Chapter 63620229

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Chapter NumberXII
Chapter TitleFATE'S PUPPETS.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63620229
Full Date1886-08-14
Page Number0
Corrections0
Word Count4449
IllustratedY
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleIllustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)
Trove TitleSociety, Friendship and Love
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"Corne Meg, I'm awfully sorry, you might give a fellow a kiss."-CHAPTER XII.

"SOCIETY, FRIENDSHIP AND LOVE."

By E. A . B.

CHAPTER XII. FATE'S PUPPETS.

" Springs to catch woodcocks,"

-Shakespeare.

As Fate would have it, Mr. Powell had gone out early that morning, not intending to return till the evening, and Margaret was spending the day alone. Maurice met her in the garden, near the gate, and Margaret, seeing that he looked white and ill, grew uneasy, and began to ask what was the matter. He tried to answer, but not a word would come-the whole place seemed to be spinning round with him, and he just managed to catch a post of the verandah in time to save himself from falling. Margaret made him sit down, and flew off for restoratives ; but he managed to recover himself without them, and when she came back he was sitting upright, but with a terrible white face. He began at once to apologise.

"I am so sorry to have given you all this trouble, Miss Latiraer. I wanted to see Mr. Powell, but I would not have come if I had suspected that one of these wretched attacks were coming on."

"lam sorry uncle Dunstan is out," said Margaret ; "but you did not give me any trouble, only I am sorry to see you

so unwell."

"Oh! it is not anything very serious," he said, lightly. "I have fits of palpitation sometimes, they sent me out from home to try and cure them."

"It does not seem to be very successful."

" Oh, yes ! I have not had an attack for an age. I walked too fast here, I suppose. Do not look at me like that, Miss Latimer. I am all right now. And please do sit down, unless you mean me to understand that I am dis- turbing you, and had better go. "

"No," said Margaret, "sit still." And she sat down, and took up some knitting which was lying near, to give him time to recover himself. When she looked up again, his face had regained its ordinary colour, and he seemed

much the same as usual.

" What an idiot I have made of myself," he said; " you see, Miss Latimer, the day is so hot, and I have been walking at the pace of a young locomotive."

" I do not think you are likely to do it again. I suppose you forgot and thought it was Christmas at home ! By the way, how is Dolly ? I have not seen her for two days, " said Margaret, who suspected a new quarrel, and did not believe that Mr. Gower had ever walked too fast in his

life.

"She says she is not very well ; she seemed a good deal

upset when I left her," said Maurice, with a grim sort of

smile.

" Oh !" said Margaret ; " has she been walking too fast,

also?" .

" I am not sufficiently well informed about her move- ments to be able to say. Of course, Miss Latimer, you see perfectly well we have had another quarrel.. We shall pro- bably grow accustomed to them in time. "

" I am so sorry," said Margaret, and did not know what more to say. " Is it a very serious quarrel ?" she added,

after a minute's pause.

" If you mean what is it about, I really do not know. We seem to brush each other the wrong way-at least 1 always manage to offend Dorothea, and perhaps I am wearing out her patience. She seems lately to have taken a fancy for weighing me in the balance with her other friends and acquaintances, and I cannot flatter myself that I out-

weigh them. "

" But that must be an absurd fancy on your part," said Margaret. "If you have shown such distrust to Dolly, I think she was quite justified in resenting it."

" Perhaps so," said Maurice, with a slight shrug of his

shoulders.

Neither liked to say anything more, and after a few forced remarks on indifferent topics, he got up to go.

"I wish uncle Dunstan had been in," said Margaret. " Can I give him any message for you ?"

" No, thank you. I do not know exactly what I want to say to Mr. Powell. Do you know, Miss Latimer, I believe you can help me more than he can."

"I shall be so pleased if I can do anything to smooth matters," she said, gently. So he stayed, and told his woeful tale, only softening the passages which related to

Walter Grimleigh.

" I do not think you ought to encourage that idea for a moment," said Margaret. "If Dorothea has flirted with him, it was only to punish you for some real or imaginary offence against herself, and she would of course bitterly resent your doubting her. "

He only looked half convinced, and took up his parable on another theme. " Dolly says her father and mother want her to give me up, and she has made me read a vulgar article in the "Fiery Brand," and says that it will put matters straight in some mysterious way if I come a few times and talk theology to Mr. Powell."

" And was that why you came to-day ?"

" Not precisely. I wanted to know if he could explain to me what pressure is being put on Dorothea to make her

give me up, for that something of the kind is going on, I am perfectly certain."

Margaret looked incredulous{ ' * I do not understand one word of the business,'" she said. "Why do yon want to talk theology to uncle Dunstan ? Do you mean that he is to convert you ?"

' * I have not the remotest intention of being converted by anyone. The theological conversations were suggested by Dorothea, but prompted, I believe, by some one else. As to what earthly purpose they can serve, I am as much in the dark as you. At any rate I declined making myself ridiculous, and that was the beginning of our quarrel. Tell me, Miss Latimer, do you think it would be a decent thing for a man to pretend that he is going to change his creed in order to gain some private ends ?"

"I should think it disgusting," said Margaret; "but indeed you must be mistaken if you think Dorothea wants you tb do that. It may be a suggestion of uncle John, who you know . looks upon all creeds with equally con- temptuous toleration."

" Oh, yes ; he once did me.the honour to say that he could not think how I, who had the usual amount of brains, and had seen a good deal of the world, could possibly be enslaved by a set of superstitious observances, fit only for illiterate old women and children. But I forgot, they say you share his opinions. However, I do not believe Mr. Broadhurst suggested these visits to Mr. Powell. "

" Nor do I ; but I think it was an inspiration. Dolly wished to soothe her father and at the same time not to insult you." And Miss Latimer did not add what was in her mind-"Like some other suggestion of Dolly's it has neither common senBe nor common honesty to recommend it." Neither did she make any comment on his supposition that she shared Mr. Broadhursts large intolerance. ' ' You do not think then," he said, "that Mr. Powell has been urging her to give me up ?"

"lara perfectly sure he has not done so. He did not approve of the engagement at first, and said so plainly. But any opposition on his part would always be open. He has no fancy for crooked ways, Mr. Gower."

Maurice gave a great sigh, but said nothing.; The truth was being unpleasantly forced upon him that whether or no Mr. Powell loved crooked ways-one of his nieces most certainly did-and it was not a truth that carried any kind of gratification with it. Margaret guessed a little of what was passing in his mind and hastened to do battle for

Dorothea.

" Do you not think you are apt to judge poor Dolly very harshly and to say unkind things to her ? I do not see that

these quarrels would take place if you were a little more forbearing. How do you know what battles she may have to fight with herself and those round her ? You expect her to give up her religion for yours, and you are hurt and indignant if she shows that she suffers a little in the process.

You are not reasonable. "

Maurice raised his eyebrows at this rebuke. He thought it harsh and un j ust, and did not see that she was trying to

convince herself as much as him.

"I suppose lovers' quarrels are intelligible to themselves, but they certainly are a moat profound mystery to the rest of the world. " Margaret went on-"Mr. Gower, why do you not marry Dorothea at once, take her away with you, and put a stop to all this nonsense ? "

" For the simple reason that Dorothea will not let me do so. And, after all, I have no right to expect that she shall come to a place like Fiji until I have made some kind home for her. She is not strong, and the climate is dread- ful. Indeed, I believe Mrs. Broadhurst waa ts the marriage put off until I have made my fortune in the islands, and can

return to civilisation."

"It is not a question of aunt Dora, but of Dolly," said Margaret, impatiently. "I do not believe you have ever really made her understand that you want her to go with

you."

"Do you not?" said Maurice, biting his lip. "I have, perhaps, lost the power of making myself intelligible since I

came to Castlereagh."

"Very possibly," said Margaret, spitefully. And that being the case I do not see what I can do to help you,"

"I can only express my deep regret that I have worried you with this miserable nonsense. Good morning, Miss Latimer." And he took up his hat and marched off, after a very stiff bow to Margaret, who did not know whether to laugh or be sorry.

He was scarcely gone when Dunce Broadhurst appeared with a message from his mother to ask Margaret to join a small party at Oaklands the next evening. The entertain- ment had been arranged with the Griinleighs ; the Count was to be invited to give a private mesmeric séance, and Mrs. Broadhurst resolved that her niece should be present for two reasons. She could scarcely believe that Margaret would be such a fool as to throw away the chance of becom- ing Countess Czirnaachek, and she was resolved to give the silly girl a last opportunity. She also wished to see Margaret and Maurice together, and to judge for herself whether there was any truth in her husband's monstrous supposition.

"Thank aunt Dora, and tell her I will come," said Margaret, quite unconscious of the double plot, for Mrs. Broadhurst had said nothing to Dunce about the Count and

his mesmerism,

"lt will be jolly slow. All the old fossils are coining, and there will be Walter Grimleigh. spooning on Dolly, and .Maurice looking black as thunder, and Dolly looking so,"

said Dunce, with a caricature of his sister's gentle deprecat- ing manner, which made Margaret smile in spite of herself. But she promptly rebuked him, and he forthwith turned his attention to a letter that was sticking out of her apron pocket, and wanted to know what Charlie Powell had to say

himself.

" He is quite well ; there is no news," said Margaret, and pushed the letter back in her pocket.

The action excited master Dunce's suspicions, and besides, he had seen his tutor's name in one corner. He resolved to become possessed of that document, and to that end pro- ceeded to make himself agreeable. He was a young gentle- man possessed of many agreeable devices for the purpose of tormenting his fellow-creatures, and now he exerted all these arts for the sole behoof of Margaret. When he had driven her to the verge of distraction without attaining his object, he changed his tactics and affected deep penitence, accompanied with much demonstration of affection. " Come, Meg, I am awfully sorry, you might give a fellow

a kiss."

"I feel more inclined to give you a box on the ears." But Dunce coaxed, and Margaret relented, and allowed him to put one arm round her neck in a vigorous way, while with the other he cunningly transferred the letter from her pocket to his own. Then he went away whistling in much

contentment.

As soon as he reached home he locked himself in his own room and stretched himself on his bed to pursue his studies in comfort and secresy. Poor Dunce found some difficulty in deciphering Frank Powell's not very legible hand, and the big words proved too much for him altogether, but he succeeded in mastering one part of the contents of the letter, which amply repaid him for his trouble. When he had finished he gave a long whistle. " My eyes ! here is a pretty kettle of fish. How mean of Meg to want to keep it to herself." And then he sat down on the edge of his bed

to meditate.

Meanwhile Margaret, unsuspicious of her loss, sat knitting in the garden, revolving in her mind the affairs of her cousin and Mr. Gower. And Mr. Powell was closeted with Mr. Broadhurst in the private office of the Trumpeter, whither he had been summoned to discuss urgent business.

"I suppose I need not ask you," said Mr. Broadhurst, "whether you have seen the last number of the Fiery

Brand ? "

"Ihave seen it, certainly, for a number was sent to me, I have not read it, for I put it behind the fire."

"A most appropriate place for it. Of course you know that Boanerges was pleased to attack me in it, and tc criticise my domestic arrangements."

" Is Dr. Boanerges' opinion a matter of vital importance to you ?" said Mr. Powell.

" His opinion is a matter of the utmost indifference to mt at all times, but his publication of it is sufficiently annoying

at this juncture." .

"That is unfortunate," said his brother-in-law, so drily that Mr. Broadhurst's philosophical patience became a little ruffled. " For Heaven's sake, Powell, say something to tht point, instead of sitting there like an oracular automaton Your laconic style is very admirable, no doubt, but just ai present it suggests the parrot that did not talk, and Wa« therefore supposed,jto think all the more."

"If you will kindly let me know what your point is, ] may be able to make some comments upon it ; at present !

am in the dark."

. " The point ! Well, I suppose the point is to put a stoy to this idiotic engagement."

"Meaning, I suppose, the engagement of your daughte:

with Mr. Gower ? "

"Exactly. We seem to understand each other clearh now, and the question is, how is this to be managed ?"

"And may I ask what cause exists for breaking the en gagement which was not also a sufficiently strong reasoi against forming it ? "

" There is no doubt it is a pity we ever did allow it, but of course then I had no idea that young Gower was so strongly attached to his fancies that he would refuse to give them up when Dorothea wished it."

"In short, you supposed he was a Catholic only in name. Did he say any thins; to justify you in such a belief ? "

" I do not know that he did. I must have taken it for granted. Of course one is a fool to take anythiug for granted in this world ; but who was to imagine that a young fellow of good position, well educated, and with plenty of brains and worldly experience, would turn out as devout a Catholic as the most ignorant old woman who believes that-"

" Suppose we leave the old woman's belief on one side for the present. I was not aware that devotion was considered incompatible with a certain station in life or a certain degree of education. But let that pass. Did Dorothea share your opinion in this matter ? "

" I really have no idea what Dorothea thought. I suppose she was in love, and did not think at all."

"She told me that Mr. Gower had strong inclinations towards the Church of England-"

Mr. Broadhurst gave a little mocking laugh. " She must have had an active imagination to fancy such a thing for a moment. She made him go to church with her one day, and we had such a acene over it that I wished the whole Anglican system, from the Archbishop of Canterbury down- wards, at jericho. I beg your pardon ; but really religious squabbles are not amusing to anyone but the parties con-

cerned."

" Then you do not think that Ire made her a promise that he would embrace her creed after their marriage ?''

"I am pretty sure that if he saic such a thing he must have been in a highly intoxicated condition at the time ; and as he is not much given to that kiud of weakness, I can only suppose that Dolly's wish was father to her thought in the

matter. "

Mr. Powell was silent for a moment, and the expression of his face was not pleasant. " But if your daughter ia so much attached to Mr Gower," he said at length, " I do not see how you can break off her engagement, even though you may repent of it yourself. What was strong enough to make her blind herself and me is surely strong enough to make her oppose you. I presume you do not mean to use force to break an engagement which yon yourself sanc-

tioned."

" Pray set your mind at rest. I have not the slightest intention of shutting Dolly up or starving her. The fact is, this is where I want your help. You have so much influence with Dolly-"

"I was not aware of it," put in Mr. Powell.

" Oh ! yes you have, and her mother and I want you to talk to her and appeal to her religious feelings and so on, to make her give up Maurice. It is a miserable affair for both

of them."

" My former remonstrances produced such undesirable results that 1 am not inclined to repeat them ; nor do I see why a second appeal should be more effectual than the first."

" I think you would find it so. I think a good deal of Dorothea's first enthusiasm has cooled."

"If she ha8 ceased to feel any affection for Mr. Gower, it seems unnecessary to appeal to any sense of religious duty which she may possess."

" 1 do not say that she has ceased to feel any affection for Maurice, but I fancy that there-is a divided kind of senti- ment in her at present. There is no doubt that young Grim leigh has lost his little wits about her, and I suppose she is flattered by it."

" Then am I to understand that my niece is in love with two gentlemen at once?"

" Really, I do not feel competent to dissect a young woman's feelings, but I believe she has not quite made up

her mind between them."

" Tn that case it might be as well to wait till she does so." "Of course, but it would not be amiss to apply a little gentle pressure to ensure her coming to a right determina-

tion."

Mr. Powell looked hard at his companion for a moment. " Are you in any real doubt as to the state of her feeling ?" he asked quietly.

"Well, nd ; frankly, I believe there is no doubt whatever but that she will choose Grimleigh."

"Then may I ask again why you wish rae to interfere ?" . " I suppose I must be frank with you. This present en- gagement is such a nuisance to me, both from a domestic and political point of view, that I shall be glad to see it broken off without delay, and another with young Grimleigh substituted in its place. Of course I should not think of upsetting the existing arrangement if Dolly's peace were really involved in it, but there is no doubt whatever that she will be far happier as Grimleigh's wife than she ever

could be as Gower's. "

" You mean that Mr. Walter Grimleigh is richer than Mr. Gower, more ambitious, more likely to hold a conspicuous position, more able to give Dorothea what will make life pleasant to her."

" My dear Powell, you forget religion."

"Ah! true; I forgot religion, which no doubt heida large place in your calculation?. I am quite of your opinion that Mr. Gower and my niece are unsuited to each, and that a marriage with this young Grimleigh will more nearly meet the wishes of all parties concerned. I can only regret that you did not make the discovery a little sooner, it would have saved you all from some embarrassment, and from a not very edifying position. I can also understand that it is greatly to your interest, to hurry on the matter, but I must decline to give you any assistance whatever. I have not the wit necessary for advising a young woman who is engaged to one gentleman, is supposed to be in love with another, and whose religious convictions seem to ebb and flow in proportion to the ends to be gained by them. I.do not understand the situation, and am humbly contented to remain in ignorance.''

Mr. Broadhurst shrugged his shoulders. " Your humility is a little suggestive of Pitt's. However, ' if you won't, you won't and there's an end o'it.' By the way, how is Mar- garet ? bhe has not been to our place for some time. Tell

her to come oftener. We have missed her."

Mr. Powell looked sharply at his brother-in-law, and Mr. Broadhurst saw the look. Each was inclined to speak, and each thought better of it. " Powell then, with all his inno- cence, suspects what is going on," said Mr. Broadhurst to himself. " Is Margaret the tool that is to extricate him from his difficulties," thought Mr. Powell, and he went home much perplexed and disturbed in his mind.

He called Margaret to him in the garden, and the two strolled about for some little time looking at the plants and discussing various matters. Presently Margaret said, "I was sorry you were out this morning, uncle Dunstan, Mr. Gower came and wanted to see you."

" Did Mr. Gower say that he wished to see me, my dear?" asked Mr. Powell in so odd a tone that his niece looked at him in surprise.

"Of course he did," she answered, "but he would leave no message, and I think he only wanted to ask whether you could help him at all with Dorothea. They have had another quarrel ; he stayed a little time to tell me about

it."

" Hum ! Margaret, have you any reason to suppose that Dorothea wishes to break off her engagement ? "

' ' Wish to break her engagement ! " repeated Margaret. " Uncle Dunstan, has she suggested such a thing to you ?"

" We have had no conversation on the subject for many months ; but, my dear, I wish to know if you have any sus- picion that she is growing tired of Mr. Gower."

"Oh! it is impossible ! " cried Margaret; and Mr. Powell raised his eyebrows the least bit in the world. " Uncle Dunstan, I am sure it is quite a mistake ; but Mr. Gower seems to have some such idea himself, and he is very wretched about it. But it will all be explained. Dorothea cannot prefer Mr. Walter Grimleigh."

" Hum ! " said Mr. Powell again. There was a few minutes' pause and then he said very gently, "My dear child, will you let me give you a word of warning. This matter between your cousin and Mr. Gower is at present so delicate and so difficult for an outsider to appreciate, that 1 think you and I shall both do well not to allow ourselves to be in any way implicated in it. I know that your motives are good and true, and that, listening to Mr. Gower's confi- dences, you are moved by a sincere desire to help both him and Dorothea. But, my dear, the world is apt to judge harshly, and to misconstrue the purest motives, and you will be doing me a pleasure in refusing to listen to either one side or the other until they have both come to some definite arrangement of their difficulties. You are not hurt, Mar- garet, at what I have said ? "

"No," said Margaret, doubtfully j and then seeing how kind her uncle looked, "No, uncle Dunstan, I should be silly to be hurt, and L will do what you wish. But indeed, I do not think that Dorothea could ever be jealous of me." Even as she spoke she felt the blood rushing to her cheeks, and was indignant at her own absurdity. " Why cannot I be cool?" she thought. "What is the whole matter to me? Air. Gower is not likely to bring me any confi- dences at present," she went on to her uncle. " I said some- thing he did not like this morning, and he went away in a rage."

" So much the better, my dear," said Mr. Powell, smiling. " But if he should overcome his temper sooner than you think, pray refer him to me. I have no wish to be harsh or unjust to him."

"I know that, uncle Dunstan," said Margaret, answering his smile. But she felt humiliated, without knowing why, and was glad to turn the conversation into other channels.