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Ralph Clavering We Must Try Before We Can Do   By: (1814-1880)

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Ralph Clavering, by W.H.G. Kingston.



A young girl dressed in a cloak and hat, and looking sad and somewhat timid, stood in the middle of the large hall of a fine old country house. The floor was of oak, and the walls were covered with dark oak wainscoting, from which hung down several full length portraits of grim old knights and gentlemen in bag wigs, and ladies in court suits, looking very prim and stern.

The hall door was open, and through it was seen a post chaise, from which a footman was extracting a small trunk and a variety of other articles, under the direction of a woman who, it was evident, had also just arrived. As there was no one to notice the young lady, she amused herself by looking round the hall and examining the portraits.

While she was thus employed, a door opened, and a lad appeared, who, running forward, put out his hand, and said, "And so you are my own cousin, are you? and your name is Lilly Vernon, is it?"

The young lady looked up with a quick, intelligent glance, and answered, "If you are Ralph Clavering, I conclude we are cousins, for I am, as you suppose, Lilly Vernon."

"All right how jolly!" exclaimed the boy. "We have been looking for you for some days, and I have been expecting to have great fun when you came. I once had a sister, but she is dead, and I have terribly wanted some one to help me kill the time since then, though I would far rather have had a boy cousin, I will tell you that."

"I would rather help you to employ time than to kill it, Cousin Ralph," said Lilly, with a smile. "It may chance to come off the victor otherwise."

"Oh, is that the way you talk? I don't like preaching," exclaimed Ralph petulantly, and turning away with a frown. He came back, however, and added, "But I don't want to quarrel with you. Come into the dining room, and warm yourself by the fire, and have some luncheon. I was eating mine when you arrived, and I have not finished. We shall be all alone, for papa is out hunting, and mamma is ill in bed, as she always is. I should have gone out after the hounds too, but I was ill and lazy. I intend to take a trot this afternoon though. You can ride I hope if not, I will teach you; but ride you must, that I am determined."

"Oh, I can ride almost anything. I had a pony of my own a spirited little creature at home," answered Lilly, a shade of melancholy passing over her features as she pronounced the word home.

Ralph did not observe it, but answered, "Oh, that's capital! I should like to see you ride with me though, and take a ditch or a gate. There are not many things I do well, perhaps; but I do that, at all events."

"Perhaps you try to do that, and don't try to do anything else," remarked Lilly.

"Oh, there you are again!" exclaimed Ralph, "I will not stand sermonising remember that so you had better knock off at once."

He spoke in a tone so dictatorial and loud that Lilly stared at him, wondering whether or not he was in earnest.

The two young people had by this time reached the dining room, where a substantial luncheon was spread, speaking well for the hospitality of Clavering Hall. Ralph, having helped his cousin with a courtesy which showed that he was well accustomed to do the honours of the table, filled his own plate with no unsparing hand, and addressed himself steadily to discuss the viands.

Lilly, who quickly got through her meal, looked up more than once, wondering when he would finish and talk to her again. Poor girl! she could not help feeling sad and forlorn. She perceived instantly that Ralph was not a person to treat her with sympathy, and at the best his kindness would be precarious. She was the daughter of a clergyman in the south of Ireland. Both he and her mother had died during a famine which had raged in that country... Continue reading book >>

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