THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
A LOVE STORY.
In the autumn of 1860, among the visitors at the pretty watering place, Clevedown, on the south coast, was Arthur Golding, a good-looking, stalwart young fellow of nine-and-twenty, who had run his yacht iuto Clevedown Bay at the earnest solicitatation of Mr, Burnet, the father of a college chum. It was the holiday season, when most Londoners were at the sea-side or in Scotland ; and Golding, tired of law, was glad of the opportunity of a' quiet cruise round the coast of Sussex and Hampshire, with an occasional look in at the Isle of Wight. Arthur was tired of another estate besides that of law, and his young friend Frederick Burnet, also a young barrister had set about seriously to look for a wife for him. “I tell you what, old fellow,” said Frederick at last in chambers ; “ you can’t do better than marry Miss Wraxall. ”
“And who,” languidly asked Arthur Golding, filliping the ash from his cigar, as they looked over the London leads at the London sparrows, “is Miss Wraxall? It’s a hideous name. ”
“ Yes, isn’t it 1 Golding’s a better : make it Golding. At all events, come to Clevedown, where my father is going this season, and where I am to join him and the family, and where Miss Wraxall is to be as well. She’s a splendid girl. ” So it was arranged that Golding should moor his yacht in Clevedown Bay, and try his fortune with the desirable Miss Wraxall. Frederick wrote to his father, and procured a warm invitation for Arthur; and when the London season terminated, the two young men looked cheerily forward to their next meeting by the sea.
In September Arthur Golding arrived at Clevedown. Mr Burnet had rented fer the autumn a roomy house on a down overlooking the English Channel, whose breakers tumbled incessantly against the foot of the cliff near the summit of which the house stood. To the right of this residence, facing the sea, were various other villas scattered around the coast. To the left was the coast-guard station, and further on, a lofty headland overhanging the Channel, known as Cleve Cliff. The cliff sloped concavely towards the sea, whose waves had hollowed out a cavern in its rocky sides. At the summit, approached with difficulty even from the land side, and from the sea quite inaccessible, an old and tims-eaten railing of wood afforded hazardous protection gainst falling into the ocean. Behind hese rickety rails was a seat, from which the view was magnificent. When Arthur Golding ran his yacht ashore farther down the coast where there was landing, he found the house pretty full, and among the visitors the desirable Miss Wraxall. Assuredly his friend had not exaggerated her attractions. Tall, dark, of majestic figure, and a southern type of beauty, almost startling in the suddenness with which it fascinated the beholder, hers was the loveliness most splendid when at its dawn, but apt to wane as soon as maturity is reached. The black bands and coils of her hair roofed a brow singularly white for so irune a beauty ; but the chief expression lay in the eyes —dark eyes that blazed rath exilian lighted at the merest approach of excitement—eyes which were most lovely but might be terrible. A strong and passionate nature was revealed by glimpses in the quick waking of those eyes. A nature which could evidently love ardently, and might hate fatally. “Your friend—Miss Wraxall, I think you call her—is remarkably handsome,” said Arthur to his hostess the evening of his arrival.
“ Clara ? Yes, Clara is generally admired and used to admiration,” answered Mrs. Burnet. “You know she is not only handsome and clever, but rich. To do her justice, though, admiration has not spoiled her. I think she is utterly indifferent alike to flattery and devotion. ” “Money has spoiled her, of course,” thought Golding, “as it does most women. She regards all men as mercenary who approach her with a civil word. It’s plain my plan, supposing I cared to go in for Frederick’s absurd suggestion, would be to adopt the reverse of civility. That is, if I wanted to make an impression. But I must study her a little first.” Whatever course his study might lead him to, it is certain ho put his plan into immediate operation. He was barely civil to Miss Wraxall from the first. In a day or two he contradicted her openly. He would artfully start a general discussion, in which he foresaw she would take a certain side, whereupon he would immediately adopt the opposite side and browbeat her. All this too, without seeming to pursue the subject, but with contemptuous indifference, which at first galled her and raised her .anger. Then her dark eyes would flash out their rage, and bitter words sprang to her lips. Having succeeded in rousing her, he would apologise and retire, with a sarcastic smile, which told her plainly ( for she was quick-witted at reading expression) that he deferred to her sex, and not her individual judgement ; that he yielded to politeness, nut to conviction.
Now Clara Wraxall was strong-minded in some things, and despised the vantageground of her sex. She liked to meet an intellectual antagonist in fair fight, and beat him out of the mental field; and Arthur Golding manifestly showed her that, as a woman, she was not worth arguing with at all. This line of conduct tvas a new experience to her. She had been accustomed to smooth suitors, who deferred to her in all things ; suitors who were fascinated by her beauty, suitors who sought her money, who were afraid of her wit. But here was plainly one—no suitor either—who cared for neither beauty nor wealth, and who scorned her mind. At first she was piqued, then enraged, then interested. She would conquer this handsome and independent antagonist, this man who actually in her presence dared to call his soul his own. She laid her entrenchments for his subjugation. Once more she offered mental battle, but with a repetition of the old result. Then she fell back on her beauty, and put on her most winning and dazzling airs. But Arthur held mockingly aloof, though lie laughed to himself to see how well his plan was working.
(to be continued.)
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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 98, 11 May 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 98, 11 May 1880
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