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Over The Hills, and Far Away: A Story of New Zealand

Chapter XIX. The “Beauty of Kent.”

page 185

Chapter XIX. The “Beauty of Kent.”

When Jeanie saw him, she gave a start and a little cry, and let her apron fall, so that all the apples it contained rolled on to the ground.

Clinton picked up one—an immense “Beauty of Kent,” at his feet, and walked up to her, still holding it in his hand.

“I am afraid I startled you,” he said.

“Oh, no!” returned Jeanie. “But I—I did not expect to see you.”

The loveliest rosy bloom had risen into her little round cheeks, but she drew herself up with a pretty page 186 assumption of dignity, and turned slightly away from him.

The poor child was trying hard to be cold, and to keep him at a distance. She had not seen Clinton for some time, and had been imagining herself deserted. Twenty times a day she had resolved that if he came again she would give him such a lesson.

And now, here he was, as handsome as ever, and she knew she was looking pleased to see him. For a moment or two she could scarcely prevent herself from crying in her vexation.

“It seems very jolly here,” said Clinton, “I'm glad I found you. Shall we sit down?”

Jeanie made no answer to this, but she seated herself immediately. Between shyness and self-consciousness, if he had proposed to her to climb one of the 193 , and sit with him among the branches, she would scarcely have found words to refuse.

Clinton sat down by her side, still nursing his “Beauty of Kent,” and began by remarking that it was a long time since he had seen her.

page 187

“Very long,” said Jeanie in reply, with an emphasis which came very near to being a sob.

“It shall never be so long again,” went on Clinton pointedly; “at least if you don't forbid me to come” he added.

All of a sudden, from something in his manner and the tone of his voice, it flashed upon Jeanie what was coming. She blushed rosier than ever, and down came the great tears in good earnest.

After this it was all fair sailing. Clinton had only to put down his great yellow apple, ask her what was the matter, and kiss away her tears.

Jeanie's poor little attempt at dignity had gone to the winds.

“I—I—thought you were never coming again,” she said.

“But you see I'm here,” returned Clinton. “Your slave—at your feet.”

He never gave her any further explanation of his absence, and, having got him back again, she was quite satisfied.

Once, just once, he could not help remembering page 188 the companion-stairs of an emigrant ship, on a certain rainy evening in the tropics 194 , and some one very different to the present some one, who had been beside him then. But the thought passed, and Jeanie's blue eyes, looking up into his with perfect innocence and truthfulness, never detected it at all.

Very soon Clinton was peeling Ribston 195 for them both, and the whole thing was finally settled between them, subject of course to the approval of Jeanie's parents, which, however, she had no fear would be withheld.

She was as happy as possible, looking up to Clinton in everything, and taking for granted that all he did and said must be right. Clinton was a very poor hero, but he was a hero to Jeanie after all.

“She darkly felt him great and wise,
She dwelt on him with faithful eyes.
I cannot understand—I love.”

It was the simplicity of the worshipper that formed the pedestal for the idol.

The engagement of Miss Lennox to Mr. Meredith page 189 was soon made public, and very soon the whole district had discussed it.

It was universally considered that such a handsome couple were well matched. The world does not comprehend the proverb Lucy had just been learning by heart; it takes everything that glitters for the precious metal.

But just about this time, one of Clinton's uncles died at home, and Clinton, as he expected, found himself the owner of a very comfortable sum to invest as he might find most advantageous. The match had become a very good one for Jeanie, in a worldly point of view, and it was settled that her marriage should take place in about six weeks—that is, in the early spring.

Lucy received this piece of news one day when she had ridden over to Deepdene to keep Mrs. Lennox and Jeanie company during the absence of the head of the family. Mr. Lennox, Mr. Cunningham, Louis, and Clinton had all journeyed into the next province to attend a great Agricultural Show, and they were not expected home for several days.

Jeanie, for the first part of the evening after Lucy's arrival, was in the highest possible spirits. She had already thought over and settled her complete wedding toilet, down to the most minute items.

“A veil, of course, you know, dear,” she said to Lucy, “and some orange blossom in my hair. I think my dress shall be white silk, with the tunic looped so—won't it look lovely? And you, you know, Lucy, must be one of my bridesmaids. Would you rather wear white and blue, or white and pink?”

“I am not going to be a bridesmaid at all,” said Lucy, shaking her head.

“Oh, you cross darling, why not?” inquired Jeanie anxiously.

Lucy, having no answer ready, only said, “Wait and see,” and Jeanie's mind was so fall of a pearl set, which Clinton was going to have out for her from home, that she forgot to insist upon a more explicit reply.

193 An early imported fruit tree in the colonies. Apples and pears have been grown in New Zealand since the first arrival of Europeans to the country. The missionary Samuel Marsden introduced the first apple and pear trees in 1819. See: http://www.teara.govt.New Zealand/en/government-and-nation/2.

[Note added by A. Brown as annotator]

194 The long ship journey to the antipodes involved crossing through the 'tropical' regions between the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

[Note added by A. Brown as annotator]

195 A brand of apple.

[Note added by A. Brown as annotator]