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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 218, 16 December 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
PATIENT KITTY. Fred Raynor and I were apprentices together, or what would have been called such in the good old times. We were in the house of Halland Brothers, general warehousemen, Gravel street, city, and a very respectable house it was. There was nothing flashy about it; it was not what is now-a-days genteely called “ enterprising,” a city term, which covers some strange doings, but it did a good business in a safe, old-fashioned way. Its customs were so old-world that the younger of the two partners always slept on the premises, instead of leaving at four or five o’clock at late.st, as others in his position do, for their villas in the country or by the sea. They made their money slowly, but very surely, as all folks must do who have a tolerably large connection, and are always getting discount for their ready money. Our principals were, I believe, as kindly as they were honest; but in my humble sphere I was not at that time brought into much personal connection with The link between them and their employers was Mr. Raynor, my friend’s father, and their head clerk. He was as much respected by his inferiors as he was by the members of the firm, but I am not so sure that he was liked so well, at least by the junior clerks. He never said in words, of course, that because he was virtuous it behoved us to have no cakes and ale, but his virtue was so very patent, and also, let me allow at once, so perfectly genuine, that it not only reproved all dissipation, but even suppressed the harmless ebulition of our youthful spirits. He had also the unpopular habit of applying for subscriptions under the name of “ our mites,” in aid of missionary enterprises, both abroad and at home ; of the discouragement of Sunday trading ; of the abolition of the liquor traffic; and even of the purging of Great Britain from the crying sin and shame of tobacco smoking. We did not mind giving our fourpenny pieces, - though it was sometimes inconvenient, half so much as having to write our names down, as was always insisted upon, injhese charitable lists. He would thank us for our donations in the most earnest manner, but at the same time would reflect upon our handwriting, in which “ he was surprised to find so little improvement, considering the experience of which we had had the advantage during our engagement with Halland Brothers.” At Clapham, where he lived, if not in the odor of sanctity, in an atmosphere of good report, he was president of its Teetotal Society, vice-chairman of its Band of Hope, honorary secretary of its Anti-Climbing Boy Association, and, in short, the working member of all its benevolent institutions. He often assisted them very liberally, considering his limited income, with his purse ; but liis gift of oratory was always at their service, and he poured it out into lecture hall, assembly, and schoolroom in lavish profusion. In those days a free pass to the pit of the theatre was a great boon to us; but we did not so highly estimate even a platform ticket to a meeting in Zion Chapel, or to the Young Men’s Improvement Hall to hear old Raynor lecture. He was most generous in the distribution of these favors, and not to make use of the privileges thus offered to us was to give him great offence. Poor Fred led a sad life with some of us on this account.
He certainly suffered considerably ; for whereas during the delivery of the old gentleman’s addresses his eye only occasionally wandered to one or the other of us, it always made the wretched Fred its starting-point, and generally came back again to him after any peculiarly “pow'erfal” appeal to our “ nobler natures,” as much as to say, “ What do think of that, you young reprobate ? Did not that reach your very marrow 7 ?” Not that poor Fred was a reprobate, but that he had a natural taste for pleasure of all kinds, and did not by any means count the listening to these improving discourses as a pleasure. But at the same time he reverenced h:s father most profoundly, and thought him not only one of the best men alive, but gifted w’ith extraordinary talents. “ It is my fault,” he used to say, “ I don’t like his lectures. Everybody w'hose opinion is worth having tells me they are first-rate. It is sheer stupidity, I know, that makes me fail to see their merits ; but, thank Heaven, I do understand how good the old governor is, down in his very boots.” In this artless manner Fred Raynor used to confess to me his faith in his parent; but the world at large w j as doubtless scarcely aware of the feelings that did such honor to the lad’s nature. The reason of this confidence in my case was that Fred \yas what we in those days used to call "sweet upon” my sister Kitty. Of course the thing ought never to have been " dreamed of’ — only young people have no command over their drearps—Tor Fred had but ninety pounds a year, paid monthly, and poor Kitty next to nothing at all; but they made a fool’s paradise of their own, and lived in it. Freds behavior under these circumstances was worthy of a better cause, or, at all events, of a more feasible one. The frugalities he practised with the idea of eventually buying a furnished residence and setting up housekeeping on a microscopic scale were tremendous, and reminded me of the asceticisms of the cloister. He drank ginger-pop with his dinner instead of Half-and-half, started an hour earlier from his home at Clapham every morning, on foot, that he might save his ’bus fare to the office; and always kept his gloves in his pocket save when in the company of his divinity. To be sure he would break out now and then, as habitual drunkards are said to do after months of abstinence, but by no means in the same way; he would indulge himself by buying some pretty little present for his darling, which gave her infinite pleasure, save for the thought of the sum it must have cost him. But he always'used to silence her by protesting that the money was a " windfall,” and did not affect the great mass of his savings (about La x : Bs. 6d.) at all. These windfalls grew to be very frequent after a little while, and with their frequency (though I did not associate the facts together very particularly afvtls J T noticed that Fred, whqse constitution was always'
delicate.''got to s have a thinner and more careworn appearance. Indeed, I remember saying on one occasion, when he bought Kitty her first locket (and angered, me ;by declining to accompany me to the play on the ground of having no money), that he looked as if he had starved himself to buy it. Moreover, when I did occasionally persuade him to go with me to any entertainment, he not only did not take the same interest in it as of yore, which I could understand from his love-lorne ' sfate,' but he used to fall asleep during the best part of itr,- such as the Ballet,' which I really could notunderstandv-*«Jt* , was* v * bad enough for one’s, friend, to .jfalbjn •. love, but that he should do so with - one’s sister was a double niisibr|un9-, and desolated me as it were both ways, ' t for Kitty and I, being orphans, lived ; ' alone together; and her attentions, which should have been exclusively j devoted to me, were now , divided - between myself and Fred; while, as I have said, I lost my friend’s,companionship. This state of things went on for about a year—quite long enough to knit the two young people together very firmly, and to make me feel Fred to be quite “ one of the family ” —and then the bright little bubble burst. Jacob , M Raynor discovered what was going on, and stamped it out, as though it had been the foot-and-mouth disease instead of the tender passion. l For my part, considering the great benevolence of his character, I thought it was done rather brutally. There was to be a total cessation of all intercourse; the lovers were not even to wnite to one another for two whole years, when Fred ' would come of age. After that, said the old gentleman, if his son was still blinded by his folly, he might take his own course, though it would ne;er have his father’s approbation. I confess it seemed it me that Fred showed some lack of spirit in submitting to such harsh conditions ; for since he did not mean to give Kitty up, and was not in the end to have the paternal sanction, I could not see what advantage was gained by denying himself her society in the mean time. But his sense of-, duty, notwithstanding we felt sure that his employers would have dismissed him for taking his.own way in such a •• matter, forbade that course. He-told me that he had expressed himself very, strongly, though with great respect,' to ; his parent; and that it had taken all he knew to prevent an immediate rupture. “Itis my father’s love for me,” he said, “ which makes him so inexorable, since he cannot believe that my ; happiness lies where it does ; while, as to making me an allowance on which I could marry, it is the simple fact that he has not a guinea to spare, so we must not be 100 hard upon the governor.” ; , ,
“He would have guineas to spare,” - said I, bitterly (for I felt for poor Kitty), “if he did not throw them away upon Ojibbeways and other unconverted tribes.”
“ Well, it is bis own money, Frank,” ; t ) answered Fred, gravely, and bethinks he is doing good with it.” And Kitty, of course, took the same view of the affair as Fred. She worked ' her; fingers to the bone in many articles of fancy work (in which she had a very pretty taste), and disposed of them for such prices as she could get, in order to have a little purse by the time those terrible two years should be over; and though I discountenanced’ her in so doing, I believed the constant employment saved her a deal of fretting. The toil, too, seemed to do her no physical .. harm; her blue eyes werb as bright as' 1 ever, and her little mouth had always a cheerful smile for me that.had far, more! of hope in it than of resignation. Her only happiness for the present, however (except what lay in looking forward) was, I verily believe,, to hear me talk of Fred and his doings ; how the dear creature looked, what he said (and, in the case of a message, even how he said it), and how he kept up under his v disappointment. .; - Now, as a matter of fact, I had very little to tell her; for though of course I saw Fred at the office, I saw him nowhere else. He would leave directly his work was over, and come in the morning as punctually as usual, but what he did with himself in the meantime I could not find out. From certain appearances, however, I had misgivings as to his own course of life; he ' had a wan and dissipated'^aii^afid would sometimes fall 1 ’ asleep over r; his , ledger in a way that seemed to me to' hint at very late hours overnight. T thought it quite possible; knowing his
natural love of pleasure, that he had , r . overrated his own strength of character, and was stnving to drown. his sense of disappointment in the usual manner. Young as I was, and not, I am afraid, of too strict principles myself, I thought it my duty, as Kitty’s brother, to hint , ray suspicions, But Fred asSUredimel * they were groundless. “I have nq heart, my dear fellowj' just now’,” he said, " for any amusement, whether harmless or otherwise, and I,find it best to be alone nnd at : - home.” .. . . ,/ ( 76 be continued. } .
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 218, 16 December 1880
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