|Chapter Title||PAIRED AT LAST.|
|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Society, Friendship and Love|
"SOCIETY, FRIENDSHIP AND LOVE. "
P A I K E D A T L A S T .
"Mr. Powell ponders over the latest news, and considers it a satisfactory ending to a painful adventure."--CHAPTER XVII.
' By E. A. B.
'.Jack shall have Jill,
Nought shall go ill :
The man shall have Iiis mare again, And all ihall go well."
tí ix months had gone by and Margaret was beginning to feel herself quite an old resident of the primitive little country town of Frying-pan Falls, and a valued . friend and trusty counsellor of Mrs. Morton, the banker's wife. She had recovered her outward cheerfulness and serenity, and had a peculiar horror of allowing anyone to suppose that she was brooding over a secret grief. She never wilfully allowed her thoughts to dwe ll upon Maurice, and had even yet scarcely acknowledged to herself that had Dorothea behaved differently her own destiny might have been dif- ferent also. But somehow her life seemed emptier and duller than ever, as though she had just missed Borne rare happiness which had flown away for ever, taking all life's joy with it. She tried to fill the void with lesson books and domestic details ; her daily existence was neither dull nor disagreeable ; the Mortons were kind people, and fond of society, and it ÍB impossible for any one who baa sufficient occupation and a desire to make the best of things to be uniformly and hopelessly miserable.
So Margaret contrived to exist in decent comfort, till one morning brought her a letter in the almost forgotten hand- writing of Miss Broadhurst. She tore it open, wondering what Dorothea would say to her, and read as follows :
"My dear Margaret,-In spite of our painful quarrel and the natural estrangement which has followed, I hope and think you will be glad to hear the news I have to give you. 1 am engaged to Mr. Walter Grimleigh, and we intend to be married early next month. A long time ago, shortly indeed alter the terrible scenes which banished you and cruelly upset my health, he asked me to be his wife, explaining to me that his devotion was of long standing, and had never altered, although he had drawn back when he supposed that my affection was bestowed elsewhere. I could not, at that time, respond to Walter's proffered regard ; my heart and mind had been too much shaken and hurt, and needed time and repose to heal. I held out to him enough hope to keep him from utter despair ; and his mother-who is indeed a sweet woman-prevailed upon him to leave me in peace until I should have recovered something of my usual spirits. Yesterday, judging that this time was come, he proposed to me again, and without doufct or delay I accepted him. To please me ho has promised to overcome his dislike
to public-life, and togo into parliament ; a resolution which aiforis unmingled gratification to his parents, who are so good as to thank me for it. I cannot hope to convey to you an idea of how happy I am. Even during the time that I was most blinded as to Maurice Gower's real character, I felt a want, an indescribable want in him, and this want grew more apparent as our relations grew closer and more continued. I was never altogether satisfied, altogether happy in his society ; and as time went on, and his faults revealed themselves more clearly to me, I felt indeed that in marrying him I should be taking a desperate step through a feeling of loyalty to him, and the infatuation which was still strong within me, alike forbade me to break our engage- ment, -and. made me s utter much when it was violently broken by others. Margaret, that pain is now past ; and I can not only from my heart forgive, I can even thank you for saving me from the fate on which I was .blindly rushing. I know you make a profession of f reethought and atheism (' I do nothing of the kind,' said Margaret indignantly, to herself, )-but, if you will let me, I will give you one word of advice : try to cultivate religion in your heart ; you will find it a comfort in distress. I have found it sp-a safe- guard in temptation, and a light ju darkness. We were both deaf to its dictates. I proposed to ally myself to a man of an alien creed j you, when you allowed passion and vanity to get the better of duty and judgment. But good has come to us both out of evil, for we are both delivered from the net of the spoiler. Let Maurice Gower be hence- forth a closed book in both our lives. I forgot to tell you that he sailed from Granville last week for England ; other- wise, to show that I bore him no malice, I should have begged my mother to invite him to my wedding. I have every reason to believe that a remorseful conscience kept him in Australia until he should hear of my happy engage- ment. He must have recognised Walter's superior nature and felt how it would be. From my heart I forgive him ;; but he is gone, and I desire that he may trouble us no more. I hear from uncle Dunstan that you are comfortable in your new home, and that Mr. and Mrs. Morton are kind to you. I must now say adieu, and believe me, my dear Margaret, in spite of what has passed, your affectionate cousin,
" P.S.-Will you kindly give this letter to Charley when you have read it. I do not wish to neglect him, and have
no time to write another. »
Margaret was still sitting with this remarkable epistle in her hand when Charley Powell appeared, also with a note which his father had enclosed for her to him. " We must change," said she, giving him Dorothea's and taking her
uncle's, which only told of the engagement in a few words, and that everyone waa well and happy.
Charley had not read the first twelve lines of his cousin's letter before he found it necessary to sit down ; after a few more, he was in a recumbent position ; and, before he had finished, he was rolling on the floor in an agony of mirth. " It is superb ! " he exclaimed, " the most delicious combi- nation of Dolly and the Grimleighs that one could have imagined. My, my dear, does she positively forgive you for being more charming than herself ? Now that is what t call real magnanimity. And does she not mount the tub prettily ? That is, that ' sweet woman ' the Grimleigh again. Cultivate religion, my dears, that you may be able to turn up your noses at those miserable people who have not got any to boast of. Fancy cultivating religion too, as if it was a cabbage ! Are you going to answer this precious document, Margaret?"
" I must write a few words, of course ; congratulation, I suppose, and that sort of thing."
" Ah ! to be sure. Well, give her my love, and say I am glad she has done so well for herself ; and be sure you thank her for allowing me to see her very remarkable letter. By the way, Meg, if Maurice Gower has started for England he has left his double in Granville. I heard from him the other day."
" I do not see that it concerns me," Baid Margaret, coolly. And Charley answered as coolly, '* Oh ! o£ course not ; but I thought you might like to know. "
'* It will not do, Mrs. Meg," he said to himself, as he walked off whistling. "You act very prettily, but I am not to be taken in in that way. So our other young friend's delay is explained at last. Now, I wonder, if it had not been for that lucky mistake of some printer's devil, how much longer she would have waited. If we. had known what she wanted we would have shipped Gower off three months ago with all the pleasure in life. Little dog-in-the manger. Well, now that she is safely delivered out of the net, I will write to the poor spoiler, who really has been
as patient as a lamb, and tell him to come and lay his snares
for the other."
The two letters were sent away that same evening.
Charley had recourse to his reminiscences of the Latin grammar, and wrote laconically "Come, see, and conquer!"
Margaret simply thanked Dorothea for writing, congratu- lated her on her engagement, and stated that she herself was perfectly contented and comfortable ; but as she fastened the envelope, a great tear dropped upon it, and she had to jump up and walk about the room to recover her
equanimity before anyone should come in and see lier." -
^ k want Î" she found herself repeating scornfully, more than once, " and a want that Walter Grimleigh can supply. But what business is that of mine ? I have nothing to do with either. His real character ! She never understood it at all." And then she grew crimson, and picked up a novel to try and divert her thoughts. The sooner she forgot him the better. There was nothing very pleasant to remember in their transactions with each other, and he was gone or going to England.
But she could not absorb herself in her novel, or work herself up to any degree of sympathy with the hero, who was described as possessing the figure and carriage of a Grecian god, the blue eyes and golden hair of a mythical Scandi- navian warrior, and the nerves and muscles of a coalheaver. Had he been represented as slight and pale, with dark hair, hazel eyes, and a charming smile, she might have followed his fortunes with more interest. As it was, she shut up the book in disgust, and went to help Mrs. Norton make jam.
The month passed away, and Dorothea's wedding day came round. It chanced also to be Margaret's birthday ; yet, strange to say, Charley, who must have remembered it, did not come near her, nor send her the slightest token of recollection ; a kind letter from her uncle Dunstan was the only notice that any of her relations deigned to take of her. It was a holiday, and Mr. and Mrs. Norton, with their daughters, were gone out for the day. They would have taken Margaret with them had she chosen, but she felt in one of those humours when it is absolutely necessary to take stock of one's feelings, and try to make them square with one's destiny-to settle, in fact, one's mental accounts. So she shut herself up alone to reason herself into peace, and to rally her sinking courage.
The day stole wearily on till the evening, but her mind was as disturbed and perplexed as ever. " Dorothea married, and Maurice gone back to England !" She found herself repeating this, and blushed crimson, as though she had been doing something disgraceful. Of course Charley must have been mistaken ; it was absurd to suppose that Maurice would care to remain in Australia. How lonely it was. She could not read, she could not work, and the Nor- tons would not be back for a couple of hours at least. She might try a little music.
Half unconsciously she picked up a volume of Mozart, and opened at the Twelfth .Mass. She began to sing the " Agnus Dei," but could not finish it. A too vivid recol- lection of the last time she had sung it at Oaklands on Sunday evening when Maurice stood beside her, and turned over the leaves, made her voice break suddenly in a kind of sob. " Dona nobis paccim." Was it indeed only peace she wanted? She hid her face in her hands, and let them fall on the piano, trying to choke back the tears which would
Someone who lingered outside the window to hear her sing came into the room, but he moved so softly that she did not hear him till he stood close beside her chair and whispered, " Margaret !"
"Maurice !" she cried, but the room began to spin round her, and she caught at the piano for support That, too, failed her, and she felt herself falling to unknown depths, till she was suddenly caught up and held fast, and her giddy head supported-she knew not how. She closed her eyes, and in the happy consciousness of that support fainted quietly away.
# .* * * # *
It was some weeks later that Mrs. Broadhurst, with a copy of that morning's Trumpeter in her hand, rushed in- dignantly into her brother's house and demanded what was meant by this disgraceful advertisement ?
Mr. Powell read aloud the notice of the marriage, at Fryingpan Falls, by the Rev. A. Conyngham, of Maurice Gower, of Broomshire, England, to Margaret, only daughter of the late Hugh Latimer, of Granville, and cheerfully remarked that it was a satisfactory ending to a painful
Mrs. Broadhurst forthwith launched into a storm of in- vective against Margaret, whom she stigmatised as base, worldly, false, ungrateful, and irreligious. As for Maurice, he was a poor, weak, deluded fool, and her brother was not much better for promoting and abetting such an abominable marriage ; but for Margaret, with her pretty airs of mock candour and unselfishness, and discretion and superiority, the whole English language could not furnish her with an epithet strong enough to express her contempt. This is what came of free thinking, and being wiser than other people. How could anyone have trusted a girl without religion ?
"My dear Dora," said Mr. Powell, when she had quite exhausted her vocabulary, and was obliged to pause for lack of breath, " in the first place let me remind you that once a year or so you are yourself pleased to be wiser than other people, and to take up the opinions of the last free thought lecturer who has done us the honour to visit our town. I make no objection to the occasional lapses into infidelity, as I observe that you afterwards return with new interest and pleasure to the practices of the church to which you were Drought up. But do you not think that they should make you more tolerant of Margaret's difficulties in the matter ? Further, I do not see that she was ever entitled to the name of freethinker ; a mild and general scepticism is the utmost that can be accorded her, and she never struck me as being particularly well .satisfied with the ground on which she stood. I had always hoped that we should succeed in win- ning her to something better, but we have failed, and the task has devolved on Mr. Gower. For your charges of - deceit and ingratitude, they are simply absurd. If anyone behaved deceitfully in thé matter it was not Margaret, as you very well know ; and as for ingratitude, the poor child had not much for which to be grateful while she lived amongst us. I pray that her married life may be so bright and prosperous as to make her forget her dreary and neglected girlhood."
Mrs. Broadhurst broke into a peal of rather hysterical laughter. "That I should live to hear you pronounce a blessing on the marriage of a bigoted Roman Catholic and an inveterate sceptic ! Are you not afraid that the church roof will tumble about your ears in revenge of such sacri- lege?"
" I believe it to be pretty secure, and consequently am under no such apprehension. And a few months will prove the inveteracy of Margaret's scepticism. But, Dora, 1 think we may all take shame to ourselves that professing, as we do, a creed of love, wisdom, simplicity, and purity beyond all others, we have so failed to illustrate it by oui lives, that a girl with unusual powers of mind, a very loving disposition, and a strong tendency to reverence what- ever is good and beautiful, after living with us for sever years, found our religion a sham, and our pretensions vain,
and turned from them with weariness and disgust. Had we won her, I do not think that she would have married
Maurice Gower. "
"Oh ! is that your opinion ?" said Mrs. Broadhurst, with scornful incredulity. " You think, I suppose, that she would have been as conscientious as my poor Dolly ?"
"I do not think her conduct would have resembled Doro- thea's in any one particular," put in Mr. Powell. " But why do you call her poor ? Is she not satisfied with her
"How could she be otherwise? Walter is everything that is charming and delightful. I think she is well rid of Maurice ; but I shall never forgive the part Margaret played in the matter. However, it you feel that you were chiefly to blame, of course you are right to defend her. I wonder you did not perform the ceremony as a sort of atonement. By the way, when were they married ? Who is the Rev. A. Conyngham, a priest or a parson ?"
" I do not recognise any distinction between the two. If you wish to know whether he is Anglican or Roman Catholic, I have no doubt you can ascertain by writing to fryingpan Falls."
" You are very kind, but I am not curious enough to take the trouble. Well, good-bye I am delighted that your ideas are so completely changed on the subject of mixed marriages. Oh ! I forgot to ask-are they going to England ?"
"They are going first to Fiji. Their movements after- wards are uncertain. May I give your love to Margaret
when I write ?"
" Oh, yes, I suppose so. It is of no use to keep up a feud now the thing is done. And tell her if she likes she may write to me now and then. Letters from Fiji ought to be amusing."
She disappeared as abruptly as she had come, and Mr. Powell, with a sigh, went back to meditate in his study the Grace of Congruity, or in other words, the difficulty of adopting practice to principle, which was to form the subject of a series of short discourses during the ensuing