|Chapter Number||PART II.-IV.|
|Newspaper Title||Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)|
|Trove Title||Unforgiven: In Two Parts|
THE CHILDREN'S CORNEB.
IN TWO PARTS.
(WRITTEN SPECIALLY FD a YOUNO AND OLD
PART II.-CHAPTER IV.
Mr. Charles Elliot and his wife were sitting after dinner discussing a matter which had been puzzling the gentleman not a little for the last few days, namely, a nomination toa better sort ot almshouse, which was that year in his gift, for which he had, of course, numerous applica tions ; among them being two rival claims not easily decided.
" Mrs. Kicb (her name seema rather a misnomer now) is certainly the more destitute of the two, Anne; bnt then she's strong and healthy, and not so old as Miss Wick, and might, indeed I think ought, to do something for her own support for some years to come."
'* Very true," said Mrs. Elliot. " But then, at her age, she may at any moment bepome in firm, and if you do not nominate her now, she most probatly will never have another
chance ; and she has not a relative in the world who can help her."
" That is just the case, no doubt ; and although Mrs. Wick is actually
feeble and much older than Mrs. Eich, and also may never have another chance, she has relatives quite able to maintain her ; and the question is, whether they ought to be relieved from doing so ; but then my dear, there is the other quest i m, will they do so ? They cannot be
Before Mrs. Elliot could make any reply to this a servant opened the door, and said, " a lady to see you, sir. '
*' Another candidate no doubt/' said Mrs. Elliot, as she prepared to retre it, while Mr. Elliot inquired, "where is she, William ?"
" In the lil r irv, sir." " Snow her in here."
Mrs Elliot passed out through one door HS the visitor entered by the
" A lady," the servant had called her as a mere matter of course ; but at the first glance Mr. Elliot saw that she was a lady ; unmistakably 8>. Her dress was deep mourning, and so new
that the death for which she mourned must have been very recent; but she had put back her veil, and Mr. Elliot had just time to hope that with tbo*e delicate fea tures, »nd that refine ment of air and carriage, she surely was not doomed to s^ek a home in an almshouse, when womething in her fea tares, but still more in t ieir expression, struck a note in his memory, although they f died to revive any distinct re
"I fear I have not the pleasure," he began hesitatingly, as she to k the chair which the servatit had placed, after a movement of saluta tion.
«* No," said the lady ; " I do notremember that
we have ever met, but you will perhaps recognise my name. My son was a schoolfellow of yours once, Frank Warden."
' Mr. Elliot bowed, and the lady spoke again ; not without a little embarrassment caused by his formality.
" I have a letter from him to you, which he re quested mo to give you myself, else I should not have troubled you with this visit."
There was nothing for Mr. Elliot to say except the conventional " no trouble " as he took the packet from her hand ; inviting her at the same time to take some refreshment, and pouring out a glass of wine as he did so.
His visitor just put the wine to her lips, and broke off a erape from a bunch be had placed before her, apparently to conceal her anxiety to see him open the letter ; but he did not open the letter. He sat with it. still closed in his hand, for some moments ; then, seemingly aware that his reluctance must appear strange, he said, " your Bon wishes me to read this ? Or will it be equally to the purpose if you tell me the contents ?"
" I do not know the contents, sir," Bhe said. " I forgot to toll you that my son requested me to rest satisfied by your decision as to whether I ever should know the contents; and-and-my son is dead." . ;
"Pray forgive me." said Mr. Elliot. " Of
course I willread it."
As he opened the envelope a letter addressed to "Frank Warden," and also closed, fell out. " This ia not for me/' hs said, holding it towards her»
' V It must be, Mr. Elliot," she said. " He gave me the packet just as I have given it to you. He must have intended you to read anytihng that is
Mr. Elliot laid it on the table, however, per ceiving, as he did so, that it had been opened and refastened, and applied himself to the loose sheets ; but on the top of the first was scrawled, "pray read the enclosed before reading this, F.W." So he took it up again, and read as fol lows-the date he saw was of several months back :
" My dear Frank, I am drawing very near to the close of my life, and I have a statement to make to you respecting a circumstance long since past, in which we were both concerned. When I offered to help you at-School in passing the examination which would provide you with tho means of going to the University, you knew nothing of the motives which influenced me. Shortly, then, there was one reason, and one alone for what I did. I loved your mother. Our parents were near neighbors, so that I have known her all my life ; and Icannotlookback to the day when I did not love her. Through our child hood, when we played together, when I was her steady champion, and she my always sympathising little friend and partisan; through the time
when, aa boy and girl,-we walked and read, and talked to each other of our readings ; through all these years she was, to me, what no one else ever was. Through the latter time I made no plan for my future life in which I did not picture her as sharing it. I never told her so. We were always, outwardly, to each other like brother and sister ; and she, as I afterwards knew, never re garded me with any other sort of affection. I suppose I must have been more calculating and t oughtful than most boys are, for my reason for not telling ber was that I knew there would be difficulties in our way. Neither her family nor mine were rich, and much time might have to pass before I could make a home for her. Well, when she had just completed heir eighteenth year, aod I was a couple of years older, the father of a former schoolfellow proposed to my father that I should travel as companion for a couple of years with his son, who, in consequence of delicate health, was going »broad with his tutor. The offer was a «reat thing for me; for the gentle man-a very rich man-was to pay all expenses, including the tutor's salary, for both of us, and of course my father joyfully accepted it. We re turned in something less than the,two years, and 1 found your mother married. Men don't die of love ; men don't even ' love for ever,' in the usual acceptation of the word. .But I believe no man, who is worth the name, ever ceases to have a tender feeling for the woman he has loved, unless she ha8 proved utterly unworthy of love. At any rate I kept such a feei ng. . Had I ever been in a Eooition to have married anyone else I might
are done BO, as other men have, and been very
happy, and yet the feeling would have been still t ere. As it was, I have been merely through life a drudge ; a daily worker for daily bread ; for circumstances, which are not necessary to mention, made my family still poorer, and saddled me for many years with the maintenance of others beside myself. And so through my narrow, monotonous, and weary life, this tender feeling grew to be the one tender feeling of my existence ; the ono idea not connected with the sordid Btrugule for food and clothing. At'ter some years your father died, and your mother was left with only her own small income-an annuity settled on her by a relative at the time of her marriage-and, as you may remember, you had been then some years at-School, where, by hard economy, she managed still to keep you. Then came the time and the opportunity when I could do her one service. I knew, for wo had kept up a desultory correspondence since you had been at school, that her most earnest wish was for you to get the opportunity of going to the University, with a view to taking orders ; and I knew you had as much ability as Elliot, but "'ithout his quick ness ; and I resolved to help you, and I did. How, you know. You entered-College, and your mother wrote to express her joy and her thankful ness to me ! How little sh© knew for what it was
she was thanking nie, when she said she was sure I had taken special trouble in preparing her boy for the sake of all our old friendship. I was always kind to everyone, and the truest of friends. You passed with credit ; but when the time came for you to enter the church you refused ; and I alone knew why ; and, think of me as you may for the confession, I admit that until then the wrong I had done sat lightly on me. I don't offer as an excuse for this, but merely as a necessary part of my statement, the fact that I knew Elliot, your only rival, had personally no wish to go to the University, but preferred another career. But when I found I had done
her or you no service, then the retribution for my pin came. You will forgive me for that sin. The forgiveness of any other human being I shall not ask; and my sm to God I must account for to Him. Yes; you will forgive me, Frank, although the remorse of all these years has not made me what the world calls a penitent; for even now, on my deathbed, my soul cries out against the fact that they who sin against, who bitterly wrong those they love, or profess to love, live in respect aud prosperity ; while I who sinned for her
I loved have wrecked three lives. I wrecked hers
and my own more than the world had wrecked them already; and I wrecked yours on the threshold before the world had time to do it. Scephen Darr* ll."
Mr. Elliot laid down the letter without saying a word, and took np the other ; but before he ap plied himself to read it he shaded his eyes for,a moment with bis hand ;. and then busied himself with shifting the lamp and arranging the shade.
apparently finding: some difficulty in getting the light to snit him. At length he began. The letter was addressed at the top " To Charles Elliot, Esq. but there was no address in the first person.
" Since I received the enclosed the writer has
died, and as he can no longer be hurt by your knowledge of its contents I send it. to you.. The circumstances of the examination were as he has stated them. You were cruelly deceived. While you believed then, and have no doubt believed ever
since, that you were fairly beaten, you were in . reality tho victim of a fraud. Your failure was brought about by the dishonesty of two, one of
whom has gone to his account. It is right that , you should know this oven after such a long
lapse of time, and yet I never could or would ; have told you while Darrell lived. It would be useless for mo to ask myself whether I mi¿ht have done so, had I alone been guilty ; but assuredly I never would have betrayed him. For my own guilt I have nothing to say. To ask forgiveness now for a wrong for which it is no longer possible to offer any compensation, and for which I admit I uever would have oilVred even the poor compensation of a confession had I not outlived my accomplice, would be mere hypocrisy. I took, and kept, all the advantage the wrong could ever
t ive me; and what that adviintago has been God
and my own conscience only know. What I have to add is, therefore, lice Stephen Darrell's )btter, only an explana
tion. I was anxiou3, , leverishly anxious, to w.n. I knew my mother's wishes, and
my own were even
stronger than hers, be cause, in addition to d siring it for myself was the wish to please her who had been all in
all to me from my birth;
to be able to do some tí) ing for her who, I knew, was saoiificing not comforts and plea sures, but almost posi tive necessaries for my
benefit. But I was
hopeless. Then the hope
was offered to me. I
knew I could win by no honest means ; the dis^ .
honest were suggested, . and 1 took them, but I did not calculate all the consequences, all that
woulu be required of. me. Darrell is right in saying he knew why I
refused to take orders. . I go into the church! I teach others tho duties
of truth and honesty who had got my right to teach by a lie and a. theft! No, that was im possible ; and so m y mot her was more sorely d appointed, I bVlieve, than if I had failed in the examination," and I have dr. feed through life e\er ince with no fettled occupation, and
au education which has .. been comparatively use less to mo. Peihaps it
needn't huve been so. I might have hiadd some use of it, although, not.
the use for which ii was intended : but I have always wor ced with a weight round.my heck, with "no LO ire,' as it was said, iii anything I was emtih yed in ; and shall , feel, work to tba last, A have said I do roi beg your forgive ness, but I beg some thing which may seem
mere presumptuous for . me to ask. As you are. reported to be a kind and generous man, 1 entreat, I humbly entreat, you
never toteil my mother of this. Let her die with out knowing that the son who has been her idol was so utterly unworthy cf her love. If Bhe dies before me you may then tell the whole world what I have been. If she outlives me be merciful to.
her, who never did you or anyone else a wrong. % My death will be sufficient sorrow for her, who ' has known little else but sorrow.-Frank . ; Warden." 1
This letter was also dated some time back, but ,' a few lines had been added more recently. "., 1
" I wrote this, as you will see some time since, but only learned your address a few days ago." I am now dying. I was hurt past recovery in a railway accident yesterday. My mother will hand you this letter herself. I repeat my request, and yet I am conscious I have no right to make it. I could of course secure her ignorance by simply destroying these letters; but that also I feel I have no right to dd. I therefore leave it to
your judgment or your feelings whether you will ' tell her their contents or no, and for myself, I ana HOW bearing the last punishment I can have" in this life, by dying without knowing what your decision may be. F. W."
Mr. Elliot laid the second letter down beside -'
the first, then took both up a^ain, and busied himself by putting them carefully into, the envelope before he spoke.
" You have really no anxiety, Mrs^' Warden " . he said, in a tone of. inquiry, ." to know what is in
these letters ?" ' ', . . . .' , .
"I can't quite say that," Bhe. replied -with a ; ' little hesitation, for tho question almost suggested ' ' a mysteiy of some sort/ "I can scarcely-" she '
stops for a minute or so, and then she raised hei head proudly, and said in a firm tone, "No, Mr Elliot, I have no anxiety ; my eon never kept £ secret from me which I ought to have known. H< trusted me as fully as I trusted him. If it hac been right for me to know what he has writtei to you he would have told it me himself. I-I Excúseme, Mr. Elliot, I am angry with myself foi having, even for a moment, felt willing to heal from a stranger anything he did not tell me-' and she broke down and sobbed.
" My dear Mrs. Warden, you must forgive me.. ] am deeply sorry I asked the question, but I wai only trying to do what was right. Your son, you told me, left it to my decision, but I was bound tc ask your consent to that decision. I am as sun as you can be, that you were both more thar justified in the perfect trust and confidence yot placed in each other." Mr. Elliot put the lettei in his pocket as he said this, and Mrs. Warder having cheeked her tears, rose to go.
" I should wish, if you will allow me, to intro duce my wife," Mr. Elliot began ; but seeing thal she made a slight gesture of dissent, he added " but perhaps you are too tired now. Mrs Elliot will have the pleasure of calling on you ii you will give me your address."
" Thank you," she replied, " that will be better You are very kind. I shall be very happy to see Mrs. Elliot/ but just now I am not quite fit. 1
am not tired, but-"
Mr. Elliot glanced at the address, and seeing il was at a considerable distance, rang the bell; saying, " my servant will get you a cab."
"It is quite unnecessary," said Mi's. Warden, I came by omnibus, and can go back so. I have had scarcely 100yds to walk," but seeing that Mr. Elliot was determined, she was too wellbred to resist longer ; although she felt rather dis tressed when she found that the servant who fetched the cab got on the box with the driver ; and when Mr. Elliot, after handing her in, said., "the servant will settle everything with the cab man you know ,. ladies know nothing about those sort of things," which she knew, of course, meant that she was not to pay the fare.
"Well, my dear, said' Mrs. Charles, when her husband at last joined her in the drawing-room, " your ' lady ' has made a long visit. Upon my word I hope she is not young and pretty, as well as * lone and lorn ' like Mrs. Gnmmidge."
" She is the mother of an old schoolfellow of mine, my dear, Prank Warden. And she is lone and lorn indeed, as he was her only child, and she has just lost him. I have promised for you Anne that you will call on her. There's her address/'
"That I will," said Mrs. Charles, heartily. " Poor thing," she added, thinking of her own nursery full of boys and girls. " I can go to morrow, Charles," she continued, aftor she had turned over her engagements in her mind ; "and your mother comes you know to-morrow after noon for a week. Suppose I ask Mrs. Warden that's her name, isn't it-to lunch with us next day, to meet your mother. It would be too soon I suppose after her son's death to ask her to dinner. A dinner is always like ' going out ' but lunch is a different thing. You can come home to lunch on Thursday, can't you ?"
" I don't know, but I'll try."
So it was arranged, and the arrangement was duly carried out; and Mrs. Charles and Mrs. Robert Elliot were so kind and friendly to their bereaved visitor that a little gleam of brightness broke once or twice through the thick shadow of grief on her countenance ; and the three ladies parted with mutual wishes for further acquaint ance. But that hight, after Mrs. Robert Elliot had gone to her room, Mr. Elliot said to his wife, " Anne, I have something to tell you."
"Well, my dear?"
"Read those," he said, putting Stephen Darrell's and Frank Warden's letters into her hand.
" My dear Charles," said his wife, when she j
had done so, " what a dreadful thing to do. And oh ! what a dreadful life those two men must have had. " Her husband was silent ; and she added, after a short pause, " I'm almost sorry you have been' told. It would be better you had
" I have always known it, Anne."
" You have known it ?"
" Yes ; another schoolfellow, who had found it out Borne how, told me immediately after the ex amination was over, on my giving him a promise never to tell anybody, and I never have told any one, not even my mother."
" Shall you tell her now ?"
" I think not. I am sure it would give her pain, even after this lapse of time. My father was very much disappointed, and she felt more for his disappointment than for her own. It would hurt her now I know to remember that he is not here to see this proof that I tried, as I did, hard to please him. What do you say my love ?"
" Exactly what you say : What will you do with
'* That !" said Mr. Elliot, throwing the packet into the fire, and pressing it down among the glowing embers with the poker ; and, as he did so, he repeated once or twice, " poor Frank."
" But Charles," said his wife, " we must not forget that this was a wicked, a very wicked thing. It was no moro piece of schoolboy mis chief, but a positive sin."
" Yes, Anne, a positive sin. Nothing that they suffered, and nothing that I, or anyone can feel now, may alter that. But if it was a positive sin, was there not an awful temptation ? And I have sinned a far greater sin than that, without the temptation."
"You, my dear ?"
" Yes, I. When I heard of the wrong that had
been done me I repeated my pledge of never | telling, and I said, also -indeed in my own mind I swore-that I would never forgive Frank Warden, never. As I kept one promise so I have kept - the other. Through all these long years I never have forgiven him. I have often, as the years passed on, when the circumstance recurred to me, said to myself, and with perfect truth, that I would not revenge myself on him even if I .had the opportunity ; that I could and would, indeed, even, db himja service if he needed it, and it lay it my power- But. I . only paltered with my conscience, for there never was a moment in which'
I could have taken him by the hand, and said, ' I forgive you frankly and freely. I can be your friend, and you mine, as in former days.' No; I don't think I could have said it, even had he come and confessed to me with his lips what he told me in that letter. And .was not this a sin ? To feel
through more than half my life a resentment so deep that nothing but the death of thoso who wronged me could drive it out. I am not superstitious. Anne, but I cannot quite banish a strange feeling as though my unforgiveness had sat heavily on those two men through their lives, and that things might have gone better with them had I even said, ' Father, forgive them, even as I do !' Now I can only say, * Father, forgive us all !' "
" Amen !" said his wife; but when he also had said "Amen" aloud, his lips still continued to move ; and as he perceived her eyes fixed on him, he said-" There are some words which I have never been able to get out of my head since I read those letters; you know them, Anne!" and he repeated
Then gently scan, your brother mini,
Still gentler sister woman.
Tho* they may gang a kenning wrang j
To step aside is human. . One point must still be greatly dark, , The moving why they do it;
An' just as lamely can ye mark
How far perhaps they ruo it.