One Christmas Morn HTML version

One Christmas Morn
Chapter I
e was a fortunate man. Everybody said so, and what everybody says must be
true. Young, handsome, rich; with no clogs to his wealth in the shape of awkward
relations, poor or otherwise. No person very near to him in blood, to torture or to
bless. No father, mother, sister, brother. He was emphatically his own master. Nor had he
any of the heavy responsibilities which landed property in the Old Country always brings with
it. He had no tenants to look after, no model cottages to plan, or model farms to work, on
strictly approved principles. Nor was he haunted with any of those morbid fancies concerning
the riches of the few and the poverty of the many which have made men willing to ‘sell all.'
No, thank God! In these Colonies poverty, though real enough, is not yet so grinding as to
make ease and plenty, by their mere contrast, an insult.
Cyril Horne was a fortunate man. Everyone said so, and for himself he never doubted
it. Very easily, very lightly, very pleasantly had he passed through life up to the present time.
Nothing on which he had set his heart had ever been denied to him. Was it a friend's horse
that he admired, a stiff price purchased the animal; a dog, a gun, ‘favour, observance, troops
of friends' all were his. And when, to crown all these, he wanted a woman's love the
love of the one woman on earth for whom his soul longed it was surely not strange if he
felt somewhat over-confident, and doubted not that this good thing also would be his for the
But Nellie Francillon was not to be so easily won. Her voice shook and her heart beat
cruelly when she said ‘No.' But the word was spoken with decision, and was no mere
conventional excuse.
Cyril was annoyed.
‘Nellie, you are chaffing me you don't mean it?'
‘I do, Cyril; please believe me. I like you very much as a friend, but l cannot marry
‘Why not?’
‘I cannot. Is not that enough?’
‘Certainly not. Look here, Nellie, I love you, and I'm pretty certain you return my love.
Can you deny it?'
'That has nothing to do with the question.'
‘I beg your pardon; it has everything to do with it. I love you; you return my affection. I
ask you to marry; you hesitate for a while in a becoming and lady-like manner. I press you;
you consent. We marry, and live happily ever afterwards. Is not that the correct thing?’
'No, Cyril, no; I cannot, I will not marry you.'
‘Miss Francillon, you are rude.'
‘I do not intend to be so. Please take my answer, and go.'
‘What! Without a reason. I am at least entitled to know why I am so abruptly, so
strangely refused. Give me your reason.'
‘I dare not.'
‘What absurd nonsense is this? What mad freak have you taken into your head? If you
have a reason, give it; if not but, as you can have no reason, you are merely tormenting
me, and trying how far your power extends.’