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28. CHAPTER XXVIII.

Telling The News.

note

‘Well, finished the news?’ Mr. Scott asked.

‘Are you ready to return to your room, Mr. Herbert?’ inquired his wife.

‘Not exactly.’

‘But you seem flushed. The news has been too exciting, I fear—eh, Miss Lang?’ said Mr. Scott, looking keenly at her.

‘Well, wool is down, and there is an article prophesying another insolvency in some important house in Sydney,’ she said, looking at the paragraphs as she spoke.

‘Yes, Gribble and Co. are tottering, so it is said. Where will it end?’ And fairly launched on the fruitful topic of bad times, they all talked on eagerly, finding it difficult to stop. Under cover of this discussion Isabel slipped away. Before her return among them, Mr. Herbert had told his hosts of his being engaged to her, so that the first expressions of surprise having been freely uttered, Isabel received a cordial hand-shake from Mr. Scott, and a smile tolerably approving from the lady. With regard to Mr. Herbert, she was herself surprised to find how easily she fell into the old easy and familiar footing, at least, when alone with him. Before others there was a little shyness, and he found it difficult even to catch her eye, far less get an answer when he particularly addressed her. Mrs. Scott was considerate, and contrived that they should be a good deal together and alone. At such times some of the old battles were fought again.


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He soon shook off his indisposition, and save the sling, there was no further mark of his accident. Isabel lost her careworn look, and the colour came back to her cheeks, under the quiet repose of her heart. Her manner to him was pretty and characteristic. It was what it used to be, with deeper touches. While he was an invalid and on the couch, she was very docile and gentle; so much so, that he laughed and wondered, saying he expected to have to quote the old song to her, ‘One of two must obey.’ But her obedience was so exemplary that . .’

‘Don't be too sure of it!’ she said. ‘When you are yourself again and acting the master, stalking about as a lord of the creation, I shall not be the meek, yielding creature you have found me lately. You are now down and in my power. It would be cowardly and dishonourable to bully you. But . . . .’

‘What will she do? What does Miss Lang mean, Mr. Herbert?’ little Mary had asked, as she sat with her doll, unheeded by them.

‘You perhaps can inform me. What does she do with you in the school-room? Is she very terrible?’

‘No—only she will be minded. But you are so big and so tall, she couldn't make you mind, if you didn't like.’

‘Well, that's a comfort for me! Do you know, Mary, if you grow very restive and troublesome, when Miss Lang goes away, your mamma must let you come to me. I have a peculiar method for taming horses and children. Once—very long ago—there was a little girl somewhere about your age, no, nearer your sister Fanny's. She was offended about something and out of temper. It was at a sort of gipsy party some miles from home, and she had ridden on a nice little pony, but rather spirited and apt to jump about and kick. Well, this girl took it into her head to punish us all by declaring she would not mount her pony. She would walk home by herself. They could not frighten her with the prospect of the darkness which must overtake her. The nurse and a lady friend there, and her sister and brothers, all were quite upset, and some of them cried. But the girl was hard and determined, and began to walk off, just like a little rebel as she was. Then they applied to me. ‘She will be lost. Something must happen. O Mr. Herbert!’ All right, said I; and throwing the pony's rein over my arm, I went on whistling. Soon I spied the little rebel walking along in front, and on her hearing the horse's steps, I saw that she quickened her pace; very soon, before she knew that any one was near her, she found herself on the pony's back, and the bridle in her hand. ‘I'll get down—you'll see I will!’ she


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said. But as she struggled and insisted on walking, the pony's legs were tickled by a switch, and he began to caper and kick so that she had to hold on. Then the rest of the party came trotting along, all the horses fresh and eager to go home. So the young lady was obliged to keep her seat. She kept in front of the cavalcade, and I believe scarcely slackened the pace, which was of the fastest, till they reached their own gates.’

‘Ah, she was conquered. But who was it, Mr. Herbert?’

‘That's a secret,’ Mr. Herbert said, amused.

‘How can you remember such nonsense?’ Isabel remarked. ‘Ask him, Mary, how he got punished for his share in that affair.’

‘It was you,’ said Mary, shyly. ‘Tell me some more about Miss Lang—do, Mr. Herbert.’

‘Yes; and while you do so, I shall go and write my letter,’ said Isabel, and not heeding his request that the letter might be put off, that this was their only quiet time for that day, and so on, she left him, really wishing to have no further delay in writing to Jem. The only cloud of this time of peace to Isabel, was that she dared not yet tell her mother of her having had any explanation with Mr. Herbert. She had, of course, mentioned his arrival, and since then had only briefly alluded to him, as one with whom she had no concern. Indeed, she was conscious that she must have given them an impression of his extreme coldness, and ‘cutting’ the acquaintance. Her mother's letters always contained some wonder at Isabel's consenting to remain in the same house with one who had acted so ‘scandalously;’ for her part, she hoped she should never meet him. It had been settled by Isabel and Mr. Herbert, that as soon as he could move, he should go himself to Westbrooke and announce their engagement. Yet as the day drew near, and she saw him going about, and fit for the ride, her heart failed her.

‘Why are you so grave?’ he asked. ‘I fear I need not flatter myself that it is because I am going away.’

‘I have a great mind to go with you,’ she answered.

‘Indeed! Well, do so. Yet I thought you settled it was best for me to go first on my own account, and try what I can do.’

‘Yes; but I dread it so.’

‘I hope the dread is needless. Your mother is not so very implacable a person, and you may really trust me to behave properly, when I am so anxious to win her pardon.’

She shook her head. ‘Yes—O yes, it wont be difficult to win. Too easy; that's it.’




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‘I don't understand.’

‘Why, don't you see that you are now rich and we are poor, and mamma seems to think so much more than she did of our ‘doing well,’ as she calls it, and so on . . . .’

‘Is that all?’

‘Quite enough too. I don't like it. On the whole, I should prefer her holding back and refusing her consent.’

‘Isabel!’

‘Yes, I should. The other is mortifying; I don't like it.’

‘Nonsense, nonsense. I dare say we could have managed to be happy as poor folks, but surely a comfortable income is a good thing, and your mother is right to desire it for her children, in reason. Don't fancy that I shall think less of her for any care or expectation she has for you. Putting money aside, I know she might very reasonably object to trusting you to me at all. The more she thinks of you and requires for you, the better I shall like her.’

‘You will be satisfied. Mind, I trust to you. Please don't be sharp or satirical. I never liked it towards them. Now, I couldn't bear it! No, I couldn't, I wouldn't . . . .’

‘Nonsense, Issy! As if I should be sharp and satirical to your mother! You ought to know me better. You must trust me, my darling; and I shall for this once do better without you than with you.’

She did not remind him of the many times he had been satirical, but smiled, amused at his present goodwill for them all. She saw him drive away, having sent for a gig from Sydney; and turning back to the school-room, she felt lonely and anxious, yet very happy too.

Mr. Herbert did well; and his account of his visit and reception pleased her, on the whole. From her mother she received an elaborate and rather stiff letter, congratulating her on the ‘fine prospects’ which awaited her. Mr. Herbert had acted handsomely, she said, and made such ample and proper apologies, and was so earnest and so humble in begging her forgiveness and consent, that she had granted both, and hoped she had done well. Isabel was old enough to choose for herself, and so on. Kate's was a less studied affair. She was very glad that her dear Issy was at last caught, and seemed so happy. But for her part, not all his fortune or his cleverness could make her get over the dread she had of him. But of course Issy would never tell him this; and she confessed he had been very kind, and very pleasant, too, for him, and Tom thought a great deal of him. Quite a month passed before Mr. Herbert left Bengala, to which


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place he had gone from Westbrooke with Tom Jolly.

Isabel had now left the Scotts and was at home. She had offered to remain longer with them, but they were too kind to allow it; and fortunately Mr. Scott had found a substitute, who promised well, ready to come at once.

Mr. Herbert had urged her giving up the task of teaching as soon as possible; and Isabel herself could not help longing to be in her home again, there to examine and realize her new happiness.

Charlie Brand was waiting for her at the end of the Cedar Avenue, and (what no one had ever seen him do before) his hat was actually lifted clear off his head, while the queerest smile touched his lips and shone in his eyes.

‘Glad to have ye back, miss! You'll find us pretty flourishing and looking up, though wanting rain. Fine crop of grapes as ever I saw; but a poor gathering of Ingin Corn. Ay, they slips of yourn are come up finely at last, as you see. The willow will be as fine as the parent tree up at Langville. Patience, you see, miss, and most things come round, and come straight, too! Didn't I say these slips would grow in time? also, that ‘folks’ would find the way back over the wide sea, and all? For, wide as the ocean is, there's a small chap I've heard of, what's painted without breeches, will find his way over—eh, now, miss? Don Cupid don't stick at a difficulty, do he now miss?’

By which Isabel understood him to express his content and triumph at the fulfilment of his prophecies, that Mr. Herbert would come back some day. But when she alighted from the carriage, and claimed a heartier congratulation by slipping her fingers into his great horny hand, instead of returning her squeeze, he dropped her hand directly, retreating a step, and again touching his hat.

‘Miss—I wish you and the gentleman all joy, I'm sure, and—and—I—’ but his words failed him, and he turned sharp round with bent head and walked away fast.

Isabel found herself made much of by her mother and Kate, to say nothing of her young sisters, who were delighted at her return home. They dragged her here and there and everywhere, anxious to show every spot.

It was pleasant to be at home again, to draw round the tea-table and feel so content—so free from anxiety.

‘When will our other visitor arrive?’ remarked Mrs. Lang.

But hardly had she said it when a gig drove up and Mr. Herbert


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came in. That evening he and Isabel had a stroll round the paddocks and to her old favourite view from the fence. She told him some of her old thoughts there, but he could not bear her to allude to that time, or to hear of her suffering through him; so they pushed on, and were at last at the bottom of the paddock. Mr. Herbert proposed her resting on a fallen tree; but she glanced around, and, with a look of almost horror, said—

‘Don't let us stay here. That log!—not taken away yet; though I begged Charlie to have it removed or to burn it. O, it is nothing,’ she added, seeing his surprise, ‘only—don't let us stay here. This is where—he—where poor Dr. Mornay brought me that night of the fire!’

And Isabel shuddered and covered up her eyes for a moment. He knew how she shrank from even an allusion to this time, and gently drew her away to higher ground, where the sun still shone. But she could not immediately throw off the feeling of sadness and awe which the memory of her brief intercourse with that unhappy man always promoted. Perhaps the shock it had caused her had been overruled to work well. It had left an indelible impression that there were deep and awful phases in life unknown and unguessed by her; that with all her energy and desire to set things right and straight, she was utterly powerless even to comprehend half the grief and struggles which her fellow-mortals endured. To such a temperament as Isabel's such a sense of powerlessness and humiliation only gave the touch which was needful in order to soften and subdue what might otherwise be too strong and too light.

The two sisters were married on the same day. Both agreeing in preferring a very quiet wedding, the party was limited to Tom's family, the Farrants, and the Scotts; Isabel's pupils acting as bridesmaids.

Mr. Herbert talked of returning to England, yet he lingered; and after some time, finding it vacant, he took Langville. This led to Kate and Tom setting up a separate establishment for themselves at Warratah Brush, so that, as Mr. Farrant observed, the Parsonage had again its old neighbours and friends.

We must now bid them all farewell, though reluctant to leave the old scenes and associations they have called up.

A great change has come to the land since that time. The young colony struggled through much disappointment and depression—struggled manfully; and then came the discovery of gold, bringing


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renewed life and prosperity.

Handsome and substantial churches must have multipliednote through the length and breadth of the land, taking the place of the poor little attempts described in this tale. It is a grand country! And her children will not forget that added wealth and power is also added responsibility. In her hour of need, men were sent out from the mother country and partly maintained, who should preach patience and consolation to all who suffered; and there was suffering. Now, in their time of prosperity, surely they will not be slow to feel, but thankful to show, that they can themselves support and maintain God's church in fitting dignity. ‘To whom much is given, much will be required.’note

Floreat Australia!note

THE END.
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