Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A rose of a hundred leaves; a love story online

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Copyright, 1891,

Copyright, 1891,

All rights reserved








V. BUT THEY WERE YOUNG . . . . 151

SlDE " . 1 80






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

This tale divine an
cient as the beginning
of things, fresh and
young as the passing
hour has forms and
names various as hu
manity. The story of
Aspatria Anneys is but

io A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

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 Skiddavv
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 dis
covered 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

The Wild Rose is the Sweetest. 1 1

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 blos
soms 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 beau
tiful. She was too young for beauty. Her
form was not developed ; she would prob
ably gain two or three inches in height ;

12 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

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 pout
ing, 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 in
to 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

The Wild Rose is the Sweetest. 13

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 keep
ing 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 Cumber
land homes. They would have been
pushed to pass through narrow city door
ways. 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.

14 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

Indeed, William and Brune Anneys
made one understand how truthfully pop
ular nomenclature has called an English
man " John Bull." For whoever has seen a
bull in its native pastures proud, obsti
nate, conscious of his strength, and withal
a little surly must understand that there
is a taurine basis to the English char
acter, finely expressed by the national

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 fin
ished 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

The Wild Rose is the Sweetest. 15

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 in
quiry 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

" 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-

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

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

1 Clover.

1 6 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.


"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, As-
patria, who had
been sitting with
folded hands and
half-shut eyes,
straightened her-
s e 1 f suddenly,
and threw up her
head to listen.
There was cer
tainly the tramp
of a horse's feet,
and in a moment
the door was
loudly and im
patiently struck
with the metal
handle of a riding-

Steve Bell went to

The Wild Rose is the Sweetest. 17

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?
Gush ! 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

" You must stay at Seat-Ambar to
night," said William Anneys. " You can
not 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

1 8 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

I think you must be William Annoys of

" 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

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

The Wild Rose is the Sweetest. 19

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 bril
liant 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 must n'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. Brunc rose

2O A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

silently, stretched his big arms, and said :
" I '11 be going likewise. You had best
remember the time of
night, Aspatria."

" What do you think
of him, Brune? "

" Fenwick ! I would n'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

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

The Wild Rose is the Sweetest. 21

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, curi
ous happiness, all these things, taken
together, pleased and satisfied her desires,
though she knew not how or why.

Then she composed herself with inten
tional earnestness. She must " say her
prayers." As yet it was only saying pray
ers with Aspatria, only a holy habit. A

22 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves,

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 con
fidence 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 tell
ing filled his mind with images of the past.

The Wild Rose is the Sweetest. 23

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 at
mosphere 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

24 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves,

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 dar
ling 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

The Wild Rose is the Sweetest. 25

had better go away in the morning, and
ride this road no more. I have made my

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 elo
quence which passion and experience
teach. And he had to pay the price, as
all men must do. The lesson he taught

26 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

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 be
witched 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 be
fore her eyes ; they were too full of
light and love to show to any mortal.
The sky was white and blue, the air

The Wild Rose is the Sweetest. 27

fresh and sweet; the swallows had just
come, and were chattering with the star
lings ; 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 ex
halations filled the air and intensified that
intoxication of heart and senses which
makes the first stage of love's fever

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,

28 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

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 circum
stances 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 rilled 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

The Wild Rose is the Sweetest. 29

multitude of lovers
there is safety ; but
Fenwick was Aspa-
tria'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

3O A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

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

He told her he had lost his way in the
storm and been detained by Squire An-
neys ; 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

The Wild Rose is the Sweetest. 3 1

see ; and they are a grand old family, I
can tell you."

" There is a younger brother, called

" I never saw him."

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


" You would like her. I do."

" Ulfar, there is a 'thus far' in every
thing. 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

32 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

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 timid
ity 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 irrita
tion or callous opposition. These child
like, tender, clinging maidens are often
capable of sudden and dangerous action.
Better go to Cuba, or even to Mexico,

" 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

" I have not yet come to regard a large

The Wild Rose is the Sweetest. 33

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 entertain
ments 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 perfec
tion ' nobody dreams of following. To

34 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

advise a man in love not to love, is one
of them."

" Love ! " she cried scornfully. " Be
fore 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 natur
ally 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."



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 en
treated 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 person
ality to him. He grasped all circum
stances 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

36 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA rose of a hundred leaves; a love story → online text (page 1 of 9)