Chapter 63620196

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Chapter NumberX
Chapter TitleHow DOROTHEA KEPT HER PROMISE.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63620196
Full Date1886-07-15
Page Number0
Corrections0
Word Count3751
IllustratedY
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleIllustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)
Trove TitleSociety, Friendship and Love
article text

"Waa she looking unusually handsome this evening,, or was it.only her dress and the red roses with which she had decked herself?"-CHAP. X.

"SOCIETY, FRIENDSHIP AND DOVE. " .

By Ev A. B:

CHAPTER X.

How DOROTHEA KEPT HER PROMISE.

" Lay open to my earthly gross conceit

Smother'd in error-feeble-shallow-weak, The folded meaning of your words'deceit."

-Shakespeare.

Two or three weeks passed quietly away. Margaret had not settled her difficulties, but had, perforce, put them on one side, not without some surprise and disgust that she, who generally knew her own mind BO well, should now be waiting for what she called chance to decide how to steer

her life.

She had just reached home one afternoon, when Maurice Gower came to see her, with a message from Mrs. Broadhurst inviting her to go with them to the play, which was to be performed that same evening. Margaret at first declined, and Maurice repeated the request on his own account. "What is the matter with you?" she said, " you do not

look well."

"I am quite well," he answered, shortly ; then, after a

little pause, "do you know that Dorothea is going to act

after all?"

"Act !" exclaimed Margaret, "I thought you had per- suaded her to give it up." 4

"Iflattered myself that I had, but you see I was mistaken. Her. promise was only contingent-that is their word-upon some one else being found to take the part,' and Miss Sloman, who has been rehearsing it every night, at the last moment refuses to appear. Fortunately Dorothea learned the part as a precaution, and Miss Sloman's dress ft ts her to a miracle-30 Mrs. Broadhurst has just told rae." Mr. Gower made this statement exactly like a boy repeating a lesson !which he does not understand, and ha3 mastered by mere effort of memory. A very unpleasant misgiving crossed Margaret's mind. " Do you mean-?" she began, and then Btoppert short, shocked at what she was going to say. Maurice did nob attempt to help her. " Is it quite settled ?" she said at length.

"Quite settled, I should imagine," he answered, drily. " Well, Miss Latimer, will you not come and see the play, with thiB additional attraction in it? Do come," he re- peated, in a different tone, " it will be perfectly uneudur rable if you do not, and your aunt particularly wished it. She told me to say that you must come-in a mysterious way, as though she had a particular reason. I may say that you will be there, may I not ?"

"IE aunt Dora particularly wishes it, I suppose T must go," said Margaret, "but what reason can she possibly

have?"

" I do not know, I am sure, but I am very glad you1 are coming," he said. . And then he went, after holding her hand a moment longer than was absolutely necessary, and looking into her face with eyes that troubled her by their curious expression of uneasy dissatisfaction.

After he was gone Margaret stood pondering over the matter. It did not look pleasant, she would not, even to herself, say that it did not look honest, but she felt uncomfortable.

Mr. Powell, when he heard that she had promised Mr. Gower to go to the evening's entertainment, looked gravely at her for a moment and said nothing. "Do you wish me not to go, Uncle Dunstan ?" she said.

"Since you have promised, my dear, it is too late for me to object.. But- do you know that your cousin Dorothea

intends to act ?"

"Yes, Mr. Gower just told me so." ' >

" Hum !" said Mr. Powell. " Well, Margaret, since you wish to go to the play, 1 will go with you. We will go to your aunt Dora's house, and join the party there-.".

"But Uncle Dunstan-" began Margaret, who knew what a penance it would be to him.

"Say no more about it, my dear, the matter is settled. And now I must ask you to leave me, asl must be busy for the next hour or so. Do not look distressed, Margaret, l am sure you mean to do what is right." He kissed her as he spoke, and Margaret, feeling very much mystified, and not a little touched, went for a stroll in the gardens before tea. Uncle Dunstan, Dorothea, Mr. Gower, all were equally strange and unintelligible. Possibly time would make their motives clear, but at present she must be contented to .remain in ignorance.

Meanwhile Mr. Powell sat absorbed in meditation in his study. He had just heard from his sister an animated account of the quarrel between Dorothea and Maurice on the subject of the play; of Dorothea's forbearance and goodness, and of Maurice's harshness and ill-temper, and of the feeling which was growing up in Mr3. Broadhursts mind thaG Maurice, though very nice in many ways, was really nob worthy of Dorotliea. Mr. Powell made no comments on these statements, but, by alittle judicious cross-examination, he elicited many details about Miss Sloman, and Doily, and the theatricals, from his unwary sister, and the result was a strong conviction that his niece and godchild had acted deceitfully from beginning to end. He went home in some perplexity, which was not at all solved when he heard that Mr. Gower had come to tell Margaret his troubles, and to

' persuade her to go to the play. Mr. Powell's" eyes was much farther ahead than Miss Latimer's, but his clearer perception made it no whit easier to steer his course.

' When Margaret came downstairs, dressed for the evening, : . her uncle looked at her more attentively than, was his wont. Was she looking unusually handsome this evening, or was it only her dress and the red roses, with which she had decked herself ? But some one else, besides Mr. Powell, noticed Miss Latimer's beauty that night. For while Dorothea, equipped as Bella Bellefontaine, came running to meet her, and whispered " Do I look nice dear ?" Maurice stopped in the midst of some nonsense he was talking to Miss Grimleigh and gazed at Margaret in admiration.

Mr. Powell was at once seized by his sister and inducted into a circle of mature and sage persons, prominent among whom was Mrs. Grimleigh, at the present moment engaged in laying down the law on the degree of affection permissible in parents towards their children.

Having disposed of Mr. Powell, Mrs. Broadhurst rustled back to Margaret. "1 am glad you have made yourself look smart to-night child. ' I had a particular reason for wishing you to look your best. " Count Czarnaschek, will you bring Miss Latimer a cup of coffee ?''

But Count Czarnaschek was already waiting cup in hand, and placed his fat person on the sofa to watch Margaret while she drank the contents,,and, as he said, to take the pleasure of a little conversation with one whose mind justly matched her'charming face. Margaret opened her eyes rather wide at this broad compliment, and drew a little further from the Count, who at once changed his own position, and thus contrived to drive her into a corner.

Presently Maurice Gower, apparently unconscious of the lively flirtation carried on between Dorothea and young Grimleigh, approached the corner, innocently intending to oust the Count, and to take his place. But Mrs. Broad- hurst perceived his intention and frustrated it. "I am sure you do not wish to be a marplot," she whispered, "and you would be terribly in the way over there." .

He looked completely mystified. "Oh! you.,men are blind to every one's affairs but your own," she went on, in a tone of playful reproach. "Can you not see how much the Count admires Margaret ? I suspected it long ago, and yesterday I contrived to extract the truth from Count Andrew, who, quite innocently, confirmed my suspicions. If the Count makes me his confidant, I shall certainly do my best to forward his wishes. It would be an excellent thing for Margaret-do you not think so ?"

But Maurice was speechless with disgust and dismay. An excellent thing that Miss Latimer should marry this

greasy, vulgar, mesmerising impostor, who chose to call him- self a Count ! He threw himself into a chair, and gazed at the strange pair, to see if so monstrous a thing could be. That the Count was enamoured was probable; he sat so close to his companion, and ogled her with his fishy eyes. But the closer he drew, the more Margaret shrank into her corner, and the more he breathed in her face, the mora she turned it away. She could not escape, for the corner was barricaded by a heavy table, and the Count was evidently determined to profit by his advantages of situation. His pertinacity brought a crimson flush to her cheeks, and she turned her sparkling grey eyes towards her uncle, as if asking for his protection.

Maurice could stand it no longer. With a smothered ex- pression of indignation he sprang up, prepared to rush to her deliverance. But a voice behind him said, " Excuse me, Mr. Gower," and a hand was laid for a moment on his shoulder, with a touch of warning, as it seemed to his excited imagination. "Margaret," said Une Reverend Dunstan Powell, calmly, "Will you come here a moment, my dear ? Your aunt has given me a letter to read, which I cannot well decipher."

Once safe under her uncle's wing, Margaret remained there until the party started tor the concert rooms ; but it so happened that at the last moment some chance was made in the order of the carriage, and the uncle and niece found themselves ÍB the same vehicle with Mr. Gower. A very slight shade crossed Mr. Powell's brow, and whether Maurice saw it or no we cannot say, but he so exerted him- self to gain the good graces of the elder man, that by the time they reached the rooms they were all chatting quite amicably. For a moment the disagreeables of the play were

forgotten.

Notwithstanding the flourishing announcements in the Castlereagh daily papers that the entertainment was given for that most laudable of missions, the Evangelistic Asso- ciation, and that therefore it was hoped that a large number would attend, the audience was by no means so numerous as might be expected. Of course all the personal friends of the Grimleighs and Broadhursts went. Society was pre- sent, in fact, and that portion of the community which always goes where society goes. There was also a powerful contingent of larrikins and policemen ; but tb.it large and respectable part of the population which occupies the middle seats, and flocks to hear a good actor in Shakespeare, a fine speaker, a great musician, or even to see a really mar- vellous dwarf, was conspicuous by its absence.

Truly they might have been what the Grimleighs called vulgar, and dwelt, for the most part, in little suburban villas, and even follow humble occupations, but no one would deny that they made a more appreciative audience than either the head or tail of Castlereagh society.

Under the circumstances, the play fell rather flat. The aristocrats were too fashionable to show any violent excite- ment, and though the gentlemen who filled up the rear of the building would have been willing to supply this defi- ciency, yet the judicious arrangement bf which a large number of the police force were enabled to improve their taste and cultivate their minds, effectually chilled the

larrikin ardour.

Of course seats were reserved for the Broadhursts and Grimleighs in the front row ; but Mr. fowell, Mr. Gower, and Miss Latimer contrived somehow to induct some un- wary strangers into the places appropriated for themselves, and took up a more humble position behind their com- panions, and out of speaking distance. As for Mr. Broad' hurst, business matters requiring immediate attention kepi him at homo ; the business being a volume of Bayle, whicl he read, luxuriously stretched on a sofa in the library Bayle was a favourite author with Mr. Broadhurst, who was the last man in the world to submit to two hours o: vulgar trash unless something definite was to be gained by it

Play bills were distributed about the hall, but they had for tunately been revised before publication. Mr. Walter Grim leigh was by no means a great classical scholar, but he wai conscious that e£ci¿ omnes might provoke asmile in the learned, and Miss Grimleigh had ventured on one or two suggestioni which made the spelling less phonetic, but more in accord ance with the usages of grammarians. It would perhaps bi unjust to say that Mr. Powell and Mr. Gower were dis appointed to find these emendations in their play bills ; bu at least they seemed to derive no pleasure from them, and from the attentioi with which they scanned the documents ii question, one might have supposed they were looking for othe errors which had perchance escaped the eye of the censor.

There is no need to . (escribe the play. Io was a pleasiuj adaptation from other stage pieces of intrigue, buffoonery dialogue which barely escaped overstepping the bounds c decency, equivocal love-making, and puns.

Maurice looked black, and Mr. Powell more and mor disgusted as the piece went on, until the curtain descende on a final table m, in which the impostor of the piece (rt presented by the Count) writhing in the agonies of gout, i pulled off his chair by his facetious servant, under the pr« tence of removing his boots.

"It is over, then," said Mr. Powell, "I suppose we may go? "Not yet," said Maurice; "The tutor is to dance

character dance such as delighted Lady Adela Vavasour a Bundeland Hall. We are bound to stay and see it."

A few minutes passed, and the curtain was again draw: up, revealing the tutor, dressed as a Hallelujah lasE adorned with the blue ribbon, fl jurishing a gin bottle, an with a white pocket handkerchief carefully arranged ove each boot, so as to give the effect of what may be best d< scribed as feminine dual garments of unusual length, und« very brief petticoats. For this delicate piece of pleasantr he took to himself especial credit.

"How naughty of him!" said Mrs. Grimleigh in th front row, and Dr. Boanerges, who sat near, looked uncei tain whether or no he should be scandalised. Mr. Powe and Mr. Gower exchanged glances, but said nothing, an Margaret looked at the ceiling.

The dance consisted of a variety of hoppings and ski] pings, to an accompaniment of a parody on Moody an Sankey, sung by himself, and interspersed with hiccougt and applications to the gin bottle. Such a performanc might have been very successful at Bundeland Hall, but f( some reason, best known to themselves, the gentlemen i the rear of the Castlereagh Concert Rooms chose to loo upon it with disfavour. Possibly some of them may ha^ been Blue-ribbon men, some may have been conscious of too great partiality for gin, the susceptibilities of some ms have been shocked by Mr. Fitz alan's pantaloons, but at ar rate they, with common consent, refused to cheer hil .Their dissatisfaction even took the form of one or tv ^derisive cries which, however, were promptly silenced 1 the police ; and the curtain came down for the last time a silence only broken by the pushing and scuffling of socie to reach its several carriages without delay.

Maurice went to look for Dorothea, but came back with- out her, and looking blacker than ever ; so they three drove to Mrs. GrimWgh's, where it had been arranged that the Broadhurst party should spend the eveaing.

Mr. Grimleigh, who was most anxious that hia change of opinion ia the matter of education should not lose him the support of the High Church party, came forward at once to welcome Mr. Powell, and would have carried him off to play at whist, but the latter refused, and chose to remain near Margaret. Presently the Count appeared on the scene, and made straight for her ; but he no sooner caught sight of her uncle Dunstan standing guard, than he turned aside to some more willing and grateful listener. He seemed to have a

curious horror of Mr. Powell.

Dorothea and Walter Grimleigh were the last to arrive,

with the boys behind them. Young Grimleigh disappeared . to look after some other guests, but Dorothea and .her brother came up to where Mr. Powell and Margaret were sitting. Maurice was lounging near. Dilly sat down by her UDcle, and looked depreciatingly into his face. Mister Bagy planted himself astride a chair, and cheerfully ad-

dressed her.

" Well, Mrs. Dolls, perhaps another time you will believe Maurice, and not nuke a fool of yourself."

"1 always believed Maurice, Regy," said Dorothea, sweetly, "only, you see, [ could not leave the rest kia predicament."

" Fudge !" retorted Rsgy, "you know you meant to act all along."

" Hold your tongue, sir," said Maurice, so sharply, that the boy stared afc him, and, after a meditative whistle, addressed himself to Margaret.

" Meg, why did you not wait for the rest of us ? You should have seen Dolly and Walter Grimleigh-L heard her tell him that if he would be good, she-[ say, Meg, do not pinch my arm like that. I do no care, Walter's a good sort."

" Thauks for your good opinion," said Walter Grimleigh's own voice just behind; "Come, youn^ min, we will not keep you any longer. Where is Fitz xian?"

"In the conservatory, making love to your sister," re- torted the amiable boy, diving under the blow which young Grimleigh aimed at him, and he marched off whistling to

collect materials for future remarks.

" You promised me this dance," said Walter to Dorothea, and she with a little surprised cry of " Ia it really ?" and an appealing glance at Maurice, went off on his arm.

" Will you dance with me, Miss Latimer?" said Maurice. Margaret looked at him ; he was quite white, and his eyes had that uncomfortable gleam of which Djlly hal .once spoken.

"Thank you," she said, "if you do not mind, I had rather sit still, I am tired to-night."

"Are you ?" he said very gently, " so am I ; let us sit

and talk, then."

They did not talk much, however, but sat quietly, occa- sionally exchanging a remark with each other, or with Mr. Powell, to the intense disgust of the Count, who had some- how understood from Mrs. Broadhurst that her niece was to be had for the asking, and would eventually come in for a large sum of money. He had every wish to follow up this suggestion ; but circumstances and the uncle were against him, and he retired to confide his annoyance to Mrs. Broad- hurst. She could do nothing but anathematise her brother, and besides, her attention was at the moment chiefly given to Dorothea, who was still engaged in her flirtation with Walter Grimleigh. Mrs. Broadhurst telegraphed to Maurice to come to her, but he was blind, and did not stir. Mrs. Grimleigh also seemed annoyed at the prolonged disappear- ance of uer daughter. Notwithstanding the antiquity of Mr. Fitzalan's family, she did not choose that Mabel should commit herself to any decided step, till his prospects in life were a little more certain. Altogether there was a good deal of secret dissatisfaction, and no one was very sorry when the party broke up at an unusually early hour. Even those who were neither disgusted with themselves nor their neighbours, were tired and cross, and nearly all con- curred, outwardly at least, in declaring that the Castlereagh public was as yet so stupid and unenlightened that it was of BO use to .offer them anything of literary or artistic excellence.

" I wash my hands of them," said Mrs. Grimleigh.

"So do we all," said the others, like the chorus in "Pinafore;" for Miss Grimleigh and Mr. Fitzalan had at length emerged from the conservatory. And with this con- soling reflection they separated.

Dorothea stopped in the hall to speak to Maurice. "You are going to drive with us, are you not ?" she said.

"No,thank you ; I prefer walking."

' * Maurice, are you angry ?" she asked, in a tender little whisper, and taking his hand in hers.

"Angry! Not in the least," he answered, letting his hand remain passive between hers. " Why do you suppose I should be angry ?"

" I am afraid you did not like the play."

" The play," he said, with a sort of laugh which Dorothea could not understand, " was a very excellent piece of work. Comes there any more of it ? Which is to say, being inter- preted, when do you act again ?"

' ' Never, Maurice ; have I not promised ?"

" Ah ! to be sure you have. I forgot that. Though now I come to think of it, whom have you promised ?''

" You, of course."

" My dear, consider yourself absolved from that promise, if indeed you ever made it. I will tie you by no more pro- mises, Dolly, as long as I live. Act when you please, and where you please ; act with the Count, the tutor, with Grimleigh, only, I will ask you one little favour, do not expect me to act with you, my talents are not up to your level." With these words he left her standing alone, a little frightened and bewildered, till Walter Grimleigh came up to put her into the carriage, where her mother was already waiting, wondering why she did not appear.

. ' Dolly, what is the matter between you and Maurice ?" asked Mrs. Broadhurst, when the door was shut.

Only Maurice is in one of his queer tempers, mother ; he will be all right to-morrow," said Dolly, with a little yawn, and she laid her head that night on the pillow with un- diminished confidence in her own goodness and amiability, and a little pitying wonder at the humours and eccentri-

cities of her fellow-creatures.