Chapter XXI.

“Friendship hath passed me like a ship at sea.”


WHEN again Edward Tudor returned to the farm, only by the perfectly grave face could any one guess how much he felt. The murderer must be found, he said, and adopted every method to do so; meanwhile amidst his other cares he did not delay a visit to Mrs. Kenlow. She had much to say about Mrs. Doherty; and Tudor rather suffered her to go on than encouraged her; his visit there was not for condolence, but information.

“Miss Gonthier has left,” he said presently.

“Yes, she went to Sydney the day before yesterday.”

“Do you know her reason for such a hasty departure?”

“Well, she went to be married, I suppose. Mr. Inkersole's in Sydney.”

Tudor did not betray what he felt; and she went on. “I am glad of it; for she is such a nice girl; and she will have some one to protect her.”

“Are you sure of this?” he said, with apparent unconcern.

“Oh, yes. Charley told me often he was going to marry her; he was looking after old O'Donnel's run at the Fish River, it was about that he went to town, just about the time poor Mrs. Doherty was murdered. My word! what a turn it gave me when the old doctor said she had been murdered.”

Mrs. Kenlow drooped her head genteelly on one side. Her visitor folded his arms, and fixed a moody pair of eyes upon the floor for sometime; while his brows worked uneasily.

“Yes, I was glad of Gertrude's settling poor girl!” pursued Mrs. Kenlow; “now don't you think it is a good thing, Mr. Tudor?”

He gave a short abrupt bow, whether of assent or dissent would be hard to say; and she continued describing the genteel society Gertrude would enjoy while staying with her sister, till she married. Presently Tudor rose, and leaving a message for Kenlow departed.

He was proud, very proud: not the little pride of wealth, or high birth; nor arrogance to inferiors, nor contempt of superiors, but of his own feelings, he was nervously sensitive, pride partially arising from a refined mind, partially from the very strength of his nature, which had hitherto been unchecked by religion; and which for the future would be regarded as a besetting sin, to be prayed against and struggled with.

To conceal from all, his bitter disappointment, became the great object of his exertions, and he succeeded: for no one could suppose that erect form, and grave, stern brow, concealed a heart, tender and loving as a woman's. The past with all its bright dreams was buried in the grave of the friend he had loved so warmly, and so faithfully served; and he mentioned them not: but after mature deliberation addressed a letter to Gertrude: a polite, kind, but distant farewell; and an explanation which he deemed due to himself, of the reason he had not hastened to obey her letter of entreaty to return. The messenger had when two days journey from the farm, become intoxicated, with the money given him to defray the expenses of his journey; lost the letter; been robbed of the saddle and bridle; the horse impounded; and in a state of intoxication the man had engaged in sundry pugilistic encounters, the result of which, was his being consigned to prison in default of a fine—therefore Tudor had not heard of Mrs. Doherty's death, till he had reached a locality where the papers had conveyed the intelligence; and then his return had been rapid. The last sentence puzzled her; it was this, “In bidding you farewell, for ever, I cannot resist, wishing you happiness in the future you have chosen.” Then he signed himself “yours respectfully.”

Gertrude wept bitterly over the cold formal letter: though it was really kind: but constrained: while he, believing that he had done all that honor permitted, bid adieu to Murrumbowrie, and started for his home, and his kind mother. Not to remain inactive: but to see her, and his brother and sister; and then to plunge once more into the busy stir of life; a saddened, disappointed man; but no longer likely to become the austere and iron ruler. He was a Christian! and firmness was tempered by gentleness.

Kitty Kenlow also wrote to Gertrude a summary of news; which in part may help in making clear some of the actions of others, as well as herself.

“Mr. Batally” she wrote, “offered Mr. Tudor to stay: he spoke in an off-hand manner, like as if he was ordering him to do so, father says; for he was standing by; and he says, he never saw any one look so high and proud as Mr. Tudor did: but he spoke quite quietly, and said “he would only stay to give up all he had in charge.” Mr. Batally says he shall manage everything himself, most of the old people are leaving. We are going to Windsor, father has a little farm there.”

Then followed a long account of the further movements of the other members of the establishment; and she concluded, “Mr. Tudor I believe has saved money; and I think he will do for himself. Father says, he thinks he will leave this part of the country altogether: he seems so cut up: though he don't say nothing: it would make your heart ache to see the quiet way he goes about; doing things just as he used; mustering the cattle, and counting the sheep over to Mr. Batally. On horseback all day, and making up the accounts of an evening; and looking as white as a sheet. He has been trying every thing to find the murderer. It is so long since it happened or he would have tracked the steps from the house: he says that it ought to have been done: but no more at present from, &c., &c.”

And here then was Gertrude, really and truly alone, and deserted, through a miserable series of misunderstanding. Despair gave her energy to act, and after a night of prayer and thought, she resolved to think and act as if the past had never been: not that it could be forgotten, nor did she wish to forget it, but it must not cumber the present. Her life had not been one of chance, therefore it must be right: faith received the assurance, while reason was baffled, and confounded.

“What is the best way to get a place?” she enquired the next day, following out her train of resolves.

“A place!” enquired Mrs. Lenny's eldest daughter, who was only then on a visit to her mother.

“I wish for a situation. If I could get it, such a one as I have filled; or a needlewoman; or a responsible one of any kind.”

“La! What for?” exclaimed Julia.

“I cannot intrude upon you. I must earn my living.”

“For awhile.”

“As long as I live most probably: certainly [I] must now be no longer idle.”

“I shall be going home the end of this week, said the elder sister, who was a dress-maker, and if you like to go with me, you can help us for a bit, till you look round you: something may turn up.”

Gertrude thanked her, and accepted the offer.