Madge Thomas turned the old Holden ute into the school grounds and headed slowly down the gravel drive.
“Jeez Mum, look out!” Jane screamed, drawing her mother’s attention to the Mercedes which had swung over to the wrong side of the drive and was now accelerating towards them.
Madge instantly stamped on the brakes and the ute skidded to a halt. The Mercedes returned to the correct side of the road and stopped beside the ute, driver’s window to driver’s window. The electric window of the Mercedes gracefully descended to reveal the stark horror of a woman of indeterminate age, with the hands of a forty five year old, the face of a twenty year old and the clothes of a fifteen year old.
“Excuse me”, the woman said, more as an accusation than an apology, “I think you’ll find the trade’s entrance is around the back.”
Before Madge could reply, the electric window of the Merc whirred close and the driver, arrogant in her confidence she had said all that needed to be said, continued her journey down the drive and out of the school gates.
“Terrific, eh mum?” Jane said, as her mother piloted the old Holden further into the school grounds. “Now that’s what I call manners.”
The daughters of the squattocracy have attended Lushers school since it was established at the end of the nineteenth century with a generous gift from a Gentleman explorer, Sir Cedric Lusher, the father of ten girls in search of a son.
Denied an heir to the family name, the Gentleman deserted his wife. Driven by an overwhelming desire to take the light of God and a Christian education to the savages of the world, Sir Cedric departed Sydney for the last time on a cold, wet June morning; destination Glasgow. There was none of the ceremony and fanfare that had accompanied earlier expeditions. Only the six governors of the new school for ladies, all men of course, were present to wave him good bye.
Sir Cedric spent his remaining days running a workhouse in Glasgow for the young children of poverty-street. A Gentleman’s duty, which earned him a fortune and the ‘Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle’, but did little to relieve the inequities of laissez- faire Britain, in spite of the utilitarian romanticism of Adam Smith.
The explorer’s money more than covered the purchase of a large estate on the outskirts of Sydney and a school dedicated to providing young ladies with training appropriate to their station in life was soon opened.
Lusher’s College for Ladies still occupies the same grounds and the original Victorian house, which now contains only the Headmistress’ Office, staff rooms and administration centre, has remained the focal point of the school. As Jane and her mother drove up to the large old house, they couldn’t help noticing the two banners strung from the first floor balcony. One proclaimed the 125th anniversary of the school, while the other, in the shape of a thermometer, charted the miserable progress made thus far in the raising of funds for a new equestrian centre.
The ute stopped at the bottom of the steps leading up to the ornate front door. Jane hurriedly said goodbye to her mother, got out of the cab and grabbed her bag from the back of the ute. “Equestrian centre, give me a break! Rich sport for the obnoxiously rich.” Jane said to herself as she walked up the steps without looking back.
In the next episode, “Horse queen”, Annabelle Purvis carefully times her departure for Lushers and shows why she is a master of ‘playing the parents’.