Chapter 20711262

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Chapter NumberXXIII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20711262
Full Date1881-11-26
Page Number681
Corrections0
Word Count5271
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Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleGathered In
article text

The Storyteller.

Gathered In.

CHAPTER XXIII.

A FATHER'S PLANS.

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

NOTHING could exceed Mr. Oswald's delight at the result of his nephew Kenneth's mission to Wilta. The purchase was satisfactory in the first place—more than satisfactory. Kenneth must

have a longer head at a bargain than he got credit, for to get the better of such a keen hand as Walter Gray. There seemed no chance of a fall in the value of suoh high-claw stock as this in question ; the quotations in Castlehurst and in Melbourne markets were quite up to the figure set down by Mr. Oswald as his limit. Kenneth disclaimed any special merit in the transaction, but his uncle was determined to see great acute ness in the way he had out-generalled the seller. He had net given the first price asked, even though it was below his employer's estimate—he had beaten down Walter Gray! But the reoeption of Kenneth by the family was even more a subject of congratulation on Mr. George Oswald's part He had indeed begun to get paid for the money he had laid out on Kenneth's education. Jim, by dint of the inex orable regulation with regard to spending money, had learned to read, to write, and to cast accounts, and his cousin's company had kept him out of no end of mischiei And bow this invitation (in Which Jim was included) to Wilta, where no one but tip>top squatters and Melbourne lawyers and merchants were ever invited^ was bewildering to the old man. What did it mfean ? What could it mean ? It would be the very salvation of Jim to give him a taste for real good society that he could look up to, and when he saw how his cousin got on all through his learning and his love of books it might lead Jim to take to such things, and keep him out of Caatlehurat. " Oh, Kenneth, I did a good stroke of business when I gave you that errand. And what do you think of the daughter, Miss Gray—Edith I think they call her ?" "Very highly indeed," said Kenneth, who had really admired her beauty and brilliancy more than his sister's style, but of course was most interested in the latter. " Is she bonny, Kenneth ?" " Handsome is perhaps the better word." "Oh ! a fine figure of a woman ?" "Yes ; but a very fine face, too, with wonder ful variety in it." "I've heard she is real bonny, and quick and clever with her tongue." "Yes, it is her brightness and her earnestness, and the constant changes of expression, that give her her greatest charm." "Plenty to say and quick with it? Oh! that's good, Kenneth." "She wm much interested, as we all were, with that wonderful bush missionary whom I gave a lift to, who held Bervice, or worship as he would call it, in the men's dining-room." "We'll have him here when he comes this way. And she can speak to such as him, and to such as you, and to such as me, with a different kind of speech for every one of us. Ay, that's good. And she's no such great catch after all.

* The nl« right to publish " Gathered In" in Queens land hu been amoral by the proprietor* of the Quttni lander.

There's four brothers of them, and they behove to have a bigger share of the property than her. And they were civil, you say ?" "More than civil. They were exceedingly kind." " And pressing for Jim to come to see them t Oh ! I Bee. William Gray knows well on what side his bread is buttered. My Jim is my only son, and will come into all I have, and what for ahould'na he and the lassie Gray make a match of it ?" " Jim ?" said Kenneth, in open-eyed astonish ment. "And what for no?" said his uncle vehe mently. " The runß lie unto one another, and, as I say, he is my only son and heir, and William Qray knows what I am worth nighhand as well as I do myself. Do you think he or his son Walter would hae let me have their five hundred choice yowes at seven and a half per cent below their worth ia Castlehurst market if he had not seen somei advantage to himself in it ? I can see through a millstone as far as my neighbours." " But I think Miss Gray herself would have to be consulted. 1' " Bless my soul 1 what could the lassie look for? Ninety thousand sheep, fifteen hundred head of cattle—and would have been double that if it bad not been for William Gray; but we must let bygones bo bygones — four hundred horses, twenty thousand aores of bought land," for in his elation of spirits George Oswald was nearly as boastful as when he waß drunk. " What in the name of wonder oould the lassie want more than that ?" " I am sure she is older than Jim by Beveral years." " All the better, Kenneth, all the better; she'll steady him. Did you never hear your grand* mother, honest woman, say that she was a thooht aulder than the guidman, and that made the bien (comfortable) house. Oh! Kenneth, manl she's just the woman for Jim." "You did not follow my grandfather's ex ample, however. Mrs. Oswald is much younger than you." " No, I cannot say I did, but I cannot say that it would not have been better otherwise, But what I'm convinced of is this, Kenneth, that if this lassie Gray had not a penny she'd be a better wife for my Jim than Maria Deane or Tottie Roberts, or any lass he might pick up at Castlehurst, with fifty thousand pounds tacked to her gown-tail. Why, Kenneth, she'd make a man of him. If he took to her and she to him, she'd do more for him than I can do with all my siller, or you with all your scholarship. You'll no deny that." " Two very important * ifs/ " said Kenneth. . "Two grand 'ifs 1 that I'd give thousands to make realities," said Mr. Oswald. "And you maun help, Kenneth. I look to you to help me." His uncle's eagerness seemed to the young man strangely misplaced. "{low do you mean to carry on the campaign ? Do you mean to recommend Jim to fall in love with Miss Gray as the first move!" he asked. "No suoh fool as that; no, that would drive him the clean contrary way. But you'll take him with you for the delivery." " Of course I shall, if he will go." " Oh! he'll go; there's a billiard-Üble at Wilta, and a man that is a oraok player ; I've heard of him at Castlehurst Oh; he'll go, safe enough. And at any time after when you go to Wilta you'll take him with you." "Certainly," assented Kenneth; "I shall be only too happy." "And if you could just make him think that you had a notion of the lassie yourself, that would be the way to make Jim turn bis mind that way. Yon see, he's no to be driven, or even very easy to be led, but he can be worked, Kenneth—he can be worked by a lad with brains like yourself, and the learning you got all through me." "But I thought you disliked all the Gray*, and would strongly object to such a connection," said the puszled Kenneth. "And what for did I no like the Grays? Because they are for ever stealing marches on me, buying up here, arranging there, working out smaller men." "Too like yourself, uncle, to be altogether agreeable," said Kenneth smiling. " Just so, Kenneth; and if lam taken, as no man knows his appointed time, how long do you think that Jim would hold his own with such neighbours ? Always ready to buy even before he wanted to sell; always tempting with exchanges in which Jim would have the worst of it; and Jim would spend and never spare, and he'd be eaten up with smooth-tongued flatterers, bookmakers, and boon companions; ay, and Jezebels of the other sex, with painted cheeks and greedy hands, and ye would see the bonny property, that I've scraped and saved to get, scattered to the four winds of heaven. It seems a lot to spend, but it can be done, and there's no entails in these parts, or I'd tie up the land (at least) so tight that he could not make ducks and drakes of that. But if he was married on a Gray the whole lot of them would have an interest in keeping him straight and keeping up the property and no hankering after it And a clever wife like that lassie ye speak of, that doesna aye look the same, but has a new face for every new turn, and a fresh word and a good laugh whatever happens, has more power for good with the sons of men than the bonniest or the richest woman that can be picked up. So, as I say, if she was nigh hand ugly, and had not a penny, I'd have that lassie Gray for a wife to my Jim sooner than any other woman alive. And if William Gray does not mean to try it on he is deeper than I thought, even of him." Kenneth was somewhat overpowered by his uncle's eagerness and strong convictions os to the advantages to Jim, but he could not believe ia there being the slightest desire on the part of the Grays for such a connection. His cousin's character and abilities were too well known everywhere, and there was to everyone but Jim's own father an enormous intellectual, social, and moral disparity between the thoughtful, pure, generous woman of twenty-two and the lad of nineteen, precocious only in wrong directions. The evident love of the older and younger Gray for their daughter and sister, who was the light of their home, all said "no" to such a supposition as that they could scheme any such marriage for her. He bad heard that even to rich men such an estate as that of Tingalpa had charms as great

aa to the moat struggling and impeounious of the rank and file, but eurely these gentlemen were capable of seeing that money might be bought too dear. Still, the unprecedentedly favourable sale of the stock under its value to a tyro like Kenneth waß a hard nut for him to crack, and George Oswald himself only looked on it as a piece of deep policy. Whether Walter Gray by his father's advice let the young man who was likely to be the go-between in many future transactions have a decided advantage in his first bargain—whether it was as a preliminary to an exthange of some land, which was ultimately carried out satisfactorily—or whether, as Ken neth afterwards surmised, the consciousness that the old cattlfl transaction rankled in his neigh bour's mind induced Mr. Gray to deal hand- Bomely about the ewes—none of these con siderations presented themselves to the minds of uncle or nephew at the time, and the bargain long remained an unanswered riddle. But as for the slightest idea of their darling Edith being connected in any way with any of the Oswalds, it never once entered the brain of the elder or younger man. They had no desire to part with her to any one, least of all to one inferior in every point of view to herself, and they had alwayß congratulated themselves on her being unimpressionable aid so far free from love entanglements. When the young men started to take delivery of the sheep, George Oswald looked after them with still more eager eyes than he had direotad to Kenneth on his departure. The turn-out was the same as before, only that there were two fine young men instead of one, and that Jim, who was a showy if not a particularly safe driver, held the reins. The cousins were equally well-dressed, equally good-looking iv the father's eyes. Though Jim was the lesser, in height and breadth, he was well enough made, and bad wonderfully improved in manner and bearing lately—and then he was the heir, and Kenneth nobody, and less than nobody, but for his unole's generosity. Chapder XXIV. A SON'S PBRVBRBENKBB. Both young men were received at Wilta cordially. Jim was never quite at his ease in the company of those whom he was obliged to acknowledge as his betters, but the good-breed ing of his host did much to prevent his appear* ing very awkward. In the business matter of the delivery of the Bbeep, which Kenneth had to conclude for his unole, Jim had a good deal to ?ay, but he left his cousin to check the numbers, and to commit them into the care of the Tingalpa men who had come up for them, while he took a game at billiards with Mr. Ellerton, and was deeply impressed with his magnificent play. instead, however, of taking a fanoy to Miss Gray, he neither thought her handsome cor agreeable. She was too sharp altogether for him, and her eager talk about David Henderson and his schemes met with no other response than that the governor was ready to put down pound for pound with Mr. Gray, which his father had commissioned Jim himßelf to do; leaving to Kenneth to explain the real sympathy which Mr. Oswald felt in the object. But with Mrs. Ellerton Jim was captivated at first Bight Not only had he the usual Bhallow fear of a purse-proud youth that he was a great catob, and therefore there was safety in flirting with a married woman ; not only was there the additional spice of its being somewhat wrong to covet another man's wife; but the style of Sybil's beauty, her face, her figure, her manner, and her extraordinarily fine voice, all filled him with the greatest admiration. He had been accustomed to scoff at drawing-room music, and to say he liked things always tip-top, and that could be best had by paying for them ; but when Sybil sang ballads or eperatic muaio with her clear, strong, highly-cultivated voice, without the adventitious aids of dress or scenery, and simply to give him pleasure, because he asked for the songs, the poor fellow was raised to the seventh heaven of delight Mr. Ellerton took the measure of this bush cub at a glance. He was infinitely amused at the impression which Sybil's beauty and voice made on this Victorian specimen of the wealthy lower orders. There was no danger to be appre hended to his domestic peace from anything that such a Lothario could say or do, but there might be great pecuniary advantage if he could hold in band the only son of a wealthy and ignorant Victorian squatter. And Jim was so transparent in his selfishness and his wilful ness that he would be easily held in hand by an astute man of the world, without heart and without scruple, like Herbert Ellerton. The latter spoke of establishing himself at Castlehurst shortly. He and his wife had already trespassed too long on the kind hospi tality of their friends at Wilta. Did not Mr. Oswald think he might do something in the sharebroking and commission line, where a man of good address as well as of business capacities was desirable ? He was an excellent judge of horseflesh; he had Been all the racehorses of any account in England, and knew their pedi grees and their powers, and he was delighted to see such seal for a the good old English sport of the turf in Victoria. Did not Mr. Oswald think he might go in for buying and selling horses ? Now that he bad been several months in Australia, and knew his ground a little, did not Mr. Oswald think he might be a match for some of the sharp colonial hands? Only he would be the better of sailing directions from some oae who knew who was who, and what was what; from somebody who was intimately acquainted with the ins and outs of station and turf life. The Grays had been exceedingly kind, and had expressed themselves as willing to help and advise in any way, but they were all such steady-going people, they were not up to all the thingß on which he needed information. Jim's heart swelled at thin flattering application to him as to a young man who had seen life ; he was pleased, too, at the marked preference which Mr. Ellerton showed to him over Kenneth, whereas the Grays gave precedence to the elder cousin. Jim had invited Mr. Ellerton to go over to Castlehurst on the following day to play billiards with him, and to be introduced to some horsey people, and also offered to help to choo«e a horse and to look out for a house, and came home so elated that his father hoped that the

turning-point of his life was reached, and that he had fallen in love with Edith Qray. The little stimulus of jealousy which the old man had suggested to Kenneth's mind to direct Jim's affections towards the desirable party had somehow been made available in a wrong di rection, for Kenneth's natural interest in his sister, his curiosity as to all about her from her husband to her ornaments, and his surprise at the extraordinary influence she was exerting over his cousin, made Jim think that Kenneth's admiration was also directed towards this perfect Bpecimen of English orScottiah loveliness. Jim, however, kept hia own counsel; he was not naturally frnnk or open, and his only idea of cleverness was that it was a mark of talent to mislead everybody as to his real wishes and feelings, and if possible to keep them in the dark about his actions too. With this view, he depreciated Mrs. Ellerton, and praised Miss Qray (who would make two of the other), so as to lead his father to tbink all was welL Jim would not confide iv Kenueth of all men, but it was not so eaßy for him to hoodwink a looker-on as to the true state of the case so deeply in* terested as Sybil's brother waß. Visits to Wilta, with or without pretext, were repeated so long as the Ellertons were there, and when they left the Grays, and established themselves in a house in Castlehurst, the Wilta visits were all but dropped, and the road to Castlehurst was taken almost daily at Jim's instigation. Kenneth's conviotion deepened that his cousin had really been inspired with what was for him a grand passion, which was Bhown by increased awkward* ness, and something more like shyness before the object of it than he had ever manifested pre* viously to anyone. Nay more, though it was not virtuous love by any means, though his hopes and aims were bent on seducing this beautiful and innocent woman from her husband, to whom he showed much outward friendship, the desire to please Sybil Ellerton restrained his speech, checked hia over* bearing selfishness, bumbled bis pride of purse, and awoke some ambition in his sluggish souL The loud debate grew low, What was unseemly chastened, aud the fear Of beauty waking her moralities Sent through the adjusted limits the long forgot Ambition to be fair.* He had never before Bhown himself bo docile to Kenneth's instruction or to Kenneth's hints. If Mrs. Ellerton wanted to know anything about which he felt ignorant or uncertain, he would turn to his cousin with a mute entreaty that he would satifefy her curiosity. He enjoyed what she said to Kenneth only less than what she said to himself, and as he considered himself s far better judge of singing and of music than his cousin, because he had heard far more public performers, he thought be could take the wind out of Kenneth's sails there at any rate. Be tried to improve his writing and his spel ling, because he might have occasion to write to her—he tried even to read the books she praised, and he felt that he fully appreciated all the Bongs she Bang. When she pointed out a lovely view in their frequent walks or drives, he saw something in it never before Been. He behaved more politely to Kenneth in her presence, be* cause then she would see he was a gentleman, and know how to behave as such to a poor dependent, even though he had his suspicions about the Argus-eyed watch which his cousin kept on all his words and looks. He improved so remarkably in his general manners even at home that both father and mother observed the difference. He drank less than he had done since he was fifteen, he kept out of the low company in which his soul delighted, and, although for a long time Mr. Oswald wondered at the rarity of Jim's visits to Wilta, it took some weeks to un deceive him as to the motive of the frequent drives to Castlehurst; for it might have been that he expected to see Miss Gray at her friend's house. He ransacked the muuc-shops in Castlehurst. and wrote to Melbourne, that he might bestow on Mrs. Ellerton every song and piece of musio which was either new or that she was likely to think good amongst the old. He paid for his pleasure in Mn. Ellerton'B society by heavy losses in every sort of game of chance or skill with her husband, who somehow did not get into business on the Stock Exchange. The ugliest and most vulgar looking broker, Christian or Jewish, seemed to inspire more con* fidence in buyers and sellers than this smooth, handsome, gentlemanly mau of good English family. Nor did he succeed in horse-dealing much better, but his billiard playing was an in* come to him with such lads as Jim Oswald. The governor, as Jim callad him, delighted at the improvement in his son's manners and morals, relaxed bis purso-strings freely, and, as Kenneth went with him everywhere and there was no open rebellion against such companionship, he thought all was going on well. Kenneth at last determined to open the eyes of his uncle and aunt to the real state of matters, and got them to yield to Jim's repeated solicita* tion that the Ellertons shou'd spend a week at Tingalpa. James Oswald knew that Ellorton could not keep away from Castlehurat, where business or pleasure, or that sort of play which for him combined both, eugroßaed him ao much, and he would have Mrs. Ellerton more to himstlf than at Castlehuret. At Tingalpa, too, Kenneth had employments which would relieve Jim of the constant espionage he found bo irksome. But hia secret was discovered there ; the old man was shrewd enough to see where his son's affec tions were really placed, and he did ao to his infinite disappointment and apprehension. In every way it was a fatal attachment fur Jim ; hopeless for go. d, fruitful for evil. The husband would pick his pockets on the strength of it, and if ever the wife gave him auy encouragement (and it is not to be Buppoced that the lad's father could see how unlikely that was) Ellerton was just the sort of man to blow out Jim's brains for his presumption. If Jim drank lees than usual, he spent far more, and the old man was not sure if he was paying all hia losses out of hia liberal allowance, tie questioned Kenneth closely, and found that he shared in these suspicions. He impatiently reproached his nephew for being indifferent to Jim's real interests and to his own entreaties. Kenneth could only answer bitterly that no one could possibly feel the misplaced attachment * From Sydney Dobell'i Balden '

more keenly than he did ; that all he could do was to watch that no deadly mischief came of it, that he followed to the letter his uncle's commands to go with Jim wherever he went, and that he could do no more, for <Km was neither to be driven, to be led, nor to be worked. Mr*. Oswald bad received Jim's friends with her usual languid hospitality. She could not quite understand why Mrs. Ellerton's black alpaca and simple hat, which were such cheap affairs, looked so well on her, but she supposed it was because she was so recently from the old country. Mr. Ellerton vias very civil to the old people for purposes of his own, which de ceived Mrs. Oswald, but could not have any effect upon her husband, who Baw in this smooth-tongued gentlemanly rascal the type of the men who would combine to scatter his hard* won earnings to the winds. Mr. Ellerton's confidence in his wife's prudence and honour made him feel perfectly at ease with regard to James Oswald. Occasionally a suspicion darted through his mind that Kenneth too was Bpooning in the same direction, and that might be worse, for he was better looking, and infinitely more intelligent. But it was the talk at Castle* hurst that Jim never stirred without his cousin, and, though it might have suited Ellerton in some way to have got rid of him, he felt that the two were sufficient check on each other when they visited Sybil in hia absence. Edith Gray was more uneasy for her friend. She had seen the agitation Kenneth showed in the first instance, and had observed many tokens of watchful AffiA^. tion, nay, to her mind, of passionate preoccupation^ on Kenneth's part. And to any young susceptible generous man, as she believed him to be, the habitual sight of a woman so lovely, so amiable, bo fascinating, and so wofully mismated, was most dangerous. Now that Mr. Ellerton had fallen into the atmosphere of the Castlehurst billiard-tables and the Castlehurst racecourse, he had sunk far lower in the opinion of Mr. Gray and his son Walter than before. Edith did not think that she could think more meanly of him now whatever he might do ; but she did not force her friend's confidence aa to her happiness. She put a constraint on herself to speak of Mr. Ellerton with respect, and she never heard a murmur or a complaint. Not even the way in which he played off his fascinations on Jim Oswald, which grew to be the talk of Castlehurst—not even the weariness she must feel in the constant visita tions of that youth, caused Sybil to utter a word •gainst the husband she had chosen to the friend who would have sympathised with her, and might have helped to shield her. Wai Kenneth's society then a sufficient compensation to her for the infliction and the humiliation which her husband submitted to and encouraged ? This was a strange surmise to make, but it was nevertheless not improbable. It had indeed been a painful disenchantment to Sybil Ellerton to find that there was now no tie but duty and appearances to bind her to the husband who had inspired the brief madness of a first love. Every shred of the glory with whioh she had invested him had been stripped off, and she now saw the crookedness and meun* ness of his selfish nature. She privately appealed to him to protect her from the false imputations which James Oswald's devotion might cast on her. But he said it did not suit him to quarrel or break with the young fellow, that the absurd passion he felt amused him, and did not hurt either Sybil or himself. He was not the jealous husband who could not trust hie wife entirely. In these circumstances Bhe appreciated Ken* neth's watchful care for her honour and her com* fort. She rested on him to an extent that she was scarcely aware of herself. And how did Kenneth feel when brought into such frequent contact with his father's daughter, whom he saw thus repressed, misunderstood, and, but for his guardianship, insulted ? Every feeling of family affection, hitherto so starved in his nature, seemed to centre in her. Her situation, so full of pains and of perils, called for his help and counsel either actual or potential, and he soon arrived at the conclusion that if things came to the worst she would apply to him rather than even to Edith Gray. She was pained at the thought that Edith should suspect the humilia tion of her position, but Kenneth was the daily witness of her husband's carelessness and of his cousin'B devotion. Edith's kindness was unfailing and delicate, no doubt; she eagerly pressed her to pay visits of a week at Wilta where she had grown like a part of their owm family circle, but Sybil had often to decline because there Jim would follow her, and her friend would see what ?he had to endure. Still some such visits were paid, and Kenneth could not be too grateful for the break it gave to hia sister's hard life, and grew to admire and to love Miss Gray for her thoughtful, intelligent, and affectionate friend* ship to one so sorely in need of it. It was no small addition to the difficulties of Kenneth's position that all his anxieties and efforts on his sister's behalf were misinterpreted by the woman he was really in love with. Hopeless as his passion might have been under the most favour* able circumstances, what prospect could there be tit him when Miss Gray had such good cause to think him little better than his cousin ? He felt that, if he watched Jim, Edith Gray watched himself as keenly and as closely. If Kenneth could have ventured to tell Sybil of the claims she had on his special affection, it might have been well for both, but when he heard how Bhe worshipped her father, the best man, the noblest, the truest being Bhe had ever seen, known, or dreamed of; when Bhe spoke of her dear mother, of Norman the eldest, the heir to the long line, of her many brothers and sistesa, each of whose names he treasured in his memory —and how Bhe was sick with waiting for the monthly letters, and rejoiced over them when they came—he could not bear, even for the sake of sanctioning his deep interest in her welfare, to cast a cloud over that clear bright picture on which her heart and soul rested. Any slur cast on her father would give her unspeakable pain. Her husband never could bear to hear her speak of her Scottish home or her Scottish rela tions, but Jim could sit listening to whatever she chose to open her mouth about, and during EUer* ton's frequent absence Kenneth would encourage her to turn to those topics so interesting to him* self. When she showed to Kenneth the photo* graphs of the beloved ones at Castle Diarmid

and of views taken in the neighbourhood, which were not ditplayed to vulgar eyes, he Bhowed bo much interest in each member of the family and in the scenes that, as she said, he deserted hii Highland name. [to be continued.]