Chapter 166691676

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Chapter NumberIII
Chapter Url
Full Date1861-11-02
Page Number2
Word Count2152
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleSydney Mail (NSW : 1860 - 1871)
Trove TitleWhich Wins? A Tale of Life's Impulses
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Chapter III, Till: Great House and Great Proper

I have before stated that the house occupied by the Lysthors stood half a mile on the road to Wurrarah. It must; however, be understood that this road was not the m abroad, but one private to the two houses and several small huts that lay between that town and the Creek, The ground on which the Parsonage was built was comparatively low, and from it the road rose slightly, through the gum-tree bush, to the little hill on which stood th e Great House, as it was Constantly called— the house where it would have once been so chimerical for me to think of entering in the most menial capacity, but which I now fre quented as a constant and a welcome guest. It cer

tainly did look imposing. On the biow ef the bare hill it stood gray and bare. Your notion on behold ing it was, that nothing but rigid decorum could find its habitation there. Square and formal, the rusty doer stood in the middle of the front, Hanked by two staring windows with elaborately white window-sills, end three other staring windows above, every white curtain of which was drawn with mathematical preci sion down to exactly the same level. That wis the face of the houae, frigidly precise and correct. Jlut fortunately it had on either; aide two low, single storied wings, that contained kitchens and out-offices, and though they stood bock some dozen yards, as in deference to their betters, their modest beauty could not be hidden. They were almost completely covered with the dark old English ivy, and from among it the pretty windows peeped like prying eyes. At the back, again, the view was prettier. There was a ve randah along the back of the house, .and those two wings on either side formed a little courtyard, that took off from the prim formality that characterised the front. This was enclosed in a yard where one or two white huts and cow-yard, horse paddocks, fowl pens, Ac., gave pleasant indications of life, la the distance lay atables, barn, and stock -yards, with a lew other huts. Between these and the house the toad from the Parsonage led on to \V urrarah. A doorway opened from the verandah between the house and the right wing into a small orangery and a large flower-garden. The hill in front of the house eloped downward some five hundred yards to a creek, on the banks of which was another garden, stocked with vegetables and summer fruit- trees. The inhabitants of this house were Mr. and Mrs. Lysthor, Olave, and her little brother Kslph, with Miss Lowe, the governess. Fitzmaurice bt. Gerald Lysthor, as the master slways signed himself, and loved to have his letters addressed, was a perfect lord in his own mansion. He held his lordship by the power of physical force, for when ' the master rosred out his orders, no ordinary voice could oppose them. His small nervous wife never gave a single command to her domestics with out his sanction; his son quailed into corners at his approach, and his whole gang of men, although there were ruffians among them, speechlessly obeyed and trembled at his wratn. He was a large man, broad and brawny, with a red face that grew purple by excite ment, and a flabby warm hand that compressed yours like a vice. The man was exacting and perhaps selfish, both faults natural to his position, but he wss not a bad man. He was very passionate, and an such occasions his language was such as to prompt the stopping of ears end flight as the best remedy; neither were his perceptions of sentiment very delicate. That reminds me, he was sentimental in his way ; this big, florid man had his moments when he would hang his head to one side, and speculate in a lachry mose manner on all visionary themes, till he nearly set all who beheld win into fits of Uughter. For the rest, he wss not hard ; his men had better rations and greater indulgences than any others ; he loaded his wife with finery if he did not show her the attentions that had long since been worn out ; and even little Miss Lowe came in for her share, bo would Olave, too, if she had submitted, but to all her father's ad vances she opposed an impenetrable coldness, and steadily refused to wear any dress bat that of her own choosing. With his 'son and -ir,' as he etvled Kalph, he had little better success. He would have lavished upon him many an elephantine caress, but the boy fled in unconquerable terror from his arms. All he could do was to provide him with the most amusing little broadcloth clothes, and the most pro voking little pony that ever before fell to boy's lot. Mrs. Lysthor had been a nonentity, but for one re. deeming point. She woe email, nervous, light-tree Bed, light-eyed, pallid ; she was cringing in manner ana epofae in an liritating voice, made up of a whisper, a snivel, and a drawl. But, than, ehe was a disciplinarian. The one great governing rule of the universe, was, in her mind, ' a place tor every thing and everything in its place and she thought, very reasonably, that if she governed her nouse ana family by the same rule it would be sure to go on all right.' Poor lady ! her husband was an everlasting antagonist to such a rule : he pulled the chairs out of their places ; he cut the beef when he should have said grace ; he sent Kalph to the stables at catechism time ; he even marched ofl ' missis' herself to look at the new foal, just at the very moment when she should have been dressing for dinner. And she dared not rebel or remonstrate, but, ' Oh, my dear, my poor .nerves do suffer.' Nevertheless, she kept as strict'order as she could, and woe be to the unfortu nate maiden who hung a dishcloth on the wrong nail in her tidy kitchen. It would have done torture to your heart, if you had been at her table and wit nessed the trembling attention of the poor girl who waited, touching every thing as if it was burniog, and casting furtive appealing glances st her strongfaced mistress. Whisper I think that woman was both coward and despot by nature — a pitiful, ignoble being, who had not love in her soul. Ralph -was more of his mother than liis father in nature, more of his father than mother iu feature — ugly red-haired, and insufferably mischievous. Tnat will be a sufficient introduction. If I ever detail any plot or scheme where mischief heartlessnesa, and cruelty are boldy visible, be sure, unless I tell you to the contrary, that Ralph was at the buttom of it. bliss Lowe was a very teaching-machine. She had been at that since she was eighteen, and now she was eight-ond-foirty. Twenty years of the worst drudgery in the world had done its work on her. She had knocked about until perpetual coataet with stronger minds and stronger wills bad smoothed away every tittle of personality that she ever possessed. She had a pretty face, even now, but there was such a look of unoppoeing carewornness about it — those blue eves were so blank, the limp flaxen curls hung down 'so heavily, she was altogether so patient with out effort, so listless that I tor one was always in pain in her presence. I used to hang on her and kiss her and try to win her affection, but I never got any response but a faint, dreamy smile; love had withered out of her heart long before I knew her, and could not be revived. She had her seat in Mrs. Lysthor's drawing-room, and there, out of lesson hours, she was always to be found, engaged up on some weary piece of wool-work or embroidery, never speaking, and very seldom spoken to, except when Mr. Lysthor goodnaturedly shouted at her. She was an excellent instructress, and no kind of trouble in the house ; she never opposed Mrs. Lysthor's organ ol order, and she received and wore as much finery as her mistress chose to hang upon her. Very prepos terous it looked, to see the frail little woman decked out in scarlet and orange, as she often was( but she took it nil quietly. She seemed possessed with a sad, prophetic looking forward to old age, and when I re monstrated she would lay her long beautiful hand upon my arm and say plaintively, ' Oh, my dear, I am growing an old woman now, and what docs it matter what I wear ? Besides, I have found in Mr. Lysthor's house an aeylum where I have comparative quiet, and I am thankful to do. anything that gives him b moment's pleasure. And then, my dear, it is so seldom that I can give pleasure, that perhaps I overvalue the privilege.' Poor faded Miss Lowe 1 1 knew there was a mystery about her, that it would pain her to have dispelled. I knew it instinctively, and that kept me from ever inquiring into the cause of her great intimacy with Mr. Barrett. Except to attend church, I never knew her to leave the house, but when she took long, confidential walks with him, from which I have seen her return with red cheeks and tears — yes, Miss Lowe with tears in her eyeB. There wss one other person in that strange family whom I must now notice — Olave. I have left her till lost purposely, and now I shall describe her as she was at eighteen, for in her girlhood none but my self would fed an interest. One wondered what tie brought her into that house. She Mr. Lysthor's child r she Mrs. Lysthor's daughter— that queenly girl f She was. Very slight, and of the middle height, the most remarkable thing about her was her peculiar movement. She never turned at an angle, never started, and never rustled into a room. Light, noiseless, undulating in every motion, she assumed no attitude that was not more beautiful than the lost. Her voice was soft and musical, yet perhaps of some thing fuller than a ' woman's usual tone. Her hair fell in heaps, rather than curls, on to her shoulders, dark-brown with a golden light where the sun fell. Her eyes, large, brown, up-looking, with a tenderness

in them, like a twojyr&rs bhUd, beneath a white,' broad, low foreh^d ; (pulpy lips, Urge white teeth, a ' little decisively square chin, smfl jhaalta .that 'dimpled with every word : that wis her fspe. , And as her beauty ahone, so did Iter mind in its quick, grasping power and its strength of retention. Sne spoke living thoughts- for common language often; she thought habitually in a world of her own, and ahe scorned any other. There washer fault ; she took no more notice of other people's opinions and ways than if they had been phantasms. Her father gave way to her, obeyed her slightest nod, and she nodded for his obedience frequently. 6he ignored her mother and Miss Lowe completely, and the only person she would deign to take into her confidence was, by some strange chance, me. She never seemed happy ; perhaps, because her greater intellect made away with her trust in others who she saw were less gifted, but she seemed con stantly to be indulging an indefinite yearning after something unattainable. ' I stand alone,' she would say, ' and a woman's heart can't always do that, Isola. LiBten, listen!' And, wildly, as enly she could sing, she would, in a tone of defiance : Atone t alone t but the noblest tree Grows kindliest, if Its kind Klnnd fnr nloof and ltnrn U free : tio shall my growing mind. Alone we meet our grandest taoqr; Alone wc cope with Death ; Ob ! solitude's majestic power I fee! in every breath* Olave was an heiress on a email scale. A property had been left to her, in England, by a bachelor uncle, of which property her father was trustee until she came of age. There was a cousin, with whom her uncle's will had expressed a hope that she should contract a marriage, but, aa he woe in England and she here, there wss little chance of such an occur rence. Should she die before she came of age, to this cousin the property would revert by the provision of the wilL But looking on Olave, in her beauty, none dreamt of that.