|Newspaper Title||Southern Argus (Port Elliot, SA : 1866 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||The Kennises|
( Written expressly for the Southern Argu* )
By Godfrey Egremont. [Author's rights reservjd.|
(Continued from our last.) CHAPTER IT.
' Harry,' says Helen to him one day when they had returnee) from a walk along the river Bide, * I see papa's head through the office window. He's disen gaged, for nohody is with him.' ' Do yon wish me to speak now, darling ?' Harry asked. * If you will ; I — I — do not like to
have anything underhand with him, she replied. 'Don't be angry, you goose; it will be best that he should know all, will it not ?' and she laugh ingly ran away and left him. Doubting as to the reception he may experience, but resolved like Burns's hero to 'do or die,' he entered the office. ' Well, sir,' said the captain looking up from his pass-book, ' what can I do for you ?' It was a nervous moment. Harry dismissed an idea which had somehow arisen of changing the business, and answered, * 1 wish to speak with you, captain, on rather an important matter, if you can spare me a few minutes.' The captain stroked his grizzly moustache, left his seat, locked the office door, resumed his chair, and faced Harry, not easy apparently, yet sul lenly stubborn of countenance. * Now we are alone and no likelihood of interruption, I shall beglad to hear anything you may have to communi cate.' His companion fidgetted, grew red in the face, tried to remember the begin nings of several appropriate speeches composed for this special occasion, made two or three false starts, then eventually blurted out, ?Ah — the fact is, captain, I want you to sanction my engagement with Helen — Miss Kennis.' No answer save a dry * hem,' and an ominous setting of the brows. Hardly encouraged, Harry proceeds, * I am greatly attached to her, sir ; and I believe she returns my affection.' * Have you epoken to her on the sub ject? 'Yes.' 'Then let me tell you, sir, I don't approve of such a proceeding. Parents are the persons chiefly concerned in these matters, and I ought to have been consulted first as to the prudence or otherwise of your mentioning such a subject to a silly sentimental girl.' Harry did not like the tone, and re torted somewhat unwisely, * Pardon me, I only want your consent to our engagement.' * And I only say, sir, that any en gagement made must be subject, in the first place and as a first consideration, to my approval.1 This is not an auspicious beginning, but Harry has made up his mind. ' We consider ourselves engaged, sir.' * But I don't. Pray, what right have you to consider yourselves engaged ?' ' The right which a pure affection can give,' cries Harry getting warm and ex cited. ' Pure affection ? Fiddlestick.' * What, sir, would you marry Helen
where affection did not exist ? The young man was *o hopelessly in earnest, so entirely at the captain's mercy that the latter cools down con siderably, and does not put the matter so peremptorily as he had intended. Taking a leaf from Cremer's book he speaks after this fashion — very calmly and deliberately. * Listen to me, Mr. Harry Kennis ; I am a great deal older than you, and have passed that matrimonial experience into which you appear desirous of entering. Let me tell you that before a decent man can marry a woman, ay, or ask her to marry him, certain things are essential which I don't say you don't possess though I doubt whether you do.' The wary soldier sees the key of his antagonist's position, and continues drily, 'you seem to think the fact that you affect Helen a strong point in yonr favor. It may or may not be so. There are a good many young fellows hereabout who might urge the same fallacy, I believe. But, granted your affecting and her effecting, if need be can you tell me this, sir, will affection boil the kettle?' Such a line of argument had hardly presented itself to Harry's mind. How ever, he was not to be beaten without a vigorous resistance. ' I think, captain, that marriage with out affection is a prostitution of our holiest feelings. True it may not of it self boil the kettle, as you put it, but a man who really loves hie wife would work while he could raise an arm for her, and welcome the labour.' . ' Why, bless my soul, young man, you are ap unbusinesslike and romantic as any school-boy ! No wonder you made such a mess of Mungawungaran gatta.' Harry blasphemed inwardly at men tion of the horrible native name, con signing the place to realms Plutonian, then rejoined, Well, sir, I suppose you want to know my prospects.' ' I want to know your present means. You ask whether I will give you Miss iCennis to wife, and I ask you — being her father — how are you going to sup ccT^ her? Surely that's a fair question.' ? here are different ways of putting -*ion,' began Harry. . . ' it's my way, sir, fair and square. \ '_: are your means? D'ye think
I'd give my daughter away to starve? ' You were not asked to do that.' 1 Prove to me that I am not.1 'Do you think I would let her starve — She wfcom I love heart and soul ?' ' Can't you answer me? What are your means ? 'To be frank, captain,' says Harry desperately, ' my circumstances are not in so good a position as they might be, but my intention is to work at anything suitable I can get, so as to support a wife properly.' * I 6ee, sir — you have squandered all the money your aunt was foolish enough to give you.3 ' Not all, captain,' rather proudly ; * I hare three hundred promoters' shares in the ' Oxide. ' ' What do you think they are worth ? sarcantically. ' Cremer says they ought to ba worth ten pounds a piece with a little more spent on the property.* ' I have three thousand of the 6ame shares, and, as a matter of fact, know their value is not twopence. The Com pany is to be wound up.' ? Cremer did not tell you that ?' says Harry disconBerted. ' It has only just been decided on. The shares are quite worthless, and the means you propose for the support of a wife are decidedlv insufficient.'
'Surely, sir, you will not forget,' pleads Harry, ' that I may inherit a considerable property from my aunt.' He hates himself for saying this, but money seems to be the only thing which touches the mercenary of dragon op posite. ' Yes, if she really has made a will in your favour, and, having done so, does not alter it, or turn the property into cash, or get married, or live a few score years after you. Pretty speculation to keep a wife on indeed, and please recol lect that my daughter is used to be longings of gentility. How could you provide these ?' ' Will you not consider Helen's hap pinesh ? are her feelings to the altogether sacrificed ?' ' Sir,' the captain returns stiffly cor rective, lMiss Kermis, being a good daughter, will not allow her feelings to interfere with any answer I may make as regards your pretensions.' ( At least yon can give me the hope that if at any future time I present my self to you possessed of sufficient fortune to satisfy your demands you will consent to our union ?' ' If you repeat your offer when in a properly marriageable position the affair may wear a different aspect Meanwhile that period probably being very remote, you will refrain from seeing my daugh ter, and personally, I forbid you the house.' ' I will promise nothing 1' cries Harry resolutely. * Very well, Mr. Harry Kennis, very well ! Further conversation is quite useless. Good afternoon.' And the captain rose, pointed to the door ; which Harry quickly unlocked. ' Good afternoon, Captain Kennis' he said, ' Who could imagine that you and I are the only two Hampshire Kennises in Australia ? Then be went. Bewildered and miserable Harry reached his lodging, and there found a letter awaiting him. It was from Mr. John Cremer, couched in curt legal phraseology demanding payment of over due promissory-note for twenty-five pounds with interest thereon, and stating unless same were paid by twelve o'clock noon, to-morrow, a summons would be issued without further notice. ' What an idiot I have been to trust that scoundrel and his infernal ' Oxide' ! They must go, I suppose I yet forgive me, if you can, ye who once owned them.'
As he spoke he took a valuable dia mond ring and a heavy jewelled watch from the pocket of his almost empty travelling bag. The ring had been his mother's, the watch his father's. Thev were all he possessed in the world, and had been reserved as a last resource ; though with the hope that events would never lead to such a bitter ending. Soon afterwards the pawnbroker, often consulted of late, readily advanced forty pounds on the security, agreeing1 to hold them redeemable for a certain sum paid within a certain tim*. During the evening Harry sauntered into the bil liard-room, his coat buttoned tightly up to the throat — an invariable fashion with him for some little time past. He did not go .there for a game ; but to arrange for a passage with the captain of a small steamer, which he knew would start for the coast on the morrow. He soon found his man, learned that the * Milwankie' started for Gooltra next night, quickly secured a berth, and sat chatting with the honest skipper en a back seat glan cing at the play. Presently Sam Tyrrell came in and immediately joined Harry. * Why, old fellow,' he said, ' you are as scarce here as bandicoots — your even ings have been better employed. Ah, you've cut me out completely. My chance has gone. You're one of the luckiest men I ever knew.' 'Ami?' ' Are you ?' repeated Sam, noticing Harry's moody visage for the first time, ' why, what's the matter, man ? You look as melancholy as King what'shis name's ghost in Semiramide/ Sam has been enjoying the opera season at Adelaide — hence the classical allusion. ' Sam,' Harry whispered, perhaps glad to relieve himself so far, ' her father refused to sanction our engage ment this afternoon, and I'm going away to begin the world again — make a fresh start.' To he continued in our next.