Chapter 36699761

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Chapter NumberLVI
Chapter Url
Full Date1868-09-12
Page Number2
Word Count2948
Last Corrected2020-02-02
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, 5th September.) CHAPTER LVI. GRISELDA'S DECISION. WHEN Griselda heard Isabel announce that her brother was coming her agitation began to betray itself, in trembling and blushing. She would have implored her friend to stay with her, but Henry had entered, and Isabel was gone before she had time to say a word. The bright color which diffused itself over her fair face did not remain long there, and a sudden paleness succeeded which made her look really ill. Henry saw in a moment that she had been weeping, and asked in a kind and sympa- thetic tone why she was in tears. " I wish to go in and speak to mamma, if you please," said Griselda. " Stay and speak to me first, Miss Max- well," said Henry. " I hope you have not forgotten our last conversation on the subject which I am now about to introduce. I told you on that occasion, if my memory does not deceive me, that I was not poetical or sentimental ; and I have a habit, inherited from my father, I suppose, of coming straight to the point. But first, I would be happy to know why you are in tears just now, and why you have been, or seemed to be, unhappy ever since I have become an inmate of your father's house ?" " I was only speaking with Isabel, and she —and she—" faltered Griselda. " And she what ?" said Henry impatiently ; " did she say anything to displease you ? If so, she had better not say it again in my hearing. She is a strange girl, and has a queer temper of her own. Will you tell me what she said ?" " O, she said nothing very particular—at least nothing of any great importance ; but I cried—I really cannot help crying some- times—because I thought—I imagined—that her manner was not so kind as usual. I hope you will not say anything to her, for I know her displeasure will soon wear away." " Her displeasure," said Henry, frowning. " Why, her displeasure is but a poor return for your father's protection and hospitality and your companionship for such a long time. May I ask what was her ladyship displeased about ? What was the subject of your conver- sation ?" Griselda was silent, and amused herself by playing with her pocket-handkerchief. " Will you not tell me ?" said Henry. " I cannot," answered Griselda. " Well, I know it now : I was myself the subject. Had it been this ball she is so full of you would not be afraid to tell me. And what had Isabel to say about me, for 'pon my life let me watch her as I may I can't find out whether she is my friend or my enemy. I could never beat her in artfulness, and know it was always vain to try. You can tell me, Miss Maxwell, for entre nous I should like to know." " To know what, Mr. Arnott ?" said Griselda. " We are very formal, I perceive, with our ' Mr. Arnott,' and our ' Miss Maxwell,' said Henry, " but I am not Petruchio, nor are you Katherina. Come, Griselda, let us speak in confidence, or at least confiden- tially.—Is Isabel my friend or my enemy ?" " Your friend, undoubtedly, and a very warm one," replied Griselda. " Well, now," said Henry, " I'm deuced glad to hear it. I confess I had my doubts, but your ................... has dispelled them. And now my dear girl, as you are so com- municative I shall be glad to know why you were crying, as if she is my friend and you too, as I hope and believe, your argument about me need not have been so hot as to cause tears ?" " I cannot tell you, Mr. Arnott," said Griselda. " I wish you would let me go in to mamma." " Why, you get enough of your mamma," said Henry laughingly ; " I almost wish I was that good lady who enjoys so much of your charming society, and Mr. Arnott, too, again. Why, Griselda, you are a stranger girl than Isabel : you appear to avoid me as if I had a leprosy ; and I no sooner embrace a favorable opportunity of speaking to you where there are no other listeners but passion flowers and woodbine, if my floricultural knowledge is not at fault, than you want to run away, and cry out ' O, let me go to my mamma !" " I do indeed wish to speak to mamma," said Griselda. " I have a very severe head- ache, and Mr. Arnott, I shall be obliged if you will let me pass." " My dear," said Henry, quietly, " you remind me of Desdemona's ' I do perceive here a divided duty ;' now, your first duty is to sit where you are and listen to me, the headache and Mr Arnott notwithstanding ; and your second to go to your mamma by all means, and when you are tired of her come back to me again. I would cure your head- ache, but my medical experience is unfortu- nately confined to the use of brandy and salt taken separately, the latter with mutton chops." " You are in a facetious humour to-day, Mr. Arnott," said Griselda, " and I am sorry that in my present state of mind I can neither respond to your wit nor afford you a subject for it. You must excuse me if I appear to want gaiety and courage, yet it is a melancholy fact. I believe I am the greatest coward in existence, and the very fact of being compelled to speak to you under present circumstances gives me indescribable pain. Might I not be spared that pain, and be allowed to refer you to Isabel ? She is complete mistress of my thoughts." " No, Miss Maxwell," said Henry in a more serious tone than heretofore ; " since your cold reserve will not permit me to call you otherwise, you must perfectly understand that Isabel has nothing whatever to do with this matter, and I must know your thoughts pertaining to the subject in hand from your own lips. In our former interview, which I have already recalled to your memory, I offered you my hand and fortune ; and I now come to the point at once by asking you whether you will accept them or not. When I asked you before you put me off, you said you were too young, you were not sufficiently acquainted with my character, you required time, and so on : now you can- not say but that you have had time enough to consider about it. If you do not know me sufficiently now you never will know me ; and in short, I desire a plain answer to a plain question—aye or no." " I told Isabel that—" said Griselda, twirling her handkerchief very violently. " Now you must pardon me, Miss Max- well," interrupted Henry, " I beg you will not mention Isabel's name again in connec-

tion with this subject. I love my sister, of course ; but I do not desire her mediation or interference in matters of importance. Speak for yourself, and not of her." " You are very peremptory," said Gri- selda ; " you will not let me tell my story in my own way, and if you do not, I cannot tell it at all, but must refer you to mamma." " Mamma again ! Why, I referred myself to mamma and papa, too, long ago, and they approve of me for a son-in-law. What would you have ? You are too fastidious, Miss Max- well, and your manner is repulsive and an- noying ; so much so, indeed, that if I did not make allowances for your want of experi- ence arising from your isolation here for so many years, I should certainly feel very much offended. I told you I wanted a plain answer, and I wish you would speak your mind freely ; for there is no occasion to beat about the bush by referring me to mamma or to Isabel. I am not in the habit of having my broth spoiled by too many cooks, and — really, if you cannot check your tears it is very little use my remaining here." " You put a great restraint upon me by not allowing me to speak of Isabel," said Griselda. " I requested her to speak to you, she is mistress of my thoughts, and will fully explain my reasons—" " Oh, confound Isabel," interrupted Henry, losing his patience and his politeness at the same time. " I don't want any of her chat- tering nonsense : I never could bear her in- terference in anything, and I never will ; she thinks she has the wit and sense of all the world put together. Now do oblige me by giving your reasons yourself—reasons for rejecting me as your husband I pre- sume." " I am sorry if the intimation should wound your feelings, Mr. Arnott, but duty compels me to say that your conclusion is correct," said Griselda. " Believe me, I have not come to this decision without pain- ful consideration for my future happiness : I value happiness far more than superior worldly advantages, and I do not know whe- ther I would not rather die on the spot than be the wife of a man who seems prone to be violent on trifling occasions, and is bitter against those whom it is his duty to love. I do not speak in terms of reproach." " O no, not at all," said Henry, in a sar- castic tone, and grinding the heel of his boot against the ground as if treading somebody into dust ; " your innocence and gentle- ness, Miss Maxwell, will not allow you to think of reproaching any one. Well, you have given me the answer I requested, and a lecture which I did not desire. I thought you were a friend : I don't know why I should have been such a blind idiot, but I now dis- cover you are an enemy, and there is not a man in the world who despises his enemies more than does Henry Arnott." " I had hoped—I ventured to believe," said Griselda, " that I would have been spared the pain of this interview, but having now gone through the ordeal I did not expect to hear expressions which increase my pain and can only recoil upon yourself. I hope you will not compel me, Mr. Arnott, to appeal to my father for protection. I act from a solemn sense of duty ; I am too unsophisticated to give my hand where I cannot freely bestow my heart ; but I assure you I am not your enemy. I wish you well, and would rejoice to hear of your being wedded to one more likely, from having a more refined taste for the aristocratic world, to promote your hap- piness than I am, or, indeed, were I to com- mence my studies in the gayest capital in Europe, could ever hope to be." " You have said enough," said Henry. half turning his back upon his fair auditor, " for I have now discovered what I have often before suspected to be the case, but have never until now actually experienced—that a weak and narrow mind may be contained within a fair and fascinating, if not beautiful person. Had I only discovered it before in your case, Miss Maxwell, I should not cer- tainly have done myself the honor the second time of becoming your father's guest, and dis- turbing your peace with my presence. I thought your mind was as lovely as your per- son ; I gave you credit for possessing good sense, for having a soul above the frivolous follies of youth and romance, and with tact enough to enable you to shine as the wife of a man who may yet attain an exalted and influential position in superior society. But my expectations have not been realised, and consequently, as they were sanguine, my dis- appointment is extreme. Totally destitute of the most commendable ambition, you are evidently unable to extend your thoughts beyond the narrow valley in which you re- side. I could not have believed it of you, Miss Maxwell, that you would evidently from mere caprice, and doubtless through the in- fluence of a romantic affection for some low bred pauper, scorn the alliance of a man who can raise you to a position which would make you the admiration of many and the envy of thousands." Here Griselda had again recourse to tears, and commenced to sob as if she really in- tended to go off into convulsions, and Henry, turning round with an air of surprise, re- sumed his discourse, although scarcely abating any of the harshness of his manner. " Your tears," he said, " would be excellent passports to favor and con- sideration were they not as plentiful as rain drops in Abyssinia. You must be aware, Miss Maxwell, that you occupy a posi- tion as unenviable as the one you have placed me in is false and contemptible. If I am severe I cannot help it : I own I am angry, for I have cause to be so. I need not allude to the manner in which I was first re- ceived as your suitor, nor with what hopes I have been entertained by your parents ; they are anxious, I know, to see me the husband of their daughter ; but you oppose their wishes, and after leading me in a silken string as it were, you take up an indomitable position, decline to become my wife, and lec- ture me upon my qualities of which you disap- prove. I am afraid your conduct, when it comes to be known, will not raise you in the estimation of your poetical admirer, or of any one else who has the least spark of straight forward honesty or honor. But when I take your hand thus, Griselda, and say that I love you, and for this love have waited for years and taken long and harassing journeys, I hope you will retract your decision—let all un- kindness be forgotten, obey the wishes of your parents, smile through your tears and say—' I will accept you, Henry, as my guide and protector through life." "Oh, forgive me, Mr. Arnott," said Griselda, still weeping and withdrawing her hand. " I cannot—I cannot—I have studied the question deeply, and I cannot say the words you have spoken. Why can you not receive my refusal with as good a grace as is often displayed by other honorable gentlemen under similar circumstances ? Why will you

tarnish your fair name by trampling upon a weak girl ? and if I have offended, as you say, by leading you in a silken string, I did so without ever once intending to do it, or being conscious that I occupied such a posi- tion. On the contrary, I distinctly recollect that when you first mentioned the subject I gave you your perfect freedom ; I did not jump at your offer and hold you to be en- gaged—did I, Mr Arnott ?" " Why, certainly you did not," replied Henry. " Then I cannot possibly see how you can justify your cruel language. You say I have a narrow mind ; a narrow mind is a mean mind, and it makes me very unhappy indeed to be accused of meanness. It is a reflection on my parents, for a mean minded person must be born so ; and all the efforts of tutors and governesses will not eradicate the defect. God knows that I wish to lead a simple and quiet life, far removed from the glare of fashionable society, from the pomp of a court, and from the attractions of the theatre and the ballroom, in a home of love and peace where mutual confidence and mildness of temper may mingle their sweetness together to make home happy. I am not indeed am- bitious to shine as the wife of a rich man, but I am anxious to lead a blameless life, and to believe when I am dying that the light of the countenance of my Heavenly Father is shining upon me." " Your eloquence is very captivating," said Henry with an ill-concealed sneer. " I sup- pose such is the domestic happiness you pro- mise yourself with your poetical pauper ?" " I do not know why I need endure your bitter speeches, Mr. Arnott," said Griselda with animation. " If I but made a single complaint to either of my brothers he cer- tainly would—" she paused abruptly. " Would what ?" said Henry, with an angry frown. " He would take my part and resent the treatment I receive," said Griselda. " He is welcome to do so when and where he likes. Miss Maxwell, I bid you farewell ; when you name your champion I shall be happy to lift his glove." So saying, Henry, with a dark cloud upon his dark features, walked out of the summer- house and round to the front of the residence where he found Eugene and Charles in the act of alighting from their horses after their ride to Avoca for the post. He was imme- diately hailed by the latter, who said—" Here, Henry, two letters for you, and one for Miss Arnott." " Give them to me, please," said Henry coldly. He received the letters without deigning a word of acknowledgment, and retired in- stantly to his room. (To be continued.)