Chapter 909099

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Chapter NumberI - II
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1881-07-02
Page Number3
Word Count4324
Last Corrected2018-05-10
Newspaper TitleThe Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933)
Trove TitleOld Stanley's Will
article text

Old Stanley's Will.

By J. B.

Chapter I.

I never could believe that Providence had sent a few men into the world ready booted and spurred to ride, and millions ready saddled and bridled to be ridden.


It was on a clear moonlight night in the month of September in Sydney when an omnibus rattled up Darlinghurst Road with full speed, and then suddenly pulled up in front of a handsome terrace of houses known as Bulwer terrace. The conductor opened the door, and out stepped a very meek humble-looking indi- vidual-only a dressmaker-with a large bundle in her arm. Bang went the door again ; the remaining passengers settled themselves more comfortably, and watched the woman with her bundle go her way until the omnibus turned the corner close at hand, and made all further

watching impossible.

The woman reached the terrace, and mounted the stone steps of one of its houses. Balancing her parcel in one hand, with the other she pulled the bell at the hall door ; but it was such a weak timid little pull that it failed to bring an answer. Presently from a dark cornerer of the verandah, where he had been enjoying a quiet smoke, there stepped towards her a young fellow, tall, handsome, and strong, the son of the house, over ready to lend a helping hand, and noting the pallor in the poor little woman's face-and its beauty too, perhaps-he said :

" You are very tired of waiting, Mrs. Handson, I am afraid ; but, by George, you are late ; the young ladies are in a fever. Did you ring ? I don't think the servants heard it, then-or perhaps they are all asleep. I guarantee this shall waken them." He applied his strong hand to the bell, which sounded loud and clear throughout the house.

" Oh, thank you, sir," she said as he walked away, trembling in spite of herself at the inso- lent tone of the bell-it seemed to her to repeat, with its clang-clang-clang-" Lot me in at once, I say ; let me in at once, I say."

The footman could now be heard running to the door, and other steps following his again-it was thrown open wide. " What's this ere row for?" he said, recovering his breath. "The missis is in a fright and no mistake."

"Somebody said the house was afire," said the parlour-maid, peeping over his shoulder.

" Where is the fire!" said another.

"Oh!" said the trembling little dressmaker, "It is I, only Mrs. Handson, with the young ladies' dresses. I'm so sorry the bell made so much noise ; and I'm so late ; let me pass, please."

The parlour-maid tossed her head and saucily said : " Stand by, and let her ladyship pass. The Queen of England wouldn't make such a din. You had better make haste to the ladies ; you won't find them very amiable I'm thinking."

Mrs. Handson did make haste, and soon knocked at the dressing-room door.

While she is waiting to be admitted the reader must be admitted to the Guiseman family. Mrs. Guiseman was now a wealthy widow. She had, in her girlhood, been a simple factory girl, and had married a poor hard- working man, loving him, and willing to be a helpmate to him. They were both illiterate and vulgar, but honest and in- dustrious. Determining to better their con- dition they came to Sydney in the early days, success attended their efforts, and they pros- pered so that in a comparatively short time Guiseman became a wealthy man, and was at last able to retire on a very comfortable income, dwell in a fine house, and keep his carriage and staff of servants ; but the vulgarity remained they could no more rid themselves of it than certain animals can free themselves of the offen- sive odour which is natural to their bodies. This was gall and wormwood to their children, con- sisting of one son and two daughters. They had each received a fair education. The son, Carl Guiseman, was a barrister, though not a par- ticularly bright one, and not overburdened with briefs ; the daughters were on the look-out for husbands, were tolerably good-looking, had stylish figures, but were artful, domineering, and selfish ; each girl may possibly have had some good traits in her disposition, which could scarcely be developed under a boarding-school

education and the influence of such a mother. At the time of Mr. Guiseman's death his son was abroad taking a holiday during the vacation, his daughters still at school in Melbourne, so that his widow was quite alone. She mourned her husband deeply, for he was her second self. She loved her childien of course, but education and the society they had chosen placed them on a dif- ferent pedestal-such a high one for her that when she spoke to or kissed them it was like having to stand on tiptoe to do it ; and though all her children were speedily brought to her side through the agency of the telegraph wire, she still seemed to stand alone. Conscious of her disadvantages, poor woman, she tried to set her- self right, and in her anxiety to do so made ter- rible slips of the tongue. Clothed from head to foot in purple, a heavy mantle of riches was yet not great enough to hide the cloven foot, which would peep out in all sorts of odd places, to the horror of her daughters, who tried to conceal it in company, and turned from it with loathing when in private. No. 260 Bulwer-terrace had been chosen as a suitable residence by Guiseman senior, and there the widow remained with her son and daughters after his death. But after the conventional term of mourning had expired her girls directed her life into another channel ; stepped out of their boarding-school shell, and began a fashionable career. In disposition Carl rose superior to his family ; he was an honest good-hearted fellow. Though not particularly talented in his profession or otherwise, he still was very popular and very much liked. He cer- tainly was as unlike his sisters as it was possible for brothor to be. Mrs. Guiseman was proud of her daughters, and stood in awe of them some- times, but Carl was her best beloved, and the

least feared of the three.

On the night when this story opened Mrs. Guiseman had been almost thrown into hysterics by the violent ringing of the house bell, through the gallantry of her son-who came to Mrs. Handson's rescue at the hall door. The latter, after having gently rapped with her knuckles, was admitted into the room and confronted by the Misses Emmeline and Annette (formerly known as Emma and Anna-when they did not

even hope to live in Bulwer-terrace). They were

in a white heat.

" This is a nice hour to come ! What time do you think we shall be at the ball ? You'll not get another stitch from us if I can help it," said

Emmeline-the eldest-snorting the air like a


" Indeed, miss, I'm very sorry. I have worked hard the whole week with one pair of hands. I could not do more than I have, or finish them sooner. I even paid for 'bus hire rather than disappoint you," pleaded Mrs. Handson, with a

quiet dignity.

" We shall miss all the nicest partners," piped in Annette, querulously ; " and you are wasting

time with so much talk."

Mrs. Guiseman here entered from an adjoining room in evening dress-the body partly un- hooked, her cap disarranged, handkerchief satu- rated with eau-de-cologne in her left hand, and her right pressed to her bosom-a woman of about fifty summers, of ample proportions, and a face which still bore traces of a doll-like pretti- ness ; it shone now like a well-polished table, and was always suggestive of a cabinet-maker's


" Dear me, what do you mean, ringing in that obstropolous manner at a lady's 'ouse, eh ?" she began. " I'm not better yet ; if I had died this night my death would have been on you."

Mrs. Handson began to defend herself : " It was your son, Mr. Carl, who-"

Emmeline swooped down upon her : "Have done with the bell at once and try on our dresses. We shall never get to the ball, mamma, if you do not leave your hysterics and the bell alone. Let her try us on. Goodness knows we have been kept long enough, and I'm sure they will want alteration in some way !"

"What has my son to do with the likes of you ?" said her mother, determined not to be put down, and turning to Mrs. Handson. " It's like your imperence to mention his name. Re- member for the future how to behave yourself with your betters, young woman, or you don't

get no more orders from me."

Emmeline and Annette shuddered, and silenced the offending tongue with a look, and the dress- ing began. One complained that her ribbons were not of the right shade ; the other that hers were stinted-insinuating of course that some had been otherwise appropriated by Mrs. Hand- son, who winced again as these and similar remarks were flung at her head continually, without a thought as to whether they hurt or

not. As she knelt on the ground to arrange their skirts she lifted a pale but beautiful face with compressed lips and dark eyes filled with tears of humiliation, and trying to control her rising temper, she said :

"Ladies, I have done my best and can do no more. You did not give so much material as I told you was necessary ; you expect me to find more ; without the ready money I cannot do it."

"Then of course if the tradespeople cannot trust you, that cannot be helped," said Emme-

line with a sneer.

This was too much. Our dressmaker was not quite a martyr. She had borne with their slaps on one side of her face ; her rising spirit would not let them touch the other : she could not turn her second cheek in meekness to their coarse un-

feeling hand. No, she sprang to her feet like a

tigress and made reply :

" May the rich insult the poor like this ? No, I say, this thing cannot be. Your purses are well lined but your hearts are barren of every generous womanly feeling. If every cruel taunt you have uttered this night were a blow I should be bruised from head to foot. Oh! would that sheer necessity had never compelled me to answer your advertisement ! Why did you engage me, I ask, but that I merely desired star- vation payment in return for my services ?"

Mother and daughters stood petrified while she continued more calmly, now that the great wave of passion had spent itself in the first out-

burst :

" Let me go-let me go ! Pay me what is my due and I will never darken your doors again. You owe me for nine dresses, including these ball dresses ; give me my £3. I have a sick boy at home, sick for want of proper food-alone, too, all this dreary time." She clasped her hands, and bursting into tears exclaimed : "Oh ! God, how long ? Help us ; help the poor !"

Mrs. Guiseman had a heart beating under her velvet robe-ready to expand at charity's call ; but a haughty look from each daughter seemed to check the expansion and make it shrink into nothingness again, and even tremble for the un- ladylike impulse which prompted her to relieve the poor woman then and there. Emmeline said :

" Mamma, she is an actress. You can be taken in so easily."

" I should let her wait for her money. What impudence to talk to us like that !" remarked Annette, lifting her head and curling her lips scornfully.

" Young woman, you had better go home," said Mrs. Guiseman. "I intended paying you to-night" (she did nothing of the sort), "but your infer- ence to me and my girls mustn't go unpunished.

Leave the room !"

She smiled on her daughters waiting for their approval of this little speech, and then the three turned their backs upon Mrs. Handson with a withering indifference.

" May Heaven forgive you for this night's work, and let not the orphan's curse alight on your heads !" Mrs. Handson exclaimed with a finger pointing upwards. " Keep your money, miserable mother of the unkindest daughters that ever walked this earth. God will not for- sake me. Keep your money."

With this she left them and walked out of the house, she knew not how, and bent her steps homeward to her sick boy-weary, worn, and supperless.

Chapter II.

Ah! little think the gay licentious proud,

Whom pleasure, power, and affluence surround,

They who their thoughtless hours in giddy mirth And wanton, often cruel, riot waste ;

Ah ! little think they, while they dance along, How many feel this very moment death, And all the sad variety of pain,

How many shrink into tho sordid hut Of cheerless poverty.

Thomson's " Seasons"-Winter.

" Is that you, mother ? How late !" said a

small weak voice.

" Yes, dear, it is I," was the answer. " Your wretched miserable mother."

" Oh, mother ; why ? What is it ?"

She closed the door, which led from the street direct into the small room, and advanced to the spot where the boy was lying on some sort of rude stretcher, with very little covering, the lamp of heaven alone giving light.

"Mother, I am so hungry, so weak, and so lonely too. How could you keep away so long ?" he continued, with the least sound of reproach

trembling in his voice.

" Paul, Paul, do not fill your mother's cup of bitterness to overflowing ; you do not know what I have suffered this night. I tried so hard to conquer my passion, but it was beyond en- durance. Had I been a hound I might have been petted, treated kindly; but being only a weak, powerless, poor woman I was trampled upon. I asked for bread, and they gave me stones. Paul," she said, changing her tone quickly, " don't look like that, dear ; you

frighten me."

He was sitting upright in the bed, his nostrils dilated, eyes already bright with fever, flashing his small thin hand clenched in the air. He could not find voice to speak at first, but at last, catching his breath with a great sob, he spoke :

" Oh, I must lie here, a puny feeble boy, unable to help you, unable to punish them ! Wa-wa-wait until I'm a man, mother, and then see what I will do." Down came the clenched fist on the coverlid ; the flush faded from his face as it fell back on the pillow, wan

and thin, the moonbeams making it more ghastly


His mother thought he had fainted, and, bending over him, called herself heartless, cruel, selfish to trouble his young life with her troubles ; called him her darling-her noble minded son. Upon which he unclosed his eyes, wet with tears, and said :

"No, no! not noble. Why did I meet you with reproaches? I should have known you better. But, mother, I am weak and cross, you know." He would have added-"and hungry," but said instead, "and am so anxious to get back to Mr. Gregory's ; three or four shillings

now would help you, I must try and get well


"You will never get strong without proper food," she said, clasping her hands in despair. " I spent the last shilling I had in the house yesterday for dinner and bread for to-day. I ought to have come home with three pounds in my pocket, which with careful management would have helped us over two or three weeks, rent included. I spent threepence on the 'bus too, as I felt sure of getting some money to-night. So, Paul, I had to walk all the way back from Darlinghurst-road to York-street here, and that made me later than I should have been otherwise. And, darling, I was going to have such a nice little supper for you-such a nice little surprise." Struggling to master her emotion, which made her lips quiver and her eyes glisten, she con- tinued, almost muttering to herself :

" I cannot ask Tobins for bread ; he would be certain to give it, but then I owe him two

weeks' rent-I cannot do it."

" Mother," said Paul, excited with a sudden thought, "doesn't Mrs. Mallet owe you some-

thing ?"

" Yes, so she does," she answered, starting to her feet. " I will step over and ask her for a loaf of bread on account ; that won't be begging, will it, Paul ?-and you so weak, poor fellow !"

" But I heard the blacksmith's clock strike ten just before you came home ; they might be in bed. Never mind, mother ; we will go to sleep and try to forget we want food-if we can."

"No, my child ; I will go and chance it." She stooped to kiss him, and in a second was gone.

The blacksmith's shop was close by their poor dwelling. He, John Tobins, the blacksmith, was their landlord, and let them have the twoe miserable rooms for a very trifling rent. He had taken quite a fancy to Mrs. Handson and Paul ; had a sort of hazy notion that they were square pegs in round holes. He was an elderly bachelor too, and was not quite proof against the lustrous eyes and gentle bearing of the young widow. It was he who had recommended her as a good workwoman to Mrs. Mallet, his landlady with whom he lodged and boarded, and to many others of his class. It was he who came to her one morning, his broad face beaming with good nature, with a Sydney Morning Herald tucked under his arm, which he opened and spread out, and then, drawing a grimy forefinger down the long column of advertisements, drew her atten- tion to the following :

WANTED a DRESSMAKER. Apply to Mrs. Guise- man, Bulwer-terrace, Darlinghurst-road.

She was no professional dressmaker ; had never known what it was to struggle for bread in her girlhood ; but she was clever with her needle, and felt that she could apply for the situation honestly. Besides, she was so poor-and

mother too-ready to cling to every stick and straw that might present itself to keep her own head and her child's above water. She set out for Bulwer-terrace with a palpitating heart,

with dreams of future competence if not wealth, but came away again with shattered hopes-it was a rotten stick this time, and likely to snap at any moment. Mrs. Guiseman questioned her prices, and when she named such a sum as she had been able to give herself at one time, was bated down till in very modesty and shame the eldest daughter said, " Well, mamma, stop there-let that be the price ; as we shall have a great many made, I daresay, and have the trouble of finding our own trimmings too. I think a sovereign for three dresses at a time quite sufficient." Poor Mrs. Handson could not quarrel with the arrangement, for it brought grist to the mill even at that. So the question was settled, and she took home her work, and having but one pair of hands she worked wonderfully well, and even pleased her critical employers. They were such grand people to her that she could not muster courage to ask for her money until the first time of our introducing her to the reader, when she was in a sore strait and needed it, and when they were coarse, angry, and almost brutal because of their annoyanco at the inevitable detention. She left them that night vowing never to try another great house, and with the hope that she might be able to refuse their money when they chose to offer it. She trusted to her humbler friends for help (for the poor always assist each other), and judged the rich to be all alike. She went to Mrs. Mallet, and seeing a light under the door she knocked. It was opened by Bob, eldest son of Mrs. Mallet, a lad about sixteen years of age. He was red- haired and freckled, but had laughing blue eyes and a very honest expression. If his nose did turn up slightly it added a certain amount of sauciness to his countenance which was not un- becoming. He is destined to play rather an im- portant part in this tale, so the reader must accept an apology for his taking up so much

time. He stared when he recognised his visitor,

and said :

" Mrs. Handson ! Golly, what's up ! Come in ;" and then seeing her pale face he added, " Paul isn't ?-eh ?-is he ?" Bob evidently put a very serious construction on Mrs. Handson's look, but was reassured when she said :

" Oh, Bob, my good fellow, I'm so glad to see you up. I made sure you must be in bed until I

saw the light under the door ; it gave me courage

to knock."

" Well, so I would ha' been only that Mr. Gregory wanted me to take a parcel of books out such a distance. I couldn't get a 'bus ; I had to walk back. I was vexed then, but I'm glad now-if you want me, Mrs. Handson. How is Paul ? Poor little chap, I miss him."

" It is for his sake I am here now, Bob, so late. Is your mother in bed ?" He gave a nod. " Well, you will do it for me, and tell her to-morrow that I asked you for a loaf of bread on account of a trifle which she owes to me." She flushed painfully and turned aside her pretty head. Bob's heart was in the right place, and his intelligence pretty keen. He took in the situation at a glance.

" Golly ! yes ; of course she will. Do you mind the dark for a bit while I take the candle to get it?"

" The dark ? Oh, no, not at all. I'm so thank- ful to you."

She stood there waiting for some fow minutes, when Bob appeared again with a basket on his arm, blew the candle out, and before she knew what he was about had her outside the door, looked it, pocketed the key, and, offering her his disengaged arm, said :

" Now, Mrs. Handson, it's only a short way, so I'm agoing to see you through it and have a peep at Paul."

" But, Bob, you must be tired. I cannot allow


"You don't think I'm agoing to let the larri- kins see you home," he said, grinning from ear to ear. " York-street too, of all streets. ' Oh, no, not for Joe.'-I mean Bob. I likes you too well,"

So Mrs. Handson and her red-headed large- hearted cavalier went their way from the corner of York and King streets to the next corner at York and Market streets. Her heart was cheered by his kindness ; she almost felt happy when she reached her home for the second time that night.

" Paul, here is your good friend Bob come to see you, and I have the loaf, dear," she said cheerily as she entered.

" Oh, Rob, I am glad," said Paul, as he ex- tended his little hand in welcome to his mate.

" Hollo! old chap ; how are you ?" said Rob, shaking Paul's hand all the time. " The governor has been asking me about you. You don't look like hard work, you don't."

He sat down at the foot of Paul's bed and they glided into a long conversation while Mrs. Hand- son busied herself to light up the room. She placed a candle in the candlestick and set it on a packing case which was covered with a coarse clean cloth and did duty for a table ; then she relieved Bob of his basket, and diving into it extracted not only the bread but also a little goat's milk corked up in a bottle, a bunch of grapes, and two ripe peaches. She flushed with wounded pride at the extra delicacies provided by Bob, but then, her nobler nature asserting itself, she advanced to the foot of the bed and, much to that lad's mingled delight and discom- fiture, she stooped down and kissed his broad freckled forehead. He blushed like a girl, and she, not daring to speak, left the room to prepare the much-needed supper. Bob was gone before she returned, but not before Paul, boy-like, had confided to him the day's history and his mother's wrongs. Bob's indignation was roused in sym- pathy with his friend. He walked home without whistling, which was a wonder for him, and got up a sparring match with an imaginary opponent, sometimes assuming the shape of Mrs. Guiseman and sometimes of her daughters. It relieved him muttering to himself, " By Jove, I'll do it

too ; see if I don't."

What thought troubled him, and what he meant to do, remains to be seen in another chapter..