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Chapter XXVI.

She saw at once, yet sank not, trembled not,
Beneath that grief, that loneliness of lot,
Within that meek, fair form were feelings high,
Which deem'd not, till they found their energy.

CORSAIR.

MR. Ben borrowed Gertrude's books, and returned them with elegant verses written in the margins, and extending over some fifty pages; and Miss Watchorn although she pressed her to come and take a cup of tea upon those rare occasions, when her multifarious duties were fulfilled, and she could walk into town to see her friends, was evidently anxious about the young man, and inclined to view the subject seriously; and she lamented to her neighbour Mrs. Loring, that it was an awful responsibility to have the charge of the dear boy, her only sister's only son too; the ‘dear boy’ was long past twenty. But, for all her fears and anxieties, she really liked Gertrude, although she had grown rather critical about her claim to beauty; still she would press one of the little hands in hers, and imprint a very cordial kiss upon the sweet grave face, and utter a truth when she said, “I am so glad to see you my dear.”

Time was passing on, as days and weeks do, whether we are joyous or sorrowing; whether the way be rough or smooth for us, the wheels of Time's chariot linger not, though we are talking of long days, and short days, for we count our happy periods as only too short, and our afflictions as too lingering in their course.

Meanwhile Gertrude heard nothing of Kitty Kenlow; for her cousin Miss Lenny, did not know her address, and the two families never thought of keeping up a correspondence: so the past seemed to have been a dream, and to have left nought behind it but the loved remembrances of what once had been, “all the old familiar faces,” seen by mental vision alone, and all the words of counsel, or love, which were treasured up in her heart.

Dr. Jeleware had gone some little distance into the country, at the invitation of a gentleman who resided there, and Gertrude had therefore not seen him; but she expressed so anxious a wish to do so that it brought a note from Miss Watchorn to inform her that he was about to return to town, and would take tea with her the following evening, where she hoped to see her young friend.

How was this to be managed? Gertrude had great misgivings about soliciting a holiday, for she had been to town only a few days previously.

“If you please ma'am I have completed master Albert's set of pinafores,” said Gertrude as she stood, later in the day, at the parlour door.

“Very well, put them down, and come here and see if you can do anything with this child—this young gentleman.”

Master Albert had insisted on making a purchase of some gay yellow and blue cake ornaments when out walking that morning, and had eaten them, much to his after discomfiture.

The parlour presented a scene of some confusion, for the little fellow was lamenting and tossing upon a sofa, with flushed cheeks and aching head, surrounded by scent bottles, and disregarded toys. It was clearly an inauspicious moment to solicit a favour, and Gertrude exerted herself for the child's relief, and for a time forgot her errand.

“You will never eat any more of those things dear,” she said coaxingly, as she nursed the boy, and awaited the effects of a wineglass full of some pleasant beverage, insidiously charged with a remedy for his ailment; for the young people of the Park were always cheated into taking medicine.

“She was a bad woman that sold them, she ought to be hung for it,” returned master Albert savagely.

However, an hour later, he was comfortably sleeping.

“I have a favour to ask if you please ma'am,” said Gertrude timidly, as she withdrew her hand from beneath the child's head.

“Well.”

“May I go in to town to-morrow afternoon?”

“I really do not see what you want running into town so often, but you may go.”

Gertrude thanked her, and retired.

Miss Watchorn's little sitting-room had received every attention, in honor of the expected tea-drinkers, and Gertrude added a tastefully arranged bunch of native flowers to the other adornments.

Dr. Jeleware was as absent as ever, but thought he had seen Gertrude before.

She did not try to recall their former acquaintance, because she imagined that it would by degrees recur to him.

“Did you like the country,” enquired Miss Watchorn, as she did the honors of the tea-table.

“I am not competent to judge, I did not see much; but ma'am there are no roads, nor bridges.”

“Indeed.”

“No ma'am. I had to ride on horseback the first day's journey, and then my friend's son met me with a gig, but the track they called a road was dreadful, dreadful ma'am: one moment the wheels were in a gutter, the next, we were in imminent danger of being upset by passing over the stump of a tree; and then we came to a stream, ‘creek’ they call it, and if you will believe me ma'am not a vestige of a bridge: my companion actually drove through it, making the horse gallop up and down the declivities, for the banks were steep.”

Gertrude smiled; she had seen such roads, and readily filled in the picture.

Dr. Jeleware bore warm testimony to the hospitality so universal in Australia. The frank cordial welcome of the settler at once puts his visitor on the footing of a friend; and the desire of all the household is, to make him comfortable. The doctor rather possessed what Miss Whitford has called the “the gift of silence,” rather than the gift of speech, but upon this occasion he grew eloquent, and described the monotonous forest, the slovenly stump clearing, and other peculiarities of the scene, with as much exactitude as if his audience had never witnessed the same objects. Australian scenery has a peculiar character, which however varied in detail, bears the same prominent features, with the exception of those warm gullies lying among the vast ranges, where the traveller is suddenly environed by tropical productions. The greater part of New South Wales, presents the wide spread Eucalyptic forest, scantily intermingled with other forest trees: the mountains, pure blue when seen from a distance, or immediately before us, modified by a granite, or sand-stone formation, the latter are the flower gardens of the wilds. The richest hues, the purple and crimson of Tyre, the most unsullied white, and azure, the warmest yellow, with every variety of mingled tint are lavishly interwoven, as if He would have the “solitary places” to praise Him.

The sand-stone range crossed, the same features of forest land recur, till the geological formation recalls the botanical productions, and we again discover the same plants, in the same soil.

These ranges of mountains are cleft by tremendous ravines, over which the rugged cliff beetles in stupendous masses, inhabited by the Wallaby, and Native Dog. But such grand scenery formed no part of Dr. Jeleware's explorations; he had not watched the storm burst above the mountains, and the torrent pour down the chasms which rend the declivities, and mingle with the waters of the rivers, emanating from these localities.

“I had the gratification of seeing a savage, ma'am” he remarked, assisting himself to a slice of cake.

“They are nearly extinct now, in this part of the country.”

“So I was informed. A very inferior looking creature.”

“Among white people they are degraded by intemperance,” rejoined Gertrude, who during her residence at Murrumbowrie had imbibed the kindly feeling for the unfortunate Aboriginal race, which her late employer and Mr. Tudor had entertained.

The doctor turned his round eyes upon her, and uttered a puzzled “hem.” Miss Watchorn went back to the natives, she had known one who acted as drayman, and was much valued by his master. Gertrude recollected Urutta, and another fine young man, who was breaking in horses at Wattletree Flat; and they were growing warm in their praises, when Mr. Ben's entrance changed the subject.

“How is it that you are at leisure so early?” enquired his Aunt, making room for him beside her on the sofa.

“Not much doing; country folks not in to-day. Town looks rather dull Miss Gonthier?”

“Rather sir.”

“Very quiet, nothing stirring.”

Gertrude thought there never was, but did not say so, for Mr. Ben had a habit of speaking of the struggling little township, as if it were a large mercantile city. She could not lose sight of the fields and gardens, nor the goats and fowls securely enjoying themselves, in blissful ignorance of surveyors' marks, and legislative intentions, in the streets, or where streets were to be. A small meadow did not represent a market to her, nor a cluster of stunted bushes a crescent, or terrace. Mr. Ben used to talk grandly of poets' inspirations, and poets' visions, and she concluded it was by these means that he saw the future town, when the chrysalis should have unfolded its wings, and spread them over the surrounding meadows, in all the glories of its exalted state.

“Another cup of tea my dear boy?” interrupted his aunt, who had a horror of tête-à-tête conversations.

“Thank you aunt, I'll try a drop more. Had a run up the country, doctor?”

Dr. Jeleware was absently gazing at Gertrude. “Very remarkable,” muttered he.

“Do you think the country remarkable, Doctor?”

“Very remarkable,” he repeated.

Mr. Ben ran his hand through his hair, setting it on end, in a most comical manner, and looked fierce, preparing to defend his country, with right good patriotism.

“Gertrude Gonthier. Yes to be sure, a little girl with a pale face, crying.”

“Yes sir! yes,” returned she, between laughter and tears, as she claimed the portrait.

“The mad clock-maker, a white cottage at the end of the lane—it was the first case of typhus.”

There was no doubt about the tears now, Gertrude could only nod.

“Very strange that we should meet here,” said the doctor, coming round the table to shake hands.

Miss Watchorn was quite affected, and scarcely had voice to explain to her nephew the meaning of the scene.

But Gertrude had a long walk before her, and she was turning over how it was to be effected without the escort of Mr. Ben, when Miss Watchorn made him promise to spend the evening with her, and the young girl insisted on his keeping his promise, and started on her way very much relieved that she was able to indulge in the train of thoughts her visit had awakened. She received the blessing that had softened the many trials of her previous life, and gratefully obeyed the injunction “in all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy path.” For the unknown future, she would be brave about it, and pray for those who were far from her, that every blessing might descend upon them, now and for ever, and that the erring might be turned from the error of their ways; so with her loving woman's heart, she was mingling the absent and the present, and extending “gentle offices” to all.

Gertrude had a little room up stairs, where she worked; it had a garret roof, and skylight-window, looking up at the blue sky, where the clouds seemed always hurrying along, in shapes which if she looked at them long, assumed the likeness of old friends, just as queer faces peer out of coal fires, for the mind stamps its image on all around it; sometimes she thought those forms whispered to her words of comfort, or reproof; now they would say—

Creatures of God, his will is for thy weal eternally progressing;
Fear not to trust a Maker's love, nor a Saviour's ransom:
He drank for all—for thee and me—the poison of our deeds;
We shall not die, but live.”

Anon when she fell into idle dreams, regretting how different circumstances were to what she would have them, she heard again the words that Tudor had once repeated to her.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Finds us farther than to-day.

It was rather a lonely little place, though the birds found such a gentle inmate, that they would perch near the open window, and twitter and chirp, and sometimes in their confidence, skim round the room, bringing in a ray of light upon their glossy wings; they seemed to think the vicinity of that skylight the safest place for their broods to essay their first flight: and Gertrude became quite fond of her feathered companions; sometimes master Freddy would spring in at the door, and put the flutterers to instant flight; and at last he was always lying in wait for them, scattering handful of pebbles among the little creatures till they became disgusted, and sought a more retired dwelling. Then she tried to extend her “gentle charities” upon a red geranium, planted in a jug without a handle, and a hole broken in the side, but it grew yellow and sickly, and finally died.

The servants called her proud, because she did not associate with them; she was indeed in the unpleasant intermediate situation which is of all positions most painful; happily for her she was sustained by Christian principles, and this ungenial discipline tended materially to strengthen a disposition less disposed to judge for itself, than to confide in the opinion of others; she would rather yield up her judgment with her affections; but she had been forced to scrutinize the motives and actions of those who surrounded her, and it had checked a disposition, that would have grown into an error.

Sometimes, when not very busy, she would fetch the gardener's little child, and keep it for an hour or two, when its mother had much to do. Little Maggie was a plump, good natured babe, just learning to walk alone, and each successful attempt was a source of much satisfaction and pride to her young friend. Children instinctively attach themselves to the amiable and pure, by a heaven bestowed instinct, which sees further than even the keen eye of the worldly wise; it may be dazzled by appearances, or deceived by a specious bearing, but the child obeys its impulse. Perhaps an angelic hand directs the little one; be that as it may, little Maggie often cheered Gertrude's solitude, and was by no means indisposed to do so.

She could spare a few kind words to her little charge, and keep it amused without neglecting her work, it enabled her to be a comfort and help to the child's mother, and bestowed upon herself the rich reward which springs from kind actions.

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