Part 9 out of 9
"Dalzell does not make so bad a landlord as we expected, particularly
as he has not much in his power. The proceeds of the sale are doing
good to the sick and afflicted, while we are quite as comfortable
"I cannot think enough of the Providence that has made good
come out of evil," said Jane. "But with regard to the rappings, Mr.
Dempster, the oracular sentences that all would be well in the end, and
that Francis should be happy after a time, were of the vaguest
description, while on positive matters they were decidedly
"It might have been a lying or mocking spirit," said Mr. Dempster; "my
faith in the truth of these manifestations is not to be shaken by what
"I wonder if your spirits could tell us if Grant is in for-----, and
his majority? The election must have taken place, but no one in the
room knows of it; that would be a crucial test, as Jane calls it," said
"In such a company of unbelievers," said Mr. Dempster, "we could not
get up a seance, and what is more, we have no medium."
"It is well that Grant goes out of his own district," said Brandon,
"for he would not stand a chance there; and now he is promising
to those strangers anything and everything. With all Grant's
aristocratic feelings, and his wife's too, which are still stronger,
their desire that he should have a seat in the Assembly, now that
McIntyre is in, seems to drag him into as low depths as any one. I
cannot see why they should be so anxious about it, unless it is that,
since they cannot afford to go home, they want to take as good a
position here as any of their neighbours. Grant's affairs will suffer
if he has to be so much in Melbourne, and at best he will make a very
"I think he is naturally 'indifferent honest,'" said Francis. "At
least, he is disposed to be honest, but canvassing is very different
work here as well as in Britain."
"You should really get into our Assembly, Frank," said Brandon, "to
give the natives here the benefit of your experience. How great you
would be on a point of order or a question of privilege!"
"I wish Francis had time to give to parliamentary duties," said Jane.
"I live in hopes that when Mr. ----- returns, he may try his
fortune in the political world here. If representative assemblies would
limit themselves to what really concerns such bodies, it would not be
so heavy a tax upon people in business to give their time to the
public; but they will meddle with things that ought to be let alone,
and endless floods of talk on such matters take up much valuable time."
"Then Mr. Hogarth's public spirit has not been gently smothered by a
happy marriage and a fine family of children? That is the modern view
of the case," said Mr. Dempster. "Nothing great is done by married men,
unless they are unhappily mated."
"A most ignoble view of a wife's duties," said Jane.
"My wife would never smother any public spirit I may have," said
Francis. "She had too much to do with the birth of it, not to cherish
it as fondly as any of her other babies; but I fear that, till my
friend Mr. Hare's scheme is carried, I could not get a majority in
Victoria. We want the reform very much here, and in all the
colonies; and as yet, it has been failure, failure, failure."
"And if such men as you do not get in, Frank, it will never be carried.
Grant is stupid--thoroughly stupid. I talked to him for four mortal
hours on the subject, and made it plain to the meanest capacity, that
though we wanted a representation of minorities, the minority in the
House would faithfully represent the minority out of doors, and not be
able to defeat the majorities, as he was convinced it would do. I put
it down in black and white--proved it with figures. Elsie and I made
fancy voting-papers, and I acted as returning officer, and showed the
thing as clear as day; but though he drank a bottle and a half of
sherry during the process, he was just as wise at the end as at the
beginning. Now I don't call myself at all clever, but when Frank
explained the method of voting to me, I saw it all in a minute--and
you, Tom--did not you, too? but then you are rather a genius."
"It is as plain as a pikestaff," said Tom Lowrie.
"Walter thinks, because he has not read very much, that we must think
him stupid," said Elsie, "when he really has the quickest apprehension
of all sorts of things."
"Dr. Grant will, perhaps, take up the meaning of Hare's scheme when the
newspapers have advocated it for years, and it has been familiar to all
the people around him," said Francis, "or he may vote for it without
understanding it, when it becomes a popular cry."
"But to have to stir such a dish of skimmed milk to honourable action!"
said Brandon. "Frank, you really must stand for our district. I fancy
McIntyre will go home by the time your partner comes back, so we will
have a vacancy. I will canvass for you, and so will Edgar. It would be
a credit to us to have a real British M.P. as our representative, and
then you could push your grand idea, as you intended to have done in
England, before love routed ambition. As you say, the result has
hitherto been a failure in the colonies, but the contest should
not be abandoned."
"I hear that the movement makes slow progress in Britain," said
Francis, "but still it makes progress. It is too great a change there,
and there are so many vested interests which consider such a reform
would interfere with their prescriptive rights. On the Continent it
makes more way; and, perhaps, as my French friends say, the discovery
may be first carried into practice there; but I had hopes of its
success in the colonies. There is so much less to disturb here that a
change from exclusively local to general elections would not be
difficult, if we could only make the idea familiar. All we see in
America, all we see in political matters here, only show how much
easier it is to reform before abuses go too far. I should very much
like to try your district, Brandon, and will be very glad of your
services when the time comes; and so I should feel that my work had
been postponed, but not altogether given up."
"If we could carry the measure by a COUP DE MAIN in any one of
the colonies, and bring it into working, the whole world would be the
better for it," said Brandon.
"There can be no carrying it by a COUP DE MAIN," said Francis. "Every
inch of the ground must be fought here, as in Britain, but the extent
of ground is shorter."
"I have grown much more patriotic since I was married," said Brandon.
"The place where you have a real home--the birthplace of your
children--and where you hope to see them grow up--becomes very dear to you.
And here are the youngsters!"
Little Maggie Brandon (so called in compliment to Peggy) seemed to know
by intuition that there was something for her in the pocket of the
worthy woman, and went to her at once; and the others distributed
themselves according to their several likings.
"Well," said Peggy, "I've often thought to ask you before, Mrs.
Hogarth, but how are you going to educate your lassies? What are you
going to do with them? and you favour lassies in both families--two to one
in each of them."
"Very much as we were educated ourselves," said Jane; "with more care
taken for the cultivation of their natural tastes, but the groundwork
will be the same."
"That education has certainly turned out admirable wives," said
"Speak for yourself, Frank," said Brandon; "but my wife spoils me, and
everybody in the house. There is a sad want of vinegar in her
composition. She cannot scold her servants--the mildest approach to it
that she ever makes is by saying, 'Mr. Brandon does not like such a
thing,' or that 'Mr. Brandon would be displeased if they do not attend
to such another.' The idea of making a bugbear of me is very ingenious,
but I fear not very efficacious, for I know they see through it. As for
me, a penitent recollection of a conversation in an English railway
carriage has stopped her mouth for ever, and she never gives me a hard
word, however I may deserve it; and for the children, the less
we say of them the better."
"But, Walter, I can keep my servants, and they really do very well; and
the children are good enough, and so are you; so there is no need to
"That is where the dangerous part of this subtle flattery lies; it is
so perfectly sincere. But I suppose we get along pretty well,
considering, as Mrs. Grant would say; and I really think her household
would be more comfortable if she took a leaf out of my wife's book. Her
servants will not stay three months with her, and she has three of the
most spoiled, exacting children I ever saw--far worse than their
cousins at Wiriwilta were in their worst days. The Phillipses had
spirit, but the Grants have none, except perhaps the spirit of
discontent. I think we might do worse, Peggy, than educate our girls to
resemble their mothers."
"But," said Jane, "we must make some provision for them also, if we
can. I suppose that I could have got on as well as you,
Francis, if I had been a man."
"Yes, there is nothing I have done that you could not have done as
well. I have as much perseverance as you, but not so much energy. It is
likely you would have made a better figure in the world than I have
"But I could get nothing to do but to take a governess's situation; and
wonderfully lucky I was to get it. Mary Forrester is a much better
governess for Mr. Phillips's family than I was. Elsie could only
maintain herself as a milliner or as a lady's maid; and yet Elsie,
placed as a clerk or bookkeeper in a bank or merchant's office, would
have filled the situation as satisfactorily as half the young men I
"Then you have not quite given up your notions of woman's rights?" said
Mr. Dempster. "For my part, I think the best right a woman has is the
right to a husband."
"That is a right she cannot assert for herself," said Jane, smiling.
"One would think, to hear people talk on this subject, that the
entreaties for work and independence come from those who in their youth
disdained faithful lovers, and perversely and unnaturally refused to
love, honour, and obey. I think, on the contrary, that the women of our
century are only too easily won, and cannot be charged with any
unnecessary cruelty to lovers. I do not think that you increase the
number of happy marriages or lessen the number of mercenary unions by
making the task for a single woman to maintain herself honestly and
usefully such very uphill work."