|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||Sowing the Wind|
SOWING THE WIND.
By Silver Wattle.
"I tell you you had no right to think and act for yourself—you are to do as you are told. Did it for the best indeed! Yes, I fear it is your best—you are useless; you are only a burden to me. I hoped at least that for the years of trouble and expense I have had with you I should by this time have reaped some reward; but you are utterly selfish and un- grateful—go!" With that the chamber door
was slammed in the face of a weeping girl of
16. The lady who had spoken these severe words sank upon a couch, fanning herself and applying her smelling-bottle.
"What is this, my dear?" said her hus- band upon entering. "You seem quite ex-
hausted. Helen, again ? I met her crying bitterly; you must make excuses for her, she is but a child."
" Excuses! excuses!" exclaimed the lady, instantly revived by her vehement passion, "You do not know—you do not consider what pains I have taken with her; I wished to make her my companion, to treat her as a young lady—your niece. I give her the easiest tasks, yet she is always failing me. This very day has she given wrong directions about the best chamber hangings. Oh! she is utterly useless and idle, but there—men never know, and you are just like your poor brother. You let things go just as they will. If you had married such a poor fool as - he did I fear your life would have been just as unfortunate."
The culprit in the meantime had taken refuge in her own room, where she sat (her weeping subsided) leaning her cheek upon her hand, and gazing out over her uncle's grounds far into the distance, to the sea beyond.
Seven years before she had been taken into her uncle's home, a little friendless orphan. Here she had been well cared for in all external things, and but for this under- current of her life—these constantly recurring thunderstorms caused by the most trivial affairs in her aunt's ménage, her life she thought would be happy.
The world thought her a fortunate girl, and the adopted daughter of the Honourable John Malgrave wondered at the expression of anxiety upon her face. Mammas told their daughters that Helen Margrave did not sufficiently value her advantages, but the
world could not see beneath the surface—it only saw a well-trained, well-dressed young
lady in her aunt's drawing-room, or at her uncle's table, and did not know the impos sible role she was expected to act. It could not see in that courteous, bland, hospitable hostess, the imperious, exacting, selfish bene- factress of a dependent girl. Yet Mrs. Margrave was by no means an unkind mis- tress or unloving wife, nor did she for an in- stant believe herself to be anything but the
most judicious of guardians to her adopted daughter. An extraordinary mixture was her character. She was quite capable of most generous actions and affectionate im- pulses, but was one of those people who must have a poor victim upon whom to expend fits of ill-humour, and whose love of imperious rule is so great as to lead them to magnify the smallest peccadillos into crimes, merely to exercise their love of power and capability of making miserable; and if the victim be of an unassuming nature, easily impressed and overpowered by the self-assertion of others, so much the worse for her, especially, as in this case, when the unfortunate one is the recipient of bounty which is used as a stinging weapon in accusa- tions of ingratitude. To such a dominant Spirit as Mrs. Margrave's it was most con- genial to hold at her complete disposal the happiness of this young girl's life, though, to give her due credit, she intended to plan hap-
pily for her, so long, at least, as she never thwarted her wishes, but submitted her
every thought to her approval, and so far
all had worked well. The child had been accustomed to subordination from infancy, and being of a docile and affectionate dis- position, was won by her aunt's spasmodic fits of extreme kindness and generoaity, and never questioned her supreme authority, or that her frequent reproofs were aught but merited.
Such had been the the manner of the girl's life, until our story opens, and such it con-
tinued for more than another year, while she developed into an elegant and exceedingly
handsome young woman.
Now it was that Helen began to attract attention, and the attention especially of a young gentleman of good birth and expecta- tions, but, more than all, of a genial disposi-
tion, and of talents, likely one day to secure him a prominent place in the world.
It was with great complaisance that Mrs.
Margrave watched this young attachment deepening into love, endeavouring her utmost to further it ss much as possible; and when
the oft-told tale was told again Helen flew in her supreme happiness to her aunt, and
met there with almost a mother's sympathy. Well it was that it did meet with her approval, or how different might have been her reception of such tidings. It was with much self-importance that Mrs. Margrave
began within her own mind to organize her ' plans for the future in this matter, for she could not suppose that anything could go well without her management.
She decided at once that Arnold Disney and Helen were each too young and too little acquainted with each other to allow the world of her circle to be informed of the engagement.
From this time poor Helen began to feel more than ever the tyranny of ner aunt's government, for such it certainly became, although she would not have thought of applying to her role such an expression.
Mrs. Margrave, jealously fearful that her influence might be overpowered by one more potent, drew the reins still tighter, deter- mining to hold them yet for some time, or until she could replace Helen, who had
become necessary to her, by another as easily impressed and awed by her overbearing spirit.
Her sensitive feelings overwhelmed by her
aunt's continual taunts, Helen's mind became imbued with a degrading sense of inferiority— the false and undeserved position she held in her lover's eyes, and the prospect of dire humiliation when should come to him the bitter awakening.
Brooding over these thoughts with morbid sensitiveness, she felt goaded on day by day to but one end, for to live on in the present acceptance of his love under such false pre-
tences was becoming more and more im- possible, She felt quite equal to the most heroic self-sacrifice—to give him up—to fly. This would be, she thought, for his ultimate good, and she really supposed it quite feasible to hide herself in some obscure corner— without friends or protection—where she might honestly live by her own exertions and earn her own self-respect. Day by day, even when his companionship was so dear to her, she was meditating the wrenching asunder of the tie—for his sake—all for his sake— and it wanted but another drop in the cup to drive her to the last decisive step—and this came before very long.
Helen's lover constantly observed an ex- pression of nervous anxiety on her face, while she would frequently refer to her watch whenever they had been happy for an hour together, and her plea to leave him was always, "I have to read to my aunt," or "write cards of invitation," or "sort her wools." But it was plain that at a fixed time she must be at her aunt's side, and that the failing in her duty might involve consequences she would dread to meet.
When absent from Helen Arnold Disney con- stantly called up to his mind that anxious face. She certainly, he thought, held her aunt in great fear; she was not quite happy. Thinking all this, he determined that he would do his best to hasten their marriage.
"Why should I not do so?" he argued. Hitherto he had acquieased in the decision of Mrs. Margrave that because of Helen's youth the marriage was not to be yet—for some time—quite indefinite—and that also
the engagement should not be publicly an-
nounced. But why should he not bring matters to an issue at once? Upon his com- ing of age he had inherited from an uncle
quite sufficient, coupled with his own exer-
tions, and besides this, he, with his brother, was heir to his father's considerable property.
He would speak to Mr. Margrave at once. He was astonished, however, at Helen's con- sternation when he spoke of this to her, evidently caused by the dread of altering any fiat of her aunt's, proving to Arnold all the more forcibly the real necessity for and strengthening him in his determination. He would not for the world distress Helen, but was compelled to think such fear of her aunt proceeded only from an over-sensitive mind; therefore he lost no time in seeking Mr. Margrave for the purpose of pleading for
a reversal of the sentence of indefinite delay.
Mr. Margrave met his proposal most kindly
—knew "of no hindrance to the marriage"— would "talk to Mrs. Margrave"
Arnold then left the house, after vainly seeking for Helen to tell her of his success.
"I have just been talking to Mr. Disney, my dear. There is something really excellent in that young man's character. We are fortunate to be able to settle our dear child so comfortably. When are you going to think of the wedding? I see no obstacle; he seems very anxious to bring matters more forward."
"Ah, he has been talking to you, has he? Yes, he is very good, of course, or I should never have sanctioned the engagement, but I am not going to have things hurried to
please any one. I quite know what is best.
Helen is much too young, I consider—not
quite eighteen—you know that it was so settled from the first. I am surprised at you,
Mr. Margrave, when you know my decision upon the subject," the lady added with great wrath.
"Well, well, my dear, I did not mean to vex you, but I wish you would consider— there ! there! do not upset yourself. I tell you I had no intention of vexing you—I really shall lose the train for London," and Mr. Margrave hurried off.
That night, after laying awake for some time, Helen fell into an uneasy sleep, and dreamed that she was hanging alone from a cliff over an ocean far beneath, whose waters were surging and foaming terrifically. She heard her lover calling wildly, unable to see her in the darkness, while a strong wind hurled her from her hold down, down, to the ocean below. With a violent start and smothered scream she awoke, and opened her eyes to see her aunt standing by her.
"Do not pretend to be asleep, Helen; nor recoil from me with that shudder—the mark of an uneasy conscience, I fear."
Mrs, Margrave spoke in calm and measured tones, but Helen well knew the passion
"Ungrateful girl! to me and to your uncle, who have been to you mother and father, far better ones than your own worthless parents could ever have been. No expense has been spared for you; you have been clothed, fed, and educated all these years, and for what? For me to find a viper, who will turn on its
benefactor!—a child who will resist all authority! alter all the plans that have been
so carefully and unweariedly laid for your good alone. How can you eat the bread of
charity day by day, useless to me as you are, and unworthy the affection of any good man? Base girl! bold! bold! too, instigating your lover to precipitation. Ah! un- maidenly!" Then scrutinizing the poor
child's face, she turned suddenly, and left the room. For a few minutes Helen sat up, stunned, gazing after her aunt, or rather at the door through which she had sailed away. She knew herself to be innocent of any in- tention to alter the plans laid down, but all the taunts of the last few months since she had been engaged, the sense of unworthiness
which had so oppressed her all this time, the base degradation of her spirit, that could accept the love of one so perfect as Arnold
was in her eyes—upon such false pretences— all these thoughts overwhelmed her now as with a flood—when her aunt had pointed the accusations of unworthiness with such terrible force as she had done within the last hour. The time had come—the step must be taken, cost her what it might; she would make the sacrifice for his sake—she would go —she would fly this very night. So she rose and collected a few necessary belongings, packing them into a valise, busying herself for an hour or two with all such prepara- tions; then wrapping a thick waterproof around her, and taking from her wardrobe a discarded hat, she sat down by her window, watching for the first streak of dawn.
Poor inexperienced child! Like a driven dove, she knew not where to fly. She only felt that her present existence could not be continued. She had never been shown any guide in perplexity—any light in darkness— and now she was utterly alone.
Helen stepped out into the chill air of an April morning, and taking the direct path through her uncle's grounds, emerged upon
the high road just at broad daylight. Not wishing, however, to meet any early labourer, she struck again into a thicket, and, completely hidden, eat down to rest on a fallen tree, and leaning against the trunk
of another, fell fast asleep, Here she slept until awakened by the singing of birds and the sun streaming into her face. Feeling hungry she was glad she had provided her- self with some biscuits and an eau-de-cologne bottle filled with water. The morning was far advanced when she came out into a country road, and stood still considering which way now to take. Never having come so far on foot, she felt quite confident of escaping recognition under her thiok veil; but as she stood a sudden April shower roused her into immediate notion, and seeing an old woman driving past to market, she hastened to beg a seat in her cart. "Git up, my dear, git up; you'll be drenched through. Here, put this old cloak o' my old man's around ye—these showers be so sharp and
After thanking the old woman there ensued a silence, till the dame asked—
"Be yer goin' fur?"
"I should like to be in time for the next train." This much Helen had decided upon, though she scarcely knew through which towns and villages the line passed, or what was the name of the most remote it reached.
"I'll put ye down within ten minutes' walk of the station then," she said, which she did, looking inquisitively at her as Helen again tendered her thanks and bade her good morning.
In the waiting-room Helen intently studied
a map and list of places up and down the line. She had not been near this station since she had been met here years ago, a little, helpless, homeless orphan, and taken under her uncle's roof. Now she felt herself driven out again, homeless, but not helpless.
No; she was herself surprised at her strength and coolness, qualities of which she had hitherto been quite unconscious. Exa- mining her store of pocket-money, she took a ticket for the furthest station (sixty miles), and, after taking some refreshments, hurried into a carriage and was whirled away she scarcely knew whither, leaving "Scoss" far behind.