|Chapter Title||Miss BROADHURST AT HOME.|
|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Society, Friendship and Love|
" Miss Latiruer settled herself comfortably in an easy chair, drawing up a footstool for her greater convenience, pulled off her gloves,
dropped her hat on the floor . . . she leisurely answered ' I know ; I met him on the road.'"-CHAPTER I.
"SOCIETY, FRIENDSHIP AND LOVE.'' By E. A. B.
Miss BROADHURST AT HOME.
" One to the world's wine, honey and corn,
Another like Colchester native, born To its vinegar only and pepper."
Miss DOROTHEA BROADHURST was sitting at home in a very thoughtful frame of mind. Her cousin, Charley Powell, had proposed to her about half-an-hour ago, and she had rejected his suit, .though it was by no means the first time either of asking or answering. Bat instead of receiving his dismissal with the impassible calmness of a well-bred young man, he had been pleased to assure her, with many expressions of anger and mortification, that he would go to the bad, and she would have to answer for it. It is true, she had heard this threat some half-dozen times or so
before, for her refusals were always received with hints of self-destruction, either bodily or spiritual, but to-day there had been an increased bitterness in the young man's tone, and an unusual violence in his language, which really seemed suggestive of terrible deeds, and Dorothea felt anxious. His face, too, was very pale and his eyes blood- shot, and his whole appearance jaded and dishevelled, like a person who had neither been to bed all night, nor thought it worth his while to bestow any great care on his toilette in the morning. As Charley had not seen fit to explain to his cousin that he had spent the greater part of his sleep- less night in the society of certain young clerks who were more anxious for the quantity than quality of their potations, she naturally attributed his sorry plight to anxious and solitary meditation on herself, and felt the whole burden of the situation.
"It is really an awful thing," she said softly to herself, " that a girl should perhaps hold a young man's eternal
welfare in her hands. But what can I do ? He and I could not be really happy together, and if we could Uncle Dunstan would never give his consent."
Her meditations were cut short by the entrance of a visitor, a cousin also, but a girl this time, a year or two older than herself. "Oh! Margaret, dear, I am soglad you are come. I want to talk to you so much. Charley has been here again. "
Miss Latimer settled herself comfortably in an easy chair, drawing up a footstool for her greater convenience, pulled off her gloves, dropped her hat on the ñoor beside her, and then, throwing back her head with an air of lazy relief, and turning a pair of large calm grey eyes to Dorothea,
she leisurely answered, "I know, I met him on the road, and he stopped me to assure me that he meant to go to the devil without delay. I advised him to wait till he was cooler, and could give the matter due consideration."
"Oh ! Margaret, how could you?" said Dorothea, half amused, half reproachful. "But, after all, is it not
" That he should talk nonsense ? Very much so I think, but then I suppose boys will do so under certain circum-
" But do you think he means it ? He seemed so terribly excited, he had quite lost his self-control. What shall I do if I am the cause that he goes wrong ? But I cannot marry him even if I wished it ; it is not my fault. Uncle Dunstan would never hear of such a thing, and yet he seems to think that I am to blame ; as though I had ever encouraged Charley, or could help his behaving like a lunatic."
" What did you say to him to-day, Dolly?" asked Miss Latimer, by way of answer to this little outburst.
" Of course I told him, as I have told him over and over again, that it is impossible, that we are not suited to each other, and that if we were we could not marry while Uncle Dunstan has such a rooted dislike to marriages between cousins. I told him plainly that whether he shares his father's prejudices or not he is bound to respect them, and that it is both wrong and ridiculous to come and ask me to help him ny in my uncle's face."
" But my dear Dolly, do not you think it wojild be more effectual if you left Uncle Dunstan and his prejudices out of the question, and confined yourself to your own feelings ? Why not tell Charley plainly that you do not care for him, and would not marry him under any circumstances ?"
"Ah ! Margaret, if you had seen and heard him to-day you would think twice before speaking so harshly. I am really fond of Charley, though, of course, I do not mean to marry him, and I cannot use expressions that might drive him to something desperate."
"Express it as you like, only let him understand the truth ; but I really think you are alarming yourself very unnecessarily over a few furious words of an impatient boy. I fancy it is a sort of etiquette with some very young men, when they are refused by young women, to assure the latter that they are responsible for the perdition of their rejected lovers. You need not be uneasy, people who go wrong do not generally begin by publicly proclaiming the
"Dear Margaret, do not talk so, it sounds profane. Perdition and etiquette are scarcely things to be coupled Itogether."
"I think it ia absurd myself," said Margaret, cooly, and, rising from her chair to greet a lady who came into the room as she was speaking, "Good morning Aunt. Dora, how is your cold to-day ?"
Mrs. Broadhurst, a good-looking woman, about forty three, sank languidly on to a sofa, with a sigh of utter weariness. " It is no better, thank you, Margaret, in fact I think it gets worse ; the last three nights I have done nothing but cough. I went to see Dr. Frith yesterday, and he told me my lungs were very delicate ; he warned me that I must be very careful, but how can'I be. careful with those three boys on my hands ?" and tears of self-commiseration actually came into the poor lady's eyes at the thought, of
her critical condition.
"Dear mother," said Dorothea, soothingly, "you must not worry yourself, I do think Dr. Frith is a little bit of an alarmist, and he knows you are inclined to be careless."
" He has a monomania for chest complaints," added Miss Latimer, quietly. ' ' When I had that attack of low fever three years ago, he assured me that my lungs were in an alarming state, but they have never troubled me before or since. I would not let him frighten me, Aunt Dora, if I were you."
"I am not likely to let him frighten me, Margaret,' answered Mrs. Broadhurst, a little nettled.by her niece's tone. " I am not more easily alarmed than my neighbours, but I like to be prepared."
"Of course," said Margaret, in her most soothing töne, " only I hope there is no special need for it in the present case. But have you not yet found a tutor for the boys ?"
"I do not see the least chance of finding one,'.' said Mrs. Broadhurst, in the same fretful tone of voice. "Three men came here yesterday in answer to my advertisement ; one was not quite sober, one was evidently mad, and the third could not speak decent English. I have had applica- tions by the dozen, but each seems more hopeless than the last. I tried one specimen for a week while you were staying in the country, but he taught the boys to smoke and drink and swear, at least, so they say, and 1 am sure he spent most of his own time lying on his bed reading KÈeWs Life, with a short clay pipe in his mouth. I went into the school-room one morning and found, the tutor absent, and Regy with his heels on the mantelpiece, the facsimile of Mr. Sloman's pipe in his mouth, and reading a very dubious looking novel ; as for Jack and Dunce, they were rolling on the floor, locked in each other's arms and legs, Jack in one of his white rages threatening to smash Dunce's head with an iron bar which he had unscrewed from the window. It is all very well to laugh, Margaret," said
Mrs. Broadhurst, beginning to laugh herself at her lament- able though not altogether veracious reminiscences, "but on my honour, I do think those boys will be the death of me.'
"But really, Aunt Dora, there are plenty of competent and gentleman-like tutors in Castlereagh ; or, if the boys are so unmanageable, why not send them to school ?"
"You know I did try it for one quarter, and what was the result? They did nothing at all in the way of work, and got, into all sorts of scrapes, and came back at such disgracefully late hours that we were nearly frightened to death every day of our lives. If it had gone on we should all have been dead of heart disease. I would not try it
again for anything ; the fact is their father ought to look .
"But why not try a boarding school, Aunt Dora ?"
" A boarding school ! Good heavens! It would be the death of me. I should live in hourly dread of a telegram to say that Regy had broker» his neck, or Jack had murdered Dunce, or that they were all expelled, or drowned, or something. They are not fit to be trusted out of one's sight. 1 cannot send them to school, and I cannot find a tutor for them. When this new Education Bill, that your "Uncle Charles has chosen to take up, has passed the two Houses, it will have to be put in force against his own sons, -for I am sure we cannot honestly say that they are being educated at home. It will serve him right for neglecting them as he does. By the way, Margaret, I suppose your Uncle Dunstan is furious about this wretched bill ?"
" He does not say much about it ; of course he does not approve of it, I suppose there is no doubt of it passing."
" Of course not if the Trumpeter takes it up," said Mrs. Broadhurst, with pardonable vanity, for her husband was the heart and soul of that celebrated journal the Trumpeter. "Besides, it is quite a just and proper law, and only a few fanatics and bigots dream of opposing it," she continued, with an air of ex cathedra infallibility which produced, in the mind of her niece, a strong inclination to laugh. How- ever, Margaret knew better than to differ openly with her aunt, and besides, she had an innate dislike to arguments and scenes which generally prompted her to keep her opinions to herself, the more so as these opinions were by no means either weak or uncertain. But Mrs. Broadhurst ?was quick to detect even the shadow of opposition. " It is easy to see," she said, sharply, "that you have been sitting at your Uncle Dunstan's feet. Pray let us have his last diatribe on the subject."
"Did you ever hear Uncle Dunstan indulge in diatribes ?" answered Margaret quietly, ignoring the remark about herself. "He did not much like an article of Uncle .Charles' in the Mercury I believe, but you could scarcely expect that he would ; he has not said much about it to me
at any rate."
" He must be very angry with my father, and that was a dreadful article, though it was so clever," said Dorothea, sadly, for she was the Rev. Dunstan Powell's godchild, and up to the time, of his son's unlucky attraction, a great favourite with him. ¡She had imbibed his high church doctrines, and was herself a devout Anglican, so that she also was shocked and distressed that her father should place his peD, and the columns of the ' Mercury, at the service of infidels, for so she was accustomed to style the . upholders of the bill. Mrs. Broadhurst, whose religious
.feelings were less strong, and, in fact, seldom the same for two consecutive days, nevertheless ' rejoiced in Dorothea's piety as shedding a becoming light on the family, and she ^' now turned to her with sympathy and admiration. "My
darling child, you are too good by half, and I will not let you worry yourself with Uncle Dunstan and his fanaticism ; he always has some crochet in his head, and if you were not such a good affectionate child, I believe he would have driven you into some Anglican nunnery before this." The Bev. Dunstan Powell, be it observed, was not an upholder of Anglican, nunneries, but Mrs. Broadhurst was not wont to allow her words to be in any way influenced by facts. Dorothea smiled sweetly at her, and Margaret turned the .conversation by saying, as she got up to put on her hat and gloves, " Aunt Dora, do you know anyone who wants a governess ? I have quite made up my mind not to go back to Jibbaboo ; the heat this last summer was terrible. I should like something in Castlereagh if I can get it."
" I do not know of anyone just now, but we may hear of something in the course of a few days. . I think you are .quite right not to go back to that place with the impossible name, I always told you it would not do," said Mrs. Broad-
hurst, as she gave her niece a not very warm kiss by way
"I am so glad, dear, that you mean to stay in Castle- reagh," added Dorothea in her sweet tones, " it will be delightful to have you near," and she also kissed Margaret, but with more warmth and apparent affection.
There was a faint smile on Miss Latimer's lips as she turned away from her aunt's house towards the street -where her uncle, Mr. Powell, lived, but the smile was not exactly cheerful, and a certain chilly feeling of loneliness crept over her, as it had done more than once before after a visit to her aunt's house. But she shook off her melancholy . fancies and walked on at a brisk rate, saying to herself that
the evening was cold, and that had made her shiver. For nearly everyone who knew Margaret Latimer envied her calm temper and equal spirits ; though, to be sure, it was admirably arranged by Providence that a young woman placed in somewhat cheerless circumstances, an orphan -working for lier own support, should have the compensation of a cheerful and equable dispositioo, which was denied to many more happily placed by fortune.
And while Margaret walked home, Mrs. and Miss Broad- hurst were entertaining another visitor.