|Newspaper Title||The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933)|
|Trove Title||Constance Duchesne: Is Life Worth the Living?|
rnnstancc Dncüesne: Is Life C0 Worth the Uvlaftl
By " Onyx."
« Wirr did you not come when I called you, " ?"","?" said Alice Viner, when they were Constance i , « j wnnted to Bhow you
ffflÔst íoVelj'sketch that Cyril made this
T°Imk Viner was the daughter of a widow Wv and was engaged -to Cyril Montgomery, «7buchesne's nephew. Consequently she waa
j «nent visitor at the house, and Constance
aid not think it necessary to make conversation ^mldvmïr'Ae said languidly, after leaving
j, i oauso before her Teply aa showed that T did not take the slightest interest in the
^ ifer and did not wish the trouble of talking.
Hut Alice was not easily silenced. " Did you
r know anyone so unsympathetic ?" she es Sied merrily. "I will not allow her that A ""*' ^ J«** to punish her."
«Not » very severe punishment," said Cyril eood-bumouredly. Ho Baw that Borne very
nou« nmrrel had anson between father and achter and though he knew it wo3 hopeless for nv third person to try to make peace botween two ¡mell stubborn wills he was anxious that at In events nothing should be said or done to Crease tho breach. Alice was not very ob "¡rvant or discreet, and he waa afraid sho might mike some ill-timed remark upon the evident ill temper of host and hostess, so he took the barden ot conversation upon himaelf and kept
yr, Duches'ne did not speak during the whole lime of luncheon, except once to thank Cyril for rendering him some small service. The tone in which he thanked him struck Cyril-there was a jicnifiiance in it that made him notice that it was his daughter's place nnd usual habit to perform the little service which he had just rendered. Perhaps Constance noticed it too, for her eye met Cyril's, and there was an angry Bparklo in it that Cyril could not understand.
Mr. Duchesne never made a greater mistake in alj his life than when he threatened Constance WÍ& disinheritance as a means of bowing her to 1¿ will. It roused all the evil Bpirit of her Tace, ¿d to tho quick thought which linked her cousin's name with the word "disinheritance" Cvril owed the rebuff at the door and the sparkling glance at luncheon. Cyril was much too indolent to try and find out anything that ins not told him ; bo, having done even more than his wont in engaging Alice's attention daring luncheon, and seeing that Constance was still in a bad temper, as Boon as Bho gave the signal to move he rose from the table and sauntered out on tho terrace to smoke his cigar. Alice followed him, and Constance soon heard them laughing and chatting merrily as they passed up and down. Their light-heartedness seemed terribly discordant to her at that ooment, and, after beari .g it ft little while because she was too listless to move from the table where she had been sitting with her head buried in hor hand, she got up and went wearily to her own room. Even from there she could see sad hear Cyril and Alice, and, as if fasci nsted, she watched them still, against her will. Though Cyril and disinheritance were now linked together in her thoughts, she was too generous to feel sore against luna for an offence ol which he waa utterly ignoraut.
Constance's feelings with rogard to her cousin Cyril Montgomery were of a very mixed nature. If she hail been asked, Bhe would have said she iris as uttoily indifferent to him as to any other of her very few gentlemen acquaintance. Con- stance had a great scorn for love-making in all its iorms, and believed herself quito removed from luch absurd frailties. Of course she had a cousinly regard for Cyril Montgomery ; she had lauwa bim sinco she had known anyone, nnd Cyril waa handsome and courteous and bravo and gentle-in fact, as Constance believed, n maa ians peur et sans rcproclie-but there was
one flaw In him-one which to a mind of Con- stance's mould moro than counterbalanced ali this perfection : Cyril was weak. Constance, keenly alivo os Bho was, perhaps almost uncon- sciously, to his good qualities, was bound to acknowledge this ; ovor and over again had ho vexed her beyond endurance by his vacillation. " Cyril ¡5 as weak as water," she had often said to hertel! ; and she believed that Bhe looketl down from her high pedestal and judged him quite impartially, His engagement to Alice Viner had caused her a sharp pang ; but the pang was entirely on Cyril's account, Bhe felt convinced. She waa grieved that Cyril should have made
such a mistake-for sho felt Bure that it was a
dUtake. Alice was in no respect his equal. Her high spirit3 aud her pretty face were her Bolo
attractions. Constance had known Alteo for
ame time, but Cyril had only made her ac- quaintance recently. He had fallen headlong in lo« directly he Baw her, proposed to her at tho end oí a two months' acquaintance, and they were to be married almost immediately. After th; engagement Constance had boen a little moro curt in her manner to Cyril, and a little moro kind in her manner to Alice ; this latter she thought her bounden duty for thoir future relationship's sako. Alice was grateful for Con- stance's kindness, but she did not trouble her wry olten with her company. There were few pointa of sympathy between them, aud except »hen Cyril waa staying at the Manor Houso and asked her to go there with him she and Constance seldom met. Coustanco was too cold and self contained for Alice, and Alioe was too childish End flighty for Constance. At this moment Constance did what she had never done before : she envied Alice Viner. The latter was so gay, bo light-hearted, so porfoctly happy in Cyril's love, and he was so devoted to her; and for the first timo in her life Constauco felt as if her lot was hird. Beforo this time the very fulneas of her other's love had satisfied her-she had not
ja=ned ur asked for more-but to-day she had JfT;1 'hat there wero bounds to that love, and
that those bounds were more restricted than she tad thought ; and she envied Alice her lover's
Sho was Etill watching the happy couple on
tne terrace when the door of the room was gently opened. So deep in. thought was she that .ne ilid not hear it. She started when her fathor -PJte, and huked genuinely surprised ; it was bo «rely that he came to find her there. He was ', .very l1dle, and ssemed more infirm than U><"1. it tjuched Constance to seo him look so u>, »nd she hastened to place a chair for him.
Now was the moment for him to have relaxed loi- .e,rn,ne9ä' Constance was pining for Mb iii-?' ! « wo"ld but have caressed her now
'»tsw of threatening he could have made her °°]nst what he chose, 'and saved both of them .,;.T m£elT- But the DucboBno temper was
?---a. The time that Mr. Duohesne bad passed him-m i?-ng!"y meditation tad only confirmed , ; ln '115 intention and increased his anger tí:' L3ri6tance for daring to oppose it. At
* moment nothing but complete submission bT -,e\without any yielding on his, would mi A Vil ' and thafc Constance, though in a «i-e h mT submîe3iVe mood than that in which mtM i v,a iew hours ag°> was far from Prfl XiZ\ er father's threat of disinheritance a ni'/' r''£ard her opposition to his scheme as paíioi V priaciPl0 : sho thought he was de
. g mmself by making these advances to hiQ ¡, n'. and thafc il "as her duty to turn ¿.' Prsslhle, from a course which be would Eitrri lrepent oL Ab t0 the project of Wîufi B :er M an appendage to the Und, she Wbf «' al,ow herself t0 think °f it. I' If hi,? r Te mms°a to her face.to remember it. fclhT eer had no reSMd for her womanly what ti, muBt Pr°tect herself, no matter th* ^conséquence. After the revelation of WtoT"^,110 Power on earth should compel
" , meet -ur. Poynton.
a» c1 y°U EoinKto write to Mr. Poynton for ti'el»; tai.nce ?" Mr' Du-<¡hesne Eaid, ¡m he took tourü" sava him-5 "there » only half an
£ before post time."
ia'ner'sTpH WaS in the hSb!t o! writing all her krdut!» for aim' and generally enjoyed Ufote re f amanuensis' She paused a minute r-shici f i ng< Slle bad been arranging a te spoke- i , ather' bub afc the tono T which *àdow. hlB ohaîr and went back t0 the înistly ''a'>'1' * W*^ "o' write," she answered I0n=ed ^'""^ation in' his'dnughter's voice Oat he ii U i ae's'anger/to BUCh a Pitch 15 futh t St- the Power of speech, ho was tr'jm hu "i?^encS Passion. He roso very slowly
said ; ^'^^i understand me once for all," he
Slitfc tn i,;Il p°ynton comes here, whether you
* "> «ra or I do,"
' " I will not meet him, and I tell you, papa, that I will not write to Mr. Poynton-will not havo auything to do with him. I wish I had never heard his name," she added bitterly.
"Perhaps you will have good cause to say that," said Mr. Duchesne, now losing all command of himself, " for if you dare to thwart me, Constance, I will do what I told you this morning, I will make Cyril my heir-I will take good care he shall not oppose me," he added, striking his hand on the table so heavily that a frngile specimen vase, top-heavy with a mag- nificent damask rose, fell over with a tiny crash.
" Do you underatand me 7" he continued, as Constauce still remained silent.
"Quite," was the calm reply. Hot father looked at her steadily - he scarcely expected such determination. She met his eye calmly ; there was nothing defiant or unseemly in her manner. It seemed strange, even to Constance herself, that she should remain so unmoved at such a crisis. Generally she fired up under much more trivial provocation. The difference between the two characters was very marked at this moment ; both wero equally determined and equally capable of maintaining their ground, but it was the old niau who displiyed all the passion and all the vehemence. This girl with her pale face and erect figure was totally un-
moved. If she had been a marble statue Bhe could not have shown less animation ; but, though outwardly so pabBive, her mind was very busily at work. She knew her father was quite capable of carryiug out his threat, and even whilo ho spoko she was scauning the future and again comparing her lot with Alice Viaer's. To the one everything was to be granted, from the other everything taken away.
Mr. Duchesne Btood a few minutes longer Bilently regarding his daughter. His ordinarily pole face was deeply (lushed, and his eyes, though sparkling with anger, seemed Bunk into his hoad. He had worked himself up to such a pitch of fury that he was alrnoBt losing consciouanesa of the actual cause of dispute, and regarded Con- stance as then and there in her own person coming as an obstacle between him anil his cherished design. These furious outbursts of temper bad become so habitual to him now, and their effect on his health waa so injurious, that Constance, hurt and angry ns she was, almost forgot her own cause for anger in anxiety for him. She came towards him to urge bim to sit down, for he was trembling visibly, but he waved her off. Ho would not let her touch him, though ho stumbled and nearly fell as he turned to leave the room. Constanco watched him, still in silence, till he disappeared along the corridor. She waa almost inclined to go after him even then, and tell him that she would do iib ho wished, for sho loved bim dearly, and her fears for bia health alrnoBt outweighed her auger ; but the terrible thought that to submit now might be sealing her futo to Bhe knew not what in the future held her back.
Ip Mr. Duchesne had only had resolution enough to have kept bia own counsel that morning about the marriage project all would havo been well. Howeverrepugnant it might havo been to her to see her father descond from the high position which he had always maintained to curry favour with a mau whom ho had re- pulsed and insulted in bia poverty Bhe would havo given way ; but when ho told her that she was to bo part of the bargain-a portion of that which was to go in exchange for the property
it waa too much. No1 even for his sake sho could not Bubmit to that. As to his threat about making Cyril his heir, that only affected heraa regarded her father's feelings towards her. Constance waa by no moana ignorant of the ad vautagea of wealth. She was perfectly aware of the difference in position between the heireaa of the Duchesnea and the daughter of tho defunct half-pay officer Captain Viner, even while she envied her and thought her lot moro rich in blessings than her own ; but Bhe knew she was amply provided for by her mother's settlement, aud that, independently of her father, aho was rich.
After hor father had gone Constance went back to her station at the window, and a little bitterness mingled with her anxiety. Sho watched Cyril and Alice, but half unconsciously. She was following up two traius of thought at once-their happy future, and what courso she Bhould take if Mr. Poynton accepted her father's invitation. That he would invito him Bho knew her father too well to doubt.
Constance remained in her own room all that afternoon. She could not summon up resolution to joiu Cyril and Alice, who Bhe know were liugering about waitiug for her. The time went very slowly. It was the most dreary day she had over spent. In vain Bhe tried to occupy herBolf to prevent her thoughts from for over dwelliug on the one subject ; she could not command her attention. When she went into
the drawing-room before dinner she found only
" Cyril has to go to town at once," she said in anawer to Constance'B glance round the room. " Mr. Duchesne has missed the post, and he bos some important letters that he wantB Cyril to
take for him."
" Oh I" baid Constance. She did not ask what the lettors were. " Will not Cyril have timo to take dinner first ?"
' " Yes, of courso I shall," Cyril answered for himself as he carno into tho room ; " there is twenty minutes before the train starts : ton for dinnor and ten for the ride."
" You cannot do it in that," said Constance.
" What do you mean ?" said Cyril laughing ;
" the distance or the dinner ?"
" Neither the one nor the other."
" Well, we will soon see about tho dinner, and Black Boss will coally decide about the other," replied Cyril ; " but let's begin at once. Isn't dinnor ready yet, Barnes ?" he said, as the old butler appeared in the halL
" It is juBt served, Bir," replied Barnes.
Cyril laughingly offered an arm to each of the young Indies, and they went into the dining room together.
" undo is not coming down, Barnes ; send James to him," Cyril said as he took his seat. -
Constance heard in silence. It was a very uniiBual thing for Mr. Duchesiio to remain away from dinner. .Constance had almost made up her mind to rise from the table and to go to him herself, when Bhe caught sight of the letters Cyril had to poBt. He had put them down beaido her, and Conatance saw that one waa addressed to Mr. Poynton, and one to old Mr. White, her father's lawyer and trusted friend. The Bight bound her to her seat, and took away whatever little appetite she might have had.
" I declare you are both very uninteresting," said Alice, as in silence they discussed the soup ; " Cyril is only intent on getting his dinner down as quickly aB possible, and Conatance has scarcely opened her mouth Bince breakfast."
Cyril darted a reproving look at Alice, but it was of no use ; if Bhe saw it she did not take any notice of it. Alice hated dulness, of which Con- stance had given her more than a fair share during the laBt few dayB, and this day waa quite a climax. Constance did not even trouble herself ' to reply for some time.
"I cannot always laugh, Alice," she said at length. There waa just sufficient stress laid upon
' tho adverb to make it observable that Bhe
thought Alice could always laugh. However, if ehe hoped it would be a check on her visitor's gaiety she was mistaken. Alice kept up her chatter till Cyril went off; then she coaxed Constance into the drawing-room to Bing. Con- stance loved music dearly, and she forgot her troubles for a time as Bhe and Alico sang duet after duet. She Bang well, but Alice sang far botter, and Conatance often wondered how, with her shallow nature, Alice could put such deep pathos into her songs. With apparently no capacity for deep emotion herself, she could away her audience at will-now to tbe height of the wildeat gaiety, now to the depths of tho most passionate despair. '
After a time Constance gave up einging herself and sat listening to Alice. That just suited the latter; she liked a listener, and though she and Constance never "got on" together Bhe had a great respect for her, and thought more of her own talent when ahe saw the power it possessed to move Constance, This evening she seemed to excel herself, and when at the very last Bhe sang Mendelssoh a " Cradle Song" the melody Btole over Constance with a strange effect. She felt as if the strain that had ' been upon her all day was relaxed, and as she
sat with her head turned from Alica resting in 'her hand the tears that were very rare with Constance trickled Blowly down her cheeks. She brushed them away a3 she heard Cyril's voice in the hall. He had come back from town,' and was singing'Alice's song in an undertone. He came Btraicbt to the piano, and hung over her till she had finished. Constance had not moved, and her
face was turned from them, but in the pier* glass opposite sho could Bee their reflection, and, as Bhe watched Cyril's devotion and tender- ness to the woman who was to be his wife, the soothing effects of the song were swept away. There wera no more tears-these to a nature like that of Constance told of the p«seing away of grief-but there was a great pain, almost a physical one it seemed, and Coustance pressed her hand upon her side, and turned bo that she should not be able to see Cyril. He had taken no notice of her when he came in-had not even looked to seo whether she wab in the room or not. She need not have wiped away the tears bo hurriedly-there was no fear of his soeing thom. She was absolutely nothing in his eyes. Poor Constance! She who had known him all her life, who had stood between him and her father's anger timo aftor time, bravely takiug upon hereelf the outburst of rage which would be the result of some of Cyril's escapades, was now utterly forgotten, so absorbed was he in this girl who had neither heart nor mind- at least so Constance harshly decided iu her piin. Altera little whilo Bho got up noiselessly and went out. She would not go back to her own room ; she felt aa if it had been a prison to her all day. She went out on to the terrace and paced up and down, gazing intently iuto the starry beavens, full of strange questionings which would not Bhapa themBulves in words-full of a strange unreat I Some chords bad been struck in her nature this day that had never been struck before, and their vibration left her d.ized and trembling-desiring with a passionate desire, and dreading with a vagtio but intense dread.
(to ni. CO.Ml.NUin)