|Chapter Title||HOME, SWEET HOME|
|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||Clare's Christmas Eve|
CLARE'S CHRISTMAS EVE.
(By the Author of " The Explorers and other Poems."]
" HOMB, BVCEBT HOHB."
"Istretch 1117 spirit forth to the fair hours, the purplest of the prime."
The view from Oalthorpe Park was beautiful at all times, but more especially so in the length ening days of spring, when the breath of the approaching summer was warm and fragrant in the air; when the rosebuds were opening out their pink, creamy white and crimson petals, when the fruit-trees were in flower, showering down floods of snowy and delicately tinted blossoms, and the whole country round was as fresh and green as an English meadow. Then, indeed, it was a joy and a delight that lingered long in the memory to sit in the balcony, to stand on the terrace or wander across the lawn in front of the large, handsome, well appointed honse that stood in the midst of the grounds. Looking eastward, one saw the tills crowned with trees, the radiant sunshine sleeping on their green elopes and quiet sweet cmves, the mjsterious valleys between them filled with deep shadows, and here and there in the vales and on the hillsides, sur rounded by vineyards and well-tilled gardens, stood comfortable-looking homesteads, that had an nnmistakeable air of cbeerfnl prosperity. At these hills, rising range beyond range, standing as it were on tiptoe to look over each other's shoulders, further than the eye could reach, one might look for hours without satiety or weari ness. The still bine heaven arching over them, with now a wandering cloudlet pallid and dis tant as the remembrance of a regretted past, and anon swept by great masses of clouds, full of life and colour and motion, that marched swiftly onward like victorious armies, casting fitfnl shadows fall of subtle pathos and tender ness acrosB the silent hills. Looking northward, beyond the rapidly-extending suburbs of the city, one saw the level stretch of plains which would soon be yellow with broad acres of ripening wheat. But the fairest sight of all was when the golden light of snnset streamed over valley and hill and wood, over plain and city, and lit np the distant troops of shining waves that encircled the land to the west and to the south like a great belt of liquid silver, and where the white-sailed ships coming into havenB of rest or sailing away to distant lands, stood oat with startling distinctness between the great calm sea and the glowing sky.
It was not, however, in a white-sailed vessel that Clare Rutherford returned to her home from her two years' visit to the old country. It was in the great black-fnnnelled swift Lahore, which steamed into port three whole days before any one looked for her coming.
" Fancy papa and mama's delight to find yon safe and snag at Oaltbrope when they come home to-morrow," said Dolly the stay-at-home to Glare the wanderer, as' they sat enjoyiDg the lnxnry of a long uninterrupted tete-a-tete a few bonis after the arrival of the latter.
" Matthew will be quits disappointed that he, too, was from home when yon came. Healways said the fatted calf mast be killed when we got yon safe bick again."
" As if I bad been wasting my substance in riotous living," laughed Glare, lying back luxuriantly in the recesses of a great patriarchal looking armchair, which was her special property and delight.
" No, we didn't think you did that exactly," returned matter-of-fact Dolly; " but I'll tell
you what we did think," she said confi-1 dentially. " We really thought—Matthew and I—that you would never leave that old Dresden again. As long as you raved only about the musio and the soenery we were not alarmed, but when you said you could tolerate saur kraut and enjoy wurst Mat. declared papa ought to look into the matter, as the next thing you would like might be a Count with a rent-roll of an Bxglish shilling a week, who kept up con versation by ejaculating ' Mein Gott' twice a day."
" Matthew no doubt has deteriorated through not being properly snubbed during my absence," said Clare, with a somewhat unsuccessful attempt
at a frown.
" What sort of passengers came out, Clare ? Were there any on board you knew besides the Chardingles and the Listons?" asked Dolly pre sently.
" None that I knew till I met them on the Lahore," returned Clare with a faint colour rising in her faoe. "The passengers, with one or two exceptions, were the average set one meets travelling. There was the large over dressed, bejewelled woman, who slights the aspirate, and holds you like the 'Ancient Mariner' till she has told the tale of her first and second 'usband; there was the lively widow, who dresseB with exquisite taste, gets up tender confidences with half a dozen men, and is mistrusted by her own sex. There was a Melbourne family, who indulged in loud recolleotions of sweet inter course with the British aristocracy, and would have been regarded by unsuspecting souls as people of distinction had not another passenger, alas, deposed that the wealth of the family was chiefly due to pawnbroking—but there, enough of such gossip. It is awf idly nice to be at home once more," broke off Clare, looking round her room with affectionate recognition at the pic tures—radiant summer landscapes, for the most part, with white and goldf rames—at the pale blue hangings with cunning touches of dead gold in them; the low easy chairs, the thick carpet with its deep harmonious shades, and the fleecy white long-haired mats lying before couoh and easy chairs, inviting you sociably to bury your feet in them, and forget all weary pilgrimages.
Dolly looked at her sister as she leant back in the deep easy chair, in her oreamy French cash mere, with soft lace falling about her white throat and delicate hands; her dark brown hair coiled in thick satiny plaits, and fastened up with one or two scarlet rosebuds and dark leaves.
" What a nice picture you make, Clare," she said admiringly, " There is more rose colour in your face than you used to have, and that soft dress and the dark blue velvet of the chair
make just the right framing for you. Do you know you are really much prettier than when you went away."
" If that were possible say, my dear, and then your compliment will leave nothing to be desired," said Clare with a mock bow and the low glad laughter which came to her so readily.
"Tell, me, Dolly," she said, suddenly be coming grave; "is there really anything seriously wrong with mother's health ?"
"Ob, no," answered Dolly brightly; then, as if recollecting herself—"At least nothing that we need be alarmed about. But Helena seemed very anxious when ahe had palpitation of the heart so much, and so thought it was better you should be at home."
"Now, I said that over and over to myself," ?aid Clare, sitting upright with a glow in her
cheeks. The younger sister looked a trifle uneasy. Poor Dolly in the old days used to have rather a hard timeof it, what between her loyalty to Glare and her foroed subjection to Helena, ;the eldest daughter. Helena, the imperious and commanding spirit of the family, who was always hatobing little plots and nursing petty intrigues to mould Glare into a more sub missive' and irreproachable young lady. Dolly had always been more in sympathy with Glare, both by nature and affection; but Helena was so determined—so desperately bent on mastery —that she had an irresistible knack of coax ing, cajoling, and frightening Dolly into a kind of vagabond allegianoe against ber inclina tion and dawning judgment. When this masterful eldeBt sister married three years previously an elderly and ratber vulgar man, who was snpposed to possess vast hoards of wealth, Dolly was in a measure emancipated. But her enjoyment of the sweets of liberty was short lived. In less than a year after Helena's marriage Glare had gone to visit some relatives in England, and subsequently an aunt in Germany. This was Mrs. Butherford's only sister and the wife of a -German Professor in Dresden, where Glare stayed and studied music, which she - excelled in and loved pas sionately. And thus it came to pass that Dolly had fallen once more under the sway of Mrs. Joseph Hartingdale, nee Helena Rutherford.
" What did yon say over and over to your self?" she enquired, trying bard to look as if she could have no possible conception of Glare's meaning.
" Why, that it might be a little melo-dramatic plot of Helena's to make me break off my musical studies and return so abruptly,"
" Is it such a hardship for you to return to your own home and all of ns ?" said Dolly plaintively.
" Good Heavens! yon are going to be another Mrs. Joseph. I could have vowed that was Helena's tone and look when mounted on her great moral elephant," cried C lare in a voice of comic despair.
Dolly ponted and picked up her crewelwork which as usual was lying in placid folds at her feet. She generally had a piece of needlework on hand that had an invariable habit of sliding gracefully to the carpet, only to be resumed when she was vexed or-felt conscious that a lec'tqre from Mrs. Joseph was imminent. " These birds and flowers are scapegoats that wander into the drawing-room laden"with Dolly's remorse," Clare need to say in the old days.
" Never mind, Carassima," she said, stroking Dolly's fuzzy fair hair. " I'm very glad I have come home, but I think it was too bad of Helena to alarm me by throwing out vague hints about darling Mutter's health, writing mysteriously of the Doctor's 'not speaking openly,' and the symptoms which seemed to threaten heart disease.' Dearly as I loved Aunt Juliet and Dresden, I cannot now wish that I had stayed away longer, but I do wonder why Helena has wasted all this diplomacy to secure my return jlist now."
" Oh, perhaps she was afraid that you would be too much like a professional musician, and fall in love with some musical genius," said Dolly, with onp of those sadden bursts of confi dence by which she usually threw off allegiance to Mrs. Joseph.
" Ob, is that the last enormity I am supposed to meditate ?" said Clare with a merry laugh. "' Concerts for the people. Million prices,' &c.,
" Glare, how is it that yon liked Aunt Vahl berg so much more than Annt Marshland?" asked Dolly, by way of leaving a dangerous subject.
" Tou might as well ask me why I like an Anstralian spring better than an English autumn, why I like hills and the freedom of winds and clouds better than monotonous flats and low-clinging fogs!" answered Glare warmly.
"Well, Aunt Marshland and the girls always seem very nice, to judge by their letters. I am sure annt is a very good woman," said Dolly,
" Yea, of course—good to excess, with the kind of virtue that gives coals, and recipes for eternal salvation, with an ungrudging hand, but narrow and conventional to an extent that makes all the little demons odo has cast out return with endleBS processions of big demons. 1 Ob! my soul, praise Thou the Lord!' she says so solemnly in her pew on Sunday. You would never imagine she was thanking God so de voutly for six hnndred a year, a bad collection of foreign pictures, and two daughters even more prosaic than herself."
"Glare, you are too exacting," ssid the younger sister, laughing. " I really don't think a very prosaic person would write such letters ss Aunt Marshland sends papa—about politics and charity and the High Church and things."
" But then, you see, you never lived with her for five months," returned Glare, with the calm assurance ef superior knowledge. " I have seen the very rose-buds that were near her grow stout and commonplace in half an hour. You may laugh, but it's true nevertheless. They puff out, and get a look of dull content, as if they thought,' How much better it is to be in here, where there is a plump sham Madonna on tbe wall, sage green chairs about, and a warm atmosphere redolent of Ess bouquet, than to be out in the fresh cold air, with big stupid clouds floating about in the sky, and little birds singing to the east and to tbe west, without a mission or useful purpose in life!'"
"Oh, Glare, I do believe you're worse than ever," said Dolly, with a look of amusing re proof on her pretty rosy face. "At any rate, I'll be able to see for myself when I go to Eng land. I told you in my last letter, didn't f, that George and I are going fork trip as soon as we are married. We are going by Fraucisoo; won't it be delightful. We are both going to keep journals and illustrate them. But if there is anything extraordinary, I must get George to draw it for me. You know I draw faces, and birds, and flowers, and insects better than any thing else."
" Well, perhaps Providence will be kind and send Bhoals of butterflies round you on yoar travels, and then George will have to come to you for help," said Glare gravely.
"Glare, 1 hope you will like George better than you used to," said Dolly, a little eeverely.
"Why, child, I always liked George very well. What put it into your head that I
"Oh, I remember you used to laugh at his verses, and say they were like primeval reptiles, with an uncertain number of feetj."
" Did I really say that?" said Glare remorse fully. "But then you know, dear, one may laugh at a man's verses and even opinions with out any feeling of dislike."
"I wonder what your lover will be like when yon condescend to nave one," said Dolly, looking at her sister critically. In Glare's face these simple words wrought a curious change. Over brow and cheek an impetuous overwhelming colour mounted and deepened; the mebile lips quivered, 8hd the long thick lashes drooped persistently^ The whole face glowed with colour and feeling. Now the most remarkable characteristic of Glare Butherford's face was that though capable of swiftly varying expression, it would often remain for hours almost impassive. Unless stirred by s)me emotion, the fair clear cat face, the large dark steady eyes, and the sweet somewhat pensive month would remain quietly unchanged. The merest stranger, therefore, would have been struck with the sadden deepening of egression,
the vivid flash of colour, end the obstinately lowered eyes. As for Dolly, these signals of confaBion were simply " confirmation strong as Holy Writ."
"Glare, yon mean Sphinx!" she cried, and then paused, feeling that the English language was hopelessly barren of words that could fitly describe the sisterly defection of a girt who
would for four hour conceal such a secret. " Clare, you are engaged, and you have been spieakiDg to me all this time without telling
"No, I am not engaged," answered Glare slowly.
" Ob, you are married, I suppose, and never even sent us a morsel of wedding cake, nor wrote for your mother's and father's consent, let alone Helena's. Did you find him frightfully com monplace, and leave him .after a few weeks?1' asked Dolly, calmly. "Or perhaps you have him wrapped up in wadding along with the blue china howls, so that he might not bore you"
" Dolly, if you are such a plague I'll tell you nothing at all," said Glare; and if the truth must be told, this is what she would like to have done. She would like to have folded the sweet secret in her innermost heart a little longer, as a dove protects her young with sheltering wings from eaoh cold breath and careless passtr
" But who is he ? What is his'name ? When shall we see him ?"
" Oh, Dolly, you are worse than a Professorial Board, Even they would not expect one to answer three questions at once. Well, he is a clergyman; his name is Harleigh Boxburghe, and I suppose you'll see him to-morrow."
"A clergyman—Oh," said Dolly, in an in describable sort of a tone. " Is he High Ohurch with a lot of money ?" she continued, charitably seeking for some extenuating circumstances.
"I don't know," answered Olare, with the sound of suppressed laughter in her voice.
" But, Clare, are you joking ? You know you used to dislike clergymen more, oh far more, than people who wrote weak poetry; and as for sermonB, when you're married you'll never be able to go to church twice a Sunday. Is he very handsome, Clare ?"
"Oh, you must not ask me, I'm not an im partial judge you know," said Olare softly, with a blush and a sweet conscious look, which become her wonderfully.
" Well, never mind, tell me all about it. I suppose you did not flirt with him at first just for fun, and then find he was awfully jolly, did you ?" said Dolly eagerly.
Instead of answering this mild suggestion with a saucy retort or a quick rebuke, as Dolly expected, Olare looked desperately grave, if not pained, and remained silent.
" But goon, tell me from the very beginning," cried the impatient Dolly, sitting on an Ottoman at Glare's feet. "When did you first speak? How long were you on board before you became
"About two weeks. Harleigh had a cousin with him who came out for his health. Two or three days after we sailed this young man— Patrick Dunstan is his name—had an attack of hemorrhage of the lnngs. Harleigh was with him constantly till he was better. A short time after Mr. Dunstan was able to come on deck he was ly ing one day on a stretcher, and Harleigh read to him. After a while Mr. Dunstan fell asleep, and then Harleigh left him and went below. While he was away Mr. Dqnstan awoke. He half sat np, and looked around as if in want of some thing. I was sitting near, and I went and asked him if I could do anything for him. He com plained of thirst, so I got a glass of water for him, and then sat down beside him. I had
volnme of Heine's works which I had been reading. He said he had only Heine's poems, and knew nothing of his prose'works. So I read a few extracts, which amused him very much, especially that malevolent little passage in which Heine asserts that he is a man of pure and simple tastes, and goes on to say that he would like to live in a humble cottage in the quiet country, where he could have fresh butter and sweet milk, where the birds would sing their songs and the flowers would peep in at the windows, ' and, if the dear Lord would make me quite happy, where there would be a large tree growing before the door with four or five of my enemies hanging on it.'" _
" What a delightful idea," said Dolly, laughing merrily.
"So Mr. DuDBtan thought, and he was laugh ing as you are now when Harleigh returned. He thanked me for looking after ' hie boy,' as he called Mr. Dunstan, who said,' I'm not quite sure that I am your boy now, Harleigh. ' Miss Butherford, will you kindly adopt me hence forth, and come and read Heine to me when you want to do a particularly charitable action?' We all laughed at this proposal, and I then gravely consented to 'adopt' Fat till further orders. Then he said, 'I was very grateful to you when I was so wretchedly ill.* ' Why?' I asked in surprise. 'Oh, because when I could not even bear to be read to you used to play such heavenly music. There was one piece in particular that was grand. Fm an awful duffer about mnsio in general, you know, but this piece seemed always full of a story.' 'Tell me what story, and then perhapr I'll know what pieoe you mean,' I said. ' Well, it seemed to me the tale of a beauti ful little angel who got tired of Paradise, and slipped out when St. Peter had opened the doors very wide to let in some swell saint. This little angel was ambitious to feel her feet on earth instead of the wings she left in heaven, but no sooner had she got down among the children of men than she found what a tremen dous swindle this world is. She nsed to be out in the drifting snow and in storms, by the sea when the waves were roaring, and in the streets full of discordant cries; and in the midst of it all she used to have glimpses of the green pas tures and still waters, with the great white throne of God in the midst. Then the conclu sion comes quite suddenly, and I can't make up my mind whether it means rapture, or rebellion, or resignation.' 'I wonder if you mean Schubert's unfinished Symphony,' I said. ' Sup pose you play that for ub now, and then Patrick can decide,' suggested Harleigh.
" So from that our acquaintance grew, and we became fast friends. I nsed to play a great deal for them, and then Harleigh and I nsed to talk about Germany. He was at. Bonn and other places in bis student days. I was surprised to find bow in a short time I could talk to him so frankly about myself, the people I like beBt, and my favonrite books and music."
Ob, that's because you were falling in love with each other," said Dolly, nodding her little head sagely.
"Ho, it is not that," returned Glare; "it is an influence he has with him. You feel that he ie really interested in your affairs and thoughts, and that if there iB anything he can do for yon it will give him real pleasure to do it. Even Mrs Provost—yon remember the old women wbo had a large fancy shop in Klein
"Ob, I remember; when we went for any thing she always nsed to pull out huge pieoes of Berlin woolwork with Patriarchs and camels and angels in vivid greens and bines."
"Yes, tbe same. Well,I have seen Harleigh sit and talk to her by the boar. The old lady knew hardly any one, and she jnst nsed to beam with delight when he nsed to speak to her, and poor a perpetual stream of talk on him. Of course Z spoke to her sometimes, but I never
knew, what to say after we had spoken of the weather-and the passage. One day after we bad become good friends, I said to Harleigh— ' When I see yon talking and listening to Mrs. Provost do yon know I cannot help wondering whether yon do so just because you are a clergyman, or because you are really interested
"' Why do you think I should speak to any one just because I am a clergyman ?' he asked with a smile. 'Ob, for the same reason that you preach sermons and go to see people who may be your parishonere, whether you think them interesting or not.' * Well, I do not do any of these things because I am a clergy man,' ihe said, ' but I became One because these and such offices seemed to me the best worth doing of any work I was fitted tor. But do you think Mrs. Provost very uninteresting?' he asked. I admitted that I did. Then he said 'I suppose you will think me very humdrum; butl hardly meet any one in whom I do not find something to interest me, to speculate about, or to wonder at. There is always something so wonderful about a human being when one thinks of it, even those pitiful souls of whom no lifting up is conceivable—to whom no beaven is rightly credible.' Some flippant remark rose to my lips, buc there was such a sad earnest expression on his face as he looked across the waves, that I felt constrained to keep silentj The more I saw and knew of him the more I felt that he was
different from any man I.had ever met before. When we talked together be was constantly saying something that made me think about things in quite a different light."
" Isn't that rather uncomfortable," said Dolly suspiciously. " Bow George always sees things just in the same light that I see them. Only the other day we were talkiDg about the altera
tions that are to be made at Pintonl
" Oh, yes, Dolly; but I don't mean wall papers and bead trimmings, and things of that kind," said Clare impatiently. Then seeing ber sister's somewhat disconcerted look, she went en— " You know, Dolly, how selfish and impatient I have always been of a great many people."
"Aunt Marshland, for instance," said Dolly brightly.
"Yes," said Clare, somewhat ruefully, re flecting that, after all, her. old besetting sin was strong with ber still.
" Then do you think that by-and-by you will see everybody in a new light, and consider every one interesting and charming ? Ob, don't, Clare; it won't be half such' fun; and of course there really are a great many foolish and stupid people about. I daresay Aunt Marshland even is very tiresome," said Dolly, struck with dis may at the thought of hearing no more of the heavy pompous men, and the inane, hopelessly common-place women-whom her sister was wont to burlesque so happily.
Clare looked at the eager upturned face, her brows knitted in comic despair. Then she burst into a hearty ringing laugh.
"Look here, Dolly, I'm quite hoarse with chattering; order some tea, and don't be iu the least alarmed that I am going to be a re formed character all in a moment."
"Tes, I'll give you some delicious tea—my own particular brew—and then you'll finish. For not a word have you yet told me of the love makiDg."
" There was not much of what you call love making," said Clare reflectively. " I felt that it was becoming more delightful day by day to be near Harleigh," she said, speaking in a low tone; "I used to wake np in the morning with a strange feeling of utter gladness, because as soon as I went on deck he would be the firBt to meet me, to bring my camp-stool into a cosy corner, to point.a distant sail on the horizon, or some wandering birds that had alighted on the masts in their long journey across the sea. I used to note with a feeling of pride how unsel fishly considerate, how exquisitely courteous and kind he was to all, and more especially to those who needed any help, who were leBs attractive and less sought out by others. But I did not imagine that he could think of me ia any way but as a passing acquaintance; or at most, a friend. I sometimes used to picture the sort of a woman whc would be worthy to be his wife, especially after Patrick told me of Harleigh's early life."
" Is he elderly ?" asked Dolly, her face falling. " No. That is, unless you consider a man middle-aged at thirty-two."
"And he has a history ? Tell me what it is, Clare."
"He is the youngest son ot a uoionei isox
burghe, and when quite a yoang men Harleigh also vent into the army. At twenty-five he got eneeged to Patrick's half-sister—a very lovely girl. Patrick showed me her miniature one day. A few months after this engagement Harleigh's mother and. fiancee went on a visit to some relatives in Ireland. When they were returning to England the vessel was lost in a frightful storm, and not one was saved, except two or three of the sailors."
" How terrible ["murmured Dolly, in an awe
" Yes; you may imagine what a dreadful shock it was to poor Harleigh," said Glare in a low wistful tone. "He left the army, and devoted his life and means to works of charity. Then he studied for the Ohurch and took orders. For the last five years he worked incessantly in one of these dreadfully poor parishes in the east of London. He has a sister a very rich widow—Lady Lisdale—who helped him and worked almost as hard as himself. Patrick, when he was telling me of this, said,' There is a strain of insanity in the family about money. Sooner or later they squander all they have on people who Bteal spoons or live in garrets.'"
" Which may be at once saintly and aristo cratic,but I wonder how it will suit you,Glare? You have always had heaps of money for your self. Perhaps, though, if yon steal things from Harleigh he'll keep bis money for you as if you were an institution; and then, I suppose, papa will endow you too."
"I hope papa will be nice," said Glare anxiously."
"I wonder what Victor Hay lands will think of it," said Dolly, as if struck by a sudden recol lection. Glare crimSOBed painfully, "Oh! Dolly, that's the thing which troubles me most. How am I to tell Harleigh of that episode?"
" Don't begin by confessing every little pecca dillo, Glare. Life is too short for such trifles."
" But accepting a man's offer of marriage and then breaking off the engagement in two days is hardly a trifle," said Glare ruefully.
" The worst of it," began Dolly, and then she suddenly subsided. "What is the .use of annoying Glare" she thought. "But I do wonder what she would say if I were to tell her that no one except our own family knows she broke off the engagement with Victor, and that Helena always speiks as if their marriage were a dead certainty." .
"What were you going to say about the worst of it," asked Glare, finding that Dolly stopped short so abruptly.
" O, that you cannot go to hospitals or very miserable people—it would make you so wretched," answered Dolly, seizing on the first decent substitute that came Into her head.
" Ah! but now it will be different, Dolly. I am snre I could do anything to please Harleigh. That is not the highest motive; bnt perhaps by-and-bye I may improve "
" Glare, you are very hard hit. I never thought you could he so humble. Before this you thought men were either idiots or prigs,
and now "Well, I most put you' to bed.- I suppose H&rleight—I can't think of uo by another came—yon linger on it eo lovingly— will come at an unearthly hoar in the morning."