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A ROSE OF A HUNDRED LEAVES

A Love Story


BY AMELIA E. BARR

AUTHOR OF "FRIEND OLIVIA," "THE BOW OF ORANGE RIBBON,"
"JAN VEDDER'S WIFE," ETC.


NEW YORK
DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
1891

Copyright, 1891, By J. B. Lippincott Company.

Copyright, 1891, By Dodd, Mead and Company.

All rights reserved.

University Press: John Wilson and Son, Cambridge.




CONTENTS.


CHAPTER PAGE
I. The Wild Rose is the Sweetest 9
II. Forgive me, Christ! 35
III. Only Brother Will 77
IV. For Mother's Sake 113
V. But they were Young 151
VI. "Love shall be Lord of Sandy-Side" 180
VII. "A Rose of a Hundred Leaves" 208




CHAPTER I.

THE WILD ROSE IS THE SWEETEST.


I tell again the oldest and the newest story of all the world, - the
story of Invincible Love!

This tale divine - ancient as the beginning of things, fresh and young
as the passing hour - has forms and names various as humanity. The
story of Aspatria Anneys is but one of these, - one leaf from all the
roses in the world, one note of all its myriad of songs.

Aspatria was born at Seat-Ambar, an old house in Allerdale. It had
Skiddaw to shelter it on the northwest; and it looked boldly out
across the Solway, and into that sequestered valley in Furness known
as "the Vale of the Deadly Nightshade." The plant still grew there
abundantly, and the villagers still kept the knowledge of its medical
value taught them by the old monks of Furness. For these curious,
patient herbalists had discovered the blessing hidden in the fair,
poisonous amaryllis, long before modern physicians called it
"belladonna."

The plant, with all its lovely relations, had settled in the garden at
Seat-Ambar. Aspatria's mother had loved them all: the girl could still
remember her thin white hands clasping the golden jonquils in her
coffin. This memory was in her heart, as she hastened through the
lonely place one evening in spring. It ought to have been a pleasant
spot, for it was full of snowdrops and daffodils, and many sweet
old-fashioned shrubs and flowers; but it was a stormy night, and the
blossoms were plashed and downcast, and all the birds in hiding from
the fierce wind and driving rain.

She was glad to get out of the gray, wet, shivery atmosphere, and
to come into the large hall, ruddy and glowing with fire and
candle-light. Her brothers William and Brune sat at the table. Will
was counting money; it stood in small gold and silver pillars
before him. Brune was making fishing-flies. Both looked up at her
entrance; they did not think words necessary for such a little
maid. Yet both loved her; she was their only sister, and both gave
her the respect to which she was entitled as co-heir with them of
the Ambar estate.

She was just sixteen, and not yet beautiful. She was too young for
beauty. Her form was not developed; she would probably gain two or
three inches in height; and her face, though exquisitely modelled,
wanted the refining which comes either from a multitude of complex
emotions or is given at once by some great heart-sorrow. Yet she had
fascination for those capable of feeling her charm. Her large brown
eyes had their childlike clearness; they looked every one in the face
with its security of good-will. Her mouth was a tempting mouth; the
lips had not lost their bow-shape; they were red and pouting, but
withal ever ready to part. She might have been born with a smile. Her
hair, soft and dark, had that rarest quality of soft hair, - a tendency
to make itself into little curls and tendrils and stray down the white
throat and over the white brow; yet it was carefully parted and
confined in two long braids, tied at the ends with a black ribbon.

She wore a black dress. It was plainly made, and its broad ruffle
around the open throat gave it an air of simplicity almost childlike
in effect. Her arms below the elbows were uncovered, and her hands
were small and finely formed, as patrician hands should be. There was
no ring upon them, and no bracelet above them. She wore neither brooch
nor locket, nor ornament of any kind about her person; only a daffodil
laid against the snowy skin of her bosom. Even this effect was not the
result of coquetry; it was a holy and loving sentiment materialized.

Altogether, she was a girl quite in keeping with the antique, homelike
air of the handsome room she entered; her look, her manner, and even
her speech had the local stamp; she was evidently a daughter of the
land. Her brothers resembled her after their masculine fashion. They
were big men, whom nature had built for the spaces of the moors and
mountains and the wide entrances of these old Cumberland homes. They
would have been pushed to pass through narrow city doorways. A fine
open-air colour was in their faces; they had that confident manner
which great physical strength imparts, and that air of conscious pride
which is born in lords of the soil.

Indeed, William and Brune Anneys made one understand how truthfully
popular nomenclature has called an Englishman "John Bull." For whoever
has seen a bull in its native pastures - proud, obstinate, conscious of
his strength, and withal a little surly - must understand that there is
a taurine basis to the English character, finely expressed by the
national appellation.

A great thing was to happen that hour, and all three were as
unconscious of the approaching fate as if it was to be a part of
another existence. Squire William finished his accounts, and played a
game of chess with his brother. Aspatria walked up and down the hall,
with her hands clasped behind her, or sat still in the Squire's
hearth-chair, with her dress lifted a little in front, to let the
pleasant heat fall upon her ankles. She did not think of reading or of
sewing, or of improving the time in any way. Perhaps she was not as
dependent on books as the women of this generation. Aspatria's mind
was sensitive and observing; it lived very well on its own ideas.

The storm increased in violence; the rain beat against the windows,
and the wind howled at the nail-studded oak door, as if it intended to
blow it down. A big ploughman entered the room, shyly pulled his
front hair, and looked with stolid inquiry into his master's face.
The Squire pushed aside the chess-board, rose, and went to the
hearth-stone; for he was young in his authority, and he felt himself
on the hearth-stone to hold an impregnable position.

"Well, Steve Bell, what is it?"

"Be I to sow the high land next, sir?"

"If you can have a face or back wind, it will be best; if you have an
elbow-wind, you must give the land an extra half-bushel."

"Be I to sow mother-of-corn[1] on the east holme?"

[1] Clover.

"It is matterless. Is it going to be a flashy spring?"

"A right season, sir, - plenty of manger-meat."

"How is the weather?"

"The rain is near past; it will take up at midnight."

As he spoke, Aspatria, who had been sitting with folded hands and
half-shut eyes, straightened herself suddenly, and threw up her head
to listen. There was certainly the tramp of a horse's feet, and in a
moment the door was loudly and impatiently struck with the metal
handle of a riding-whip.

Steve Bell went to answer the summons; Brune trailed slowly after
him. Aspatria and the Squire heard nothing on the hearth but a human
voice blown about and away by the wind. But Steve's reply was distinct
enough, -

"You be wanting Redware Hall, sir? Cush! it's unsensible to try for
it. The hills are slape as ice; the becks are full; the moss will make
a mouthful of you - horse and man - to-night."

The Squire went forward, and Aspatria also. Aspatria lifted a candle,
and carried it high in her hand. That was the first glimpse of her
that Sir Ulfar Fenwick had.

"You must stay at Seat-Ambar to-night," said William Anneys. "You
cannot go farther and be sure of your life. You are welcome here
heartily, sir."

The traveller dismounted, gave his horse to Steve, and with words of
gratitude came out of the rain and darkness into the light and comfort
of the home opened to him. "I am Ulfar Fenwick," he said, - "Fenwick of
Fenwick and Outerby; and I think you must be William Anneys of
Ambar-Side."

"The same, sir. This is my brother Brune, and my sister Aspatria. You
are dreeping wet, sir. Come to my room and change your clothing."

Sir Ulfar bowed and smiled assent; and the bow and the smile were
Aspatria's. Her cheeks burned; a strange new life was in all her
veins. She hurried the housekeeper and the servants, and she brought
out the silver and the damask, and the famous crystal cup in its stand
of gold, which was the lucky bowl of Ambar-Side. When Fenwick came
back to the hall, there was a feast spread for him; and he ate and
drank, and charmed every one with his fine manner and his witty
conversation.

They sat until midnight, - an hour strange to Seat-Ambar. No one
native in that house had ever seen it before, no one ever felt its
mysterious influence. Sir Ulfar had been charming them with tales of
the strange lands he had visited, and the strange peoples who dwelt
in them. He had not spoken much to Aspatria, but it was in her face
he had found inspiration and sympathy. For her young eyes looked
out with such eager interest, with glances so seeking, so without
guile and misgiving, that their bright rays found a corner in his
heart into which no woman had ever before penetrated. And she was
equally subjugated by his more modern orbs, - orbs with that steely
point of brilliant light, generated by large experience and varied
emotion, - electric orbs, such as never shone in the elder world.

When the clock struck twelve, Squire Anneys rose with amazement. "Why,
it is strike of midnight!" he said. "It is past all, how the hours
have flown! But we mustn't put off sleeping-time any longer.
Good-night heartily to you, sir. It will be many a long day till I
forget this night. What doings you have seen, sir!"

He was talking thus to his guest, as he led him to the guest-room.
Aspatria still stood by the dying fire. Brune rose silently,
stretched his big arms, and said: "I'll be going likewise. You had
best remember the time of night, Aspatria."

"What do you think of him, Brune?"

"Fenwick! I wouldn't think too high of him. One might have to come
down a peg or two. He sets a good deal of store by himself, I should
say."

"You and I are of two ways of judging, Brune."

"Never mind; time will let light into all our ways of judging."

He went yawning upstairs and Aspatria slowly followed. She was not a
bit sleepy. She was wider awake than she had ever been before. Her
hands quivered like a swallow's wings; her face was rosy and luminous.
She removed her clothing, and unbraided her hair and shook it loose
over her slim shoulders. There was a smile on her lips through all
these preparations for sleep, - a smile innocent and glad. Suddenly she
lifted the candle and carried it to the mirror. She desired to look at
herself, and she blushed deeply as she gratified the wish. Was she
fair enough to please this wonderful stranger?

It was the first time such a query had ever come to her heart. She was
inclined to answer it honestly. Holding the light slightly above her
head, she examined her claims to his regard. Her expressive face, her
starry eyes, her crimson, pouting lips, her long dark hair, her
slight, virginal figure in its gown of white muslin scantily trimmed
with English thread-lace, her small, bare feet, her air of childlike,
curious happiness, - all these things, taken together, pleased and
satisfied her desires, though she knew not how or why.

Then she composed herself with intentional earnestness. She must "say
her prayers." As yet it was only saying prayers with Aspatria, - only a
holy habit. A large Book of Common Prayer stood open against an oaken
rest on a table; a cushion of black velvet was beneath it. Ere she
knelt, she reflected that it was very late, and that her Collect and
Lord's Prayer would be sufficient. Youth has such confidence in the
sympathy of God. She dropped softly on her knees and said her portion.
God would understand the rest. The little ceremony soothed her, as a
mother's kiss might have done; and with a happy sigh she put out the
light. The old house was dark and still, but her guardian angel saw
her small hands loose lying on the snowy linen, and heard her whisper,
"Dear God! how happy I am!" And this joyous orison was the acceptable
prayer that left the smile of peace upon her sleeping face.

In the guest-chamber Ulfar Fenwick was also holding a session with
himself. He had come to his room very wide awake; midnight was an
early hour to him. And the incidents he had been telling filled his
mind with images of the past. He could not at once put them aside.
Women he had loved and left visited his memory, - light loves of a
season, in which both had declared themselves broken-hearted at
parting, and both had known that they would very soon forget. Neither
was much to blame: the maid had long ceased to remember his vows and
kisses; he, in some cases, had forgotten her name. Yet, sitting there
by the glowing oak logs, he had visions of fair faces in all kinds of
surroundings, - in lighted halls, in moon-lit groves under the great
stars of the tropics, on the Shetland seas when the aurora made for
lovers an enchanted atmosphere and a light in which beauty was
glorified. Well, they had passed as April passes, and now, -

As a glimpse of a burnt-out ember
Recalls a regret of the sun,
He remembered, forgot, and remembered
What love saw done and undone.

Aspatria was different from all. He whispered her strange name on his
lips, and he thought it must have wandered from some sunny southern
clime into these northern solitudes. His eyes shone; his heart beat.
He said to it: "Make room for this innocent little one! What a darling
she is! How clear, how candid, how beautiful! Oh, to be loved by such
a woman! Oh, to kiss her! - to feel her kiss me!" He set his mouth
tightly; the soft dreamy look in his face changed to one of purpose
and pleasure.

"I shall win her, or die for it," he said. "By Saint George! I would
rather die than know that any other man had married her."

Yet the thought of marriage somewhat sobered him. "I should have to
give up my voyage to the Spanish Colonies, - and I am very much
interested in their struggle. I could not take her to Mexico, I
suppose, - there is nothing but fighting there; and I could not - no, I
could not leave her. If she were mine, I should hate to have any one
else breathe the same air with her. I could not endure that others
should speak to her. I should want to strike any man who touched her
hand. Perhaps I had better go away in the morning, and ride this road
no more. I have made my plans."

And fate had made other plans. Who can fight against his destiny? When
he saw Aspatria in the morning, every plan that did not include her
seemed unworthy of his consideration. She was ten times lovelier in
the daylight. She had that fresh invincible charm which women of
culture and intellect seldom have: she was inspired by her heart. It
taught her a thousand delightful subjugating ways. She served his
breakfast with her own fair hands; she offered him the first sweet
flowers in the garden; she fluttered around his necessities, his
desires, his intentions, with a grace and a kindness nothing but love
could have taught her.

He thanked her with marvellous glances, with smiles, with single words
dropped only for her ears, with all the potent eloquence which passion
and experience teach. And he had to pay the price, as all men must do.
The lesson he taught he also learned. "Aspatria!" he said, in soft,
penetrating accents; and when she answered his call and came to his
side, her dress trailing across his feet bewitched him. They were in
the garden, and he clasped her hand, and went down the budding alleys
with her, speechless, but gazing into her face until she dropped her
tremulous, transparent lids before her eyes; they were too full of
light and love to show to any mortal.

The sky was white and blue, the air fresh and sweet; the swallows had
just come, and were chattering with the starlings; hundreds of
daffodils "danced in the wind" and lighted the ground at their
feet; troops of celandines starred the brook that babbled by the
bee-skips; the southernwood, the wall-flower, the budding thyme and
sweet-brier, - a thousand exhalations filled the air and intensified
that intoxication of heart and senses which makes the first stage of
love's fever delirious.

Fenwick went away in the afternoon, and his adieus were mostly made to
the Squire. He had done his best to win his favour, and he had been
successful. He left Seat-Ambar under an engagement to return soon and
try his skill in wrestling and pole-leaping with Brune. Aspatria knew
he would return: a voice which Fenwick's voice only echoed told her
so. She watched him from her own window across the meadows, and up the
mountain, until he was lost to her vision.

She was doubtless very much in love, though as yet she had not
admitted the fact to herself. The experience had come with a really
shocking swiftness. Her heart was half angry and half abashed by its
instantaneous surrender. Two circumstances had promoted this
condition. First, the singular charm of the man. Ulfar Fenwick was
unlike any one she had ever seen. The squires and gentlemen who came
to Seat-Ambar were physically the finest fellows in England, but noble
women look for something more than mere bulk in a man. Sir Ulfar
Fenwick had this something more. Culture, travel, great experience
with women, had added to his heroic form a charm flesh and sinew alone
could never compass. And if he had lacked all other physical
advantages, he possessed eyes which had been filled to the brim with
experiences of every kind, - gray eyes with pure, full lids thickly
fringed, - eyes always lustrous, sometimes piercingly bright. Secondly,
Aspatria had no knowledge which helped her to ward off attack or
protract surrender. In a multitude of lovers there is safety; but
Fenwick was Aspatria's first lover.

He rode hard, as if he would ride from fate. Perhaps he hoped at this
early stage of feeling to do as he had often done before, -

To love - and then ride away.

He had also a fresh, pressing anxiety to see his sister, who was Lady
of Redware Manor. Seven years - and much besides years - had passed
since they met. She was his only sister, and ten years his senior. She
loved him as mothers love, unquestioningly, with miraculous excuses
for all his shortcomings. She had been watching for his arrival many
hours before he appeared.

"Ulfar! how welcome you are!" she cried, with tears in her eyes and
her voice. "Oh, my dear! how happy I am to see you once more!"

She might have been his only love, he kissed and embraced and kissed
her again so fondly. Oh, wondrous tie of blood and kinship! At that
moment there really seemed to Ulfar Fenwick no one in the whole world
half so dear as his sister Elizabeth.

He told her he had lost his way in the storm and been detained by
Squire Anneys; and she praised the Squire, and said that she would
evermore love him for his kindness. "I met him once, at the Election
Ball in Kendal. He danced with me; 'we neighbour each other,' you
see; and they are a grand old family, I can tell you."

"There is a younger brother, called Brune."

"I never saw him."

"A sister also, - a child yet, but very handsome. You ought to see
her."

"Why?"

"You would like her. I do."

"Ulfar, there is a 'thus far' in everything. In your wooing and
pursuing, the line lies south of Seat-Ambar. To wrong a woman of that
house would be wicked and dangerous."

"Why should I wrong her? I have no intention to do so. I say she is a
lovely lady, a great beauty, worthy of honest love and supreme
devotion."

"Such a rant about love and beauty! Nine tenths of the men who talk in
this way do but blaspheme Love by taking his name in vain."

"However, Elizabeth, it is marriage or the Spanish colonies for me. It
is Miss Anneys, or Cuba, New Orleans, and Mexico. Santa Anna is a
supreme villain; I have a fancy to see such a specimen."

"You are then between the devil and the deep sea; and I should say
that the one-legged Spaniard was preferable to the deep sea of
matrimony."

"She is so fair! She has a virgin timidity that enchants me."

"It will become matronly indecision, or mental weakness of will. In
the future it will drive you frantic."

"Her sweet sensibility - "

"Will crystallize into passionate irritation or callous opposition.
These childlike, tender, clinging maidens are often capable of sudden
and dangerous action. Better go to Cuba, or even to Mexico, Ulfar."

"I suppose she has wealth. You will admit that excellence?"

"She is co-heir with her brothers. She may have two thousand pounds a
year. You cannot afford to marry a girl so poor."

"I have not yet come to regard a large sum of money as a kind of
virtue, or the want of it as a crime."

"Your wife ought to represent you. How can this country-girl help you
in the society to which you belong?"

"Society! What is society? In its elemental verity it means
toil, weariness, loss of rest and health, useless expense, envy,
disappointment, heart-burnings, - all for the sake of exchanging
entertainments with A and B, C and D. It means chaff instead of
wheat."

"If you want to be happy, Ulfar, put this girl out of your mind. I am
sure her brothers will oppose your suit. They will not let their
sister leave Allerdale. No Anneys has ever done so."

"You have strengthened my fancy, Elizabeth. There is a deal of
happiness in the idea of prevailing, of getting the mastery, of
putting hindrances out of the way."

"Well, I have given you good advice."

"There are many 'counsels of perfection' nobody dreams of following.
To advise a man in love not to love, is one of them."

"Love!" she cried scornfully. "Before you make such a fuss about the
Spanish Colonies and their new-found freedom, free yourself, Ulfar!
You have been a slave to some woman all your life. You are one of
those men who are naturally not their own property. A child can turn
you hither and thither; a simple country girl can lead you."

He laughed softly, and murmured, -

"There is a rose of a hundred leaves,
But the wild rose is the sweetest."




CHAPTER II.

FORGIVE ME, CHRIST!


The ultimatum reached by Fenwick in the consideration of any subject
was, to please himself. In the case of Aspatria Anneys he was
particularly determined to do so. It was in vain Lady Redware
entreated him to be rational. How could he be rational? It was the
preponderance of the emotional over the rational in his nature which
imparted so strong a personality to him. He grasped all circumstances
by feeling rather than by reason.

In a few days he was again at Seat-Ambar. Aspatria drew him, as the
candle draws the moth which has once burned its wings at it. And among
the simple Anneys folk he found a hearty welcome. With Squire William
he travelled the hills, and counted the flocks, and speculated on the
value of the iron-ore cropping out of the ground. With Brune he went
line-fishing, and in the wide barns tried his skill in wrestling or
pole-leaping or single-stick. He tolerated the rusticity of the life,
for the charming moments he found with Aspatria.

No one like Ulfar Fenwick had ever visited Ambar-Side. To the young
men, who read nothing but the Gentleman's Magazine and the Whitehaven
Herald, and to Aspatria, who had but a volume of the Ladies' Garden
Manual, Notable Things, her Bible and Common Prayer, Fenwick was a
book of travel, song, and story, of strange adventures, of odd bits of
knowledge, and funny experiences. Things old and new fell from his
handsome lips. Squire William and Brune heard them with grave
attention, with delight and laughter; Aspatria with eyes full of
wonder and admiration.

As the season advanced and they grew more familiar, Aspatria was
thrown naturally into his society. The Squire was in the hay-field;


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