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What a Man Wills   By: (1857-1917)

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What a Man Wills, by Mrs George de Horne Vaizey.




The New Year festivities were over; in the hall of the old country Manor the guests had danced and sung, had stood hand in hand in a widening circle, listening to the clanging of bells in the church tower near by. Now, with much hooting and snorting of motors, the visitors from afar had departed to their homes, and the members of the house party had settled themselves by the log fire for the enjoyment of a last chat.

There were eleven people left around the fire, counting the host and hostess, four men, and five girls, all young, as youth is counted in these days, the women averaging about twenty four or five, the men a few years older, and in the mellow light of the fire, and of the massed candles in the old brass sconces on the walls, they looked a goodly company. They belonged, it was easy to see, to the cultured classes; whatever might be their means or present position, these people had been born of gentlefolks, had been educated according to the traditions of their kind, and were equipped with the weapons of courtesy and self control, which had descended to them as a heritage from those passed and gone. Mentally, they might be guilty of anger and impatience; mentally, they might rage and storm that was their own business, and concerned no one but themselves; in the presence of their fellow creatures they could be trusted to present a smiling front.

There are occasions, however, when the most reserved natures are tempted to unclose, and of these the opening of the New Year is surely the most seductive. When the guests have departed, and the laughter is stilled, when for a last half hour men and women sit quietly over the fire, there arises in the mind a consciousness of severance with the past, a sense of newness, which is not untouched with awe.

A new year has opened what will it bring? What gifts, what losses, lie awaiting in its lap? When its last hour trembles away on the striking of a deep twelfth chime, what will happen to me? Where shall I be? In the language, the consciousness of earth shall I be at all ?

The tall dark girl, who had borne herself so proudly during the dance, shivered and bent forward to warm her hands at the fire.

"Whew! It's eerie!" she cried. "How I hate new years, and birthdays, and anniversaries that make one think! What's the use of them, anyway? One ambles along quite contentedly in the daily rut it's only when one's eyes are opened to see that it is a rut..."

"And that there are a solid three hundred and sixty five days of it ahead!" chimed in the man with the firm chin and the tired eyes. "Exactly! Then one pants to get out."

"And bowl triumphantly along the road in a C spring carriage, or the very latest divinity in motor cars!" laughed the beauty who sat in the corner of the oak settle, agreeably conscious that the background was all that could be desired as a foil to her red gold hair, and that the dim light shed a kindly illusion over a well worn frock. "I object to ruts of every kind and persuasion. They disagree with me, and make me cross, and I'm so nice when I'm pleased! The parsons say that prosperity makes people hard and selfish, but it is just the other way about with me. When there's not enough to go round well, naturally, I keep it all for myself; but so long as I have everything I want, I like other people to be happy. I really do! I'd give them everything that was over."

She looked around with a challenging smile, and the others obediently laughed and applauded. It was fashionable to have a new role, and it was Claudia's role to be honest, and quite blatantly selfish. She was pretty enough to carry it off, and clever enough to realise that her plain speaking served as a blind... Continue reading book >>

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