|Chapter Title||A PATRONESS OF SOCIETY.|
|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Society, Friendship and Love|
A PATRONESS OF SOCIETY.
" In eldest time, ere mortals writ or read,
Ere Pallas issued from the thunderer's head, Duhiess o'er all possessed her ancient right,' Daughters of Chaos and Eternal Night :
Laborious, heavy, busy, bold, aud blind, * She ruled, in native anarchy, the mind." *
Mrs. Grimleigh was a lady belonging to a certain exclusive «ircle, called by the Mercury^ and other papers, the élite oi Castlereagh Society, among its own members known simply as Society, and by some irreverent outsiders nicknamed Society. Certain qualifications were necessary to any one wishing to enter this magic circle. First and foremost was wealth, which, combined' with a certain style of living, alone ensured its possessor a cordial welcome. Failing this, a connection, though a slight one with some person of rank, or undoubted baronet, or prominent statesman, or even with
some very conspicuous literary person, had often proved a sufficient letter of introduction to its possessor. Some ladies had been admitted on the plea of beauty, a beauty so distinguished as to have attracted the attention of an illustrious visitor, and some few persons, both male and female, had obtained an entrance with no better qualification than an intellectual one. But the ladies and geutlemen who formed the committee for the admission or rejection of applicants felt that this last was a dangerous experiment, and, unless properly guarded, might end in a general swamping of Society under the influx of native and foreign talent. So they made a wise regulation that talent was inadmissible, unless accompanied by notoriety, and, by this simple expedient, saved themselves from destruction.
Now Mr. and Mrs. Broadhurst were not, up to the time when my story begins, considered as belonging to Society ; they had been in comfortable circumstances, but not rich. Mr. Broadhurst, it is true, was a member of the colonial parliament, but that in itself is not an indisputable claim to distinction ; as far as Castlereagh knew, he numbered no baronet among his second cousins, and Dorothea, though she was quite lovely enough, had had no chance of dancing with the younger son of a marquis or viscount. But thanks to some lucky speculations, Mr. Broadhurst had lately, by quick degrees, acquired considerable wealth ; the Trumpeter was a paper widely distributed, and Society was by no means averse to see its names and movements duly chronicled therein ; the family seemed willing to entertain, the house was a handsome one, and the daughter would be an ornament to any assembly. A certain distinguished young visitor, passing through Castlereagh a short time before, had noticed Miss Broadhurst at a public ball, and had enquired who was that lovely creature. Altogether it seemed desirable that the Broadhursts should be received by Society, and, as the representative of Society, Mrs. Grimleigh came to call upon
She was a cold, almost a stony woman, with a commanding presence and a large nose. Her manners, every one said, were irreproachable, and if an utter absence of ease and grace and warmth constitute good manners, every one was right. Mrs. Broadhurst, in her heart of hearts, felt a most unbounded contempt for Mrs. Grimleigh and her pretensions, nevertheless she was quite alive to the importance of the present step, and received the visit as she was intended to
" We have been neighbours for some time I believe," began Mrs. Grimleigh, " but my time is so takenup with a variety of engagements, social and charitable, that I have never before had an opportunity of calling on you. But I must beg you to excuse my remissness, knowing the cause from which it springs. "
"I ara very glad to see you now," answered Mrs. Broadhurst, whose manner at once rose to the occasion and became a pretty exact copy of Mrs. Grimleigh's own. "Allow me to introduce my daughter to you."
Mrs. Grimleigh scrutinized Dorothea through her eye- glass, and then honoured her with a stately bow. "My own daughter will be glad to make Miss Broadhursts acquain- tance ; she must come and play tennis with us ; have you
no other children ?"
" I have three boys, ranging from thirteen to nine," said Mrs. Broadhurst. "You, I believe,have a large family."
"Yes, my children are of all ages-some grown up and some in the schoolroom. I am at present anxiously looking out for a governess."
"And I for a tutor," said Mrs. Broadhurst, venturing on a slight smile.
Mrs. Grimleigh looked doubtful for a moment, as though not quite certain whether the smile was admissible, but, being in a tolerant humour, she allowed it to pass, and even forced a slight smile herself in reply. "I think I can help you," she said, "I can highly recommend a tutor ; my own boys go to school or I would not willingly give him up to you. He is a Mr. Fitzalan, very highly connected ; he came out from England a short time ago in the same steamer with my eldest son, who had been home on a visit. They made each other's acquaintance on the voyage, and my son after- wards introduced him to us. Unfortunate family circum- stances and'the foreclosing of a mortgage have forced him tc earn his own bread, but he is a very distinguished young man. He has been staying with us a few days, and I can confidently recommend him."
" It is very kind of you," said Mrs. Broadhurst, "I should like to see him. I have had terrible experiences lately ; the tutors all seem either to drink-"
"You will have no difficulties of that kind with Mr. Fitzalan," interrupted Mrs. Grimleigh, and something in her tone annoyed Mrs. Broadhurst. It almost seemed as though the only difficulty Mrs. Grimleigh apprehended was Mr. Fitzalan's superiority to the position offered, and she seemed scarcely to leave Mrs. Broadhurst the option ol refusing him. Dorothea saw the gathering cloud and cami to the rescue. " It must be very sad for a young man, whe has been brought up with good expectations, suddenly tc find himself reduced to poverty," she said, gently. " But il seems to hàppen fortunately for us if a satisfactory arrange
ment can be made with Mr. Fitzalan. "
" I have little doubt of that; I can confidently recommenc him, and I will beg him to call upon Mrs. Broadhurs to-morrow morning, if that is a convenient time," said Mrs Grimleigh, quite unconscious of being anything but mos gracious.
" And mother," Dorothea went on, "Mrs. Grimleigh spok of requiring a governess. Perhaps Margaret might-,; and she paused with a pretty little air of diffidence an<
Mrs. Grimleigh was pleased with the young lady's manner "And who is Margaret?" she asked.
Dorothea looked at her mother who answered, " She i Mies Latimer, my niece and an orphan, and she is just no\ anxious to find a situation as daily governess in Castlereagh.
" Can you tell me something of her age, accomplishments and so forth ? I am always very particular in my choice c a governess."
"Of course," assented Mrs. Broadhurst, "Margare Latimer is about twenty-two. She is my sister's daughtei but her mother died when she was a baby, and her fathei who was a doctor in Granville, when she was barely sixteer He was a highly cultivated man, a classical scholar, and h made Margaret his companion, and brought her up more like boy than a girl. She is by way of being quite a learned youn lady. After Dr. Latimer's death, my brother, Mr. Powell, th incumbent of St. Mary's, invited Margaret to live with hil and offered to support her as his daughter. But he ha nothing beside his not very large income, and my niec preferred to be independent. The little provision made b her father was all lost through the dishonesty of a truste* aDd Margaret has been teaching for the last five years. SI was governess for some time to a very nice family in tl
country, but the climate disagreed with her, and her health suffered so much during the last year that Mr. Powell insisted on her giving up her engagement, and he has at length persuaded her to live with him and only go out teaching for the day. Besides her classical attainments, of which I am not competent to speak, she speaks French and German, and is a good musician j of course inferior branches, such as English, &c, are understood. Perhaps I ought to tell you that she has a rather unfortunate manner, more decided and self-reliant than amiable, but it is owing in great measure to her peculiar position ; she bas been accus- tomed from such an early age to think and judge for herself where other girls appeal to their fathers and mothers."
"No doubt," said Mrs. Grimleigh; "and, after all, an unpleasant manner, though much to be regretted for the young lady's own sake, is a matter of minor importance. I am much interested in what you tell me of your niece, Mrs. Broadhurst, and shall be glad to have an interview with her. I have always great sympathy with a praiseworthy struggle for independence. I know Mr. Powell by reputation, though I have never had the pleasure of any personal intercourse, and any one coming from his roof carries with her her first testimonial. Shall I be asking too much, Miss Broadhurst, if I beg you to let Miss Latimer know that I shall be glad to see her, between two and three on Thursday, if she will take the trouble to call and is not previously engaged ? And now," continued Mrs, Grimleigh, rising, Mrs. Broadhurst and Dorothea rising too, with a vague idea that they were in church and the parson had just finished his sermon, "and now, my dear Mrs. Broadhurst, that we have made each other's acquaintance, I hope we shall continue it, and particularly I hope you will allow your daughter to join the circle of my own young people. My dear, we have a few young friends coming to play tennis to-morrow. Will you waive ceremony and make one of our party ? My daughter should, properly, have come to call with me, but she had unfortunately made a previous engagement which could not be relinquished. I am sure you will overlook this, and allow her the pleasure of making your acquaintance to-
Of course Dorothea could only assure Mrs. Grimleigh that she was very happy to accept her invitation, and Mrs. Broadhurst could only echo Dorothea's assurances. Then Mrs. Grimleigh took her leave, with the same air of highly starched dignity, and quite satisfied that she had proved herself a model of condescension and kindness, while Mrs. Broadhurst and her daughter sank into their chairs with a long-drawn sigh of relief.
" I do not know how I shall get on with Miss Grimleigh if she is at all like her mother. 1 am terribly alarmed at the thought of this lawn tennis to-morrow," said Dorothea. " If I were Margaret, I would rather do anything than accept an engagement with Mrs. Grimleigh."
" »She is a portentous person, and rather suggestive of a bishop in petticoats," said Mrs. Broadhurst, "but for- tunately Margaret is not sensitive, and she will not be such a simpleton as to reject a good chance. As for you, dear child, you will soon tame the Grimleigh, who, I dare say, is a very good sort of woman at heart. No doubt the family will be pleasant enough acquaintances, and Mrs. Grimleigh's coming to call was meant politely. It is always a pity to reject advances.
"Oh yes, mother," said Dorothea, "and I daresay we shall find them all very nice when we know them. I have always heard that Mrs. Grimleigh takes a great interest in the poor, and is connected with a great many charitable
Mrs. Broadhurst was on the point of making some rejoinder, not altogether complimentary to the said chari- table institutions and their patronesses, but for certain, reasons, best known to herself, she suddenly stopped short and converted her remark into a discreet hope that they might find the Grimleigh family possessed of many virtues besides the cardinal one of charity. And, with this appro- priate sentiment, she went to dress for dinner in a very cheerful frame of mind, for her visitor had quite driven Dr.
Frith's ominous warnings out of her impressionable head. <
But Dorothea, more mindful of her mother, stopped, on her way to her own room, to say in her pretty caressing tones, "Now, mother dear, mind you put on your velvet dress and your very warmest shawl ; remember what Dr. Frith said ; we cannot afford to let you risk your precious lungs, and you never will take care of yourself unless I look after you. Now, promise, mother, or I will not let you take me to the opera to-night."
So Mrs. Broadhurst, who would not miss the opera for the world, promised, and Dorothea went singing upstairs, to make herself beautiful for the evening.