Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 10/Lord Oakburn's daughters - Part 8



A conflict was going on in the mind of Laura Chesney. Two passions, bad and good, were at work there, each striving for the mastery.

Should it be obedience or dieobedience? Should she bear on in the straight line of duty, and be obedient to her father, to all the notions of right in which she had been reared; or should she quit her home in defiance, quit it clandestinely, to become the wife of Mr. Carlton? Reader! It has indeed come to this, grievous as it is to have to write it, st the present day, of a well-trained gentlewoman.

On the day that Mr. Carlton had asked for Laura, Captain Chesney commanded her before him. He did not spare her; every reproach that the case seemed to demand was lavished upon her by the indignant captain; and he finally forbade her ever to give another thought to Mr. Carlton. The abuse he heaped upon the unconscious surgeon would have been something grand if spoken upon the boards of a theatre; it simply made Laura rebellious. He told her that, except in his professional capacity, he disliked Mr. Carlton, and that nothing in the world would ever induce him to admit the man to his family. And this he confirmed with sundry unnecessary words.

Laura retired, apparently acquiescent. Not to him did she dare show disobedience, and the captain concluded that the affair was settled and over. Whether Laura’s rebellious feelings would have subsided afterwards into duty had she been let alone, it is impossible to say; but Mr. Carlton took every possible occasion of fostering them.

He did not want for opportunity. Laura-careless, wilful, reprehensible Laura—had yielded to his persuasions of meeting him in secret. Evening after evening, at the dusk hour, unless unavoidably kept away by the exigencies of patients, was Mr. Carlton in the dark grove of trees that skirted Captain Chesney’s house; and Laura found no difficulty in joining him. The captain and Miss Chesney would as soon have suspected her of stealing out to meet a charged cannon as a gentleman, and Laura’s movements were free.

But it was not possible that this state of things could continue. Laura had not been reared to deceit, and she did feel ashamed of herself. She felt also something else—a fear of detection. Each evening as she glided, trembling, into that grove, he protested with tears to Mr. Carlton that it must be the last; that she dared not come again. And suppose she made it the last, he answered, what then? were they to bid each other adieu for ever?

Ah, poor Laura Chesney’s heart was only too much inclined to open to the specious argument he breathed into it—that there was but one way of ending satisfactorily the present unhappy state of things: that of flying with him. It took but a few days to accomplish—the convincing her that it would be best for them in every way, and inducing her to promise to consent. So long as she was Miss Laura Chesney, Captain Chesney’s obstinacy would continue, he argued; but when once they were married, he would be easily brought to forgive. Mr. Carlton believed this when he said it. He believed that these loud, hot-tempered men, who were so fond of raging out, never bore malice long. Perhaps as a rule he was right, but in all rules there are exceptional cases. With many tears, with many sighs, with many qualms of self-reproach, Laura yielded her consent, and Mr. Carlton laid his plans, and communicated them to her. But for his having been forbidden the house, Laura might never have ventured on the step; but to continue to steal out in fear and trembling to see him, she dared not; and to live without seeing him would have been the bitterest fate of all.

In the few days that had elapsed since the rupture between her father and her lover, Laura Chesney seemed to have lived years. In her after life, when she glanced back at this time, she asked herself whether it was indeed possible that but those few days, a fortnight at most, had passed over her head, during which she was making up her mind to leave her home with Mr. Carlton. Only a few days! to deliberate upon a step that must fix the destiny of her whole life!

But we must hasten on.

It was about a month subsequent to the death of Mrs. Crane, and the moon’s rays were again gladdening the earth. The rays were weak and watery. Dark clouds passed frequently over the face of the sky, and sprinkling showers, threatening heavier rain, fell at intervals.

Gliding out of her father’s door, by the servant’ entrance, came Laura Chesney. She wore a black silk dress, the mourning for Lady Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/556 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/557 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/558 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/559 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/560 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/561 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/562 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/563 Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/564