The Call of the Canyon (Chapter 9, page 1 of 13)


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Chapter 9

The latter part of September Carley returned to New York.

Soon after her arrival she received by letter a formal proposal of
marriage from Elbert Harrington, who had been quietly attentive to
her during her sojourn at Lake Placid. He was a lawyer of distinction,
somewhat older than most of her friends, and a man of means and fine
family. Carley was quite surprised. Harrington was really one of the few
of her acquaintances whom she regarded as somewhat behind the times, and
liked him the better for that. But she could not marry him, and
replied to his letter in as kindly a manner as possible. Then he called
personally.

"Carley, I've come to ask you to reconsider," he said, with a smile in
his gray eyes. He was not a tall or handsome man, but he had what women
called a nice strong face.

"Elbert, you embarrass me," she replied, trying to laugh it out. "Indeed
I feel honored, and I thank you. But I can't marry you."

"Why not?" he asked, quietly.

"Because I don't love you," she replied.

"I did not expect you to," he said. "I hoped in time you might come to
care. I've known you a good many years, Carley. Forgive me if I tell you
I see you are breaking--wearing yourself down. Maybe it is not a husband
you need so much now, but you do need a home and children. You are
wasting your life."

"All you say may be true, my friend," replied Carley, with a helpless
little upflinging of hands. "Yet it does not alter my feelings."

"But you will marry sooner or later?" he queried, persistently.

This straightforward question struck Carley as singularly as if it was
one she might never have encountered. It forced her to think of things
she had buried.

"I don't believe I ever will," she answered, thoughtfully.

"That is nonsense, Carley," he went on. "You'll have to marry. What
else can you do? With all due respect to your feelings--that affair with
Kilbourne is ended--and you're not the wishy-washy heartbreak kind of a
girl."

"You can never tell what a woman will do," she said, somewhat coldly.

"Certainly not. That's why I refuse to take no. Carley, be reasonable.
You like me--respect me, do you not?"

"Why, of course I do!"

"I'm only thirty-five, and I could give you all any sensible woman
wants," he said. "Let's make a real American home. Have you thought at
all about that, Carley? Something is wrong today. Men are not marrying.
Wives are not having children. Of all the friends I have, not one has a
real American home. Why, it is a terrible fact! But, Carley, you are not
a sentimentalist, or a melancholiac. Nor are you a waster. You have fine
qualities. You need something to do, some one to care for."

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