The Larnachs

The Larnachs by Owen Marshall Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: The Larnachs by Owen Marshall Read Free Book Online
Authors: Owen Marshall
music chosen rather than individuals, but she was hurtful all the same without intending it. ‘No doubt it was all for a good cause,’ she said, ‘and the organ remains an inspiration for the schoolchildren.’ Alice in particular got in a great huff and came to The Camp even less afterwards.
    People talk, of course, about the difference in their ages, but when Father’s recovered from the loss of Kate, I think they could well be happy. Conny will make him a suitable wife in many ways. She’s used to the life of a politician, and she’s an accomplished hostess. Father likes having people of his choice around him: lively conversation, music, even gossip and practical jokes. Aunt Mary was never comfortable, or successful, in being equal partner at such gatherings.
    I wonder, though, how Conny will find life at The Camp rather than in Wellington. Dunedin is over an hour away, and now that Father is no longer in Parliament they may be here much of the time. Both Mother and Aunt Mary found life here isolated and preferred the Manor Place house in town. Mother never got used to the cold, or to the rawness around her.
    I’m selfish enough to be concerned, too, for the way in whichtheir residence at The Camp may affect my own position. When Father regains his interest in affairs, I’m unlikely to retain full control of the day-to-day running of the property, and all the effort I’ve put into establishing myself, and proving my competence, may be for nothing.
    It’s also put a damper on having my own friends at The Camp, not just because of Kate’s death, but because Father doesn’t think much of them, apart from Robert, whose father is a business friend. Robert has come from England and, like me, doesn’t completely fit in with the set here. Father finds us too idle, and not resolute enough in forging careers for ourselves. He doesn’t reflect that there may be other roads to fulfilment apart from his own self-help and industry. It’s just as well he knows nothing of some of the weekends in his absence: Robert, Hugo and others lairing with me outrageously. He accepted the story I gave him regarding the damage to the wishing well, and the disappearance of his peacocks.
    Such mobbing times weren’t my favourites in any case. Too many of the people came to enjoy hospitality that they hadn’t the inclination, or the resources, to return. The Camp and I were used: friends invited friends who brought acquaintances. Donny’s nature is inclined to such largesse, but he’s seldom with us now. Some fellows regarded the women servants as part of the extended hospitality, and on two occasions the consequences were both embarrassing and costly for me. I’ve only once given in to a dalliance with one of the maids, a loose-limbed, forward girl who gave me considerable pleasure despite her love bites, but who became increasingly demanding of my attention. Thankfullyshe didn’t conceive and I found an excellent position for her in Oamaru, and gave her five pounds besides.
    I’ve come to prefer having just one or two good friends here, and joining larger groups at the Fernhill Club, or in town. Robert I like best. He can be something of a beast with women, and goes off for days at a time without any warning, or explanation when he returns, and he has black moods as well as more frequent times of high humour. He’s a full drinker on his day, but holds it well and becomes neither maudlin nor unpleasant. He has a sense of the possibility in life, and the deficiencies and crudity of much here compared with England. Like me, I think Robert chafes at a father’s close instruction and high expectation. More than anything else he’d like to own and train racehorses, but hasn’t the means for it, and is restless in the dull grain business in which his father has an interest. He and I sometimes spend a whole day riding on the peninsula, or take a dinghy out from Waverley and fish in the channel. Such times give us greater pleasure than

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