Chapter 160105237

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Chapter NumberIII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160105237
Full Date1884-12-27
Page Number4
Corrections83
Word Count2858
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2018-03-04
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleSowing the Wind
article text

CHAPTER III.

The train at last came to the terminus late in the afternoon. Helen was careful not to attract attention in leaving it, but taking her valise in her hand walked quietly on as

though quite accustomed to this country town. She turned into an unpretending looking street, and, after half an hour's walk, fixed at last on a neat house having "Apart- ments to let" pinned on the clean muslin blind of a bright window. A woman with a pleasant face and clean white apron, as if to match the window and blind, answered the

knock.

"Yes, Miss, will you walk in and see, Miss," and Helen was shown a small bed room, containing one table and chair, about a foot or two of carpet, and a small bed scrupu- lously clean.

She was much in need of the eggs, fresh butter, and bread provided for her, and after paying a week's board and lodging in ad- vance, went to her bed, and sank imme- diately into a sound sleep, unable to think or plan any further that night.

She awoke the next morning with a vague sense of the importance of the step she had

taken, but with very little idea of the perils to which she had exposed herself; she only realized the gulf she had fixed between her- self and Arnold Disney, and that thought was a dull feeling of misery.

Girls of Helen's age and romantic tempera- ment, with a high sense of honour, have gene- rally a great idea of heroic sacrifice and self abnegation qualities, which, if rightly directed, are the materials for forming the

noblest women.

Helen began now to concentrate her thoughts and organize plans by which she might manage to live. She had some accomplishments at command, her paintings had been much admired even by connois- seurs; her knowledge of music was far more than superficial, and of that she was devotedly fond.

Helen asked for a local paper, bat among the "wanteds" none appeared suitable to her.

Three days went by: on the fourth she saw "Governess wanted for three little girls." This she thought she would answer, but on reading it again more carefully a terrible obstacle presented itself in the words "references required." Of this in her inexperience she had never thought—what now was she to do? She began indeed to see and understand the true position in which she had placed herself.

Still undauntedly she took up the paper again, and noticed an advertisement for a photographic colourist. Helen had often, practised for amusement this branch of painting very successfully. She would at least apply she said to herself, and forthwith sought the studio indicated. She was stared at impudently by the photographer, who asked specimens of her skilL She shrank from his gaze, but took some pictures which he offered her for trial. She had fortunately,

with the knowledge that she would want her accomplishments for means of subsistence, packed a small flat box of painting materials into her valise. She therefore hastened back and spent this day and the next in her new employment, then carried her work for inspection.

"Well, they're not bad," but—pointing out one or two small improvements to be made— "Yes—well—can you let me have these-. quickly? I'll give you — for them."

Smothering her dislike to the man's manner under a very quiet demeanour, she took her way home again, and by her earnings just managed to live for some weeks.

Her constant employment at this work necessitated frequent visits to the studio, yet not more frequent than she could possibly help, annoyed as she was by the man's vulgar

familiarity, and also by the flippant style of the young ladies of the establishment.

One day the photographer in giving her the. required instructions concerning a particular picture stopped in what he was saying, and with that bold stare at which her soul re- coiled, said—

"But it would suit me better and be more remunerative to you if you were to work here daily. Your pretty face would attract the customers, eh, my dear?" coming nearer as

if to throw his arm around her. "Shall it be settled so?"

Helen left the shop with one bound, and scarcely knew how she reached home, flew to her room, sat down trembling and shak-

ing in every limb, and at last found relief in

a torrent of tears.

When she was calmer and could collect her

thoughts she became sensible that this means of earning money was closed abruptly—she could go there no more. Sleep left her eyes. that night. With such obstacles constantly recurring, what was she to do? For a little while her heart almost failed her, and like the Israelites of old she almost wished to

return to the bondage and tyranny of her aunt's protection; but unlike them, hers had been no God-appointed leader; impatient under suffering, she had obeyed only the dictates of her own strong will; yet her pride

and determination to do or suffer alone held her fast to her purpose.

Very little remained in her purse; her clothes, too, were beginning to be shabby, and she would soon be unpresentable, even if she were fortunate enough to meet with, any kind of engagement. Fortunately she had always paid in advance at her lodgings.

She began again to call over to herself her capabilities, and think how she might apply her musical knowledge. If she would do this it was necessary to keep herself in practice. There was a piano in the house; she might perhaps be allowed to use it, as she was on very good terms with the land- lady and her daughter, Miss Hodge, as the

latter liked to be called, who had a great ambition to imitate Helen, without having anything of that envy, hatred, and malice so often provoked simply by the carriage and bearing of the person towards whom they are felt, for Helen being unmistakably a gentle- woman, had won the respect always acceded to those whose good breeding is shown by their deference to the feelings and prejudices

of others.

Returning next day from a walk, taken to relieve the headache that last night's trouble had brought on, Helen saw, as she passed the open door of the best sitting-room, Miss Hodge trying those old tunes which had so often before distressed her by the excruciat- ingly false notes.

"That is a nice piano. Have you learned long?"

"I learned long ago at school, but did not get on very well. Do you play, Miss?"

"I ought to play better than I do, for I learned off Monsieur Museard, but am out of

practice. If yon would accept any hints that

can give you, in return for allowing me to

practise every day, I should be very glad."

"Oh, thank you—yes, Miss—certainly. I am sure you can use the piano."

"Sit down again and let me hear you play that tune through. Ah! there you moke a mistake. That should be D sharp."

And so with several other hints Helen gave her her first music-lesson. Afterwards, at Miss Hodge's request, she sat down and played through what, to Helen, who had studied the old masters, was a very simple piece, but which elicited the admiration of her pupil greatly.

With a few shillings Helen bought several of her old best pieces, and practised these sedulously every day, and her doing this pre- pared her to accept an opportunity of replen- ishing her purse in a very unexpected manner.

Miss Hodge tapped one evening at the door of Helen's room, and on entering said—

"Miss Montaine"—for that was the name she had adopted—" Pa 'as just run in from a lady's 'ouse; he 'as an engagement to a party —to wait, you know miss" (ingenuously)— "and he says that the gentleman who was going to come to play for the party 'as sent word that he isn't able to come, and Mrs. Selby (the lady) is in a great way about it, and pa says he told Mrs. Selby 'ow beauti- fully you could play, and he 'as sent me to ask if you would go—they'll be so con— confused if they can't get no one, she added, seeing Helen hesitate for a moment,

"Oh, yes; I'll go. I will be ready in a very little while."

"Very well, miss, I'll tell pa; he'll be so glad."

Helen soon found herself in a brilliantly lighted room, but as she bad long been accus-

tomed to each scenes and society of a still higher class she did not feel in the least embarrassed, but took her place with ease and modesty.

Quite at home in the art she loved, she was soon lost to everything but that, espe- cially when once or twice between the dances, and when she had not been requested to move for a guest to sing, she struck into one of those soul-entrancing strains of the old masters with that feeling and pathos so peculiarly her own—she held the listeners in surprised delight. Gentlemen's eyeglasses went up; old ladies enquired, " Who is she!" Nobody knew her name. Miss Montaine was all that any one did know. She, however, was quite unconscious of observation. The scene and the air she played only took her back in spirit to that which she had volun- tarily quitted. She saw him by her side again, she felt his gentle touch, saw his loving glance, and the yearning of her spirit and the resolute power of her will seemed to be in battle array, striving each to gain the mastery in her mind.

She almost started to find the guests gone or going, and Mr. Selby by her side addres-

sing her.

"We are really obliged to you, Miss Montaine. I was not aware that there was so much talent in Middlebury."

Helen expressed herself gracefully in answer, and took her leave.

The Selbys had remunerated her far beyond her expectations, and as Helen was much too sensible a girl to make any secret to the Hodges of the fact of her being a friendless orphan, thrown by circumstances upon her own resources, she showed to them un- hesitatingly that she was glad of her good fortune. She insisted upon Mr. Hodge accepting a small sum in acknowledgment of his thoughfulness for her. About a week after this Miss Hodge came with a polite in- vitation. "Would Miss Montaine take tea with them that evening."

"Thank you," said Helen, feeling that this was a civility meant most kindly. "What time do you take tea?"

At the appointed hour Helen descended to

the neat room that served both for kitchen and meals, The table was temptingly spread with snowy cloth, fresh green cress, fruit, and cakes, the handiwork of Miss Hodge.

Mrs. Hodge welcomed Helen most kindly— a pleasant woman, proud of her daughter, and gratified at the progress she had made in music under Helen's teaching, and the fact of Helen being an orphan elicited her sym- pathy and interest. The tea passed over pleasantly, with no restraint of feeling. How- over, before it was quite over a young man entered, between whom and Miss Hodge a quick glance of understanding passed, and immediately that young lady introduced him as "My brother, Miss." Helen smiled and bowed; he tendered a coarse red hand and bowed also. He was evidently dressed with great care; a bright pin shone in a necktie of various colours, coral studs decorated his shirt front, a large silver chain his waist-

coat, while a gorgeous ring sparkled on one

finger.

After tea Mrs. Hodge and Helen strolled round the pretty garden, where young Mr. Hodge indulged in a cigar. Then adjourning to the sitting-room, Helen, being requested to do so, sat down to the piano and played several simple airs, wisely thinking that they

would be more appreciated by her listeners than more elaborate pieces; also Miss Hodge and Helen played a duet, which was much applauded. When the evening had worn on Helen thought of leaving, but Mrs. Hodge insisted upon first bringing in more refresh- ments, and left the room, soon followed by her daughter, leaving Helen and William Hodge tete-a-tete. The young man had been on the stretch of his best behaviour all the evening, and now Helen felt for his evident embarrassment in his awkward endeavours to converse. Wishing to put him at his ease she spoke of anything which she thought was interesting, and remarked upon the picturesque hills beyond.

"Yes, Miss, and there are some very pretty

walks about here." And then, with some hesitation, added—" Will you come for a nice walk on Sunday afternoon, it would be so pleasant."

Between amusement and consternation she almost for the moment lost her presence of mind, but thanked him, and said—

"The walk to Church and back is quite long enough; I am always disinclined to do anything more than read afterwards."

Just then, to her great relief, the mother and daughter returned, and Helen soon after took her leave. When alone she could not

help laughing at the picture she drew of herself in her own mind, taking nice walks on a Sunday afternoon on the arm of this young man. After this Miss Hodge would constantly bring "my brother's" sayings and doings into any conversation she might have during her music lessons. Months passed on. Helen had as yet been able to live; she had found employment in painting hand- screens and other pretty ornaments for a fancy shop. She knew she had been very fortunate in the quiet home, and the pleasant kindly people she had met with, and in the fact that she was the only lodger with the exception of one old gentleman. There was one thing, however, which made her a little uncomfortable sometimes, and that was the growing admiration of William Hodge. He would often manage to come in during music-lessons, and she knew that his sister helped the meetings materially. It was quite in vain that she plainly showed her annoyance; it was in vain that she had decidedly and always refused propositions for the Sunday afternoon walks, which she knew emanated from him, though made only by his sister. This was the only external trouble she had, but in her heart there grew daily that yearning-aching to see again the dear face she loved; but her purpose was stronger than her love—to prove herself worthy of him or see him no more.

She knew that her aunt would represent her in the worst light in her absence, and then his love, she thought, would die, and he would seek again, and find—no, not a love deeper than her own, but one more worthy than she could ever hope to be; but the thought was agony. Would he indeed let her drift out of his life, forget her existence, use no means to trace her? Yet, if not, she would do her utmost to baffle all search for herself. She would not be found. No, not until she had established a character that must claim respect, and force from her aunt the acknowledgment that she was not so much to be despised.

But to do this, to be able to present herself face to face with Arnold Disney again, there must never—so she felt—be the slightest breath upon her name.

In that future, the memory of this time, must recall no thought of shame. So she had clung to this quiet home, as suiting her in every way, except for the advances of Wil- liam Hodge; and these she determined to put an end to by some means, and at once.

"You are improving very much," remarked Helen to her pupil during a music-lesson one day.

"Yes, William says so and so does Mr.

Edwards."

"Who is Mr. Edwards?"

"Oh, the young man I walk with."

"But I have seen you with several different ones. I am afraid you are a flirt."

"Oh no, I'm not, I'm sure; but one must have someone to walk with."

"Ah, that is not my opinion. I would give encouragement to no one without good reason, and my word once given I should never change."

"Excuse me, Miss, but haven't you got anybody?"

Here was the opportunity Helen sought—

however much violence it did to her inmost

feelings. She drew out her locket, the one thing kept of Arnold's gifts, containing his likeness and his hair.

"I have given my word there," she said quietly, "and nothing would make me alter it, or induce me to give one thought to another, even though I might never marry."

No more invitations for Sunday afternoons were sent after this, and Helen felt relieved.