The Larnachs

The Larnachs by Owen Marshall Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: The Larnachs by Owen Marshall Read Free Book Online
Authors: Owen Marshall
Father’s wider acquaintance. Of the four de Bathe Brandondaughters she’s the eldest and prettiest. Personally I find her figure too slight. She’s petite, and my admiration is more aroused by fuller proportions. Also, she persists in wearing her hair tightly drawn back, as if to prove she’s a modern woman. She carries herself well, and is free from the simpering confusion or conscious archness that so many women affect, but her shrewd interrogations can be disconcerting.
    Her father was a great supporter of education and gave his daughters unusual opportunity for accomplishment. I’m not much interested in music, but Conny is agreed to have special talent there. What I do appreciate is her ability to converse on a wide range of topics, and her confidence to substantiate her opinions. She’s formidable in argument, is Conny de Bathe Brandon, and Father delights in that, despite not brooking opposition in others. Men allow good-looking women a latitude they won’t give to plain females and fellow males. But Father’s accustomed to getting his own way, and when the novelty of Conny’s independence wears off, maybe some sparks will fly.
    Two nights ago I had another of my dreams. We were dining formally, with Father at the head of the table talking about the newly built ballroom. I think all of the family were there, except Donny’s wife, who’s unwelcome. Others sat with us, but without place settings, or any food, and their faces were indistinct. Mother, Aunt Mary and Conny sat side by side, and, as is the way in dreams, there seemed nothing untoward in that. Father was calling on each of us in turn to twirl about the room. ‘Dance, Kate,’ he cried happily, and she got up obediently. Then, ‘Dance, Eliza’ and ‘Dance, Mary, Colleenand Alice’, and they did, quite unconcerned and with concentration to perform to their best. ‘Dance, Donny and Gladys.’ But when Conny was called on she didn’t reply, or rise, just kept on with her meal. Father merely laughed and continued to call us up, until all except Conny, even the shadowy, unnamed guests, were dancing in the dining room under the ornately carved ceiling as if that was the accepted practice. Yet I was embarrassed to find that my old injury had returned in full, so that I could move only clumsily and with pain. All other dancers seemed graceful, while I was a fool, and tried to avoid being in Father’s sight, or Conny’s. My last awareness in the dream was that there were a great many plates of assorted nuts on the table that I hadn’t seen before, and the time began to feel like Christmas. Conny remained seated and alone, yet quite composed and looking away from the dancing. What strange visits we pay in our sleep.
    Since she’s been at The Camp, I’ve become aware of Conny’s considerable estimation of herself, and a certain sharpness, even asperity, in her observations concerning other folk. She can be especially hard on the people she’s been introduced to here in Otago, and doesn’t seem to care that her witticisms can sometimes give offence. She’s a great one for women’s advancement, and quite determined to take an active part in pushing for the vote, even arguing the point with parliamentarians she meets socially. I don’t doubt her quick mind, but she can be dismissive of those with a lesser intelligence, especially if they’re ignorant as well. She doesn’t conceal her impatience with silly or shallow people.
    Soon after her arrival at The Camp, she offended some of usin the family by mocking an Otago Witness cutting in the family scrapbook, recording musical items my sisters and I had given in Mr Young’s barn in aid of the Hooper’s Inlet school organ fund. Donny’s wife was there too and sang ‘Remember me no more’ and ‘Across the far blue hills, Marie’. Alice played the violin, Colleen Welsh airs on the harp, and I sang ‘Goodbye’ and ‘For ever’. All very bucolic no doubt, and Conny’s criticism was of the

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