Chapter 138621355

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Chapter NumberVIII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138621355
Full Date1891-12-19
Page Number5
Corrections0
Word Count2848
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleThe Charm That Works
article text

CHAPTEa VIIL

Jenny never went alone to the pier after that night, and her admirer sought for another happy hour in vain. On the two ooGsaioanffiat he went to St Kilda in the hope of a meeting, she had her family with her, and not all Sarah's artifices could disintegrate the party. Jenny loved him

more distracted J}' than ever, but, hating no assurance that lie loved her in the right way, or loved her at all, she knew what her duty was. And she had the resolution to act accordingly, though it was a hard task. He had scruples about going to the tea-room by himself, after what Mary had

to him; and he found it no fun to go with her, or other ladies. Then the rush of the races set in. Mr. Oxenham and other guests arrived from the | country; horses had to be inspected; betting business became brisk and absorbing; lunches, garden parties, dinners, balls, crowded upon one another in a way to carry a society man and bachelor off his feet. In short, for A few weeks Mr. Anthony Churchill almost foigot the tea-room. Almost—not quite. The portfolio of photo graphs arrived by the earner (and the formal note of thanks for it was preserved, and is extant to this day); flowers for Sarah came from Baton's, at short intervals, with all the air of having been specially selected; Joey swaggered into the new Bitting-room with news of his rise to £200 a year, imagining it to be the reward of transcendent merit. But poor little Jenny, harried with great crushes of tea-drinkers, worn with fatigue and heat and bad air and a restless mind, ready to go into hysterics at a touch, but for the fact that there was no time for such frivolities, sighed for the refreshment of her beloved's voice and face in vain. Day after day, week after week, this nineteenth-century Mariana watched for his .return, and he came not. She concluded that her effort to do her duty had been successful, and— (hough she would have done the same again, if necessary—she was heart

broken at the thought. "

To tell tljy honest truth, as a faithful chronicler should do, our hero very nearly did abandon her at this juncture. When love, even the very best of love, is hi its early stages, it is easily nipped by little accidents, like other young things. It wants time to toughen the tender sprout, and develop its growth and strength until it con defy vicissitudes; nothing but time will do it, let poets and novelists say what they like to the contrary. And so Anthony, not having been in love with Jenny Liddon for more than a few days (and having been many times in love), was seduced by the charms of the stable and the betting-ring and the good company in which he found himself, when deprived by circumstances of the higher pleasure of her society- More than that, her image was temporarily superseded by that of a beautiful and brilliant London woman who was on a visit, to Government house, and whom in this time of festivity he was constantly meeting. She was a lad}' of title and high connections, and she singled him out for'special favour because he was so big and so handsome, so travel-polished and proper-mannered, and altogether good style as an attendant .cavalier. . Bis family (barring his step-mother), proudly'aware of the mutant attraction, and pleased to hear it joked of and commented on amongdt their friends, fanned (he confident expectation that a marriage would result, whereby their Tony would have a wife and a position of a dignity oommensutate with his own surpassing worth. , • j

At the end of the gwreesson, when races were over, and multitudinous parties had become a wearinew4o«ifr desk, a few 'people! <of -the highest fashion went on a yaclltag cruise, to reoruit. thfiir,*lw*fth*&er»ilthef

^ . If. ,

had gone through, Ofthese Tohywas one, uhdtAdylxrtilsa, whtalliewhs expected to bring back as his affianced -bride (tfHe "Hi a widow OC ?*% aaother ; ahd MaudeCfantehiH {withemtber

veatingLadyLouisa)wasathinL They were got ttp riawratMyln tMhe serge and white flannel and gold buttons, andthe lsnwfaiB-1'Ot w*aw o«a and knotted ueckties.andtliey net offouivbot morning of late November, when the breeze was hit ' •- ^ ?' • i!i J , "" _ Marj' Oaenham saw them start. ;She had refuted to niHMinpauytnem, partly because she felt she was too^niflfatwchapBh; ^

she wanted to return to herowti household audctnldrcn, wfaonuhtaaMBi leftfor so long. As she bade the voyagers gdod-byesheaaid to her brother, " What ate you going to doatChristmas,-Toi)yf " * ?_

"Stay with us—in his own father's hoote-^of course," Ml*. -Churchill •interposed promptly. " Von can come down, Mary." '•

"Ican't, Maude; Imustbe athorne, to weUas jwt You woh'toometo

me for Christmas, Tony ?' . * ,

" I don't think so, Polly—many thanks," he answered^ " I expect my father will wont me here." . The. fact: was, he had too many interests in# Melbourne to want to leave at present

""Well, come.when yon .can, dear old feUow« - i smnttohawkyonuttto myself if it's only for a few days."

J'ivW, ?oUy,; I wilL*. Good-bye, and tote

: really going away before we come back f'

, "At the end of the week, Tony; I bavebe^n away top long—all jour fault, bad boy. Well, goodbye again. .Bonpoyuge, everybody l" !

The town clock was striking the quarter before she reentered her carriageat Spencer-street, and it occiuTpd tp ,to tbfrtea room, to see how Jenny was getting on. tike Tbny, had been forgetting and deserting her protegce during the bustle of the dost fey; w^eka, and felt a twipgeof self-reproach in consequence. . jedr—hss.-ss;. ?'-<* < -i

. Entering the room, which,fortunately chapced to have pp customer at the moment, she was surprised tp see Jenny sitting, or xathcr Jying, ln one of the low chairs, with her head laid back and ifgr eyes closed, her chest slowly rising and falling in heavy, dumb sobs—evident symptoms of apme sort of hysterical collapse. Sarah and her mother were hanging over.her in great alarm and distress, as at a spectacle that they were wholly nnWPpd to, Mrs. Liddon persuading her to drink some brandy and water which the landlady had hastily produced.

"Oh, what is the matter?"cried Mrs. •Oxenham, harrying forward. "What ails Jenny? Oh, poor chih^how hi she looks!"

She's just worn out," said Mrs. Liddon. ? "I've- seen it coming, on for weeks, and nothing that I could say would make, her take care of herself. She will come here and work, and when she's not fit to stand. . We wanted her to stay at home this morning, but no—she wouldn't listen to as."

Jenny struggled to Bit up and shake herself together. "Oh, mother, don't scold me," she said. " It's just the heat, I think. It's nothing. I shall be right in a moment. I—I—oh, I am a fool 1 Mrs. Oxenham, I am so sorry—

so ashamed "

Her mother held the glass between her chattering teeth, and aim drank a little brandy and water, and choked, and burst out crying.

Jenny," said Mrs. Oxenham, in a voice of authority, "you come away out of this immediately. I have the carriage here, and I will drive you home." In a flash she remembered that the mother and sister could not be spared from the tea-room, that tlie girl should'not be left alone in lodgings, and that Maude and Tony were safely off to sea. " Home ufith me, I mean," she continued. " I will send 3 0U back to your mother to-night, when you are all right again. You can do quite well without her,can't you"—taming to Mrs. Liddon—"now that you have Mrs. Altonbfy's help."

Mrs. AUonby, who was the baskethiakEr's wite, volubly assured Mrs. Oxenham that she could easily manage Miss L'tddohte. woric noy that the crush of race time was over, and if she couldn't, there was her niece to fall back upon. Mrs. Liddon and Sarah said the same as well as they could, but were almost speechless with gratitude. Sarah did not know that Mr. Anthony had Sailed away, mid she began to see visions and to dream dreams of the most beautiful description. She had a shrewd hito as. to what Jenny's complaint arose from, thoughaot a word had ever been breathed on the subject, and this seemed the very medicine for: it. She tan to get her sister's hat and gloves, when they had composed her a little/and would not regard any protests whatever.

" It is the very, very thing to set her up," she cried, in exultation. " And, oh, it & good of you, Mrs. Oxenham!"

"Come, then," said thnt lady. " I will take care of her for the rest of the day, and you see if I don't send her back to you looking better than she does now. Quite a quiet day, Jenny dear; you need not look at your dress it is quite nice. There's nobody in the house but my father and husband."

Before she had made up her mind whether to go or not, Jenny found herself dashing through the streets in Mrs. Churchill's landau, having been half-pushed, half-carried down the stairs and hoisted into it—she, who had been the controlling spirit hitherto. Joey, on his way to his dinner, saw her thus throned in state, and could scarcely believe his eyes. "There's my sister having a drive with the boss's daughter," he casnally remarked to a couple of fellow-clerks, as if it were no new thing; but the spectacle deeply impressed him. That day he patronised the tea-room few the first time, to the delight of his adoring mother, and began to identify himself with his family.

Jenny recovered self-possession in the air. She was agitated by the new turn in her affairs—by the wonderful chance that had snatched her (Hit of the turmoil of her petty cares into the serene atmosphere of the world of the well-to-do, who were untroubled by the necessity of earning their bread—into the enchanted sphere where her beloved's life rerolved; but she no longer trembled and cried, like the weakly of her sex, because her nerves were too many for her. Nothing more discouraging than it discovery that the milk-jugs had not been washed by Mrs. Allonh/s riiece, whose duty itnow was to prepare them overnight, had broken down thespirit that had withstood long wear and tear of strenuous battle like finely-tempered steel; and a like trifling encouragement was Sufficient to liftit up again. The ease of the carriage was delicious; the relief of having nothing to' do unspeakable; the sight of the beautiful gardens and stately rooms of the hoifse that entertained her as a guest and eqSal, more; refreshing o»«n either. The day was such a holiday as toegtrifcad'ltovreitad before.

Mrs. Oxenham - mode her lie on a springy sofa for an hour, while they quietly talked together; then they had a t&e-rt-idtebmch—dplkate fool and choice wine that comforted soul and body more than Jetrny lrnew; ??»«< again she was made to rest on downy pillows—to sleep, if she coohl—white Mary in an adjoining room played Mendelssohn's Lieder, one afternnother, with a touch like wind-bome feathers. By-and-bythe girt was shown about the house, made acquainted with precious pictures and works of art brought together from all quarters of the world, 8uch as she had nerer seen or dreamed of-; and great photographs, scattered about in cotftfyframes, were named to her as she moved in and oat amohgslthem.

"This is my husband,* whom you have not seen—but he will be here to dinner, and you needn't be at all afraid of him, for he ls one of the gentlest and dearest of men," said Mrs. Oxenham, taking tip a mafea bt iepouss6 Bilver that enshrined the image of a burly fellow with a plain but honest face. " And this is my young step mother, wbbth I think you' have seen; she is in the dress she wore when she was presented at Court. This is my brother—I have a little half •brother, the sweetest baby, that we will have down to amuse us presently, but this is my only own brother; him, 1

you have also seen."

She passed on to others, and Jennypassed hii with her; but presently, while Mrs. Oxenham was writing ^

which stood the counterfeit

cap and Norfolk jacket arid • magniGpcnt figure in that crowdof dWinairiiKpa nobbdlesy Itoeklngrip

when She had finished

pressionofherfaceiirid

''ChwdlleayenB l"uhe mtotalfy lHfliaifoed. "'t rio hope boyhMftotbeerilhoulhlleMl^ -f :v-i0k-.

She remembered how she had found-hlm-intoe prouentes to amatoiy daUUiwe ol a fitotoW *m to a w to hRndtonre,

upon Jenny's soberness of nature, and Tony'B opportune departure with Lady Louisa, and was at case again.

Tea wasBervedatfive,and thechildrencamedowntobeplayed with. Then lift. Churchill and Mr. Oxenham returned from their club to dinner, and the latter was introduced to Jenny, and both did their part to put her at ease and make her feel at home and happy. The old gentleman took her in to dinner on his arm, and was concerned that she did not eat as she should, and told her she wanted a change to the seaside, racking his brains to think how be could manage to cozen her into accepting some assistance that would make such a thing practicable. Soon after dinner was over, the hansom Mrs. Oxenhain had ordered was announced, and the good old fellow, bustling in from his wine, declared his intention of seeing Miss Liddon home in person. He blamed Maty for sending her away so soon, but Mary said it was better for her to go to bed early : and then Mr. Churchill said he hoped Miss Liddon would soon come again—forgetting that his daughter was on the point of leaving hiui, and that his young wife would he little likely to endorse such an invitation.

Jenny left in a glow of inward happiness, and of gratitude that she could not express, though she tried to do so. Mrs. Oxenham wrapped her in a Chuddah shawl, and kissed her on the doorstep.

" Good night, dear child," she said, quite tenderly. " Go straight to bed and to sleep, and don't go to the tea-room to-morrow. I shall come and see

you early."

Having watched her charge depart in her father's care, this kind woman returned to her husband, whom she found alone in the diningroom, smoking, and reading the evening paper, with his coffee beside him.

" Harry, dear," she said, " I want to ask you something." "Ask away," he returned amiably.

"Would you have any objection to my having that girl to stay with me for Christmas—that is, if she will come f

He laid down his paper, and thought abont it Though he was a Man chester cotton man, he was no snob, or he would not have been Maty Churchill's husband; but this was, as he would-have termed it, a large

order.

" Who else is coming f he inquired.

" Nobody. That is, I have not asked anybody at present I think Fd rather we were quietly by ourselves. She's a lady, Harry, yoa can see it for yourself. Her father was an Eton boy."

" Kb? You don't say so." This was certainly a strong argument

" And she is thoroughly out of health. I never raw a girl so altered—] shattered with hard work, poor little soul. I believe if she doesn't get a long! rest and a change that she will have a severe illness, and then what would ; become of her mother and sister, and the business she has managed so ] splendidly ? Now that Cup time is over, it is possible for them to do without j her for awhile, and country air, and good feeding, and a little looking after would set her op, I know. And I don't see how else she is to get it I am sure the children would like to hare her, Harry; and she is so modest and quiet that she would never be in the way."

" What abont Tony?" asked Mr. Oxenham.

" He is not coming. I asked him, but he said he couldn't leave town. He is too much engaged with Lady Louisa, I suppose; and if she didn't keep him, Maude would. Oh, if there was the slightest chance of Tony being at Wandooyambo, of course I shouldn't ask Miss Liddon there."

" Well, my dear, I'm sure I don't care, one way or another. Do just wbat

you think best"

"You are quite sure you don't mind, Harry f

" Not in the least What's good enough for yon is good enough for me and, personally, 1 think she's an awfully nice tittle tiling."

". Thai 1 shall go and settle it with her mother in the morning," said Mrs. Oxenham, " and we will take her back with us."