Margaret Oliphant, The Perpetual Curate: Ch. 5

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Chapter V


Next day the Miss Wentworths made a solemn call at the Rectory, having known an aunt of Mrs Morgan at some period of their history, and being much disposed, besides, with natural curiosity, to ascertain all about their nephew's circumstances. Their entrance interrupted a consultation between the Rector and his wife. Mr Morgan was slightly heated, and had evidently been talking about something that excited him; while she, poor lady, looked just sufficiently sympathetic and indignant to withdraw her mind from that first idea which usually suggested itself on the entrance of visitors—which was, what could they possibly think of her if they supposed the carpet, &c., to be her own choice? Mrs Morgan cast her eye with a troubled look upon the big card which had been brought to her—Miss Wentworth, Miss Leonora Wentworth, Miss Dora Wentworth. "Sisters of his, I suppose, William," she said in an undertone; "now do be civil, dear." There was no time for anything more before the three ladies sailed in. Miss Leonora took the initiative, as was natural.

"You don't remember us, I daresay," she said, taking Mrs Morgan's hand; "we used to know your aunt Sidney, when she lived at the Hermitage. Don't you recollect the Miss Wentworths of Skelmersdale? Charley Sidney spent part of his furlough with us last summer, and Ada writes about you often. We could not be in Carlingford without coming to see the relation of such a dear friend."

"I am so glad to see anybody who knows my aunt Sidney," said Mrs Morgan, with modified enthusiasm. "Mr Morgan, Miss Wentworth. It was such a dear little house that Hermitage. I spent some very happy days there. Oh yes, I recollect Skelmersdale perfectly; but, to tell the truth, there is one of the clergy in Carlingford called Wentworth, and I thought it might be some relations of his coming to call."

"Just so," said Miss Wentworth, settling herself in the nearest easy-chair.

"And so it is," cried Miss Dora; "we are his aunts, dear boy—we are very fond of him. We came on purpose to see him. We are so glad to hear that he is liked in Carlingford."

"Oh—yes," said the Rector's wife, and nobody else took any notice of Miss Dora's little outburst. As for Mr Morgan, he addressed Miss Leonora as if she had done something particularly naughty, and he had a great mind to give her an imposition. "You have not been very long in Carlingford, I suppose," said the Rector, as if that were a sin.

"Only since Saturday," said Miss Leonora. "We came to see Mr Frank Wentworth, who is at St Roque's. I don't know what your bishop is about, to permit all those flowers and candlesticks. For my part, I never disguise my sentiments. I mean to tell my nephew plainly that his way of conducting the service is far from being to my mind."

"Leonora, dear, perhaps Mr Morgan would speak to Frank about it," interposed Miss Dora, anxiously; "he was always a dear boy, and advice was never lost upon him. From one that he respected so much as he must respect the Rector—"

"I beg your pardon. I quite decline interfering with Mr Wentworth; he is not at all under my jurisdiction. Indeed," said the Rector, with a smile of anger, "I might be more truly said to be under his, for he is good enough to help in my parish without consulting me; but that is not to the purpose. I would not for the world attempt to interfere with St Roque's."

"Dear, I am sure Mr Wentworth is very nice, and everything we have seen of him in private we have liked very much," said Mrs Morgan, with an anxious look at her husband. She was a good-natured woman, and the handsome Curate had impressed her favourably, notwithstanding his misdoings. "As for a little too much of the rubric, I think that is not a bad fault in a young man. It gets softened down with a little experience; and I do like proper solemnity in the services of the Church."