Chapter 19781686

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Chapter NumberXXXV
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19781686
Full Date1882-01-07
Page Number9
Corrections0
Word Count4254
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleGathered In
article text

The Storyteller.

Gathered In.

CHAPTER XXXV.

MRS. OSWALD'S DISCOVERY.

BY CATHERINE HELEN SPENCE. Author of "Clara Morison," "Mr. Hogarth's Will," "Hugh Lindsay's Guest," &c.

JIM OSWALD was received without much reproach at home; his mother was overjoyed, Kenneth cordial, and George Oswald was really glad that he had come back without Ellerton,

though it was all of a piece with his dislike to everything that was disagreeable that Jim had left the friend whom he appeared unable to live apart from when that friend was* in pain and in solitude. As there might be 1 iter telegrams at Wilta about the patient, Jim had a mission to go there to inquire as soon as possible. Kenneth had business in another direction, so for the first time in his life his cousin went to Mr. Gray's by himself. And now, when he was to see Mrs. Ellerton again without her husband and without Kenneth, how would she receive him after leaving his friend in this shabby way ? "She ought to be glad to get rid of him a little longer," he said to himself. "He never deserved such a woman ; he never behaved to her decently; he wanted to drive her on to the stage." But then, again, if Sybil knew what he had plotted with Carmiohael, how he had paid for the accident to happen, and would pay more if it was followed by more serf* oul consequences, Bbc was Bure to turn from him for ever. But she should never know. His reception at Wilta was by no means warm, either by the Grays or by Sybil herself. The family to whom she owed co much had so set their faces against her going to Sydney to nurse her husband, which she thought waa her duty, that she had returned an answer in the negative, but the telegrams were gloomy. The leg was not doing well, and the bruises looked very bad indeed. "If he drinks freely," thought Jim—"and he is sure to want to do that, especially as he seems dull and miserable—inflammation will Bet in, and then it is all up with him." Mr. Gray, however, had telegraphed direct to the surgeon, and his answer was not unfavour able, only that Mr. Ellerton was impatient of pain and of restraint. This Jim heard, and tried to think who was in the right There was not much sympathy expressed by the Grays for Ellerton'a sufferings. Indeed, Walter Gray openly said to bis late companion that it was a thousand pities it was not bis neck that was broken; and, although neither Edith nor her father said so, they could not help being a good deal of Walter's opinion. Sybil herself was much discomposed, and her conscience pricked her about leaving her husband to be cared for by mere strangers. Only she dreaded being reproached about the expense of the trip and the additional coßt of hotel living, after she had made the sacrifice to go to him, and she also shrunk from having the charge of an irri table and tyrannical invalid after bo many months of love and peace. No one at Wilta had expected Jim Oswald to take any trouble about his friend, and so no one was disappointed at his going off so suddenly. A Bick-room and Jim were, indeed, very discordant ideas. But his jealousy of bis cousin Kenneth was increased by everything be saw and heard both at home and at the Grays, 'ihe latter had visitors from Melbourne—tip-top people—and yet it was clear that they thought as much of Kenneth as of any of them. He was always lending and borrowing books ; he had suggested some alterations in the conservatory; he was to be of a picnic party in the hills the following day, to which Jim himself received no invitation, * The sole right to publish " Gathered In" in Queens land has been secured by the proprietors of the Quttni landtr.

-and th« Melbourne visitors thought they would gratify him by uyiug what a fine fellow his oouain wai, and how pleated they were to make his acquaintance. When he returned from this unsatisfactory visit Kenneth had also returned from Castle* burst. He had bis father's pass-book and hit bills and vouchers in his keeping; he was closeted with Mr. Oswald for a while over busi ness matters, and be (Jim) was twenty-one yean old, and made of no more amount than if he was a baby. His father did not seem able to turn without consulting this interloping cousin. Altogether Jim's spirits were very much ruffled, and he took refuge with his mother. And she was full of another grievance besides the £10,000, although she dwelt with some pro lixity on that as a wronging of both her son and herself. On George Oswald's last outbreak, which was a short one, for Kenneth had come in the midst of it from Cowarrel and aided Mick vigorously, she had, contrary to her usual custom, gone into his den. It had been a " burster" on the head of the great idat and glorification which had come to the old squatter of Tingalpa on account of bis princely liberality, in which be had been led to taste the forbidden stimulant iv extra large quantity at first, and then had gone on till he was especially bragging and communicative. The reason why she had always kept so care* fully away on such occasions was that, though an easy and indulgent*, though somewhat con* temptuous, husband at other times, in his drunken fits he used to say the most outrageous things, and to use the most violent threats to her. The mere sight of her irritated him, and nothing that she could say or do bad the slightest effeot in mollifying bis temper. But she hoped that when the brandy was in the truth might come out, and she fancied that she might thus get at the bottom of this £10,000, and learn how great a share Kenneth had in this robbery and spoliation. When he was sober, and she asked questions on this subject, her husband simply told her to hold her tongue, and not speak " havers;" that she did not understand business, and he did ; so she need not fash her tboomb on the matter. Her entrance into the room was the signal for Mick to withdraw, with the resolution not to leave her long there. " And so you're here, yon old cat I Just when I'm enjoying myself you pot in your tallow face to spoil my pleasure. It a enough to poison the brandy. Do you ken what for I like this room now and then ? Just because you keep out o't. Bat if you begin to follow me here something must be done, and that forthwith. Here's to a speedy riddance of you !" " You surely would not have me dead, George f' said hb wife pathetically. "Dead and buried—not dead without being buried; that would not do, but dead and buried ; what for no ?" " And you'd marry again, George f" still more pathetically. M And what for no T I'd do better nest time, I'se warrant" ''After the wife I've been to you all these years ?" she sobbed hysterically. " Plenty of them, owre many of them ; time I had a bit of a change." " And when I'm gone yon'd get a new mistress for Tingalpa, to get all say things, and have all my furniture that I take such pride in, and maybe turn poor Jim out of the house—your only son, Jim." MHe might not be my only son, then," said George Oswald slily, with a poor attempt at a wink. " I may have another son—ten sons, that would not cost me as much money and heart* ache as your precious Jim has done." "Oh ! you cruel, cruel man. I'd never have thought it of you to turn away onr Jim." "He turns himself away, you jade.' There's how many months—three, six, nine months after date pay to bearer ; yea, he aye minds to draw the bills, but he does not come back when he is due himself. No, it's pleasure—spending money —racketing about; but he does not honour the bills, nor his father, nor his mother that bore him—and a great bore you are yourself, Mrs. Oswald." " How can yon speak so, Mr. Oswald f I wonder at you," said the aggrieved wife and mother. " Faith, I've wondered at myself this twenty* two years that I ever took up with the like of you, goodwife. But I may get shot of you, and have a goodwif eof another kind. 1 have got one in my eye." M And who are you thinking of, you cruel wretch!" said Mrs. Oswald. " What do you think of Miss Edith Gray f said George Oswald, with another wink. " That's the right sort to make a mistress of Tingalpa of." " You old idiot!" said Mrs. Oswald, thoroughly exasperated at this outrageous proposition. "If you want Edith Gray you'd better turn away your fine nephew Kenneth, for he's-en the look out for her—like his impudence." " Turn away Kenneth, no ; he's worth ten of Jim ; ten of you—ten thousand pounds ; that's the sum. Kenneth put me up to it, and now it is dove. Lord ! it was a good stroke of business that; William Gray would never have done the like. When will he give me suoh a luck-penny for thae beasts he had of me in 1867 1 I've got the upper hand of William Gray now, and well he kens it; for be grippit me by the hand, and says he to me, ' I eavy you, Mr. Oswald ; I envy you your feelings.' And well he may—l'm glori ous as a king— »a king of good fellows. Let's have a glass on the head of it Take a glass your sel' to put a little colour into your panty face." " And you gave ten thousand pounds to please your beggarly brother's son, that you've done everything for ?" said Mrs. Oswald. " No my brother's son ; you're a leeing jade to say so. He's my Bister Isabel's son, and she was the bonniest lass that ever trod the heather. " Your sister's eon, nonsense; you're not your self, Mr. Oswald ; you don't know a sister from a brother." "Don't know dour Jamie from my bonny Isabel! There was an odds there. I'm as clear as a clock, woman, and ken what's what as well as if I was sitting drinking tea with you, and no this prime brandy. Here's to your better under standing, Mrs. Oswald," said her husband with mook gravity. " If he's your sister's son, then who was his father ?" asked Mrs, Oswald, whose ourloalty waa

strongly rooied by this remarkable communica tion. " That was her secret, and buried with her, and bo business of yours, you inquisitive—you impertinent—wtoman." " And that's the nephew you set over my Jim, your own son Jim ffcaaid the indignant wife and mother. "A base-bora that you might be ashamed of. School and college, keep and clothes, for years before you paid his passage out, and now to come and lord it over us all, and make you throw away half your fortune." 44 Half my fortune ! it's little ye ken about it. Lord ! I'm rich. Twenty.five thousand acres of bought land, a hundred and fifty thousand sheep, ten thousand head o' beasts" "Ten thousand fiddlesticks; you have not five," interrupted Mm. Oswald, " and even if you had all you say there's no reason you should throw away ten thousand pounds on these ungrateful Diroms, who looked as if they would not touch me with a pair of tongs, just because your - liter's bastard asked you." M Do you want me to throw this brandy bottle at your head and spill the good drink, and send the monkey of water after it in case it waa owre strong for your nerves ? I'll kill you on the spot if you say suoh things again. Isabel was ill guided, but I'll take my gospel oath that she was married, only the scoundrel made away with her marriage lines, and so she could prove nothing against him." : This Mrs. Oswald thought was a mere pretext, and waa quite certain that her husband had let the cat out of the bag. She left the room, for she dared not stay to question him further for fear of her life, but she was satisfied that aha had got valuable information, and said to herself ahe would not tell Jim, for it would make him wild. However, wb,en the mother and son had their confidential talk the temptation to tell him waa irresistible. Jim recollected the particular questions about bis father's auter Isabel, and the manner in which Hugh Carmiohael received the news that no one ever spoke of her. It waa aa clear as day to him that he bad a strong pull on his overrated cousin now ; and be took the earliest opportunity of alluding to the subject aa one spoken of by a man he met in Sydney, for he was discreet enough not to betray his mother's share in the revelation. Kenneth's change of colour and agitation showed that this shaft had struck home. Chaptib XXXVI. JIM OSWALD'S TWO SHOTS. How to let the Wilta household know his cousin's disgraceful birth without making him* self odious waa Jim'a next concern. His father's anger he was prepared to risk, but his father's bitter annoyance was aa nothing to him corn* pared with damaging his cousin with Mrs. Ellerton. If EUerlon himself, who hated Ken neth so thoroughly, bad been at hand, a word dropped to him would have been sufficient; the news would have been conveyed to Sibyl with certainty and despatch, and with all the. vinegar and gall possible mixed with it But Ellerton was far away, and slowly recovering; more waa the pity, in Jim's opinion. He might drop the disparaging fact to Mr. Gray or to Walter, but they kept him at arms' length; and, besides, they could not be trusted to tell either their sister or their guest suoh a pieoe of scandal. He had a notion that auch gentlemen do not corn* munieate these things to the ladies of their family. Jim knew no woman «xoept his mother who might be made the go-between, and Mrs. Oswald was too much afraid of her husband's anger to betray his secret Opportunity, however, aa he thought, favoured him. Kenneth's letter, ao carefully written, had arrived at Castle Diarmid when his father waa on a fishing excursion in Norway, whither his wife bad urged him to go to recruit when the cruel anxiety about Sibyl waa ended, and ahe had taken the turn for the Utter. Mr. M'Diarmid waa out of the reach of the post, and this letter, sent vid Brindisi, might need answering at once, and all Australian lettera were too interesting to brook delay; ao ahe looked at the signature, which inspired oonfi denoa. For in Sybil's own letters just received ahe had said that in case ahe never got back, or anything happened, the dear people at home must remember that she owed the deepest gratitude to the whole of the Gray family, especially to Edith, and to Mr. Kenneth Oawald, the nephew of % rich squatter near Wilta, who had shown her the most generous and thoughtful kindness. Young and old at Castle Diarmid got Kenneth Oswald's name by heart, and Norman and Flora speculated on a probable union of Sybil's two friends, and their visiting Castle Diarmid on their wedding tour. Mrs. M'Diarmid therefore had no hesitation in opening the letter, but she saw enough to alarm and distress her in it without the additional pang which might have out her to the heart if Kenneth had been leas carefuL He wrote as a alight acquaintance of Mr. M'Diarmid in years past, and as one who had seen much of Mrs. Ellerton, and was deeply interested in her happiness; and his account of the misery, the degradation, and the danger which Sybil had brought upon herself by her most unfortunate marriage was both startling and distressing. Sybil had never written a word of complaint. No one could have supposed that her husband was unkind or neglectful or untrustworthy from her own letters; and, although Mr. Gray and Edith had found it necessary to mention the unaccountable and prolonged absence in the other colonies and California, they had not dwelt on it aa a grievance, and it was evident that she was under the moat loving care at Wilta. This letter from a stranger, from whom Sybil had written that she had received so much kindness, was all too convincing to the anxious mother. She wrote to Kenneth a most grateful and courteous answer, explaining why she, and not the person to whom it was addressed, had opened bis letter; and then sat down to write to Sybil the most affectionate, the most distressing, the most peremptory entreaties and commands to leave for ever the unworthy husband whom she bad fancied she bad once loved, and to return to the old home with father, mother, brothers, and Bister. This letter reached Sybil at an unfortunate time. She had had a more affectionate and more miserable letter from her husband by the last Sydney, steamer than he had ever written

before. He missed her so very muoh ; he had Dot a soul to speak to, except a cad called Car michael, who sometimes looked in. Jim Oswald had behaved like a scoundrel; and could she be happy with every comfort and pleasant society at Wilta when he was as hard up as possible ? Hotel bills, doctors' bills, were running up, and he would not have enough to bring him back' to his dear wife, far less to bring her to him, as he had wished when he longed so for her. There was only one thing she could do for him, and he hesitated much about asking it Could she borrow £50 from Mr. Gray ? or could she make up her mind to sell her ring—the only article of value she possessed—to enable him to get hornet He w.i s ashamed to ask it of tier, for be knew how she prized it; but really this was a very coßtly business being laid up in a Sydney hotel. fi>i; but he had known that the Grays disliked 1) in, and that it would really be better for her if he stayed away—and latterly he had lived upon her letters. Altogether it was a most moving epistle, and upon that to hear that the dear ones at home bad heard such shameful stories of him, and bad been told that she should desert him—now that he needed her so much—roused Sybil's strong indignation. Firat she suspected the Grays, but both father, son, and daughter denied having written anything but what she authorised them to say. Edith, of course, knew who had done it, and was only too pleased that the revelation had been made; but ahe would give her no due. Sybil did not think Kenneth could do suoh a thing; but it flashed across her that old Mr. Oswald might have taken up the pen to try to separate her from her husband, and get her safe out of his son's path in her old Highland home, for now it was evident that all these long months of absence had made no difference on Jim's feelings—only that he could not haunt Wilta as muoh as he had haunted the house at Castlehursl While Sybil was chafing at the unpardonable liberty which some one had taken, and wonder* ing who it could be, Jim Oswald came to pay a visit, ostensibly to hear what news there was from Sydney about Ellerton, and he found^be object of his devotion for once in bis life decidedly out of temper. Edith of course mounted guard over her friend at Wilta—she could do fur Sybil then what Kenneth had done so steadfastly at Castlehurst. The Sydney news was not good. Mr. Ellerton was very dull, and getting on very slowly. Jim ventured to ask about the English mail letter— he knew that his cousin had received a letter with a Far North postmark, like what Mrs. Ellerton's letters had, and this had excited his curiosity, especially as he saw that bis father was kept in ignorance about it sb well as himself. Mrs. Ellerton seemed even more agitated about her Scottish letters than about her Sydney one. " Bad news, 1 hear ?" said he. "Tea, very bad news—some one has been writing, alarming my people most unnecessarily and most unwarrantably." " Oh, that's it," said Jim; " I Bee—l see now." "What do you see?" said Sybil abruptly, almost fiercely. "This has been my cousin Ken's doing." ." Tour cousin Kennet^h ? surely not," said SyML " He's too much of a gentleman to take such an unpardonable liberty." " I'll bet a £10 note that ie is him that's done it. It is just like his impudence. Tou don't know the amount of cheek he has." " I could not have expected such conduct from him. I looked on him aB a friend ; I looked on him as a gentleman," said Sybil vehemently. " Much more of a gentleman than me. He has the smooth tongue and the underhand way with him," said Jim, who rejoiced in this'altered tone on Sybil's part. * " I'll tell him what I think of him when I see him. I'll never forgive him—to grieve them all so muoh. How can I ever undo the miaohief he has done ? How can I make him write to retract every word be has written and say he is ashamed of himself? If he could act thus, there can be no hold on him." "Not the least. You'll find he just glories in what he has done," said Jim, revelling in the indignation so freely expressed by Sybil towards his cousin. Edith Qray heard them until now in silence. She knew what Kenneth had done ; he had urged the family to take Sybil completely out of his reach—where he would never see that dear face or hear that sweet voice more. How hard it must have been for him to do ; and then to be misunderstood by the object of so much unselfish devotion t " Do not be too eager to blame your friend," she at last managed to say. " All we have seen of Mr. Kenneth Oswald, all that we know of him, we respect. What we do not quite understand, I think we may trust that it will be equally above reproach." " Even his birth ?" said Jim Oswald. "We should reproach no one for the accident of birth. Tou see, Mrs. Ellerton does not look down on me, though we are of such different ancestry." "But I look down on Kenneth's," said Jim. " His father and mother were born poor and died poor," said Edith Gray, calmly. "Your father and mother were born poor and are likely to die rich. I see no difference there." "Oh I the poverty is not the thing I care about. At least I Jcnvw who my father and mother are, and that would puzzle Kenneth, I think." Edith recollected the change of countenance when Kenneth first caught the title " The Blot on the Scutcheon," and two or three other aigns thst convinced her that this ungrateful and un gracious Jim iv this cruel thrußt was speaking the truth. Poor fellow 1 how hard it was for him, with his sensitive nature, with bis love of all that was noble, with his desire for perfect open ness and sincerity, to have this ugly secret, gnawing at his heart Well, the birth was low enough ! not even honestly born ! Old George Oswald, his mott respectable connection, and he himself felt to be a disgrace to such a cub as Jim himßelf. Mrs. Ellerton coloured a little as her friend got agitated. The spitefulneßß of Jim's revels* lations restored Kenneth to a little of his former favour.

" 1 must hear what he has got to say for him self before I judge him too harshly; and, perhaps, it was not he who wrote this cruel letter after aIL" Jim thought he had rather missed fire with bis second shot with Mrs. Ellerton ; but he had certainly impressed Edith Gray. If there was anything that she prized un reasonably it was birth, and especially honest birth. In spite of her tears over Mildred in her favourite drama she had a rooted prejudice against the bar sinister, even across royal arms. It brought a stigma which no extraneous titles oould efface. Every ducal house which claimed through Charles 11. she held lower than the family whioh could count their pedigree from honest men and virtuous women as far back as it 'could be traced. The strong interest she felt in Kenneth was now mixed with infinite pity. [to be continued.]