Chapter 910268

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Chapter NumberXVI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article910268
Full Date1881-06-04
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count4848
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933)
Trove TitleConstance Duchesne: Is Life Worth the Living?
article text

Constance Dnchesnet Is Life

Worth tbc Living?

By " Onyx."

Chapter XVI.

AFTER they had been in the country about a week Alice arrived. Constance had intended to eo to meet her at tho Btation, but Eva had been ül all the previous night, and abe would not leave her, so she aaked Cyril to go instead. He complied rather uuwilliugly ; ho did not wish to havo a long tôit-H-tû'e with Alice.

'Mrs. Bernaid waa in high spirits; Cyril was quits struck by the chango in her. She laughed and chatted so gaily that Cyril waa quite Bur. prised when he found himself at the lodge gates. Alice was looking forwaid to a real holiday, and, philosopher as bIio prided herself upon being, she meant thoroughly to enjoy it and fling all care to the idle winda. She waa a woman not easily crushed ; while the burden waa on her she succumbed, but the moment the pressure waa removed she roäo up like a cork. Now she felt as gay aa a !?"*. ^° moro siuSing lessons for a whole three months ; no more scanty solitary meals in that impecunious-looking room ; no more trudging to and fro through aqualid streets and crowded thoroughfares. Alice resembled Cyril in her kean appreciation of creature comfort, aud that she was going to enjoy the luxuries of a wealthy household for a season had not the smdlest share in cauaing her high apirita.

Constance came to meet them in tho hall, and almost Btirted with surprise to seo the change that the few dayB had effected in her friend. Her eyes were bright and her cheeka were pink, and though she atill wore black it was fresh aud new and fashionably made, and the thick coil of brown plaits that had always been Alice's pride looked as glossy as ever. Constance, on the contrary, was not looking so well as she had done when in London ; she had been up a great part of the night with Eva, and her face had a drawn anxious look that contrasted badly with Alice's pink cheekB.

"Are you not overanxious ?" said Alice kindly as, after showing her to her own room, Constance took her to see Eva.

The tone bespoke genuine feeling. Alice was truly aorry for the worn weary-looking mother. Now that her own immediate troubles were removed Bhe could sympathise with those of others, and she felt more kindly towards Con- stance than she had ever done before as she watched her bend down to hide the tears that she vaiuly Btrove to keep from falling. Alice had borne the losa oí her own child very resignedly, but this woman before her evidontly put all the rest of her abundaut blessings in the scale and counted them as nothing compared to this little flickering, life that seemed so uncertain whether to stay or flit away.

"I am afraid not," said CoDBtance with quivering lips, kissing the golden curia. Alice played with and amused the < hild bo successfully that Eva sat up in bed and looked quite bright. Alice had a very happy manner when she choae to exert herself, and thia afternoon Bhe did choose to exert herself to the utmost. They stayed with Eva till the bell rang to dreas for dinner, and when they went down stairs Con- stance felt a little happier about her baby, who ehe thought seemed better.

Two or three guests had been invited to dinner to moot Mrs. Bernard, and all were charmed by the bright vivacious young widow, whom Constance introduced aa au old Behool friend.

They had music and singing in the evoning, and Alice's voice waa greatly admired. She was happy aud elated, and sang her best. Constance lay back in her easy chair watching and wondering. She declined to sing ; her heart was too heavy for that-heavy with fear and pain. She seemed to be in a dream-Alice's voice took her back to tho old dayB at Thames Ditton. Once Alice began to sing a song that had been a great favourite with Mr. Duchesne, when, after a few bars, she stopped abruptly. Constance thought it waa at a signal from her husband. He had thought of her, then, amidst all the gay chatter, and remembered what a Btrain it would be to her feelings to hear that Bong, and Constance felt grateful to him. Once she had met bia eye, and he waa looking at her with a vexed air, which Conatance under atood. She knew Bhe waa looking old and worn, and that Cyril with bia keen esthetic tastes marked it and waa annoyed. Once in the course of the evening Alice was standing near her and opposite a pier-glass. Simultaneously they each looked in it, and in the glass mot each other's eyea. Alice laughed merrily : " Look on this picture and on that," she said jokingly. The words wore spoken in fun, and Constance knew it; nevertheless they jarred on her. Alice looked so bright, and she bo sad. She was never more thaukful for an evening to come to an end. As Boon as she decently could after the company had sepjrited she said "Good night" to Alice, and hunied to the nursery. To her surprise Cyril wa* there before her.

" You looked so unhappy I was afraid Eva was wor»e," he Baid as she came in ; " but I really think she looks better. I think you are over anxious, Constance."

Alice's very words I

" I only hope I am," said Constanco quietly. " I feel very much tempted to take her abroad again."

" Did Dr. Pemberton advise it ?"

" No ; he says there is no necessity while the weather keeps so mild-though of course it could

do no harm."

" No, of course not," said Cyril in a musing tone. He stood fondling Eva for a little while, aud then went into his dressing-room.

Next morning wa3 bright and sunBhiny ; the birds poured forth a torrent of song that reminded Conatance of the previous evening, and sho thought to heraelf that the notes of the un- tutored feathered songsters were far more beautiful aud moro innocent than any that came

from human throats.

The bright weather seemed to have its effect on the little invalid. The improvement that Constance thought Bhe saw the night before waa more marked in the morning-and the mother's spirits rose too.

Eva got so much better that all idea of going abroad was abandoned for the present, and Con- stance could join with a light heart in all the amusemeuts that were going on. It was a very gay time ; the weather was delightful, and the county people round were at their respective country houaes. With money, health, and leisure it is not difficult to make life pleasant, and Alice acknowledged to heraelf that this was the very pleasantest portion of hers that Bhe bad ever yet

Bpent. Her host and hostess vied with each

other in their kindness to her, trying to make her forget the troubled past; the neighbours were charmed with her bright vivacity-no rural party was complete without Mrs. Bernard, and Alice really began to look so young and pretty that even Constance, who was not much in the habit of speculating about her friends' private affaira, thought it was very likely Alice would soon marry again.

Alice gave herself up to unrestrained enjoy-

ment. She knew it could not last for ever-not even for very long ; "but, pshaw 1 sufficient for the day ia the evil thereof," she said to herself aa usual ; " make hay while the sun Bhines. I have had trouble enough, and may-be there's plenty more in Btore ;" and so she laughed and chatted with the merriest. Her voice improved in

timbre;" she sang so exquisitely that the idlest and noisie3t party hushed into Bilence aa they listened. Aa for Cyril, ho hung over the piano_ for hours together ; but, instead of soothing, the perfect harmony seemed to have a depressing effect. As the weeks flew by, and Alice grew brighter and livelier day by day, CyrU grew more Bilent

Alice did not aeem to notice the change, but Constance observed it with anxiety. She longed to be alone with her husband again ; then they ought fall iuto the old calm routine, which, if not" perfect happiness, was yet devoid of anxiety. She scarcely owned to heraelf that she would be glad when her visitor went, but some- times she wondered if Alice ever meant to suggest that it was time for her to leave. In some way or other it had come about that Cyril awl Alice were constant companions in all kinds

°' expeditions from which Constance was neces- sarily shut < ff because of her care of Eva. It was ne\er planned so in the least; it all hap- pened by cb mee apparently; but Constance had never felt so lonely since her father'a death-not "en in the first days of her orphaned girlhood ?" she did now at thia latter p'art of Alice Bernard's visit. Two or three times shs had

¡aide some remarks to Cyril about their autumn AV 'l5ut ^yr'' caro£u% »voided all mention of A-iee, which it had been Conatance's intention to Dring about. He never made the most distant

alluBÎon to her whan Bhe was not present, and Conatance knew her husband well onough to know that there waa some reason for bia avoid- ance ; the matter was distasteful to him, and he always avoided anything unpleasaut, aa by this time Constance well knew. She could seo that Cyril was getting more irritable and uncertain in bia temper day by day - even little Eva in- stinctively felt the change, aud instead of running to her father for the ready caress as she used to do sho now clung to her mother with wistful eyes.

Meanwhile Cyril waB taking himself to task very warmly-a most uuusual proceeding with bim. He was far moro auxious that Alice Bhould go than was Cunstance, aud yet, though ho knew it was his duty to put au end to the present Btate of things, he could not muster up the necessary courage. Ab UBual he let himself drift on from day to day ; he made no resolve, but left everything to chance. Ho felt that Alice waa gaining her old ascendancy over him ; he could not forget that she was the woman be had first loved- uay, had never really ceased to love-and whom ho had used very cruelly ; and he knew that be ought to rnako a desperate effoi t to free himself from the fascination which he felt was gaining hold before it was too late. That he had used her ill Alice took care he should remember, aud so from one reason and another a kind of understanding had grown between them. They never spoko of the past, but it was always present to thom.

In vain Cyril strove ngaiiiBt the hold Alice waa gaining on him, In vain he went away for a week or two at a time, hopiug that on bia return Alice would have taken her departure. He hated himaelf for his weakness, and yet he could not shake it off. Theu he would give way to oue of his fits of deep despondency, and even Alice could not wring a word or a smile from him.

There was not so much gaiety now as there had boen ; people had exhausted the simple pleasures of country life, and had rushed off to the Continent or to the watering places. And so the best part of the summer passed away, and Const inca waa beginning to be really anxious to take Eva away from Eugland. She hesitated about speaking to Cyril ; the last time she had broached the subject ho had Btopped her abruptly, and it aeemod lately aa if she seldom had an opportunity of Bpeaking to her husband alone. At last, howover, Conatance determined to make a atand. It was already tho middle of October, and she would not risk keeping Eva any longer in England. No matter how other arrange- ments fared, aha and Eva would go to Pau within the next fortnight.

" It must be so, Cyril," she said one evening when by a rare chance they were alone together

aud she told bim of her determination. " I cannot risk Eva'a health for auy consideration."

" Of course not ; why should you ?" ho replied. He was not indifferent ; but Constaueo remem- bered his anxious impatience last year about the child, and marked the change,

"Shall you be ablo to come too?" she nsked after a moment's pause. She tried to aay it io an indifferent manner, but her heart beat rapidly. She was wondering what Cyril meant to do.

" Yea, I think bo," he answered carelessly. " At any rate I will take you thora ; if I have anything particular to see about I can come back."

Conatance longed to say, " And how about Alice?" but her lips would not shape tho words. Cyril went on talking about some plans for improvements at Thames Ditton which they intondcd to have made, and Constance sat and listened nud managed to auswer coherently, while all the time her thoughts woro biiBy with the past. The very name of Thames Ditton always awoke a train of paiuful thought. Without any further discussion Constance made arrangements for her departure. Sha mentioned her intention in a casual manner at the breakfast table, and the news had the desired effect. Alice at once stated her intention to leave Torrington at the eud of the week. Very little was said about the dispeision of the little party ; it was tacitly accepted as a thing inevitable.

The fine autumn weather was begiuning to break up ; heavy ahowera were of frequent oc- currence, and the damp smell from the thickly fallen leaves told Constance that abo must delay no longer. Once or twice Bhe felt vory much inclined to anticipate the date h\ocl for her departure, but, oven though Eva visibly required the change, Bomo spell detained her. Cyril was in oue of his Btrango silent moods. Ho was away froin the house almost the wholo of the day, and even when he returned at night spoke little to either of them. Alice tried to lure him iuto conversation, with tho brilliant chat and banter that ho usually enjoyed. She sang bia favourite Bouga with her utmost power, so that in the largo silent drawing-room her mag nilieent voice flooded and filled overy cornor with exquisite molody ; but she might havo Bpared heraelf the trouble, for bo scarcely re- sponded to the conversation, and was as unmoved by the music as though he had boeu deaf.

Constance watched him anxiously, though she carefully strove to avoid all appearance of bo doing, but Bhe neither talked to bim nor sang. She loved him as passionately as ever in her heart of heaits. Silo acknowledged to hen-elf that she was unhappy-that somotimoa the kind looka and words for which her aoul hungered wero given to another. She was not jealous of Alice ; only sho pinod for her husband's love, which now she felt more keenly than ever she had never had, and it seemed as if the visit of hia old love had, without any fault of bia or hera, brought the fact more painfully before her. So Constance sat silent, with her head resting on her hand, looking out into the garden, that was quiet aud gray now, the roaes gone, the leaves fallen-the time of gradual decay, the saddest time of all the year-far sadder than when death baa come and wrapped all nature in his still white mantle of December snow, The memory came back to her then of the evening a little while before Cyril had asked her to be his wife,

when she had stood on the terrace at Thames

Ditton and looked into the mystery of the starry heavens, and wondered-and wondeied whether life was iudeed worth the living, Then, in the diys that came after that, she had answered the question eagerly in the affirmative ; with Cyril by her aide life must surely always be sweet. Now Cyril was her husband ; she had one child - how unBoeakably precious I what unknown depths of tendernesa that little life had Bounded none but a mother's heart could know. She had health, pusition, wealth-nearly every gift that could make life preciouB ; and yet aa she looked out into the gray garden the old weary questioning came back again. She retraced the history of her paît life-the joyous child- hood, the petted and indulged young girl, her father's idol till that unhappy day. She seemed to hear his angry words over agaiu as vehemently he insisted on her receiving Mr. Poynton. " You may have cause to wish you had never heard his name," he had Baid in reply to hor passionate outburst. He had given her the canso to hate John Poynton that was in hÍ3 thought when he spoke ; but it had not had the effect ho expected. No matter what painful associations were con- nected with John Poynton she could never regret the day that had made him known to her. It wa3 strange that the remembrance of him Bhould come bo forcibly to her on this night-it waa not often he was in her thoughts. She valued his friendship, though they were never likely to meet again ; but his life waa apart from hers. Life had taken a new and fuller meaning to Constance since the days when she had known him-the soul had come to Undine, and with the fuller life had come the greater capacity for suffering. Did this strange oppression forebode Borne new calamity? Waa the need about to come when she Bhould want John Poynton'a friendship, that the memory of him Bhould come so vividly upon her ?

They had not had the lamps brought in, for the evenings though chilly were still light, and the great wood fire which gave out such a ruddy glow was the light Alice loved beat to sing by. Constance sat and pondered, till Alice, either by accident or some subtle sympathy, broke out into the deep strange melody of the Cradle Song. That was the last feather added to the camel's burden. That mournful music seemed to render the subject of her thoughts visible before her. Again ehe was a girl in the great dnwing-room at Thames Ditton, She saw Cyril come in from posting the fatal letters, and paBS her by unnoticed as he hurried to hang over Alice while Bhe sang. She remembered the sharp pang that had come to her then. The positions were changed now ; Bhe was the wife _ and mother; but her pain came to such a climax as she listened to the Cradle Song that she could have disgraced herself and cried aloud. She restrained herself, aa she alwaya did, and making a desperate effort rose from her peat.

"That is a Bplendid song, Alice," she said

quito calmly, approaching the piano as Alice let

the last ead notes die on the air.

"Yes, I think I like it best of all," Alice replied. Alice had sobered down too ; the de- pression of her companions affected her. She ceased to linger for a few words of conversation botween each Bong aa she had dono at the begin niug of the eveuiug, and sang on without pause or intermission, fading into a sadder and subtler strain of melody, till Bhe finished with the Cradle Song.

Cyril got up aa Constance approached Alice, and went towards the fire; he too seemed to strive to shake off an incubus of care. Then Alice left the piano, and all three stood before the fire aud talked. It was a constrained and spasmodic conversation, and Constance, who still felt ill and oppreBsed, asked Cyril to ring for lights. It was a relief when the lamps were brought in and the shutters closed out the misty twilight aud the sad gray garden. But, as if to prevent the iuside comfort from making them forgot the gloom without, the wind, which had been fitful all day, now rose in fierce gusts and whistled round the ivy-covered wall and through

the columns.

The same thought carne to husband and wife as iu silence they listened to it Bighing and moaning like a living thing in pain : " Eva ought to have been taken to a wanner climate before this." But, as if under some spell, though both thought of their child, neither spoke-there seemed to be something between them that prevented all sympathy. They talked idly of a book they had been reading. Alice atarted the conversation in a dreary desultory manuer, aud they coutiuued it till tho time carno to go to bed.

Chaptmi XVII.

The next morning broke clear nud cabal ; though there were no flowers in the garden, and the trees were almost bare, the sun shone brightly and the wind bad fallon. There was only one more day for Eva to bo exposed to the damp thick air. It was Tuesday, aud on Thurs- day they were to start for Pau. Eva seemed flushed and feverish as abo sat up in her little bed. She had coughed a good deal during the night, Constance looked at her auxiotiBiy. The great blue eyes appeared larger than ovor, and on this morning they had the wistful far-off look I that always sent a chill to Constance's very soul.

" Oulv one mora day, my darliug," she said aa she drew her towards her and passod her fingers through the golden curls ; " only one more day, and then we will go to tho nice old home in the mountain ; do you remember 1"

Yes, Eva remembered it nil, and was quito excited by the thought of the journoy. Sho oven forgot her now íeservo with hor fathor, and chatted away all breakfast time.

Constance had been busy in her own room all tho morning with preparations for their journey, and diiectly after luncheon Eva fell asleop. It was rather au unusual thing for the cbil 1 to do, aud made Constance uneasy. Sho fancied her breathing was more laboured thau usual. After watching for sumo timo she made horself so miserable that she went down stairs to find Alice, who with all her failings was always very sym- pathetic. She wanted to hear what she thought of the ohild's looks. Alice was not iu tho morn iug room or in her bedroom, so Constauco con- cluded that she had gone out. Alien had become bo completely one of tho family during her long visit that she tnado her own plans aud went her own ways without ceremony. She and Con- stance had lunched together, but nothing par- ticular had been settled as to the disposal of the remainder of the day. In spite of all Coustauco'a vaguo uneasiness she aud Alice were just as good friends as over. Coustauce was too gonerous to revenge ou Alice by auy show of uukiudness the fact that she had the power to amusa her hus- band more than sho had herself ; nud to do Alice juBtico she took great care to show her gratitude to Constance by every means in hor power

save one.

Cyril had gono out after breakfast and had nob returned, so Constanco found no one to share her anxiety, and, after glancing into the rooms she passed to bob if by chance Alico should bo there, she had to go back to Eva alone. By this time, however, Eva was awake, and though her colour was still very bright and her breathing quick she did uot seem worso than usual, and Constance gladly thought Bhe had been frightened for no reason. Eva was delighted when her mamma proposed to take her out for a little walk ; it was a treat Bhe had not had for souio days, for it had been cold nud Constance had kept her

within doors.

" Lot's go down to the little pool, mamma," Eva pleaded.

Constance thought it was too damp, but Eva begged so hard to be allowed to get a few rushes -just a very few-that Constanco yielded. Eva ran merrily before her through tho gardons ; it was a very bright afternoon, and tho sunshine and Eva's delight at being out of doora again raised Constance^ spirits. She felt lighter, hearted than she had done for manyaday, aud was thoroughly ashamed of her morbid fit the evening before. Then everything around Imdaeemed to herald trouble-all waa dim, dreary, and indis- tinct ; now the gardoua that had looked bo gray and chill were bright with the autumn sunshine, the birds twittered on the branches. "Howvory material we are," thought Conatance ; "a change in the weather and wo ruah from grave to gay all at a bound. Last night everything seemed to porttínd1 trouble, to-day because the sun shines I feel .as bright and light na if trouble

could never touch me."

Sha watched Eva aa she tripped lightly on before, followed as usual by Bruco ; Hhe felt sorry when they entered tho shrubbery, it was dark aud shady, and shut out the joyous sun abino. However, Eva must have her way, and

Constance followed.

The little lake waa in a valley in the shrub, bery, and was so completely shut in by over- hanging shrub3 and trees that, till you stood actually on its shores, it waB not to be seen. Eva know the path well, and was hurrying on when suddenly she stopped ; she heard voices, and being vory timid waited for hor mother to over- take her. Constance held out her liant!, which Eva caught, and they proceeded down the little path together. She had not known what had startled Eva, but now she herself heard tho murmur of voices-Bome one was at the pool.

Constance waB on the point of turning back, for the path they were in led only to the pool, which although it was in the private grounds waa open to the public. Both Conatance and Cyril were very liberal in their ideas, and liked othera to enjoy the various boautieB of their pos- session a3 well as themselves ; in fact up to the very gardens in front of the windows the country people were free to come and go, and though they did not very largely make use of their privi- lege it waa no uncommon thing to find a couple of lovers taking a ramble through the ßhrubbery. Constance thought it waa some such interesting couple at the pool now, and was turning away when some worda spoken more distinctly than the rest made her hesitate. Surely abe knew the voice. She listened. The conversation waB continued, but in bo low a tone that for a time she could distinguish nothing. Then the voices rose again.

"It is cowardly of you ; you deceive your wife and you deceive me." The worda were literally hissed out ; the speaker's passion waB bo intense it seemed almost to prevent her utterance.

Constance stood still, rooted to the spot. She scarcely comprehended the import of the words ; but Bhe recognised Alice's voice. Could it be her husband to whom the words were addressed ?

(IO BE CONTINUED.)

Habmont Preserved.-Dr. Neale, of Boston, was asked by the Rav. A. J. Gordon if he ever had any church difficulties. "Oh, yes," ho replied ; " once it waa pretty serious, and the brethren wore getting very warm. I Baid, ' Let ub be dis- missed.' They rose, and before they thought of it the benediction waa pronounced and they were dispersing. Ere another meeting they had cooled off." Mr. Gordon asked Dr. Neale the Beeret of hU long pastorate. " Well," replied ho, " when I got vexed and wanted to go, they wouldn't let me ; and when they got vexed and wanted me to go, I wouldn't go. We never both got mad at

the same time."

Deserved It.-A couple of threadbare loafers were sitting in front of a saloon Btove, one of tbem reading the legislative proceedings in the Calveston News. " Hallo ?" exclaimed the man with the newspaper, "do you remember Charley Wilson?" "Certainly I do." "Well, he has come to grief at last. He is a member of the Legislature." "He is? Well, I've got no aympathy for him. He waa alwaya trying to make out he was aa good as either of us. He deserves just what he has got.''