|Newspaper Title||The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933)|
|Trove Title||Constance Duchesne: Is Life Worth the Living?|
Constance Ducliesne: Is Life * " Worth the Living ?
By " Onyx."
So delighted waa Dr. Pemberton when the happy thought occurred to him, that he was nearly gettiog out of the train which was carrying him to his Berkshire home to go back to Thames Ditton. Another uiouieut's reflection made him chango bia miud. Ho knew well, from the long familiarity with the Bex that au extensive practice had giren him, that the surest way to make a womau refuse to follow any special course ia to aeein very deoirouB that abo should do bo, Aa a general rule the fair creatures, like pigs, must be managed by the rule of con- trary. Mention a pleaaaut project, but point out that it would bo specially undeairable that they should follow it, aud they rush at the thing at once. Much as he respected Constance, several matters made him suspect that ahe was no exception to the general rule. There muat be aome beating about the bueh before bo would be able to get her iuto the track he wished. The more tho doctor pondered, so much tho more delighted waa he with his scheme, and ho resolved to leave no stone unturned io compasa the grand end. Here waa the money actually waiting for hia favourite hobby-money, which had been the only obstacle that had prevented him from carrying out bia benevolent designs long ago, aa it is the ouly obatacle to s j many of ua to do bo many things. So buay waa the doctor with his great plana all the evening that his wife, to whom ha rarely confided bia designs-aa he did not consider it good for bia womenkind to be admitted to too great familiarity with the ideaa teeming in the brains of their lords and masters - could not think what the reason was of his uuuauul abatraction, and timidly asked him if he had had any particularly splendid " cnao" that day. Instead of the rebuff she often met with, the doctor, in his extreme good humour with himself, told her all about his visit to Mis. Montgomery, and of the project he had conceived for getting her to interest heraelf in his emigration hobby, " Good to herself, and good to her fellow-creatures," he said quite enthusiastically, clasping hia hands upon his kneea ao sharply that by misadventure ho hit that particular nerve or muscle, or what- ever it may bo, that makes one's log kick out without any volition on one's own part. The doctor's wife waa too well -trained to laugh, though it waa a comical conclusion to his en-
" Oh, I am bo glad, dear," abo said gently ; "then perhaps you will bo able to get those poor Blunts out of the parish. I am Bure if anyone needs the chance of a change for the better they do."
"Yes; tho Blunts and tho Smiths and the Cormana," said the doctor reflectively. "Yea, that is a great stroke I' havo done to-day."
The doctor waa cortaiuly counting bia chickens while they «ero yet in tho shell, for it ia to be remembered that Constance had not as yet been informed of the philanthropic part ahe waa des- tined to play, and hero waa he deciding on the flrat batch of her prot<¿da. Howovor, even if the chickona were not yet hatched he knew well enough that the egga wore Bound and freah, and the anxioiiB feathered mother quite reliable, ao he gave full fling to hia philanthropic schemes. Time proved that he was right; his projects opened iuto a broad stream of real unoatentatioua good, and many hundreds in that generation and the next learned to love and honour the good doctor's name, to whom Constance iuvaiiably gave all the honour, only naming herself as his
subordinate and assistant.
Verily it ia a great matter for congratulation when some project for the good of others takes ahape at last ; for long it may be harboured in the brain, bearing no fruit, but the opportunity cornea at last, and the scheme, matured by many an hour of anxious thought, becomes a fact ; and so it was with this emigration scheme of Dr. Pemberton. Constance, carefully and warily prepared by the energetic doctor, entered heart and bouI into her work. It waa, as her good friend knew and intended it ahould be, an outlet for tho hopeleaanesa and woarineas that was beginning to be more than her strength could bear. Here was something to work for, something to hope for. No fear of deceit or rebufl', or fondness thrown back upon herself.
No one could hurt or grieve her. She did not I work for individúala, Bho worked for tho good work itself, and when Borne family who had starved aud striven on the few weekly shillings that in many of the midland counties form the agricultural labourer's wage called down blcssiugs on her head, and seemed in their poor half-aavage way to be unable to find words to bleaa the lady who stood to them in the place of Fairy Fortune, abo rebuked thom almost sternly. She could not bear it; wordB of love, even if they were only cauaed by gratitude, were bitter to her-ahe wauted to work for the work itself.
After several months of real hard unceasing labour, which had done wonders to restore tone to her mind, abo resolved to go with the next batch of emigrants and see for herself the kind of life that awaited these poor people, and judge aa to the value of her work. Dr. Pemberton was thoroughly in favour of hor design ; indeed in his usual skilful manner he had set the ball rolling, though this consummate Mephiatophilea had so well acted that it seemed to Constance that Bhe had some little trouble to make him agree to her desire, and was oven then not quite so warmly in favour of it as abo would have
He had been with her to tho docks to see the
ship in which tho voyage waa to be made, and ahe waa waiting, sauntering absently up and down the quay alongside which tho great Bhip lay, waiting for the doctor (who had gone to see a aailor who had mot with an accident), when a gentleman went by hurriedly, and in passing looked at her and then stopped short. His
movement waa so abrupt that it roused Con- |
atance'a attention, and she woke out of tho brown study into which Bhe waa still too fre- quently apt to fall, to aee John Poynton Btandiug opposite. She etopped too ; then they grasped hands warmly, and after that the ruah of ex- clamations which had seemed ready to burat forth waa arrested - they atood in 8ilenco regarding one another. Of course the woman was the first to recover her self-poaaeaaion.
" How strange to meet you here !" she aaid.
" Strange indeed 1 This is the first time I have set foot in England Bince-since-" and he carne to an awkward pause.
" Since we last saw you ?" Conatance said, finishing the sentence quietly. She had quite recovered from tho momentary surprise, and it waa the thought of all that lay between now and then, and no thought of John Poynton himself, that turned her cheek so white.
" You heard that I wai abroad, did you ?" said Mr. Poynton eagerly; there was great pleasure to him in the fact that she should have cheriahed his memory sufficiently even to inquire
of bia whereabouts.
" Yes ; from time to time I have met people who have seen you," Constance replied.
"I have never met anybody who haB seen you," said Poynton warmly, "or if they had I I uever came to be aware of the fact. I have been in India for the last two years, and only returned home last night. I came all the way to the dooks in her," he continued aa he turned hia head to point at a magnificent East Indiaman ; " there was no one for me to hurry to," he added. He sighed a little, but with no expectation of arouaing sympathy. Whatever he had felt in the past for Constance, he knew well that she had never eared for him.
Constance did not answer sigh for aigb, but she compressed her lips a little, and the transi- tory expression of paiu mide Poynton notice for the first time that she was dressed in deep mourning. Constance saw that he observed it, but she could not bring herself to speak to him of her troubles, and he did not dare to ask.
" You came home yesterday, and I am going away to-morrow," ahe aaid, striving to keep the conversation to the present.
" Going-Where ?"
" To Australia." She laughed a little at the intense surprise pictured in Mr. Poyntou'a face.
' You would like to know why and wherefore, Would you not ?" she continued after a moment's pause, and I will tell you, but firat let me intro- duce you to a very kind and dear friend ;" andaa she spoke ahe led him to where Dr. Pemberton was approaching, scanning closely the stranger who had lured Constance into conversation. Of late she had been so extremely taciturn that the doctor himself was almost the only peraon who could extract more than monosyllables from her.
" Mr. Poynton is an old friend, and my father's friend, doctor," she said, as if wishing to make both understand the footing on which they stood.
The two men gravely saluted one another, and then after Constance had inquiied for the in- jured sailor she made an excuse for going on
"Tell Mr. Poynton all about our plans," Bhe said as the doctor left her after carefully leadiug her over the gangway.
Ho bowed his head, and before Constance came back Juhn Poynton know the brief outline of the six years that had passed Binco they parted. His manner waa more gentle and deferential than ever when Bhe returned, and Constance know inatantly that the doctor had told all ; ehe waa glad that he ahould know it from bim, and not be left to gather from common hearsay : he de aerved that at her banda at any rate. He asked ao many questiona about the people whom Con- stance waa to take with her, and evinced so much interest in the matter, that the doctor asked lum to bo there the next morning early and assist at
" Wo shall be glad of a atrong arm and a atout will," he said, " for the poor creatures in their [luster and their ignorance Bometimea give us a good deal of trouble. I ahould like Mrs. Mont- gomery to have embarked at Plymouth when the confusion would be over, but abe won't listen to reason," he Baid turning towards her.
" Not to 8uch reaaon aa that," sho answered. " I mean to go from the beginning to the end."
" Well ! wilful woman will have her way to the end of the chapter," aaid the doctor ; " but if you don't repent it before you aro out of the Channel my name is not Pemberton."
" Well, I will writo and tell you honestly if I do," aaid Conatance ; and then they bade fare- well to John Poynton, and Dr. Pemberton went with Conatance to Waterloo station and Baw her safely en route to Thames Ditton.
It was not till some timo after Constance reached home that she could fix her thoughts upon the present work. Though Johnl'oynton waa to beraimply a friend and her father's friend, as she had told the doctor ; though the troubles that Bhe had gone through had almost banished the remembrance, oven, that he had once wished to bo nearer and dearer than that ; his presence brought up a train of recollections so vivid and so painful that, Btrivo aa she would, Constance could not banish them. John Poynton seemed to have n part in each portion of her life. Mouth after month, year after year, might, indeed had, passed by without the thought of bim crossing her mind, and yet at each great conjuncture of her life the quiot resolute man, who compelled respect if he could not win love, had como pro- minently forward : at her father's death, at tho time of her own engagement aud marriage, and on that miserable evening, the last she had «pent in her huabaud'a company. Theu the thought of him had obtruded itself atrangely on hor mind without any will or desire of her own. "It would have boen better for her if ahe had mar- ried John Poynton !" Alice'a worda still rang in her eura. Ho waa mixed up even with the crisis of her misery. Constance lay back in her chair and closed her eyea, as if to abut out the Bcone the worda conjured up. She had not taken off her bonnet since she came in, and as the atrong light fell upon her once beautiful face it looked worn and weary ; there were lines on it that time had not traced, and her thick black hair was plentifully streaked with gray.
She felt that she muet not indulge in these thoughts longer if alio was to be ready for her next day's work, so Bho'got up slowly aud crossed the room, Bruce following her. He was getting very worn and weary too, and it was as much as ho could do to follow Constance about the house or in the garden-a walk, that once prized treat, was quite beyond his strength. Aa Constance approached the door he got in front, and care- fully raising one forefoot against the wall opened the door, which waa ajar, with the other. It was a trick Alico bad taught him in the merry days at Thames Ditton, when abo and Cyril were ongaged, and when Bruce waa admitted on equal terms to take bia share in a game of romps. It waa not very often lie did it now, and it was strange that ho should have selected that particular morning for its performance. Every- thing seemed to carry her back to tho past that day ; wound after wound was to bo laid bare ; oven Bruco, her old faithful Bruce, wanted to reuiiud her of the happy days that had passed
away for ever.
Instead of passing out of the door and going up to her room, aa abo intended, she sank down on a chair close by, while Bruce looked at her remonatratingly. What was the use of bia open- ing the door if abo did not go out ? It was a good move that Bruce made after all ; it diverted her_thoughts from herself, and she fell to won- dering what had become of Alice. She had heard indirectly that abo had gone back to the old work-teaching and striving and drudging just to keep bare life. It aeemed a atrange existence -so much toil for no purpose but the bare aup port of oxiatenco. To work hard all day juat to bo able to get enough food to enable one to work again the next. Could Alice think her life bo well worth the liWng ?
Constanco waa not at all bitter againat Alice now. Tho doctor'a preacriptiou had worked woll in many ways. In tho larger cxporienco it had brought she had learned to soparate weakness from guilt. Sho could understand now exactly how far Alice had erred, and from her heart Bhe could forgive her. She comprehended aa she had never done before the ordeal Alice had gout through ; to bo cast off, and for such a reason ! Constance's pale face flushed up as bIio thought of it. Yea, Alice had been more Binned againat than sinning. She blamed herself now that she had never thought of helping Alice before, and
abo resolved to ask the doctor to seek out Mrs. Bernard and give her all the aeaietance he could without revealing from whence it came. The doctor's leasons were bearing good fruit-Con- stance was learning to find life worth living for the sake of the good she could do in it, and she had learned too that what it was well to do at all it was well to do quickly.
She roused heraelf at last and compelled her- self to attend to the present business ; she packed, and wrote letters and instructions, and walked and wearied heraelf so thoroughly that when at last ahe went to bed ahe fell asleep from sheer fatigue. She got up early the next morning ; there were still some last instructions to be
given, and the good ship Zealandia waa to leave the docka at noon punctually. The doctor had wished Conatance not to arrive much before the
time for starting, but when everything waa ready Constance determined to start.
Early aa ahe was, the doctor and Mr. Poynton were there before her. The latter waa talking to a group of men, and by the earnest manner of both speaker and hearer it was evident that it waa no idle gossip that engaged them.
No man was better fitted, both by his reaolute and manly character and by the varied experi- ences which had been hia lot in life, to give useful advice to those who were going to a strange land than John Poynton, and no one is better fitted than a sturdy English labourer to recognise power in whatever shape it comes before him. He knows the ring of the true metal. Poynton in this case did not content himself with words ; for one and all of the party whom Constance took out he appropriated a small sum to be vested in Mrs. Montgomery and to be drawn out by her for their use as her discretion Bhould dictate. The doctor quite coloured up with pleasure when Mr. Poynton told him what ho had done and asked his approval.
The doctor's own small colonial experience had been in New South Wales, in the daya before the gold "broke out" in Victoria, and when Queensland waa not. But he had chosen the last-named colony for bia protege's, "The newer the country the better tho chance," he argued-not over truly perhaps.
Whoever has been present at the departure of An emigrant ship knows the wild confusion of sounds and ead eights that press round one at such an hour. The anguish of the partings ; the half-frenzied despair of those who aro to bo left behind ; the white half-starved faces ; the Btrange packages that bespeak more eloquently than words the poverty of their ownera ; the wailing of children and the half-angry half expostulating voices of the men ;-all formed a scene which completely diverted Conatance'a thoughts from her own affaire. Constance walked unmoved among it alL She helped where help waa wanted; abo soothed when she saw her words might do good ; she spoke encouragingly to the old who were to be left behind, promising that when the young ones had made a fortune they should follow them to their new homes ; she even looked on while a woman, young and handsome, took leave of her husband, and hugging her child to her breast ran straight away, not daring to look back. She watched aU this, and her face got paler and her eyes had
darker BbadowB under them, but ahe gave no other sign of pam, and the woman, whoBe child Bhe held meanwhile, never guessed th it the quiet lady had a husband who did not come to see her off, and had undergone partings far more cruBhiug und heart reuditig than these Mr Poynton knew it al!, ind he witched her and marvelled I be Coustanee Duchesne that he had kuown and loved waa dead indeed , this woman whom he ga^ed at ww uf sterner mould
It waa over at last lb« list g íod byea had been Baid - the last frantic wa\iug of hand ki-rchiefa had beeu performid - the poor cheers guen with bre iking heart", the list pack igea dropped from the »linga, and the first ripple of the dark turbid water aa slowly, \ery slowjj, the ye at ship moved fiom the wharf s side Very slowly indeed she gave heraelf up captive to the pert snorting steam tup, that looked auch an ugly black little piginy in trout of her lhe sails were bung set to citch the first breeza which stirred to carry her on her lourney to the far aide of the world Then thi re waa one more cheer, rather a faint failing ouo, nnd then silence-silence on alup and on the wharf, all of them-even tilt children-Beomed to recognise th it something Btrange had hip pened, that some great epoch in their hua was pa»snig Then men aud boys surged up among the rigging-the sailors too go id natured to forbid them-and they watched the black crowd on the wharves, that gradually was growing more and mure indistinct, and still white handkerchiefa fluttered in token of fare well, and still the tra\oilers giired, till the blick crowd was blotted out by the ships among which the emigrauta were Bailing And the crowd on the wharves watched the ship till, with tem blinded ejes, thty failed to distinguish it aa it mado its way to atiward
Constance and the doctor and John Poynton were among those who stood at the stern of the veaael The two men were going down to Gravesend, anxioua to boo that Constance had no demands made upon her, by those ehe waa bo friending, beyond her strength The doctor had dreaded thia departure very much Ho know it waa a scone that must appeal to the sympathies of the hardeat heart, and to Constance in her peculiar position he was sure it would come with a terrible significante He waa very glad of John Pojntons coinpanj , be thought it would divert her thoughts-poor man, he little knew how intimately he was associated with the saddest parts of Constance s troubled life Luckily Constance waa absorbed iu the strange nesa of the scene , she h id forgotten herself in the life aroutid her bhe watchid the captain, grave and anxious , the sailors active and luelv, a little inclined to bo cross with the shibbj crowd that seemed fi r ever in their waj lhere waa ao ninth to do for over} body-it looked such a wild Beene of confusion-that Constance asked quite anxioualv if they would ever be able to reduce that chaos to peace and order lhe doctor, only too pleased to sie htr interested, kept her in animated conversation
It was dusk when the doctor whispered to Poynton th it thoy must e,o Constance took their adieux quiotlj Sbo grasped the d ctorB hand and thanked him many times , "and if, ' she began slit repeated tho two words
" If what Î Bind Dr Pemberton
But bIib mado no rtplj-only turuedfrom him to take leave of Mr Poynton
She stood and waved her handkerchief to them as they rowed away , then she went to the ship a bide and atood looking down mt« the water. " If you see my husband givo bim my lo\e, ' had been on her lips, but she c mid not apeak tho worda, and now she stood looking into the water -thinking of him to whom m spite of all her whole lioirt clung, and who had given her nu God speed
A long sea voyage ; who doea not know tho strange break in one's life that ia told of in those words ? Completly cut off from the past-unablo to take any active atepa for tho future-cutn pelled to livo in the presont, and that present unconnected with auything «r any one belonging to us-a complete gap-a hiatus-a small piece in the puzzle of our lives that Btands all alone, with ita little pleasures, little vexations, itB dis- putes aud ita friend-making- all done with euch a straugo coiiBciouauess of finality that makes them unlike everything olBe.|
Constance found it a timo of great calm ; it was a complete healing to hor spirit. She avoided much intercourse with her fellow-passengers, but she would stand for hours looking over the ship's side watching the groat masa of water surging above the ship aa if it must inevitably fall over and submerge it, anti then the vessel would rise to the top and she looked down with awe into tho black trough below. They had a few days calm in the tropics, and the heat was intenae, but tho nighta richly compensated for the incouvenieuco of the day's oppreaaivenesB. The hoaveu8 wero a mass of stars, so dazzling and gloriously bright that one could seo to read, while tho depths were of the deepeat purple. Strange phoa phoresceut light played around the veasol's track, while flying fishes with their glittering fina leapt in and out of tho water, leaving a lino of quivering light behind. There waa aomothing in the immensity of space that met her on all aides that aoothed her, it waa ao extensivo, ao boundless, ao eternal-the beavens stretched out like a garment ; the ocean, with its strange moods and guiaea, now blue-and blue that rivalled the lapis lazuli under the fierce noonday sun-now black with fiery streaka under the star-lib heavena, but always boundless, fathomless ; unknowing, unpitying of the little, ness and miseries of man. What wore the troubles and the heartaches and the despair of such as she to that immensity ?
Constance was loaming to see her troubles in their true light- learning to seo their magnitude in relation to all that surrounded her. They did not blot out the sun or the stars, though once Bhe bad cried out in her misery that there waa no light left. Happiness, the happiness that ahe had dreamed of-nay, once for a scanty period tasted-was never to bo hera ; but life was lett hor yet, and life contained much that was worth living for, not for herself but for others. And bo ahe went with freah »eat to her self-imposed tasks, giving a daily lesson to the children and helping the women to make the clothes for which she had brought the materials, so that they might have all in order for the time when they
It waa a long voyage-nearly four months and aome of the pasaengera began to get weary of it and of one another, but to Conatance it was all too abort ; it had been such a rest aa ahe had never had before, and she looked forward with shrinking dread to the time when she would have to resume the ordinary way of life.
[TO »E COSCLUD1» IN .SEX! WEKr's IMtfE ]
Mns. Magoffk had been reading in the news- papers of a man who died leaving a young and attractive widow, to whom he devised bia entire wealth, " Now, that'a what I call true philan- thropy," ahe remarked, removing her apectaclea and looking at her husband aa if she expected to be contradicted. " Why bo ?" he amiably asked. " Because," aaid she, " ho loft his property in such a way that some other man will be sure to enjoy it,"
Disadvantage o» Speaking First.-During a recent cold anap four men mot in a Devonshire street broker's office. They spoke of the intense cold. "Twelve below at my house," said one, "My thermometer indicated fourteen below," said the second. The third looked a little
nervous, but he came to the scratch. " You muBt live in comparatively warm localities," he said. " It was nineteen below at my houBe, and that on the south side of the building too," Then they all looked at the fourth man. Would he surrender? Ko. Without a quiver of a muscle of hiB face ho remarked : " It was ninety nine above, in the shade, at my placo at aunrise this morning, and that on the north aide of the house." Then he buttoned np his fur coat and went out, and the othor three looked at each other terribly mortified.-Detroit Free Prtss.
A wkll-dressed young man entered a Madrid ahop a few days ago and, after walking uneanly about for a time, aeked : " Have you any watches with India-rubber caaes ?" The astonished shop keepjr answered in the negative. The youth shambled up and down the floor a few timea and again Baid : " You haven't any rattle-boxeB with diamond handlea, I suppose ?" " No, air," Baid the shopkeeper. " How young does a child begin to uso a velocipede," asked the youth. It "de- penda a good deal on the kid," was the anawer : "aome begin young, some don't." " Would you sell mo a two-wheel one and change it for a three wheeled one if it was for a girl ?" " Couldn't do it," came the curt réponse. The youth went out and the shopkeeper reposes in the lowest dungeon of the castle. It was the King of Spain.