Atlantic Narratives: Modern Short Stories
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Pages (PDF): 315
Publication Date: 1918
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A collection of 23 stories: The Preliminaries By Cornelia A. P. Comer; Buttercup-Night By John Galsworthy; Hepaticas By Anne Douglas Sedgwick; Possessing Prudence By Amy Wentworth Stone; The Glory-Box By Elizabeth Ashe; The Spirit Of The Herd By Dallas Lore Sharp; In The Pasha's Garden, A Stamboul Night's Entertainment By H. G. Dwight; Little Selves By Mary Lerner; The Failure By Charles Caldwell Dobie; Business Is Business By Henry Seidel Canby; Nothing By Zephine Humphrey; A Moth Of Peace By Katharine Fullerton Gerould; In No Strange Land By Katharine Butler; Little Brother By Madeleine Z. Doty; What Road Goeth He? By F. J. Louriet; The Clearer Sight By Ernest Starr; The Garden Of Memories By C. A. Mercer; The Clearest Voice By Margaret Sherwood; The Marble Child By E. Nesbit; The One Left By E. V. Lucas; The Legacy Of Richard Hughes By Margaret Lynn; Of Water And The Spirit By Margaret Prescott Montague; Mr. Squem By Arthur Russell Taylor; and, Biographical And Interpretative Notes.
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Young Oliver Pickersgill was in love with Peter Lannithorne's daughter. Peter Lannithorne was serving a six-year term in the penitentiary for embezzlement.
It seemed to Ollie that there was only one right-minded way of looking at these basal facts of his situation. But this simple view of the matter was destined to receive several shocks in the course of his negotiations for Ruth Lannithorne's hand. I say negotiations advisedly. Most young men in love have only to secure the consent of the girl and find enough money to go to housekeeping. It is quite otherwise when you wish to marry into a royal family, or to ally yourself with a criminal's daughter. The preliminaries are more complicated.
Ollie thought a man ought to marry the girl he loves, and prejudices be hanged! In the deeps of his soul, he probably knew this to be the magnanimous, manly attitude, but certainly there was no condescension in his outward bearing when he asked Ruth Lannithorne to be his wife. Yet she turned on him fiercely, bristling with pride and tense with over-wrought nerves.
'I will never marry any one,' she declared, 'who doesn't respect my father as I do!'
If Oliver's jaw fell, it is hardly surprising. He had expected her to say she would never many into a family where she was not welcome. He had planned to get around the natural objections of his parents somehow—the details of this were vague in his mind—and then he meant to reassure her warmly, and tell her that personal merit was the only thing that counted with him or his. He may have visualized himself as wiping away her tears and gently raising her to share the safe social pedestal whereon the Pickersgills were firmly planted. The young do have these visions not infrequently. But to be asked to respect Peter Lannithorne, about whom he knew practically nothing save his present address!
'I don't remember that I ever saw your father, Ruth,' he faltered.
'He was the best man,' said the girl excitedly, 'the kindest, the most indulgent.—That's another thing, Ollie. I will never marry an indulgent man, nor one who will let his wife manage him. If it hadn't been for mother—' She broke off abruptly.
Ollie tried to look sympathetic and not too intelligent. He had heard that Mrs. Lannithorne was considered difficult.
'I oughtn't to say it, but can't explain father unless I do. Mother nagged; she wanted more money than there was; she made him feel her illnesses, and our failings, and the overdone beefsteak, and the under-done bread,—everything that went wrong, always, was his fault. His fault—because he didn't make more money. We were on the edge of things, and she wanted to be in the middle, as she was used to being. Of course, she really hasn't been well, but I think it's mostly nerves,' said Ruth, with the terrible hardness of the young. 'Anyhow, she might just as well have stuck knives into him as to say the things she did. It hurt him—like knives, I could see him wince—and try harder—and get discouraged—and then, at last—' The girl burst into a passion of tears.
Oliver tried to soothe her. Secretly he was appalled at these squalid revelations of discordant family life. The domestic affairs of the Pickersgills ran smoothly, in affluence and peace. Oliver had never listened to a nagging woman in his life. He had an idea that such phenomena were confined to the lower classes.
'Don't you care for me at all, Ruth?'
The girl crumpled her wet handkerchief. 'Ollie, you're the most beautiful thing that ever happened—except my father. He was beautiful, too; indeed, indeed, he was. I'll never think differently. I can't. He tried so hard.'
All the latent manliness in the boy came to the surface and showed itself.
'Ruth, darling, I don't want you to think differently. It's right for you to be loyal and feel as you do. You see, you know, and the world doesn't. I'll take what you say and do as you wish. You mustn't think I'm on the other side. I'm not. I'm on your side, wherever that is. When the time comes I'll show you. You may trust me, Ruth.'
He was eager, pleading, earnest. He looked at the moment so good, so loving and sincere, that the girl, out of her darker experience of life, wondered wistfully if it were really true that Providence ever let people just live their lives out like that—being good, and prosperous, and generous, advancing from happiness to happiness, instead of stubbing along painfully as she felt she had done, from one bitter experience to another, learning to live by failures.
It must be beautiful to learn from successes instead, as it seemed to her Oliver had done. How could any one refuse to share such a radiant life when it was offered? As for loving Oliver, that was a foregone conclusion. Still, she hesitated.
'You're awfully dear and good to me, Ollie,' she said. 'But I want you to see father. I want you to go and talk to him about this, and know him for yourself. I know I'm asking a hard thing of you, but, truly, I believe it's best. If he says it's all right for me to marry you, I will—if your family want me, of course,' she added as an afterthought.
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