Chapter 20707738

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Chapter NumberXX
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1881-06-18
Page Number777
Word Count4592
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleConstance Duchesne: Is Life Worth the Living?
article text

The Storyteller.

Constance Duchesne: Is Life Worth the Living?



So delighted was Dr. Pemberton when the happy thought occurred to him, that he was nearly getting out of the train which was carrying him to his Berkshire home to go back

to Thames Ditton. Another moment s reflection made him change hit mind. He knew well, from the long familiarity with the aez that an extensive praotioe had given him, that the surest way to make a woman refuse to follow any •pedal course is to seem very desirous that she should do so. As a general rule the fair creatures, like pigs, must be managed by the rule of eon* trary. Mention a pleasant project, but point out that it would be specially undesirable that they should follow it, and they rush at the thing at once. Much aa he respected Constance, several matters made him suspect that she was no exception to the general rule. There must be some beating about the bush before he would be able to get her into the track he wished. The more the doctor pondered, so much the more delighted was he with his scheme, and he resolved to leave no stone unturned to compass the grand end. Here was the money actually waiting for his favourite hobby—money, which bad been the only obstacle that had prevented him from carrying out his benevolent designs long ago, as it is the only obstacle to so many of us to do so many things. So busy was the doctor with his great plans all the evening that his wife, to whom he rarely confided his designs—as he did not consider it good for his womenkind to be admitted to too great familiarity with the ideas teeming in the brains of their lords and masters — could not think what the reason was of his unusual abstraction, and timidly asked him if he had had any particularly splendid " case" that day. Instead of the rebuff she often met with, the doctor, in his extreme good humour with himself, told her all about nil visit to Mrs. Montgomery, and of the project be had conceived for getting her to interest herself in his emigration hobby. " Good to herself, and good to her fellow-creatures," he said quite enthusiastically, clasping his hands upon his knees so sharply that by misadventure he hit that particular nerve or muscle, or what ever it may be, that makes one's leg kick out without any volition on one's own part The doctor's wife was too well trained to laugh, though it was a comical conclusion to his en* thuaiaatio tirade. "Oh, I am so glad, dear," she said gently; M then perhaps you will be able to get those poor Blunts out of the parish. lam sure if anyone needs the chance of a- change for the better they da" " Tea; the Blunta and the Smiths and the Cormans," said the doctor reflectively. "Yes, that is a great stroke I have done to-day." The doctor was oertainly counting his chickens while they were yet in the shell, for it is to be remembered that Constance had not as yet been informed of the philanthropic part she wsa des tined to play, and here was he deciding on the first batch of her proteges. However, even if the chickens were not yet hatched he knew well enough that the eggs were sound and fresh, and the anxious feathered mother quite reliable, so be gave full fling to his philanthropic schemes. Time proved that he was right; his projects opened into a broad stream of real unostentatious good, and many hundreds in that generation and the next learned to love and honour the good doctor's name, to whom Constance invariably gave all the honour, only naming herself aa his subordinate and assistant Verily it is a great matter for congratulation when some projeot for the good of others takes shape at last; for long it may be harboured in the brain, bearing no fruit, but the opportunity comes at last, and the scheme, matured by many an hour of anxious thought, becomes a fact; and so it was with this emigration scheme of Dr. Pemberton. Constance, carefully and warily prepared by the energetic doctor, entered heart and soul into her work. It was, as her good friend knew and intended it should be, an outlet for the hopelessness and weariness that was beginning to be more than her strength could bear. Here was something to work for, something to hope for. No fear of deceit or rebuff or fondness thrown back upon herself. No one could hurt or grieve her. She did not work for individuals, she worked for the good work itself, and when some family who had starved aud striven on the few weekly shillings that in many of the midlaud counties form the agricultural labourer's wage called down blessings ou her head, and (teamed in their poor half-savage way to be unable to find worda to bless the lady who stood to them iv the place of Fairy Fortune, she rebuked them almost sternly. She could not bear it; words of love, even if they were only caused by gratitude, were bitter to her—she wanted to work for the work itself. After several months of real bard unceasing labour, which had done wonders to restore tone to her mind, she resolved to go with the next batch of emigrants and see for herself the kind of life that awaited these poor people, and judge as to the value of her work. Dr. Pemberton was thoroughly in favour of her design ; iudeed in his usual skilful manner be had Bet the ball rolling, though this consummate Mephutophiles had so well acted that it seemed to Constance that she had some little trouble to make him agree to her desiro, and was even then not quite bo warmly in favour of it as fibe would have wished. Ue had beon with her to the docks to see the ship in which the voyage was to be made, and she was waiting, sauntering absently up and down the quay alongside whioh the great ship lay, waiting for the doctor (who had gone to see a Bailor who had met with an accident), when a gentleman went by hurriedly, and in passing looked at her and then stopped short. His movemont was so abrupt that it roused Con stance's attoution, and Bhe woke out of the brown study into which she was still too fre« quently apt to fall, to see John Poyntou standing opposite. She stopped too ; then they grasped hands warmly, and after that the rush of ex-

clam»tioni which bad wemed ready to bunt forth wait arrested — they stood in ailenoe regarding one another. Of coane the woman was the first to recover her self-possession. " How strange to meet you here!" ahe said. "Strange indeed! This is the first time I have set foot in England sinoe—since —" and he came to an awkward pause. " Since we last saw you ?" Constance said, finishing the sentence quietly. She had quite recovered from the momentary surprise, and it was the thought of all that lay between now and then, and no thought of John Poynton himself, that turned her cheek so white. "Ton heard that I waa abroad, did yon?" said Mr. Poynton eagerly; there was great pleasure to him in the fact that she should have cherished his memory sufficiently even to inquire of his whereabouts. " Tea; from time to time I have met people who have seen you," Constance replied. "I have never met anybody who has seen you," said Poynton warmly, "or if they had I I never came to be aware of the fact. I have been in India for the last two yean, and only returned home last night* I came all the way <o the docks in her," he continued as he turned his head to point at a magnificent East Indiaman ; " there was no one for me to hurry to," he added. He sighed a little, but with no expectation of arousing sympathy. Whatever he had felt in the past for Constancy he knew well that she had never cared for him. Constance did not answer sigh for sigh, but she compressed her lips a little, and the transi tory expression of pain made Poynton notice for the first time that she was dressed in deep mourning. Constance saw that be observed it, but she could not bring herself to speak to him of her troubles, and he did not dare to ask. " You came home yesterday, and I am going away to-morrow," she said, striving to keep the conversation to the present. "Going—Where V "To Australia." She laughed a little at the intense surprise pictured in Mr. Poynton's face. " Ton would like to know why and wherefore, would you not V she continued after a moment's pause, and I will tell you, but fint let me intro duce you to a very kind and dear friend ;" and as she spoke she led him to where Dr. Pemberton was approaching, scanning closely the stranger who had lured Constance into conversation. Of late she had been so extremely taciturn that the doctor himself was almost the only person who could extract more than monosyllables from her. " Mr. Poynton is an old friend, and my father's friend, doctor," she said, as if wishing to make both understand the footing on which they stood. The two men gravely saluted one another, and then after Constance had inquired for the in* iured sailor she made an excuse for going on board again. " Tell Mr. Poynton all about our plans," she said as the doctor left her after carefully leading her over the gangway. He bowed his head, and before Constance cam* back John Poynton knew the brief outline of the six yean that had passed since they parted. His manner was more gentle and deferential than ever when she returned, and Constance knew instantly that the doctor had told all; she was glad that he should know it from him, and not be left to gather from common hearsay ; he de served that at her hands at any rate. He asked so many questions about the people whom Con stance was to take with her, and evinced so much interest in the matter, that the doctor asked him to be there the next morning early and assist at the embarkation. " We shall be glad of a strong arm and a stout will," he ssid, " for the poor creatures in their fluster and their ignorance sometimes give us a good deal of trouble. I should like Mrs. Mont gomery to have embarked at Plymouth when the confusion would be over, but she won't listen to reason," lie said turning towards her. " Not to suoh reason as that," she answered. " I mean to go from the beginning to the end." " Well! wilful woman will have her way to the end of the chapter," said the doctor; " but if you don't repent it before you are out of the Channel my name is not Pemberton." " Well, I will write and tell you honestly if I do," said Constance ; and then they bade fare* well to John Poynton, and Dr. Pemberton wett with Constance to Waterloo station and saw her safely en route to Thames Ditton. Chapibr XXI. It was not till some time after Constance reached home that she could fix her thoughts upon the present work. Though John Poynton was to her simply a friend and her father's friend, as she had told the doctor; though the troubles that she had gone through bad almost banished the remembrance, even, that he had once wished to be nearer aud dearer than that; his presence brought up a train of recollections so vivid and so painful that, strive as she would, Constance could aot banish them. John Poynton seemed to have a part in each.portion of her life. Month after month, year after year, might, indeed had, passed by without the thought of him crossing her mind, and yet at each great conjuncture of her life the quiet resolute man, who compelled respect if he could not win love, had come pro minently forward : at her father's death, at the time of her own engagement and marriage, and on that miserable evening, the last she had spent in her husband's company. Then the thought of him had obtruded itself strangely on her mind without any will or desire of her own. "It would have b«en better for her if she had mar ried John Poynton !" Alice's wordß still rang in her ears. He was mixed up even with the crisis of her misery. Constance lay back in hor chair and closed her eyes, as i£ to shut out the scene the words conjured up. She had not takeu off her bonnet siuce ahe came iv, aud as the strong light fell upon her once beautiful face it looked worn and weary ; there were lineß on it that time bad not traced, and her thick black hair was plentifully streaked with gray. She felt that she must not indulge in these thoughts longer if she was to be ready for her next day's work, bo she got up slowly aud crowed the room, Bruco following her. He was getting very worn uud weary too, and it was as much as he could do to follow Constance about the house or in the garden—a walk, that once prized treat, waa auite beyond hia (strength. Aa Constance approached the door he got in front, and care*

fully raising one forefoot against the wall opened the door, which win ajar, with the other. It was a trick Alice had taught him io the merry days at Thames Ditton, when ahe and Cyril were engaged, and when Bruce was admitted on equal terma to take hia share in a game of romp*. It was not very often be did it now, and it waa strange that he should have selected that particular morning for its performance. Every* thing seemed to carry her back to the past that day ; wound after wound was to be laid bare ; even Bruce, her old faithful Bruce, wanted to remind her of the happy days that had passed away for ever. Instead of passing out of the door and goLig up to her room, as she intended, she sank down on a chair close by, while Bruce looked at her remonstratingly. What was the use of his open* ing the door if she did not go out ? _ It was a good move that Bruce made after all; it diverted her thoughts from herself, and she fell to won dering what had become of Alice. She had heard indirectly that she had gone back to the old work —teaching and striving and drudging just to keep bare life. It seemed a strange existence —bo much toil for no purpose but the bare sup* port of existence. To work hard all day just to be able to get enough food to enable one to work again the next Could Alice think her life so well worth the lining T Constance was not at all bitter against Allot now. The doctor's prescription had worked well in many ways. In the larger experience it had brought she had learned to separate weakness from guilt She could understand now exactly how far Alice had erred, and from her heart she could forgive her. She comprehended as she had never done before the ordeal Alice had gont through ; to be cast off, and for such a reason t Constance's pale face flushed up as she thought of it Tes, Alice had been more sinned against than sinning. She blamed herself now that she had never thought of helping Alice before, and Bhe resolved to ask the doctor to seek out Mrs. Bernard and give her all the assistance he could without revealing from whence it came. The doctor's lessons were bearing good fruit—Con* stance was learning to find life worth living for the sake of the good she could do in it, and she had learned too that what it was well to do at all it was well to do quickly. She roused herself at last and compelled her* self to attend to the present business; she packed, and wrote letters and instructions, and walked and wearied herself so thoroughly that when at last she went to bed she fell asleep from sheer fatigue. She got up early the next morning; there were still some last instructions to be given, and the good ship Zealandia was to leave the docks at noon punctually. The doctor had wished Constance not to arrive much before the time for starting, but when everything was ready Constance determined to start Early as she was, the doctor and Mr. Poynton were there before her. The Utter was talking to a group of men, and by the earnest manner of both speaker and hearer it was evident that it was no idle gossip that engaged them. No man was better fitted, both by his resolute and manly character and by the varied expert* ences which had been his lot in life, to give useful advice to those who were going to a strange land than John Poynton, and no one is better fitted than a sturdy English labourer to recognise power in whatever Bhape it comes before him. He knows the ring of the true metaL Poynton in this case did not content himself with words; for one and all of the party whom Constance took out he appropriated a small sum to be vested in Mrs. Montgomery and to be drawn out by her for their use as her discretion should dictate. The doctor quite coloured up with pleasure when Mr. Poynton told him what he had done and asked his approval. The doctor's own small colonial experience had been in New South Wales, in the days before the gold "broke out" in Victoria, and when Queensland was not But he had chosen the last-named colony for his protege's. "The newer the country the better the chance," he argued—not over truly perhaps. Whoever has been present at the departure of an emigrant ship knows the wild confusion of Boundß and sad sights that press round one at such an hour. The anguish of the partings; the half-frenzied despair of those who are to be left behind; the white half-starved faces ; the strange packages that bespeak more eloquently than words the poverty of their owners; the wailing of children and the half-angry half* expostulating voices of the men; —all formed a scene which completely diverted Constance's thoughts from her own affairs. Constance walked unmoved amoug it all. She helpedf where help was wauted; she soothed when Bhe saw her wordß might do good ; she spoke encouragingly to the old who wero to be left behind, promising that when the young ones had made a fortune they should follow them to their new homes; Bhe even looked on while a woman, young and handsome, took leave of her husband, and - hugging her child to her breast ran straight away, not daring to look back. She watched all this, and her face got paler and her eyeß had darker shadows under them, but she gave no other sign of pain, and the woman, whose child she held meanwhile, never guessed that the quiet lady had a husband who did not come to see her off, and had undergone partings far more crushing and heart-rending than these. Mr. Poynton knew it all, aud ho watched her and marvelled. The Constance Ducheane that he had known aud loved waa deud indeed; this woman whom he gazed at was of sterner mould. It was over at last The last good-byes had been said — the last frantic waving of hand kerchiefs had beeu performed — the poor cheora given with breaking hearts, tho last packages dropped from the slings, aud the first ripple of the dark turgid water as slowly, very slowjy, the great ship moved from the wharf's side. Very slowly indeed she gave herself up captive to the pert snorting steam-tug, that looked such an ugly black little pigmy in front of her. The saitß were being Bet to , catch the first breeze which Btirred to carry her on her journey to the far side of the world. Then there was one more cheer, rathor a faint failing one, and then silence —silence on ship and on the wharf; all of thorn —evea the children —Beemed to recognise that Bomethiog strange had hap pened, that some great epoch in their lives

Detroit Free Press.

was passing. Then men and boys surged up among the rigging—the sailors too good-natured to forbid them—and they watched the black crowd on the wharves, that gradually was growing more and more indistinct, and still white handkerchiefs fluttered in token of fare well, and still the travellers gazed, till the black crowd was blotted out by the ships among which the emigrants were sailing. And the crowd on the wharves watched the ship till, with tear bunded eyes, they failed to distinguish it as it made its way to seaward. Constance and the doctor and John Poynton were among those who stood at the stern of the vessel. The two men were going down to Oravesend, anxious to see that Constance had no demands made upon her, by those she was be friending, beyond her strength. The doctor had dreaded this departure very much. He knew it was a scene that must appeal to the sympathies of the hardest heart, and to Constanoe in her peculiar position he was sure it would come with • terrible significance. He was very glad of John Poynton's company; he thought it would divert her thoughts—poor man, he little knew how intimately he was associated with the saddest parts of Constance's troubled life. Luckily Constance was absorbed in the strange ness of the scene; she had forgotten herself in the life around her. She watched the captain, grave and anxious; the sailors active and lively, • little inclined to be cross with the shabby crowd that seemed for ever in their way. There was so much to do for everybody—it looked such a wild scene of confusion—that Constance asked quite anxiously if they would ever be able to reduce that chaos to peace and order. The doctor, only too pleased to see her interested, kept her in animated conversation. It was dusk when the doctor whispered to Poynton that they must go. Constance took their adieux quietly. She grasped the doctor's hand and thanked him many tunes; " and if," she began: she repeated the two words. " If what ?" said Dr. Pemberton. Bat she made no reply—only turned from him to take leave of Mr. Poynton. She stood and waved her handkerchief to them as they rowed away ; then she went to the ship* aid* and stood looking down inte the water. "If you see my husband give him my love," had been on her lips, but she could not speak the words, and now she stood looking into the water —thinking of him to whom in spite of all her whole heart clung, and who had given her no Godspeed. A long sea voyage; who does not know the strange break in one's life that is told of in those words f Completly cut off from the past—unable to take any active stops for the future—com pelled to live in the present, and that present unoonnected with anything er any one belonging to us—a complete gap—a hiatus—a small piece In the puule of our lives that stands all alone, with its little pleasures, little vexations, its) dis putes and its friend-making—all done with such a strange consciousness of finality that makes them unlike everything else.| Constance found it a time of great calm ; it was a complete healing to her spirit. She avoided much intercourse with her fellow-passengers, but she would stand for hours looking over the ship's aide watching the great mass of water surging above the ship as if it must inevitably fall over and submerge it, and then the vessel would rise to the top and she looked down with awe into the blaok trough below. They had a few days calm in the tropics, and the heat was intense, but the nights richly compensated for the inconvenience of the day's oppressiveness. The heavens were • mass of stars, so dazzling and gloriously bright that one could see to read, while the depths were of the deepest purple. Strange phos phorescent light played around the vessel's track, while flying fuhes with their glittering fins leapt in and out of the water, leaving a line of quivering light behind. There was something in the immensity of space that met her on all aides that soothed her, it was so extensive, so boundless, so eternal—the heavens stretched out like a garment ; the ocean, with its strange moods and guises, now blue—and blue that rivalled the lapis lazuli under the fierce noonday sun—now black with fiery streaks under the star-^lit heavens, but always boundless, fathomless ; unknowing, unpitying of the little ness and miseries of man. What were the troubles and the heartaches and the despair of such as she to that immensity ? Constance was learning to see hor troubles in their true light— learning to see their magnitude in relation to all that surrounded her. They did not blot out the sun or the stars, though once she had cried out in her misery that there was no light left. Happiness, the happiness that she had dreamed of—nay, once for a scanty period tasted—was never to be hers; but life was left her yet, and life contained much that was worth living for, not for herself but for others. And so ?he went with fresh zest to her self-imposed tasks, giving a daily lesson to the children and helping the women to make the clothes for which ?he had brought the materials^ so that they might have all in order for the time when they should land. It was a long voyage—nearly four months— and some of the passengers began to get weary of it and of one another, but to Constance it was all too short; it had been Buch a reßt as she had never had before, and the looked forward with shrinking dread to the time when she would have to resume the ordinary way of life. [TO BE CONCLCDI* IN NEXT WEEK'S ISSUE.]

Disadvantag of Speaking first- During recent cold anap four men met in a Devonshire street broker office, they sopke of the intense cold. Twelve below at my house, said one. m,y thermometer indicated fourteen below, said the second. the third looked a little nervous, but he came to the scratch. you must live in comparatively warm localities, he said. It was nineteen below at my hoouse, adn that on the south side of the bulding too. Then they all looked at the fourth man. Would he surrender I so. Without a quiver of a