|Newspaper Title||The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933)|
|Trove Title||Constance Duchesne: Is Life Worth the Living?|
Constance Diichesne : Is Lifo
Worth the Living?
It was October when thoy reached Brisbane, and the summer bent had scar.cely begun ; but the first aspect of the little to wn told tbetn that th«y wera in the land of the tropicB. The flood of white licht that fell on everything, and that was reflected from road ¿ud pavement with an accumulated glare; the white clotSring of the men, and their clour' ess faces ; the dim eyes of most of I he'in, that looked as if they had faded from being expired to too strong a light ; the verandahs that strt-.tched all acrosB the paths in front of the shops ; tit« great waving groves of banana leaves, sa massive and luxuriant ; and the rich scarlet blossoms of tile hibiscus that seemed to flourish everywhere-all told of a scorching sun.
ConsUnco was delightod with it all, and would gladly have stayed a few days in tho town, but the doctor bad arranged for them, to go to the Darling Downs at once. There the climato would be more 'lite what they had boeu accustomed to at home, and the men would be able to get employment ia the agricultural labour to which they hied been used.
Constance waB so much better in every respect for the long ssi-voyage that she was able to tako a very active part in tbe settlement of tho people sbe had brought out with her. The active occupation was gradually deadening the morbid anxiety »be felt when she first lauded to hear from Cyril. In spite of all the warnings of common Reuse ehe had expected to find a letter from liiui waiting for her. It seemed so impos- sible that she should be there in a strange land and he send her no word of greeting. The old Raying th.it *'absence makcB the heart grow fonder" was proving true in her case. In the short intervals of leisure that »ho could devote to her own affairs she fell more and more into the habit of sitting with folded bands musing and it was always Cyril-Cyril in the old days when tbe word " trouble " waa without a meauiDg to either of them j Cyril when ho was engaged to Alice, and Constance felt the first sharp pang of ¡jealousy ; Cyril cold and indifferent bb be had been at the time of her father's death. Then the happy days in Paris, and, happier than all, the first duyB of their married life. Could it reilly bo the same Cyril who bung over her Bo fondly then who had been bo cold-so worse than indifferent-so untrue ? When Constance carne to this point in her retrospect she covered her face aud shivered, and hurried back to the work that drowned thought. Nevertheless the picture of Cyril at his beat became the prominent feature in her thoughts ; the final BCenes she would not dwell upon. His perfidy with regard to her fortune-tho deceit which Cyril thought would be unpardonable-she had long ago for- given. Constance had learned by bitter experi- ence to judge her fellow-mortals mercifully. She know the indecision which was tho weak Bpofc in Cyril's character, and she could under- stand how he had let himself drift along almost unconsciously. All her anger was gone the old love waB growing stronger day by day if only she could have been Bure that Cyril loved her only, she would have subdued her prido and gone buck to him - a great change from tbe proud Constance DucbeBiie. John Poynton ini^ht well say that the Constancehohad known was dead.
Dr. Pemberton wrote regularly every mail ; and each time as Constance tore open her lottera ber eyes first searched eagerly the sheots to eee if her husband's name was mentioned. But the doctor avoided on principle touching all painful topics, of which he believed that this was one, and his letters treated of her poor people in Berkshire and Thames Ditton, on the varying fortunes of those she had taken out : and Con- stance used to put the letters down With a koen sense of disappointment. This strange distant land made her heart yearn moro than ever for ber husband. Several times Bho thought of writing to him, but she did not dare. If Cyril ehould write her one of those cold self-contained letters-a letter akin to the rebuffs he had givon her those later days-she felt as if she could not
Four months bad passed since she had landed in Queensland, and Bho waa looking forward to returning home. Sho waB only waiting for the next batch of English lotters to make her final arrangements.
They came, aud Constance scanned them anxiously aB usual. There was the doctor's of course, and one from her lawyer ; another from her factotum at ThameB Ditton ; half a dozen connected with the emigration work ; and the last of all was in a bold manly hand that made Constance start with surprise. She had Been John Poynton's handwiiting frequently, but for what reason did ho write to her now ? She felt he must have some greit reason, nud her banda shook ns she tore the letter open. A half-sheet fell out in her husband's writing I For a few monu-uts her agitation was so excessive that she could not see to read it ; her head fell forward, and she nearly fainted. Recovering herself Bhe read the few lines, written in a trembling hand, almost without understanding them.
Cyril ill with a mortal illness, entreating her to foi give and to como to him beforo he died !
So violent waH the rush of thought that more than an hour passed, and Constance wa3 still holding her husband's letter. She had not yet glanced at Mr. Poynton's that had enclosed it. Half repentant for having forgotten her staunch friend «o long, she took up bis letter and read.
It was concise and to the purpose, just like John Poynton himself. He had accidentally met Mr. Montgomery abroad (be did not say that he had taken a wearisome journey to find bim becauso ho had heard he was seriously ill, though Coustanco could almost read that between the lines), and fiudiug him very ill had remained with him. In the iutimacy which aiose under the circumstances Cyril had given him his con- fidence on many subjects, and now, rolyiug on the old friendship which bud so long subsisted between Constance and himself, ho dared to join his own petition to her husband's ; ho entreated
her to come home at once.
"But you must como at once," ho wrote iu conclusion, " for I have grave fears about your husband. You will be his best doctor, and it is on your immediate return that I fouud all my hopes for his recovery." Then there wero a few earnest words of admiration for ber self-denying work, of the success of which Dr. Pemberton continually kept him informed, and he subscribed himself her " faithful friend, John Poynton."
Yes, he was a faithful friend indeed I These latter days had opened Constance's eyes to many things, and she could understand now what had been dark to her before, She could even Bee tho vivid contrast between the writers of the tvrû letters, and it was not her husband who was the nobler man ; and yet, woman like, she clung to her love, in spite, nay, perhaps because, of his
From the hour that Constance received these
letters she had no thought but how to get home most quickly. She Eent a reply by cable, and then hurried to Brisbane to catch the first stoamer.
So far all had gone well with bor party. Con- stance left content and gratitude behind her, and came away blindod by happy tears called forth by the blessings that had been invoked upon her by her humble friends.
On board again, but the parting Bcene a very different one this time. The few passengers who embarked were going " home," and there were no parting tears-only good wishes and envious desires that those left behind might bo as for-
Though she went home by the mail route the journoy seemed to Constance endless. She could not make friends of the passeugera or listen to the trifling chat and laughter that went on. Her thougbti were too anxious ; she could not with- draw them from Cyril even for a passing hour. She stood looking eagerly towards the bowa of the steamer as if her eagerness would lend the vessel speed. The journey carno to an end at last. They reached Briudisi, and there Constance
She bad had no chance of hearing from Cyril or Mr. Poynton sinco they had received her answer, but she tjld them in her telegram of her
Would Cyril bo there to meet her? that was the one thought that occupied her as they neared the port She stood on deck searching with keen oj es for the figure Bhe knew so well, but without success, and her heart Bank. Could the worst havo happened ? But then John Poynton or the doctor would have come to break the news.
"Mrs. (Montgomery," said a quiet voice a3 at length ehe set foot on shore.
She started violently ; in her over-anxiety she bad missed Mr. Poynton, who had been watching
j her all the time. Sho could not speak to Ask for
her husband, and John Poynton naaterrcd to tell her that Cyril was as well us usual, but that his medical attendant had forbidden him to come to meet her. " His strength is very much shattered, and wo have to take great care of him," he said.
Good John Poynton-always pushed on one sido and overlook«! I He had worked for and thought of Constance ever sinco he loft her at Grave-soud, uud she did not oveu notice him or give him a word of greeting. H was a rehearsal of the old scene in Paris-the day of tho Grand Prix ; it was his lot to love and serve without reenmponeo or acknowledgment.
Coustauoe had worked herself to such a pitch of agitation on seeing no appearance of her hus- band tlsnt tho relief from the sudden tension olrnost overpowered her. She could not speak, but she bowed her bead and clutched John Poynton's arm as he led her through the crowd. They soon reached the hotel, and then Mr. Poynton took her upstairs. Constance thought be was going to take ber at once to Cyril, but ho led her into au empty room, and placing a seat for her Baid, with bo quiet and composed au air
that it was almost stern
" You must subdue all appearanco of agitation, Mrs. Montgomery ; any excitement for your hus- band may prove iatal-remember;" and then he walked to the window and stood looking out iuto the courtyard, while Constance sat with hands tightly clasped striving to keep down the tumul- tuous beating of her heart and to acquire the self-command that Mr, Poynton expected of her. He stoodsoloag and so quietly that her impatience to be gone helped Constance to recover horself more than ¡.nything else. Perhaps John Poynton bad reckoned on that result. He turned at a hasty movement from her
" Aro you ready ?" he said, with the same grave stern air.
It was the first and only word she had spoken to him yet. Perhaps it was not ouly his desire to suppress her agitation that made John Poynton look gravo and Btern. He gave her bia arm again aud took her down a long corridor with rooms on either Bide. Ab he laid his band on the handle of Cyril's door he turned and looked Constance fully in the face.
" Remember I" he said again. Then he opened the door, and looking in to assure himself that Cyril was alone he drew back and let Constance paBs in.
For two long hours John Poynton paced up and down the corridor, his arms folded, his bead bent forward, chewing the cud of bitter fancy. If John Poynton had ever thought that the object of life was happiness, ho might well have echoed Constance's old words, and said "Life is not worth the living ;" but John Poynton carno of a sterner school. From his youth up his life had been Belf-denial and self-repression-to labour for othera, to look for no return.
PerhapB thoBe two hours were the culminating point in his career. He had laboured hard, and his labour was so utterly unregarded by her for whom he had striven that not by look or word had she Bhown horself conscious of his work. At the end of another half-hour tho Italian doctor came to pay his daily visit.
" Has he borne the meeting well !" he asked, approaching Mr. Poynton,
" I do not know. I have not liked to inter- rupt them."
" How long bas his wife been with him !" " Moro than two hours."
The doctor paused a moment. "Shall I go or will you ?" he said laying his hand on the handle
of the door.
As Mr. Poynton did not immediately reply the doctor, who waa troubled by no scruples of delicacy about intruding on his patiout, threw open tho door boldly, and John Poynton saw Cyril lying on the sofa, with Constance's nrmB round him and hia head lying on her shoulder, Cyril was so perfectly white and still that for a moment the two beholders thought that their fears had proved true, and that ho had suc- cumbed to the agitation ; but a glanco at the wife's face told another story. If ever a woman's countonanco told of inward joy and peace Con Btanco Montgomery's did at that moment. The past waB forgotten, or if not forgotten remem- bered only to mako the joy of the present more intense. She had suffered, and tho suffering had strengthened and spiritualised her love ; and, as so often is woman's lot, and sometimes men's too, in hor love she found her roward. It was in her own love, and not tho worth of the weak erring mau beside her, that she had found that perfecthappiuesB who3e stamp was set upon every
For somo days after Constance's return Mr. Poynton remained with thom, and from Cyril Constanco learned how true and faithful a friend he bad been.
" It would have been better for yon if you had married Poynton," he said one evening as he lay in hiB favourite posture, his head resting on her shoulder. " I havo been the marplot of your
Constanco quivered with pain as her husband said tho30 vividly remembered words. Cyril had no remembrance that they had ever been uttered before.
" Cyril, how can you bo so cruel ?" said she, laying her bead down and covering her face.
Cyril was very penitent who» ho saw bow he had wounded her ; ho seemed as if ho could not do enough to atone for the unintentional unkind
To see them bo utterly absorbed in one another and their newly-found happinesB was moro than even John Poynton's philosophy could bear ; but
it was worse still when he auuounced his inten- tion of departing, and Cyril remonstrated and begged him not to leave, and Constance sat by and said never a word-n.iy, John oven thought a gleam of satisfaction passed over her face. He was right. Constance was still far moro in love with Cyril than Cyril was with her, and sho longed to be left quite alone with her husbaud. It could not be for very long she know, for the disease that was eating his Hfo away was gaining ground daily.
She could not beg John Poynton to stay ; so he left them and went to England. Dr. Pem- berton cime to see him, and learned with satis- faction all the particulars of the reconciliation which had taken place. Constance had asked him to have continued, so far as was practicable, the work she had begun, Money was to be forthcoming as much as was required, only her personal assistance for a time must be withhold there was a nearer claim upon her no ¡8
Constance had sighed deeply as she had given her message to Mr. Poynton, and said "for a time she could not personally help." She felt that perhaps the time was not very far off when again sho would need to seok in the relief of
others a relief to her own woe.
Cyril, however, lingered much longer than the doctors had thought possible. It waB the calmest and happiest period of bis life-no deceit weigh- ing upon him with the daily fear of its discovery -no dark secret to hido from tho eyes of his trusting wifo-only peaco and quietness ; and
though they did not close their eyes to the doom | that was impending, Cyril could speak cheerfully of the time when he ßhould rejoin little Eva, and
for his sake Constanco strove to bo calm and cheerful also.
" It is not possible."
There was a long silence after the words were spoken. Constance Montgomery was sitting on a garden seat on the terrace at Thames Ditton, and John Poynton was near her leaning against
He had waited long and patiently, hoping that perhaps at last his faithful love might be re- warded ; but it was not to bo. Those four words were the death-knell of his hopes. In fact, he had scarcely hoped-Constance bad given him no ground-but he thought it possible.
He was quito silent for some time, and so was she ; she was thinking of Cyril, and Poynton waa looking atraight away into the old-fashioned drawing-room, the scene of their first meeting, and thinking of the memorable day when ho caught Constance in his arms to save her from falling, and how from that moment to the present she had beeo the one sole object of his life. Here was the end of it all ; a fitting oud, ia the very spot where it bad begun. Both were so engaged with their own thoughts that a long time passed without either making on effort to break tho
The sound of horses' feet coming up the avenue told of the'approach of visitors.
John Poynton started. Then after listening a moment he came towards Constance and held out his hand. " Good-bye," ho said.
"Gojd-bye," Constance echoed, but abo trembled in spite of her determination, and the tears filled her eyes.
He saw them, and they moved him out of his usual self-possession.
" Good bye," he said agiin, and he let go her band and cfosped her passionately to him It was the second time ho had held her in his irtns, and it Was the last , beforo the visitors had entered the hall he waB far down the shrubbery, and Thames 1 ltton Manor House saw him uo more In lesa thin a week from tint time ho wasdead-oneofthevictims of a rulwiy accident
Constance's whito fuco turno 1 whiter still as Bho read the terrille accouut Since the daj when he had tikea her in lus irms in that pis elonato farewell he hid never biin absent from hor thoughts Unco she b id taken up her pen to write to him, but had lil 1 it down unusi d \\ hat was she going to write to lum l What would she have Bud, if, mate id of dying lu that horrible way, lie had come to i leid Tua cause again' Only those who know the strange ways of a woman £ heart can say
(Tilt H.D )