Chapter 160139452

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Chapter NumberIV
Chapter Url
Full Date1880-12-25
Page Number35
Word Count2849
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleClare's Christmas Eve
article text



Do we move ourselves- or are moved by an unseen

band at a gam*

That pushes us off from the board and others ever

succeed ?"—

'The library at Oalthrope Park was a lofty 'spacious room lined from floor to ceiling with shelves of books in choice bindings. The furniture was of a grave and massive character, as befitted an apartment ostensibly dedicated to converse with the mighty

dead. In niches round the room there

were busts of the great seers of the ages— Shabepeare, Milton, the world-worn Dante, Wordsworth with his calm grand face, and -others whose fame is more distinctly British. Jin the centre of the room there, was a large mahogany table on which were piled reviews, monthly magazines, bluebooks, newapapars, and pamphlets in methodical order. Mr. .Rutherford sat at this table on the -afternoon of the day he returned home, hastily scanning a heap of letters that hid been awaiting him. Some after a cursory glance tie consigned to the waste-paper basket that •stood at his right hand, some lie carefully read and put on one side for further cousideratiou, and on others he wrote a hasty minute, and handed them to a well-dressed gentlemanly looking young man who sat near him writing rapidly at a desk.

In the midst of his work the door was opened -unceremoniously,and, looking up, Mr. Ruther ford eaw a fair-haired fuzzy head with a bewitching fringe of close clinging little curls low down on the white brow.

" Paps, Mr. Roxburghe is here, and wants to «ee you," Dolly spoke in a semi-mysterious and wholly important voice, and when the well dressed young gentleman at the desk looked up ehe gave him a significant! look, which implied that Mr. Roxburgh had come on very special busicess. The truth is that Mr. Temple was in fall-possession of all that Dolly knew about her (proposed brother-in-law. It was a way she bad •of being very friendly and communicative

to tne people bus nsea, auu as ner

ifatber's confidential clerk, or secretary as he <wbs sometimes called, was a good deal in d.he house, Dolly constantly took him in'o ?council on all sorts of subjects—from the iscoldiegs administered by Mrs. Joseph down to the colour of a new bill dress. When her father was absent, and Mr. Temple was supposed to be turning his brown curls grey with care, ?hunting -up awful armies of figures and battalions of depressing statistics for a Parlia ? mentary debase, Dolly would put her head in at

the door as she did on the present occasion, and say," Mr.Temple, mamma will be glad if you can come and drink a cup of tea with us." Dolly Always said this in rather a low voice, as if half ?afraid that one of those grim bluebooks would -rise up in judgment against herself and the young man who left them with such cheerful alacrity. Zt was on such occasions that George Kendall sometimes thought Dolly was a little too friendly with " that fellow." But if ever he said an J thing about the matter "Dolly opened her saucy brown eyes to their

?widest extent and said, " George, how silly you are getting 1 I suppose that's what makes it so peculiarly dull when people are married." (Am ironical "Oh!" from George) "They are eternally talking to each other, and their minds get into pne groove, so that at last they either say ' Yes my dear,' till one of them dies a lunatic, or else they quarrel and pnt an advertise ment in the paper about not being responsi ble. Now, I don't mean to do either. I'll always talk to other nice people as well as you." " So perhaps you'll put Temple in one of your bonnet-boxes, and take him with us when we are married." George would remark sardonically. •" There will be no need for that," Dolly would

calmy rejoin. " There are always entertaining young men to whom one can talk." - " The deuce there are!" George was but human, and the prospect of unending relays of young men .making tbemee'.vr-s attractive to Dolly in' her journey through life was not particularly fosoi

Dating to him, so that he sometimes went home rather depressed and wrote fluent verses in which dark allusions to the inconstancy of woman were not Infrequent.

Mr. Bntherford looked at his letters with a pre-occupied air, and did not at once respond to Dolly's message.

- "Will yon come to speak to .him in the drawing-room, papa?" asked Dolly, drawing


"No; ask him to come in here, Dolly, re turned her father, poshing his unrewl letters' to

one side.

Mr. Temple, knowing that this interview was one which did not tonch on immigra tion or the price of wool, prepared to leave the room. Bnt Mr. Bntherford handed him a letter, saying—"Did we not'write to Cropper Bnd West about this matter "before 1 left home?" Temple referred to a memorandum book, and before he fonnd the entry he looked for there was a "tap at the half-open door. " Come in," said Mr. Butherford, in his distinct, decided tones. Then Harleigh Boxbnrgh stood in the presence of the rich man whose daughter he had come to ask in marriage, and his trained, accurate eyo took in the picture at a glance. The large, silent, soft-carpeted room, with its tiers of shelves filled with the treasures oi ancient and modern literature, the unmoved " faces of the great and wise" gleaming ont from shadowy recesses, and in the centre of the room looking steadily at the advancing stranger stood a tall, muscular-looking man well past the meridian of life, bis dark hair and whiskers plentifully sprinkled with grey, but bis dark eyes as bright and keen, his faculties as vigilant as in the days when be was the cole architect of his large possessions.

" Mr. Bozbnrghe, I believe," be said with a somewhat formal bow. Harleigh returned the salutation and held out his hand. Mr, Butherford, in the careful programme he had laid down of this _ meeting, after a prolonged talk with his eldest daughter on the preceding evening, had not included so cordial a greeting. He recollected this vividly as be clasped Harleigh's hand. Bnt then he had pictured his daughter's suitor as a very different man from the one who stood before bim. "A thin enthusiastic-looking fellow with a nervous smile and a cough pro bably." This, if pat into words, was the picture Mr. Bntherford had conjured np. And, instead, there was this athletic-looking man, with an unmistakable air of high breeding, of command even, witb a frank and dignified bearing, perfectly free at once from embarrass

ment or self-assertion.

" That will do just now, Temple," said Mr. Bntherford, after he had asked his guest to be seated. Mr. Temple left the library with a good Bized bluebook under his arm. This had an impressive air of industry and research, but whether statistics or Miss Dolly shared most of the vonng man's thoughts the following honr we need not stay to ask.

" No doubt yon know the errand on which I have come, Mr. Bntherford," Harleigh said, as soon as they were alone.

"Yes, I believe I do. There was a slight pause. Then Mr. Butherford, who felt that there was a danger of departing very widely from the programme which bad oeen mapped out for this interview, hastened to say with a well-chosen smile—a smile that expressed at once comprehension and toleration—" I believe, as is not infrequent with young people on board ship, where the days are long and there is little to be done, that you and my daughter drifted into—not an engagement—but the stage, pre liminary to it."

A quicK nusn rose on naneigus race. - i ao not know that I would choose the word' drifted' to describe the state of affairs," he said, speak ing rather rapidly. Still that tolerant smile on Mr. Rutherford's face. "However, I suppose it matters little what led to it," continued the lover. •' I love your daughter very dearly, Mr. Bntberford. I have reason to believe that she

returns my love. I hope I am not altogether unworthy of such a great gift, although the happinc ss is far above what I have looked for."

" Is it the present or the future that gives jou so much joy, Mr. Roxburghe ?" asked the father, still keeping up that air of good humoured patience which seemed to say that however absurd this matter might be he was not going to lose his temper about it. From the first moment be had entered the library Kir leigh felt that Mr. Bntberford was not over joyed at his daughter's choice. But the un graceful irony of this speech fairly startled him. Be looked at Mr. Rutherford a moment in silence, and then said with somewhat abrupt directness :

"I have come to ask for your daughter in marriage, Sir. May I ask for your reply V"

'•Seriously, Mr. Roxburghe, what reply did you expect ?"

Up to this time Mr. Rutherford had been playing with an ivory paper-knife. He now laid it down, tbrust his bands into his pockets, and looked full into Harleigh's face.

"I expected that-you would sanction our ergagement," returned Harleigh very gravely.

" Upon what grounds

" I only know two grounds 'on which any father should give his consent to_a request such

ss I have made."

" And they are ?"

"That the girl sbonld love the man who makes it ns truly as he loves her, and that he should net be undeserving of her confidence."

" Well, that is very good so far as it goes, but aoD't you think it rather one-sided ?"

" Possibly it may be, Sir, but I am not aware in-what respect it is so."

"Ah, just so. Excuse me for saying it, but that is one of the disadvantages of your pro fession. You are accustomed to.lay such stress on the emotional faculties that the more practical considerations of a question are apt to be overlooked. Now, I imagine yon will hardly deny that these two essentials yon have named may be comp'et ly complied with in cases where a father's approval would be ill-advised—nay, absolutely crnel. Let us suppose the case of a man poorer than myself, one who could give his daughter nothing beyond a few dresses and his blessing; and suppose that another man whom this daughter loved, and who Iced her, but was quite penniless, proposed to marry her,

what then ?"

"Pardon me, Mr. Rutherford, but you are misstating my case. I do not consider that a man who calmly proposed to starve a woman was worthy of hear confidence, however blindly el e might trnst him."

" Well, put so strongly as that, perhaps not. Bnt then men who rush into matrimony on cothicg a year rarely propose anything calmly. There iB what the poets term the ' glamour of love,' and a sublime faith in Providence as some nnseen power who will in a mysterious way satisfy the claims of the batcher and baker, and keep things smooth generally. In yonr work aa a clergyman yon must have seen a great deal of the wretchedness of this kind of thing, Mr. Roxburgh."

This was thrown in to give an impersonal tone to remarks which might otherwise seem to he made, not altogether for the purpose of elucidating an abstract principle.

"My work aa a clergyman has brought me' chiefly in contact with people who if they are to marry at all mast do so on what yon wonld term nothing, Mr. Rutherford. Do not imaaine, however, that I have been infected by each an example," said

Harleigh with a smile. "I have mo expectation of ever being a wealthy man; bnt I am not dependent on my calling for a living; Z have four hundred a year independently. of it. Hitherto I have spent more than the income I received as. a clergyman among my people.' Now, I suppose, it will be necessary to adopt a somewhat different plan."

It did not escape Mr. Butberford'e keen observation that there was a shade of doubt, of hesitancy, nay, a something of regret abont this admission, and his mental reflection was " This scores one in our favour." Aloud he said, " Of conrse in taking a charge in the colonies you will nowhere find the- dreadful overpowering poverty that is so common in large cities in the old country. Bat to return to the question from which we started, Mr. Roxburgh, I dare say you think it is the money consideration alone" which makes me consider your engagement to my daughter would be unwise. That I do think so I candidly admit."

" I am very sorry to hear it, Sir. In that case Glare most decide what our future relations are to he."

" I suppose," said Mr. Rutherford, you have notmuchdoubt asto what her decision willbB?"

Harleigh'e head was very erect, and there was a glad ligtt in his dark eyes as be replied:

" I have no doubt what her decision will be." A thousand set phrases could not have ex pressed so much unquestioning confidence as was conveyed in his look and tone. This assurance that whether be were ill or well pleased his daughter would be steadfast to the love she had pledged would doubtless have been keenly resented bad Mr. Rntherford been a vin dictive or an essentially unjust man. But be was neither. He was partly actuated by resentment of Clare's p&Bt error, partly Imposed upon by his aBtute daughter, and also, it must be confessed, rather prone to be misled by an over weening opinion of the importance of money. Bat he perfectly understood the lover's lock of tender loyal devotion, and the thoaght it

evoked in bis beact was, " Maylands witb bis blonde moustache and everlasting small-talk has not the ghost of a chance beside this calm mili tary-looking parson."

Aloud, however, he said:

" Well, well, I suppose it is in the order of things that lovers Bhould think they understand each other completely after a few weeks' acquaintance. Still you will allow that I have a right to exercise at least a little authority in

this matter ?"

" Certainly."

" Then I must tell you that I withhold my sanction of your engagement to my daughter for six months from this time. During that period I wish no one outside my own family to know that there is an attachment between you. Tou may perhaps think me somewhat unreasonable in this, but I assure you that I act from no arbitrary domineering spirit."

" Do I understand that you forbid all inter course between your daughter and myself during the time you have named, Mr. Ruther

ford ?"

"My dear Mr. Roxburghe, I forhii nothing. Tou understand that my daughter is of age, and has for some time made free use of her own judgment irrespective of mine. I do not flatter myself that she will make obedience to my wishes a point of conscience in this matter. In fact I depend almost entirely on your accepting my conditions in a fair and reasonable spirit. Make allowances for the feelings of a father—if I-may use the term without trespassing on the

domain of melo-drama."

There was a pause, and then Harleigh said very gravely, " I will not deny that I am dis appointed to find you think it necessary to im pose these conditions. But I am too grate ful for the love I have won to think a six months' probation intolerable; I will even try to think that it may be wise," said Harleigh with a slight smile. Then taking out his card case, be handed Mr. Rutherford two cards, saying, "These are the names and addresses of two gentlemeD, who are old friends of my father, and will be ready to answer any enquiry you may deem it pecessary to make about myself and my connections."

Mr, Rutherford glanced at the cards; one bore the came of Dr. Westland, Bishop of Exeter, the other was that of a well-known statesman. He put them on the table, saying, "lam satisfied tbatyour position and calling constitute a sufficient guarantee as to your personal character."

Harleigh bowed, and feeling that the inter view was at an end be rose. Mr. Rutherford ltd the way to the drawing-room, but before they entered it be said :

" Tou will ot course he very welcome to our house as a visitor at any time you may feel dis posed to give us the pleasure of your company. I presume you intend to remain iu the colony

for some time?"

"Thank you. Tes, I shall probablv be here for some months to come," returned Harleigh as they stood at the drawing-room door.