|Chapter Title||"IT SEEMS INCREDIBLE."|
|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
"IT 8BEMS INCBEDIBLB."
Both Arley and Miss McAllister regarded there treating girl with amaztnent so profound that, for the moment, they were rendered speechless.
Could it be possible that the gi 1 had only come to them, as she said, to establish her identity, and was now willing to return to the toil and obscurity of the life which she had been leading P Had ehe no thoughts of her rights of heritage P of the position ehe might occupy as the granddaughter of Dr. McAllis- ter, and the heiress to his property ?
¿' Stop 1" Arley cried, as soon as she could collect her scattered wits, and just as the young girl was going to pass out of the room,
Ina turned, with a half-frightened look, at the authoritative command.
" Where are you going P" Arley asked.
"Back to Mrs. Alden. They bave been very kind to me, and I have been happier with them then I ever was in my life before ; and they will be glad to keep me with them bb long as I like to stay," Ina
" But-but-it seems incredible ! Was your only object in coming here juBt to establish your identity P Had you nothing else in view P" And Arley studied the fair face earnestly, as she put these questions,
. " No, that was al) ; I could not rest satisfied until I knew who I was. I wanted to be ewe that there had been an Evelyn Wentworth-to hear her friends acknowledge her and confess that I must be her child. At first," ehe continued, her sweet lips trem- bling, " or until I saw Mr. Holley, I bad à faint hope that one or both of my parents might be living and would gladly claim their long lost child. Oh I how happy I should have been to have found them, and to have been sheltered by their care and love, but since that cannot be I am content with the know- ledge I have gained from you to-day. Perhaps-"
She hesitated and cast a wistful look at Miss
McAllister, which touched her deeply.
"Perhaps what?" Arley questioned still regarding her closely.
"Perhaps," and her eyes were still fixed appealingly on the old lady's face, " you might be willing, since you believe me to be the child of your niece, that I should come to Bee you once in awhile to leam some- thing about my father and mother. Oh 1 you can never know how meagre my life has been, and how I have yearned for love like theirs," and a little sob choked her utterance,
Without giving her aunt time to reply to this appeal, Arley got up from her chair and crossed the room to where the girl stood, with her hand still resting upon the knob of the door.
She laid her two hands upon her shoulders and looked searchingiy down into her clear, earnest eyes
" Did you not expect to come here to live? This would have been your home-all theseluxuries youre, you know, if you had been brought here instead of me. Did you have no thought of the fortune which my grandfather-your grandfather left to his grand- child P Tell me, she added, almost fiercely, " you who have got the face, and eyes, of the woman whom I have always revered as my mother, did you not come here to wrest all these things from me, together with my name and birthright P"
The gentle girl shrank just n little from her ques- tioner, with her intense gaze and tones, but she answered with exceeding sweetness, yet with a. sort of impressive dignity.
" No ; believe me, I did not ; all that I wished for was the right to bear my father's name-to be ac knowledged as his child. I wish to take nothing from you of all the comforts that you have been led to believe your own, I have made you unhappy enough by proving my claim to tbe name which you have always borne, and I will not make an enemy of you. Now I have told you why I carne, let me go and I will never annoy you again."
" But, child, I never beard of euch a thing 1 All these things are yours-this beautiful home-alas I I believe I never realised until this moment how very beautiful and dear it is 1" Arley said, in trembling tones, looking around upon all the luxuries which lay about her, " and the fortune which Dr. McAllister left-a fortune of twenty thousand pounds. It is yours by right of heritage,"
"I know; Mr. Alden said something of this to me," Ina returned with a troubled, nneaey glance at ber companion "but I could net think of taking them away from you, who, all your life, have regarded them as belonging to you. Dr. McAllister always looked upon you as his grand* child ; you grew up under his love and care ; to you, the child of his affection, he gave this lovely hume and his fortune, and not to me, of whose existence be was wholly ignorant."
'' But the law will give it all to you. It will de- cree that it all belongs to you, the real heir," Arley persisted.
" The law need have nothing to do Bbout it," Ina answered, quickly. "And oh 11 do not wish to de- prive you of one siegle thing. I should feel mean, degraded to take from you what has become a neces- sity to you from the force of habit and expectation, Tou have been very tenderly reared, and led to believe that all your future would be like the pest, since ample provision was made for you in Dr. McAllister'« will: It would be cruel for me to wrest it from you and consign you to such poverty as I bave known. You could sever work for your living, while I bave been brought up to take care of, and depend upon, myself."
" Tou are the straneest, most unselfish girl that I ever met in my life 1" Arley exclaimed, regarding her wonderiagly and with a sort of reverence ; and then, actuated by an impulse which she could not resist, she bent forward and kissed the fair, upturned
Ina caught her breath quickly at the act.
"I thought you would almost bate me," ehe said, with a little sob; "and, oh! you never can know bow I dreaded to come to you."
" Bate you 1 It would be impossible to bate such a sweet spirit as you bave shown yourself to be," Arley answered, earnestly. " But you must not be allowed to wrong yourself ; right is rieht, You are the child of this house. 1 am simply a usurper-an unintentional one, tis true, yet a usurper none the less. Good beavens 1" she cried, wildly, as if sud- denly overpowered by the thought ; " if you are the real Arley Wentworth, ioho and what ami? Where, in all this wide world, are my kindred, and how am I ever to find them ?"
" But wait," she added, more calmly. " I must cot think of that now ; justice must be done first."
She moved with a quick, firm step across the room and rang her bell again.
" Mary, send Mr, Paxton here immediately," she
commanded of the girl when Bhe carne.
" Tea'm ; he were inquiring about you a minute ago," she answered, gazing curiously from one agit- ated face to another, and then disappearing to do her mistress' bidding.
Then, for a moment, Arley's forced composure
With a sudden rain of tears, she turned to Miss McAllister and threw herself into her arms.
" Ob, auntie, auntie I" she sobbed ; " can it be possible that I do not belong to you at all P-that all your care and affection for so many years have been given to an impostor P"
" Hush hush, my darling 1" the old lady said brokenly, while she fondly smoothed the bright bead upon her shoulder with her trembling hand. " Do not call yourself such hard, such unnecessary names. Whoever you may prove to be, you will still be my dear child just the tame. It cannot alter the fact that I bave slways loved you, and thall love you just as long as I live."
"But I must give up everything to her. I must go away, and surrender all that has been so dear to me," said stricken Arley.
" You must, and will, of course,do what is right" Misa McAllister returned, gravely; " but it does not follow that our affection for each other will ever be any the less. You were going away from me, any- way. Your husband has claimed you ; and so per- haps, God has sent me this other child, bo that I need not be quite bo lonely in my old age without you."
" What a comforter you are, auntie, and how selfish of me not to have thought of you in this connection. She witt be a comfort to you, I know," the young wife said looking up, and trying to emile through her tears ; and just then Phillip Paxton entered the
" What does this mean?" be asked, stopping thort as he observed bis wife's tear-stained face, and regard- ing the young stranger with questioning purpose.
"I have some étrange news for you, Phillip," Arley said, going to him and laying her hand upon
" It must be both strange and sad to make you weep like this on your wedding-day," he replied tenderly as he encircled her Blight waist with his arm and regarded her anxiously. " What is it,
Sha told bim in as few words as possible all ihe strange story, and her heart sank withiu her as she noted bow the tender, anxious light died out of his eyes as he lietened ; how his face grew pale and stern, and a dogged, resolute expression settled about bis lips. Instinctively she knew that be did net mean to acknowledge this stranger's claim, that be meant to contend for the name, position, and fortune which rightly belonged to her by the ties ef consan- guinity.
But she omitted no point of proof. She explained everything, showing him the pretty little garments together with the chain and ring which Miss McAlli- ster bad recognized as the very ones which she and her brother had sent to Evelyn's child in far-away India:
" You see, Phillip," she said, sadly, in conclusion, "that you have not married Arley Wentworth after all, but some poor, nameless waif, who was cast np by the sea and brought here by mistake, to occupy the position and appropriate all the love and care which Belonged to another. All my life I hove been usurping this poor girl's place and privileges, while she has endured only hardships and poverty.
Had Philip Paxton been a man, loyal and true, he would at once have taken his wife in his arms, and told her that though he might not have married tbe " real Arley Wentworth," yet having won the woman whom alone he loved, he would be content, and the stranger might have all else, and welcome.
But be appeared to pay no heed to tbe appeal con- tained in her words.
He turned almost fiercely upon Ina, and said, with scornfully curling lips, and in tones that were cold
and stern :
" Surely you can expect no one to believe a trum- ped-up story like this-a mere fabrication, cunningly woven I am bound to confess-which will not bear investigation, and muet-let me assure you-fail of its object,"
" But, Philip," Arley interposed, and shrinking to hear him speak so severely, "here are the very clothes that she wore when she waa found, and this little chain and ring, which Aunt-ArgeliDe recognised
at once. *
" Yee," said Miss McAllister, " I bought that ring and had it marked, and I must confess I whb a trine hurt when Arley was brought to us and it was not upon her band, while she wore, instead, a fine and costly emerald. It wob, of conree, a more expensive ornament, but whoever presented it could not have done so -vith more love than I experienced wheo I sent my simple offering to Evelyn's child. I tried to think, however, that her finger might bave outgrown my ring ; but I see now that I wes wrong, and its absence is fully explained."
Philip scowled st the inoffensive little trinketB and the garments, which, his wife and Miss McAllister asserted, proved so much,
"They prove nothing," he insisted; "they may have been washed ashore, after the wreck, and picked np by some fisherman, who now tends his child for to with this story in order to secure your fortune end position."
"But she was dressed in these things when she w&B found," persisted Arley, while she flushed a deep crimson at his rude implication of falsehood and in- trigue on the part of the stranger.
" How do you know that ?" he demanded ; " yon have nothing but her word to prove it ; it does not follow that it was really the fact, simply because she says bo. Then just think, Arley, it is not et all likely that a Bailor, who had been on the same vessel with you when he came from India, could have mis- taken you for some other child,- if he had not known who you were, he would never have Eent you to Dr,
" I think the sailor might very easily have mis- taken me in all the confusion and terror of that wreck, particularly if, as it now seems, there was
anotherjcbild about my own age on the same vessel," j
Arley replied, gravely. ¡ ~JZZ£Z : . ..*
" Noneence ; it is all mere fiction-afplot to secure your money," he retorted, irritably.
Ina, who bad not yet spoken since his .entrance, now advanced and stood before him. Her eyes glowed and her cheeks burned hotly at his words, while her graceful form was drawn proudly erect.
" I beg pardon," she said, with something of hau- teur, " but the gentleman is mistaken; I have spoken only truth-everything is exactly as I have stated."
" But, my dear young lady, that is merely an as- sertion, without anything to corroborate it, and you woul d find it very difficult to prove it before a jury," Philip said, more politely than he bad yet spoken, for her manner impressed him in spite of his scepti-
"I shall never try to prove it before a jury," she returned, with dignity. " I am satisfied in my own mind that I am the child of Captain and Mrs. Went- worth, and that is sufficient."
" Then you do notjintend to take any legal [steps
to Becure your so-called rights ?" Philip said, eagerly,
" Ko, sir," she returned, but there was a little quiver of scorn in her voice which nettled bim, and made bim wonder, as Arley bad done, how it was possible for any one brought up as she had been to acquire so much refinment and Belf-posteesion ; " no, sir ; as I hare already told Mrs. Paxton, I carne here with no intention of depriving her of anything; I simply wish to assume my own name, and since she has to- day taken yours, that cannot possibly barm ber in any way."
He looked intensely¡relieved at this assurance,"and
remarked to his wife.
"Then you are all right, Arley, there will bijnö
" I do not understand you," she returned with a
" Wby, if she takes no legal steps against you, you can still retain your fortune, and it would be a great pity, after having been led to expect it all your life, for you to be deprived of it in this way."
She turned upon him with blazing eyes,
i " Philip 1" she cried, in indignant astonishment,
I "I did not expect anything like this from you,"
she said. " Would it be just-would it be honour- able to keep it P"
" Why not P Dr. McAllister left you twenty thous- and pounds, and of course he expected that you, would keep it, and use it for. your own benefit.
"He left it to «Arley Wentworth, his beloved grandchild,' I am not ' Arley Wentworth ;' I am not his grandchild,' as has been proven to my satisfaction to-day, and therefore I have norigbt to a single pound of his money. Just think," she went on, excitedly, " of b11 that I have spent since I came into possess- ion of this wealth. I have appropriated all the in- come year after year, spending it for my own selfish gratification, while she," with a swift motion of her hand toward Ina, " the real Arley, and rightful heir, has been in poverty and want 1 think of all that I bave flittered away upon this wedding finery to make myself attractive in your eyes 1 I feel condemned, guilty, like a thief I Look at her there in her cheap, simple garments, and then at me in my.rich travel- ing attire, while all my life I have been sheltered by the tender care end love which should have been hers. It makes me almost hate myself to think that I huye deprived her of all this, and yet I would not wilfully have wronged her of a single shilling bad I known of this before, No, Philip, if you would retain my respect, you must not so much as .suggest to me that I keep this fortune, ehe must have it all, to the last farthing," Bhe concluded, with a positiveneBs whicb left him in no doubt as to her purpose.
He frowned darkly, andfl muttered [something under]his breath.
" Whatftdid you say ?'" she asked, g while-] she searched¡hiB face anxiously. fiKggä ¿jT-..' -i-a
" Nothing- never mind now," she said, hastily, then added, more calmly : " Tou are too impulsive Arley, it is cot right that you Bhould impoverish yourself so recklessly. If you are convinced I am not, and I, with my better judgment regarding wordly affairs, am not going to allow you to do yourself this wrong-at least without incontestable proof that this young woman is what she claims to be. But," looking at his watch somewhat nervous- ly, " It is almost time for us to leave, and our friends below will wonder what is detaining you so long. I presume you can be excused," he added, sarcasti- cally, and flashiog a look at the stranger, " and this matter can be looked into further upon our return."
But Arley sank down upon a chair and covered her face with'her hands.
"Ob, I cannot meet,any one now," she said, in a voice of distress. " I cannot go away. Philip, until this matter is settled. Go down and tell our friends that I am ill-for indeed I fell wretchedly-tell them that our journey must be postponed for to-day, and
ask them to excuse me."
" NoHsence, Arley I this will never do at nil," Phi- lip returned, impatiently, "you must come; our tickets are purchased and everything arranged for the trip."
But ehe shook her head resolutely, and repeated :
" I can not go until this question is proved and
" It will never be proved," he cried hotly, " for there is no truth in this story, we have not the Bligh teBt real proof that this girl is what she claims,"
Miss McAllister bad listened to him throughout with a grave face; now she approached him, and
'' Wait, Mr, Paxton, lor u lew moments, Iwact t» go down stairs, and perhaps I can help you a little
about this matter when I return."
" Very well," he answered, gloomily, and walking; to a window looked moodily out upon the street, while ehe quickly left the room.