A Strange Friendship: A Story of New Zealand
Chapter XXII. Dolly's Story
Chapter XXII. Dolly's Story.
Violet never got any stronger. Rest could not restore her, for weariness and weariness had penetrated to the foundation of her life. But she rallied enough, after the first, to talk to me at times; and, little by little, we pieced together the sad story of her life.
Do you remember that unutterably plaintive song of Mrs. Browning's, with the refrain, “For now the spinning is all done”? I never think of what my sister told me, with page 215 out some of those lines floating up into my mind—
“But leave the wheel out very plain,
That he, when passing in the sun,
May see the spinning is all done.”
Violet's spinning was all done. Her life, with the joy of it, the gladness and the usefulness that might have been, was all over, and it was the work of the man who said he loved her.
He did love her, as I learnt afterwards; but it was a love which did not gather the flower to wear it tenderly and loyally, but tore it up by the roots.
He had persuaded her to leave home with him, telling her that she should write as soon as she reached Melbourne, and relieve our minds. This promise he would not afterwards allow her to avail herself of.page 216
The police were on his track, and he knew it. The man whose body was afterwards found was waiting for him by the creek in the way which Violet and he were obliged to pass, to get off unobserved. There was a struggle; and whether the man was pushed into the water, or slipped on the bank and fell in, Violet did not know. She shuddered whenever she spoke of this scene at all.
“Richard assured me,” she said, “that the man could swim, and was in no real danger. He said to linger was to lose our only chance, and dragged me from the spot to where the horses he had procured were waiting. In the confusion I must have dropped my locket, but I did not miss it for some time afterwards.
“My guilty secret haunted me wherever we went, and I felt like a murderer for not having raised an alarm when I saw the water close over page 217 the man's face, but Richard would not allow me to speak of it to him. It did not seem to trouble his conscience at all, and at last I could do nothing but try to put it out of my mind.
“I did not know then all the reasons that had led Richard to leave England, and assume a disguise in which I first knew him. He told me so many different stories at different times. But at last I pieced the truth together out of it, and from that time my only hope and longing was to come home to you all.
“Oh, Dolly, I thought I was going to be so happy when I went away with him; and instead of that I was so wretched. We were married before we sailed for Melbourne—you never doubted that, did you? He had promised me every kind of pleasure and amusement I could wish for, and you know I was always a silly girl, and used to page 218 long for more fine dresses and trinkets than Harry could afford to let me have. But I have learnt now that treasures such as these don't make one happy after all. Moth and rust may corrupt them, or thieves break through and steal. You were always far wiser than I, Dolly, and you learnt that long before I did.”
* * * * * *
“Richard lavished everything upon me, but in spite of it all, I was very miserable; and then my health gave way. I had an illness, and Richard began to leave me a great deal to myself.
“Then I made up my mind as I lay alone, with no one to comfort me, that I would manage somehow to get back to you, Dolly—you would not have left me in that way. No one loves me like you do, and it seems I can't do without you when I'm away.page 219
“I used to be haunted by a dream about you in those days. I thought I was standing by the side of the creek, and I heard you calling to me; I tried to answer, but always a face—that face—rose to the surface of the water, and at the sight of it was dumb. I often woke crying bitterly.
“At last I made a plan in my mind. I daren't let Richard know anything about it. I got together all the dresses and pretty things he had given me, and sold them one by one and hid the money. Then, one day when he was out, I left a little note for him and ran away.
“He may come after me, but I hope not. And, indeed, I think he will scarcely dare to venture in this neighbourhood again. Besides the danger from the police, he is afraid of Alan; and if there is one human being in the world whom he respects, it is his half-brother.page 220
“So now, Dolly, kiss me. I don't mind about anything now I have got back to you again and you are taking care of me just like old times. I never was a very kind sister to you; but I think I shan't trouble you much longer, and I know you will forgive your Violet everything.”
She spoke softly from time to time of the journey—a longer one than to Melbourne—that lay before her; not often again of her husband—he had passed from her mind with the sin and the misery that had surrounded him.
Together we went over the old hymns we had learnt as children, and I read to her those parts of the Bible which she asked for. It was a dear old Bible, a joint possession of Violet's and mine, left by our dying mother to her two little daughters.
We had gone back again to the old days of our page 221 childhood. We were all in all to each other then, and we were all in all now. The world outside Violet's sick room faded from us, and grew dim and shadowy to both.
* * * * * *
At last there came a morning when we were all gathered there—Harry, and Kate, and I. This time we knew where she was going, and that the parting was just at hand. The gray change was on her face. I had her in my arms; softly then there passed “Love's last words atween us twain.”
“Don't forget me, Dolly—promise that.”
“Tell Harry to forgive me, and poor Kate.”
Then she forgot them; she lost her hold of every one but me. She clung to me to the last.
“Yes, Violet.”page 222
“We shall be so happy when you come. I know it now. Don't cry. The Master sees it is better for me to go the first.”
Those were the last words upon my sister's lips. She faded softly away into the shadow as I held her in my arms.
Some one came quietly to the side of the bed and put his arm round me. It was Alan. Harry, on the other side, laid Violet gently down, and then I knew that she had gone!
“Gone for a moment, my love; from this room into the next:
I too shall go in a moment; what time have I to be vex'd?’