Chapter 160104957

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Chapter NumberXVI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160104957
Full Date1884-12-27
Page Number9
Corrections35
Word Count2610
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2018-03-18
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleSowing the Wind
article text

CHAPTER XVI.

It was not surprising that Lord Onslow, for many years wifeless and childless, should hail with pleasure the advent into his lonely life of a young and cheerful girl like Helen

in company with his niece.

The tact which had always guided Helen, or it may perhaps be better termed the good breeding, arising from self-forgetfulness, which had hitherto made friends for her at every step, now completely won over the old Earl, as she endeavoured to divide her time in attentions to him and waiting upon her aunt.

A year passed slowly by, in which Helen's path was no means strewn with roses; for, though surrounding her aunt with every comfort, providing the best nurse, yet Mrs. Margrave's exacting temper continually ex- pressed itself in the same old manner. Helen, however, had learned to bear patiently and pityingly with the old lady, and her trial was not for very long, for another attack of paralysis seized her, and as the year came to a close Mrs. Margrave passed away with it.

It might be disappointing to those friends who were interested in Helen to see her tranquilly drifting into old maidism. She had in the outset of her youth thrown away her own happiness—that is, if by happiness is meant marriage, rather than contentment of heart and mind—therefore the onus of blame rested only with herself.

Lord Onslow found that he must give up his favourite scheme of matching Helen with his nephew, and the Major himself, after a last appeal, had gone away disconsolate, con- vinced that all hope was at an end for him. He was now deeply engaged with the whole of Britain in preparing for the Crimean war.

Helen had no wish for gaiety, yet that her days should be passed in useless idleness was impossible to her; therefore for occupation she accepted the one which always presents itself to all good women who have much time at their disposal—that of bringing comfort to the poor and distressed; and at this time of universal sorrow there was very much that could be done.

Everywhere, in every town and village, every effort was used, and all exertion made for the necessities or extra comforts for the troops. To this Helen applied herself in every way she could, with that same earnest- ness of purpose which had always marked everything she had undertaken.

The troops had mostly departed, leaving many a home desolate, and it was in these that Helen's cheerful voice and words of comfort often inspired brighter hopes, and in doing so even taught herself greater trust, while she became the more confirmed in that patiently reliant spirit, the first lesson of which had been taught her in such bitter-

ness.

The poor old rector of Onslow was glad of such a helper in his parish. Grown now so old and feeble as to be past active work, he was about giving it up into the hands of a younger man. Towards the close of that summer Helen was returning with her friends from the Isle of Wight, where Lord Onslow had been advised by his physician to spend some little time. She was looking forward with pleasure to meet again those

poor old people (one or two especially) who

had always looked for her coming, and had

so much regretted her leaving them.

"I do hope poor old Mrs. Symes has not been worse since I left her," said Helen.

"I hope not," replied Mrs. Newbury. "Your people will be very glad to see you again; but you know you will have to work now under a new leader, how will you and your new 'spiritual pastor and master' agree?" she said, smiling.

"I hope well; but I feel a little rebellious that there should be any need for change. I had become so thoroughly used to dear old

Mr. Eldom."

Onslow Church was a most picturesque

object with its square tower overgrown with ivy and half hidden by trees; inside its high backed pews, its ponderous pulpit with heavy sounding-board looking like the lid to the box about to shut in the occupant, reminding one of the fate of the young bride in the "old oak chest." The first Sunday morning after her return to Onslow Court Helen stood in her accustomed place in Church abstractedly opening her prayer-book, when her attention was suddenly aroused by a voice—a tone—a manner as the words came "I will arise and go to my Father." She almost staggered as she stood, but summoned courage in another minute to look up, almost expecting to see Arnold Disney. "Of course it is not he," she said to herself, and yet something of his

likeness, but as he continued reading the

impression did not wear off.

While driving home no remark was made by Mrs. Newbury about the new Rector; it was not the first time that she had seen him; as for Helen, she could scarcely trust herself to speak of him at all, yet felt ashamed of her foolish fancies.

"What do you think of the new Rector, asked Lord Onslow of Helen at luncheon.

"He has a clear, pleasant voice, and in speaking has the power of fixing the atten-

tion completely."

As Helen was answering the Earl she felt Mrs. Newbury regarding her attentively and as she finished speaking and turned towards her met an expression of pleasant curiosity; but it was only a momentary glance, which she soon forgot.

In a little while Helen again became engaged in her round of self-imposed duties.

One great object of interest to her was the village school, supported by the Church, and belonging exclusively thereto. One afternoon when Helen was visiting it the mistress came to her in great trouble, telling her that she was about to lose her situation because Mr. Wanford, the new Rector, had objected to her dissenting principles. "And you know, Miss," she said, "I have always tried to do

my best, and you and the other ladies have been pleased to praise the way I have brought

the children on, and Mr. Eldon was always quite satisfied."

"I am very sorry to hear this, Miss Ellis. What do you wish me to do ?"

"Oh! Miss, if you would just speak to Mr. Wanford for me. Mr. Eldon always

listened to you."

"I will speak to him; but I am not at all sure of doing any good," said Helen,

Helen had, as yet, had no conversation at all with the Rector, but determined to speak on this subject the first opportunity, and one

soon presented itself in the drawing-room at Onslow Court after a dinner party—one of

many given by the families round Onslow for Mr. Wanford's reception. As she rose from the piano she saw him sitting alone, half bidden by a curtain, in a recess. Intent upon her object she went straight to him. He listened very gravely, with an expression of surprise upon his face, and when she had finished speaking answered very coldly that it was impossible to retain Miss Ellis in the capacity of schoolmistress, but that he would endeavour to obtain for her some other more suitable occupation, as he should be sorry to do her an injury. So coldly did he speak

that Helen felt quite chilled and unable to pursue the subject further.

While speaking to him the likeness, and yet the unlikeness, to Arnold Disney still struck her. He was so much thinner, he wore no beard or moustache, his whiskers were darker, and shaven in an altogether

different shape to the manner in which Arnold had worn his. Of course it was but in her own fancy that any resemblance

existed. She felt that it was absurd to try

to trace any.

"I believe I offended Mr. Wanford in advocating the cause of poor Miss Ellis,"

said Helen to Mrs. Newbury, "for not only then, but once or twice since when I have had occasion to speak to him about some of the people that I am interested in, he has replied to me in a manner that was most un-

pleasant."

"I saw him listening intently to your music. You always reduce the room to silence, but I remarked that he appeared quite

absorbed."

Helen avoided speaking to or even meeting the Rector after this, but he had not been settled among then many weeks when a blow fell upon her which she little expected.

It happened just now that a topic of great interest was discussed in the newspapers, upon which there arose a correspondence between Mr. Wanford and another clergy man, also published in the local papers. Helen one morning was reading one of Mr. Wanford's letters through with great pleasure until she came to the end, and saw the name signed in full, "Arnold Disney

Wanford."

The next minute she was standing before Mrs. Newbury with a white face.

"Look! read!" she said, holding the paper out and pointing to the name. Her friend followed with her eyes where Helen indi- cated. For a minute or two neither spoke. Then Helen said, and her voice was des-

pairingly sad—

"Now I see it all. How blind I have been. He has known me all through, and he, his heart being changed, has supposed me to be obtruding myself purposely before him.

I can live here no longer. I must fly at once." And before another week had

passed Helen was in Wales, gladly availing

herself of a long-standing invitation to visit

some friends there.

The meeting then had taken place! He was unmarried—and yet what avail was it to her

now? She had never anticipated such a meeting as this—she had thought of him as entirely dismissing her from his mind, and as married; but in all her dreams she had never imagined a disdainful avoidance of herself.

She saw now that his bearing towards, her was but the expression of the same opinion of her which had been shown in the slights she had received at Scoss. Yet she could not blame him. It had all come of her own

doing.

Helen went as a guest to the family of the Hawthornes—friends whom she had met at the Earl's—but as a guest she could not stay beyond a limited time. When her visit came to an end, then she felt herself to be once more a waif and a homeless wanderer, but began to seek for a lodging in the neighbour- hood with a listless feeling of indifference as to where she should find a home. However, as well here as anywhere, she thought. So she found an old woman whom she engaged to live with her in a pretty little cottage, and here she intended to immure herself for the rest of her days. Marguerite was about to leave her, for she, unlike her mistress, had long forgotten her former lover, the treacherous Govin, and had promised to marry a very steady young man in the Earl's service, when he should be promoted from under to upper groom. Helen was interested now, as much as anything could interest her, in preparing Marguerite's trousseau. Weary, dejected, miserable indeed, Helen felt now, and completely alone in the world. The con- tentment of mind which she had acquired since she believed Arnold entirely lost to her by his marriage had given place to despon-

dency, as she saw that not negative forgetful-

ness, but positive dislike, nay, repulsion, was

his sentiment towards her.

She constantly heard from Mrs. Newbury, who was at this time exceedingly anxious about the fate of her brother. All England was ringing with news of victories—the battle of Alma, then of Balaklava, and of the won- derful bravery of that handful of light cavalry who charged the whole Russian army—the story so well known that it is quite needless to relate here. Every heart was wrung by accounts of the sufferings endured on that terrible battle-field, and the tension of feeling in every home while waiting for news of those loved ones was strained almost to agony.

The next news that Helen heard was of the Major's return home to recruit his health and strength, and the letter from Mrs. Newbury, telling her this was the last one she received for some time. There was a touching feeling of thankfulness for his safety running through the whole of the letter, plainly showing the devoted love of the sister for the brother so

much younger than herself as to take the

place almost of an only son in her heart.

Yes, the Major (or rather the Colonel, for he had received promotion) had returned home, but with completely shattered health, so much so that the doctors who had obtained leave for his speedy return knew that he could not live for very long; yet hope so blinded

his sister's eyes as to deceive her into the

belief that care and comfort would soon restore him; and he, so glad of rest, con- firmed her hopes the more by his cheerful spirits, while she forgot all anxiety in resum- ing their old habits of long conversations and exchanges of confidences. One most inte- resting topic of conversation naturally was Helen.

"Of course she could not stay when she found who he was and how changed his feelings were towards her," said Mrs. New- bury. "Ah! she has been very foolish in throwing away such affection as yours for such a myth."

"Oh, no, Mary, it is as well as it is; it may yet come all right between her and Wanford. As for myself, I should never have pursued my own interests with her as I did had I known sooner that this war would break out. She would only have been left a widow, you

see."

"My dear Edgar! do not talk like that!"

"Dear Mary, I thought the fact was self- evident. I knew it all along. Oh, don't dis- tress yourself so, dear."

"Dr. Prosby gave me great hope about you," she said, in a choking voice. "You are only despondent."

"Well, perhaps so; let us talk of some- thing else. I did not tell you about my meet- ing again with Mr. and Mrs. Disney—he was our army surgeon. Yes, it was very strange. She would follow him to the Crimea as nurse

—a lively little woman, very communicative,

and as I listened attentively—she little guessed how much interested I really was— She liked to relate how she met her husband, and what trouble they both had to induce her guardian to consent to the marriage; and then she told me that her husband had a brother a little older than he, who had had a great disappointment, and, taking it very much to heart, had turned his thoughts to the Church. Then she gave me the informa- tion—most important to me—that this brother had altered his name, or rather had added that of Wanford to his own, when inheriting some unexpected property. So you see I learnt all about Helen's lover as well as his whereabouts, and, knowing that this living was becoming vacant, wrote, as you know, to Lord Onslow, it being in his

gift, strongly advising him to try and induce

Mr. Wanford to take it, secretly hoping that

the lovers had only to meet to make it all right again."