|Newspaper Title||The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933)|
|Trove Title||Constance Duchesne: Is Life Worth the Living?|
çoustaucc Duclicsuc: "Is Life
Worth the Liviug ?
"Five years to-day sinco we were married, Crril" said Coustauce, as she entered the breakfast-room bright and cheery with a. quiet fire and hissing urn. ,..,,"" ,
11 Is it ? Is this our wedding-day i He Bpoke not carelessly but Btill with a great languor, ¡hat chilled Constance as the gray cheerless morning had not been able to do.
" Yes . I wanted to see if you remembered it j but you did not, so I had to remind you after all." She carno to where he stood before the fire, and laying her hand on bia shoulder put up her face to be kissed. She tried not to seem hurt at his indifference, uut ghe could not repress a little sigh as she turned away after he had kissed her in his quiet fashion. She had learned long bofoie this that Cyril did not love her as she loved him ? hut on that particular morning bia manner made the rankling arrow go further home. The entrance of the little Eva made a welcome diversion to her thoughts. The child rushed to her im petuously the moment tho nurse opened the
door for her.
« jiy treasure !" said Constance, almost de- vouring her with caresses.
Cyril carne from his place before the fire to have his shire of the kUses Eva was showering upon her mother. This was the one grand bond between husband and wife-this little fragile child ; so frugile and delicate that many times they had stood together over her thinking that she must be taken from them as their two other little ones had been ; but she rallied, and at each recovery of their treasure she seemed more precious to tbem than she had ever been before. If Eva had been spoilable, spoiled she must have been, for both father and mother fairly
Her entrance had quite roused Cyril, and he laughed and talked and played with and teased her till he had talked himself into good spirits a by no means constant mood with him now. Ho had changed a good deal since he married. Much of his old light-heartedness had gone ; he was always kind and affectionate to Constance, but Constance felt-as what woman who loved would not?-that there was something wanting. He loved her, but it was not with the love for which her heart craved. Constance felt her affection thrown back upon herself, and it had reacted unfavourably upon her with regard to her husband. Her manner unconsciously becamo colder and more constrained, and though often she longed to hurry to him when she heard him come home after some short absence b1ib com- pelled herself to stay where she was, She dreaded his cold greeting nnd his indifferent carelesB kiss. He on his side thought it was some of tho o'd pride that insisted he Ehould go to her ; and bo gradually a kind of coldness had grown up between them, which only the mutual love and anxiety for their little girl kept from increasing.
" I should like to have spent Christmas here," said Cyril one evening early in December.
They were staying at Torrington Park, the residence on the famous Berkshire estates which had had such influence on the destiny of both husband and wife. They were alone ; for though they were very hospitable, and enjoyed a good reputation among their country neighbours for the number and liberality of their entertain- ments, neither Cyril nor Constance liked that perpetual stream of society which it is the fashion to keep up in some country houses. Constance managed capitally to maintain her husband's prestige among their large circle of acquaintance, and yet to arrange to have a large portion of their time unrestrained by the presence of visitors. They had had a very laygo party staying in the house a little white-bifore, and the succession of dinners, balls, and hunt breakfasts had been unfailing, and appeared to have given general satisfaction. Now they wero a'ono-a season which, in spite of all tho shadows that lay on their wedded life, both of them enjoyed intensely. Constauce was always happy when Cyril was by, though she made no sign ; even in his darkest moods she hovered near him, more than repaid for her long watching and waiting when he gave her some loving words ; but bo strong a constraint her fatal pride made her put upon her feeliugs that Cyril littlo thought of the keen happiness he caused, or the poignant grief.
He was in a more chatty mood than usual on this special evening. Thoy had been discussing the necessity of wintering abroad for littlo Eva's sake, and the conversation had drifted to tho time of their honeymoon and the scenes thoy lingered over together. They had not been abroad once since then. Cyril had literally been everywhere, and Constance was indifferent to everything save the pleasure of her husband and the health of her little girl, Constance had never been of a selfish disposition, though circum- stances had given her little to think of or to do for Bavo hersolf ; now, while she retained, or even increased, the coldness of her demeanour (which made the outer world condemn her as absorbed
in self), probably no person thought less of her- self and her own personal likings or dislikings than Constance Montgomery. Hers was a fine, loving, womanly character stunted and warped for want of nourishment. "Too much alone" might have been Constance Montgomery's motto,
" I don't think we ought to risk it, Cyril," said Constance, in anawor to her husband's remark. " Eva's cough is beginning again."
" Is it ?" said Cyril anxiously ; " I had not noticed it." He was roused the moment there
was question of danger for his little daughter, He got up from his easy chair and came and
stood before the fire close to Constance.
The roora was the perfection of English comfort, spacious but not too large, brightly lighted, and with the great logs upon the hearth sending a flickering blaze tint danced and sparkled as if in defiance of the superior brilliancy of lamps and candles. It was furnished with admirable taste-in Buch Bubdued harmony that while the whole made a peifect scene of elegance and comfort not one Bingle articlo stood forth in undue prominence.
" Did you ask Dr. Pemberton his opinion ?"
"No, not to-day; but you know he has fre- quently advised us to take her to the South,"
" We had better go at once, then," said Cyril. "I did not think she wat worse," lie added un- easily. " When shall wo start ?"
" There is no need for immediate hurry. If we go at the end of the month that will be soon enough."
But Cyril, man-like, could not look at things in such deliberate manner.. The bare idea that the child waa worse alarmed him beyond measure, and he worked himself up to such a pitch of anxiety on her account that it was decided that Constance and Eva should start the nest day, and that be should join them as soon as possible. So Christmas-day found them es- tablished under tho bright blue Bkies of the picturesque little town of Pau, with ita mag- nificent panorama of snow-capped mountains towering above the rich green coteaux of the Southern vineyards. Constance had not visited the Pyrenees before, and she felt as if she could never tire of the lovely scene. Day after day she went to the gardens of tho fine old chateau, the birthplace of France's greatest king, and gazed on the rich country that lay stretched out au all ''.rtes - the great white roads leading to the different quarters broad and white and straight as an arrow's flight, whilst the dark ice-cold Gave meandered here and there in its way down from its cradle in the snowy mountains as though to show how it disdained the line-and-plummet
rule of man.
Eva soon lost her cough in the pure dry air of the Pyrenees, and was able to go with her father
and mother iu their short excursions into the mountains. Yourg as she was she seemed en- tranced by the beautiful scenery. Constance often watched her anxiously as the large bright eyea looked eagerly around and then came back wistfully to her mother's face as though asking foi sympathy. Her heart sank within her as she watched the child: it was not natural. The amendment iu the bodily health did not reconcile her to the abnormal mental growth-she felt that it boded ill. She did not tell Cyril of her iear ; he was bo nervous and anxious about the
Child. She bore her burden in secret as she had
'earned to do many a one, but she rarely let Eva «ut of her tight.
They neither of them entered into society there were no calls on them to do eo in this little c'tt-of.the-way corner of the world. They were wee to come and go at their own pleasure and to io.low the bent of their inclinations, and those P'-iitited to a quiet jog-trot life varied by «tie jaunts to the most beautiful spots in «w vicinity, so easy of access that they could
take Eva with them. Constance often looked through the long vista of blank dreary after
years to this winter in the South of France-in spite of her anxiety on account of Eva's health the brightest and happiest season¡of her life.
When the Montgomerys carno back to England they decided to spend a few weeks in London. It waa just the height of the seasou, and though Constance did not take the slightest pleasure in the whirl of dissipation in which they were im- mediately engaged she was glad to have the op- portunity of privately consulting a physician with regard to Eva. Her anxiety about the child was considerably lessened by tho great man's opinion. She only required care, and Btudioiibly to be kept from excitement. In every way to be kept to baby-life pure and' simple. Her dog and he" doll to be her sole amusements. Bruce, though getting rather old, and much more demure in his ways than in the Thames Dittou days, was always ready to respond to Eva's ruther exacting demands. He patiently endured being covered up and put to bed twenty times u day ; only now and theu his great intelli- gent eyes Used pleadingly to say that he thought all that kimi of thing rather hard lines at his time of life. Constance took him with her every- where iu spite of all obstacles and objections.
" You will have that dog run over some day, Constance," said Cyril angrily. " It is abBurd to let him follow you about everywhere as you do."
They were crossing iuto Hyde Park just by the Marble Arch ; it required great skill to steer Bafely between the streams of carriages. Con- stance was always rather nervouB about crossing the street, and hung back just wheu she should have hurried forward. Cyril had dragged her on, and if the coachman of a passiug carriage had not pulled up his horses theie must inevitably have been an accident. In the height of her terror Constance looked round for Bruce, and saw him as she thought uuder the carriage wheels. She had not been ablo to resist a slight scream, which added to Cyril's anger. However, Bruce got off scot free too, and so Constance was able to endure her scolding with equanimity,
" I did not know he had come till we were somedietance from home," said Constance quietly.
Bruce was a bone of contention between Iiub
baud and wife. Cyril did not like dumb animals, and he had a special spito against Bruce, who would never, fond as he was of Constance, acknowledge him in any way. Perhaps with the quick perception of character which our dumb friends indubitably have he knew that Cyril was
uncertain and unreliable. Bruce was never
actively disagreeable to his reputed master, but he just quietly ignored him.
CoUBtance patted the head of her favourite as he trotted up to her side to tell that he was Bate, and_ hoped that Cyril would tako no further notice of him. She wished the dog had not come, for he kept her in a constant fidget ; the park was crowded, and it was almost impossible to get along.
" I wonder there are not more accidents," said Constance, as they stood still for a moment before attemptiug to croBB the Row.
The words were scarcely out of her mouth wheu a wild shriek was heard ; there was a cloud of dust, a rush, and then a little crowd gathered, which in two or three minutes became a largo one. At the first sound Cyril had leapt from her side. She tried to keep bim in sight, but in
two seconds he wa3 lost to view. She followed all fear of the dreaded crossing swept away - and narrowly escaped being knocked down ; but she Uew on, just in time to see a woman lying in the duBt, and Cyril hanging on to the bridle of a great black horse. The horse swerved viciously, und Cyril fell. Constance Bhrieked and darted forward, but a strong arm held her back.
" He's not hurt, mum," said the man whohad stayed her progress.
In a moment Cyril was on his feet again. The rider of the horse had dismounted, and there was a fierce colloquy with the police. Then shaking
herself free Constane'e rushed to her husband.
" I'm all right," he called out as he saw her.
He went to assist in lifting the lady, who, whether much hurt or not, was still lying on tho ground insensible, and Constance followed.
The woman was lying so that her face was covered when first approached. When they lifted her up, Constance and Cyril at tho same moment recoguised Alice Viner-or Alico Bernard rather. A Bhort exclamation escaped Constance, and she looked at Cyril. He was still looking at Alice, as if he could not believe his eyes.
" We had better take her homo, hadn't we ?" he said hastily to her iu an undertone.
He said it bo much as a matter of course-ho was bo perfectly cool and unexcited about it-that even if it had occurted to Constance to bo uneasy at this meeting of his old lover his manner would have removed it, And Cyril really waa indifferent -shocked of course at the accident, and auxious to render her every assistance, but not appa- rently more interested than he would have boen in any oue else who was thrown on him for hoi p.
Constance had not the least Bpark of jealousy in her nature. She was too puro and noble her Bein to think ill of others, and the start that she gave when she saw Alice waa caused simply by surprise. It was painful surprise ; everything connected with Alice Viuer in the past bolonged to the black page of Constauee's life, the time of her father's death. She had quite recovered herself by tho time they had got Alice into a cab, and was bending over her teuderly when at last she opened her eyes.
Cyril got in with them, glad to escape from his conspicuous position and the stream of re- marks, partly laudatory partly quizzical, which the young street Araba were lavishing on him freely. Of course a large crowd had gathered,
to whom the smallest cause for excitement was
welcome ; but even before Alico had recovered consciousnesa the interest was over ; the littlo street boys went back to their marbles, the mon lounged away with their hands in their pockets ; and, as to the Btream of fashion that galloped and trotted past, they had not troubled them- selves even to turn their heads. " Some acci-
dent I suppose," and the remark exhausted their curiosity,
If it bad not been for the Montgomerys Alice must have been carried to the hoBpital, and there have taken her chance-attended to when the busy BurgoouB had time, and restored to health if possible ; if not, hurried out of the way as one of
those whose friends could not be found.
At this time Alice Bernard wna really without friends. Her marriage, which had turned out very unhappily, had not even brought her wealth. Her husband had loBb the whole of his property by the failure of a bank in which he waa the principal partner. Distress of mind had brought on illness, and he died within a year of their marriage.
Mrs. Viner was dead too. So Alice was left quite alone-to earn her bread as she beBt could. Her baby who was bora after its father'B death lived but a few weeks, and Alice, who only regarded the tiny thing as a relic of a huBband she had never cared for, scarcely repined. It would have been a groat hindrance to her in her new voca i tion. She came up to London, and by the help of a singing master who had given her lessons in more prosperous days Bhe succeeded in Retting Bome pupils. It was hard work and little pay. All this of course Constance only came to know by degrees, but the patent facts of poverty and privation wore written on her worn face and Bhabby dress.
As Constance sat by her in the cab ehe noticed all this, and she thought how different their lots had been. At one time Alice, though not rich, had seemed in every other respect more favoured than Constance, and now-and Constance looked up and caught Cyril's eye,
"That'B my good little wife," he Baid as he helped her out of the cab.
Constance waa more than repaid for over- coming the little, very little, repugnance she had felt to bringing Alico to her home. She re- doubled her attention to the invalid, and when Alice at last was fully restored to consciousness and understood what had happened and where she waa she looked at Constance with gratitude not unmixed with surprise. The first sensa- tion was not altogether pleasurable. Constance had won what she had lost ; and unhappily, in epite of all the long years and all the unkindness, Alice still loved Cyril She felt it would have been better for her to have been succoured by any one else rather than by the Montgomerys. Of course she was not bo ungraciouB as to make her feelings apparent, but she could not help shrinking a little from Constance, on whose arm her head was lying. Constance, she thought, had neglected and ignored her through all that time of poverty and trial. She had not even answered the letter of condolence she wrote her at the time of Mr. Duchesne's death. Itseemed as though directly her engagement with Cyril was broken off Constance had wished her to understand that the intimacy between them was
at end. Now, in her lowest depth, Constance came forward to gloat over her destitution ; perhaps to flaunt before her her huBband's love, her wealth and happiness.
This waa how Alice regarded it all just at first ; but Constance's delicate kindness and gentle nursing soon subdued the first harsh feelings. Constance told her, with truth, that sho had often wished to hear from her, but that as she had never written after the rupture of her engagement she thought the unwillingness for further intercourse waa upon her side. And then they found that Alice had writton and her letter had never reached Constance ; iu tho time of confusion following Mr. Ducbesne's death it was quite possible it had been overlooked.
Before Constanco left Alice's room full con-
fidence and kind feeling had beeu established between them, and with a light heart Constance went to look after her husbaud. Cyril had not been hurt in the least by his plucky adventure, and now that he had removed all signs of his encounter with mother earth bo looked even handsomer than usual Constance thought. She gave him a hurried account of her chat with Alice and their mutual revelation, and then she was going off to the nursery when she stopped
" Oh, Cyril, I have never thought once about Bruce. Where can he bo ? I hope he did not get hurt"
" Oh, Bruco is all right you may bo sure," said Cyril carelessly.
Constance did not ask for sympathy in that quarter; she knew better. But she went into the hall to inquire of the servants. The first thing she saw was Bruce himself lying on his favourite mat. He had only just come home, and was evidently fatigued and oxhausted. He had lost his mistress, and had spent a long time hunting for her. Constance was quite rejoiced to find him safe, and she ran rapidly up stairs to Eva's room, followed by her big dog.
It was nearly a week boforo Alice waa able to leave her room ; truth to tell, Bhe was in no hurry to get well. Her health had really Buffered from the drudgery, added to the poor living, which had been her lot for the last five years.
Constance waa the kinde8t and inoBt considerate
of nurses, and she thoroughly appreciated the uuacciiBtomed luxury of being waited on. Ab she was too ill to join the family party she saw nothing of Cyril, and so nothing could occur to vex Constance. Alice, judging others by her own nature, still felt' half surprised that Constanco Bhould be bo generously kind to her husband's old love. True, Constance was the successful rival-she had won the prize ; but Alice had been his first love, and, as Constance knew well enough, he had been passionatoly attached to her in the dayB that were gone by. It wbb Alice's motto always to " take the goods the gods provided," and so she took this brief respite from her weary work and enjoyed it, and kept her wonderment at Constance's kindness well in the background. She was almost sorry when the doctor pro- nounced her well enough to go for a drive ; that meant that her holiday was nearly over,
"Heigh ho!" sighed Alice, as «ho put on her bonnet and surveyed herself reflectively in the glass. " Woll ! it is no use to anticipate tho bad times ; wait till thoy come back. I wish I had a better bonnet ; this one is scarcely fit to go out in." It was undeniably rusty and old, aud no matter how Alice coaxed it into shape it would look shabby. " It is no use looking back either," reflected the deep philosopher ; " but once upon a time I was aa well dressed as Constatice, What a difference !" And sho gazed at herself earnestly, not with regret at the thin cheeks and faded hair, but calmly and dispassionately so as to give her a real knowledge of herself.
The impression did not raise her spirits, and Constance found her lying back in her chair, looking bo worn and weary that she waa afraid the doctor had overrated her strength, and that she was really not well enough to go out.
" I shall enjoy the drive ; I shall bo better for getting into the air," sho said in reply to Con Btance'a anxious inquiries. She had too much tact to make any remark to Constance on tho shabbiness of her apparel ; but Constance divined her thoughts of course, woman-like. She saw that Alice was very badly dressed ; in old times Alice had beeu inclined to be extravagant, and what she could not have in expensive materials Bhe made up by the freshness and good tasto of her toilettes. Cyril was waiting to help her into the oarriago ; she had only seen bim once before
since the accident.
" Don't hurry," ho said gently as Alico went hastily along the hall and staggered a littlo. Ho assisted her into the carriage and placed the shawls and wraps round her very carefully perhaps with a shade more assiduity than was absolutely necessary ; then he helped Constance in, and the two ladies drove off.
Cyril stood watchiug till they woro quite out of sight. Ile was taking his turu at philosophical reflection. Either the original Btibject or the conclusions ho drew from it were not agreeable, for he looked very grave as ho slowly went back
into the house.
Very soou after this Alico returned to her lodgings ; but Constance had made her promise to givo up her pupils for a time and come and pay them a long visit as soon as they went back to Berkshire. They never went to Thames Ditton now; Cyril bad a dislike to the place, and declared that it was unhealthy for Eva because it waa low and damp. Constance gave way, as abo did in most things ; never was a woman moro changed by marriage thau CouBtanco Montgomery. Her father used to tell her she had
concentrated all the stubbornness of her race in her own porson ; but Cyril had no occasion to complain. Whatever he willed she willed. She was scarcely aware herself how entirely every thought and desire was centred in her husband.
Nevertheless she knew that her love waa not
very warmly repaid. Cyril was always kind to her, but ho was very ofteu indiffèrent.
(to »e co.\tinui:i>.)
Op Mr. James Dawson I ("Endymion") know nothing beyond his own statement that he is "a local guardian of Victorian aborigines," living at " Renny Hill, Cam- perdown, Victoria," from which place he dates a letter in February laBt to the Scotsman, to call the attention of the people of Great
Britain to " the horrible atrocitiea and wholesale butcheries now being almost daily perpe- trated on the aborigines of Australia." There is little doubt that our pioneers who have como into collision with the blacks, and havo found the latter hostile, savage and treacherous, havo taken the law into their own handB till in many cases human life has greatly lost its sanctity for them. They may even have realised De Quincey's curiously graduated seale of crime, and dreaded lest murder should so far deprave them as to lead them ulti- mately to Sabbath-breaking and procrastination. There ¡b much to be urged by men whose lives, families, and property are threatened by savages, and in some cases',it cannot be denied that the only security possible is the reign of terror, Yet,itmust unfortunately be admitted, there have been need- less barbarities which shamoour nature, but which unfortunately are among the inseparable condi- tions of war even between civilised raceB. The most determined atrocity-monger would hardly have ventured I should have thought to charge Sir Arthur Kennedy with " complicity in these wicked massacres of her majesty's subjects." Mr. Dawson, however, does not shrink from this. He is careful to tell us he does not even know the name of the gentleman he so unsparingly condemns-which is a little singular, unless the protector should have permanently taken up his abode with the people under hiB care. " Of the present governor of Queensland I neither know the name nor character ; but this I am justified in saying, that to have her majesty represented by a man who coolly sits with folded arms while deliberate massacres of tribeB of aboriginal men, women, and infants go on, almost daily, not only tarnishes the lustre of the Crown, but brings disgrace on her majesty's reign." This is rather rough upon the amiable gentle- man who rules us, and who is not even afraid to express his kindly sentiments towards the Chinese, I am soothed in the disappointment of not having been made a Governor, by reflect- ing with King Hal tlmt the head of a State suffers from many oppressions not shared by ua lesser fry :
O hard condition,
Twin-born with greatneap, subject to the breath Of erery fool, whoso tense no more can feel But bia own wringing.