|Chapter Title||JOHN BARRETT'S|
|Newspaper Title||Sydney Mail (NSW : 1860 - 1871)|
|Trove Title||Which Wins? A Tale of Life's Impulses|
WHICH WINS ? A TALE OF LIFE'S IMPUL8B8.
? BY ABIEL.
ClIAl'TEB XXVI. John Baubett'r Ciiai-teii continued.
1 Hvs seen the black storm. rack come heavily over b becalmed sea, The sky above intense in its still blueness, the sea below impressive in its dispassionate calm, the sun bright and vivid as on anv day wherein its reign came to a most glorious close none scarcely ?would notice that low lidge on tbe horizon for a por tent-, But the ridge lengthens, dwells, rise), and most furiotuly advances. The sun in heaven, nay, the very heaven itself, is blotted out. Jagged lightning appears to dig up the sea's unexplored depths.
mountain waves roll over, whirlwinds sepa rate and deluges leap into tbe bosom of that so lately peaceful ocean, Air, water, fire are tossed together in one tremendous confusion, and woe, woe to tbe hapless bark that is tossed amongst them ! As calm and bright at such a sea, stcmed the whole hope of my future life on the night that I last saw my lsola. It seemed but a very faint cloud that damped my joy, in the fact that she spoke so ambiguously, and shrank so softly from my careeses, I turned resolutely from its contemplation. Could, I said, a modest and diffident girl do otherwise to one whose language had not been positive ? But now she was reading my letter, and on the morrow would commence a sweet and everlasting mutual confidence. Alas ! the storm was even then gather ing, and on tbe morrow it broke. - 1 sate on that morning waiting impatiently for Isola's appearance, fancying that 1 read yesterday's paper, which I indeed held in my hand, but with a strange irritable sense of the sound of each separate drop upon the gravel walk without. I listened eagerly for Bounds in her room, but not all my imagination could picture those— all was painfully silent. ' Tbe sby darling,' I murmured, 'will not let me see her until the t» eakfast-hour compel* her to come forth.' And I went down to the room that I might be cer tain of a good fire there, for it was a miserably drizzling morning. Eight o'clock (tbe breakfast hour; came but not lsola, nor at nine had she left her room. Fearful thoughts, more fearful that they were vague, crept into my mind, and when Mrs. Collins for the twentieth time remarked ' Miss lsola sleeps late, sir.' I directed her to let her know breakfast was ready in the steadiest tone I could assume. I fear it was not very steady, for a boding terror was in possession of my mind : I felt that there was some thing wrong. But I made an effort to cast it off, and looked round to see what little attention I could show to my darling when she came. I think lsola has said that our breULfast room was in the lower part of our rambling houBe, while her bedroom was in the upper. Between the two portions there iB an uncovered pas sage, and, seeing on a side-table a hooded cloak that ahe had worn the last few wet days in crossing this passage, I took it up to carry to her now. I met Mrs. Collins at the door ; and knew without a word that my happiness was suddenly blighted, the woman's white face was enough to tell t^at tale. But I waited until ahe spoke.- ' 'Sir, sir!' she gasped, and then bursting into a whimpering cry, ' my poor, poor dear master 1' But it was too provoking to see the weman wailing like a mad thing over my bitter loss, and I not even aware of its extent. 1 bade her roughly '? 8top that noise and tell me at once what had happened. Was Miss lsola ill r' 'III, «itr She's gone, and tbe window's wide opeB, and footsteps in the mud beneath, and the rain beating in, and her bonnet and cloak gone, and the curtains all tattered and spoilt, and— oh, Miss lsola, Miss lsola!' So the woman wailed on. ' Gone I went to her room. It was, as Mrs. Collins said, empty, and the open window and the in beating rain showed which way the child had flown. 1 laid down the little useless cloak, and looked round with a vague effort to find some comfort to numb the shock. My eyes retted upon a bit of paper, folded, and with my name upon the outer fold. I read upon it very few words ; they were these, ' I will not come but go, John Barrttt, just because I do love you.' They were very simple straightforward words, with not the slightest pretence to sentiment in them, writ ten very clearly, too, in the frank round hand that not all Miss Lowe's effoitscould induce her to change into the more fashionable ' running ' style. I saw her motive clearly enough ; I had stricken my love too sharply upon the agony of her own feelings of dis honour, and the child's love towards me haa caused her to flinch from what she morbidly thought would bring disgrace upon me. But I had got my comfort in the confession that she loved me, and my energies, rebounding as I saw the actual extent of the evil, did not despair of finding and coaxing her into a more reasonable resolve. I tried to follow the footmarks from her window, but they were indistinct beyond the gravd walk ; so I tVsti ft,p RpnthprhMiM MMvuiciit, luitvcU up uiy bUtTo deserted nest, and went back to the brealuast room. Sentimental people, who do not know what real grief or the claims ot nature are, will perhaps be as tonished and shocked that my first thought was to get breakfast. Perhaps they will think I loved lsola less because I did not set out in search of her fasting. But I knew better ; I knew tbe search which I should have would be no light matter, for lsola was no girl to play at running away ; she, I knew, was in earnest, and would take every means to assure her escape. I knew I must take every means to discover her. And, beside this, I bad to face poor oldEllyss, who, though convalescent, was still in a very weak state, and communicate to him the loss we had sustained. I had need of strength, and I took food to produce it. I thought Ellyss might know something of her intentions, and so went to him first thing. Poor old man ! He was perfeotly overwhelmed by the tale, and wept the querulous tears of old age and sickness for the loss of his darling. I had to soothe him, by confessing how much I also had loBt in her departure. It was past ten when I went into Bt. Cudgerec wonga, with an assured hope that I should there hear something of lsola. It was a vain hope. I met tbe most positive assurances that ' she had not been in the Creek that morning.' The day was clesring up, but people reminded me that it had been ' pouring,' and seemed to think my inquiries indicative of mad ness. Could she nave taken refuge with Olave ? It was scarcely probable. Aware, as she was, of her relationship to Mr. Almn, she would hardly place herself within his constant society ; having said that she lored me, she would not surely trifle so far as to take up her abode j where she knew I could and would reach her in half an-hour's walk, — lsola would in no drcumstanoes play the coquette. I did not expect to find her at the great house ; nevertheless, I rode there to make in quiries. Miss Lowe was out riding with Mr. Alvern, and all the answer I got was the uplifting of Mrs. Lysthor's hands in horror at my poor child's indiscre tion. I rode to all the towns about, but gained no inkling of news, and returned home in the evening worn out and in despair. I was engaged in a pitiful effort to cheer the spirits of poor old EUvsb, when a message called me to the house. I found there a man, exhibiting to the horror stricken housekeeper a little black cloak that I well knew belorged to bur loit darling. I was behind him befoie he knew, and looking over his shoulder. Mrs. Collins was wringing the wet out of one corner of the dripping garment. ' Where did you find that P' I demanded. The man hung down his head, and fumbled with his words, as though he were tongue-tied. But I heard plainly enough, ' In the creek.' *? 'Whereabouts ? 'Mate here found it;' the man said 'he was a-coming past my place with a team, and he picks it out of the water, and brings it into my miBsus, and she knows the cloak at once. So I brought him along to tell hie tale Ins own way,' I heard the two rough men tell their story, make their suppositions, and condole as well as they could, and I let them go. I scarcely spoke even to thank them for .tbe trouble they had taken. For the moment I was Btiipified, and felt as if I had driven the child to death, but, rousing with an effort, I cautioned Mm. Collins not to teu EUysB of the new alarm, and went out to the spot where the cloak was found. To this day I have never told the old man of the sicken ing terror of that night. The current of the streamlet was running very fist, aad I walked down its banks, beneath the bright moonlight, with a creeping horror, at every turn, lest I should see its beams playing upon a white face that I loved too well not to wish to be the first even for such a sight. After walking about three miles, I crossed to the Syd ney side, and followed the stream up its banks. To my joy, I found, far above watermark, a book that I had given to lsola only on the previous day. So I thanked God that, whatever accident had befallen her, she was not drowned. I supposed, after that, that she had tried to reach Sydney to carry out her plan of govemessing. I went there the next day, and for many daya I sought, but never found her. Once a vain hope was awakened by a letter that came from the child to Mrs. Collins about some money ehje had left in her desk. That letter said she was well, but we must not try to find her, for we never gbgyU. I did try, but («U«d sgain,
I neitherdied of grief nor of despair, but atrovc hard to fulfil the duties of my position, and to hope that God would one day bless me by her restoration, aa he had blessed me by the knowledge that she was living. My life was very lonely, its chief pleasure being to talk with Ellyss of the lest one, whom absence had doubly endeared to both.