but relieved the neces sities of others because they had tho moans

wherewith to do so.

Miss Priscilla announced that she found tea very refreshing after the fatigue of her arduous journey; and then it occurred to her that she had not broached the object of her visit.

"If it would not bo inconveniencing you, Miss L'Estrange," she said, rathor nervously, " I should like to see the young person."

"What young person?" asked Cissy, who had completely forgotten the object of Miss Priscilla's journov. She was charmed with the old lady, and felt that she could learn to love her very quickly.

"Eh—cli—the lady-help!" said Miss Pris

cilla.

Cissy blushed.

"The fact is," she eaid rather nervously, " I am the lady-lielp, Miss Ducic, or rather,

I want to be."

Miss Priscilla was amazed.

"I fancied that there must be some mistako, my dear," she said slowly. "Surely you do not waiit to leave your comfortable home, and to—to work? Not that there is anything de grading in work, but why should you try such an experiment?"

"It is a mad freak of mine, Miss Ducic," said Cissv, earnestly. "I want to be useful to someone."

" But surely here?" said Miss Ducie.

"Oh, everything goes like clockwork. I want to really work, to exert all my energies in doing something. If you don't like me, you can easily send mo away. Miss Ducio."

There was a very pleading expression in Cissv's eyes.

Miss Priscilla looked at her. She liked the girl. There was something very frank and outspoken about, her. She did not care much for Mrs. L' Estrange, who. evidently stood in considerable awe of the stately old lady. Miss Priscilla temporised.

"Won't you come and stay with us as our guest?" she enquired.

" I should dearly like to," said Cissy, " but I am afraid it wouldn't bo tho same thing. You see you couldn't order mo to do anything, I want to be ordered to do things, and to wait on oeople. It won't hurt me. I can easily drop it if I got tired of nly whim. I want you to treat me just like you would any other lady-help."

"But, my dear," said Miss Priscilla, waxing confidential, "I have never even seen a lady;

"help. They are comparatively modern inven tions. It is principally for dear James's sake that ire -want a lady-help. We think she could assist him .so much in hie arduous labours, and oopy out hLf sermons. James is

m

about to publish a volume of sermons at the request of his parishioners, and he hasn't time to oopy them out himself. We oould not bear the idea of his having a Secretary in the house. He might be very nice; but, on the other hand, he might not. And, then, 'Supposing ho fell :in love with one of the servants 1 I have heard of such things; and it-would be so hor ribly unpleasant-to have to part with them on that account. They have been with us for so many, years."

Cissy smiled.

"Young meu are so giddy," said Priscilla. "Dear James has often told us stories of his College days, and we were rather frightened at the prospect of introducing some thought loss young man into our quiet domostio circle. He might smoke and do all kinds of things.

Even dear James smoked when he returned from College."

"I rather like men to smoke," said Cissy.

" Oh, dear 1" said Miss Priscilla, whose knowledge of history was a little rusty. " I think it is a dreadful habit. "Wo ought really to feel thankful to King JameB for trying to discourage it by having Sir Walter Raleigh

beheaded."

But Cissy turned the conversation into its old channel. _ She wanted to be a lady help, and Miss Priscilla gave in.

" Well, ray dear, sho said soothingly, " we can call you that, if you like it. There will bo lots of things for you to do; and if you got tired of them you can stay on as a visitor."

It was evident" that Miss PriscUJa did not

take Cjssy very seriously. Cissy, however, determined that she would alter all that when sho once reached Dulvcrton. It was arranged that she should join Miss Priscilla on the

morrow.

Then the sleepy' servants wore awakened from their torpor. Miss Priscilla entered her noiseless chariot, and departed in state. Cissy rubbed her eyes as the carriage disappeared down the dri vo. Had there been any carriage? Was it a will-o'-the wisp, a Jack-o'-lantern, uncanny affair? Had she dreamed it?

? She wont out to the front, and put lior fingers into the marks loft by the wheels of Miss Priscilla's chariot.

"These are real," she said; "it wasn't a dream. I'll go and pack up for to-morrow. I wonder what the Rev. James is like?"

Miss Priscilla reached homo full of sup pressed excitement. Going into the drawing room she found there a fac-simile presentment

of herself.

" Dorothea," she said solemnly, " I have had a most exeiting day. I t almost reminds me of some of the thrilling adventures in Miss Austen's novels. Come upstairs, and I will tell you all about if"

Miss Dorothea rose slowly. " Don't be so incoherent. Prissy," she said, "I didn't know there was anything exciting in Miss Austen's novels. But you are so impetuous. Hadn't you better lie down for a little while before dinner? But she followed Mis3 Priscilla up stairs with eager ouriosity to hear of the •dangers she had incurred by her perilous plunge into the outer world.