Chapter 919192

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Chapter NumberV
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article919192
Full Date1881-04-30
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count4162
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933)
Trove TitleConstance Duchesne: Is Life Worth the Living?
article text

constance Wucliesue: Is Life

Worth the SJiviug ?

By "Onyx,"

CHAPTER V.

Timrx days after Mr. Duchesnehad despatched «.invitation to Mr. Poynton the answer to it

.ted Mr. Duchesne and ConataDce were

troakfastiug alone. Alice waa goue home, and flvril had left with her.

«From Mr. Poynton," Mr. Duchesne said, aa 1.P handed the lettoi to Constance, who took it iü silence and glanced down it. Her lip curled « she read. She thought no better of John Pnvuton for the cordial manner in which he rraoonded to bin kinsman's tardy overtures.

«A nic.iu toadying nature," she thought to i "u . " or else so crushed and kept down by poverty

that it bus lost the power to riso ;" and V nictuied to herself what would have boen her reception of fuch ill-timed advances. There ÎL a very briaht sparkle in her eye aud a flush nn her cheek that morning, which her father, when he observed it, attributed to excitement on Mr Poyutou's account.

There was peace between father and daughter noff apparently, though there had been uo ex- planation or recoucili'ition, and no stranger would ¿are detected auy difference between their de- meanour to one another now and what it had been a week ago. But though outwardly all waa «mooth, the breach had not been closed. Till that moment Mr. Poyutou's name had not been mentioned between them, but each felt the -hange-the old happy confidence waa gone. Con-tauce talked to her f.ither and waited on bim"as usu.il, but abo was very glad that Bhe had been the first iu the brenkfast-rooui that morning. Time was when the news contained in the morning's budget would have been carried straight to her father to be discussed with him and to hear what he thought best to do ¡ but, as has been remarked, all that was over ; Constance had learued that she must stand alone, and for such a nature as hers the lesson onoe set beforo it was neierto bo set aside, but to bo conned over and mastered,

Mr, Poyutou'B hitter was by no means the most important one in Constance's eyes. Among the letters addressed to her was one from Cyril. She took it up the first, aud opened it hastily. It was very rarely he wrote to her-they saw one another so fiequoutly that there was no need, and Cyril doteated letter-writing. Constance was curious to see what reason had made him write now. She had been thinking a great deal about him lately for raauy reasons, His letter was very short. He just wrote to tell her that be would not be dowu at the Manor House on Sunday as usual, aa he would be in Paria before Ehe received bia letter. " We have had a Berious quarrel, Alice and 1, and it uuy bo some time before I come back to England-perhaps I may never come." This was in a postscript, in which, following the fashion of the other ses, Cyril had put the weightiest matter,

The colour rose in Constance's face aB she read, and she sat down with the open letter in her hand to think.

La Rochefoucauld BayB that thero ¡3 always something pleasant to us in the misfortunes of our friends. Thero is a great deal of truth iu the observation, na thore is iu most of the witty Frenchman's bitter sayii-ga. Cyril's trouble could not have cut Constance very deoply, for wheo, after carefully folding the letter and placing it in her pocket, she turned to rearrango

a vase of flowers that stood on the breakfast table she looked brighter and better than she bad done lor many a long day. She was slow at her task, aud ahe did not uiauage it so skilfully as usual. She was busy mentally writing the answer to Cyril. Of course she sympathised with him deeply and felt much for his pain. She was sure itniust be Alico's fault ; but perhaps it would all prove to be for the best-not a very novel line of argument, but Constance felt the force of it very strongly. She was sure it would bo very much better for Cyril to be free from au engage meut with one so little worthy of him na Alice. Cyril, she thought, wanted some one who would hriug out the nobler qualities of Ina character, and that the weak frivolous disposition of Alice

Viner could never do.

So utteily eugrossed was she by hor own private newa that she had totally forgotten all about her father's nff.iir?, aud she had to make quite an effort to collect her thoughtB when Mr. Duchesne handed her Mr. Poyuton's

letter.

"He will como on Saturday," she said re Hectively as she laid down the letter. She had quite got the matter in hand ngain now-eveu the subject of Cyril's broken engagement was di-miösed for a littlo timo. The colour faded horn her cheek, and her delicate lips wore drawn almost into a uti night line, as her manner wbb when much annoyed. Mr. Duchesne did not say another word, but went on reading his letters. It was no uncommon thing for them to breakfast in »¡leuce, for thoy weie neither cf them great talkers. When the meal waa over Mr. Duchesne ro=e from the table and went back to his study. It struck C"usiuuco that her father walked moro

feebly than usual, but in the ausious thoughts that posseted her thou Bhe did not take much notice of the matter, though afterwauls it eamo back to her with pniuful force. He did not complain of I1Í3 health, and they passed the day

much as usual.

The next day was Thursday, and Constanco rim irked carelessly that she waa going on Friday to spend a few days with her aunt, Mrs, Foxton, She did not exactly ask permission, but she said it in a way that gave Mr. Duchesne an opportunity o£ objecting if ho had chosen to do m. Ho did not choose, however, but allowed the remark to pass in silence. It was not a comfortable day for either of them-each wished that things had not gone so far, and each decided that it was impossible now to give way. Con- stanco almost hoped something would happen that would absolutely compel her to stay at home, even though staying meant receiving the obnoxious Mr. Poynton. She had a presentiment of trouble in the immediate future. She could not account to herself for it, aud wrestled with the feeling. She had a horror of superstitions, and would no more have put faith in the possi- bility of coming events casting their shadows »«ure thau =he would havo believed in a vulgar guü-t story. In spito of nil her philosophy she w13 still so restless and uncomfortable, without exactly knowing why, that Cyril's love affairs were cast into the background, and she actually put <ff answering his letter till the morning on which -he w ia going away. Tho one she wrote tlifn was very different to the one Bhe had written in imagination while she arranged the Jjwers on the breakfast-table. It w.13 aa short neaily as his own, and at the end curtly ex- pressed a^ h jpe that all would come right again

m time." There was a something in it, short and meagre as it was, that stung Cyril when he r<.ad_it, and he crushed it in hia hand and then tore it into shreds. The spirit that was upon her when she vrote had enterod unconsciously into aer letter, and it was not a happy spirit.

there was a shadow on Conatanco'B face' the next morning as nhe drove to the railway-station nut lent a new charm to her beauty. Generally -ue was too calm and composed-"too cold" was tai' general verdict ; but on Friday morning this jvu-ees that had come over her as Bhe bade her ji'-ier laren eil had given to her peifectly-cut leisures the expression that was sometimes "eking. Constance as yet was like Undine before =ne married the mortal. Her soul had not come

'°H 1 Suew!ls Beautiful and young and rich ¡j? "-Ppy> hut there waa » something wanting. ; ne vraa conscious of it" herself, but without cowing; what it was, and she craved for the mi.er Hie, though it was to come to her with t^-iu iLd anguish ; and though, when it should be ttvLn her with its bitter knowkdgo and its un

v.érable gritf, she would cry out as bo many nave done bcfoie, and so many will do again ". what STd is it all ? What is the object of this ,-r.UEB',f..î What is the hîdden PurP08e o£ ri.ïû"us^ Cjotanco onlv intended to be a few

.v, irom home-just so" many as Mr. Poynton - -yedat tht Manor House-she had felt a pang *-_ baying g.od-byo to her father that she had "ever exper;-nced before. She felt aa if she

b!" 11 urî"g hira' and actually when she got bivi * f '^0W turnel1 bllck, on pretext of to ¿?= f)l'i:"'ten something, and eaid good-bye -. Ö1-" ?Da''a,T° looked a little surprised when títv S aUd kip3ed him the second time d m ,\cre. Mta very ohary of unnecessary - - ,J'f'r,atKU3 o{ »flection. He made no ¿.J however, but watched her till the door

1 behind her, and then he sighed heavily.

Lt- r, . 1 ¿nca had heard tUe siSh'in EPifce o{ a11 k"t y^iwie1 would havo asked him if ho minded

leaving hiffl) nna 011 tlle ]eaät j¡int wouia

have given up her visit ; but Mr. Duoheane was as proud aa she waa, and reserved aU appearance of regret till bIiq was gone. His eyea followed her aa abo left the room, then ho got up feebly

and weut to the window and watched her down

tho flight of stepa into the pony carriage. He stood looking till long after she was out of eight, and then he Bighed heavily again, and went back to bia easy-chair.

He then summoned Howaid, the bailiff, aud talked business with him, but felt that he could not concentrate his attention aa usual ; so Howard waa dismissed, not' having gaiued much from tho interview with his employer ; and theu Mr. Duchesne lay back in his chair and gave himself up to doing nothing. Mr. White was to come that morning, and till he had discussed matters with the clear-headed lawyer it was useless even to try to think.

Constance did not kuow of Mr. White's in-

tended visit, and when she mot the solitary fly that the railway-station boasted she looked curiously to seo the occupant. Mr. White had recognised her before, and was looking out to salute her. She flushed crimson when she saw him. It flashed upon her that her father had waited for her to go to put his thie.it into exocution. She could scarcely îeturu Mr. White's salutation, so greatly wa3 she startled, and the lawyer was surprised at the haughty bow hu received. Generally Constauco waa very gracious to him.

This meeting with the lawyer turned all the lingering tondernesa towards her father to bitter ness. So engrossed was bhe with her angry' thoughts that she actually drove past the railway- station, and if the shrill whibtle of an approaching train had not startled the horses, and bo given the groom an opportunity to remark humbly that the up-train was due in n few minutes, Constance might havo drivon about for all the rest of the morning, not knowing and not caring what she did or where she went. The inter- ruption was fortunato both for the ponies nud the gioom, who might not have appreciated such aimless wanderings. Constance turned the horses sharply round when the mau spoke. She got out hastily and entered the railway-station, while ho stood gazing after her and waiting till it should please tho porter to como out and fetch tho portmanteau. James scratched his head and whistled as ho waited and speculated.

"Something must havo gone very wrong indeed to put Miäs Duchesne out like that," ho thought to himself.

She waa generally very plensant-spokeu to nil tho servants, especially to James, whoso par- ticular charge the pet ponies were ; but to-day she had not said a word, nor had sho oven patted her favourites, and even Bruce, her great New- foundland dog was told to go home quite sharply. Poor Bruce looked as aggrioved aa James-he understood the tone aa well as Jamea did, and as he had neither stolen a bone nor worried a little dog (his two most frequent mis- demeanours) he did not at all understand why ho ahould be Bpokeu to like that. He too watched Constance disappear into the station, but instead of wagging his tail and tnkiug a joyous leave as usual he kept his bushy appendage well down between his legs, and ho nearly reached home again before it recovei ed ita usual level and ho his usual spirits.

" Thero is something wrong somewhere," said James to himself ; and with that astute observa tion and a nod of hu head in the direction of the railway-station ho drove slowly away, Bruce followiug.

Chapter VI.

"It ia a strange project, and open to very grave objections," said Mr. White slowly. He threw himself further back in his chair and ex- amined his well-trimmed ßnger-naila as he spoko. Having lud an excellent luncheon, which ho had eaten with a good appetite, he ought now to have been in very good humour, and under ordi- nary circumstances would have been. But the circumstances were not ordinary. The terms on which he stood with Mr. Duchesne differed fiom those between moat solicitors and clients. For soveial generations the two families had held the same respective positions to each other. Mr. White hnd a real personal regard for his gene- rally inaccessible and unmanageable client, and ho regal ded Constauco with almost fatherly affection. This project to punish Constauco's disobedience of which Mr. Ducheano had just told him had caused bim actual pain. He com- prehended how acutely her father's conduct muBt have stung the high-spirited girl. Ho un-

derstood now the reason of her unusual nianuor to him in the morning ; probably she thought ho was coming to aid and abet her father in his schemes. He sympathised with her in her iudig naut refusal to meet Jlr. Poynton aftor all that she had learned. It was just what he would havo expected from her. Mi. Duchesuo had boen very fuiuk ; he had not kept back or softened down a siugle detail of his quarrel with his daughter. So far as he could lecollect he told it to his lawyer woid for word, Ho was too clear- sighted a man himself nat to know that if he wanted good advice ho must put his adviser in full possession of the fact«, even though they went against himself.

Mr. White had listened patiently, only putting a question here and there. The story had quite spoiled the effectB of the good luncheon, which Mr. Duchesne had wisely had served before thoy entered upon business. Tho wine remained uti tasted on the table between them, while Mr. Whito lay back and poudered.

" It is a strange project," he said again, as, after listening to the history of Constance's dis obedieuce, Mr. Duchesne unfolded his intentions with regard to the disposal of his property; " very strange indeed."

" I know that-I know everything that can be said against it. I know all that you can urge in CouBtauce's favour. I have thought of every- thing," was the reply.

Mr. Duchesne spoke peevishly as ho held his

thin shrivelled hands over the fire which oven on

that bright summer day he had caused to bo lighted. He was always cold now, and tho feeble look which Constance had noticed two days btfore had increased.

" You are trusting implicitly to the honour of a young untried man," returned Mr. White.

" I know that."

"Are you confident that ho is worthy of your trust 1 Will he carry out your will when there ¡B no power to compel bim ? '

" I Bhall take care there íb power to compel him," replied Mr. Duchesuo sharply. " You will kuow everything ; you can expose him if he

should fail."

The lawyer Bbook his head. He heartily dis- approved Mr. Duche8ne*a conduct throughout the whole affair ; it was not even what be would have expected of him-for he, like Conatance, regarded the overtures to Mr. Poynton as an unworthy truckling to wealth. Howover, he know it was useless to oppose ; the stubbornness of the Ducheaa.es was a proverb in the old-estab- lished firm, and he knew too that on this one matter of re-purchasiug the estate his client was hardly sane.

Mr. Duchesne waited a little to allow Mr. White time to reply, but no reply being' forth- coming he struck the table impatiently. <

"Now draw out my instructions," ho »aid.

Mr. White drew pen and ink towards him ; then he poured out a glass of wine, drank it off, and looked steadily into the fire. j

All this timo Mr. Duoheane curbed his im- patience as well aa he could. Domineering and intolerant as he was, he knew the quiet placid-' looking man opposite could have biSj'own way

too when he was bo pleased, and it would not

havo suited him to quarrel with Mr. ^"hite juat then, even temporarily ¡ so he restrained his im- patience as beat he could, and thrumnied on the table ; be next warmed bia banda over the fire, and thon pushed the other decanter towards Mr.

White.

" I scarcely know how to word it, that is the truth," Baid the lawyer at length, not taking any

notice of his host's movement.

" Pshaw ! that is a strange confession for a lawyer to make," said Mr. Duchesne.

" It is a strange will for a father to dictate," remarked Mr. White severely.

Ii he did carry out bia client's instructions the latter should get no sympathy or assistance from him, of that he was determined. He would pro- tect Constance's interest to the very utmost. He thought for a little longer, and then began to write. It was a strange disposition ol' property, aa he truly said. The Berkshire estates were to be bought back immediately, at any. cost, pro- vided Mr. Poynton cpuld be persuaded to sell the purchase if not completed beforo the tes- tator's death was to be carried oat bj his exe- cutors. Cecil Montgomery wa* appointed sole

heir.

" My daughter Constance will under-tand the reason of these alterations in my will," said Mr.

Duchesne slowly. (He insisted on dictating this portion of the will himself.) "She is amply provided for by her mother's settlement, in addi- tion to which I bequeath to her the Thames Ditton Manor House and grouuds."

The lawyer wrote as he dictated. " It is a hard sentence ; the punishment is greater than the fault," ho said as he finished writiug, and pushed the paper away iinpatieutly.

Mr. Duchesne took it up and read it over care- fully. "That will do," ho said. "Now for tho

secret will."

Thia second and moro important document was to be made kuown to no one but Cyril Mout gomery and Mr. White himself. It was certainly a strange arrangement : it enjoined that at the end of four years, from the day of the testator's death, Cyril, who up to that time would havo been known as sole heir, should make over to his cousin, Constance Duchesne, the whole of the property to which she was rightful heir-lesa ¿10,000, which was giveu to Cyril wholly and unreservedly. If Constauco should marry John Poynton before the expiration of that time Cyril was enjoined to make known this secret will on her wedding day, and to hand over to her her estates. This curious document concluded by invoking a blessing onhisdearly-heloved daughter Constance, to whom he had giveu this severe lesson as a warning to cultivate a moro yielding mid loving temper, aud au earnest iuj unction to his nephew Cyril to carry out his portion of the ti ust in good faith-urging tho complete confi- dence that ho reposed in his bunour as a reason tor his proving himself worthy of it,

" That is all!" said Mr. White, as with a long drawn sigh he lifted his head from tho paper over which ho had been beudiug.

Mr. Du.'hesue muda no reply ; he was crouch- ing over the file with a vacant air.

Mr White regarded bim uneasily. He got up from the chair he had been occupying and carno

closer to his cliout.

" I will let you have ¿hese papera at the bo ginning of the week," he said.

His movement aroused Mr. Duchesne, as he

meant it should.

" No, no, that would be too late," he replied with a wild anxious look. Then recovering him- self he added, with a kind of apologetic smile, " I mean I wish them done at once. I niuBt aigu them now."

" That ia imposaible," replied Mr. White. " I have busiuess in town which I cannot put off. I must catch the next tiain, and it would tnko me some time to get theao documents ready."

" What will be the earliest thou ?" the old mau aaked eagerly.

" To-morrow. I will run down with them to- morrow afternoon. By the way, where is Mr. Montgomery ? He should bo hero to receive the will in my'presence. It might bo necessary even to have another witness," ho added musingly.

" Cyril is in Paris," said Mr. Duchesuo, taking no notice of the last part of the lawyer's speech. " Send for him to come at onco."

Mr, White stood ruminating for a few minutes longer, aud when ho ng dn turned to addreas Mr. Duchoauo he observed the eatno vacant expies sion stealing over bia face which he had noticed

before.

"I don't think you nro looking very well," ho said, geutly layiug his baud on Mr. Duchesno's shoulder to rouso bia attention. They were such old acquaintances that tho familiarity waa ex- cusable. " You ought to seo the doctor. At our time of life we cannot afford to neglect any little ailments, you know," he continued in a half joking niauuer,

" No doctor eau do me any good," Baid Mr.

Duchesne in a low tone, no had banished the vacant expiession nguiu, but his face looked very

wau and drawn. " When this business is con-

cluded I shall be all right nguiu."

" How long will Miss Duchesne be away ?" persisted the lawyer. Ho was becoming really alarmed-tho traces of serious ¡Huesa were so appareut ; ho wondered he had uot noticed them

beforo.

" I scarcely know-not long, I think." The old man sighed aud turned away. Ho did not wish to talk of Constance just then.

" Well, I will bring these papéis for you to sign to-morrow," said Mr. White," observing tho evident unwilliugue-s of his client to speak on any subject except tho immediato business that brought him down.

Mr. Duchesne thanked him as he took his leave, but in a listless sort of way as if ho was scarcely coubcíoub of what he waB saying, aud Mr. White watched his, friend uueasily as he Biiuk back in his chair apparently exhausted.

As ho went out Mr. White neked Barnes whero Miss Duchesne was staying.

" I shall telegraph for her to come home. I don't thiuk Mr. Duchesne is well," he Baid musingly after Barnes had told him the ¡iddreps.

The old retainer looked up anxiously. With all their faults the Ducbesnes weie good muaters, and their servauts stayed with them from gene- ration to generation.

" I have noticed that master was looking vory bad these last three or four days," he said in reply to Mr. White.

Although thero were only a fow minutes to spare when he reached the railway station, Mr. White made time to despatch two telegrams one to Cyril Montgomery and one to Constance

The one to Constance reached Grosvenor square and was placed on tho table iu Coustauco's room within an hour of the timo of its despatch, and there itiemained unopened und unread till the afternoon of the following day, when Con- stance returned with her aunt horn some rural festivities.

Constance hated the sight of a telegram for many a long day after ; the thin blue paper I seemed alwaya to tell the same tale : Too late !

too late !

(to »r. cosTiKcr.» )