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BY

3L

(HELEN GRAHAM)

Author of "Australian Methodist Idylls,"
"Ne Temere in Esse."



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BY



MARGARET I. HOLLIDAY

(Helen Graham)



Author of "Australian Methodist Idylls,'
"Ne Temere in Esse"



EPWORTH PRINTING AND PUBLISHIUS HOUSK,
218 Castlereagh Street.

1922



CONTENTS



I. The Promise 5

II. The Smoker's Outfit 13

III. The Wentworths 19

IV. The New Home 27

V. The Billiard Table 33

VI. A Sacrifice or an Honour ? 41

VII. The Bazaar Entertainment 49

VIII. A Life and Death Matter 55

IX. The Minister's Plea 61

X. Frank Hanton's Decision 67

XI. Claude Wentworth's Engagement . . 73

XII. The Wedding 81

XIII. "On My Head Be the Consequences" 85

XIV. Norah Wentworth 89

XV. The Consequences 95

XVI. The Letter 101

XVII. Mrs. Ford 107

XVIIL "Your Home is Unsafe" 113

XIX. The Day of Reckoning 123



1702432



CHAPTER I.



The Promise.

"Oh, mother dear!" and Amy North's tones held
a curious blending of witchery and of a central
determination to gain her point; "I do wish you
were not quite so narrow-minded ! Could you not
possibly stretch a point this time, seeing it will be
my wedding breakfast, and, like a sensible mother,
consent to have the jellies and trifles flavoured with
wine? You know Mrs. Leys? Well, when I was
discussing the matter with her, she could not, for
the life of her, see any cause for alarm or dismay
in such a simple and common custom! At her last
evening all the young people were commenting on
the spiciness of her supper dainties. And even
some of our church folks use wine flavourings as a
matter of course. And you should hear what the
Deans, and the Horns, and the Cappers say
about "

"Now, Amy," interrupted her mother, while a
strange cloud of uneasiness crept into her eyes, and
increased the sweet gravity of her face, "you know
how often father and I have counselled you not to
use the world's measuring tape, but to act as we
have tried to train you, and to live up to the prin-
ciples we have endeavoured to instil into you."

"Oh, yes, I know you have," said Amy. "But,"
and her tones were full of a coaxing pleading, "this
is such an exceptional event! And it may be the
last favour I will ask of you before my marriage.
Father and you have always been so wonderfully
indulgent and generous to me in every reasonable

5



6 Cbe Dap of Beckoning.

way. No girl could ever have had more love and
consideration shown to her. And all this makes it
the harder for me to persist in my request."

"Then do not 'persist/ Amy, for my answer must
always be in the negative, and

"Oh, don't say that, mother! You cannot, you
will not be so prejudiced, so narrow-minded as to
refuse me such a reasonable request. Why, mother
dear, you know, after all said and done, wine is such
a harmless beverage."

And petulant tears filled Amy's eyes, while her
foot beat an impatient tatoo on the carpet.

"If you had any idea how such words pain and
dismay me, my dear daughter, you would never
utter them. What strange, or perhaps you would
say 'broad,' ideas you are getting! How you could
possibly expect me to agree to such a proposal
puzzles me. For who knows better than yourself
how, in season and out of season, father and I have
ever shown our disapproval of what you so care-
lessly term 'a harmless beverage'?"

"Then is your decision really final, mother! Can
nothing I say or do persuade you to alter it, just
for this occasion? It seems such a small favour to
ask."

"Amy, believe me, when I say nothing we do in
this life is small. It is big, and fraught with
big issues. So at your wedding breakfast there will
be nothing to offend even one of Christ's little ones.
My mother-heart is strangely apprehensive at your
persistence. You call us narrow-minded. But,
dear, who made the way narrow? Who said, 'Come
out and be ye separate?' Who desires us not to
be conformed to this world with its alluring
changing fashions?"

"Well, mother, I suppose if YOU say it is wrong
it IS wrong, and that ends it."



Cfte Dap of Reckoning* *

But her forehead wrinkled with lines of vexation
and disappointment.

"It is not what I say, or what father says, that
decides whether this or that is wrong, Amy; but it
is what God says. And as for what the Deans and
the Leys do, remember our Example is not on this
earth. To toy with temptation is both unworthy
and dangerous."

"What a strange channel our conversation has
drifted into," said Amy. "It threatens to become
quite a theological discussion between the wife of a
local preacher and a Sunday school teacher," and
she laughed lightly.

"Very often have I thanked God you are a
teacher in the Sunday school, Amy; but, dear, I
sometimes wonder " and she paused irresolutely.

"Go on, mother; you wonder what?"

"Well, I hesitate to express my fears, dear, for I
do not wish to hurt you in any way, especially at
what may be our last confidential talk. But I do
want to be faithful. And you must not feel pained
when I say I have often wondered if you ever
taught the scholars anything more than the histori-
cal setting of the lessons, instead of the great and
vital facts."

"Oh, mother!" and Amy's tones rang with indig-
nation and dismay. "That is surely too severe!
Why, last Sunday my class had quite a learned dis-
cussion on the effect of death on memory. And yet
you, my mother, reflect on my teaching. Really "

"My dear daughter, doubly dear to me, now that
I am so soon to part with you, the last of my child-
ren, it is just because I am your mother, I have
courage to thus voice my fears. I have sometimes
asked myself if father and I really did our 'best'
for you by making your path in life so easy and
pleasant. In these latter days God has blest us so
wonderfully in our basket and in our store, that it



8 C!)c Dap of Beckoning,

seemed only right and natural to afford you many
advantages which never fell to the lot of your
brothers and sisters. You were sent to a boarding
school, and mixed with those whose social position
was really above your own, and "

"And very thankful I am to you, dear mother,
for sending me to Fieldham, for it was there I got
to know Maud Harcourt, and when visiting at her
home, met my Arthur. And I am sure he satisfies
both of you, doesn't he, dear?"

"Yes, Amy, so far as we can judge, he certainly
does seem to be a fine steady young man, and we
both think you are highly favoured to have won his
love. But we know so little of him, and we wish
you could have made your future home nearer ours,
instead of removing to far-away Kingsland."

"I suppose you still want to counsel and watch
over your 'broad-minded' daughter, don't you,
mother ? ' '

"No, not exactly. But I confess I am over-
anxious when I think of your besetting weakness!"

"Well, I declare! I am quite anxious to know
what it is. But perhaps the number is legion!"
And Amy's laugh rippled merrily as she waited
expectantly.

Not immediately was the reply forthcoming.
And when at length Mrs. North spoke, her words
were strangely grave and impressive as she said,
"Ask your own heart, my daughter. Let it speak
on this matter."

' ' But my heart is perversely silent ! And as for
appealing for information on the subject to Arthur
well, that would be worse than useless. For he
sees absolutely no faults in his 'terrestrial angel,'
as he calls me the infatuated fellow ! So it
devolves upon you, mother mine, to tell me the 'be-
setting weakness' which is so patent to you, and is
causing you so much maternal apprehension."



C!)e Dap of Beckoning,



9



Placing her hand caressingly on the beautiful hair,
and looking into the eyes so full of quizzical
laughter, Mrs. North said softly and tenderly,
"Your besetting weakness, my dear daughter, is a
great desire for popularity ! You will ever follow
the fashion, rather than dare to stand alone. And
I sometimes fear where such a weakness may lead
you. And so there is one thing I feel impelled to
impress upon you to-night."

"Why, mother, how earnest and strange your
words are! And how grave you look. And what
a sermonette I have had, all because I desired to
have some spicy wine flavourings at my marriage
breakfast ! To hear you talk, one would think I was
on the downward road to destruction, which all con-
clusively proves what I said at the beginning of our
chat, and that is, you really are, well, just a little
bit prejudiced in your opinions; and yes, I will say
it again, for I really believe it narrow-minded and
groovy! But just wait a while and you will see
what a happy-for-ever ending there will be to our
marriage. Though we cannot promise to walk
exactly in your footsteps. The only drawback to it
all is, I shall have to say 'good-bye' to the home of
my girlhood, and to my friends, and to this lovely
district. And oh, dear, how I shall miss dear old
father and yourself, even, though you do occasion-
ally inflict a sermon on your wayward daughter.
Still, I know it is all done w r ith the purest of motives,
and in my heart of hearts I honour you for every
word you have uttered to-night, But I shall feel
very lonely at times, I know. Still, I will have
Arthur, and he will have me, so we ought to be
happy."

"And you will both have God," said Mrs. North
reverently.

"Yes, mother, I'm sure of that. But you have



10 Cf)e Dap of i&eckomng*

not yet mentioned what you said you felt 'impelled
to impress upon me to-night.' What is it, dear?"

Mrs. North's tones throbbed with intense yearn-
ing as she sad, "Promise me, Amy, your home will
always be a safe place for all who may enter there!"

"Is that all?" said her daughter lightly and in
tones of relief.

"Oh, yes, mother. I can easily give you that pro-
mise. But what a strange request it is for you to
make! "Of course our home will be a 'safe' place
for all callers. How could it possibly be anything
else? Why, I could almost smile at the absurdity
shall I call it? of your request. I really thought
you were going to ask me something very signifi-
cant and searching, and fraught with ominous is-
sues." And again she laughed merrily.

"And that is just what I have done, my daugh-
ter," said her mother, as she bade her a tender
good-night.



CHAPTER II.



The Smoker's Outfit.

Naturally, during the days immediately preceding
the event, Amy North's wedding was the chief
topic of conversation, more particularly amongst
the younger portion of the community at Bretley.

For, her unfailing good temper, coupled with a
ready wit, and an attractive vivacity of manner, had
made her a general favourite, and her many friends
were quite prepared to rejoice in her happiness.

As Connie Dunbar, who was to be chief brides-
maid, was once more admiring the goodly array of
presents, a veritable joy to behold, she said impul-
sively, "Amy, I reckon the whole affair, from be-
ginning to end, is just a story-book romance, with
you as the heroine, of course. It seemed such a
simple thing that, three years ago, Maud Harcourt
should ask you to spend your Easter holidays at
her home at Fieldham. And behold the mischievous
little god had his plans all cut and dried, and so
there straightway entered into the plot the hero,
otherwise your immaculate Arthur. Of course it
was a case of love at first sight with you both, though
you were only "

"Go on, Connie dear though I was only a raw
school-girl of seventeen and Arthur was a c growed-
up' man of twenty-four! Isn't that what you were
going to say?"

"Something like that! But Amy, was there no
swain in Bretley to whom you could have said a
'yea'? This will be our last confidential parley, so

13



14 Cl)e Dap of Beckoning*

confess right out and without any mental reserva-
tions, mind."

"Now, Connie, don't be so absurd! Why, I have
known all the lads here since I was a wee tot of a
girl, and they are almost like my brothers. So
how could they fall in love with me or I with
them?"

"In fact, Amy, familiarity destroyed romance.
And though for handsome Arthur Harcourt, you
won't 'lay you down and dee,' you are quite pre-
pared to hie away to Kingsland and leave us all
lamenting. I confess, whenever I think of it, I have
a lurking grudge against that same Arthur, and
from the bottom of my heart I wish he had taken it
into his head to Ah, well, don't look so indig-
nant, Amy ! He is yours all right. I suppose it just
had to be, and what must be, will be. But I just
hate to think that the years of separation will gradu-
ally sever the sweet ties of our friendship. For
naturally that is inevitable."

And her face clouded, and her words held a note
of wistful regret.

"Connie Dunbar, how can you even hint at such
a catastrophe? My marriage is not going to mean
my life-long friends are to be forgotten. And though
on account of distance we may not be able to enjoy
our 'heart to hearters,' as your brother calls them,
still we can write, and '

"Amy, I know you mean every word you say
now. But your husband and your home will oc-
cupy such a big slice of your time that even long
friendships must gradually cease to charm as here-
tofore. But don't let us get dolorous over the part-
ing. Who knows what the future holds of dear
reunions and all the rest of it. By the way, how
do you feel about making your first home at Kings-
land? Would you rather have pitched your tent
at Fieldham, where the 'in-laws' live?"



Ci)e Dap of Reckoning. 15

Amy laughed lightly as she confessed, "To tell
the truth, Connie, I am relieved our first home will
not be near Arthur's people. Though Maud is
delighted to welcome me as a sister, still I feel it
would be a very difficult task to satisfy every mem-
ber of his family. So when he told me he had the
offer of a practice at Kingsland, where a sixth or
seventh cousin lives I really believe it is his step-
uncle I felt it was wiser to urge him to close with
the offer. Of course it means we shall both be away
from our 'ain folk,' nevertheless I have to part with
my nearest and dearest, so Arthur is quite prepared
to do likewise."

The two happy laughter-loving girls made a very
attractive picture as they sat in the pleasant morn-
ing room of Amy North's home. The beautiful wed-
ding gifts were on evidence in all directions, and
seemed to occupy every available inch of space.

"I think your present is so expressive of your-
self, and I shall always think of you, dear friend
of my girlhood, when I read the book," said Amy,
as she took up a beautifully bound copy of
Whittier's poems. "I am sure "

"Another present has just arrived for you, you
fortunate girl ! ' ' said Mrs. North, entering the room,
and handing a parcel to her daughter, who excitedly
began to undo the string.

"Steady, child! Take your time! Don't be so
impatient! Here, Connie, you unfasten it, for
Amy will cut her fingers in her eagerness. Her
curiosity is over-mastering her altogether. Really,
the friends are all more than kind. Indeed, we feel
quite embarrassed at such tokens of love and good-
will. May God very graciously reward all who have
so generously sent such rare and beautiful gifts."

"Oh, how dainty, how lovely!" interestedly ex-
claimed both girls, when at length the wrappings



16 Cbe Dap of Reckoning*

were cast aside and the article was revealed in all
its beauty.

"But what is it?" curiously asked Mrs. North.
"I never saw anything like it before. I suppose
it is one of those new-fangled articles the jewellers
devise in order to sell their wares. I guess it will
be more ornamental than useful. What do you think
it is intended for, Amy?"

Both girls looked at each other in dismay. And
Amy began to wrap the article up, her hands mov-
ing restlessly and unsteadily as she said half apolo-
getically, "Mother, dear, don't be shocked when I
tell you I believe it is what is called a smoker's
outfit!"

"A smoker's outfit!" repeated Mrs. North in
tones of surprise. "Then it must really be intended
for Arthur!"

"Oh, no, mother; this is not meant for Arthur!
It is designed for a bride. Such presents are not
uncommon now, for "

"But, Amy," interrupted her mother remon-
strantly, "do you mean to tell me that brides that
women actually smoke nowadays?"

"Some broad-minded women do, I believe, though
I have never seen one do so. But don't look so wor-
ried, dear. I can use it as an ornament of some
kind or other!"

"That you certainly shall not," said Mrs. North
indignantly, "such a thing is accursed! You must
never give it house room. You must return it to the
sender straight away, and say plainly you have no
use for such a present. Smoker's outfit indeed!
What next I would like to know ! But who is the
person who sent it? Where is the card?"

"Here, mother," and Amy detached it from the
offending article. "It reads, 'With kind wishes
for your future happiness, from Fanny Leys.' "



Cf)e Dap of Reckoning*

"H'm! I might have guessed it was Mrs. Leys!
That woman 's influence is really dangerous ! I think
the best I can do is to go straight to her home and
tell her what my views are on the matter!"

"Oh, mother dear," said her daughter in tones of
protest and alarm, ' ' don 't do that ! Whatever would
she think or say?"

"There you are again, Amy, admitting you value
far too highly the opinion of people ! It is not what
Mrs. Leys thinks, or what you or I think, but what
Christ thinks ! ' ' And her voice quivered with
emotion.

Amy looked beseechingly at Connie as though
imploring her assistance in such a delicate situa-
tion. So Connie turned to Mrs. North and said
persuasively, "Let me return the present. You
know I will pass Mrs. Ley's house on my way home,
so it will not be the least trouble. And I feel there
is not much I can do for Amy now."

To which proposal Amy added the weight of her
pleadings, till Mrs. North consented.

And both girls quite intended the arrangement
should be carried out. But after tea an urgent sum-
mons came from Connie's home, asking her to re-
turn at once, as her father had been taken suddenly
ill. And in the hurry of her departure all thoughts
of the present were quite forgotten.

Next day, Amy carelessly placed it in her trunk,
quite meaning to return it when the opportunity oc-
curred, which opportunity never presented itself.
And so it came about that, when Amy was unpack-
ing her household gods, some days after, at Kings-
land, amongst the number she found the "accursed
thing," as her mother had called it even the
smoker 's outfit !



CHAPTER III.



The Wentworths.

""Who said things never happened at Kingsland?"
quizzically asked Claude Wentworth one evening at
tea-time, about a week or two after Amy North 's
wedding. "What do you think I heard to-day?
Now, Elsie, hurry up with your whys, and wheres,
and whens, and hows ! ' ' And he laughed teasingly
at his sister.

"Oh, Claude, how can you be so tiresome? What
really has happened? I'm all curiosity! What
have you heard? Who is it about?" And breath-
lessly Elsie's string of queries came to an abrupt
end.

But her brother was not imparting his news so
soon. He coolly ignored the questions, and calmly
busied himself with the goodly repast before him.

However, Elsie's patience was quite exhausted,
and she said indignantly, "I guess it is not worth
telling, or you could not keep it! It is just an-
other of your wonderful mare's nests, that is all it
is! I'm sure I don't want to hear."

But Claude was not to be drawn that way. So
with all the inconsistency of her sex, she turned to
her mother and said, "make Claude tell, mother!
I'm just aching with curiosity, and cannot finish
my tea till I know!"

Laughingly Mrs. Wentworth advised her son to
satisfy his sister's desire. And even his father was
interested enough to add, "Well, Claude, if you
really have anything worth telling, let us have it,
please. ' '

19



C&e Dap of Reckoning,

' ' Righto ! ' ' said the young man, ' ' the ayes have
it! Here it is a real tit-bit! Are you all ears,
eyes, and nose, Elsie? Old Poole, the solicitor, has
sold out his business lock, stock, and barrel!"

"After all these years!" commented Mr. Went-
worth in surprise. "Why, it must be over three
years since he declared his intention of retiring, and
taking a trip to England. So I for one quite thought
he had given up that idea along ago. Well, well;
wonders will never cease ! How strange Frank
never gave us a hint of his intentions. Did you
hear who is his successor?"

"Some chap by the name of Harcourt, I be-
lieve," replied Claude. "Report says he hails from
Fielolham, wherever that may be, and "

".But it is a big call from Fieldham to Kings-
wood," interrupted his father. "How in the world
did Mr. Harcourt hear of our district, I wonder?"

"Well, dad, the story goes that he is a forty-
third cousin of old Poole 's, and "

"Claude!" said his mother reprovingly, "don't
be so disrespectful! Give Mr. Poole his proper
title when referring to him. You young people now-
adays get into such a slipshod style of speaking.
You really should be more careful ! ' '

"Just listen to the mater!" said Claude in pre-
tended indignation. "Young people! And here am
I nearly twenty-four, and Elsie a good second with
twenty-two ! However, to proceed, Mr. Poole, who
is really step-uncle to Mr. Harcourt, has been in
negotiations with the said Mr. Harcourt for some
time, and to stick strictly to facts, about three
months ago the said Mr. Poole and the said Mr.
Harcourt settled the business satisfactorily to both
parties. How is that for tabloid form?" And he
laughed affectionately at his mother.

"I wonder did Frank know! If so, he can keep



Cf)e Dap of Reckoning;, 21

a secret," said Elsie, blushing as she caught the look
in her brother's eye.

"You may be sure Frank wasn't allowed to even
whisper," said Claude. "Though I doubt if he
really did know till a day or two ago."

''But if it was all arranged three months ago,
why has Mr. Harcourt not put in an appearance
before?" asked Mr. Wentworth.

"Thereby hangs a tale," replied his son. "It
seems the gentleman would a-wooing go, and was
only married quite lately. So old don't frown,
mother dear I mean Mr. Poole, agreed to carry
on till the strains of the wedding march had died
down, etcetera, etcetera!"

"So we are to have a real live bride in Kings-
land!" said Elsie excitedly, while her eyes sparkled
with anticipation. "What is she like, Claude? And
when are they to arrive? Fancy Mr. Poole 's bache-
lor home having a young wife in it ! What an ac-
quisition she will be? Oh, mother, you will soon
call on her, won't you? Why, her advent opens a
whole panorama of new interests!"

"Now, child, not so fast! What hare-brained
notions you are getting ! And how excited you are
about someone whose existence we were quite ignor-
ant of half an hour ago. Mrs. Harcourt may be
of a reserved nature, and altogether averse to mak-
ing new friends. However, time will tell. So
don't spend all your days in anticipating pleasures
that may never come."

"Oh, bother calling on the lady, and all that kind
of thing," said Claude disdainfully. "Whom I am
interested in, is Mr. Harcourt. I wonder will he be
a ' sport ' ! We young chaps want livening up.
Everything is just about as dull and as stale as
ditchwater. So let us hope the gentleman will be
like the famous Waverley pen, 'A boon and a bless-
ing to men.' "



Cf)e Dap of Reckoning,

"Now, Claude,' interposed his mother remon-
strantly, "how can you possibly say things are
'dull' here? Both Elsie and you are just about as
busy as you can well be with church and Sunday
school work. And you have the debating club, and
social evenings, and "

"Oh, don't bother enumerating all the gay frivol-
lings of Kingsland," said Claude ironically. "We
are undoubtedly a pace-cracking set I don't think!
However, don't look so troubled, mother dear. I
guess we are as happy as is good for us, and I know
Elsie and I have jolly comfortable diggings here,
and the best parents in the world, so what more
can a fellow desire?" And he affectionately kissed
his mother.

"It strikes me," commented Mr. "Wentworth,
"Mr. and Mrs. Harcourt will have something to do
to live up to what you young people expect of
them. The lady is to be an 'acquisition,' whatever
that may mean, so Elsie says. And the gentleman
is to be a 'sport,' and an all-round good fellow, and
a leader in this and that and the other. However,
we will see. Anyhow, I don't suppose the arrival
of the Harcourts will affect us in any way, so I am
not going to concern myself about them be-
yond what is necessary. Personally, it seems to me


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