|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.
Chaftee X. — 'Essie— Esther — Essie.'
'Years has not brought a brighter air to the library of Mount Hellicar ; book-bindings had faded, chair covers and carpets had faded, and the thin yellow man 'with the hard lines in his sunken face looked most faded of all ; perhaps it was the contrast of Max lbotson's obese form and florid complexion. There is a peculiar style of blossom said to be watered by spirituous com pounds, 'which has a habit of flourishing in some countenances, and a luxuriant crop, of like gro'wth, ?was dotted over the sea of dull blue cheeks and nose
conlronting Kichard Hellicar. ' Dick, do you know your nephew is in his nine teenth year ? ' he was saying. 'Yes.' 44 Will be of age and claiming his property in less than three years ? ' 'Yes.' 'What are you going to do ? ' ' Can I check the flight of time ? ' he jerked out, as bitterly as if he suspected Ibotson of unduly urg ing it on. ' Prepare for what must come.' ' How ? ' 44 Make up a marriage with him and Missy.' ' What, that ? .' Some sense of parental feel ing checked the word. But he hated her — she was as wormwood and gall in his life's daily cup — the rankling taste of that draught was never out of his mouth. Too selfish for pity— he had hoped year by year for her death, had watched every illness and every crisis. 'Three years old will decide,' the medical man said ; ' then seven is a critical period ;' but she weathered it, and now she was five and twenty ; stout, strong, and hale ; much mere so than him — infinitely ? more so than the worn mother. She would live, and he hated her for it. ' Tom Hellicar's boy is a soft, sheepish young fellow ; he will be easily managed, and the girl has sense enough for that — she is not such a fool as you think. It would be a relief to her mother, and save a great deal of trouble.' ' It would. I wish Mrs. Hellicar had not set her mind on Maud marrying Tristam.' ' This would be much more eligible.' ' But her mother hates the very sight of that low woman's children. She would never consent to Maud, but Missy is another thing— she is wearing her mother out.' ' Set about it, then.' There are many things men do, but would not speak of. The executors understood the urgency of the case, but they never said why. Men dare to sin who yet shrink even from confessing their guilt to their fellow sinners — they need the shroud of darkness for bloodshed and robbery — they dare not face the light
oi uoa s sun, ana m tne atneism oi wonts, uuny iuu watchfulness of Him, to whom the dark and light are equal. By-and-bye Mrs. Hellicar was taken into confidence by her husband. The bare possibility of being re lieved of the fearful burden of guarding such a being brought back a sense of freedom, unknown for five- and twenty years ; and she consented, nay, even under took to convey to Missy, if possible, an idea of 'what was before her. Had they been able to look into Mr. Heland's office, where the clerk was bending over a sheet of paper writing ' Essie — Esther — Essie,' and so on, all over it, then with a burning cheek crumpling it up in his hand and rising to put it between the bars of the grate, yet hesitating because it had her name on it, and finally crushing it into his pocket, and then re suming his law writing, neither party would have made so sure of the result. A very shy lad Avas Richie Hellicar ; week after week he met Mr. Thorell and his daughter at the , school, and walked a little way with them, but Essie rode in unconsciousness of how quick the boy's pulse was beating, or if she had any instinctive perception, the worthy pastor certainly had not. The doors of Mount Hellicar had relaxed for the clerk ; he was invited to spend Saturday and Sunday there as often as he pleased ; an offer he did not accept. Then he wa6 sent for to a birthday party — lie went then, but what a dull, cold, formal affair it was. j Ruth in a white frock was sitting in a corner, with | her hands in her lap, looking grimly miserable, j and the three freckled youths were the picture of loutish ignorance and pride; while Missy in a fashionable dress, and with the marks of unwonted care bestowed upon her toilet, made facetious dives at Richie, and giggled and tormented him till he looked as miserable as Ruth herself. ' Yes, very pleasant,' said a kind, soft voice outside the window, in reply to some previous remark of Maud Hellicar's. ' Very pleasant,' thought Richie. ' Oh yes, very pleasant — I am so glad I came ; ' but he was so un comfortably red and hot that he shrunk back from the window, just seeing two white straw hats twined with black velvet, and a third with the nodding plumes of some defunct cock. It was the shorter of those two figures with the white hats that had spoken. Then there came the parsonage children and their fellow students from the Mount ; then the three young ladies entered, Caroline so very tall and fine in mind and body, and Esther with that gentle gravity ef hers. ' Oh, Richie,' she said pleasantly, with a frank shake of the hand, ' we did not know you liad a holiday to-day.' The Tristam with the light hair, who still lived at Biribang, wa6 also of the party. ' Glad to get away for a while,' he drawled, ' its horribly dull up at that old place, I'm bored to death 'pon honour — they say its haunted — rats I think in the walls — lots of broken windows, you know— all tumbling to pieces — 'pon honour, you know.' Mr. Hellicar turned a not very amiable face upon the speaker, and Max Ibotson blustered about country tools. ' Respectable families always have ghosts,' asserted Mrs. Hellicar, in an acrimonous tone, ' and, this is the ghost of a respectable family.' The Tristam evidently considered this particularly bright, and had just opened his wide mouth to laugh at his own wit, when his relative begged him, as a personal favour, not to make a fool of himself— and he retired into a corner evidently repeating to himself — it was one of his misfortunes that good things always suggested themselves after the right time had passed — what smart things, on his own authority, he would have said half an hour afterwards. Richie had listened with eager attention ; he never heard of Biribang. In little more than two years now he would be of age, the place was doubly interesting to him — he would have a home — the boy's cheeks always glowed when he was planning that home — and then he would search anew for his mother — though he had long believed her dead. Mr. Thorell had used efforts to find her, unsuccessfully, soon after he came to tha parish ; that is, as soon as he knew Richie's story. Missy had taken advantage of this absence of swveilfanee to elip up stairs, and now returned with
a huge knot ot faded pink ribbon pinned to her dress, and an old ostrich plume in her hair. She was quickly hurried away by her mother, and presently returned in a subdued mood. However, seated by Richie, the propensity to break into short laughs and pat and poke him, revived ; then Maud, who was just home from boarding school, and rather missish, carried away Esther, and had a great many little nothings to impart in whispers ; and then there was music and singing ; he was too shy to approach the piano, and Esther was rather a listener than a performer, for there was an absence of display about the girl, and she saw Maud was pleased to show her accomplish ments. Caroline, too, was a fine musician, and, like good players, fond of being placed at the piano. Altogether it was a dull evening, and when the Thorells had left, and Tristam said Esther was a nice little gal — ' 'pon honour she was, you know,' Richie had an insane desire to knock him down, and said ' Miss Esther was not little, but rather tall,' with a sharpness very unlike him. The three freckled- faced 3'ouths were missed during the evening, and could have been found, I regret to say, in one of the labourer's huts, smoking black pipes ; they did not see why fellows were not to enjoy themselves because it was Augusta's birthday. From this time Richie was frequently sent for to the Mount ; sometimes kept there two or three days ; a quiet pony was found for Missy, and he was set to escort her, holding the rein meanwhile. He was told how partial she was to his society, and that her ' little peculiarities ' were fast disappearing under his care and presence ; and, like all generous-hearted people, he began to take an interest in her, under the impression that he was conferring a benefit on her. There is nothing, perhaps, which clothes a person with so much interest as the power of doing them good. All these months Mr. and Mrs. Hellicar said, or thought, tliat their plans were succeeding — all these months the youth was simply pitying his cousin as an idiot. ^ ?