Chapter 63620164

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Chapter NumberIX
Chapter TitleMAURICE KEEPS HIS PROMISE.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63620164
Full Date1886-06-15
Page Number0
Corrections0
Word Count4638
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleIllustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)
Trove TitleSociety, Friendship and Love
article text

CHAPTER IX.

MAURICE KEEPS HIS PROMISE.

" Little souls on little shifts rely

And coward arts cf mean expedients try,

The noble mind will dare do anything but lie."

-Dryden.

Margaret woke up next morning in a speculative frame of mind, and her speculations first took the form of wondering what sort of a day it might be. She settled this question by looking out of the window, where the sun, just rising from

his golden bed, promised a glorious day. A soft breeze was beginning to rustle the leaves and wake up the birds in their nests, and the chimes of St. Mary's bells, ringing for early service, floated in through the open window. The bells reminded her that it was Sunday, and turned her thoughts into a theological groove,

Not that Margaret was much given to religious meditation, but she was just now in that state of mind which made Ecclesiastes declare everything to be vanity and nothing profitable under the sun, and like him she was casting about for something to fill the dreary emptiness of life. Those early bell3 sounded in her ears like an invitation, and for a moment she was half inclined to obey their call. " But it would be too horrible a mockery," she said to herself, and she went back to her chair and her cogitations. She passed all her former life in review and compared herself to a piece of drift wood, tossed here and there without effort or will of her own. Brought up in a wild and general disbelief of all theological dogma, and with a natural, inherited dislike to theological disputation, at seventeen she had suddenly found herself thrown amongst strange relations, whose habits of thought were utterly at variance with her own, and who looked upon her most deeply cherished opinions and theories as heresies of the deepest cl ye. They and their acquaintance were either ardently attached to their creed or considered it in the highest degree indecent not to appear so, while Margaret, from a vain attempt to square the actions of people around her with the opinions which they professed, had come to the conclusion that creeds were of no con- sequence, one way or the other, and that good people are equally good everywhere, whether they be Turks, Spiritua- lists, or United Brethren. But her soul was most vexed by the religious squabbles which prevailed around her. If one could not prove himself in the right, at least he could prove all his opponents in the wrong. Even Mr. Broadhurst, when it suited his purpose, could conceal his cynical indifference under a show of party spirit, and Mr. Powell's passionate enthusiasm sometimes ran away with his

forbearance and discretion.

Margaret had begun by liking Mr. Broadhurst and ended by shrinking from him ; she had begun by shrinking from Mr Powell, and was now learning to love and admire him. If she could but teach her mind to run in his groove ; if she could but shake off this dull apathy which seemed to possess her soul and which she had almost persuaded herself was philosophy. Even if it were, philosophy is a cheerless and uncomfortable sort of guide to follow through life, and has a trick of deserting its followers at their utmost need. Certainly her lot was not worse than it had been during the past five or six years. Since that time she had been almost alone in the world, without father, mother, brother or sister, without any place that she could really call home, with no particular hope or object in life, and dependent on her own exertions, unless she chose to be a burden on her uncle, whose small income was already heavily taxed to support other distant relations. Perhaps the strain of work begun so early in life; and varied with so little enjoyment, was beginning to tell upon her health and spirits. She used not to ask herself whether life were worth living or whether anything could be found to make it so. And certainly she was not wont to speculate on the amount of happiness enjoyed by religious people, or how far their virtues might be attributed to their piety. She had settled those questions years ago to her own perfect satisfaction, yet now they turned up again to trouble and perplex.

" I am sure Dolly would be charming whatever she might believe," she said to herself, for Dolly had the warmest place in her heart, and she resolutely blinded herself to all little imperfections. " She is good and sweet and true, quite independently of her religion ; and uncle Dunstan would be

avi equally fine, earnest character if he were nob a staunch Anglican. And is Aunt Dora the better or wiser for going to chnrch regularly and reading good books on Sunday ? And Mrs. G-rimleigh-she passes for a devout woman-can anyone pretend that her piety does her any good, that it makes her less cold, less worldly, less censorious ? How odd it would be if society suddenly discovered that infidelity was a sure mark of birth and breeding, and how wonderfully empty the churches would suddenly become !" But at this point it occurred to Miss Latimer that perhaps she was not less censorious than the persons whom she was mentally criticising. She had the grace to feel a little ashamed of herself and her meditations took another turn. " How will Dolly settle her affairs ? I should like to know how strong Mr. Gower's convictions are ; he does not obtrude them much on the public. I wish I had been brought up to some faith ; I do not think I should give it up." So she continued in this rambling and unprofitable train of thought until the breakfast bell rang, and she went down stairs half determined to ask her uncle for help and counsel. Perhaps he might be able to convince her. But Mr. Powell was in haste to go and visit a sick member of his flock before churoh time, and Margaret could not detain him with her mental perplexities. It would be too much like the man who stopped him on one wet, cold night to complain that he was much troubled with bad thoughts. Before breakfast was over she was' ready to laugh at herself for having entertained such an absurd idea. If she could not settle her doubts for herself her uncle could scarcely do it for her. So she carried them still unsolved to

church two hours later.

For those impressionable souls whose devotion is in- fluenced by their senses, no church could have been found better fitted to encourage reverence than St. Mary's, Castlereagh. It had been built in early days on the plan of an architect of great taste, who had a love for Gothic buildings. Wealthy friends, of whom Mr. Powell had then a great number, had beautified it with rich stained glass, carved screens, and a fine organ; and the altar, with its inlaid reredos, was a perpetual source of scandal to the flock of the Rev. Dr. Boanerges, who worshipped in an unornamented brick temple, a quarter of a mile further down the road. St Mary's was not in the least a fashionable church, but it was always well filled; and parson, people and choir all gave that impression of being in earnest, which is not inseparable from any particular form of ritual, whether solemn or meagre. Margaret always liked to go to St. Mary's ; she loved the quiet, the monotony, the music, the feeling of rest and peace, but she had not enjoyed it long this morning when she was disturbed by the arrival of the Broadhurst party, who came in by a side door, a minute or two after the service had begun. First came Mrs. Broad- hurst, in silken raiment, and glittering with golden bracelets and bangles. She carried two or three books in velvet binding, a large cut glass scent bottle, with silver stopper, a parasol smothered in lace, and a fan of the latest fashion, nearly a yard long. Just behind her were Mr. Fitzalan, whose scepticism was apparently not strong enough to make him fly in the face of society, and the three boys unusually tidy and presentable. At all these Margaret only glanced ; she knew her aunt's style of decoration well enough, and the tutor was so obnoxious to her that she never willingly looked at him ; but the rear of the procession was more interesting than the van. First came Dorothea, all in white, like a saint, with a gold cross at her breast and another on her prayer-book ; her cheeks were pink, her eyes brilliant, and she looked upwards with an expression of happy gratitude ; behind her was Maurice Gower, looking neither happy nor grateful, and savagely gnawing, his under-lip. His eyes met Margaret's, but only for a second, for, by a kind of mutual impulse, they both looked in different directions during the rest of the service, though, if the truth were told, neither was long absent from the mind of the other. " What is he here for, and why does he look so uncomfortable ? " Margaret asked herself over and over again. "What can she think of me?" was the form of Maurice's self-communing, for it was never occurred to him that Miss Latimer might think it very right and proper that he should adopt tho church and creed of his intended bride, or might look upon his visit to St. Mary's as a piece of harmless curiosity.

After service, Margaret, as usual, waited for Mr. Powell, but the Broadhurst party had lingered also, so thar the two former reached the outer gate in time to see Maurice, after putting the ladies into their carriage, walk away in the opposite direction, heedless alike of Mrs. Broadhurst'» words and Dorothea's look of reproach.

Evidently something was wrong, and even Mr. Powell looked surprised ; indeed there was something more than surprise in his face, though Margaret could not well under- stand what, but a suspicion suddenly darted across her mind that Dolly and her uncle were in league to convert Mr. Gower. " What made Mr. Gower come to Sb. Mary's, uncle Dunstan ? " she asked, abruptly.

'.My dear, the church is open to all," he answered. "And we have no right curiously to enquire into our neighbour's motives."

She said nothing more, but the matter occupied her mind a good deal ; during the next week she scarcely saw Dorothea or any of the Broadhurst family, but she looked for the following Sunday with an anxiety which she could not explain even to herself. " What could it matter to her where Mr. Gower went to church or whether he went at all?"

Sunday came, and brought the Broadhursts to church as usual, but no Maurice; and Dorothea, instead of wearing white and looking radiant, was clad in shades of sober gray and with eyes downcast and troubled. What could t mean ? Miss Latimer's intense curiosity on the subject proved her a true daughter of Eve, notwithstanding her superior intellect and philosophial self-control. She was ashamed of herself for longing to get at the mystery, but the longing grew stronger and stronger. Fortunately, Dolly seemed inclined to gratify it, for she stayed in the church to whisper in Margaret's ear, " Come and see me this after- noon, I have something to say to you,, and I am miserable." She was gone almost without waiting for her cousin's answer, but Margaret had no notion of disappointing her, and set off as soon as possible after the early dinner.

She was taken upstairs to Dorothea's dressing-roöm,. where she found Dorothea herself, stretched on a sofs, in all the luxury of woe expressed by moist eyes and dishevelled hair, but with comfort at hand in the shape of

prayer-book, eau-de-cologne, and a plate of early grapes, . left by Mrs, Broadhurst a few minutes before. " My dear Dolly, how comfortable you look," said Margaret. The remark sounded unfeeling, but there was some provocation for it in Miss Broadhurst's surroundings. The room was so cool and airy, the light came so softly through the Venetian blinds, the air^was so sweet with flowers,.

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which, filled vases of every shape and size, sofas and lounges and arm-chairs offered such irresistible temptation to laziness, it was all such a cha'rming picture of grace and ease and luxury that one might be forgiven if one thought, for a moment, that distress under such comfortable circum stances could scarcely be distress at all. But Dorothea was not disposed to take this view of the matter. " Margaret,

how can you say such a thing ?" she cried. " Comfortable !"___ and a fresh burst of tears' relieved her feelings and Joj^-tte"" present prevented the necessity of any furthex^xplauátion.

"My darling child, forgive me," said Margaret, remorse- . fully. " I did not think what 1 was saying. Dolly, dear, what

is the matter ?" '

But Dolly only sobbed on, and it was quite ten minutes before Margaret could get any coherent statement from her ; then she broke out again-' ' I am perfectly miserable and

heart-broken. Margaret, Maurice does not care for me a . bit ; it has all been a wretched mistake."

" Nonsense, Dolly ! " cried the astonished Margaret. ' ' What do you mean ? Not care for you ! Why he dotes upon you !"

" He does not love me well enough to give up his fancies for me," she repeated, with a sort of gloomy satisfaction. "Do you call that love which can make no sacrifice?"

"That rather depends on the nature of the sacrifice.;: Dorothea, do try and tell me what has really happened, for all this is so much Sanskrit to me. What have you asked

Mr. Gower to do that he has refused ?"

" He is so indignant with me for asking him to go to . church with us, that he vows he will never spend another

Sunday here ; we had a quarrel about it and he went off in . a passion-at least not exactly in a passion, but worse-you ' know how his eyes gleam when he is angry." <

" No I do not," said Margaret, " I never had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Gower in a rage."

'4 You are very fortunate then, I am sure you would not soon forget it if you did ; those hazel eyes can glare more than others I think-but at any rate he went off in this way, and I have not seen him since. Margaret, what shall I do ?"

" When did this scene happen ?" "This morning, before church."

" My dear child, I thought it was a week ago at least. A hopeless quarrel, an hour old, is more fit to laugh than to cry over. Give him till this evening to come round. But, Dolly, I cannot understand. Did Mr. Gower quarrel with you simply because you asked him to go to church?" Dorothea nodded a tearful assent. " But he went with you last Sunday, how was that? And it seemed to me from the way he said good-bye to you at the church-door that you had had a quarrel then. "

'( So we had, but not half such a bad one as this. He was put out, but he did not talk as he did to-day. Oh ! Margaret, it is all uncle Dunstan's fault."

"Uncle Dunstan's fault ! repeated Margaret, remembering her own suspicions, " what do you mean, Dolly ? Do speak

out!". .

" Why uncle Dunstan thought it so dreadful that I should marry a strict Catholic, that, to please him, I persuaded Maurice to go to church-there was nothing in

it."

" Excuse me, Dolly, if Mr. Gower went to St. Mary's in order to show uncle Dunstan that you were not going to marry a strict Catholic, it seems to me that there was a

good deal in it." .

" I did not think you would turn against me, Margaret," cried Dolly, and another flood of tears bore witness to the cruelty and injustice of the world in general, and her lover and cousin in particular.

Again Margaret soothed her back to comparative quiet,

and again Dorothea began her accusations against Mr. Gower.; " Even if he would not go, he need not have been cruel about it ; I can never forget whas he said to me ; even mama thinks it was unpardonable ; everyone but you thinks he has been harsh and unkind."

" What did he say that was cruel ? I am quite ready to call him harsh and unkind if it will comfort you at all, but I should like to know his offence first, and your only accusation at present is that he did not want to go to St. Mary's. What was his cruel speech, Dolly, tell me?"

" He refused me so unkindly when I tried to coax him to come with us this morning ; he said that neither trickery nor tears should drive him there again, and that as ithere were always to be scenes over it, in future we had better spend our Sundays apart. There, Margaret, now you know

all."

"On the contrary, I am more in the dark than ever. " You may as well tell me the whole truth. What was the

trickery to which Mr. Gower alluded ? He would not use such an expression for nothing." Margaret spoke very gravely; she felt there was something underhand, and'was determined to get at the bottom of it. At length, Dolly, after some more tears and hesitation, gave way, and out

came the whole story. How she had made Maurice promise, . in return for her giving up the play, to do her a favour the first time she should ask him ; how, to pacify Mr. Powell, she had assured him that Maurice, so far from being at all bigoted, very much admired the Church of England, and had expressed a wish to go to St. Mary's. With a little cross-questioning Margaret ascertained that this wish was simply a desire to visit the building on a week day, and that the subject of church-going had never been broached between the lovers until the last Sunday morning, when Dorothea reminded Maurice of his promise, and called upon him to fulfil it by taking her to St. Mary's. How he had yielded at last, with a bad grace, but had left them at the church door, and had kept away the rest of the day. How the quarrel had been patched up, and how she had tried to persuade him again this morning : how obstinate he had been, and at last how angry ; and how he had left the house with the speech, before quoted, about spending Sunday hence- forth apart. "And oh! Margaret, I am perfectly miserable," moaned Dolly, for about the twentieth time, by way of climax. "What shall I do ; tell me what shall I do ?" and she clasped her cousin's hand convulsively. Margaret did . not withdraw her hand, but she was silent for some minutes ;

she was more shocked than she had ever been before. She knew that Dolly sometimes had recourse to little shifty ways, and she had always excused them on the score of timidity and dislike to giving' pain ; but there seemed to her something so unprincipled in thus playing off an uncle and lover against each other, tricking them by turns, and betraying each into an offence against his conscience, that at first she could not speak quietly; and when Margaret Latimer could not speak quietly she seldom spoke at all.

"Dorothea," she said, presently, " I do not want to seem harsh, particularly when you are in distress, but now that

you look at it quietly, do you, yourself, think it a delicate and honourable thing to let uncle Dunstan think that in encouraging your marriage with Mr. Gower he might be gaining a convert, and at the same time to betray Mr. Gower into doing a thing which, as appears from his own words, he felt he was not justified.in doing."

" Do you mean to say that it is wrong to go to a strange church ?" began Dorothea, hotly, but Margaret'stopped her.

" You must see that I do not mean anything of the kind, but I do think it wrong to go to any church with the express purpose of deceiving honest people on a point which affect themselves. You took Mr. Gower to St. Mary's in order to persuade uncle Dunstan that you had spoken the truth in telling him that Mr. Gower was not very strongly attached to the creed in which he had been brought up ; by this means you have, for the present, silenced uncle Dunstan's opposition, but you have done so at the price of hurting Mr. Gower on a sensitive point, and driving him away in disgust."

" How do you know that religion is a sensitive point with him ; has he been talking to you about it ?" asked Dorothea, with a certain latent jealousy.

" I did not mean religion," said Margaret, "I meant that you had touched him on a point of honour, and that, to say the least, must be a dangerous trick to play with any man who has a sense of honour at all. I do not know .anything about Mr. Gower's religious feelings, except, what I have gathered from your own story, but it seems quite evident that he is not prepared to give up his faith ; and Dolly, do you think you have given him to understand that you could give up yours ?"

u I have often said that, there is not much difference, and that I have a great admiration for Roman Catholics, and that sort of thing, but nothing more ; and that is notfpromis ing to give up one's faith."

'.Oh, dear no," said Margaret, dryly. "Well, dear, if you will allow me to give you a little advice, do not provoke any more religious squabbles with Mr. Gower. As for the rest, it is of no use for me to say anything about making quite sure of your own mind, or speaking out plainly to uncle Dunstan, because you will certainly act in accordance with your own better judgment. But I think you will believe me in this one thing-lovers' quarrels are said to be very pretty-I cannot speak from experience-but I cannot imagine that lovers' quarrels over articles of faith are either pretty or likely to strengthen the love on either side. Do not offer to take Mr. Gower to church any more until you

are married. "

"And you would have us keep our disputes on such serious matters until then, when it would be too late to put it right," interrupted Dorothea, greatly shocked.

" By the time you have been married six months, Dolly, you will believe everything Mr. Gower tells you. Now, good-bye ; wash the tears from your eyes, twist up your hair, and, when this recreant swain appears, be magnani- mous enough to take half the blame, which, by right belongs entirely to you, and he will be so struck with remorse that he will probably, then and there, relinquish all right to use his- private judgment from this time forth. Good-bye, my ¿dear ; if I see him I will send him to you."

She spoke in jest, but she was not half way home when she actually met the delinquent walking along in a moody

and disconsolate manner.

Í' How do you do, Miss Latimer," he said, " may I walk a little of the way with you ?"

" I was going to ask you to do so," she said, with admir- able frankness, but blushing a little all the same. " Dolly has been telling me all about this quarrel she is very un- happy, poor child, about something you said to her ; you must not judge her harshly ; she sometimes says and does things that seem strange, simply because she is too tender- hearted to like to give pain ; she is always trying to smooth things, quite regardless of the knocks she may herself receive in the process. I am afraid I am not very intelligible--."

" Yes, you are, Miss Latimer, and as good as gold besides. To tell you the truth I am savage with myself. I think it must be I that have been misleading Dorothea all this time, and I must needs visit it on her. It is a sweet state of affairs," he said, gloomily.

"I do not see that it is so very bad," said Margaret. " There is only a little quarrel to make up-that is of course supposing you wish to make it up," she went on, drawing herself up and looking intensely proud on Dolly's behalf.

Maurice looked in her face with a half whimsical smile. " Are you in any doubt on that point ? Pray set your mind at. rest. I would do anything to please her, short of-" he stopped for a second, and then went on, " I may as well , speak out, Miss Latimer, that is, if I am not boring you-."

It was Margaret's turn to smile now, and, reassured, he went on, " I did not well know how to say it. I am not given to talking about religion, but I have too much regard for it to throw it overboard for anything ; and there are other reasons-. I cannot turn Protestant, or Anglican, or . anything, even for Dorothea. I thought she knew it. I

was fool enough to think that, like some High Church people I have known, she was Catholic at heart. I never imagined there would be these differences between us."

"I think you exaggerate them," said Margaret. "My uncle, Mr. Powell, has great influence with her, but I do not fancy that Dorothea's own convictions are so very dif- ferent from yours ; and the matter, after all, only rests with herself. But be patient, for it is a hard struggle to her ; she has never opposed uncle Dunstan before, and they have always been very much attached to each other ; of course her little temporiBings will do no good, but still they are excusable. They say that every woman takes her religion from some particular man, but you cannot expect her to change her High Priest without a struggle."

"And you do not think I have deceived her ?"

" I do not think she has the least idea of turning you into a Protestant, and she will probably tell you so if you go

and ask her."

"Thank you, I will take your advice," said Maurice, more cheerfully. So they shook hands and parted, he to make his peace with Dorothea, and she to read Jeremy Taylor on :V Contentment, " in the garden till bedtime.

«?:? To be'continued.) ,

SCARCITY OF TORTOISESHELL TOM-CATS.-The scarcity of tortoiseshell tom-cats is evidently no mere popular error. A show of catB waB opened lately at the Albert Palace, London, and although nearly every other feline variety was represented, the only one tortoiseshell tom promised for exhibition was conspicuous by his absence.