|Chapter Title||SOWING THE SEED.|
|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||The Golden Link|
SOWING THE SEED.
POOR Edith, her's was a hard part to play, and she was but a child yet, and, as she had no counsellors, she must perform her task alone. '
And a terribly hard task it was during the brief holiday allowed Phillip by the school people at Ashfield, who, know- ing something of his history, and perceiving that he was overworking himself, gave him leave of absence for a week thot he might visit his brother and sister.
Perhaps Matthew Bolton had something to do in the mat- ter ; for he was in Sydney at the time, and defrayed the expenses of the journey.
Phillip's visit was most distasteful to Martha Woolston, who did not attempt to conceal her dislike, the more so that, Matthew Bolton being detained in Sydney by pressing busi- ness at the Land's Office, her will was law in the bachelor's
On the very day of Phillip's arrival she told him that she was mistress and she intended to assert her authority in everything.
As may be imagined, this was not the right way of begin- ning things ; and not a day passed without some squabble between Martha Woolston and Phillip Armstrong. Edith was almost driven wild with these quarreis. Poor child, she often thought to herself how different her brother was to the Phillip she had known at home, and she wondered if it was his fault he was so changed, and then blamed herself for the thought and laid it all to Martha Woolston's charge, and then feared she was doing wrong in that too.
In her despair she almost prayed that Phillip would go
back at once to Ashfield.
She spoke to him and begged of him to take no notice of Martha Woolston's nasty sayings, as she called them ; but she got almost a hard answer from him, which at once destroyed all hope of persuading him to do as she wished him, and Martha Woolston, of course, she could not speak to, so she was compelled to bear it as best she could ; but she feared very much what the end of it all would be ; and all the time Edith was wishing that Phillip would return to Ashfield, Walter was grumbling because Phillip's stay was not to be prolonged. He, like Phillip, was no friend of Martha Woolston, and he had told her one day that his brother would "jaw" her when he came to see them.
He actually said that he wished Phillip would " jaw" her
till she died.
He did not really mean this, but he really wished some way could be found of shutting her up for ever.
He would have spoken more bitterly, but Edith placed her hand upon his mouth, and told him it was very wrong to talk in that way.
Martha Woolston said nothing, but she gave him a look which he did not speedily forget.
When they were alone Edith would reproach him for using such harsh language towards the housekeeper, but he was in no wise repentant ; on the contrary he said,
" I should like to tell her to her face what I think about her, that's all !"
So Walter, it will be perceived, had become a fellow sharer with his brother Phillip in the work of rebellion.
"It would be different if she were my mother," was Phillip's reply to Edith when she spoke to him, and asked him not to be so touchy every time that Martha Woolston made herself disagreeable. "It would be different if she were my mother," and somehow or other Edith never knew
how to answer that.
She sometimes did wonder that Matthew Bolton had not made a better choice, but the fact was that the old bachelor squatter knew nothing about women, and never had known,
and if the truth must be told he cared even less than he knew.
He boasted, actually boasted, to the last day of his life, that he had never been fool enough to fall in love ; his real words were that he had never found a woman worth loving, but he could hardly have meant that ; if he did he deserved not to live a moment after he had spoken the words.
But with Matthew Bolton's misogynism we have little to do, except to put it forward as an excuse for his hasty choice in fixing on Martha Woolston to take charge of the young
He knew he must get some one-he did not in the. least know who to get, for the world of Talbotdale was extremely small, and he could not think of any other person than Martha Woolston ; he believed in her more than he did in most of his neighbours, and he thought that by selecting her he would save himself a "lot of trouble;" and every- thing he saw in her made him congratulate himself on his choice ; but, like many other clever men, Matthew Bolton did not see everything, Martha Woolston took precious good care of that, for all her disagreeable couduct took place during his absence, the moment that he returned she was prepared for him. Let him come back ever so suddenly, she always found time to smooth down her face and oil her tongue, so as to appear in his sight one of the sweetest and most loving of womankind.
And for a time all this passed very well with Matthew Bolton, and he took all she said, as people say, for gospel ; but Walter Armstrong saw all this, and wondered that Matthew Bolton could be such a fool'; and Edith saw it, and wondered that Martha Woolston could be such a hypo- crite ; and Phillip saw it deeper, far deeper than both his brother and sister, so deeply that the wonder which Walter felt at Matthew Bolton's foolishness was in him a bitter con- tempt for his weakness, and the hypocrisy which Edith saw in Martha Woolston seemed the meanest and most hateful of sins.
Thus the evil influence of one woman's heart was fast
sowing seeds whose fruit should be the very gall of bit-
But no one could see the seed growing, and even if there had been any one to see, there was none whose hand was firm enough to pluck it out.
A few hours before Phillip's intended return to Ashfield Matthew Bolton arrived from Sydney, and, somehow or other, suddenly found out that things were not as they
should have been.
This was just what Martha Woolston expected-what she
Never was she more pleased than when, that very even- ing, before retiring to rest, Matthew Bolton severely repri- manded Phillip for answering sharply to what none in the house but she and he knew to be one of the bitterest and most stinging of her taunts.
In the fall of Phillip Armstrong lay her chance of rising, and to accomplish that fall Martha Woolston applied herself with all the power which cunning and unserupulousness could give her.
It was a struggle between the two ; unless she could vanquish Phillip her doom was sealed ; for it was only he
who could find her out.
Such was her belief ; but there was another whom she could not deceive ; for the love of Edith for her brother Phillip was a thousand times deeper than any one imagined.
In her innocence she could not see through the whole of the plot, but that which she knew she kept to herself ; for the time had not come yet, and it was not in her power to move until all was ready.
But as she stood at the end of the passage leading to her bedchamber she whispered a few words of warning to her brother, who looked at her curiously and told her to have no fear, it would be all right soon ; but in the morning, as he stood in the verandah gazing in the direction of the dis- tant city, she beheld the clouds slowly gather on his youth- ful features, and, as she silently watched him, they became darker and darker ; and she felt as if her hands and tongue were tied, as in a night-mare, seeing the object she feared, but neither able to speak or push it away ; and from that
hour another heart wa3 added to those whom Martha Woolston had made miserable.
Edith placed her hand softly on her brother's shoulder and whispered words of patience and hope ; but in spite of all that she said Phillip refused to listen to the lesson which had been taught him, that it had been wise
To subdue each wayward feeling
And to follow in the right ;
and his wilf ulness stood out against her love so strongly that she almost failed to see the Hand of that Hidden Power, which was silently leading them on to the end-the good and the evil alike to their reward; but according to His own mysterious workings, which are too deep for us to under- stand, but to which those who trust cannot fail from obtain- ing their crown.
The seed had been planted and was growing into the tree, but the fruit as yet was hidden in the far-off years.