Chapter 63620314

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Chapter NumberXVI
Chapter TitleMR. POWELL CALLS UPON MAURICE FOR AN EXPLANATION.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63620314
Full Date1886-10-16
Page Number0
Corrections0
Word Count3088
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleIllustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)
Trove TitleSociety, Friendship and Love
article text

CHAPTER XVI.

MR. POWELL CALLS UPON MAURICE FOR AN EXPLANATION.

" Needs must I under my transgression bow,

Unless my nerves were brass or hammer'd steel."

-Shakespeare.

THE next afternoon, as Maurice sat alone, chewing the cud of little sweet and much bitter fancy, a card was brought to

him inscribed with the name of the Rev. Dunstan Powell.

With a little resigned shrug he prepared himself to meet the

enemy-the terrible uncle Dunstan, who, after the first, had always met him with a certain kindness, but who must now, of course, be deeply incensed against him. All the indignation of a devoted uncle for the supposed injuries of a beloved niece would be poured out on his head ; theological differences would be dragged in to give variety to the scene ; but anything was better than solitude and his own reflec- tions, and his heart rose a little as he prepared for the

combat.

But Mr. Powell entered with the bearing rather of a mes- senger of peace than of a herald of war ; he shook hands with the enemy, addressed him in mild language, and ac- cepted the easy chair offered without protest or hesitation. " You are surprised to see me," said Mr. Powell.

" A little, though perhaps I should not be," answered Maurice, and did not know what to say next.

"lt will be pleasanter for both of us to go straight to the point," said the other ; and^Maurice, telling himself that it was coming now, put himself in an attitude to receive fire.

" I cannot pretend to be sorry," continued Mr. Powell, " that your engagement to my niece Dorothea is broken off. As you perhaps know, I never approved of it, nor considered you suited to each other. From what I hear, it appears that a feeling of its imprudence has been growing on you both for some time. " Maurice looked np quickly, and Mr. Powell, reading his thought, answered it. "My niece admits that she has for some time doubted your being suited to each other, and whether it would not be better to submit both herself and you to the annoyance of a broken engage- ment than to risk endless anxiety and distress in the future. She has for some time been convinced that the religious dif- ficulties between you are insurmountable, and that you had both been misled in supposing otherwise. This she con- fessed to me this morning." (Mr. Powell did not think it necessary to add that he had forced the confession from her much against her will, and in the teeth of strong opposition on the part of her mother.) " 1 do not see," he went on, "I never did see, how, under these circumstances, you could live together in dignity and comfort, and therefore, I repeat, I am glad that this engagement is at an end, and that it has ended without leaving any worse pangs than angry irritation or mortified vanity on either side."

" You are very kind, sir," said poor Maurice, who felt about as comfortable as a worm wriggling on the hook on which he has been impaled by a humane angler, who regrets the cruel necessity of the case. " Of course E know that all Miss Broadhurst's frieuds must naturally feel indignant with me, and that I cannot attempt to justify myself without covering myself with fresh odium. But I am grateful to her for admitting, and you for believing, that her own feelings had changed towards me, and that she had expressed that change in her manner before these late occurrences. This at least must clear me from the suspicion of base treachery towards her."

"All Miss Broadhurst's friends, like myself, rejoice that her engagement is at an end, and that, independently of what you call late occurrences ; but both they and I wish that end had been brought about in some different manner. Their feelings on this point arise, 1 believe, from their opinion that Dorothea's dignity has received an undeserved shock ; my own, I must confess, spring from a different

source. 1 do not consider that this affair will have much

effect upon Dorothea beyond the anger which it excited at the moment ; but I have another niece who has been dif- ferently affected by it, and for her I feel both grief and you must excuse my saying it-some indignation. She, who has certainly been .guilty of no wrong, has been exposed to calumny and insult, her most sacred feelings have been held up to public scorn, and she herself accused of vulgar ambi- tion and unwomanly intrigue which are utterly foreign to

her nature."

Maurice clenched his hand, and bit his lip till the blood came, to keep back the torrent of indignation against Broad- hursts and Grimleighs which was ready to pour from his tongue. " I would give my life to save her any pain, " he said, " and I have brought all this misery upon her. But but-can you wonder, that as I came to know her goodness, her sweetness-can you blame me if-"

" I do not blame you for loving Margaret," said Mr. Powell, more touched than he cared to show. ' ' I do not even blame you for loving Dorothea first and Margaret after- wards, it was excusable and natural ; but I do blame you, and I think you must blame yourself, for avowing this second love while you were still tied by the first, for trying to force Margaret into a confession of equal weakness, and for putting so little restraint on your passion as to cover both her and yourself with shame and regret. A little self control and all this might have been saved. No one would have attempted to hold you to your engagement with Dorothea ; it might have been so arranged that she could not be supposed to feel any slight, nay, the first step might have come from herself, the worst that anyone could have said of either of you would be that you did not well know your own minds, and you, with a little decent interval, would have been free to offer yourself openly to her cousin. As it is, you have, in her own opinion, outraged Dorothea, you have lowered yourself, wounded Margaret, and perhaps lost her altogether-"

"Do not say that, Mr. Powell," broke in Maurice, with uncontrollable pain in his voice. " I will wait for her for years without a word, but do not let me give her up alto- gether. How could I help speaking as I did, seeing her as she then was ? It is so easy to talk of calmness and self

control-"

" And so difficult to act upon it. Ido not say no. Nor am I so unable to guess what this feeling may be. You must not imagine, my dear boy, that we old men quite for- get how we have felt. All romances do not end happily, or the end is" reserved for a more perfect world than this. If I have spoken harshly, it is not because I am incapable of en- tering into your feelings, but because I wish you now to show a little strength, and to undo, as far as may be, the mischief you have done. You bear me no malice, I hope," said the old man, holding out his hand.

Maurice pressed it warmly, and that pressure and a suspicious mistiness about his eyes went straight to Mr. Powell's heart. " I will try to do what you wish," said Maurice, after a moment's pause, '' only let me have the one consolation of thinking that Margaret-I beg your par- don, I should say Miss Latimer-does not utterly hate and despise me for what I have brought on her."

" I do not think she either hates or despises you, and I will not attempt to conceal from you my opinion that she might return your affection could she do so with justice and honour in her own eyes. Your religion-forgive my saying so-I should always regret ; but at least Margaret is no devout member of the Church of England, she was brought up almost without a creed, and I had rather see her a con- scientious Eomau Catholic than nothing at all. I must tell you, by the way, that one person has long foreseen what has now happened, and blames neither or none of you, and that person is Mr. Broadhurst. "

"He is very kind," said Maurice, rather scornfully, "but considering that he has disliked his daughter's engagement to me almost from the beginning, and has stirred her up to polemics with me, it is not improbable that he may have had a share in bringing about this result that he has so long foreseen and bears so philosophically."

" Possibly," said Mr. Powell,, drily. " But as your own conscience cannot be quite free from self-reproach, and as some of Dorothea's friends are loud in the condemnation of your conduct, it may be a relief to you to know that her father defends you. I think I hear my son Charles at the door ; if you will allow him he will be glad to have some chat with you. He has come down with a Mr. Fothering- ham, an intimate friend, on some government business, and will remain here two or three days at most ; but he is anxious to renew his acquaintance with you. I ?;ill leave him to tell you what we want you to do for Margaret's sake, and will say good-bye for the present." And with a few kind words and another warm shake of the hand, the alarm- ing and Eeverend Dunstan Powell was gone, and Charley, his son, remained in his stead.

These two discarded lovers of Miss Broadhurst had never

been very cordial in former days, but they met now with all the good will in the world, and the merriment of Charley, who was in the best spirits in the world, was so infectious that Maurice caught a little of it, and put his wretchedness on one side for the present.

"I have just come from Oaklands," said Charley, " we have had a delicious scene there ; 1 only wish you had seen it. I heard from those imps Dunce and Regy about Master Dunce's cool appropriation of my letter and the scene after- wards ; so I made up my mind, with the hearty co-operation of the boys, to pay that tutor out. My friend Fotheringham came down to Castlereagh with me, and, prompted by me, he wrote a letter to Fitzalan explaining that I was going to take him to be introduced to the Broadhursts, and that he should be glad to take that opportunity of renewing his acquaintance with Mr. Tonks. We arrived in due course, and found all the Grimleighs there in strong force ; they had somehow, among themselves, discovered Fotheringham's name in the peerage, and that his mother, who has got a handle to her name, was a ninety-ninth cousin, five times re- moved or thereabouts, of Mrs. Grimleigh's sister-in-law. On the strength of this he was received with open arms by everyone but the tutor, for whom we looked in vain. Miss Grimleigh began to look queer, they say there has been something on between those two, and at last Fotheringham asked gravely wha┬┐ had become of his old friend Tonks ? "

" Did they not all fly at him ? " asked Maurice.

' ' Not a bit of it. Did I not tell you his mother is Lady Something, and his family is in the peerage ? ' You do not mean to say his name is really Tonks 1 ' said Mrs. Grim- leigh, ' Do tell us what you really know about him.' So Fotheringham told them the whole yarn over again, and everybody swallowed it alive this time, except Miss Grim- leigh, who looked indignant. Presently down came Regy with a note which he had found on the tutor's table, ad- dressed to my aunt. It was the coolest production you ever heard. It said that as Miss Latimer and Mr. Charles Powell, for some reasons of their own, persisted in trying to injure him, and laying plots against his peace, there was no re- source for him but to leave the place before he was exposed to fresh insults. Then came a little flummery to aunt Dora, and a polite message to Mrs. and Miss Grimleigh, and the tail-piece ; but the upshot of it all was that Fitzalan, alias Tonks was gone, beating an ignominious retreat before Fotheringham, who immediately became a hero in the eyes of everyone. You should have heard the Grimleighs thank ing him for helping to unmask an impostor, and calling him a benefactor to society-it was sublime. By the way, I should recommend Society to be a little more on its guard against impostors ; this is the second that has been un- masked within five days. The illustrious count was shipped off to Hnngary this morning. Poor devil, I am afraid they will not make it pleasant for him. But to return to Pother

ingham ; Miss Mabel at once made up her mind that he was worthy to fill Tonks' absent place, and nearly threw herself into his arms. Meanwhile Dolly, who, according to Regy, had spent the whole time, since my father left, weep- ing in Mrs. Grimleigh's arms, retired to the greenhouse to console herself with Walter. T know Dolly, bless her, she is awfully charming, but it does not pay to be too much in love with her. Walter is just the man for her ; he admires himself too profoundly to weary her with too much devotion, so that as she will never feel she has conquered him, she will never need to look out for fresh victims ; they are made for each other. My uncle John is delighted with the affair ;. in the gratitude of his heart he defended Margaret against the whole room, and even silenced the Grimleighs. By the way, he sent a message to you, something about not worrying over unfortunate coincidences, and that what had happened was the best thing for everyone."

" He is really too kind," said Maurice, in a tone that ex- pressed anything but gratitude. Mr. Broadhurst's mag- nanimity was peculiarly exasperating to him.

"I suppose you think he had a finger in the pie. It is very likely. But let us leave uncle John on one side for the present. Did my father tell you what Margaret means,

to do?"

"No," said Maurice, with averted face, "he said you

would."

' ' All right ! she is going to Frying Pan Falls-pretty name, is it not ?-with me A Mrs. Norton there, the wife of a bank manager, wants a governess for her daughter, and I promised to hunt one up for her ; she is in luck's way to get Margaret. And look here, old fellow, we want you to promise, for your own sake as well as hers, not to try and see her or send any message to her before she goes. It is of no use to meddle with her yet, it will only hurt her and do no good ; but I promise to let you know when you may venture on another try, she will be close to me and I will put out a feeler for you now and then, but do not try any letters or anything till I give you the signal. Is it a bar- gain?"

" Thanks ; it is very good of you," said Maurice, dolefully. " And I must try and wait as best I can."

" And in the meantime, put up petitions to all your pet saints to speed Walter Grimleigh, for he is the man to de- liver you and Margaret from all your troubles."

" I am perfectly conscious of his superior attractions," said Maurice, so spitefully that Charley began to laugh at him, and ask if he could possibly be jealous of his best friend. "I have as much right to hate him as you have," he said, "fori was awfully hard hit once, and after playing with me a little, she flung me over without any provocation for you. I was gloriously jealous of you at first, but as I have outgrown my little weakness now, I am quite ready to ex- tend the right hand of fellowship to you and Walter Grim- leigh. Only, do not try any tricks with Margaret, or, though duelling is gone out of fashion, I shall feel compelled to call you out. She is not quite as pretty as Dolly, though her face is a deal better worth looking at, and in every other way she is worth a dozen of her. It is lucky my father has such a dislike to cousins marrying, or I might try to cut you

out there."

To these facetious remarks Maurice deigned no answer ; and in fact, all Charley's goodwill could not make his levity tolerable for very long just then. He seemed to understand this, or perhaps he himself felt a little bored in Maurice's doleful society, for he presently got up to go ; but first he pulled a tiny parcel out of his waistcoat pocket. " Here is this ring," he said, " you left it on the floor and I picked it up."

" I do not want it," said Maurice, looking at it with pro- found disgust, "do not leave it here."

" But, my dear fellow, I cannot keep it."

" Give it to the first beggar you meet, then," he said im- patiently.

" Thanks," answered Charley, "but perhaps you will da it yourself." And as he persisted in laying it down, Maurice seized it and hurled it through the open window. It fell on a dust-heap, and was picked up by a crossing-sweeper next morning.

In the course of a day or two Maurice heard from Mr. Powell that Margaret was gone to Frying Pan Falls with Charley, and the same evening he himself set out for Gran- ville, the capital of a neighbouring colony, where he had

some friends.

(To be continued.)