Chapter 160104958

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Chapter NumberXVII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160104958
Full Date1884-12-27
Page Number9
Corrections22
Word Count1998
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2018-03-19
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleSowing the Wind
article text

CHAPTER XVII.

"I am very glad that Edgar has returned safe, if not quite sound," said Lord Onslow to Mrs. Newbury. "He will soon recover now, I hope; but I wish Helen would not

consider it necessary to prolong her absence because he is here. Some early disappoint- ment, you say, prevents her thinking of Edgar? Well, I am very sorry."

"So am I, dear uncle; yet I am afraid we can do nothing but let her take her own way."

The village of Onslow had gone on very well without Helen; the few old people and children, who regretted her for some time, had almost forgotten her now, and had learned to welcome instead the sight of the new rector. The parishioners generally were becoming quite to respect and love him for his own worth; they were beginning to be accustomed to, even convinced of, the greater propriety of the alterations he had made in the parish, and of the more strict observances he had instituted in place of the very slovenly and irreverent worship in the Church. His gentle, yet decided manner; his sympathy with the poor and the suffering; his con- sideration for others' feelings, even when rebuke was necessary, soon won upon the hearts even of those who had been first and loudest against him.

The health of the Colonel appeared to rally for the first few months after his return. Strong as he had always looked before the exposure to so rigorous a climate during that trying campaign, repeated colds through the continued exposure ending in a severe illness, which completely laid him up at Scutari, developed latent and inherent con- sumption. Every one knows how sure and

certain as death itself are the inroads of that

fatal disease, slow or rapid, as the case may be, yet ever relentless, at times appearing to flush the cheek with health, deluding with

false hopes of life the victim doomed to death. Yet here the Colonel knew his sen- tence from the first, while his sister was

buoyed by false hopes of his recovery, espe- cially as he appeared to revive so much, taking gentle walks or pleasant drives, amused and interested with everything

around him.

A short visit to the Rectory from Mr. and Mrs. Disney had brought the Colonel into closer intimacy with Mr. Wanford through the renewal of his acquaintance with his brother, and after they had left there sprang up between these two—the Colonel and the Rector—such a sentiment of kindness and affection, each seeking to promote the other's good, that the companionship became a great mutual solace. The Colonel had set his heart upon the reconciliation of the lovers; yet he feared to move in the matter pre- cipitately, knowing that only mischief might

come of incautious interference.

Mr. Wanford's mother about this time settled at the Rectory, with whom Mrs. Newbury soon became friendly. This dowager lady was kind-hearted and well meaning, but, as Mrs. Newbury discovered later, hasty in her judgments, sweeping in her conclusions, and by no means reserved in expressing her opinions; for, as regarded Helen, she spoke with a force and an acer- bity which vexed and grieved Mrs. Newbury exceedingly. Helen's name was brought upon the carpet through a letter which Mrs. Newbury received from her while the other was visiting at Onslow Court.

"I am indeed astonished," she said, "to

find that Miss Margrave in such close friend- ship with yourself. I heard all about her coming home to nurse her aunt, and was very glad that she should so far be willing to return to her duty. I should be the last person to discourage any one in wishing to retrace wrong steps; but you know, my dear Mrs. Newbury, that while we are careful to put no obstruction in the path, we must not, for the sake of the example to others, welcome back such people too affectionately or readily."

"You are very much mistaken with regard to my dear friend, and" began Mrs. New- bury with some warmth.

"Pardon me, dear Mrs. Newbury," replied the other, "it is you who are mistaken. Every one knows your kindness of heart, but believe me it has been in this instance shamefully abused. I know more about Miss Margrave than you have any idea of, perhaps. I suppose you know—it is natural that she should have told you—of her en- gagement with my son some years ago, when she certainly was at that time an innocent and simple girl, although I never cordially approved of his choice, for I considered her far too silly and characterless for him; but to run away by herself into the world no one knows whither, taking up with people of the most objectionable kind—a travelling

musician!"

stopped short, as if unable to finish her sentence for very horror at the retrospect of Helen's history. Then she added, leaning forward towards Mrs. Newbury, speaking impressively, but in a lowered voice, as if she thought that the rest was too shocking

even for the walls to hear—

"And, what is much worse, she caused great trouble between the husband and wife with whom she lived, and made the poor wife exceedingly jealous. You see, I know all about her. Of course I give her credit by supposing that she has always been able to present a surface of propriety to the world, or you, unsuspecting as you are, would not have tolerated her. When she met with my son again I have no doubt that she quite thought she could renew that old affair; but as I told him, when he mentioned in a letter to me whom he had met here, that was quite impossible, however unwilling he might be to believe the accounts we had heard. A clergyman's wife, you know, must be like Cæsar's wife."

Mrs. Disney had run on at such a rate, so absorbed by the tale she was relating, that

she did not in the least notice how it affected

Mrs. Newbury.

"How have you heard all this?' asked that lady at last.

"Oh, it was all through a French gentle- man who had seen Miss Margrave, and had known of this musician for some time; it was quite by accident that he met with Mr. Disney, my younger son. Of course I cannot relate exactly how they came to compare notes, but this gentleman seemed quite to know that the young lady when in France

went under an assumed name. This in itself

appears to me very discreditable, although she has explained it quite satisfactorily to you I have no doubt. You see there is no question that this is the same person."

"The person is quite the same, Mrs. Disney, but the story is cruelly misrepre- sented. I could not have believed that so pure and right-minded a girl could have been so maligned. Pardon me, I cannot talk any more upon the subject. I must consult with my brother as to the best means for refuting this wicked story."

It was easy for Mrs. Newbury to visit Mar- guerite (now Mrs. Wilson), who had by this time settled in the village of Onslow. It was easy to draw her into conversation

about her late mistress, and in presence of Mrs. Disney elicit those eulogiums and ex- pressions of affection with which she always spoke of her. It was a very easy matter in- deed to make her relate all that she had witnessed of Helen's devotion to Madame Dubois and of the loving companionship which

had existed between them.

Marguerite told all this readily enough, and with tears in her eyes went on to give an account of the fall from the precipice and Helen's unwearied nursing, and while relat- ing Helen's heroic behaviour she necessarily spoke of Monsieur, and in all she said she showed plainly enough to any unprejudiced listener that his demeanour to Helen had always been marked by deferential courtesy. Then to all that Marguerite herself had been witness of she added that which the peasants in the vicinity of the castle related to her with great admiration, nay, enthusiasm, the brave rescue by Helen from the cavern.

It was an easy task for Mrs. Newbury to elicit all this from Marguerite in Helen's defence, for Marguerite was never tired of talking of her beloved mistress. But in spite of all evidence it was not quite so easy to dis- abuse the mind of Mrs. Disney of her prejudice. She could not totally disbelieve, yet was un- willing to admit herself mistaken.

Not so, Mr. Wanford; he heard all these facts with great remorse and grief.

"I tell you, mother, I have been wrong, sinful, cruel. Why did I not follow my own judgment and heart when I saw again her pure good face? I will go at once and find her, and see if it be possible to repair the wrong."

So a few days later found Mr. Wanford in the little village on the borders of Wales to which Mrs. Newbury had directed him, and applying at the cottage he saw the old woman with whom Helen lived.

No, the young lady was not at home. She was seldom to be found indoors, and was always at one cottage or another in the village, where of late there had been much sickness. A veritable Sister of Mercy, caring for every one but herself, dreading no contagion, acknowledging no weariness.

The Rector took his way down the village, hoping to meet with or hear something of Helen, but he did not cross her path any- where the whole day, until just as evening began to fall he saw her coming down the country road. She was looking upon the ground, her face was pale, her dark eyes had a shady ring around them. He noted all this as he approached, and hoped for a recogni- tion, but she did not raise her eyes or appear to notice anything.

"Pardon me, Miss Montaine," said he raising his hat, "may I carry your basket, you appear so tired."

She lifted her eyes wearily to his face, but with no alteration of expression; not one of pleasure or pain nor even of surprise met his.

"Thank you, no, I have not far to go," and she tried to hasten her steps. He fell back and let her pass on for a little distance, and then followed keeping her in sight until she entered the cottage; then he returned to his inn to consider the best course of action— he felt that she had repulsed him, and that he deserved it.

The next morning he sent a note praying her to grant him an interview if she could so far forgive him.

The messenger returned with word from the old dame of the cottage bringing back the note unopened, saying that Miss Mar- grave had taken ill, and if the note were likely to disturb her it would be better not to give it, but if the gentleman were a friend of the young lady would he step down to the

cottage and advise what was best to do? Arnold Wanford hurried out in search of a doctor, then walked with him to the cottage, and waited outside to hear his opinion, which was that Miss Margrave was but prostrated by over-exertion, and with care a more serious illness might yet be averted.

Mr. Wanford telegraphed to Mrs. New- bury, who came in a few hours. They drove Helen gently to the station, placing her as comfortably as possible in the train; so the journey was accomplished with as much ease for her aching head as her friends' loving care could provide for her, the carriage meeting them at Onslow. But with all their care a low fever set in, keeping her an invalid for some months.