Clutha Leader, Rōrahi XIV, Putanga 695, 11 Whiringa-ā-rangi 1887, Page 7
. r JtRS BBLDEN'S NARRATIVE. ■ • Cursed, destructive Avarice. Thou everlasting foe to Love and Honour. Trap's Abraw. Mischeit never thrives Without the help of Woman. The Same. The plan agreed upon between us for the carrying out of our intentions was this : At the time appointed, Mary was to excuse herself to her cousin upon the plea that she had promised to take me to see a friend in the next town. She was then to enter a buggy previously ordered, and drive here, where I was to join her. We were then to proceed immediately to the minister's house in F -, where we , had reason to believe we should find «very thing prepared for us. But in this plan, simple as it was, one thing •was forgotten, and that was the character of Eleanore's love for her cousin. That she would suspect something' was wrong we did not doubt, but that she would actually follow her up and demand an explanation of her conduct, was what neither she who knew her so well, nor I who knew her so little, ever imagined possible. And yet that was just what occurred. But let' me explain. Mary, who had followed out the programme to the point of leaving a little note of excuse on Eleanore's dressing-table, had come to my house and was just taking off her long cloak to show me her dress, when there came a commanding knock at the..front door. Hastily pulling her cloak atjout her I ran to open it, intending, you may be sure, to dismiss my visitor with short ceremony, when I heard a voice behind me say, l Good heavens, it is Eleanore!' and glancing back, saw Mary looking through the window-blind upon the porch without. 1 What shall I do f cried I, shrinking back. i* Bo 1 why open the door and let her in ; I am not afraid of Eleanore.' I immediately did so, and Eleanore Leavenworth, very pale but with a resolute countenance, walked into the house and into this room, confronting Mary in very nearly the same spot where you are now sitting. 'I have come,' said she, lifting a face whose expression of mingled sweetness and power I could not but admire even in that moment of apprehension, ' to ask you without any excuse for my request, if you will allow me to accompany you upon your drive this morning V Mary, who had drawn herself up to meet some word of accusation or appeal, turned carelessly away to the glass. ' I am very sorry,' she said, * but the buggy holds only two, and I shall be obliged to refuse.' ' I will order a carriage.' * But I do not wish your company, Eleanore. We are off on a pleasure trip, and desire, to go as we have planned by ourselves.' *And you will not allow me to accompany you V 'I cannot prevent your going in another carriage.' Eleanore's face grew yet more earnest in its expression. 'Mary,' said she, *we have been brought up together. I am your sister- in affection if not in blood, and I cannot see you start upon this adventure with no other companion than this woman. Neither conscience, love, nor the gratitude I feel for our absent uncle will allow me. If you go where you propose T must accompany you. Then tell me, shall it be at your side as a sister, or on the road behind you as the enforced guardian of your honor against your will V 1 My honor!' * You are going to meet Mr Clavering.' < Well r * Twenty miles from home.' 'Well? * Now, is it discreet or honorable for you, to do this'} If it is, discretion and honor are not the virtues which I have been brought up to think them.' Mary's haughty lip took an ominous curve. 'The same hand that raised you has raised me,' she cried bitterly. * There is no time to speak of that,' returned Eleanore. Mary's countenance flushed. All the antagonism of her nature was aroused.' She looked absolutely Junolike in her wrath and reckless menace. 1 Eleanore,' cried she, * I am going to F to marry Mr Olavering. Nov) do you wish to accompany me V < I do.' Mary's whole manner changed. Leaping forward shegrasped hercousin's arm and shook it. * Why ? cried she, " what do you intend to do V ITo witness the marriage if it be a true one, to step between you and shame if any element of falsehood should come in to affect its legality.' Mary's hand fell from her cousin's arm. 'I do not understand you,' said she; ' I thought you never gave countenance to what you considered wrong.' «Nor do I. Anyone who knows me will understand that I do not give my approval to this marriage just because I attend its ceremonial in the capacity o? an umrilling iritness.' ,;
- - . -■ — — -. — -^~— jamtl—Ml — — — * — —^™— ——«»——»-»■■ y 'Then why go?' 1 Because 1 value your honor above j my own peace. Because T love our common benefactor, and know that he would never pardon me if I let his j darling be married, however contrary her union might be to his wishes, without lending the support of my presence to make the transaction at least a respectable one. 5 ' But in so doing you will be involved in a world of deception — which you hate.' 'Any more so than now V ' Mr Olavering does not return with me, Eieanore.' ' No, I supposed not.' * I leave him immediately after the ceremony.' Eieanore bowed her head. * He goes to Europe.' A pause. ' And I return home.' * There to wait for what, Mary V Mary's face crimsoned and she turned slowly away. ' What every other girl does under such circumstances, I suppose. The development of more reasonable feelings in an obdurate parent's heart.' Eieanore sighed and a short silence ensued, broken by Eleanore's suddenly falling upon her knees and clasping her cousin's hand. ' Oh, Mary,' she sobbed, her haughtiness all disappearing in a gush of wild entreaty, ' consider what you are doing ! think before it is too late of the consequences which must follow such an act as this. Marriage founded upon deception can never lead to happiness. Love — but it is not that. Love would have led you either to have dismissed Mr Clavering at once, or to have openly accepted the fate which a union with him would bring. Only passion stoops to subterfuge like this. And you,' continued she, rising and turning towards me in a sort of .forlorn hope very touching to see, 'you who have borne and brought up children, will you see this young motherless girl, driven by caprice and acknowledging no moral restraint, enter upon the dark and crooked path she is planning for herself, without one word of warning and appeal % Tell me, mother of children, dead and buried, what excuse you will have for your own part in this day's work, when she, with her face marred hy the sorrows which must follow this deception, comes to you--' ' The same excuse, probably,' Mary's voice broke in chill and strained, ' which you will have when uncle inquires how you came to allow such a very wicked piece of business to be accomplished in his absence ; that she could not help herself, that Mary would gang her am gait, and everyone around must accommodate themselves to it.' It was like a draught of icy air suddenly let loose in a room heated up to fever point. Eieanore stiffened immediately, and drawing back pale and composed, turned upon her cousin with the remark, 'Then nothing can move you f The curling of Mary's lip was her only reply. Mr Raymond, I do not wish to weary you with my feelings, but the first great distrust I ever felt of my wisdom in pushing this matter so far, came with that curl of Mary's lip. Plainer than Eleanore's words it showed me the temper with which she was entering upon this undertaking, and struck with momentary dismay, I advanced to speak when Mary stopped me. ' There now, Mamma Hubbard, don't you go and acknowledge that you are frightened, for I won't hear it. I have promised to marry Henry Clavering today, and I am going to keep my word — if I don't love him,' she added with hitter emphasis. Then smiling upon me in a way that caused me to forget everything save the fact that she was ixoing to her bridal, she handed me her veil to fasten. As I was doing it with very trembling fingers, she said, looking straight at Eieanore, 1 You have shown yourself more interested in my fate than T have ever thought possible. Will you continue co display that concern all the way to "P _ f or may T hope that I shall be allowed to dream in peace upon the step which, according to you, is about to hurl upon me such dreadful consequences V lIfI go with you to F ,' Eieanore returned, 'it is as a witness, no more. My sisterly duty is done.' ' Very well, then,' Mary said, dimpling with sudden gayety, 'I suppose I shall have to accept the situation. Mamma Hubbard, I ara so sorry to disappoint you, but the buggy won't hold three. If you are good you shall be the first to congratulate me,' she whispered, 'when I come home tonight.' And almost before 1 knew it, the two had taken their seats in the buggy that was waiting at the door. ' Good-bye,' cried Mary, waving her hand from the back, 'wish me much joy — of my ride.' I tried to do so, but the words wouldn't come. I could only wave my hand in response and rush sobbing into the house. Of that day and its long hours of ; alternate remorse and anxiety I cannot j trust myself to speak. Let me come | at once to the. time; 'Vhen, seated alone in my lamp-lighted'room, I waited and watched- for the token of their return which Mary had promised me. It came in the shape of Mary herself, ,-xho, -rapped in her long cloak s>tk3
with her beautiful face aglow with blushes, came stealing into the house just as I was beginning to despair. A strain of wild music from the hotel porch, where they were having a dance, entered with her, producing such a weird effect upon my fancy that I was not at all surprised when, in flinging off her cloak, she displayed garments of bridal white and a head crowned with snowy roses. ' Oh, Mary !' cried I, bursting into tears, ' you are then — ' • Mrs Henry Clavering, at your service. I'm a bride, Auntie.' 'Without a bridal,' I murmured, taking herpassionately into my embrace. She was'not insensible to ray emotion. Nestling close to me, she gave herself up for one wild moment to a genuine burst of tears, saying between her sobs all manner of tender things, telling me how she loved me, and how I was the only one in all the world to whom she dare come on this her .wedding night for comfort or congratulation, and of how frightened she felt now it was all over, as if with her name she had parted with something of inestimable value. 1 And does not the thought that you have made someone the proudest of men solace you V I asked, more than dismayed at this failure of mine to make these lovers happy. ' I don't know,' she sobbed. ' What satisfaction can it be for him to feel himself tied for life to a girl who sooner than lose a prospective fortune subjected him to such a parting.' * Tell me about it,' said I. But she was not in the mood at that moment. The excitement of the day had been too much for her. A thousand fears seemed to beset her mind. Crouching down on the stool at my feet, she sat 'with her hands folded and a glare on her face that lent an aspect of strange unreality to her brilliant attire. ' How shall I keep it secret ! The thought haunts me every moment ; how can I keep it secret !' ' Why, is there any danger of its being known V I inquired. ' Were you seen or followed ? 'No,' she murmured. 'It all went off well, but—' ' Where is the danger then V 1 I cannot say ; but some deeds arc like ghosts. They will not he laid ; they reappear ; they gibber ; they make themselves known whether we will or not. I did not think of this before. T was mad, reckless, what you will. But ever since the night has come, I have felt it crushing upon me like a pall that smothers life and youth and love out of my heart. While the sunlight remained I could endure it, but now — Oh, Auntie, I have clone somethin" that will keep me in constant fear. I have allied myself to a living apprehension. I have destroyed my happiness.' I was too aghast to speak. ' I have tried to play gayety for two hours. I have stood up in the parlors below, dressed in my bridial white and crowned with my wreath of roses, making believe to myself that I was receiving wedding-guests and that every compliment bestowed upon me — and they were only too numerous — were just so many congratulations upon my 'marriage. But it was no use ; Eleanore knew it was no use. She has gone to her room to pray, while I,— l have come here for the first time, perhaps for the last, to fall at someone's feet and cry, — " God have mercy upon me!"' I looked at her in uncontrollable emotion. ' Oh, Mary,' said I, ' have I only succeeded, then in making you miserable 1' She did not answer, she was engaged in picking up the crown of roses which had fallen from her hair to the floor. ' If I had not been taught to love money so !' she said at length. l If, like Eleanore, I could look upon the splendor which has been ours from childhood, as a mere accessory of life, easy to be dropped at the call of duty or affection ! If prestige, adulation and elegant belongings were not so much to me, or love, friendship, and domestic happiness more ! If only I could walk a step without dragging the chain of a thousand luxurious longings after me ! Eleanore can. Lordly as she is in her beautiful womanhood, haughty as she can be when the delicate quick of her personality is touched too rudely, I have known her to sit by the hour in a iow, chilly, ill-lighted and ill-smelling garret, cradling a dirty child on her knee, and feeding with her own hand an impatient old woman whom no one else would consent to touch. Oh, oh, they talk about repentance and a change of heart! If some one or something would only change, mine ! But there is no hope of that ! no hope of my ever being anything else than what I am, a selfish, wilful, mercenary girl.' Nor was this mode a mere transitory one. That same night she made a discovery which increased her apprehension almost to terror. This was nothing less than the fact that" Eleanore had been keeping a diary of the last few weeks. * Oh,' she cried in relating this to me the next day, * what security shall I ever feel as long as this diary of hers remains to confront me every time Igo into her room. And she will not consent to destroy it, though I have done ray best to show her that it is a betrayal of the trust I reposed in her. She says that it is all there is to shew her reasons for doing as she has, and that without it she would lack means
of defence, if uncle should ever accuse her of treachery to him and his happiness. She promises to keep it locked up, but what good will that do ! A thousand accidents might happen, any of them sufficient to throw it into uncle's hands. I shall never feel safe for a moment while it exists.' I endeavored to calm her by saying that if Eleanore was without malice, such fears were groundless. But she would not be comforted, and seeing her so wrought up, I suggested that she should ask Eleanore to deliver it into my keeping till such time as she should feel the necessity of using it. The idea struck Mary favorably. 'Oh, yes,' cried she, ' and I will put my certificate with it and so get rid of all my care at once.' And before the afternoon was over, she had seen Eleanore and made her request. It was acceded to with this proviso, that 1 was neither to destroy nor give up all or any of the papers except upon their united demand. A small tin box was accordingly procured, into which were put all the proofs of Mary's marriage then existing, viz. : the certificate, Mr Covering's letters and such leaves from Eleanore's Diary as referred to this matter. It was then handed over to me with the stipulation I have already mentioned, and I stowed it away in a certain closet up-stairs, where it has lain undisturbed till last night. Here Mrs Belden paused, and blushing painfully, raised her eyes to mine with a look, in which anxiety and entreaty were curiously blended. ' I don't know what you will say,' she began, ' but led away by my fears 1 took that box out of its hiding-place last evening, and notwithstanding your advice, carried it from the house ana it is now ' ' In my possession,' said I, quietly. I don't think I ever saw her look more astounded, not even when I told her of Hannah's death. ' Impossible !' she exclaimed. ' I left it last night in the old l«arn that was burned down. I merely meant to, hide it for the present, and could think of no better place in my hurry ; for the barn is said to be haunted— a man hung himself there oncfi — and no one ever goes there. I __£ — you cannot have it,' cried she, 1 unless — : — ' 1 Unless I found and brought it away before the barn was destroyed,' I suggested. Her face flushed deeper, ' Then you followed me? 'Yes,' said I. Then aa I felt my own countenance redden, hastened to add, 'We have been playing strange and unaccustomed parts, you and I. Some time, when all these, dreadful events shall be a mere dream of the past, we will ask each others pardon. But never mind all this now. The box is safe, and I am anxious to hear the rest of your story.' This 'seemed to compose, her, and after a minute she continued : Mary seemed more like herself after this. And though owing to Mr Leavenworth's return and their subsequent preparations for departure, I saw but little more of her, what I did see was enough to make me fear that with the locking up of the proofs of her marriage, she was indulging the. idea that the marriage itself had become void. But I may have wronged her in this. The story of those few weeks is almost finished. On the eve of the clay before she left, Mary came to my house to bid me good-bye. She had a present in her hand the value of which I will not state, as I did not take it, though she .coaxed me with her prettiest wiles. But she said something that night that I have never been able to forget. It was this. I had been speaking of my hope that before two months had elapsed that she would so win upon Mr Leavenworth that she would be able to send for Mr Clavering, and when that day came, I should wish to be advistd of it, when she suddenly interrupted me by saying : ' Uncle will never be won upon as you call it while he lives. If I was convinced of it before, I am sure, of it now. Nothing but his death will ever make it possible for me to send for Mr Clavering.' Then seeing me look aghast at the lons period of separation which this seempd to betoken, blushed a little and whispered, ' The prosppct looks somewhat dubious, doesn't it 1 But if Mr Clavering loves me, he can wait.' 'But,' said I, 'your uncle is only little past the prune of life and appears to be in robust health ; it will be years of waiting, Mary.' ' I don't know,' murmured she. ' I think not. Uncle is not so strong as he looks and ' She did not say any more, horrified perhaps at the turn the conversation wastakiug. But there was an expression on her countenance that set me thinking at the time, and has kept me thinking ever since.' Not that any actual dread of such an occurrence as has since happened came to me then to make the long months which now intervened worse than they were. I was as yet too much under the spell of her charm to allow anything calculated to throw a shadow over her image, to remain long in my thoughts. But when some time in the fall a letter came to me personally from Mr Clavering, filled with a vivid appeal to tell him something of the woman who, in spite of her vows, doomed him to a. suspense so cruel, 9nd
when on the evening of the same day, a friend of mine who had just returned from New York, spoke of meeting Mary Leavenworth, at some gathering, surrounded by manifest admirers, I began to realize the alarming features of the affair as it then existed, and, sitting down I wrote her a letter. Not in the strain in which I had been accustomed to talk to her, — I had not her pleading eyes and trembling, caressing hands ever before me to beguile my judgment from its proper exercise, — but honestly and earnestly, telling her how Mr Clavering felt, and what was the risk she ran in keeping so ardent a lover from his rights. The reply she sent rather startled me. ' I have put Mr Robbins out of my calculations for the present, and advise you to do the same, disappointing as it may be to you. As for the gentleman himself, I have told him that when I could receive him I would be careful to notify him. That day has not yet come. ' But do not let him be discouraged,' she added in a postscript. ' When he does receive his happiness, it will be a satisfying one.' When, I thought. Ah, it is that when which is likely to ruin all ! But intent only upon fulfilling her will, I sat down and wrote a letter to Mr Clavering, in which I stated what she had said and begged him to have patience, adding that 1 would surely let him know if any change took place in Mary or her circumstances. And having despatched it to his address in London, awaited the development of events. They were not slow in transpiring. In two weeks from that time T heard of the sudden death of Mr Stpbbins, the minister who had married them ; and while yet laboring under the agitation produced by this shock, was further startled by seeing in a New York paper the name of Mr Clavering among the list of arrivals at the Hoffman House ; showing that my letter to him had failed in its intended effect, and that the patience Mary had calculated upon so blindly was verging to its end. I was consequently far from being surprised when in a couple of weeks or so afterward, a letter came from him to my address, which, owing to the careless omission of the private mark upon the envelope, I opened, and rpad enough to learn, that driven to desperation by the constant failures which he had experienced in all his endeavors to gain access to her in public or private, a failure which he was not backward in ascribing to her indisposition to see, him, he had made up his mind to risk everything, even her displeasure ; and by making an appeal to her uncle, end the suspense under which he was laboring, definitely and at once. ' I want you, Amy,' he wrote; 'dowered or dowerless, it makes little difference to me. If you will not come of yourself, then I must follow the example of the brave knights, my ancestors ; storm the castle that holds you, and carry you off by force of arms.' Neither can I say that I was much surprised, knowing Mary as 1 did, when in a few days from this, she forwarded to me for copying, this reply : 'If Mr Robbins ever exppcts to be happy with Amy Belden, let him reconsider the. determination of which he speaks. Not only would he by such an action succeed in destroying the happiness of her he professes to love, but run the greater risk of effectually annulling the affection which makes the tie between them endurable.' To this there was neither date nor signature. It was the cry of warning which a spirited self-contented creature gives when brought to bay. It made even me recoil, though T had known from the first that her petty wilfulness was but the tossing foam floating above the soundless depths of cold resolve and most deliberate .purpose. What its real effect was upon him and her fate I can only conjecture. All 1 know is that in two weeks thereafter Mr Leavenworth was found murdered in his room, and Hannah Chester, coming direct to my door from the scene of violence, begged me to take her in and secrete her from public inquiry, as I loved and desired to serve Mary Leavenworth.