Chapter 160139460

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Chapter NumberVIII
Chapter Url
Full Date1880-12-25
Page Number37
Word Count1626
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleClare's Christmas Eve
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Oil the same day that Harleigh received the

Utter which seemed to him like the knell of his dearest hopes, Mr. Hartingdale left for Mel bourne. " He has been called away on urgent business, and cannot return for at least a week,'' Helena explained that afternoon to her mother

and sisters.

" I suppose, Glare, you can come and stay with me for a few days? We can of course spend Christmas here as usual.-'

Glare sat by one of the windows, listlessly turning over the leaves of' a new novel. It did not escape Mrs. Hartingdaie's qnick observation that the girl was pale and weary-looking, with dark rings Hnder her eyes, and that there was a curiously strained inflection in her voice when she spoke.

" Ob, yes, I suppose I can," she said, looking

towards her mother.

" There is nothing that I know of to prevent you, my dear. Would you like me to ask Mr. Boxburghe to spend Christmas Day with us—at least as much of it as he can spare ?"

Clare coloured painfully. " Thank you, mother dear; I hardly think he oould come— he is bo much engrossed with his work, and then you see papa has made it so awkward for both of us," she said, suddenly seizing on the old grievance in her anxiety to conceal the true state of affairs. " Mr. Boxburghe feels constrained to make only a few formal calls, while I have no right to i ncroach on his time."

" What au elaborate conscience you are evolving, Clare," said Dolly, suddeuly looking up from a piece of crewel work with a long-legged penitential-looking stork in the centre, which, judging from the scenery round it, seemed to have, like Columbus, discovered an entirely new world.

" No, I assure you it is in a very ragged con dition," answered Clare, with a forced smile. Then tossing down her novel, she said, with a yawD, "I wonder people can go on writing such trash. It's eternally the same ingredients, with a few modifications, like the recipes for making plum-pudding— a young woman and a young man, sentiment and scenery, another young man, a little mild villany, misunderstanding, reconciliation, orange bloBsom, finis. I suppose I am getting a little beyond the age for genuine enjoyment of novel-reading," said Clare sombrely.

" Oh, my dear, when you have lived half a century you will begin to know what a boon a readable novel is," said Mrs. Butherford,laughing softly.

" Then to-morrow I shall expect you, Clare," said Mrs. Joseph, as she went away. "Bring one of your pretty French dresses to wear to morrow night. Til look for you and Matthew between 7 and 8, Dolly."

" Is your Christmas Eve party to be very large, Helena ?" asked Dolly, trying to decide on the relative merits of a pale ecru silk with scarlet rosebuds and a peacock blue trimmed with ravishing lace.

" Oh, I suppose between fifty end sixty young people,'1 returned Mrs. Hartingdale, as if she attached no particular importance to the event.

But Dolly was suspicious, and a little restless in her mind as to whether she should not tell Glare once for all that Helena's present mood oi unvarying amiability was more to be mis trusted than her old habit of assertive authority and constant interference. That, in fact, Mrs. Joseph represented the ingredient of "mild villany," - which, if opportunity offered, might be worked up to fairly dramatic heights. " Glare is as gloomy and triste as Eve must have

been when she was driven out from the roses of Eden, not but what I think she had her com pensation in getting away from the Archangel's theology," mused Dolly as she watched Glare's weariful face. " She is just the sort of girl to keep any trouble all to herself, like that Spartan boy whose vitalB were devoured while he kept his cloak in graceful folds. Hi just speak to her about him, and see if I can get any


" Don't you think Harleigh must sometimes find it rather tiresome to be so muoh among people like the Barbajers, Glare?" asked the younger sister demurely, taking up her long legged ead stork.

"Hot more tiresome than other people," answered Glare, a little vaguely.

" I suppose I have a very small little sneak of a soul, but if I were a parson I am sure I would prefer parishioners who had {esthetic carpets and good cooks—a congregation like that of our own at Thorleaden, for instance."

" What would he do among such a set of wealthy self-complacent people—people who want a clergyman to preach them neat little homilies on the holiness of self-denial, and then help tb( m to consume their over-rich viands at heavy dinner parties ? He would be no more than a comfortable fact in their lives, like the policeman who may be called for on an

emergency. A parson in each congregations is little better than a well-dressed gamin—* man who earns his bread by posturing, instead of doing red work," said Glare, with a return of

her old animation.

" Ah," thought Dolly, " Glare is remorseful about some supposed iniquity."

Aloud she said, " Well, Olarchen, I suppose we are going to have a.different standard of morals as well as of literature. I like to peep into jour favourite authors how and then, if only for the sake of a new sensation—to be told by Ruskin that England is on the way of being the offscourer of the earth—taking the hyena iostead of the lion on her shield, and beoomiug a field for every kind of sordid, foul, or venomous work which in other countries men dread and disdain. I don't object to be informed by Oarlyle that the world is inhabited by so many millions, mostly fools; or to learn from Arnold that the majority of the British race are hopeless Philis tines, and after being sat upon by Helena no one can be more delightful than on Mill' On Liberty.' Even when your Oomte tells me that Humanity is the only true Divinity I am not greatly shocked. But there is a point at which I alwayB turn sceptical. And just in the same way I decline to believe that a parson's work among the lower orders is superior to his vocation in a church like our own."

"It all depends on the man who has the work to do," returned Glare. "I cannot imagine anything more paralysing for a true man with a purpose in life than, to have the spiritual charge of people like myself and Helena for instance. Who could make us practically realize that our own petty rules of self-interested conduct are not the eternal laws of God?"

"Ob, do you think yon aro prudent like Helena ?" said Dolly, with uplifted eyebrows.

" Well, not in the same way," returned Clare, who could not but be dimly con scioue that she and her elder sister were parted, not merely by differences of tempera ment and disposition, but also by totally antagonistic ideals in life—a deep and irre sistible current in human nature which hag a force of separation more potent than time or distance. " What I mean is that each of us in

oar plans of life has seen tbe highest good in what is pleasantest to ourselves. To have un fading heaps of money, Parisian dreBBes, and be a leader of colonial society is Helena's scheme of the universe. To be a great musical genius; to know great poets, and painters, and cele brated actors; to be bored by no one; to have not even an acquaintance who is not either charming to look at or entertaining to talk to, and to be always surrounded by beautiful things, is mine. Helena has attained her ends. I never shall, and even if I had, I suppose after, knowing Harleigh, I should be constrained to take up a new scheme of existence. Cut just at present I feel like poor FauBt, when he cried that two souls dwelt in his bosom. I—" Glare paused abruptly, and Dolly having vainly waited for the confidence she expected, rejoined with a toss of her saucy little chic—"l am thankful I am not such a complex organism; I am sure I have only one soul. I am glad George is not a clergyman," she added, as if struck with the thought that if he were she might be called upon to develop any

number of souls.

- "Scheiden, scheiden, ach scheiden that weh!" Glare sat at tbe piano, and her full, pure soprano voice, with its deep undercurrent of penetrating pathos, rang out as she sang the sweet and tender German song. She sang for an hour, one song after another—her face pale and rapt, her voice rising at times like that of a "winged thing that cries above some city flaming fast to death." She ended with the fiery, passionate little song, " Neue Liebe, neues Leben," and then hastily left the room.

" I am afraid Glare is not very happy of late," said Mrs. Butherford anxiously.

" Ob, there is hardly any one very happy when one comes to think of it, mother," answered Dolly reflectively, upon which an amused look stole into Mrs. Butherford's face. If theories stood in the place of experience, many mothers would be forced to conclude that they must really be very impulsive merry young creatures, who should learn deep lessons as to the misery of life and the folly and wickedness of mankind from those sage, deeply tried, world-weary women, their daughters.