|Chapter Title||IN TRUST.|
|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.
Chapter I.— In Trust.
"They will take all the care from off you, wife,' said the dying man. She sobbed. 'Have no anxiety, dear Tom, your children shall find a second father in me.' The speaker bent over the bed and took the wasted hand, moist with death sweats, in his ; the bony fingers closed tightly on his for a few seconds in acknowledgment, and the dying eyes fixed themselves on his face with the intense, unearthly expression which belongs alone to those who have nearly looked their last on earthly things, and, perhaps, are seeing what lies beyond our ken, as they go from us down, down, into the dark vale of
death. By-and-bye there were the sobs of woman and chil- dren's grief, but not by hit side; that Mr. Richard Hellicar would not permit. 'It was unseemly,' he said, ' and a useless display of sentiment.' The two executors arranged the funeral, and then oppned the will. The late Mr. Hellicar's lawyer had brought it with him, and was present, and so was the almost fainting widow and the little children, -who wept because she did, and because papa did not come home, and she found that she was left in the care of Mr. Richard Helliear and Max Ibotson, his cousin, also present. The deceased gentleman was possessed of some property — indeed, might be termed wealthy. He had all the material to coin wealth from, ' but had not a business turn,' his brother remarked, and added that the ' interest of the children required a very different management of affairs for the future ; ' to which Mr. Max Ibotson returned ' certainly, Richard — quite so, Richard,' nodding assent and crossing and recrossing his feet as he sat. Neither of these gentlemen lived near the Biribang Estate, and as the late Thomas Hellicar had given great effence in his faccily by his marriage, there had been little communication held between the brothers, and none with their wives, Mrs. Hellicar was there- fore a stranger. Timid woman as she was, she said, with a suppressed sob, that she would not like any thing changed that he had done or wished, and was assured by Richard Hellicar that the children's inte- rests should be strictly considered.
This was the first time she had ever heard those interests brought forward in that shape ; it seemed — perhaps it was her low spirits, she thought — but it seemed as if it made her children and herself into two parties, antagonistic to each ether, and she pressed the sleeping head of her baby closer to her bosom, with a frightened desolate sensation that ended in an hysterical fit of tears and sobs. This was the first time— but not the last ; oh no, not the last — she was to hear it every day — to hear it when the sleek, fat cows he was so proud of were driven from the pastures at Biribang to be sold ; to hear it when even his favourite riding horse was dis posed of, and when she found in the papers an adver tisement announcing the sale of his valuable library at an early day, then she interposed. 'I too' she said with decision, ' forbid the sale.' 'Madam,' returned Richard Hellicar coldly, 'our duty to my brother's children must be considered rather than an idle whim' — of a foolish, low woman he had almost added, but paused. ' You mistake,' she interposed quickly, ' it is not a whim — my husband valued his books above every other thing — he spent much of his time among them ; he had the choicest collection in the country almost — and I am sure his wishes were to preserve them for his sons.' ' I find no mention of this wish in the will.' ' Why should he mention what he could not doubt would be understood ? I cannot have them sold.' ' Your opinion is not required : you have no power.' He scowled sternly upon her. ' I no power,' she retorted, stung by Ids manner ; ' I Ms wife, and the mother of his children.' ' More the pity, madam.' ' More the disgrace,' shouted Max Ibotson in a coarse, blustering tone ; ' when my cousin married a servant girl he must have been drunk, woman. It was enough that he brought disgrace into a decent family. You are not going to carry your head above us now, and lord it like a lady.' For a moment she seemed stunned and bewildered, and looked into the bToad red face, with its heavy features, in silence, and then drawing up her slender form, almost girlish still, she was only five-and- twenty, she returned, ' I never claimed to be a lady, Mr. Ibotson, but your cousin thought me good enough to be his wife, and I have never given him cause to regret it.' ' Your being the wife of a gentleman is the only thing you have to boast of,' remarked Richard Helli car with sarcasm, and the two withdrew. It was true. Thomas Hellicar had married a needlewoman for her pretty face, and yet she had more than this, and he knew it ; she had much good common sense, a modest simplicity of de meanour effectually preserving her from vulgarity, and a guileless and loving heart. If he had had cause ever to regret so unequal a marriage she had never known it ; he was a generous man, and would not visit on her his error. She knew that the estrange ment of his family had caused him much sorrow ; she knew that he had been sensitively anxious to have his children recognised by his relations ; she knew that he had sought companionship in his books and withdrawn from society, perhaps fearing to expose her to its covert scorn — but how kind he had ever been to her ; how loving and tender in hours of sick ness, how proud of her children, how patient in instructing her ignorance — and now she was rudely trodden under foot — oh, what should she do without him; and she wept afresh. When Mr. Hellicar found himself stricken with mortal sickness, he wrote to his brother entreating his kindly care for her and her children. She recalled how he had hastened to the sufferer, how compassion ating and gentle his manner had been to her, the smile that had irradiated his face as Richard Hellicar took her hand and promised to be her friend — that promise had induced the dying man to appoint him executor, and, at his suggestion to add Mat. Ibotson, 'What have I done to change him so,' sobbed the desolate woman, too desolate, she could not bear it, and went up to the nursery where her children slept. There was little Richie, with his rather thin white cheek resting on one hand, looking, the mother thought, rather delicate, and little sturdy brow-skinned rollicking Jack. Round him her hands had to wrap the disordered clothing, and then she put aside a crisp curl which had fallen over his brown, so tenderly, so softly, going back again to smooth the already disordered sheet ; and there, in her little crib, lay the four-year old baby, so pretty, so baby-like, with round white limbs and a cherry mouth pouted out, and that carmine flush which belongs to sleeping babyhood. With what a treasure of love flowing from her eyes she hung over that little baby form. ' They cannot take you from me,' she said in a whisper, 'they may take all we have my children, but they cannot take you, and I can work for your bread,' and she clenched the hand which had grown soft and white with years of leisure. Late into that night she sat by her children often repeating ' They cannot take my children from me.' There was something strange in the way in which she repeated those words — like as if an awful fore boding beset her, which could only be mastered by that talismanic sentence. Mrs. Hellicar was yet very beautiful. Her cheek, though paled by recent care, was round and soft ; her large dark eyes had an earnest, thoughtful look, which was increased by a slight habitual droop of the head, giving an upward turn to the eye when raised to the face of the person she might be address ing. She was unusually tall and slender, and had a great abundance of glossy, dark hair, which, in deference to her husband's taste, had hung round her shoulders in curls. Yet, even in her happy days — and. how much more now ! — there was something hard to define — something latent, which might become monomania, which, tempered as it was then, only gave a timid hesitancy to her manner. Always anxious to please, to act as her husband would have her, with a too vivid recollection of the difference of their birth, she had clung to him with the strength of weakness, and perhaps that timidity was her greatest charm. Even in those happy days she had tasted, if faintly, the curse that follows upon the infringement of social laws, and which so surely and sadly follows ill-assorted marriages. -----------