Chapter 60620191

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Chapter NumberPART I. VII.
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1884-06-30
Page Number105
Word Count2611
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (Melbourne, Vic. : 1873 - 1889)
Trove TitleCrowned with Good
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.Captain Merton rode -thoughtfully across 'tlie- bush to^ rejoin his friends, with/ it must be confessed, some very serious' doubts in his mind as to;the,results of .the escapade in whichrhefh'ad allowed himself to take a part A ?lurking misgiving oppressed him in regard to how much or How little was! knowi' by his

mother, who by her marriage was a connexion of the' Sinclair family. If she had, even casually, mentioned to Lady.Sinciair, (with whom she corresponded) Lionel's . frequent visits, at 'Mrs.; Bushby's, where so great an attraction .was to be met with as Mrs.' Bushby's charming niece, it might prove more difficult than .ever . to set at rest the awkward inquiries which would in, any case be made.. The captain knew his worthy mother had: at .least one failing— and this was, that her tongue 'could never remain quiet regarding the /affairs of her neighbours', and he'os'tutely inferred from this peculiarity that -f her' pen would, in; all probability^ bb equallybusy. ? '??:^1':'. * ; ''' ; ' ..' '' %^:-; ' ' ' ;' V ? ' \ \^fc tne same time .the s captain was quite.unnble to move in the matter for fear of exciting suspicion. r So, after thinking long and anxiously, he came to the conclusion, that ^nothing, could be Vlone beyond patiently waiting for , the natural , course of ^events. . He contrived to mingle with' the equestrians wHen^he. reached them in so unconcerned ; a: manner that, his short absence caused no remark. .Gertrude's .disappearance hnd not yet been noticed, and this enabled him to bo better prepared; to ward off suspicion as to his connivance at the matter. ' ! ' '?? - ' ' As they drew nearer to the town one and another of the party took leave, and at last one of the Misses Con way, Whom we have introduced in a previous chapter, exclaimed, 'Where is Gertrude? Captain Merton, have you seen Miss Marriner lately?' Long as the captain had been expecting some such remark, ho could not suppress a start when thus appealed to. But on the instant he recovered his self-possession, and, developing a. talent for hypocrisy which astonished himself, he skilfully echoed the inquiry, which soon became general. It was not yet quite dark, but the twilight wns sufficiently uncertain to make it very possible for MisB Marriner to be riding ahead unseen, though by day the road would have been plainly visiblo for a long distance. But when all the riders had bidden adieu to their hostess ex cepting Captain Merton, whose hotel lay beyond Mrs. Buahby's house, much wonder was expressed by the occupants of that

lady's carriage at Gertrude's supppse'd freak of remaining behind,' or hastening home alone.- * ?-' : . /;. . - ,.':'!. She t was tired, poor child, I expect,',, said Mrs. Bushby, leaning back with a yawn. '.'We shall find. her- safe at home,;no' doubt.'- A picnic is a very fatiguing .affair,'' .and', she wasn't well . when, she. started. , This hot weather .doesn't agree with- her, I think.,, But it was extremely fortunate we had itso fine.' , ,. 'Yes, indeed,' said Mrs. Merton, who . occupied the seat .by Mrs. . Bushby's fside, ' a more delightful day 'I never enjoyed. . Mr. Lindsay, you are not too tired to agree with me,. I am sure.' Mr. r Lindsay, whose looks certainly belied the lady's -assertion, roused himself to make, some suitable reply, and, the^arriage stopping, just then at Mrs. .Bushby.'a door, assisted the two ladies in alighting — Mrs. Merton having expressed a wish .to learn whether Gertrude had arrived safely.before them. . , ' ' At the .entrance they were met by .Bates, who, had been on the lookout for them, and, who, in answer to their inquiries, assured them that no one in the had'seen Miss i Marriner since she left it in the morning. ,',,'/ \ ',. ?'?'.' \\ '? (.''-Then . she . must have stayed behind, being too -tired to ride so fast,' concluded Mrs; Merton.;' 'How very inconsiderate of the young people to leave herl;:;H&dn't.'.(3iis better go '.arid try to find her? They can't well miss each .other onthat.road.' , ? , . ' Oh, no ! .* I couldn't .think of his going back now,' said the. hospitable ? Miss; Bushby. ' You must. all come m arid , have a' glass or .wine , or something, arid HayrieB can saddle the pony and go after, her.' ' . r . ,/...'??? , .. . ; t -t:--: - . So'the 'groom and pony, were despatched, and Mrs. Mertori, her son, and Mr. Lindsay entered the ho^se, where they found supper; awaiting them. . .?:..*.- - i ' ' ' ' ! ? ; V ? 'Your son can scarcely have got back fjomCarney!s .Point, or he would, most likely have been here to meet us,' said Mrs. Bushby, as they took their seats at the table.' ' Mr. Lindsay was about to reply, when a servant entered, saying that two gentlemen had called wishing to know if Mr. Lindsay were returned. They had been told Mr. Lindsay was at supper, and had sent* apologies to him and Mrs. Bushby, saying that it was upon urgent business they had come — business which would not admit of any delay. Mr. Lindsay rose at once, and, excusing himself to his hostess, left the room. He was a prosaic, middle-aged man, of thi8 prosaic century; and. his pulse had never quickened with a super natural fear in his life. What, then, caused him to turn pale,

i and to pause tremblingly before the drawingroom door ere he { opened it?' What occasioned the unreasoning, but none the less [ overwhelming, horror; that for Ta .moment completely paralysed I his limbs ? , He had no time to give a thought to this undefined 'presentiment of evil— if such it were, however — but mustering ! nis wandering senses with an effort, 'he opened the door. ? Something in the attitude and expression of the two gentlemen ' who' advanced from the window as he entered, bereft him of the' 'power of speech. He waited in silence, but, with instinctive' ! courtesy, motioned-them to be seated; ? . ': 'My dear Mr. Lindsay,' said one, the clergyman of the.parish. ! within which Mr. Lindsay resided,and withiwnomhe was well ac-. ': quainted, ''I 'am'more sorry than I caii tell, and I do not know: how to'— — ..-.., -j . ;!,'?? ' Tell quickly what you have got' to say,. I beg of you — anything; is better than this suspense.^ It is' abbut'my son ?' ' Yes,' answered the clergyman; his'tone full of compassionate' t sympathy. ' I~,we heard . about two hours ago that the yacht im ; which your son had gone down the bay, was capsized in a suddent Bquall, and we War— we very much fear— that the poor fellow ; was' ? ??-... ???.,?? ? ? .'.? - ??..?: . ? ?? ? ?.-.,?.:?? ... 1 ''Drowned,' were you going to say?' asked Mr.. Lindsay, a ' dreadful calm taking possession of him, and stilling his trembling;, hands. . ; 'Yes, my dear friend,' replied the clergyman, awed by the sudden change of manner, and fearing from it more disastrous ': consequences than would be likely to ensue from any burst of !grief, however violent. ' ! ? 'Tell me all about it at once, please, while I can bear it.' And ; they told him,- with all .. kindly consideration in the wording of 'their sad tale— ^-tdld him how the little vessel had been seen nearihgCarriey's Point, and when she got. into midstream at that narrow portion of the bay a sudden squall had struck her, just as she was .putting about, and before she could recover ?herself: She had' sunk almost instantly, and before help reached ithe spot the few men in her were all drowned. One or two bodies 'had been rescued,1 but not that of Lionel; It was useless to hope 'that 'he had been saved by remaining on shore, for several ^atermen'cbuld-prove him to have gone on board at Dunesk. ? To.the end Mr. Lindsay preserved his calmness. He shook hands with' the :two gentlemen, thanking them for coming to-, 'break the sad intelligence, and,- when/they had taken their leave !re-eritered the dinirigroom. ; .. !? ' Oh, what is the matter !' cried Mrs. Bushby, with a woman'sr , quick perception of 'something wrong.' - ' .. ' ' A great calamity has befallen me, my friend,' he answered, gently. ' I may as well tell you at once My dear son, Lionvl' is— is dead. They say he is drowned; with the yacht's crew, off' i Carney's Point. Nay,' he added, raising his hand as he saw young Merton excitedly about to speak, 'do not talk to me now,, my boy. It might have been worse. I had feared at one time —nay, there are worse things than death. It is beBt as it is God'a will'be done. Good night,' he aaid, extending hia hand



to Mrs. Bushby, who was by this time sobbing heartily ; ' many thanks for your sympathy.' Then the. poor bereaved old man turned away, and walked through the gathering darkness of the sweet summer night to his lonely hotel rooms. As he neared the hotel his steps began to waver, and he muttered to himself as if scarcely cognisant of his surroundings. At the entrance a strange sensation crept over him. He struggled vainly to stand, and would have fallen on the hard stone pavement had not timely help been near. Captain Merton, moved by a sudden impulse, had followed the old man, in the hope of being able to render him some little assistance, and had reached the hotel just in time be of great service. Mr. Lindsay was carried to his bed, and a medical man was at once sent for. The attack proved to be only one of syncope, and not the paralytic seizure that Merton, in his inexperience, had feared it was. When consciousness was restored Mr. Lindsay fell into a quiet sleep, and the landlady of the hotel having undertaken whatever of nursing might be needed, Merton left him to allay the anxiety of his mother'and Mrs. Bushby. A deep compassion filled the heart of the young man as he strode along the gaslit thoroughfare, and a sense of shame and dismay overpowered him when he thought of the secret he pos sessed. ?'?:' Nothing but the inviolable nature of the promise he had made to Lionel had deterred him from speaking all the truth on the spur of the moment when he heard of the young man's supposed death ; but now, on calmer reflection, he doubted whether a knowledge of the real facts would conduce to Mr. Lindsay's peace of mind. The few words in which he had acquainted them of his be reavement were full of a patient dignity of suffering. But had he not said that 'it might have been worse?' and did not that mean that he had teared Lionel's passion for Gertrude and his miserable condition would combineto overcome his sense of right, and perhaps induce him to commit a terrible crime? But, on the other hand, the enormity of this crime now actually committed, the cruelty of it, the realisation of how far he had participated in it — aiding and abetting in the destruction of Gertrude's fair fame Q— the shameful imposition practised on an innocent girl — all rushed upon the young man's mind in his short walk to Mrs. Bushby's house, and made him feel that to remain in the town with such a burden upon him was impossible. He would lose no time in fulfilling his obligation to Lionel, letting him know of all that had transpired since their flight ; then' he would induce his mother to set out at once for Australia, and so be rid of the complications in which Lionel's madness and his own perverted sense of justice had involved him. At Mrs. Bushby's dwelling there reigned dismay and confusion. The servant had returned without finding a trace of the missing Gertrude, and poor Mrs. Bushby, never astrong-minded woman, had become reduced to a state of helplessness at this new disaster, which called forth all the latent energies of Mrs. Merton's nature. Thatthese were considerable might beseenfrom the exceedingcon fusion of the room occupied by the two ladies, where burnt feahers perfumed the air, and smelling-salts, cushions, water-jugs, and towels lay about in picturesque disorder. Mrs. Merton had first stimulated her victim by detailing to her in confidence the private history of her own and the Lindsay family, and the alarm she had felt respecting the attachment that appeared to exist between Lionel and Miss Marriner. Then Mrs. Bates had discovered the note left in Gertrude's bedroom, and Mrs. Merton's graphic picture of the poor girl, enticed away to meet a man whose wife she could not be, and now doomed to the preferable fate of wandering alone in the bush, had thrown the unfortunate Mrs. Bushby into hysterics. She had just recovered when Captain Merton appeared, bringing news of Mr. Lindsay's illness. Having some idea of the turn affairs were taking, he considerately carried off his mother, after soothing Mrs. Busnby by promising that every effort should be made to trace and bring home the fugitive without exciting curiosity. He could conscientiously conduct the search, as by his means it would be arranged far more quietly and with just as much probability of success as if any other person was entrusted with it. As may be imagined, nothing resulted from it but continual disappointment, and the nine days' wonder of the young lady's elopement and the untimely death of her lover became things of the past. Mrs. Bushby fretted long and sadly at the strange loss of her niece, but as the weeks passed by and grew into months, and the Mertons left New Zealand, and Mr. Lindsay, finding that no efforts could recover the body of his son, also took his departure to attend to the important business which had brought events to a crisis, Mrs. Bushby, though she never ceased to grieve at the strange infatuation that had worked Ger trude's ruin, became more content in the firm conviction that her niece, hearing of the dreadful calamity which left her in so isolated a position, had not dared to return to seek clemency at the hands of the relative she had so much injured, but was supporting herself by her own exertions in some country place until she thought time might have softened her aunt's anger, and she could venture to sue for pity. And Mrs. Bushby, somewhat soured by the trouble so wilfully, brought upon her, was not at all sure, just at first, that she would accord the pardon she expected to be asked for. But as Christmas passed and the summer merged into autumn, the old lady's loneliness increased, and she was at last obliged to confess to herself that, had Gertrude's offences been a thousand times more flagrant, she would be thankful of the opportunity to condone them all, and would receive her, all erring as she was, with open arms.