Chapter 36699395

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Chapter NumberLIV
Chapter Title"LOVE'S LABORS LOST."
Chapter Url
Full Date1868-08-22
Page Number2
Word Count2966
Last Corrected2020-02-01
Newspaper TitleLaunceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)
Trove TitleThe Maxwells of Bremgarten
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THE MAXWELLS OF BREMGARTEN. A STORY OF TASMANIA. [Founded on Facts.] (ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED.) (Continued from Saturday, 15th August.) CHAPTER LIV. " LOVE'S LABORS LOST." Edwin and his amiable relatives arrived at Belle Park in due time without meeting with any particular adventure upon the road. The delighted son had scarcely welcomed his mother and sisters to their now home when his servant approached and put into his hands a letter, which he said had been brought from the Longford Post Office three days previously. The handwriting was evi- dently feminine, bearing the appearance of a clumsy attempt at disguise ; and the Fingal postmark appeared on the envelope. Edwin having carefully examined the outside, broke the seal with a variety of queer sensations, and seating himself on a bank near the river, road as follows— " DEAR MR. HERBART,—I have allowed week after week to go by without writing to you, as I have been many times on the point of doing, terrified at the idea of your mind being impressed with an unfavorable opinion of me when you peruse my letter. Oh, Mr. Herbart, I sit down to write, scarcely know- ing what I am doing. My heart is beating wildly, and my brain seems to be on fire ! Oh, what must you think of me ? Think that I am too bold, too forward, acting an unladylike, an indelicate part if you will, but think not—oh, for the love of Heaven, do not be so cruel as to think or say that I am capable of addressing you under any other circumstances than those of the strictest honor and purity. " I scarcely know how to go on. I have heard my brother Henry repeat— " Man's love is of man's life a thing apart, 'Tis woman's whole existence." If this is true, and I believe it is, does it not seem a strange custom which forbids a woman from freely expressing her sentiments upon a subject which absorbs her whole existence ; and allows a man to say what he likes upon a matter which is at best but a secondary consideration ? Must a woman pine in eternal silence and submission to the stern decrees of fate, while a gay lord of the creation can flutter from flower to flower, wounding sensi- tive creatures who dare not whisper a word of love until he chooses to speak ? I am sure, Mr. Herbart, that your strong sense will readily perceive the gross and glaring injus- tice of this ; and admit an excuse for me in thus breaking through an established though erroneous custom of social life. " The evil does not always terminate on the side of the woman, but may also seri- ously affect the happiness and worldly pros- pects of men. We will suppose that a young lady who possesses considerable personal at- tractions, and whose fortune is sufficiently ample to render fears for the future entirely unnecessary, is surrounded by a crowd of ad- mirers amongst whom she cannot discover even one congenial spirit ; but at a modest distance there stands one who, though he possesses a highly gifted intellect, a hand- some person, amiable and polished manners, and above all other things a feeling and losing heart, is yet so painfully conscious of his deficiency in the despicable matter of money, that he cannot presume to approach near enough to receive the most delicate hint that his serious attentions would not prove unacceptable. Oh, pardon me, Mr. Herbart, if I speak too plainly : is a woman through a false sense of shame, where there is nothing to be ashamed of, to be debarred from ex- pressing her thoughts in writing ? Oh, I am terrified at my own indiscretion, even in the most pure and delicate manner. Is there mo way at which society cannot cavil by which she can make known the state of her affections to the bashful object of them ? " Ah, my dear Mr. Herbart, place yourself in my position. If I seem to be too bold and pursuing a course from which a delicate and modest maiden would naturally shrink, I can say in my defence that in the first place my position is most peculiar ; and secondly, I belong to a family which from time immemo- rial never saw difficulties rise up before them without feeling the most determined energy in surmounting or destroying them. I have, perhaps, not so much of this hereditary de- termination as my brother Henry, from whom I differ in many essential particulars, although outwardly we are so much alike. In this matter lies the extremely unpleasant peculiarity of my position. That brother is my ostensible guardian, though he has no control over my fortune. He seeks to rule me with a rod of iron. I am afraid of him without knowing why I should not set him at defiance, which I certainly would do were he not my brother. He is headstrong, self-opinioned, and violent ; he knows no medium, but must either love to distrac- tion or hate to the verge of death. His slightest word he seems to regard as law, and not to be disregarded on pain of a withering frown ; and he is so infatuated with the desire of being master, that his vanity is flattered by tyranizing over a weak woman. Even at a distance his influence controls me and paralyses my free thoughts ; his letters are moral daggers instead of being messengers of real affection. He even boasts of his kindness to me, and his watchful care ; but looking back on my past life ever since I can remem- ber, for more than twenty years, I try in vain to recall even one solitary act of real kindness. " You will pardon me, I hope, for speaking of my brother in these terms, but it is neces- sary that I should do so in order to justify my present course of conduct. I would do even more than this to effect an escape from an arbitrary and cruel man. He will soon be here to claim the hand of my dear Griselda, and doubtless he will insist upon my return- ing to Sydney with him. It is this I dread. I love Griselda, but I love not Henry ; I will not go with him. I will fly to my half- brother Frederick, who was always kind to me, and beg him to protect me, unless—un- less—O Heaven ! what am I about to say ? " You will probably now close my letter with the observation,-—' You have already said enough.' Oh, Mr. Herbart, can you forgive me ? Shall I ever at your hands receive even cold and distant esteem ? I am tortured with agony and suspense : I am distracted with violent headaches, and my nights are long and sleepless. Can I venture to hope that I shall see you soon ? Can I dare to believe that you will not reject my appeal ? That holy contract which God will sanctify and man approve I am now ready to sign. Mr. Maxwell will, I am sure, act as my father in this matter. Henry will probably rage and storm, but he has nothing more in his power. My whole fortune I lay at your feet : if it

offends you let it perish, I may seem wild and inconsistent ; but my heart tells me that I am in every way capable of being a loving and affectionate wife. I can write no more. May God bless you is the fervent prayer of the broken-hearted " ISABEL. "P.S.—Mrs. Gilbert Stapleton has sent us a an invitation to a large party at her house near Perth ; it is to take place in a fortnight. They say all the gentry within sixty or seventy miles are invited. I hope you will be there. Dear Mr. Herbart, if I should be so unfortunate as to incur your displeasure by this proceeding, pray do not send any answer, but return this to me so that I may destroy it with my own hands, and I beg you will not show it to your friends, especially to any who may mention it hereafter in a news- paper or a foolish novel if you do I shall die of misery and shame." For some days after receiving this most ex- traordinary epistle Edwin was like one in a dream. He spent the greater part of his time alone, either walking up and down his garden, or rambling over the hills of his estate in a very disturbed state of mind. He could scarcely believe that the letter of Isabel was real, and persisted in thinking that the glorious vision of earthly happiness which it opened before him was a mockery, a delusion, and a snare. He read and re-read the letter times without number, and to assure himself still further of its substantiality actually copied it (against all the rules of honor) into his commonplace-book. Sitting sometimes for hours lost in thought, and apparently in- capable of exertion, he answered the ques- tions put to him by his mother and sisters at random, and frequently looked so queer and bewildered that they consulted with their kind neighbor, Mr. Benjamin Buffer, on the propriety of sending for medical advice. This respectable gentleman was as much changed as his friend Edwin, for he had no sooner beheld the fair Augusta than he tumbled into love with her on the spot. If Edwin astonished his mother, Buffer astonished his cook,—so much so, that the latter functionary often observed in confidence to those who enjoyed the privilege of conversing with him, that master's head was very bad about the time of full moon. The period of full moon was now approach- ing, and also the appointed day for Mrs. Gilbert Stapleton's ball. Edwin had not re- ceived an invitation, and therefore should not be there. He still continued strange and thoughtful, if not moody and dejected, although to keep his good mother quiet he had admitted her to his confidence, shown her Miss Arnott's letter, and received some very sound advice on the all-absorbing subject. He sat evening after evening before his cot- tage door watching the white moonlit clouds floating along the sky, and listening to the hoarse murmuring of the wind as in a dis- tant peal of continuous thunder it bellowed through the forests of the Western Tier. He knew that Henry Arnott was now at Brem- garten, and he trembled lest he should sud- denly hear that Griselda had become, or was about to become, his wife. What was that to him ? If Griselda was indeed lost to him, what other maiden on earth could so well supply her place as Isabel ? And now that she had expressed her sentiments so plainly, there being no fear of a contemptuous rejec- tion, what prevented him from taking Miss Arnott at her word and becoming without delay the happy owner of such a treasure ? True he did not know Griselda's secret senti- ments, and it was possible she might for his sake reject the impetuous Henry : but why should that consideration disturb his arrange- ments with Isabel, especially when such a splendid worldly position was to be so easily gained ? He had been forbidden to think of Griselda by her father. He had not even received from the young lady herself, any very serious telegraphic intimations that he and he alone reigned supreme in her heart. If one or two sly kisses had been given and received, they were only such as might at any time innocently pass between cousins ; and if she on one happy occasion before either of them ever thought of coming to Tasmania, had kissed a rose which Edwin in a kind of romantic paroxysm had handed to her and requested her to look upon, and when she had kissed it fled in an agony of remorse,—surely that was no reason—in the eye of the world—why he should think seriously upon the matter, or take it as a a testimony of her undying love ? Still he could not forget the words he had addressed to her when she was about to leave her native land :—' If,' he whispered to himself, ' Griselda rejects Henry Arnott I am still bound in her chains : if she marries him I am free—and yet not altogether free, for what heart can rudely tear the memory of a blighted love from its inmost recesses ? a blighted love ! and the object of that love to become the slave of a cold-hearted, selfish voluptuary !' Here—with his eye in a ' fine frenzy rolling,' he rushed into his little study, seized his paper and pen, and in a whirlwind of poetical fervor wrote the fol- lowing verses. We insert them as we find them written in his common-place book, for though wholly destitute of intrinsic merit they will serve to amuse the reader and show him or her how much our friend Herbart needed a strait-jacket sometimes :— THE ROSE. To G— M—. When last I strayed with you, my love, Along the flowery way, I led you towards a pleasant grove, That we might still delay; You watched the evening sun descend And sighed a quick adieu, You trembled as you saw me bend My glowing eyes on you. In haste a lovely rose I took From off its thorny stem, And said, ' O give these leaves a look, And I will worship them.' But you to charm the blissful hour, Were pleased that rose to see, And softly kissed the blushing flower And gave it back to me. I started—gazed—but you were gone Quickly to your fond home ; Pensive I kissed that rose alone, And wished it deathless bloom. I kissed the sweet rose o'er and o'er, Henceforth to be my guest ; And felt the love which now no more Shall leave my happy breast. Since then I watch these leaves decay In absence from your lips, The grateful air still bears away The treasure that it sips ; But I more bless'd do feel the kiss, And hear the deep-drawn sigh ; And while I keep a gift like this, My love shall never die. The condition of Mr. Buffer's mind was in scarcely less enviable than that of Edwin's. He drank his tea alone and in silence, and filling his pipe went and smoked it outside his door, gazing gloomily on the moon and

drifting clouds. Recollecting that when young gentleman first fall victims to the pas- sion of love, they almost invariably become poets, he walked with that stern determina- tion into his room, bolted the door, and sat down to his paper with pen in hand. The nib of the pen touched the paper but was for a long time motionless ; after a while the mackerel eyes gleamed with unwonted lustre, and the following immortal couplet came forth slowly to the light— O dear, what a bright little home could I make, If Augusta was here my bread for to bake. But Buffer could no more. In vain the eyes rolled about in an extraordinary manner, in vain was the head scratched, in vain was the pen dipped into the ink and hold up to the candle to see that there was no wretched parasite of a hair in it. The moon-stricken youth flung down the formidable goose-quill in despair, filled his pipe again and went out muttering to himself (we rather wonder where he picked up Shaks- peare)— " She don't love a bone in my body, Yet I'll not shed her blood, Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow, And smooth as monumental alabaster." Magnanimous Benjamin ! Well indeed might your cook whisper to his gossiping cronies-- " Depend upon it master's very curous when the moon is full." Time sped onwards. In a few more days Mrs. Gilbert Stapleton's ball would be over and Edwin would know Griselda's fate, but meanwhile he thought it right to enclose Miss Arnott's letter back to her as she had re- quested, in order to relieve her anxiety and suspense, and wrote a few words himself, thanking her from his heart for the distin- guished honor she wished to confer upon him ; but felt it his duty to inform her that the state of his affections rendered his accep- tance of her generous offer impossible. While he was still cogitating upon these important sub- jects, he was one day hurriedly called home by Frank who ran to tell him that two gen- tlemen wished to see him on important busi- ness. Upon returning he found to his sur- prise Mr. Henry Arnott and Mr. T. W. Rousal of Toppleton Cottage, Longford, with their horses, waiting at the garden gate. (To be continued.)