|Chapter Title||MR. GOWER IS INTRODUCED TO MRS. GUISE.|
|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Society, Friendship and Love|
"SOCIETY, FRIENDSHIP AND LOFE "
By E. A. B.
"I am a clergyman of the Church of England, sir," drily answered Mr. Powell.-CHAPTER VIII.
ME. GOWER IS INTRODUCED TO MRS. GUISE.
" It is the little rift within the lute
That by and by will make the music mute, And ever widening slowly silence all.
The little rift within the lover's lute,
0 ! little pitted spenk in jsrarner'd fruit
That rotting inward slowly moulders all."
THE next morning Dorothea went to see Mr. Powell, and remained in earnest conversation with him till nearly lunch time. It was a half-holiday for Margaret, who, when she came home, found them, to her surprise, chatting most
amicably in the study. But her appearance was a signal for Dorothea to discover that it was very late, and she must run home at once ; she had a lot to say to dear Margaret, but must put it off till another time, and would Margaret come round with uncle Dunstan next Thursday evening to meet a few people and have some music? "There is, going to be a rehearsal," said Dolly, "but that, of course, will not interfere with us ; the actors will go into the billiard room, where no one will disturb them. I suppose you know that I do not now intend.to act? "
" I am delighted to hear it," Baid Margaret, " and Dolly, when you do intend to come before the public, I should advise you to choose some play of a rather higher kind than
"You are as prejudiced-as someone else I know," said Dorothea, with a little laugh. " Do not forget, Uncle Dunstan, that we expect you, too, and you must have your very nicest manner to please me ; you know how much I shall expect from you by and by."
Margaret opened her eyes at this enigmatical speech, but asked no questions, and Dolly went singing down the steps,
and BO home.
The same afternoon Margaret remembered that it was some time since she had seen Mrs. Guise, and that the old woman, with whom she was a particular favourite, would be suffering from hurt feelings. She lived nearly two miles
away, at the other end of the least fashionable suburb of
Castlereagh, but it was a pleasant day, and Margaret felt inclined for a walk, so she put on her hat and went to pay the old dame a visit.
Mrs. Guise was sitting at her open window enjoying the sunshine and the sweet scent of honeysuckles and climbing roses, which hung in rich profusion over the walk and roof
pf her little house ; a superb wistaria, now in full bloom, covered the little verandah which ran along one side, and the small garden was a blaze of pelargoniums, fuschias, and passion-flowers. Mrs. Guise, in the trimmest of caps and gowns, sat with an enormous white cat purring on the window-sill beside her, and a basket full of knitting and tracts at her elbow. Benevolent friends kept' her supplied with the latter-her favourite kind of literature-and were in return presented with comforters, muffatees, stockings, and babies' boots in every kind of colour and pattern.
Her passion for tracts was well known, and some malicious persons, from motives of idle curiosity, had occasionally tried her with tracts of opposite tendencies, to see whether she would cull those which suited her own opinions and reject the rest. But these unworthy attempts had invariably failed ; a tract was a tract to Mrs. Guise, and a tract was good, no matter whether its doctrines were Socinian, Armenian, Superlapsarian, or Ultramontane ; she read it, and her soul was benefited thereby. It was currently reported that she had at first taken to this par- ticular - branch of study with the praiseworthy intention of mortifying her husband, who disliked tracts and tee- totallers in equal proportion. He was a Presbyterian in so far that he professed an: unbounded contempt for all other creeds, but he steadily refused a»y kind of support, whether moral or pecuniary, to the Presbyterian minister who tried to claim him as one of his flock. His wife had been brought up in the Church of England, but had a hankering after some more exciting form of worship ; she liked her religion hot and strong, like her tea. Her husband, was willing to dispense with religion altogether, provided his rum was over proof, and his brandy the best Colonial distilled.
It could not be expected that such a pair would live very happily together. Mrs. Guise may have felt some love towards her lord and master, but she certainly showed him neither honour nor obedience; and as he spent three parts of his time in getting drunk, and the remainder in suffering a recovery, the pair would have been speedily left in des- titution had it not been for her exertions. At length, a well-to-do relative died and left them her little property. Mr. Guise celebrated this auspicious event by a protracted drinking bout, which put an end to his existence before he had time to squander his inheritance. Thus Mrs. Guise was left, mistress of herself and her fortune, and able to enjoy the peace and comfort which had at length fallen to her lot. She bought a pretty little cottage, established herself there with her cat, her knitting pins, and her fuschias, and became a sort of humble Lady Bountiful amongst her neighbours. On Sunday, she alternately went
to the Ebenezer Chapel, close at hand, to please herself, or walked two miles to St; Mary's, to please Mr. Powell, for whom she had a strong regard, though she often vexed his soul by her heresies. For Margaret Latimer she had something more than a strong regard, for she loved and admired the girl with all her heart, and Margaret returned the affection, and looked with perfect toleration on all the old woman's religious vagaries and inconsistencies..
"Bless you! my dear Miss Margaret; you are welcome as flowers in May ; the sight of you does my heart good," was her greeting as Margaret appeared at the window. "Come in, my dear, and tell me what you have been doing with yourself all this long time. "
"What are you reading?" said Margaret, looking over Mrs. Guise's shoulder. " 'The Flesh Pots of Egypt '-some shocking attack on the church, I suppose-why, you dreadful old woman, what would Uncle Dunstan say ? And what are all these? (picking a handful out of the basket) 'One Minute too Late,' 'Satan's Sycophants,' 'The Broad Way and the Many who Walk Therein,' ' I Never Knew You, or, The Cut Divine.' Mrs. Guise, I am ashamed of you ; why do you not read the Bible instead of this absurd stuff? "
" I'll be bound, Miss Margaret, I read my Bible as much as Mr. Powell himself. You let my tracks be ; some things suits one and some another, and you, who are always standin' up for lettin' the heathen have their stocks and
But her eloquence was cut short by Margaret, who laid one hand gently on the old woman's mouth, and, bending back her head with the other, kissed her on either wrinkled cheek. " If you are going to quarrel with me, Mrs. Guise, I shall run away \ you know you always let me say what I like, and this is the only place where I can do it now," she said with a sort of sigh. " And may I not laugh at the tracts a little when you know that, rather than see you without the sort of books you like best, I would bring you a basketful of the fiercest kind that ever were written against church, parson, and people."
" My dear Miss Margaret," cried Mrs. Guise, quite upset by this appeal, " I am indeed a wicked old woman to be cross at your merry jokes. Put all the tracts behind the fire, dear, if you like, but sit down a bit and let me'look at your pretty face and hear your bright talk. You know I'd rather, twelve times over, see you than the (governor's lady, and she's a pleasant lady too." The Govornlbr's wife had once paid Mrs. Guise a visit, and it was an honour of which the old woman never failed to inform all her other visitors
of less degree. Margaret was, however, too well acquainted with the story to be in any way moved by it.
" Luckily for you, Mrs. Guise, there is no fire, or I might take you at your word," she said gaily. " But never mind the tracts now. I have a piece of news for you. Guess what
" You're not come to tell me you're goin' to be married, roy dear, I hope. Don't have anythink to do with men, Miss Margaret-the best of 'em's a bad lot, and the worst's worse nor Satan himself. They'll break your 'eart and wear out your life. Don't you have nothink to do with them."
"But suppose the warning comes too late, Mrs. Guise."
" Well then, my dear, God help you ! But who is it ? I'll be bound it's that young Catholic gentleman as I've heard a deal o' talk of, and folks telled me they'd seen you a walkin' with him.- Well, my dear, you never were much of a Pro- testant, more's the pity, so his religion won't matter-"
"Stop, Mrs. Guise !" cried Margaret, who3e cheeks had suddenly turned crimson. "You are quite wrong. I am not engaged to anyone. I was only teasing you-it is my cousin Dorothea Broadhurst, and it happens that she is en- gaged to this very Mr. Gower of whom you are speaking. But how did you hear anything about him ?"
Mrs. Guise looked hard at Margaret for a moment before she answered. " Well, Miss Margaret, I am glad it is not you, and as to how I heard it, why I hear most things ; there's a many that's nothing better to do than to come gossipping to me, and poor folks has eyes like their betters, and 1 did hear somethin' o' Miss Broadhurst too. Well, if she comes thia way I shall be proud to wish her joy. And now, my dear, do you sit quiet a bit, while I make some tea, and then, if you will, you shall pour it out. It isn't every day I have a young lady to pour out my tea."
"You must put an extra spoonful in the teapot, Mrs. Guise, for-speak of an angel, or rather two angels, and see their wings-here come Dorothea and Mr. Gower,"
"May we come in, Mrs. Guise?" cried Dorothea's voice outside the window. " There is an ugly black cloud coming up, and we are afraid of being caught in a shower."
" Come in, and welcome, Miss Broadhurst. I am glad to see you, sir," she said, amiably enough, to Maurice, when " Dorothea, with many blushes, had introduced him as " Mr.
Gower, a particular friend of ours." " Sit down both of you, and here's Miss Margaret will talk to ye while I get my best cups and saucers."
"Oh, Margaret! are you here?" said Dorothea, turning round. Then, in an undertone, " I am so glad, for Mrs. Guise has such an odd temper that I am afraid to encounter her by myself. What do you think of her, Maurice ?"
" 1 think she comes from our county, by her accent. Are you reading to her, Miss Latimer ?"
"On the contrary, I have just been making myself ex- tremely disagreeable, abusing all the dear old woman's best loved tracts, and she has borne it with a magnanimity which would astonish my uncle."
"Oh ! Margaret is a favourite, and can say what she likes," put in Dorothea, with the faintest shadow of pique. "But, Maurice, do not you venture to abuse the tracts, or her storm of indignation would send you flying out of the
" I should not think of taking such a liberty," he said.
" You must be as careful as possible, for there is no saying how one may offend the old woman. For some reason or t other, she does not like me, and of course she will be pre-
pared to dislike you too, particularly if she knows you are a
"Nonsense, Dolly," said Margaret. ." You always look as though you were afraid of Mrs. Guise, and of course she sees it. She is not half or quarter so black as she is painted, Mr. Gower, and as for religion, she has only one decided article of faith-that is tracts-and two of denunciation those are Presbyterians and drunkards-and she will always . class them together in a shockingly unjust fashion. I do not
believe she ever came in contact with a real live Presby- terian except her late husband, who was not a model of either temperance or piety, and I suppose she concludes that they are all like him."
" Well, Miss Latimer, we must trust to you to steer us through these social quicksands," said Maurice, gaily. I am happy to say I do not drink, and though I had a great , aunt who was a Presbyterian, we might conceal the fact.
But here comes the old lady."
"Now, Miss Margaret, honey, kindly pour out the tea ; you know best how the lady and gentleman like it," said MrB. Guise, putting down a tray, loaded with a gigantic teapot, cups like slop-basins, and piles of buttered scones.
" My dear Mrs. Guise, you must think we are all as hungry and thirsty as the men in the fairy tale, who eat up the mountain and drank the lake," said Margaret, getting up.
Maurice got up too, to hand the cups, and brought the first to Mrs. Guise, who made him take it to Dorothea, but looked pleased all the same. Dolly, with a pretty little gesture of horror, cried plaintively, "I cannot drink all thiB," but a look from Margaret and a whisper from Maurice silenced her ; Bhe took the cup, sipped the contents, and put it down at her side ; a piece of scone was deposited in the saucer, and there remained, for Dolly never deigned to look at one or the other again, tillsheroseto go. But both her cousin and her lover made up for her deficiencies. They declared Mrs. Guise'stea and scones to be the bestthey had ever tasted, and that they had never been so hungry in their lives ; they talked to each other and to her, for Dolly was unusually silent ; and Maurice established the fact that his hostess and. he came from the same part of England. They began to compare notes ; Maurice was learned about crops and fairs, and the ways of the people, and the old woman grew quite lively in describing the scenes of her youth. She even re- membered having seen Broomlaugh, where the Gowers lived, while she was on a visit to some cousins in another part of the country, and she ended her reminiscences by saying, "There'was a many Catholics in that part, and right good people too. But then folks was all different there to what they is out here, holding meetings and abusin' each other in low papers. They minded their own business and said their prayers their own way, and let one another be."
" You must have lived in the golden age," said Margaret. "Do not go on, Mrs. Guise, or you will make us all want to end our days in that spot. "
Mrs. Guise looked quickly at her again, but this time Margaret did not blush, and was quite unconscious of tht . scrutiny.
"I think they are nearly as quiet as they used to be,' said Maurice. " They have no party papers and no monstei meetings, and they still pretty well leave each other alone. Mrs. Guise, I shall come and take you back some day. "
" I am too old for that, thank you kindly, sir," said th« old woman, laughing and shaking her head. "But see, th< rain has cleared, and if you and the ladies care to pich some flowers^'you're welcome to the best there is. I'll gel a pair of scissors, but I'll leave you to pick 'em, for yoi; know best what you like."
" I will stay here, thanks; I am rather tired, and we have lots of flowers at home," said Dorothea with a sweet smile. Maurice tried another whisper, and Margaret a second look, but they were both perfectly unsuccessful, and Dolly paid
no sort of attention to either one or the other.
"Are you tired, darling?" said Maurice tenderly in her ear ; but she answered aloud and coolly, " No, thank you, go and pick the flowers with Margaret, please."
Was it possible that the lovely Dorothea was cross, and if so, with what ? ' ' Will you come into the garden, Mr. Gower ?'' said Mrs. Guise, and Maurice, with a little shrug of his shoulders, went.
At length Dorothea's patience was exhausted, and she got up to go ; she would not condescend to call Maurice, but prepared to walk home alone. Luckily, however, he dis- covered her intentions before she could carry them out, and flew at once to the rescue. Margaret, seeing Dolly's clouded face, discreetly judged that it would be better to let the lovers settle their differences by themselves, and lingered behind them a good quarter of an hour, to let them get out of her way. Nevertheless, she felt more angry with her cousin, and more disposed to judge her severely, than she remembered to have felt before. The notion of sulking with Mr. Gower, because he had made himself agreeable to Mrs. Guise, was so utterly preposterous.
" Well, what do you think of Mr. Gower ?" she asked, when the two others were fairly out of hearing.
" He is a pleasant-spoken young gentleman, and comes of a good stock," said Mrs. Guise. " I mind the Gowers were always spoke well of in Broomshire. But what do you think of him yourself, Miss Margaret, honey ?''
" I like him better than any young man I ever met," said Margaret, frankly and heartily. "But I cannot stop talking about Mr. Gower, or Mr. Anybody, just now, or I shall not reach home before dark. Good bye, Mrs. Guise, take care of yourself and the cat, and do not read too many tracts till I come again, aud be sure to bake another supply of scones by that time. . Ah ! where are my flowers ? I was forgetting my . lovely fuschias. Thank you, for them, a thousand times, and, once more, you dear old woman, good bye. "
" To think o' the blindness o' men !" ejaculated Mrs. Guise, leaning back io her chair to catch the best glimpse of Margaret, walking quickly and lightly down the road in all the glory of the setting sun. " Her fine lady cousin, for all her black eyes and yellow hair, 'aint fit to tie her shoe- string ; but she's to have the love and flattery, while my bonny Miss Margaret may come and go, without a soul to heed her sweet ways but an old woman like me. Ah ! well, perhaps she's better off, for men are a sore cross."
And, with this consoling reflection, Mrs. Guise set to work to put her little domain in order for the night, till a neigh- bour came in with an appalling account of her husband's last drunken freak, and in pitying, anathematizing, and recalling her own experiences of the same kind, Mrs. Guise forgot all about Margaret, . Dorothea, and Mr. Maurice