|Chapter Title||THE ENGAGEMENT RING.|
|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
THE BN8AGEMKNT BING.
Ina Wentworth stood iu deep thought for several moments aft« her friend had gone, then, with a reso- lute air, she walked directly acroBS the room, and stood before Philip Paxton,
" Mr. Paxton," she began, in a frank, straightfor- ward way, " I d o not wish y ou to regard me as an enemy who has stolen into your camp to plunder you, I tell you honestly, I do not want your wife's fortune, I 1 have never even thought of taking it from her ; for,"
she said, with a charming smile, which revealed two rows of white, even teeth,"having never known the convenience or luxury of possessing so much money, I can still be very happy without it."
Philip lifted his head and looked at her in a scep-
" You are very good to say so," he said, coldly.
She flushed athis tone which was almost insulting, " It is evident that you do not intend to be friendly with me," she said, with dignity," but I do not know as that need to interfere with my plans, and inten- tions ; if, however, you will use your influence with your wife, and persuade her that I do not want this money, and make ber keep it, I shall be very glad. I think from what Miss McAllister has said, that she desires me to make my home with her, as Mrs. Pax- ton is going'awBy, and if I can get a few pupils I have no doubt that I can earn sufficient for my other
" Indeed 1 Perhaps you are fishing for the old lady's fortune also," Philip said, rudely.
, Ina lifted a pair of surprised eyes to his gloomy
" I did not even know that she had a fortune," she remarked, simply, but the crimson blood swept hotly up to her brow as she spoke,
She was very indignant at him for his impudence, but she was not lacking in spirit for all her gentle nef». She drew herself up proudly, and said, looking straight into his eyes ;
" I perceive that it is useless for ma to attempt to conciliate you upon any point; but what I have said to you I bave said in perfect good faith, and you can accept it and act upon it, or you can reject it if you
With a graceful little bow, she turned and left him, without another word, while he gazed wonder ingly after her, and muttered >
" Who would ever believe that she was reared in a fisherman's hut ? She speaks and acts like a lady of culture and refinement, and she must have improved her later opportunities wonderfully well to appear so polished. However, I suppose it is one of those instances where . blood will tell.' But-hang it !-if she really is Captain Wentworths daughter, who on earth is Arley P and why couldn't this dtntuement have happened yesterday-last week-any time rather than to-day P I'm in ñ devil of a pickle, or shall be, if I cannot manage some way to keep this fortune. These disappointments and reverses, one after another, are making a veritable demon of me> I feel as if I should do something desperate if I am pushed much closer to the wall."
He arose, and paced the room excitedly, muttering irritably to himself, while his face was deeply flushed
Poor Arley, up stairs, meantime had come to her- self, and was trying to look her fate as calmly and sensibly in the face as possible.
Her proud spirit utterly rebelled against appropria- ting, for even another day, that which rightfully be- longed to another, and she told Miss McAllister that everything must be made over to Ina at once,
"I honor you, dear, for your readinese to deal justly," the old lady said, with a glow of pride in the girl's rectitude. " It is but right, of course, accord- ing to the lan of heritage, that she should come into possession of her grandfather's fortune, and I know that the consciousness of having performed a noble deed will more than repay you for the IOBB of it."
If ehe couM have known of all that Arley waa to suffer in consequence of it, she might not have spoken quite so confidently upon this point.
"Doubtless it will be a little uncomfortable at
first," she added, " not to receive your accustomed income, and it will probably be a disappointment to your husbaDd to have you deprived of any of the independence whieh you have hitherto enjoyed, but, believe me, you will be no loser in the end."
She did not tell her then of her own secret deter- mination to bequeath to her the whole of her own fortune, which would amount to nearly as
much as her brothel's, if she proved true to her- ' self and tbe right, and cheerfully relinquished to Ina
Wil Hamilton, with great tact, made'both Phillip's und Arley'a excuses, and the wedding guests politely retired, with many expressions of regret for the
bride's sudden illness,
Lady Elaine went up to see her before she left, and was told Bometbintj of what had occurred, and was both shocked and grieved for her friend.
She wound her arms about her, and tried to whis- per some words of comfort; but Arley could not bear tbem even from her just then.
" I am so confused and nervous, dear Elaine, that I cannot talk about it now; I will write you the whole story when I am more calm. I have not, however," she added, with a wan smile, " forgotten what you said to me when we were at Hazelmere, and shall try to ' make the best of it,' although there does not seem to be any best about it to me just now."
" Be k no ws all about it, dear, and He will lead you in just the best way. Cast nil your care upon Him, for He careth for you," Lady Blaine answered, tenderly and then left her, with a heart full of misgivings as to how Phillip would bear this blow to his hopes,
She felt that he ought to have been by Arle j's e ide
for he could camfort her as no one else could ; but he | was nowhere to be seen, and his absence did not look I well for her happiness. ]
* * ' # # * #
" Phillip, it is no use for you to talk to me in any such way ; my mind is made up to do what is right and nothing will turn me from my purpose."
Thus Arley Paxton spoke, after an hour's fruitless argument with her husband, on the contested point of that twenty thousand pounds.
As soon as she bad left equal to the erdeal, she had dismissed every one from her room, and sent for her
husband to come to her.
" But I think / should have a voice in this matter, I am your husband, and I bave rights now which should be considered," he said, moodily.
" That is true ; I have promised to ' love honor, and obey you,' and I shall gladly do so in everything possible. But I cannot sacrifice principle, even to you."
! "Sacrifice fiddlesticks !" he retorted, impatiently, i " Dr McAllister gave this money to you -he meant you to have it, and no one else, and I am bound that you shall keep it."
" We have gone over all that ground before," Ar- ley said, wearily j " but, Philip, reverse the position, Suppose th%t/hBd been this girl, and at the same time your wife, and the knowledge had come to us that & mistake had been made in our identity, and that I ought to be in her place and she in mine, would you have contended then, that she ought to keep the fortune which Dr. McAllister left to his granddaughter, or would yon have said that blood should inherit, and that it rightly belonged to me f "
Philip Paxton* flushed hotly at this question, and felt very uncomfortable, with those clear eyes of his wife fixed so eearcbingly upon him, ,
" That alters the case of course; Btill-" he stop- ped, and looked ashamed for having admitted so
" No, it does not alter the case at all," Arley Baid, in a clear, firm tone. Then going up to him, and laying her band upon his arm, she asked, with white trembling lips :
"Philip, did you marry me for this money ?"
He shook her hand off nervously.
" What an absurd question, Arley 1" he exclaimed, irritably; yet the red blood flooded his whole face.
" Then, if you did not-if you married me for my- self, and because you loved me as-I love you, how how CB» you ask me to do this dishonourable thing and expect to retain your respect and affection for me ? I Bm sorry that I must come to you penniless. I was glad to have this fortune for your sake, be- cause I know that though you are talented in your profession, you have your own future to carve out, and I hoped that this money would be a help to you, But / will help you with every power that I h-ve. I will give my whole life to assist you to rise, and become all that you desire to be. I will try not to hamper you in any way, and I believe we shall be very happy, far happier than if we committed a theft -for I can view the keeping of thiB money in no other light-to secure a foundation to build upon."
Philip appeared to be absorbed in profound thought for several moments after she ceased speak- ing.
But at last, looking'up at her. he said, with an air of desperation :
" If you persist in this quixotic idea-in this piece of mad folly, we are nothing but a coupla of beggars. I may as well tell you, first as last, that I have lost everything thatl bad-lost it in a foolish spéculation) and I have not a hundred pounds in the world ; BO if you give up all your claims to this girl, we shall have no horne and nothing to depend upon. Can you tamely give up all this ?" he asked, looking round upon the luxurious furnishings of her room. " Can you bear to leave this beautiful home, where you have been accustomed to have everything that heart could wish, and go into miserable lodgings, such as I in my present circumstances, can afford to give you f Can you give up your fine clothes, your jewels, your ponies and carriage, and everything that has hitherto made life so attractive to you P"
Yes, I can give them all up, Philip because I know that it ia right and just that I should, I would rather never have another dainty or pretty thing as long es I live, than to have it in a dishonorable way -my honor and n clear conscience are more to me than all the luxuries of the universe," Arley replied, firmly and earnestly.
"Well, J shall not relinquish your Claim without a struggle, I can assure you," Philip returned, red- dening with anger ; we cannot afford te be deprived of everything thus by a single blow."
" We have each other left, Philip," Arley said gently.
" Yes, and poverty staring us in the face. We cannot very well eat each other, and how we are to live is more than I can teilte retorted with bitter
"How much does your profession yield you annually F" the young wife asked with a eigh, a look of keen pain in her eyes.
" I have no stated income-I have just what I
work for," he said,
" But about what has it averaged during the last two or three years ?" she persisted.
*' Perhaps three hundred pounds. But I have made a good deal by speculating outside, and if I bad been successful in this last venture, I should have been a rich man comparatively te-day."
Three hundred pounds a year ! It seemed very little to the inexperienced giri. She had spent more than twice that amount on her trosseau, and Bbe had never in all her life known what it meant to be econo- mical. Miss McAllister's income was aa large as her own, while her own wants were comparatively few, and she had always been ready to fill tbe puree of her pretty niece, if it cbsnced to get empty before her quarterly allowance was due, and there she never had
a wish uhgratifled.
But notwithstanding, the thought of poverty and self-denial did not daunt her, for she waa a brave and honourable little woman at heart, as we shall see,
" It seems very little," she said, thoughtfully, " but I suppose there are people who live upon much less than even that, and are quite happy, Philip," with a little tremulous emile, that was exceedingly pitiful. " If you will not miad being hardened with a penni- less wife, I shall be content- I shall not need any- thing new in the way of clothing for a long time. We can take a couple of comfortable, yet inexpensive rooms somewhere, and have our meals brought ia to ÜB, and I am sure we shall do very well, and be very happy."
He turned away from her impatiently, a sneer on his lip, and muttering something that she could not
She looked to him sadly, an expression of bitter pain in her dark eyes. She was a bride of only a few hours, and this experience was different from the happiness and enjoyment which she had anticipated.
There was a fearful sinking at her heart, too, at this strange treatment from her husband, when he should have been tender and sympathetic regarding her trouble, when he should have soothed her with hind and loving words, he was harsh and unkind, appearing to think more of his own disappointment over the loss of her fortune, than of the great trial in which she was suddenly involved regarding the mystery enshrouding her identity.
Suddenly she approached him, growing first red, then pale,
" Philip, when was it that you lost in this specu- lation of which you were telling me ?" she asked, eagerly, and then waited almost breathlessly for his reply.
The question took him unawares, and he did not stop to consider his answer.
"I,received news of it on the 18th ef July," he
"Arley started and caught her breath, but before she spoke sbe drew off her engagement ring, and looked at the marking upon the inside of it.
It wat dated the 26ÍA of July, only a little more than a wtek after be had known of his loss,
This discovery made Arley heart-sick, and almost faint. He had not begun to pay her marked atten- tion until after that, and she could not help thinking from the fact of his having suddenly trasferred his devotion from Lady Elaine to her, after the an- nouncement of her ladyship's engagement, that he had done so with the deliberate purpose of getting possession of her fortune, rather than from any deep feeling of love that he bore her.
But at all events, whether be loved her or not, it was not the part of an honorable gentleman to make proposals of marriage to any lady when he was in- volved is such serious embarrassments,
" Philip 1" she cried, sharply, and holding out the ring to him, "you lost your money 18th, and you asked me to marry you the 25th."
" The devil 1" he muttered, with a great start, as be suddenly realized the awkward position in which he had placed himself.
" Well, I can't help it," he admitted, with averted eyes; "yes, I did."
" Ob, Phillp ! then it was my money, after all-it was not me that you wanted ; you did not really love me," Arley ea¡d, in a despairing voice,
"Are you not assuming considerable?" be asked..
"Will you answer me one question, and answer it honestly?" she questioned, her eyes burning like coals of fire, and two very bright spots concentrated
on her cheeks.
" I will endeavour to do so," he replied, sarcastic- ally.
" Well, then, if I had been a poor girl at that time would you have asked me to become your wife ?"
" Nonsense, Arley ; why will you torture yourself and me with such useless questions ?"
" Answer me ; you said that you would 5 if I had then stood in the doubtful position in which I find myself to-day, would you have asked me to marry you P I will know."
" No, I suppose I should not, if you are determined to be answered," he said, recklessly ; *. I should not have felt justified io so doing, since I was not in cir- cumstances to support a wife."
Poor Arley sank down upon the floor in a heap, a cry of mortal pain escaping her.
She felt sure now that be had no love for her that all he had cared for had been that wretched twenty-thousand pounds, and she felt like a man in mid-ocsan, whose only support had suddenly been swept a way from him, leaving him at the mercy of the overwhelming waves.
Philip, regarding the prostrate girl, felí like a wretch, and cursed his folly for not having been more on his guard in answering her question?,
But he was yary angry with her for being so obsti- nate about contesting Ina'e claim ; her questions, too» nettled him, while her senee of honour and justice
He did love her-or believed he did-but he was so wilful and so irritated, that he would not confess it to her, even had he not felt that it waa rather late in the day to do so, after all the other acknowledge-
ments he bad made,
Self bad been his chief idol, however, and his prin- cipal aim had thus far been to secure for bimsef a life of comfort and enjoyment-to make all the money he could by work, speculation, or otherwise, with the hope of. attaining, by and by, a foothold amongst the very first people of England.
He was talented and smart ; he had it in him to accomplish almost anything that he choose in the way of professional advancement; but his losses pecuniarily, and now this disappointment added, made him fee) that he had been very badly treated, engendering a feeling of resentment that made him reckless as to whom he vented his spite upon, conse- quently Arley received the brunt of it all
Much of this misery might have been remedied even now if he had been tender and true; if he had gone to her and taken her into his arms, confessed his wrong, asking her to bear with him and help him conquer himself and his adverse circumstances, her true, noble heart would have responded at once, and She would have had courage to brave any hardship with his love to rely npoc.
If any one had told him, a year ago, to what depthB he would be sunk by his obstinacy and the antagonism which hie misfortunes aroused, he would
have refuted toe statement most indignantly. He bad always prided himself upon being an upright and honorable man, never dreaming of the furies which lay sleeping in his heart; but now. they seemed to have been suddenly aroused and to have taken possession of him, to the utter exclusion of all the nobler and gentler traits which had hitherto influenced him.