|Newspaper Title||Oakleigh Leader and District Record (Brighton, Vic. : 1887 - 1888)|
|Trove Title||Mrs Lane's Silver Gray|
mRS, LANE' S. SIL VRB.RGUA Y. CHAPTER I. "It's spoilt, Seth; it's completely spoilt i -uttcrly ruined; and I never felt so grieved before. lDo wake up, and come nand look at it !" HIonest Seth Lane, who, with a silk hand kcrchief over his head, was enjoying his after dinner nap in a huge armehair in front of the fire, started, rubbed his eyes, and answered at random : " You always have spoiled the children, especially your boys, Elizabeth, so it's no use to come to me complaining of them!'" " The boys, indeed !" his wife echoed, indig. nantly; - " you would not find better little fellows in all Londor. I'll iiot deny that Willie Is getting too big for home teaching, and ought to be sent to school; but I'm ashamed of you, Mr. Lane, for grumbling at your own dear children!" "Me ! did I say a word about them? I thought it was you l! "Nonsense, Seth I How slowof comprehen sionioui always are -whenyou are sleepy! I was talking to you of the misfortune I have had. My favourite dress, the silver. gray satin you gave me for the Lord Mayor's ball three winters ago, is ruined-ulterly ruined!" " Iumph I It cost, twelve pounds without the dressmaker's bill; and I think I have seen you wear it twice I" "It was too good, as well as too pretty, to be worn on any but special occasions," his wife answered, mournfully. "I prized it all the more because it-suited me so well, and litted admirably. I shall never like a dress so well, never!" "But you are not going to cry over it I Elizabeth, Bessioe-Uess, my darling-how can you, a wife and a mother, be so baby. ish as to shed all these tears over an old gown? Wipe your eyes, and I'll buy you another." a "Indeed you shall not, It would look as if I cried to get one. I'm very much obliged to you all the same, my dear old man," and Mrs. Lane kissed her husband heartily; "and I dare say it is foolish of me to fret, but it's such a strange, such a pro. voking occurrence, that it has quite upset' me. "Whlat's happened? Ilas the moth got into the satin ? You should have poppered it well." Mrs. Lane laughed rather hysterically... " Don't be so stupid, Seth I The moth only devours woolen goods. My pretty dress had not a spot or a stain upon it the last time I looked at. it, whicah must beo. nearly a year ago; and now-" SShe put up her hands and breathed such a sigh, that hebor husband pulled her down on hIs knee, and gave her a bear's hug to com fort lher. "I know I" he said, conlidently; "it's mil. dow. The gown was put away without airing, like the tablecloth you showed me not long since," "But It isn't mildew," his wife retorted; " it's a large patch of what looks and smells like a hobemical mixture, and it,hnas pean etrated overy fold of the dress except the outer Ono." " Bless my heart I how did you dd It? Spill some wine over it, ch 1" 5,7
1 "Seth I"' and Mrs. Lana sprang up in censed at the supposition. " IInHaven't 1 been a member of a tempearance guild ever since we married ? Wine, indeed ! What will you any next? It's a most ridiculous question to me. " Of course-of course; but some one else I might have stumbled against you at a spper and turned the contents of his glass into your lap." "Could such a thing happen with outmy knowing it? Now pray don't trouble yourself to make any mnore of these wild suppositions, because they, are too absurd; but come and look at the dress. It was such an uncommon and yet lady-like one ! I meant to wear it to.morrow at Evelyn Blake's wedding, I thought it only wanted a little fresh lace, and so on, but when I saw its condition I felt as if Ishould have dropped. 'Thb poor children were quite frightened about me.' - Being a good-natured man, Mr. Lane arose directly and accompanied his lady to the drawing-room, wheroe-spread out on a table, with- three of the Misses Lane sur veying it from a cautious distance, as if it were some dangerous combustible-lay the silver-gray satin gown so dear to their mother's heart. It had not been placed in the large, light closet where her dresses and mantles generally hung side by side with her hus band's coats; but, earefully folded and pinned in a wrapper to guard it from dust, it kept company on a shelf in a wardrobe with the wreath and veil and rich white silk of her wedding attire. To this wardrobe io one wag allowed to go without her knowledge and sanction; in fact, the key was always with those of the money-drawer and trinket-case on the small ring she kept in her pocket quite distinct from the housoe-keeping keys. In this ward robe Mrs. Lane believed all her treasures were safely stored, yet here was an unplen sant proof to the contrary; for, as she had just been telling her husband, every fold of the glossy satin had' been disligured with dark stains which were evidently ineffaco able. "It looks,!' said Millie Lane, when her father joined the group and contemplated the mischief with as perplexed an air as his daughltcra young faces wore-" it looks as if some liquid, that was neither coffee nor tea, had been flung at it as it lay in mamma's 'wardrobe." "Impossible. There is nrio mark on the 'outer covering," said;Mrs. Lane, decidedly. ".It looks," repeated Lizzie, the elder girl, in an awed whisper, " as if it. had been done on purpose, and for spite." ilt certainly did, there was no denying it; yet who was there in the household of the Lanes capable of committing such a:despic able act ' S:Not either of their domestics, for they had been in the same service for years, and were .thoroughly well-principled, reliable women. Moreover, they were never entrusted with their umistress's keys, and must, therefore, be at once and positively pronounced not guilty. "Did yoa ever know anything so mys terious 1" queried the owner. of the unlucky silver-gray satin. " Can you wonder, Seth, at my vexation '?" -"Humph l" said Mr. Lane, rubbing his chin tlhoughbtfully. - I shall be vexed my. self if we don't succeed i fin indiogacausefor this mystery. I wish, dear, you would try and recall the last time you worn this gown. SThat is easily done," was the eager reply. It was at baby's christening, and be is just eighteen months old.'" "And have you not inspected it since 7" "Not even unfoldled it since but once, and then I am certain that it was in perfect con dition. 1 took it out of my wardrode one year ago. Your sister, Viola, was staying with us-don't you remember?-and Tom poor Tom !" Why Mrs. Lane always spoke of her half brother as " poor Tom I" no one could say. It was certainly a misnomer for the brisk, lively young sailor, who was a credit to the profession, in which he had risen rapidly, andl who brought mirth and good humor with him wherever he went. Yes, Mr. Lanea did remember that by some well-meant contriving on the partof his wife his youngest and best-looking sister paid them a long visit just as Tom Enson was in London waiting to be appointed to a new vessel then fitting out for a long voyage. But Mrs. Lane went on without waiting fora reply: " You may have forgotten, though I haven't, that I had arrangedl to take both of them to a garden-party, and as it was to be a very swell alTair, I decided to put on my silver-gray. iBut poor Tom was called away much sooner than be expected, and we had to send an apology." " i don't see what light this throws on the spoiling of your dress." "Neither do I; but that was the Inat'time it was taken out bf the wardrobe, and unfolded. I had grown a little stouter-than I used to be, and wanted the hooks.nltered; so with my own hands 'I carried tlie' dress into the little workroom adljoining- the nursery, andam quite certain that it was not in this condition then." "W ho' "made" the alterations yeu re qnired 1" " Why, Mene Mnorison, of course." " Did you yoersdf restore the dress to the wardrobe after it was finished 1" Mrs. Lane pressed her hands to her eyes, murmuring, "Let me think I" while her daughters and husband watched her breath lessly. Suddenly she looked up. "Ah, now I recollect every incident con nected with it, and quite distinctly. I was called away while Menie was at work on the dress. Aunt Jano hail called, and when I found ste would detain me some time, I asked Viola to take my keys to M1enlo, and. tell her to replace it in the wardrobe." "Then it seems it is to Monie we mast apply for an explanation. Whero is she 7" "Bid I hear my name mentioned 7" asked a musical voice. " Here I am; who wants .me 1" OHAPTEh If, Monlo Morison had been a ward of Mr. Lane's till the failure of a bank deprived the orphan of the very handsome sum ier parenits had left her. Too proud to.live on charity,.. she had detormined to take a situation as governess, but was prevailed upon by her kindly guardian to remain beneath his own roof. Not as an idler, however. In a large family there is always plenty of work to be found, and ero long 31enio was in danger of ielung ovorwhelmed 'with the tasks delegated to her. Sitoe taught In the suool-room, supenrintended the lessons and practice of Lizzio and Millie who attended the classes at a college, kept the house-linen in order, wrote Mis. Lane's notes for her, gave occasional assistance in the nursery, and lilled up her spatr- tune in the work-room, where her tasteful lingers were invaluable. All these tasks, performed as they were for a very moderate salary mlghlt soon haie proved Irkaoite if hoenlo bad been regarded as a more dependent I but it was tiotso. Sie was treated in every respect as an clter daughter. At least site had been until that visit already alludedt to when 'liola Lane, the petted darling of a wealthy spinster stint, cami to lier brother's house. To see London, so said Mr. Lano; to fall In love with poor Tom, so thought his wife, who, though not a regular maitch-maikcr, fasteled it would be very nice if Toim could be induced to settle down on shore aid itarry such a handsome, well dowered girl as Violn,
But the "best laid schemes gang aft agley," so says Rlobert Burns, and human experi. ence confirms it. Tom went to sea again without having offered his hand and heart to the pouting demoiselle, who resented his indifference and the cause of it Menie Mori. son. Although the latter disdained to complain openly of slights inflicted on her, or of the many acts of injustice and unkindness that she traced to the influence of Viola Lane, she told herself passionately and repeatedly that never again should the same house hold them. For some weeks after Viola returned to her aunt, Menio had been out of favor wi thl Mrs. Lane, and this had added to her annoy. ance as well as discomfort. But she had .overcome all these feelings long since, and now entered the room bright and smiling, her arms full of books to be re. covered for the clhildren's bookshelf. The attitudes of the group gathered around the table struck her as so comical that site laughed a little, till she caught sight of the slailed satin dress; then she became as grave as the rest, and was going to ask, " Who has done this! " when something peculiar in the questioning gnze with which she found herself regarded madebher redden and draw back. "WhYy do you lobk atme so oddly? ' SBecause," responded Mrs. Lane, with more haste than prudence-" because we be. lieve that you can tell how it is I find my silver-gray satin so completely spoiled. It was you who folded and put it nway; why did you not confess frankly and honestly that you had spilt something over it, and notleave me in ignorance all these months " "I could nottell you'wlhat Idid not know," Menic made answer. "If I had injured your dress, Mrs. Lane, I would not have concealed it from you." Here Mr. Lane interposed : "Are you sure-quite sure, my dear, thats nothing happened to the dress while it was in your hands? " Menie was about to speak with an eager afirmative, when he checked her: "Think before you speak. Canyou be posi tive that you folded and putit azwaywith yir usialcaro?" " 1- I carried out all Mrs. Lane's directions as usual." " And you are quite certain that these marks were not on the dress when you did so I". o" How could they he " asked Menio, faintljy.: " Your memory does not appear to be as retcntive as mine 1 " cried Mrs. Lane. 'I reco lect; perfectly well that I made you angry that day. You had given me occasion to hod'great fault with you, and you warmly resented my lecturing you; but I need not repent my lecture, I can see that you re member it." Crimson with mortification, yet holding her head erect, Menia replied : ""I dbremember every word you said. You were cruelly unjust to me; but what has that to do with your dress?" "Everything, if petty spite induced you to revenge yourself by spoiling it." Dropping the books, she clung to him, cry. ing piteously: " I)o you think I could do this-do you -do you 1" Always slow of speech, honest Seth Lane hoemmed, coughed, and began to say: "You see, my dear child, appearances are against you," but ere lie had spoken half-a-dozen words Menie was gone. " If she lhad been innocent she would have said so." Mrs Lane assured herself and her husband over and over again; repeating it with more conli lenc.: when the first tidings she heard on the following morning were that Menic Morison lhad quitted the house. But Mr. Lane was provokingly diflicult; s convince. " It may be as you say, Elizabcth, but4I have often seen innocence look like guilt,'and such ia menu action as you have imputed:ito Madnie is quite at variance with her former conduct; I could as sood believe it of orie of my own children." " You need not make me so uneasy," whim pered Elizabeth; "and. you should bear in mind that I did not send Menlo away. Where can she have gone 1 '" "To her old nurseein Derbyshire. Shelis sure of a wvlcomesfroin the good woman.!%P "Butshecannotstaytherelong, for shehias no money, or at-least very little." Mr. Lane thrust his hands into his pockets ' and cogitated, his tearful wifoewatching hime anxiously. " It's no use asking her to come back; her pride would forbid it; nor would it be plea. sant to have her here till this mnatterbas been cleared up. Can Viola give us a clue to it ? She was here when it happened.' "I will write to her directly." But Miss Lane's answer, though prompt, was not explanatory. She hadl seen Menlo at work on the dress, that was all; but much though she disliked Miss Morison, she did not believe her capable of the act of deliberate malice. In the same unsatisfactory manner ended all imnquiries into the silver-gray mystery, as the young Lanes had taken to calling it; and Mrs. Lane, who missed Menie every hour, was growing quite snappish if it was alluded to, when her brother Tom arrived from Hong. Kong, and in the pleasure of sceing him she recovered her spirits. As usual be came laden with gifts for every one. Millie and Lizzie screamed with delight as he wound around them yards and yards of the embroidered muslia so much in vogue, and Seth Lane permitted himself to be arrayed in an Eastern dressing-gown of the softest material and richest hues. Then a parcel was tossed into the lap of Mrs. Lane. "That's for you, Elizabeth, to atonefor the mischief Idid the last time I was here. I don't suppose my satin is quite the same shade. Why, what's the iiwitter 7'" " Oh I Tom, was it you who spoiled my dress?" " Of course it was I wbhstupidly set down upon it the bottle of collodion for which I wanted anew cork. You see I found Mfenii in tears, and wasso nxlious to know what ailed her that I did not notice what I was about till she had run out of the room. Then I found I had tilted the bottle and spilt-But why didn't Viola tell you this ? I asked her to do so and make my apologies." Mr. and Mrs. Lane looked at each other, and then.the latter began to cry. " 1Ybat does this mean 7 W'hcro is Motnle ? " demanded the sailor. "Oh, Tom, do forgive me I" sobbed his sister. "?I drove her away.withmy. injustice.. First I accused her of trying to attract your attentions-" "What i that shy, modest little creature who would not listen to me because she knew where your wishes pointed 7 Non. sonse I" " And worse than that," wept Mrs. Lane, determined to make a full confession, "I insisted that she had spoiled my dress In re venge I" " How could yous 7" cried Tom, angrily. " Where is site ? No, don't detain me. When she forgives you, I vill. Le smi go. Icannot be happy till i have found lier. Menio was just recovering from a serious -illness when Toii burst into her nurse's cot. tage; but she soon became suhlcliettly' con valescent to return wtih hbn to Mv. Latts's, where she was received with open amis. From her old house, and surrounded Ity her old friends, Menlo wnas iarried; but Viola Lane was not among the gitesls at the wedding breakfast. It ml g'lt have been istr forgctflintiess that kept 'ier silent ro. specting the accident to the dress, buta ieore itisworthty titotive sitight have actuated her when she could have exculpated Menlo and did not do so.