Chapter 63620130

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Chapter NumberIV
Chapter TitleSOCIETY AND ITS GUESTS. He talked very wisely, but I regarded him not, And yet he talked very wisely
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63620130
Full Date1886-05-15
Page Number0
Corrections0
Word Count3842
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleIllustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)
Trove TitleSociety, Friendship and Love
article text

"SOCIETY, FRIENDSHIP AND LOVE. "

A. B.

CHAPTER IV.

; SOCIETY AND ITS GUESTS.

"He talked very,wisely, but I regarded him not,

And yet he talked very wisely."

The day was, of all days, most delightful for a picnic. A bright cloudless spring morning in September, with a fresh land breeze gently rustling the leaves, and carrying with it a delicious aromatic perfume, from a thousand indented shores ; the water, as blue as the sky above, playing merrily against the jutting headlands ; huge, vessels lying calmly at anchor ; and gay little yachts, with sails gleaming in the sunlight, skimming along like great birds with outspread wings. On one side lay the quaint irregular town, crowned with spires, and sloping down to the busy quay ; beyond lay white houses, nestling amidst trees, or standing proudly above their terraced gardens; and, across the water, the shores in all their natural beauty of grey-tinted rocks, and fresh green shoots, and patches of white and pink and gold.

" It really is a lovely place," said Margaret to herself, as she sat on the deck of the little steamer, and drank in the sweet air; "what a pity-" but her meditations went no further, for her attention was suddenly arrested by Ethel Grrimleigh, who came running across the deck to ask her what she thought of cousin Maurice.

Cousin Maurice was at this moment standing on one side of Miss Broadhurst, and Mr. Walter Grimleigh on the other ; a number of young people, male and female, surrounded them, and a very animated discussion was besing carried on about various matters of interest, from . the admirable, qualities of a pet parson, to the chances bf the Delaneys giving a ball this season. Mr. Gower, however, waß more occupied in looking at Dorothea, and listening to her words, than in contributing his share to the general information.

" Do you not think he is nice ? " repeated Ethel.

"How should I know, child?" said Margaret ; " I have known him since nine o'clock, and have talked to him about ten minutes. He seems very kind to you."

"He is kind to everybody," said Ethel, "except, I suppose, to people he does not like. 1 do not think he likes Mr. Fitzalan, and I do not either. Mama was praising him this morning, and I watched cousin Maurice's face, and he looked-well he looked like Mabel looks when she meeta common people, only not so nasty ; and when Mr. Fitzalan came in with you he gave him such a stiff little bow."

"It is difficult to understand from yonr account who gave whom a bow ; and, my dear Ethel, you should not make remarks upon everything you see and hear;" said

Margaret; nevertheless" she felt 'a 'certain pleasure . at the thought that Mr. Gower might not like Mr. Fitzalan.

Before Ethel could explain or excuse herself, Mrs. Broad-, hurst came to her niece in that state of imperfectly sup- pressed excitement which seemed habitual to her.

" Come to the other end of the boat, Margaret," she said, ' ' come quickly, I want to introduce you to Count Czarvas

chek."

"Count what? Aunt Dora. Oh, I suppose it is Dolly's Hungarian."

" Yes, the most charming man in the world ; of very old family, very intellectual, very enthusiastic, and with such a perfect air of distinction." ^

"Like Mr. Fitzalan, I suppose," thougljp Margaret to herself, but she prudently held her peace and waited for further enlightenment.

"Do come quickly," persisted Mrs. Broadhurst; he noticed you, and said you looked intelligent. He is just the sort of man you will admire ; he has been everywhere, and seen and heard everything ; he is a universal sceptic in everything but electro-biology, and has come here to give : lectures or readings, or something of that sort. Everyone

is enthusiastic about him, and it will be a capital thing for you to make his acquaintance."

" But, my dear Aunt, what shall I say to him, if he cares for nothing but electro-biology, and I know nothing about it?"

*' He will talk to you-do not be absurd, Margaret-come, . I say." And she carried off her niece, almost by main force, to where the great man was enthroned at the other end of

the boat.

The Hungarians are considered a fine race, and a count suggests a certain dignity of manner-but, alas ! for illusions. Count Czarvaschek was short, fat, and flabby ; the shape of his head quite belied his intellectual reputation, and his eyes, which were large, pale, and without lustre, gavé one the impression of being about to roll out of his head. Had he been a less exalted person one would have called him vulgar looking. He had, in attendance upon him, a sickly, cadaverous youth, with a faintly smiling mouth, whom he carried about everywhere, and introduced as his nephew, Count Andrew. Count Andrew, it appeared, was a remark- ably taciturn young man, and never opened his mouth except to cou firm his uncle's statements. Count Czarvaschek greeted Margaret with marks of condescension, remarked on ber likeness to her aunt, which was entirely imaginary, and begged her to be seated. He spoke English well, but with a foreign accent and much gesticulation.

" l am delighted with your country and climate," he said affably; "it is an Arcadia ; but I am amazed that in

flourishing a community, among persons of so much in- tellect-" (here he included in a general bow Mrs. Broad- hurst, Miss Latimer, and some half-dozen other ladies, for the most part plain and elderly,. who sat around and hung, on the utterances of his lips)-.41 am surprised, I say, that there should be such total ignorance of the first science of the age. It is to me astonishing that there should be persons here who are utterly ignorant of what is meant by electro-biology. "

" It is the better for you, Count; you find virgin soil and ' can plant in' it what ideas you like," said Mrs. Broadhurst, who affected to talk with the learned man more on a footing of intellectual equality than the other ladies. :

" Ah, yes, Count, tell us all about it, please," said one of these humble disciples, "we are terribly ignorant, as you say, out in these colonies, but we are willing to learn! Please, tell us about electro-biology."

"I believe they think: it is some metallic preparation," whispered Mrs. Broadhurst to her niece, whose grave face gave no sort of clue to her private thoughts.

"I am not quite sure.that I have not some such idea myself," answered Margaret, in the same tone, and with her

eyes fixed on the Count's face. - 1

",Electro-biology," he began, "or animal magnetism, as it was first called, or mesmerism, which is its more popular title, after the name of Mesmer, the great man who first brought the science prominently into notice.-for before his time there were cases of persons curing disease by magnetic influence. Mesmerism, the twin science to Phrenology, which it supports and corroborates, is an universal fluid, constituting an absolute plenum in nature, and the medium of all mutual influence between the celestial bodies and betwixt the earth and animal bodies, lt is the most subtle

fluid in nature, capable of flux and reflux, and of receiving, : propagating, and continuing all kinds of motion."

Here, the orator, having arrived at his period, paused to take breath, and murmurs of wonder and delight ran round the circle. The next best thing to talking learnedly is to listen with appreciation to the learned talk of others; an absolute plenum and flux and reflux must certainly mean something very fine, and the allusion to the celestial bodies and their influence carried with it a dim suggestion of heresy, which was delightful to ladies who went habitually and devoutly to church, and taught in the Sunday school.

"Take care, Count," said Mrs. Broadhurst, "you must not attempt to undermine our faith."

" On the contrary, it is I, or rather mesmerism, that will ¡ strengthen it. I need only refer to enlightened and devout ladies to St. Paul who tells us that there is a spiritual

body-the complement of the animal body-the soul, or psyche as we have it in the original Greek, and differing from the pneuma, or more interior human spirit. The psyche or soul is the connecting link between the body and the pneuma or spirit, and it is to this psyche that mesmerism in ita higher stages directly appeals, and from it passes to the brain and nervous system. It may truly be called a subtle fluid. From the beneficent Creator it first emanates, and flows throughout the universe. The plants obey its influence ; mankind acknowledges its power ; medicine is its handmaid ; it is the sister and supporter of religion, yet this mighty force is entrusted to the hands of men that they may use it wisely to the glory of the Creator and the benefit of men ; to lull pain and grief into a blessed pleep ; to give relief in anguish which would otherwise be un- bearable, and to teach us the mighty secrets of the invisible

"World."

"But can magnetism really do that, Count?" asked one sceptical lady. " I know there are wonderful things said and done by people in a trance, but there are also so many men who come forward to denounce the others as imposters, and who really seem to do exactly the same things by sleight

of hand."

The Count interrupted her with evident irritation. "Pardon me, madam, and do you know what are these men who denounce their brethren ? They, also, are what we cali mediums, that is, they possess in themselves the magnetic fluid to a great degree, and in a state of coma or magnetic sleep peiform things which would be to them im- possible in their wakiDg moments. But these men have despised their mission, and denied and abused their power. What they have done by mesmerism they falsely attribute to legerdemain, and so, violating their trust, they blast their brother's .reputation, and bring this great science into contempt for the sake of a paltry gain."

Such a startling doctrine of course obtaiued a ready

credence.

"It is very curious," said Mrs. Broadhurst, "but it would explain many things which have puzzled us all. Do you remember, Margaret, I had a faint idea of the kind when Rook and Gascoigne were here ? "

Margaret murmured something unintelligible. She dis- tinctly remembered that Mrs. Broadhurst had said that Rook and Gascoigne were probably in league with the two mesruerisfcB who had preceded them, and that it was agreed that the first should play the tricks and the second expose them ; this idea, too, she had picked up from Mr. Powell. However, it was useless to Bay anything, and besides, Margaret was at present quite absorbed in trying to understand the Count-not his doctrines or his learning, but himself-and for the present she found the study an interesting one.

" And could you really make ua do all sorts of wonderful things ? " asked someone presently. " Could you force us tc do whatever you liked, whether we chose or not ? How strange that would feel ! " and the speaker gave a little shiver of anticipating enjoyment.

" Ah ! dear lady," said the Count, sweetly, " that would depend upon how far your nature was in sympathy with mj own, and I dare not hope that a first or even a second attempt would so subdue your spirit as to allow the subtk fluid to work its own will ; but my nephew here, between whom and myself there is a wondrous union of soul, can, al any moment, so abandon himself to the delicious trance oi magnetism, as induced by the power lodged in me, that h< will obey my slightest wish or thought, and 1 hope before ] leave Castlereagh to show you some wonderful instances o:

this."

The ladies all turned and stared at Count Andrew ai though he were some natural curiosity, and one adventuroui spirit begged for a manifestation of the Count's powers oi the spot, but this he declined in such a manner that th speaker felt she had been guilty of indelicacy in asking it, To make amends, however, to his hearers for the disappoint ment of not seeing Count Andrew stuck full of pins o acting the part of parish pump, Count Czarnaschek con tinued his interesting and eloquent lecture, in whicl doctrines as old as the Egyptians and as new as Mr. Matthev Arnold, Pythagorean mysteries and jugglers' tricks, quo tations from scripture, and arguments from free-though lectures were all jumbled together in such admirabl -confusion that it is no wonder that his audience lookei upon him with awe as a modern prophet, and received hi utterances with the respect due to a message from on high

But as their pleasure grew, Margaret's decreased, and sh began to look about for a means of escape. It was not tba he talked.nonsense ; she had been quite prepared for that for Mrs. Broadhursts invitations to share in some in tellectual pleasure were generally the prelude to som absurdity more extravagant than usual ; nor was it that sh was annoyed at the evident adoration with which he wa regarded by her companions, for the mere follies am vagaries of her fellow creatures seldom awakened an; stronger sensation than amusement in Miss JLatimer' tolerant mind. But she was beginning to think that th Count was something more than a crack-brained enthusias or an enterprising mesmerist ; she had observed that i proportion as he grew eloquent and appeared to forge himself, his English underwent a strange alteratior. Foreign idioms and turns of expression grew more rar« hut to make amends for this some startling vulgaritie appeared both in words and accent, and would certainl have suggested to an impartial observer that the Cour was even better acquainted with English than he ohos . to appear, but that his knowledge of it was derived froi

very dubious sources. The ladies who observed these littl discrepancies, charitably attributed them to his Hungaria breeding ; but Margaret, either because she was less char table, or because she knew rather more about her own an other languages, found herself quite unable to take th view of it. She was convinced in her own mind that tl puffy individual before her was neither a Count nor a gei tleman ; his knowledge of science she believed to be at lea¡ aa small as her own, and she had even strong doubts of h being a Hungarian. Every word he said became unpleasai to her, and, as we said before, she looked about for a meai of escape.

She looked longingly, first at the shore, and then at tl distant group collected round Dorothea. But relief did n< come from either of these quarters. It was Mrs: Grimlei| who, having distributed the proper modicum of attention

her other guests, now began to feel that she was neglectii the Count, and came up to join in the conversation. The was no vacant chair, but Mrs. Grimleigh was a woman resources. "Miss Latiiner," she said suavely, "Mi Browning is particularly anxious to have a little talk-wii you about fancy work, I believe. Am I interrupting y< in asking you to join her ? She is alone, at present, on tl other side of the skylight. "

_ Margaret, of course, went at once to do Mrs. Grimleigh's bidding. Mrs. Browning was a very deaf and not very good tempered old lady, wbo was equally interested in all subjects, from crewel stitch to the last murder. Margaret . contrived to keep her aroused and interested until the

Bteamer reached King's Bay, and Dorothea came running up to ask her where she had hidden herself all this time. But Dorothea's attention was soon distracted, and Margaret set off for a ramble with the two little gtrlß, which lasted till luncheon time. This time it was Mr. Gower who came up and reproached her with hiding herself. "I suppose," he said gaily, " that you must have solitude to think over the great truths that have been revealed to you. Do not attempt to deny that you are a convert to electro-biology. I was watching your face as you listened to Count Czarvas chek, or whatever his marvellous name may be. However, Miss Latimer, if you cati tolerate the society of unmagnetic mortals for half an hour or so, will you allow me to take you to lunch ?" As he spoke he led her to a small but very talkative group that had just collected under a tree, and a little apart from the main body. There were Walter Grim leigh and his sister, Mr.. Fitzalan, Dorothea, her mother, who, next to the society of celebrities, liked that of young people, and a few others who have no concern with our

story.

"Ah 1 that's right, Mr. Gower. I am so glad you have found her," cried Dorothea, apparently under the impres-

sion that she had sent him to look for her cousin.

"There you are at last, Margaret!" added Mrs. Broad- hurst. " Why in the world did you run away when the Count was talking so charmingly ? But, I forgot,, you are like uncle Dunstan, and make a point, of sneering at

science."

" I never sneer at anything, aunt Dora, and I did not know that Count-( [ am very sorry I cannot pro- nounce his name)-was talking science," answered Margaret rn that quiet tone which Mrs. Broadhurst never could understand ; and as she spoke she raised her head, and, unintentionally caught Maurice Gower's eyes, which seemed to be brimming over with suppressed mirth.

"Is not the Count charming?" cried Miss Grimleigh, with enthusiasm, to Mr. Broadhurst. " Of course we must all go to his lectures ; but do you not think we might persuade him to give some private séances among ourselves, and let him mesmerise us. I, for one, should not mind being mes- merised by the Count-he is such a thorough gentleman. What do you say, Dolly ?"

But Dolly was once more absorbed in conversation with Mr. Gower, and neither of them heard Miss Grimleigh's question. Dorothea's head was a little thrown back, and her great dark eyes earnestly fixed on his. Mrs. Broadhurst had been heard to say of her daughter that she had so much soul, and perhaps this was the reason that she could not talk to a young man without allowing it to shine through her eyes. " Did you ever mesmerise anyone, Mr. Gower?"

she asked.

" No," he answered with a smile, " but I have sometimes been in danger of being mesmerised myself."

"I wish you could mesmerise me," said Dorothea, pen- sively ; and perhaps Maurice, in his heart, echoed the wish.

At any rate it seemed so to Charley Powell, who broke in with, " But mesmerism is all humbug ; it has been exposed over and over again," suggested this rash youth.

' ' Excuse me," said Miss Grimleigh, speaking with some- thing of her father's authority of manner, "a great many very clever men quite believe in mesmerism, and it is much easier to deny than to explain. What is your opioion,- Mr.

Fitzalan ?"

"We used to go in for it a good deal," said the tutor, l< in a country house in England, where I used to stay a great deal. My friends were very wealthy, and always went in for anything that was going on-theatricals, rink- ing, and so on ; and at one time, I remember, we all took up mesmerism. The governess persuaded me to mesmerise her, and as I had forgotten tho reverse passes, I never could get rid of her afterwards. My only resource was to send her out for long walks; but the end of it was, I had to leave the house, and never went back till she was sent away."

"She must have been very weak-minded," said.Mrs.

Broadhurst.

" She must.have had, very little sense of propriety," added Miss Grimleigh.

" Shall we take a stroll?" asked Maurice of Miss Broad- hurst, in an under tone, in which, however, there was a certain impatience.

" Oh, yes, I should like it so much," she answered eagerly ; then suddenly letting fall her eyes in confusion, while the most delicate blush in the world rose to her cheeks, "I mean-that is-if you like, Mr. Gower-we will gp and look at the bay. Mother, will you come too ?"

Of course MauríÉte was obliged to second the invitation, and the three strolled off together. That is to say, the young people wandered on in front, whilst Mrs. Broadhurst, who seemed to have suddenly developed a passion for botany, lost herself in the bush in pursuit of ferns, now on this side and now on that, returning ever and agaiu much after the fashion of an affectionate but enterprising dog who rambles for his own health and pleasure, but whom duty recalls at

intervals to his mistress's side.

Meanwhile Miss Grimleigh had seated herself on the ground with her back to a tree, and had called on Mr. Fitzalan to try and mesmerise her. Nothing loth, he dropped on one knee in front of her, after the fashion of a stage hero, and, with the remark that he had often had the pleasure of mesmerising Lady Adela Vavasour, at Bundelcurry Hall, he began to flap a pair of fat white hands, which were much covered with showy rings, up and down within an inch oí Miss Mabel's face. By degrees a crowd gathered round to watoh the interesting performance, and Margaret, who felt a certain disgust at the whole proceeding, had some diffi- culty in \extricating herself from the onlookers. She wandered alone down to the beach, and settled herself in a little sheltered nook, out of sight and hearing of all her companions. There she sat, pursuing a train of cheerless and somewhat cynical meditation, till a general summom to return to the steamer recalled her to actual matters and the society of the Grimleighs aud their friends. "Thank God, the day is over," she said, piously, to herself as she laid her aching head that night upon her pillow. " Decidedly 1 am not made for gaiety ; in future I will keep to maps and grammar. Oh ! my dear Dolly, would I change places witt you if I could? ls all the. world vulgar and contemptible, or am I growing sour and spiteful .before my .time ?" Anc cogitating on this point she fell asleep.