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which sometimes would look him in the face for a moment like a passing sunbeam, yet sometimes seemed to exasperate beyond bearing the tantalising misery of his fate. A more agitated, disturbed, passionate, and self-consuming man than the doctor was not in Carlingford, nor within a hundred miles; yet it was not perfect wretchedness after all.
Nettie, on her part, went back to Mrs Fred in the parlour, after she had parted from Edward Rider, with feelings somewhat different from the doctor's. Perhaps she too had indulged a certain pang of expectation as to what might follow after Fred was gone, in the new world that should be after that change; for Nettie, with all her wisdom of experience, was still too young not to believe that circumstances did change everything now and then, even dispositions and hearts. But before Dr Rider knew it-before he had even wound up his courage to the pitch of asking what was now to happen to them-the little Australian had made up her mind to that which was inevitable. The same Susan whose ceaseless discontents and selfish love had driven Nettie across the seas to look for Fred, was now reposing on that sofa in her widow's cap, altogether unchanged, as helpless and unabandonable, as dependent, as much a fool as ever. The superior wretchedness of Fred's presence and life had partially veiled Susan's character since they came to Carlingford. Now she had the field to herself again, and Nettie recognised at once the familiar picture. From the moment when Susan in her mourning came down-stairs, Nettie acknowledged the weakness of circumstances, the pertinacity of nature. What could she do?-she gave up the scarcely-formed germ of hope that had begun to appear in her breast. She made up her mind silently to what must be. Νο agonies of martyrdom could have made Nettie desert her post and abandon these helpless souls. They could do nothing for themselves,
old or young of them; and who was there to do it all? she asked herself, with that perpetual reference to necessity which was Nettie's sole process of reasoning on the subject. Thus considered, the arguments were short and telling, the conclusion unmistakable. Here was this visible piece of business-four helpless creatures to be supported and provided and thrust through life somehow-with nobody in the world but Nettie to do it; to bring them daily bread and hourly tendance, to keep them alive, and shelter their helplessness with refuge and protection. She drew up her tiny Titania figure, and put back her silken flood of hair, and stood upright to the full extent of her little stature when she recognised the truth. Nobody could share with her that warfare which was hard to flesh and blood. She stood up to her post all alone, and saw how vain any attempt would be to share it with another. There was nothing to be said on the subject-no possibility of help. She was almost glad when that interview, which she foresaw, was over, and when Edward had recognised as well as herself the necessities of the matter. She went back again out of the little hall where, for one moment and no more, the lights of youth and love had flushed over Nettie, suffusing her paleness with rose-blushes. Now it was all over. The romance was ended, the hero gone, and life had begun anew.
"I can't say I ever liked this place," sighed Mrs Fred, when the lamp was lit that evening, and Nettie had come down-stairs again after seeing the children in bed. "It was always dull and dreary to me. If we hadn't been so far out of Carlingford, things might have been very different. My poor Fred! instead of taking care of him, all the dangers that ever could be were put in his way."
This sentence was concluded by some weeping, of which, however, Nettie did not take any notice. Making mourning by lamp-light is hard work, as all poor seamstresses
know. Nettie had no tears in the eyes that were fixed intently upon the little coat which was to complete Freddy's outfit; and she did not even look up from that urgent occupation to deprecate Susan's
"I tell you, Nettie, I never could bear this place," said Mrs Fred; "and now, whenever I move, the dreadful thoughts that come into my mind are enough to kill me. You always were strong from a baby, and of course it is not to be expected that you can understand what my feelings are. And Mrs Smith is anything but kind, or indeed civil, sometimes; and I don't think I could live through another of these cold English winters. I am sure I never could keep alive through another winter, now my poor Fred's gone."
"Well?" asked Nettie, with involuntary harshness in her voice.
"I don't care for myself," sobbed Mrs Fred, "but it's dreadful to see you so unfeeling, and to think what would become of his poor children if anything were to happen to me. I do believe you would marry Edward Rider if it were not for me, and go and wrong the poor children, and leave them destitute. Nobody has the feeling for them that a mother has; but if I live another winter in England, I know I shall die."
"You have thought of dying a great many times," said Nettie, but it has never come to anything. Never mind that just now. What do you want? Do you want me to take you back to the colony all these thousands of miles after so many expenses as there have been already?—or what is it you want me to do?"
"You always speak of expenses, Nettie you are very poor-spirited, though people think so much of you," said Susan; "and don't you think it is natural I should wish to go home, now my poor Fred has been taken away from me? And you confessed it would be best for the children. We know scarcely
anybody here, and the very sight of that Edward that was so cruel to my poor Fred—”
"Susan, don't be a fool," said Nettie; "you know better in your heart. If you will tell me plainly what you want, I shall listen to you; but if not, I will go up-stairs and put away Freddy's things. Only one thing I may tell you at once; you may leave Carlingford if you please, but I shall not. I cannot take you back again to have you ill all the way, and the children threatening to fall overboard twenty times in a day. I did it once, but I will not do it again."
"You will not?" cried Susan. Ah, I know what you mean: I know very well what you mean. You think Edward Rider
Nettie rose up and faced her sister with a little gasp of resolution which frightened Mrs Fred. "I don't intend to have anything said about Edward Rider," said Nettie; "he has nothing to do with it one way or another. I tell you what I told him, that I have not the heart to carry you all back again; and I cannot afford it either; and if you want anything more, Susan," added the peremptory creature, flashing forth into something of her old spirit, I shan't go—and that is surely enough."
With which words Nettie went off like a little sprite to put away Freddy's coat, newly completed, along with the other articles of his wardrobe, at which she had been working all day. In that momentary impulse of decision and selfwill, a few notes of a song came unawares from Nettie's lip, as she glanced, light and rapid as a fairy, up-stairs. She stopped a minute after with a sigh. Were Nettie's singing days over? She had at least come at last to find her life hard, and to acknowledge that this necessity which was laid upon her was grievous by times to flesh and blood; but not the less for that did she arrange Freddy's little garments daintily in the drawers, and pause, before she went down-stairs
again, to cover him up in his little bed.
Susan still sat pondering and crying over the fire. Her tears were a great resource to Mrs Fred. They occupied her when she had nothing else to occupy herself with; and when she cast a weeping glance up from her handkerchief to see Nettie draw her chair again to the table, and lay down a little pile of pinafores and tuckers which required supervision, Susan wept still more, and said it was well to be Nettie, who never was overcome by her feelings. Thus the evening passed dully enough. Just then, perhaps, Nettie was not a very conversable companion. Such interviews as that of this day linger in the heads of the interlocutors, and perhaps produce more notable effects afterwards than at the moment. Nettie was not thinking about it. She was simply going over it again, finding out the tones and meanings which, in the haste and excitement of their occurrence, I did not have their full force. The fulness of detail that lingers about such pictures, which are not half apprehended till they have been gone over again and again, is marvellous. The pinafores went unconsciously through Nettie's fingers. She was scarcely aware of Susan crying by the fire. Though it had been in some degree a final and almost hopeless parting, there was comfort behind the cloud to Nettie as well as to the doctor. She had forgotten all about the discussion with which the evening began before Susan spoke again.
"Richard Chatham came home with the last mail," said Susan, making a feeble effort to renew the fight. "He sent me a letter last week, you know. I daresay he will come to see us. Richard Chatham from Melbourne, Nettie. I daresay he will not stay out of the colony long."
Nettie, who was lost in her own thoughts, made no reply.
"I daresay," repeated Mrs Fred, "he will be going out again in a
month or two. I do not believe he could bear this dreadful English winter any more than I could. I daresay he'd be glad to take care of us out if you should change your mind about going, Nettie."
Nettie gave her sister a glance of resolution and impatience-a swift glance upward from her work, enough to show she marked and understood-but still did not speak.
"Richard Chatham was always very good-natured: it would be such a good thing for us to go in the same ship-if you should happen to change your mind about going, Nettie," said Mrs Fred, rising to retire to her room. "I am going to bed to try to get a little sleep. Such wretched nights as I have would kill anybody. I should not wonder if Richard Chatham came some of these days to see us. Poor fellow! he had always a great fancy for our family; and it would be such a thing for us, Nettie, if you should change your mind about going, to go in the same ship!"
With which Parthian shot Mrs Fred made her way up-stairs and retired from the field. Nettie woke with a startled consciousness out of her dreams, to perceive that here was the process of iteration begun which drives the wisest to do the will of fools. She woke up to it for a moment, and, raising her drooping head, watched her sister make her way with her handkerchief in her hand, and the broad white bands of her cap streaming over her shoulders, to the door. Susan stole a glance round before she disappeared, to catch the startled glance of that resolute little face, only half woke up, but wholly determined. Though Mrs Fred dared not say another word at that moment, she disappeared full of the conviction that her arrow had told, and that the endless persistence with which she herself, a woman and a fool, was gifted, need only be duly exercised to win the day. When Susan was gone, that parting arrow did quiver for a moment in Nettie's heart; but the brave little
girl had, for that one night, a protection which her sister wist not of. After the door closed, Nettie fell back once more into that hour of existence which expanded and opened out the more for every new approach which memory made to it. Sweet nature, gentle youth, and the Magician greater than either, came
round her in a potent circle and defended Nettie. The woman was better off than the man in this hour of their separation, yet union. He chafed at the consolation which was but visionary; she, perhaps, in that visionary, ineffable solacement found a happiness greater than any reality could ever give.
It was some months after the time of this conversation when a man, unlike the usual aspect of man in Carlingford, appeared at the inn with a carpet-bag, and asked his way to St Roque's Cottage. Beards were not common in those days: nobody grew one in Carlingford except Mr Lake, who, in his joint capacity of portrait - painter and drawing-master, represented the erratic and lawless followers of Art to the imagination of the respectable town. But the stranger who made his sudden appearance at the George wore such a forest of hair on the lower part of his burly countenance as obliterated all ordinary landmarks in that region, and by comparison made Mr Lake's dainty little moustache and etceteras sink into utter propriety and respectableness. The rest of the figure corresponded with this luxuriant feature; the man was large and burly, a trifle too stout for a perfect athlete, but powerful and vigorous almost beyond anything then known in Carlingford. It was now summer, and warm weather, and the dress of the new-comer was as unusual as the other particulars of his appearance. In his broad strawhat and linen coat he stood cool and large in the shady hall of the George, with glimpses of white English linen appearing under his forest of beard, and round his brown sunscorched wrists. A very small stretch of imagination was necessary to thrust pistols into his belt and a cutlass into his hand, and reveal him as the settler-adventurer of a halfsavage disturbed country, equally
ready to work or to fight, and more at home in the shifts and expedients of the wilderness than among the bonds of civilisation; yet always retaining, as English adventurers will, certain dainty personal particulars-such, for instance, as that prejudice in favour of clean linen, which only the highest civilisation can cultivate into perfection. He went off down Grange Lane with the swing and poise of a Hercules, when the admiring waiters directed him to the Cottage. Miss Wodehouse, who was standing at the door with Lucy, in the long grey cloak and close bonnet lately adopted by the sisterhood of mercy, which had timidly, under the auspices of the perpetual curate, set itself agoing at St Roque's, looked after the salvage man with an instinct of gentle curiosity, wondering where he was going and where he came from. To tell the truth, that tender-hearted soul could with more comfort to herself have stepped down a little on the road to St Roque's, and watched whether that extraordinary figure was in search of Nettie-a suspicion which immediately occurred to her-than she could set out upon the districtvisiting, to which Lucy now led her forth. But Miss Wodehouse had tremulously taken example by the late rector, whose abrupt retirement from the duties for which he did not feel himself qualified, the good people in Carlingford had scarcely stopped discussing. Miss Wodehouse, deeply impressed in her gentle mind by the incidents of that time, had considered it her
duty to reclaim if possible-she who had no circle of college dons to retire into her own life from its habits of quiet indolence. She consented to go with Lucy into all the charitable affairs of Carlingford. She stood silent with a pitying face, and believed in all the pretences of beggary which Lucy saw through by natural insight. But it was no more her natural element than the long grey cloak was a natural garment for that spotless, dove-coloured woman. Her eyes turned wistfully after the stranger with suppressed impulses of gentle curiosity and gossip. She knew very well he did not belong to Carlingford. She knew nobody in Grange Lane or the neighbourhood to whom he could belong. She wanted very much to stop and inquire at the stable-boy of the George, their own gardener's son, who and what this new-comer was, and turned back to look after him before she turned out of George Street following Lucy, with lively anxiety to know whether he was going to St Roque's. Perhaps the labours of a sisterhood of mercy require a special organisation even of the kind female soul. Miss Wodehouse, the most tender-hearted of human creatures, did not rise to that development; and, with a little pang of unsatisfied wonder, saw the unaccustomed Hercules disappear in the distance without being able to make out whither he was bound.
Nobody, however, who had been privileged to share the advantages of Mrs Fred Rider's conversation for some time back, could be at a loss to guess who this messenger from the wilderness was. It was Richard Chatham come at last- he with whose name Nettie had been bored and punctured through and through from the first day of his introduction into Susan's talk till now. Mrs Fred had used largely in the interval that all-potent torture of the "continual dropping;"-used it so perpetually as, though without producing any visible effect upon Nettie's resolution, to introduce often a certain sickness and disgust with
everything into that steadfast soul. Nor did she content herself with her own exertions, but skilfully managed to introduce the idea into the minds of the children-ready, as all children are, for change and novelty. Nettie had led a hard enough life for these three months. She could not meet Edward Rider, nor he her, with a calm pretence of friendship; and Susan, always insolent and spiteful, and now mistress of the position, filled the doctor with an amount of angry irritation which his longings for Nettie's society could not quite subdue. That perpetual barrier between them dismayed both. Meetings which always ended in pain were best avoided, except at those intervals when longing love could not, even under that penalty, refuse itself the gratification; but the dismal life which was lighted up only by those unfrequent, agitating, exasperating encounters, and which flowed on through a hundred petty toilsome duties to the fretful accompaniment of Susan's iterations and the novel persecution now carried on by the children, was naturally irksome to the high-spirited and impatient nature which, now no longer heartwhole or fancy-free, did not find it so easy to carry its own way triumphantly through those heavy clogs of helplessness and folly. In the days when Miss Wodehouse pitied and wondered, Nettie had required no sympathy; she had carried on her course victorious, more entirely conscious of the supreme gratification of having her own way, than of the utter self-sacrifice which she made to Fred and his family. But now the time predicted by Miss Wodehouse had arrived. Nettie's own personal happiness had come to be at stake, and had been unhesitatingly given up. But the knowledge of that renunciation dwelt with Nettie. Not all the natural generosity of her mind-not that still stronger argument which she used so often, the mere necessity and inevitableness of the case, could blind her eyes to the fact that she