|Chapter Title||THE EXECUTORS LOOK TO THE CHILDREN'S INTERESTS.|
|Newspaper Title||The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||Tom Hellicar's Children|
Tom Hellicar's Children.
By L. C.
Chaptee II. — The Executors Look to the Children's Interests.
AT some distance from Beribang was Mount Hellicar, the residence of Richard Hellicar, a red brick house, on a bare mound, with extensive fields spreading around it — bleak open fields cleared of trees — and even the orchard sloped away, so that you did not see it ; but nature had been more kindly than art: there were some undulations not far off, and these were still wooded, though the sombre ironbark forest had as little cheerfulness as could be. Then there was a creek with oaks on its banks, and a few small cot- tages of tenantry dotted along its windins; then the
brown tea tree scrub began and spread away for miles. In a shady room ranged round with bookcases, the shelves of which supported the solid calf-books of some forty or fifty years of age chiefly, and overlooked a black cloth-covered table, and hard cheerless chairs, — in this room, on two of those chairs, sat Richard Hellicar and Max Ibotson, the executors of the late Tom Hellicar, whose will, even now, lay on the table. They were very different men: the brother was lean and pale ; a man whose soul had shrivelled as well as his body and grown narrow and selfish in watching his own ailments ; indeed, so long had his mental vision been fixed on self that it was incapable of turning elsewhere, or seeing anything except as subservient to his own interests. 'Under this training the love of acquisition had out-grown generosity and seriously threatened honesty itself. In addition to a bodily in- firmity of years standing he had had many cares and losses — his first-born was an insane idiot, and his eldest son, a lad of great promise, had been acci- dentally drowned three years before. Sorrows, taken as from the correcting hand of a Heavenly Father, ennoble and purify ; but, received as springing by a cruel chance from the earth, their effect would appear to nip every good germ in the heart's garden — I know few sadder sights than a care-hardened person. Such was Richard Hellicar's case ! the man was so con- stantly unhappy himself and with himself, that he begrudged every one else a little mirth and light heartedness. It seemed a reflection cast on him, and to be resented as such. Moreover, he was a cunning man. Tom Hellicar's will had been made at his suggestion, and his son appointed as convoker, because he required to have the scale more than balanced with that hated low-born wife. In every way was Max Ibotson his reverse ; corpulent and bloated, with a red pimply face and dim little blue eyes, you saw the man who would fawn upon wealth and power, and bully and bluster the weak and lonely ; who would be great in reprimanding a beggar or a vagrant ; he was a Justice of Peace, and came out in all his glory in the affairs of the widow and orphan. ' Do you take another glass, Max,' said Hellicar, pushing the decanter an inch nearer to him. ' Well, umph,' he made a pause between each ex- clamation ; filling the glass and half emptying it again meanwhile. 'About the landed property? There cannot be two opinions, Dick ; this woman is totally unfit to manage it. The bare idea is preposterous. The sooner such scum settle to the bottom the better.' ' Let it, eh ? till Ritchie comes of age.' ' Just so. How old is the boy ?' ' Eight, or nearly so ; he was born the same day as my Maud.' ' Eight ! and not at school ; then young Jack must be six or seven. Shows the ignorance of that woman, and the folly of Tom to leave them under her influ- ence so long.' There was a pause, during which the contents of the decanter diminished. ' I thought of taking Biribang into my own hands ; placing such a rent as we think desirable to the credit of the estate, of course. Mrs. Hellicar's nephew could manage it ; the arrangement would suit me. It was an odd fact that those sturdy walls never echoed the words, 'the children's interests must be consulted.' ' Max Ibotson had no plans of his own to oppose ; and as the arrangements offered a saving of trouble which would fall on him as the town man (he was a Sydney wine merchant), he nodded consent. ' That is disposed of, then. We now come to the children --- .' ' Send them to school, cf course.' ' But the girl is too young.' 'D — her, these women from their birth are a bother and a curse.' Ibotson bounced out of his chair, and turned round as if the impetus of his honest indignation was too strong for the laws of gravitation, and then re-seated himself and emptied his glass at a gulp. ' She might remain with her mother for the present, Max.' 'No ! I say no emphatically. Are you a fool, Dick Hellicar. We'll nave no more servant maids in the family. Bring her here.' ' She would be too much trouble. Mrs. Hellicar is not strong, and almost wholly taken up with Missie, and the nurse and governess's time is required for my children. No, Max ; for another two years she must have charge of her. Do you know of a suitable ischool, not expensive of course ? ' ' What say you to Heland ?' 'Heland! the lawyer!' ' Just so ; his practice is small. You are such an amiable, honest set round this quarter; you can't quarrel or cheat ;' and he roared out a coarse laugh like the bellow of a bull. ' Would he ; then these lawyers are such, fellows for the main chance ; he would charge twice over the fee of a regular school.' ' Not a bit of it ; fill up his leisure with their les sons, and as they grew old enough take them into the office and save a clerk, don't you see? I'll put that strongly before him. A bit of law will do both good, and you would have them under your eye, as one might say.' Richard Hellicar nodded. ' And the rent of Biribang ? ' ' Wait and see what Heland charges, and square accounts so. By-the-bye you had better give me those town mortgages, and I will assent to them.' Richard Hellicar would have demurred, but fearing his cousin's opposition to his own plans if he did, yielded and took the parchments from a patent safe. 'And now for dinner,' said the merchant, after scanning their contents and buttoning them up in his pocket. Hellicar led the way to a large room with the same cheerless aspect, only instead of a prim life- less cheerlessness this was in a disorderly state, arising from the presence of several children, who appeared quite disregarded by the mother, in her constant watch of Missie, whose painfully vacant face and leer- ing eyes betokened her mental infirmity. When Richard Hellicar had been ten years in Aus- tralia, and made money, he returned to England to get a wife ; his choice was not remantic like his brothers. Miss Tristam belonged to one of the high
families, and an old family who could count their sires up to the days of King Arthur's round table at least. They might have grown a little seedy in these last times, but had no lack of pride ; indeed that was like a good edifice, each generation adding a tier till it was approaching the altitude of Babel. Miss Tristam had not a fortune, or beauty — that is, she was not an heiress to more than one thousand pounds ; but she used to hint mysteriously that she had brought money into the family. The hand-to-hand contest with appearance which the Tristams had maintained for generations, and which, instead of leading on to victory, only became more sanguinary and merciless with every fresh possessor of the honours and poverty of the Tristam line, had somewhat embittered Maud Tristam, when, at thirty-five, she became Mrs. Hellicar. The Tristams never married young, because they rarely met with any swain who could bear comparison with their genealogical roll, so that old maids multiplied — if we may so express ourselves — every generation ; for, among other peculiarities, they were a long-lived people, and never made hasty descents to the tomb, but retired full of years, if not exactly with honours, to the family vault, somewhere about seventy and eighty — so that there were gene- rally three generations of Miss Tristams extant. The mutual influences of the high-bred Maud Tristam and Richard Hellicar on each other had not been happy. Woman's noble mission of love and sympathy she was above ; and every child she had looked as if it had missed its birthright, and, conse- quently, was disposed to steal such base coin, in the shape of self-indulgence, as it could possess itself of, which occasioned a good deal of domestic civil war- fare of a strictly uncivil character. Mr. Ibotson treated his cousin's wife with more civility than was his custom to show to her sex, for he had a due sense of the length of the pedigree of the Tristams, and remembered that one compartment of the Round Table was lettered S. Tristam, under the shade of which defunct knight she stood shielded. Years before, Max Ibotson had been engaged to a lady, and while busy with upholsterers and furnish- ing ironmongers, he read her marriage with her cousin in the daily papers, since which time he had considered all women as a mixture of deceit and wantonness, and hated them right heartily. Tom Hellicar, although a fine handsome man, had been subject to sudden attacks of illness of a dan- gerous character, and as he had reached forty-seven without marrying, his brother and cousin, and sundry other cousins, had looked upon his property as their own at no distant day. Ibotson had speculated on it, and Richard Hellicar built, and bought and sold on it, and when Tom suddenly returned from Tasmania with his bride, they were aghast, and looked upon themselves as people wronged and robbed out of legal rights. Richard, in the first moments of anger, wrote in the most indecent and plain way, expressing such an opinion, and Max Ibotson, in a stormy interview, called his cousin a fool and rogue.