|Newspaper Title||The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||A Little Minx. A Sketch|
A Little Minx. A SKETCH.
By A. C.
So it was on Sunday morning that Mrs. Primrose made her debut in the parish. It was a bright and beautiful morning, and all the leading families went to church in force. Mr. Mackenzie drove from Darriwell in his large waggonnette, bringing his housekeeper and half a dozen servants, and, though early in his pew (which was at the top of tiie church, and at right angles to the parsonage
pew) , found it filled with people who could find no room in their own, waiting to see the new curate and the new curate's wife. The former, of course, was expected to be the great attraction. It had become generally known that there was a Mrs. as well as a Mr. Primrose, but until they saw her she did not count for much. Mr. Primrose came in first, as the organ was playing, at the archdeacon's heels, and went to kneel down in the little chancel. He looked very nice indeed, in his well-cut garments, that were all fresh and spruce, and with his long white hands and long delicately-featured face, and the congregation thoroughly approved of him. He read the lessons in a pleasant, gentlemanly voice, and though his sermon was not more original or profound than sermons usually are, his language was correct and chaste, and his sentiments all that could be desired. The impression that he made was entirely satisfactory, save in so far as his fragile appearance and a suspicous cough suggested spine physical unfitness for that rough bush work which he was specially engaged to attend to. But interesting as he was, he was of little consequence compared with his wife. When Mrs. Primrose was ushered into church by Mrs. Brown through the vestry door — in full view of the sccond largest congregation that had ever assembled within those walls — every . eye was turned upon her, and she created an instant and all-pervading sensation which survived throughout the service and threw the new curate, sermon and all, into the shade. She was a slim, little creature, with a charming, bright eyed face— really a remarkably pretty young woman, as the dullest could see. But it was not her beauty that made her such a surprise and curiosity, it was her commanding step and air — en air of serene self-possession repose, which was quite unaffected by the ordeal she was supposed to be passing through ; and it was her dress, the cut and qualify of which were such as to make every woman in the church look dowdy. It was not a rich dress, nor gay in colour, but even the men could dimly recognise ^its superiority to those that , were brought in contact with it. The ladies saw it and felt it in a moment ; the mint-stamp of the first-class London dressmaker was patent to their more in structed intelligence. And such a bonnet it was that crowned the perfect costume ! a little thing, made of no one knew what, but nestling to her graceful head as if it had grown there, and ' setting, off ' her bright face in a marvellously seductive way. Gloves and boots and modest ruffics — all had fhe same delicate appropriateness about them, but they were appropriate to each other and to her, not at all toa curate s wife as such. If she was tho curate's wife she was an entirely new specimen, and evidently destined to make a mark of some sort upon the histoty of the parish. So the leading families of Weoroona instinctively surmised, and their instinct did not mislead them. Mr. Mackenzie sat within aim's length of her, and the impression upon him was very strong. He was a man of the world, and he saw in her if not a woman of the world— and she was over- young to be that yet — at least one who ?knew that there was such a place and something of its con stitution and dimensions ; and this was a refreshing dis covery. Her dress he did not take much notice of — at any rate he could not have described even so much as its colour had he been asked to do so ; he felt it rather tho.' saw it — inhaled its fine harmonies like a perfume, «««! wondered how the Miss Browns, seated one on cither side of her, could make such guys of themselves. He was negatively con scious of the perfections of the young matron's costume by an entirely new perception of crude tastelessness in those of the girls, who were in the very vanof fashion at Wooroona, as of modem culture generally, and whose style had hitherto rather pleased him than not. He did not study Mrs. Primrose in detail — he did not- care how sho or her garments were made up ; he only judged of the result, which charmed him. He stood before her — his seat facing the east, while hers was on a line with the north wall — with grave eyes on his book or abstractedly fixed upon the window over her head, as if to pretend she was not there; but he bestowed upon her a concentrated and unswerving attention which would have flattered her
very mucii naa sne Known or it. Ann u sne aid not Know of it she probably made a good guess, for it was the sort of thing she was accustomed to. Very modest -mrl demure she looked, with her pretty eyes also bont upon her book, and her piquant little mouth, that looked so rich in hidden wit and smiles, reverently composed; but, all the same, she was aware, the instant she entered the church, that there was at least one ' presentable ' man in the congrega tion, presumably ' some one whom she could speak to,' and she maintained an interest in him throughout the service, as he did in her. As for him, he neither knew nor cared how the lessons were read nor what the sermon was about. Jack Primrose was superseded altogether as an object of curiosity and criticism j but as for her, she was able to regard them both intelligently and all else that went on around her. Considering the short time that she had been in Woorona, she reckoned up with wonderful accuracy the comforts and discomforts that were likely to attend her residence in that place, though uho was very far from foresee ing all that fate had in store for her ; and in the first cate gory she placed Colin Mackenzie, while still ignorant of his name, ana in the second die placed Mrs. Brown, while her acquaintance with that lady was only ten minutes old. She was no veiy distinguished person, from fhe social nt of view. Her father was a leading medical man in a ing English county town, and she was only the fourth of a family of children, far too large to admit of any en dowment of the daughters in the father's lifetime, over and above a first-rate trousseau and a comfortable cheque for a few hundreds as a wedding present. In her case the wed ding was eo recent that the clothes she wore were a part of her outfit, still quite new and fresh, «n-l tiie cheque intact - — or, rather, the sum it represented — reserved for the buy ing of furniture when she and Jack should set up their house. They had not set up a house as yet. The honey moon, a series of farewell visits, *n»l voyage 1-»^ ab sorbed the few months of their married life. 1 It was only now, in this Australian up-country township, that they were prepared to undertake the responsibilities of an estab lishment — to rent a cottage, engage a servant (only one for the present), and unpack their stock of plate 'nil 1mm and the wedding gifts, whieh had seemed so long unnsed ; and they both looked forward with deep but subdued delight to the enjoyment of these matrimonial privileges. They were a veiy happy voung couple — happy and hopeful and con tent ; but still they were a pair of whom a woman would say, 'What made that man marry that girl?' and of whom a man would as naturally remark, ' How could that girl many that fellow 't ' There seemed no fitness in either to be the complement of the other, except that both were young, well-bred, and amiable. It was — as it mostly is, more or less — just accident. Jack Primrose's family were small squireens, and held in high respect in Nancy Lawrence's neighbour hood, and, though lovers were plenty in the doctor's house hold, lovers with 'intentions' were not. And then he was a clergyman and in delicate lw»lrtiJ which made him personally interesting and attractive, though only an English girl could tell why. There were quite a number of healthy and handsome young ladies who would have accepted John Primrose had he asked them, though it was known that he had little or nothing beyond his professional income and suspected that he would be sickly and die young (to leave a widow and orphans penniless) ; and Nancy, who was charming enough to have had her own pick and choice, felt it a great honour to be chosen before them all to share his name and lot. Nor did her father aad mnthor object. They thought the alliance quite a suitable one, all things considered- Poor Jack was lathar was the
only serious drawback (for doubtless his father would leave him something gome day} ; but Doctor Lawrence thought there was nothing radically wrong, and believed that a few years in a mild ' climate would make a new man ofrhiin. The doctor had a great idea of Australia, being a mm of research and enterprise, and intended to turn the attention of some of his medical student sons to the large fortunes that were to.be picked up in that direction by jjentlemen of the profession. Nancy was to be the pioneer for the family, and, when Jack's health was restored, was to bring back full accounts of the great, young country ' whether it be good or bad,' ' whether it be fat or lean*' — like the men whom Moses commissioned to spy out the land of Canaan. But no ! when I came to think of it, the marriage was not exactly an accident— it was referable to a cause which controls most events of our lives, including equally the marriages that are believed to be made in Heaven (Nancy fully believed that hers was) , and those which are realised and described in the strongest language and that cause was — Money. ^ Had Dr. Lawrence been rich, and his numerous girls heiresses to a few thousands a-piece, Nancy would have been snapped up by 'another,' while Jack Primrose was still an unfledged -deacon. She would have married that handsome Captain Drummond, of the militia, for whose coming, with the red coats and the spring flowers, she had once looksd out so eagerly, whose presence in her native town, with his clanking sword and his long moustaches, had turned it into a paradise for six blessod weeks of tho year ; or she would nave married that gentle, dark-eyed Austrian count whom she mot at Vienna, and who followed her to London when she had that little bit of a season with her aunt, who had a castle and estates, though he had so little money, and would have made her a countess and a court lady; or she would have married young Will Evelyn, the son of Sir William at the Hall, who used to gaze at her all service time from his curtained pew in church, and hang about her at dances and tennis parties in a state of hopeless fascination, forbidden to speak because the pretty girl had no fortune. And she would, doubtless, have been happy with any one of them — as she was with Jack Primrose now — Mid felt that no other husband in the world could compare with her husband. But, as she had no money, she had been a, much-desired but too expensive luxury to captain, count, and baronet, and to many a good fellow besides ; it was only a curate with nothing, like herself, and with the calm assurance of his class, who could dare to rush in where they had feared to tread. And so Jack Primrose had carried her off. He had married her because he had asked to many her, and because it is proper for a girl to marry when she is two-and-twenty, and has a large number of asters ; and since she was married to him sbe believed, like a good girl, that God had brought them together, and that their marriage , was made in heaven — foreordained from the beginning of the world. As Colin Mackenzie looked at her, with his eyes on his prayer-book, and listened to her husband's mild exposition of a mild' text of scripture from the pulpit over his head, he asked himself again and again that inevitable question, 'How did she come to marry him ?' But it was impossible for him to guess. To an Australian, and especially a rich Australian, money has comparatively so little to do with the matter. It doesn't affect his choice of a wife, though it may neces sarily affect hers very often. It seemed to him that Mrs. Primrose was the kind of girl who must have had her choice of all the single men who knew her. And she had chosen Jack! It was a puzzle to him, even in this first hour, before he knew anything of her but what lie saw ; and it was a greater puzzle after he had made her acquaintance.