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Atlantic Narratives: Modern Short Stories

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THE PRELIMINARIES



BY CORNELIA A. P. COMER



I



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.
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