May Goldworthy; A Sequel to ‘Queen O’ the May.’ Part 3
by Anne Beale
NOTE: This entry is in draft form; it is currently undergoing the VSFP editorial process.
Introductory Note: “May Goldworthy; A Sequel to ‘The Queen O’ the May’” was written by popular Victorian author Anne Beale, and published in The Girl’s Own Paper, a periodical which promoted family duty and proper behavior in middle-class young women. This short story fits well with the aims of the Girl’s Own Paper, and also portrays interesting class and cultural dynamics. The heroine of the story grew up in Wales (Beale herself lived in Wales for many years), and May’s love of Wales is evident. May is portrayed as the perfect Victorian lady, kind, sweet, and always ready to sacrifice for others.
Advisory: This portion contains an ableist slur.
This entry was published as the third of four parts:
ONCE more at Mr. Minister’s pretty house at Brompton. May and her father returned there from North Wales at its owner’s special entreaty. He insisted that there was room for all, and that he was sadly lonely without them. May was truly a damsel in request. Wanted in town by parent and friend; wanted in the country by lover and relatives. But, as we once ventured to predict of her, she was found where duty called. Duty, at that time, lay in applying her talents to practical purposes. Mr. Goldworthy, though improving in health, was still incapable of much work. He painted fitfully, and at long intervals, and was especially advised by his physician not to force his powers, but to allow them to recover themselves. Mr. Minister assured May that he never expected perfect restoration, but May’s faith was stronger, and she said that if it was God’s will, he would be quite himself again.
So she strove to supply part of the deficiencies resulting from their uncertain position. She was told that if she would appear in public as a professional vocalist, she would make her fortune. But she shrank from this, and so did her father for her. She argued that she could not devote herself to him and the public both, conscientiously, since he required so much of her time, and that particularly of an evening, when the uncompromising public would want her; so she sought and obtained some pupils. She also sang occasionally at private parties, where her lovely voice and charm of person and manner won her instant favour. To these her father would, by invitation, accompany her, and his pride and pleasure in her made him forget himself, and become in his turn a centre of attraction.
The artistic house at Brompton also drew artistic guests; and by degrees May not only found herself the admired of her father and friend, but of their circle. We will admit, by the way, that she received and refused more than one offer of marriage at that time of her life, remembering that evening walk among the mountains with her cousin.
Indeed, she never forgot what passed between them on that occasion, the substance of which must be related for the further elucidation of her history.
She and Meredith, at her father’s special desire, wandered forth towards the brawling stream that flowed from the mountains to the town. They were soon beyond the precincts of the town and deep in the wild country that they both loved. As they walked on, almost in silence for some time, there rang in his ears the worlds of her father “Scatter the clouds that lie between her and you, as you will—as you will;” and when they were in the rare solitude of a mountain gorge, not far from the roystering torrent, he spoke.
“Dear Cousin May, I have been a proud, vain, jealous fool,” he began, impetuously. “I believed that your father took you away from amongst us because he was ashamed of your old friends, and feared that you might love us too well. We all thought this except grandfather, and our Welsh blood grew hot, and we waxed angry, and I fear I must have seemed to you cold, and distant, and changed.”
“Oh, Cousin Meredith, surely you mistake yourself,” said May, fixing her eyes upon him.
“I mistook your father, but not myself,” he replied.
“Poor papa!” sighed May, her voice expressing pain. “He felt there was misunderstanding somewhere, and I—I knew it. But indeed, Cousin Meredith, I thought you had too keen a pity for him to misdoubt him—or—or me.”
The reproachful quiver of the voice went to Meredith’s heart.
“Forgive me, dear May,” he resumed, “if I misdoubted even you. Your new world is so fair and plausible that I fancied you sometimes pined after it, and were, therefore, nothing loth to hurry back to cultivation and refinement under your father’s wing.”
“I!” ejaculated May. “What do you mean, cousin? Are not you cultivated, and has not great-grandfather a most refined soul—ready, quite ready, for heaven?”
“Dear May, your words and looks reproach me.”
“Do they, cousin? It is unintentional. But, oh! if you knew how I long for the dear old friends and scenes—how I pray to see great-grandfather again before he goes up yonder, you would never have thought those cruel thoughts, or said those unkind words. And as to my dear papa, sadness sometimes overwhelms him, so that he is not master of himself. It was so when he hurried away from your nice—pretty—”
Here May paused, for tears were in her eyes, and her full heart stayed her speech. Meredith took her hand and entreated her forgiveness. He had never before brought tears to her eyes—never, to the best of his recollection, given her pain. He tried to make her understand that it was pride, and, he feared, jealousy—yes, even of her father; but he saw that her innocent mind could not conceive so strange a feeling in one who had been her hero and friend all her life. So then he told her of a stronger, deeper, intenser feeling that had mastered him and distorted his imagination, and he asked her to spend a lifetime with him in those scenes where their happy childhood had passed.
Let those who can understand our Queen o’ the May picture her sweet and radiant face at such words as these from one whom she had loved all her life. But even at such a moment, when all she most desired was outspread before her, she thought of others.
“Oh, Cousin Meredith” she exclaimed. “You know—you know—how glad it would make me—but I cannot leave my poor papa, and he—he would go, perhaps, melancholy mad in the silence of the country.”
“We will ask him, dear May,” he said.
“No, you must not ask him, for he would at once say ‘Yes,’ because he loves me so,” she replied, with a smile so sweet and sunshiny that Meredith wondered not at his own or her father’s love.
“It is hard that——” began Meredith, and checked himself. He was going to add, “that your father, whom you have known but for a few years, should come between you and happiness.”
“Nothing is quite hard, cousin,” she rejoined, “and all will be right again now that we understand one another. For the rest, we must wait.”
It was late that evening when they returned to Mr. Goldworthy, and they found him pacing the room in restless anxiety lest some harm should have happened to his Madeline. He saw that she was safe and happy, and that sufficed him. He was too absent to make further inquiries, and Meredith respected May’s wishes that, for the present, at least, no revelations should be made to him. But they were a happy trio that night, and all clouds had melted into thin air that had previously intervened between them and the clear blue sky.
And this was the state of affairs when May and her father once more took up their abode with their friend Minister, and shared the expenses of house and housekeeping with him. While they worked at their artistic callings in London, Meredith laboured at his more utilitarian undertakings in Wales, and so Time, with his rapid wings, sped on. Mrs. Everton procured May several pupils at Sydenham, which took her to the house of her kind friends once a week, and enabled her to engage in the work she was so desirous of undertaking among the children of the pantomimes and ballet. She never forgot her early days and associations, and she devoted such money and time as she could spare to aiding those who were struggling into the doubtful career from which she was, providentially, rescued. In this her father assisted her, and they might often be seen in strange and poor quarters seeking out distressed and neglected children or young girls, whose histories reminded them of her own. Thus they became acquainted with many of the sad sights and sounds of gigantic London, and said to one another, even with tears, that they could not, and would not, spend one vain farthing while tens of thousands of their fellow creatures immediately surrounding them wanted the common necessaries of life.
“I cannot feel gay here as in the country, dear papa,” she said. “It seems to crush me when I think of the sorrow and the poverty that cannot be cured. At Derwen everyone helped one another, and the fresh air and the birds and streams comfort us; but here, were the poor live, it is so close and dark that it must stifle them.”
“God is everywhere, my darling,” sighed Goldworthy; “and He knows—He knows! He even restored you to me, sinner that I am.”
“And under Him, we owe it to the great Welsh choir, dear papa. But for that I should not have come to London, and Mr. Minister would not have recognised my shock head,’ said May, laughing merrily.
“Yet my Madeline loves her wild Wales best!” sighed the father. “When did you hear last from Cousin Meredith?”
“Only a few days ago, dear papa. He was then at Glenpant, and said great-grandfather had actually been staying two whole days with Uncle Laban.”
“He is so bright and cheerful that it is a pleasure to be with him, my darling. Had he remained at home I should not have had a melancholy fit.”
“A poor compliment to me, sir!” said May, shaking her pretty head in affected displeasure, while she felt a strange hopefulness at her heart.
But hopes and fears, plans and counterplans were suddenly stayed by the serious illness of Mr. Goldworthy. He had been overworking. We have said that his labours were fitful as were his moods. He had begun a large picture from sketches taken abroad, and both his own will and May’s were bent on its completion. Minister alone warned them to “take it easy.” But in this instance his warnings were unheeded, and, as he was much from home, could not be often repeated. May was delighted to find what energy her father was able to throw into his work, and encouraged him to persevere at all times and under all circumstances. She watched him, read to him, sang to him while he was at work, as she had done during the progress of that first successful picture; and now, as then, he declared that if it was worth anything it was due to his Madeline. It was, of course, to be exhibited, and had to be finished in time for presentation at the Royal Academy.1An art institution in London.
The eve of the last day for sending in the pictures arrived, and it was not finished. He worked, so to say, day and night, and stood, with May at his side, putting in the final touches on the very morning of the said day.
“There!” he exclaimed, throwing down his brush.
“Beautiful! It is perfect, dear, dear papa!” said May, throwing her arms round him.
But those frail arms failed to hold him. He fell down on a couch, happily near at hand, and fainted. May rang the bell violently. She thought he was dead. When the servant came they managed to lay him on the couch and to procure water and restoratives, which, happily, revived him. When he smiled on his terrified child, she cried, “Thank God! my dear, dear papa!” burst into tears, and threw her arms about him. Then she bade the servant fetch a doctor, assuring her that she was not afraid to be left.
“Finished, my darling,” said her father, returning her embrace, and striving to rise.
But he could not. His look turned from May to his painting. It seemed to her hopelessly sad.
“It shall go, dear papa. It shall be in time,” she said, assuringly. “Drink this wine. You have worked too hard. It was my fault. I was too proud of my dear papa.”
Her tears fell into the glass she held, and he smiled as he drank the wine with which they mingled.
The doctor arrived, who was known to them both as a friend of Mr. Minister’s.
“The general complaint—overwork,” he said, glancing from his patient to the picture. “We must get him to bed. I will help you, my dear.”
The kind doctor—all doctors are kind—assisted Goldworthy to his room, and he was soon in bed. He inquired where Minister was, and as May did not know, said she must have some other friend with her, as he could not allow her to be alone. She assured him that she had no fear; and he, not liking to alarm her, inquired of the servant the address of some of her friends. She gave him that of Mr. Everton. He said he would himself telegraph that gentleman. He prescribed all sorts of remedies, promised to return shortly, and went to the nearest telegraph office.
Neither May nor any of her friends had realised her father’s constitutional as well as nervous debility, and she now reproached herself for inciting him to exertions of which apparently he was not capable. She stood by bedside tearful but prayerful. She watched him, and administered the remedies and food prescribed until he fell asleep; and then she watched on, dreading from his evident exhaustion that he might pass away before her eyes. She was holding his hand, and dared not move for fear of startling or disturbing him.
She knew not how long she remained standing by his bedside, her hand in his; but she was herself startled by the quiet entrance of Mrs. Everton. She laid her finger on her lip, but he did not awake.
“Ask Mr. Everton to see to the sending of the picture,” she whispered, and her friend Edith again disappeared.
Mr. Everton was waiting downstairs, and men had arrived who had been already hired for the transport of the picture; so he superintended its packing and placing in the van waiting at the door. This was fortunate, for Goldworthy’s first words on awaking were—
“Finished, my darling. Is it in time?”
“It is sent, dear papa,” replied May, cheerfully. “Now you must take nourishment to strengthen you after so much labour. For my sake.”
“Anything for your sake, my Madeline,” he returned, forcing himself to swallow what she presented.
The doctor came again and Minister returned, so there was a consultation of friends below stairs. It appeared that he had simply needed rest and quiet when, urged by his own excitability and Minister’s friendly anxiety, he had travelled, painted, and frequented society. Thus do we often misunderstand not only ourselves, but our friends. He was now prostrated, mind and body, and the doctor said that his recovery was doubtful. It must depend, under all circumstances, on good nursing, freedom from anxiety, and rest. May knew that the money received for the first great picture was nearly gone; still, she felt that she must put off her lessons in order to be with him always. Minister, though generous, was not rich, and May’s independent nature would fain hinder her from being burdensome to him. However, her faith failed not, and in her simplicity she trusted, not only in God, but in her friends. In a hurried letter to Meredith she told him of her father’s illness, but did not allude to their circumstances.
For two or three days the invalid continued in a weak, drowsy, half-conscious state. The doctor shook his head, Minister groaned in spirit, the Evertons came and went, and May watched and prayed. On the evening of the third day she was swallowing a hasty cup of tea in the pretty drawing-room while Minister was with her father, when she was startled by the opening of the door, and the ejaculation of her name in a dear, familiar voice. It was Meredith. Her joy and her tears may be imagined. He had come to her as soon as he had received her letter.
“I will tell dear papa you are here. I must go to him,” she said, almost as soon as their salutations ceased.
She found her father awake, and watching for her return. The news of Meredith’s arrival roused him.
“Let him come,” he said, feebly, and they were the first words he had spoken all that day.
May fetched her cousin, who was soon holding her father’s hand, while she stood by his side. The patient looked anxiously from one to the other.
“Is all well between you?” he asked, feebly.
“All is well, dear sir,” replied Meredith.
“Then—if I die—you will take her back—to—Derwen, and if I live—I shall—be happiest and best—with you.”
At these words May’s hand joined those of her father and Meredith, and that compact was sealed.
This story is continued in May Goldworthy; A Sequel to 'Queen O' the May.' Part 4.
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25 March 2021
1 November 2021
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|↑1||An art institution in London.|