|Chapter Title||FAIR FACES AND FALSE HEARTS.|
|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||The Golden Link|
FAIR FACES AND FALSE HEARTS.
No sooner was it known among Matthew Bolton's friends that he had, in a manner, adopted the children of John Armstrong, than they gave expression to their dissatisfac- tion in various ways ; for the disappointment thereby occa- sioned them was very great.
Mr. Bolton had outlived all his near. relations, and had often declared that he knew not to whom he should leave his property. This had caused many to lift up their heads in the world, that is, the world of Talbotfield, in expectation of the benefits which they should derive from his " lamented decease," as the local papers would say.
Nothing, therefore, except the fact of his marrying, which fear they had dismissed from their minds at least ten years before, could have startled them so much as this, which was now the topic of conversation at almost every meal; and loud and angry,and frequently extremely uncomplimen- tary, were the invectives poured forth against M atthew
Bolton and his latest whim.
Of course these were only for private circulation, and only in the presence of trusted cronies ; for, somehow or other, they were ashamed to speak out of their own homes that which they whispered among themselves ; for they felt conscious that there was something debasing and humiliating in their insatiable worship, however secret, of that glittering god who rules the minds and tramples down the better parts of men.
One would have thought that most of these people were too rich in the wealth of this world to entertain such wild cravings ; but the love of gold, like the love of drink, grows with its indulgence.
To do the good folks of Talbotfield justice, most of them were pleased rather than otherwise with what Matthew Bolton had done ; they said it was just like him, and they respected him all the more for his kindness to the children
of his old friend.
The rebellious feeling against his doing as he pleased with his own was confined to some half-dozen families, the mem- bers of which spoke to each other as if everybody but them- selves were the individuals most injured.
But in spite of their cursing and protesting, every one knew it, and, what was more strange, every one knew it of every one else ; every one knew that every one else was doing his or her best to contrive to get a bigger share than any one else's into their own coffers.
And yet these people called themselves one another's friends -visited one another, smiled upon one another, and all the while hated one another as cordially as a man could wish his bitterest enemy to be hated-in short, though it may seem a great deal to say, there were among them those who, if their hearts had been examined, would not have been sorry to have stood beside his best friend's grave.
Such a devil is the craving after gold.
" Give me neither poverty nor riches" is indeed a blessed prayer ; and that man has a happy life who holds faith and hope above the love of money.
But Matthew Bolton knew nothing of all this ; the very thought that he might ever know was enough to chill the life-blood of the hypocrites who could force themselves to return the hearty grasp of his hand and utter the familiar lie that they were glad to see him well.
It has been said, and people have learned to believe it, that men in prosperity, however wise they think themselves, are the blindest of all mortals ; and so he, simple, honest, truth loving old man, closed his eyes and resolutely refused to believe the truth of any of the tales which rumour now and then contrived to whisper into his ears.
Poor, deceived old man, so lovable in his obstinacy, adhering to the grand old rule of doing unto others as he would be done by-for, inside and out, he was very truth
And the very ones he trusted most were deceiving him most,-but not for long-it was not to be for long.
This last act of his kindness raised such a storm amongst them that, had he not wilfully shut his eyes, he could not have helped seeing through the thin disguise which covered their hypocrisy.
But it was not time yet-he had much to learn before all should appear in its true light, when we shall see as we are seen. In that day how many who thought themselves, righteous here will be only too willing to exchange their
own for their brother's sin.
Mrs. Woolston was not a woman whom children could learn to love, and there were some of the townspeople who, though they said little, yet thought much, when they heard that Matthew Bolton had chosen her to fill a mother's place to the young Armstrongs.
She was one of those acquaintances and hangers on who thought that the sooner the lease of Mr. Bolton's life expired the better.
Of course he knew nothing of that though ; he had selected her because he thoroughly believed her to be the most sincere of all his neighbours, in her protestations of affection towards him, whereas, the truth was, her whole merit consisted in her consummate hypocrisy.
She had arrived in Talbotdale some few years previously, when she represented that her husband had died from snake-bite in Northern Queensland, where he had the man- agement of a station or plantation.
This was quite enough to gain for her the sympathies of Matthew Bolton, and when once the thin end of the wedge had been introduced she was not long in following up her
o . . .
Mr. Bolton's best friends instinctively perceived what she was aiming at, but all warnings fell unheeded on his ears.
" You are jealous of the poor woman," was all he said.
Perhaps it was this which in some degree determined his choice, but Martha Woolston did not care much for his motives so loDg as they led to the desired results ; and thus it was that, while she took to herself much pride at the lot having fallen upon her, her enemies-and they were not few-had to content themselves with envying the skill and plotting which had enabled her to defeat their own designs."
Phillip disliked her thoroughly, and nothing even Edith could say could persuade him to break the vow he had made on hearing of Matthew Bolton's choice, that he never would speak to the " woman " whenever he could help it.
Walter listened to all Phillip's ravings about her, and then to all Edith's persuasions, and, like a jury, generally, agreed for a time with the last speaker.
Edith, though she did not feel much affection for Mrs. Woolston, was one of those who make up their minds to try and see all things in a proper light, and never, if pos- sible, allowed anything to interfere with what she con- sidered to be her duty.
ANNIVERSARY DAY CELEBRATIONS AT SYDNEY.
Poor little Edith, but it was sometimes very hard work with those two boys always laughing at her scruples, though she knew they did not mean to vex her.
And Mrs. Woolston had her opinion about her charges as well as they of her.
To Phillip ehe gave cordially dislike for dislike, abuse for abuse, till Edith was sometimes half driven out of her
Walter was much more of a favourite, but Martha Woolston feared his brother's influence upon him, and always did her best, during the holidays of the latter, to keep the two apart-a task which would have puzzled a Hercules, seeing they loved one another as much as two brothers could. The younger looked up to the elder as to an oracle-and "Phillip told me!" or, "Phillip does!" was an excuse for the greater part of all the scrapes he got
Mrs. Woolston found, therefore, that she could do very little with him, and consequently gave all the affection she might possess to Edith ; there she met with some success, for it would have almost puzzled an angel to have found fault with her disposition, and she was so gentle and winning that it was next door to impossible to refuse to love her ; indeed, so favourably did she speak of her that one of Martha's opponents suggested, in her hearing, that now she found it for her benefit to speak well of those whom before she had been the readiest to abuse.
Mrs. Woolston eagerly took up the gauntlet and flung
back the lie to her accuser in one of the bitterest of bitter speeches, which was neither forgiven nor forgotten.
But, nevertheless, she secretly felt alarmed, for she knew there was such a thing as upsetting the best laid plans, and she dreaded the possibility of Matthew Bolton's eyes becoming opened to her deceptive game.