Sorry people! I ran out of conversation matter, (though many are still in draft form) so here is a short piece. I have exams soon so will not be updating for a while. But do anticipate developments related to the two bungling curates.
The tension seemed to clear as soon as Dora Sykes arrived. Malone made space so that Miss Dora could sit beside him, her sisters' faces brightened and everyone grew more talkative. It was evident that Dora was well-liked. She smiled graciously as Donne greeted her, saying how he admired her efforts for the church sale.
"Oh! I am afarid I am so slow, Mr Donne," she said, "Mary here is more serious than I am. You should ask her about it. I heard you had a nasty accident - I hope you are better now."
Mrs Sykes cleared her throat with an "Ahem!" She thouht it was too tactless of Dora to remind them of old Mr Wynne's attack on that dear curate. But Dora never guarded her tongue. It was most fortunate that he charm managed to circumvent offence.
Mr Donne winced. "I am improved now, Miss dora, though far from recovered."
"I am so sorry!" exclaimed Dora. "They say Phoebe is not treated well - you are not the first to have suffered at her hands."
Malone had no wish that attention was shifted from him: he spoke accordingly. "Did you enjoy your walk, Miss Dora?" He said it with more relish than he reserved for Miss Helstone - he liked Dora, and wished to ingratiate himself withone of the beauties of Whinbury.
"I did," said Dora. "Grace (Dr Boultby's daughter) and I went to the milliner's - and we managed to get into conversation, and do you know I hear Miss Keeldar and her family have met Sir Philip Nunnely on their travels - and he is to come here. Oh I shall look forward to it - I have never seen a baronet in my life."
Malone soon deserted Miss Mary for the more vibrant Miss Dora, who was willing to turn her pleasant ear and tongue to anyone who was ready to speak or listen. "You must be glad, Miss Dora - Sir Philip is sure to invite all the families for balls at the Priory."
Donne was interested: anything to do with the gentry and the South raised his admiration. Sir Philip would certainly improve the tone of the nighbourhood. "It is high time he came," he said, "what we want is Southern manners. I am surprised he is coming to Nunnely - he will find it dull and vulgar after the excitements of London. - Do you know how slack they are at de Walden? The butler is so coarse and familiar - you won't see that in the South. And Mr Sam is no better - why, he would not be taken for a gentleman in London."
"Ah, we are not as sophisticated as you are, Mr Donne!" said Mrs Sykes.
"I suppose it is because he was not sent to Eton," surmised Dora. "One tends to be rusticated here in Briarfield." She had no real objection to Sam Wynne, but she did enjoy a good gossip at the neighbour's expense, particularly as he had been so remiss with his dog.
Mr Donne agreed. "This wouldn't happen in the South. Why every respectable family of wealth and position there sends their sons to public-school."
"Oh, but Stillbro' grammar is not bad at all," cried Mary, eagerly. "One of my pupils at Sunday-school says he is being tutored by Mark Yorke in Latin and mathematics. He is a clever boy."
"Do you allude to your pupil or Mark Yorke?" asked Mr Donne.
"I meant my pupil, but so is Mark Yorke. He is quite advanced for his age - Mr Wilson (the schoolmaster at Stillbro' grammar) says so. I understand that Mark helps to instruct some of the better Sunday-scholars at Briarfield."
"Oh! speaking of Briarfield," said Dora, "I have heard that Rose Yorke has taken over the duties of Miss Keeldar and Miss Helstone. Amelia (her younger sister who went to school with Rose Yorke) told me so. I must own, I am surprised: the Yorkes don't approve at all of dear Mr Helstone."