Chapter 166689235

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Chapter NumberXXVII
Chapter Url
Full Date1862-04-19
Page Number2
Word Count3595
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleSydney Mail (NSW : 1860 - 1871)
Trove TitleWhich Wins? A Tale of Life's Impulses
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I saw very little in the subsequent twelve months of my brother Henry. He grew suddenly reserved in his communications with me, and resisted all my en deavours that he should continue a resident in my house. I did not wonder that a disappointment in the love of Isula should bitterly affect him, but be lieved that his spirit was too pructical for a hopeless passion to have long influence over it, and therefore hoped that time would apply to his wounded feelings an efficient curative. In the tirst heat of chagiin, he had adopted a very characteristic mode of selfalle viation. He plunged at once into the active labour of social reform, and that reform of the moat practical

and personal kind. 'While others were dallying in lec ture halls and over philanthropies! pamphlets, inqui ring, planning, and suggesting what'to do, asking for mesne, and forming committees to apply those means, he was hard at work, doing himself what his own active mind suggested, Kith the best means^ he could commend, lie was of s nature too impatient to de bate on the best mesne of administering food While the patient was dying of hunger— he thought the feeding itself was the important point. Yet my bro ther carried with him, even into this noble employ ment, his old matter-of-fact and somewhat harsh manner, that always took off from the service he rendered by the repellent way in which it was* offered. It was in the first week after Isola's strange disap- . pearancclbat I beard that the wedding day was fired of Alvcrn and MisB Lysthor. Tncre were only a few weeks to elapse before the appointed time, but in those few weeks a strange change came Upon the young lady. From a lovely rosy girl she seemed to whither in our very sight, as a rose exposed to the heat of a fire. Her eyes gathered each day, when a fiercer and more glaring brilliancy, while she _ paled and pined, until, in en in credibly short time, the white wan figure, that lay languidly about in easy chairs and upon couches, might have been taken for a corpse hut for those vivid and restless eyes. It was difficult to think that love prompted the strange glittering glances which she threw upon Alvem whenever he was in her company, glances before which he visibly quailed, and before which she took an evident pleasure in making him quail. I have seen her drag herself with difficulty into a sitting posture, that ahe might the bettir command hie position, set her while teeth between lipB patted to emit the audibly intense breath ing, fix her wild eyes upon him, end so remain until he grew embarrassed, and retreated from her sight. Then she fell back with a faint smile, thoroughly ex hausted but with ghastly triumph on her wan features, I thought it was a strange love of which she gave evidence, and yet her conduct proved that Bhe was not indifferent to him, cither through love or through hatred, It was strange that I could not rid my mind of the wild conjecture that the latter was the teal feeling with which ahe regarded him. It was pitiful to see the grief of Mr. and Mrs. Lyatbor over their wasting darling. The rough father's sorrow took the form of incessant waitings from which the ailing girl turned with petulant con tempt, at the same time that ehe bore with undis guised impatience the nervous attempts of her mother to add to her comfort. The marriage was indefinitely delayed from month to month, and, though all who were intimately concerned still deluded themselves with the idea that Miss Lysthor would recover, I eoon resigned all suppositions that ehe would ever be allied with any other than the grim bridegroom Death. Alvern had taken up a permanent residence at the great house, interrupting it occasionally with hasty and unwilling visits to Sydney, A a the know ledge of his engagement became a settled fact, he. himself appeared to be on the point of conceiving a repugnance to his intended bride. ' If I'm not mistaken,' he said to me in a state of semi-agitation, ' I shall have the furies for my lares ; that girl has the eyes of Eumenidei. If it were not forTonnegh, I'd be off to-day.' I held peace, having learnt from many efforts how fruitless it was to argue with him on thiB subject. ' Helgho !' he ejaculated, after a short silence, ' I wish she'd refuse me in eome tantrum or other. I think I'll try what spiriting her up might do.' ' 'Wherefore ?' Then X learnt lor the first time that if Miss Lysthor rejected Charles Alvern before she came of age, the property of Tonnegh would revert to him. -There was another inmate at the great house who was . suffering much mental and bodily, pain. The change uppn Mies Lowe was not as visible ss that upon MiBB Lysthor, for the reason that she had been wan, attenuated, and drooping before. But she grew feebler day by day as she witnessed Alvem's attentions to his future bride, and I wondered much which of the two fading women I should first be called upon to lay in a peaceful grave. I remember one day walking with Alvern through a lonely part of the bush until we came to a large waterhole, round the edges of which grew several noble specimens of the swamp, oak. A light breeze was just Btirring the melancholy dirge music through their mimic tubes. But, mingling 'with those wild strains was a human voice, sweeter but quite as sad, as its accompaniments. Approaching slowly we saw Mary sitting upon the bank, bcr head bent between her two hands, that ahe might look intently into the water, and her long light hair quite out of curl from the exhaling damp. The song which she sang was one which I had often heard from Miss Lyslhor'a lips — a passionate uneven semi-chant, in which the melody compensated for toany a deficiency of metre by long wading breaths ' and . pitiful sighing catches. I had heard Miss Xiyethor sing it with a vehement triumph in her tones, so that it seemed a prolonged chant of victory, but Mary Lowe, with head bent down, sang the same -words in a most mournful dirge. To livo 1 I ask not a boon so poor t ; What is this thing ye can life, 3Vk? re nothing ia perfect, where nothing Is sore, Nought certain, but trouble and strife ; 'Where the soul may be sad with a sorrow ideal, Where the heart may be glad and its joy yet unreal t i To Uve I where love In Its noblest form ! Is arid and strange to your light. And ye bind the winged mind to earth like a worm, i seeking diamond-gleam for sunlight ; | Where the hand must struggle, ever fabonrthe panting hoed} Sadly in weariness winning its poor daily bread. j Tolive! I can bear it as doom for guilt, 1 Waiting In patience thennd, . Knowing how swift and steady the days will melt, | And life and eternity blend : l If It -were not so, oh! my eoul ne'er oouldbear thethoughl Of life with s sorrow so stern end so temblc fraught. j To die 1 Oh, ye know not the sweet word 1 In *ali JUtroe tones of gladness J - Why couple ye it with a thought stern and hard, I why speak it only In sadness t Oh, en courage the thought with an earnest endeavour , To die I it is birth onto Ufa— life for ever I To die! Why the flowers fadeaway, ! routing their sweetness out at their death, Cleat to have run through their 'fife's little day. Breathing forth love with life's latest breath. ; Gladly they bend their frail forma to tbe earth, 'Oladly return whence they eamg at thrir birth 1 ' To die 1 Why, the day shrinks back With Its trartben of records for angels above, - 'Glad to have reached the end nf-lta track, Passing amy in a calm elill love, , Tired of the glare arid the glitter of light, ' Happily, hgppily fades tnto night, I vChemeued, and rote faygo. ' We drew within the - shaded a honeysuokle bush, but there was no need, - Mary never lifted her head ai ahe trod on the homes word path. When she was out of sight I looked at Alvem. His eyee Tested sadly on the spot where her form was last in sight. | 'Barrett,' he sold, ' I love that woman 1' ' i I-made no answer : he was engaged to Olave, and i it seemed useless to me to say that, if even such were . not tbe case, there was another woman he was bound . to marry before either. 1 ? .Why don't you say something? ' he continued . passionately ; 'I tell you I love that -woman now better .than I- did twenty years ago. But .'you have no feeling.' ? i . 'X wbb thinking of Emily,' I said; and he -made , no answer beyond a long drawn breath that witnessed . mental pain, . He left me St the turn in the road which - brought BUyst's' bouse in sight, for, after the first in, - torview with Emily's father ? he always took pecutiaq : pains to avoid a second. A few days after this, bothMiss Lysthor'e health- and .- conduct took a decided change. Her cheeks regained - something oft he old colour, end her step returned to . its old elasticity. Though the strange -look remained . in her eyes, she yet behaved with courtesy, if not with i tenderness, , towards Alvern, who, according to his usual fickle habits, was transported by her condescen sion. Mr. and Mrs. Lysther rejoiced in tke change . vehemently, consistent with their separate habits ; and - again the wedding day was fixed for an early period; ' and preparation commenoed for its celebration. I confess that Mtas Lysthor excited on intense interest in my tnlnd at this time, and that for her sake, and for that . of Mary Lowe, I spent much of my leisure time at the great house. The physical change i1'. Miss Lyithor's state was prophetic, I felt assured of no

thing but misfortune. It was alike too sudden and too marked far a change based upon a natural increase of health. And although ahe smiled and looked in terested, as if ehe was not only reconciled to the match with Alvern, hut happy in its contemplation, yet one who watched her closely could easily detect turlivc glances of almost basilisk intensity and mo mentary clouds of a gloom far deeper than mere sad nets, that only too plainly betrayed the misery and hatred w ithin. However, she exerted herself to please Alvern, and, amongst other things, she established a habit of meeting him in the hall after a ride, end handing him n glass of milk, which hs was accus tomed to drink very freely. In this way she met him one day when I was with him. She looked very beautiful as she approached, attired in a ileecv -looking while drees, relieved by a blue sash of some gauzy material, her dark hair falling in massive curls around the pelc face, and her light form awtlling gracefully at cverv step. YVhile he tobk the glass from her hand, with some joyous compliment to her graceful beauty, I was arrested by a peculiar nervousness in her manner — ehe was shaking from head to foot with agitation. Suddenly, as he raised the glass to his lips, she dashed it from his hands, exclaimed frantically eome indis tinct self-reproaches, and fell back into my arms with the blood streaming trou between her writhing lips. Alvcrn was too much shocked to do anything, and I, therefore, carried her up stairs to tbe bed from which she never rose again. Alvem removed to Sydney after th at, visiting the great house frequently, and for long periods at a time. The engagement was not broken off, although there teemed little hope that it would now be ever fulfilled. All but he and the hope-deluded parents could see that Miaa Lysthor'e days were numbered. I visited her frequently, but for many weeks she met all my attempts at Eerious conversation with Impene trable and almost sullen rcierre, At lest this broke down, and she spent many more days in passionate tears and self- accusations for some mysterious crime, which I could not persuade her to disclose. ' You would hate me, Mr. Darratt,' she said through streaming tears, ' you would tell me there was neither pardon nor hope for one so guilty.' ' I should not,' 1 answered, 'I should tell you that Christ was not too weak to save any sinner.' ' Not too weak, but will he— will he save me r' ' Assuredly, if you trust in his salvation.' ' Ah, you don't, you can't know— if you did you would say differently.' So she resisted every re presentation for many an interview, but, when I at lost almost despaired of winning her, she suddenly took to Scripture reading herself, grew calm, and, though still doubtful, yet csger and earnest to remove her doubts. The secret sin, of which she still myste riously spoke, seemed to be the stumbling-block, but she still refused to say what it was. ' No, Mr. Bar rett, Ood knows it, and your knowledge of it is not necessary to his forgiveness. If it were, or if there were any of its effects to be guarded against, I would tell you, but as it is, there is no necessity, and I am ashamed to tell you, Mr. UaiTett.' I thought her reasoning was right, and did not any farther press her. By degrees ehe gave up doubting and became cheerful and trusting, waiting for death in peace. Only she shuddered if Alvern were named and utterly refused to see him. Still she would not send him any mes sage that should break off their engagement, although I more than orce urged her to do so. ' Mr. Barrett,' ehe said at last, ' I was forced into that engagement, which I will not now break ; although I am very thankful that it will never be ful filled. A clause in my uncle's will makes over the estate of Tonnegh to my cousin, either upon my refusal to merry him, or in the event of my death before I carae of age. During the early part of my youth I loved elsewhere so well that I would have risked Tonnegh gladly to be loved again, but I was not— let that pass. I hoped that my cousin would not appear to claim my hand— and I never thought of death, she added plaintively, and paming to catch breath. She continued : ' But lately my father has suffered severe losses, and if I do not leave him Ton negh he will not be able to retrieve them. So I won't refuse Mr. Alvern, and I hope I shall live five months longer — do you think I shall, Mr. Barrett ?' I did not think -she was likely to live five weeks, but I did not discourage her by saying so. To my astonishment she rallied after this, and almost seemed as if she would recover. Meanwhile Alvern, unable to see Miss Lysthor, was moTe and more drawn into the company of Morv Lowe, walking and talking with her, .'while the parents of ids dying betrothed were too much engaged , with their chUa to notice his conduct. At last he rushed into my study one day, pale with hurry and excitement. 'I've done it at lost, old fellow!' he exclaimed, 'I'w yixhpj - oiTftwutl Lutlx l\fuuo|b IQB heiress, and proposed to my own little sweet Mary. He looked as if he expected me to laud his magnani mity in making the sacrifice. But I did no such thing. ' And Emily,' I said, ' what of her ?' ' Bother Emily 1' with a vituperative expression not quite so innocent, '? can't a man commit a folly once in life without its being baked into a brickbat to knock him on the head at every new turn he takes. Don't I tell you Emily's dead — let her rest in peace.' 'I'm not so sure of that,' I answered, but restrained my anger ; to quarrel with Charles Alvern would be the last way in the world to manage him. 'I say,' he said, as he turned to go ; 'you need not tell Olave of my engagement to Mary ; she might take it to heart, and she's scarce likely to live long enough to keep me out of Tonnegh anyway.' 'With which selfish speech, that revealed to me all the inner workings of his superficial mind, he de parted. But I euspected'tliat some blind was intended in those words, and did tell the whole affair to Misb Lysthor the next time I saw her. 'I am very thankful,' she said, with a sigh of relief, 'for your suspicions are right, Mr. Barrett.. This new engagement, prior to any rejection from me,: effectually prevents his succession to the property, and if I died to-night it would now be secured to myi father by tny will. I am glad, too, for Miss Lowe's sake : she loves my cousin better than he deserves.; But ao not epeak to any one else of the affair, Mr. Barrett ; I would like to avoid quarrels, if possible.' . It was strange that in all this time Alvem should never have discovered the relationship of my lost Isola to old Ellyss, and consequently her relationship to himself. But he never did, although I lived in con-' stant fear of such a discovery. People mostly knew her as my adopted child elone; and were accustomed so to speak of her, and Alvem was so sensitive to any mention bf the old man, as to escape whenever he co old -from hearing anything that was said in connec tion with him. These two reasons combined to keep the secret which I did not dare reveal to him. Twelve months slipped by while these different events were happening, and I sat one evening in my study alone, ana let the remembrance of Isola steal oyer my feelings, until the memory grew into a pre sentiment deep and strong that she was somewhere near to me, that the tracks of our lives were again drawing near together, and that no- long time would elapse before I regained my lost darling. Let meta physicians explain the feeling— I cannot pretend to do so. . Elated by the thought, I sprung up to pa^a visit to her grandfather, ana, walking down to the cottage, I raised the latch, as I had been ia the habit of doing when I found the door closed. Ellyss was not 'there, and, 'wondering at his unusnal absence, I was aboijtJajretire, when a low' growl drew my eyes to a corner near the fireplace. A shaggy little dog cronched ' there, glaring at me with angry eyes' and white snarling teeth. Amused by the little fellow's signs of indignation I approached nearer, and found that he - was guarding between bis , two fore paws a piece of folded paper— evidently a letter, or portion of one, by the way it was.folded. With a malicious satisfaction in braving the pugna cious little animal's warlike demonstrations I took the note away from him, I cast my eyes on the writing, and staggered giddily with my joy, for it was dated on the preceding day and . was in Isola's writing. It was s copy of some note evidently, for there was on erroneous expression erased and a correct one in its place, addressed to a lady in the Domain, and apologising for her absence by the statement of the fact that her mother was dying. I looked down at the little dog; on his collar were the words : 'Isola Ellyss.' So the childbed rejected my name, but that, I told my self, should soon be aver now, and she should accept it for ever. Ellvss came in almost dirtctly, and I quickly gathered all he knew — Isola had been there, .was gone; hex mother was on her- deathbed, yet likely to live for some days, but she had refused to civs her sddresa to her grandfather. But the letter I had found was 'sufficient clue by which to find her. I took home the little dog, precious because it seemed a sign of Isola's return, ana left EllyBs preparing for a joumey on the morrow. I summoned every energy for a conflict with Alvem, and then I sent for him. When he came I locked the door, and put the key in my pocket. We talked stormily, calmly, reosoningly ; but we talked until near morning, and I conquered in the end. Next morning, AJvem, Ellyss, ana myself set out for Syd ney in search of the lOng-lbst ones.