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Chapter NumberIV
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1880-12-18
Page Number0
Word Count1772
Last Corrected2018-12-23
Newspaper TitleMercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)
Trove TitleMargaret Dalling's Christmas
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CHAPTER IV. "Miss DALLING, you don't look well," Mrs. Fred. Marston said to Margaret the next morning. "Come for a walk with me, I am sure my sister will excuse you." And so the two set off together along the avenue and through the field, and out among the underwood. Perhaps there was something wistful in Margaret's worn face (more worn and haggard within the last twenty four hours), or perhaps it was only a mother's anxiety, that led her to talk about her hopes with regard to her son, and bring Margaret for just that once nearer to herself. "My son and Miss Cameron are going over to the vicarage," she said; "they are going to the church to help decorate this evening, and want to know what time they are expected. Are they not a handsome couple, Miss Dalling ?" "Very," said Margaret, faintly. "Do you think my sister-in-law is fond of him ?" she asked, anxiously. "I think so-yes, I know she is." Margaret's conversational .powers seemed numbed. "You see, dear"-fancy Arthur's mother'-calling her dear !-"it has always been my sister's great wish that heshould marry Mary when she came of age, and she told me if he did she "[would provide for him, he has nothing of his own beyond his pay, and I fear I shall have very little to leave; My sister is rich, you know, and she told me she would provide for Arthur." "But suppose he married against her, wish ?" Mrs. Marston looked round in as tonishment. "He' wouldn't, I am sure he wouldn't,"': she answered. "He wouldn't do anything that would make me so unhappy.: , He's my only child, you:know ; and, besides, it would be ruin to him. He wasn's cut out for poverty.' But, come, we must return, I don't-know' what has made me talk of all this to you, I am sure. I suppose because I am always thinking about it." "Is he engaged to Miss Cameron, and is she" fond of him ?" "Thereie ha. been an : understood engagnieint between them for 'years, and 'sbe is devoted to him, and he used to be to her till lately, but these last few months he has been different. I do hope it 'wiltigo right," and Mrs. Marston almost .sbuddered, ?,for the Camerons neve' took' ;sorrow well, and Mary is not strong." .WThen they re= turned to the house. "Come into my room," said Mary Cameron, joyfully, as Margaret passed

her door. "Look, Arthur gave me these violeti y j t`"n'ow. He gave me some three Christmases ego, before he went to India; and see, I have kept them ever since," and she opened a desk; and showed the faded flowers to Margaret. "This slip of paper was round them when he left them at my door, just before dinner-time," and Margaret saw in Arthur's well.known writing, "Forpny own darling." ,'Oh, Margaret 1 if Arthur is only what be uised -to be, it will be such a happyi Christmas,, not only for me but for all of us, for-"every-one is wishing what I wish," and the girl put her cheek to Margaret's' again, and nestled it softly against her. "It will be, it will be, dear child ;" and Margaret put her arms round May, and kissed her almost passicnately, while the tears rolled down her cheeks, and then left the room. "What a strange girl she is," said Mary, lookihng wonderingly after her. Arthur had not' spoken to her once alone since she came into the house. He was waiting for the opportunity, and dreading it. "Who would have thought of finding her with May, and in a mother's house of all: places !" he thought. "I wish I'd never been so infatuated-it will lead to no end of complications and bothers-and yet there's something about her that fascinates me, though I know it will be far better I should marry May:'." And while he was thinking this Margaret entered the room in which he was sitting alone, and put a note in his hand. "I want to give you this," she said. "And, good-bye; I am going away this afternoon," she added, holding oqt her hand. "Good-bye ?" he said, in surprise, holding her hand ; and looking at her half in fear, half in shame ; he felt she must despise him for his meanness and weakness. "Yes, good-bye," she said; and before he was aware of it, she had stooped and kissed his hand, and left the room. This was the note I am going away, and you are quite free. I only hope and pray you will marry Mary Cameron. Don't think I blame you, it has been my fault more than yours. It would ruin your life to marry me, and ruin the lives of others. Forget me, and be happy; and make that dear child as happy as she deserves to be. Oh! be true to her. dear Arthur; great trouble would kill her. It is far better that I should do this; it is only I who can really make you all what you once were, and I hope I have done it now. It is my Christmas deed. Good-bye. MARGARET. He stood still for a moment, recog nising, of what she herself was un conscious, the generosity that kept all reproach of him, all mention of her own feelings, all feeling save her de sire for his happiness, and for that of the girl to whom he had been bound so long, out of the letter. "She is too good for me," he said ; and his first impulse was to go after her, but he did not. After all, he could not help feeling that she was right, and that his nature was not great enough to cope with hers. "I have been very annoyed this afternoon," Mrs. Marston said to Mary Cameron, "my companion, Miss Dal ling, declared she felt too ill to stay here over Christmas, and has insisted upon going off to London. She says she will return to me as soon as she can." "She did look very ill," Mrs. Frederic Marston said. "By the way, who is Miss Dalling? are her relations gentle-people ?" Arthur listened eagerly for the reply. "No, she was a mere nobody, as these people generally are. The only relation she had in the world was an aunt, to whom she has gone, who keeps a lodging-house in London." "I liked her," said Mary, simply ; and Arthur always gratefully remem bered it. Margaret Dalling took her ticket for London with trembling fingers, and put her aching head into a corner of the carriage, full of merry Christmas merry-makers on their way to friends in London, with a feeling of strange relief. "I have done what is right," she thought. "It was I who upset their happiness, but I have paid for it at the price of my own. Oh, if I could die!" and now as she went along, she could hear ringing in her ears the words of Mary Cameron's favorite song After weary travel toil, After storm and wild turmoil, After strife and battle broil, Then cometh rest. "Aunt Gibbs." she said, as she drove up to the door of the lodging-house, "I am very ill, but I have come to spend Christmas with you." "To be sure; come in, Margaret. Why, bless me, what is the matter ?" But Margaret could not answer, and they put her to bed, and it was many 1 a long day before she rose again, and long before she comprehended what she had done. But when she did she bowed her head in thankfulness. "It was right," she said to herself, "and I only pray it was not too late for all things to come right." She never went back to Mrs. Mareton. She wrote, and said her health would not allow it, and stayed on at her aunt's house, keeping the accounts and making herself useful. It seemed to I her as if in the months that followed she grew years older and yet less lonely. She learnt to read and think J more, and to find that love and d sympathy may be given without any return, and yet lesave a great thankful ness. One day, early in February, when the snowdrops were in bloom, a thick 2 letter came to Margaret. It contained :a ring, a little gold band, with one glittering stone, and a note from Mary Cameron. This was' the note.' , Wear this for' me, dear Margaret;' in remembrance of your own good deed and my happiness. God bless you.-~. C. "He must have told her," Margaret thought. "I am very thankful ifhe has, for it shows he is more worthy of her than I imagined,". A few days later she .?aw their marriage in the paper. . And idJMargaret ever masrrij' Yes; in:her convalescence 'afteir-her long illness, Captain. Stanton, whob?~i ? gained er 'M.r'" -Marston'0_ '-ituation

got the story of her troubl out of her. The girl was so lonely, so utterly destitute of friends, so far away from all possible sympathy but his, that, somehow, as he sat and: talked with her of an evening, the story alipped from her, she blaming herself for all that had happened, and dreading lest he should despise her for her deceit and weakness. It seemed as if there could be- no harm in telling him, be was twenty years older than herself, and had been so long with Aunt Gibbs; besides, he always knew everybody's affairs. And one Christmas. morning, two years afterwards, he walked home with her from church; and then, in the silent streets, he asked her if she would be his wife. "I am an old man, I know, for you, my dear," he said; "but I am not sure that a young one would suit you; and I don't expect you to be in love with me, only to be content. And we would travel about and see strange countries for a while. Do you think you could put up with me ?' "I am not good enough," she said. "You are far too good ; you are a very noble woman, and I shall be proud to think you are my wife," he answered. Then she put her hand through his arm, and so it was settled. And so she found on Christmas Day a hap piness-a quieter, graver happiness, but still a happiness-she had once given another on Christmas Eve. , nm ur , , -m , lm