Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A rose of a hundred leaves; a love story online

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the ground. With Brune he went line-
fishing, and in the wide barns tried his
skill in wrestling or pole- leaping or sin
gle-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 VVhitehaven 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 hand
some lips. Squire William and Brune
heard them with grave attention, with de
light and laughter; Aspatria with eyes full
of wonder and admiration.

As the season advanced and they grew
more familiar, Aspatria was thrown natur
ally into his society. The Squire was in
the hay-field; Brune had his task there

Forgive me, Christ! 37

also. Or they were down at the Long
Pool, washing the sheep, or on the fells,
shearing them. In the haymaking, Aspa-

tria and
Fenwick made
some pretence of
assistance ; but they both
i very soon wearied of the real

labour. Aspatria would toss a few
furrows of the warm, sweet grass;
but it was much sweeter to sit down
under the oak-tree with Fenwick at her
side, and watch the moving picture, and
listen to the women singing in their
high shrill voices, as they turned the

38 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

swaths, the Song of the Mower, and the
men mournfully shouting out the chorus
to it,-

" We be all like grass ! We be all like grass ! "

As for the oak, it liked them to sit under
it; all its leaves talked to each other about
them. The starlings, though they are
always in a hurry, stopped to look at the
lovers, and went off with a Q-q-q of satis
faction. The crows, who are a bad lot,
croaked innuendoes, and said it was to be
hoped that evil would not come of such
folly. But Aspatria and Fenwick listened
only to each other; they saw the whole
round world in each other's eyes.

Fenwick spoke very low ; Aspatria had
to droop her ear to his mouth to under
stand his words. And they were such
delightful words, she could not bear to
lose one of them. Then, as the sun grew
warm, and the scent of the grass filled the
soft air, and the haymakers were more and
more subdued and quiet, heavenly lan
guors stole over them. They sat hand in

Forgive me, Christ ! 39

hand, Aspatria sometimes with shut eyes
humming to herself, sometimes dreamily
pulling the long grass at her side ; Fen-
wick mostly silent, yet often whispering
those words which are single because they
are too sweet to be double, "Darling!
Dearest ! Angel ! " and the words drew
her eyes to his eyes, drew her lips to his
lips; ere she was aware, her heart had
passed from her in long, loving, stolen
kisses. On the fells, in the garden, in
the empty, silent rooms of the old house,
it was a repetition of the same divine
song, with wondrously celestial variations.
Goethe puts in Faust an Interlude in
Heaven : Fenwick and Aspatria were in
their Interlude.

One evening they stood among the
wheat-sheaves. The round, yellow har
vest-moon was just rising above the fells,
and the stars trembling into vision. The
reapers had gone away ; their voices made
faint, fitful echoes down the misty lane.
The Squire was driving home one load of
ripe wheat, and Brune another. Aspatria

40 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

said softly, " The day is over. We must
go home. Come ! "

She stood in the warm mystical light,
with one hand upon the bound sheaf, the
other stretched out to him. Her slim
form in its white dress, her upturned face,
her star-like eyes, he saw all at a glance.
He was subjugated to the innermost room
of his heart. He answered, with inexpres
sible emotion,

" Come ! Come to me, my Dear One !
My Love! My Joy! My Wife!" He
held her close to his heart ; he claimed
her by no formal special yes, but by all
the sweet reluctances and sweeter yield-
ings, the thousand nameless consents won
day by day.

Oh, the glory of that homeward walk !
The moon beamed t upon them. The trees
bent down to touch them. The heath
and the honeysuckle made a posy for
them. The nightingale sang them a can
ticle. They did not seem to walk ; they
trod on ether; they moved as people
move in happy dreams of other stars,

42 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

where thought and wish are motion. It
would have been heaven upon earth if
those minutes could have lasted; but it
was only an interlude.

That night Fenwick spoke to Squire
William and asked him for his sister. The
Squire was honestly confounded by the
question. Aspatria was such a little lass !
It was beyond everything to talk of mar
rying her. Still, in his heart he was proud
and pleased at such high fortune for the
little lass ; and he said, as soon as Fen-
wick's father and family came forward as
they should do, he would never be the one
to say nay.

Fenwick's father lived at Fenwick Cas
tle, on the shore of bleak Northumber
land. He was an old man, but his natural
feelings and wisdom were not abated. He
consulted the History of Cumberland, and
found that the family of Ambar-Anneys
was as ancient and honourable as his own.
But the girl was country-bred, and her
fortune was small, and in a measure de
pendent upon her brother's management

Forgive me, Christ !


of the estate. A careless
master of Ambar-Side
would make Aspa-
tria poor. While
he was consid
ering these
things, Lady
Redware ar
rived at the
castle, and they talked
over the matter together.

" I expected Ulfar to marry very
differently, and I must say I am disap
pointed. But I suppose it will be useless
to make any opposition, Elizabeth," the
old man said to his daughter.

" Quite useless, father. But absence
works miracles. Try to secure
twelve months. You ought
to go to a warm climate
this winter ; ask Ulfar
to take you to Italy.
In a year time may
re-shuffle the cards.
And you must write to the

44 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

girl, and to her eldest brother, who is a
fine fellow and as proud as Lucifer. I
called upon them before I left Cumber
land. She is very handsome."

" Handsome ! Old men know, Eliza
beth, that six months after a man is mar
ried, it makes little difference to him
whether his wife is handsome or not."

" That may be, or it may not be, father.
The thing to consider is, that young men
unfortunately persist in marrying for that
first six months."

"Well, then, fortune pilots many a ship
not steered. Suppose we leave things to
circumstances? "

" No, no ! Human affairs are for the
most part arranged in such a way that
those turn out best to which most care
is devoted."

So the letters were thoughtfully written ;
the one to Aspatria being of a paternal
character, that to her brother polite and
complimentary. To his son Ulfar the old
baronet made a very clever appeal. He
reminded him of his great age, and of the

Forgive me, Christ!

few opportunities left for showing his af
fection and obedience. He regretted the
necessity for a residence in Italy during
the winter, but trusted to his son's love to
see him through the experience. He con
gratulated Ulfar on winning the love of a
young girl so fresh and unspoiled by the
world, but kindly insisted upon the wisdom
of a little delay, and the great benefit this
delay would be to himself.

It was altogether a very temperate, wise
letter, appealing to the best side of Ulfar's
nature. Squire William read it also, and
gave it his most emphatic approval. He
was in no hurry to lose his little sister.
She was but a child yet, and knew nothing
of the world she was going into ; and
" surely to goodness/' he said, looking at
the child, " she will have a lot of things
to look after, before she can think of

This last conjecture touched Aspatria
on a very womanly point. Of course there
were all her " things " to get ready. She
had never possessed more than a few

46 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

frocks at a time, and those of the simplest
character; but she was quite alive to the
necessity of an elaborate wardrobe, and
she had also an instinctive sense of what
would be proper for her position.

So the suggestions of Ulfar's father were
accepted in their entirety, and the old
gentleman was put into a very good tem
per by the fact. And what was a year?
" It will pass like a dream," said Ulfar.
" And I shall write constantly to you, and
you will write to me; and when we meet
again it will be to part no more." Oh,
the poverty of words in such straits as
these ! Men say the same things in the
same extremities now that have been said
millions of times before them. And As-
patria felt as if there ought to have been
entirely new words, to express the joy of
their betrothal and the sorrow of their

The short delay of a last week together
was perhaps a mistake. A very young
girl, to whom great joy and great sorrow
are alike fresh experiences, may afford a

Forgive me, Christ ! 47

prolonged luxury of the emotions of part
ing. Love, more worldly-wise, deprecates
its demonstrativeness, and would avert it
altogether. The farewell walks, the senti
mental souvenirs, the pretty and petty de
vices of love's first dream, are tiresome to
more practised lovers ; and Ulfar had often
proved what very cobwebs they were to
bind a straying fancy.

" Absence makes the heart grow fonder."
Perhaps so, if the last memory be an alto
gether charming one. It was, unfortu
nately, not so in Aspatria's case. It should
have been a closely personal farewell with
Ulfar alone; but Squire Anneys, in his
hospitable ignorance, gave it a public char
acter. Several neighbouring squires and
dames came to breakfast There was cup-
drinking, and toasting, and speech-making;
and Ulfar's last glimpse of his betrothed
was of her standing in the wide porch, sur
rounded by a waving, jubilant crowd of
strangers, whose intermeddling in his joy
he deeply resented. Anneys had invited
them in accord with the traditions of his

48 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

house and order. Fenwick thought it was
a device to make stronger his engagement
to Aspatria.

" As if it needed such contrivances ! "
he muttered angrily. " When it does, it is
a broken thread, and no Anneys can knot
it again."

The weeks that followed were full of
new interests to Aspatria. Mistress Frost-
ham, the wife of a near shepherd-lord, had
been the friend of Aspatria's mother ; she
was fairly conversant with the world out
side the fells and dales, and she took the
girl under her care, accompanied her to
Whitehaven, and directed her in the pur
chase of all considered necessary for the
wife of Ulfar Fenwick.

Then the deep snows shut in Seat-
Ambar, and the great white hills stood
round about it like fortifications. But as
often as it was possible the Dalton post
man fought his way up there, with his
packet of accumulated mail; for he knew
that a warm welcome and a large reward
awaited him. In the main, the long same

Forgive tne, Christ!


days went happily by. William and Brune
had a score of resources for the sea
son ; the farm-servants worked in the
barn ; they were making and mending
sacks for the wheat, and caps
for the sheeps' heads

in fly-time, ^^_^^

scythes and
tools, doing the in
door work of a
great farm, and


mostly singing as they
did it.

As Aspatria sat in her room,
surrounded by fine cambric and
linen and that exquisite English
thread-lace now gone out of fashion, she

5<D A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

could hear their laughter and their song,
and she unconsciously set her stitches to
its march and melody. The days were
not long to her. So many dozens of gar
ments to make with her own slight fin
gers ! She had not a moment to waste,
but the necessity was one of the sweetest
delight. The solitude and secrecy of her
labour added to its charm. She never
took her sewing into the parlour. And yet
she might have done so : William and
Brune had a delicacy of affection for her
which would have made them blind to her
occupation and densely stupid as to its

So, although the da)'s were mostly alike,
they were not unhappily so ; and at inter
vals destiny sent her the surprises she
loved. One morning in the beginning of
February, Aspatria felt that the postman
ought to come ; her heart presaged him.
The day was clear and warm, so much
so, that the men working in the barn had
all the windows open. They were singing
in rousing tones the famous North Country

Forgive me, Christ! 51

song to the barley-mow, and drinking it
through all its verses, out of the jolly
brown bowl, the nipperkin, the quarter-
pint, the quart and the pottle, the gallon
and the anker, the hogshead and the
pipe, the well, and the river, and the
ocean, and then rolling back the chorus,
from ocean to the jolly brown bowl. Sud
denly, while a dozen men were shouting in

" Here 's a health to the barley mow ! "

the verse was broken by the cry of " Here
comes Ringham the postman ! " Then
Aspatria ran to the window and saw him
climbing the fell. She did not like to go
downstairs until Will called her; but she
could not sew another stitch. And when
at last the aching silence in her ears was
filled by Will's joyful " Come here, As
patria ! Here is such a parcel as never
was, from foreign parts too ! " she hardly
knew how her feet twinkled down the long
corridor and stairs.

The parcel was from Rome. Ulfar had

52 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

sent it to his London banker, and the
banker had sent a special messenger to
Dalton with it. Over the fells at that sea
son no one but Ringham could have found
a safe way; and Ringham was made so
welcome that he was quite imperious. He
ordered himself a rasher of bacon, and a
bowl of the famous barley broth, and
spread himself comfortably before the
great hearth-place. At the table stood
Aspatria, William, and Brune. Aspatria
was nervously trying to undo the seals and
cords that bound love's message to her.
Will finally took his pocket-knife and cut
them. There was a long letter, and a box
containing exquisite ornaments of Roman
cameos, precious onyx, made more
precious by work of rare artistic beauty, a
comb for her dark hair, a necklace for her
white throat, bracelets for her slender
wrists, a girdle of stones linked with gold
for her waist. Oh, how full of simple de
light she was ! She was too happy to
speak. Then Will discovered a smaller
package. It was for himself and Brune.

Forgive me, Christ! 53

Will's present was a cameo ring, on which
were engraved the Anneys and Fenwick
arms. Brune had a scarf-pin, representing
a lovely Hebe. It was a great day at
Seat-Ambar. Aspatria could work no
more ; Will and Brune felt it impossible
to finish the game they had begun.

There is a tide in everything : this was
the spring-tide of Aspatria's love. In its
overflowing she was happy for many a
day after her brothers had begun to spec
ulate and wonder why Ringham did not
come. Suddenly it struck her that the
snow was gone, and the road open, and
that there was no letter. She began to
worry, and Will quietly rode over to Dai-
ton, to ask if any letter was lying there.
He came back empty-handed, silent, and
a little surly. The anniversary of their
meeting was at hand : surely Ulfar would
remember it, so Aspatria thought, and she
watched from dawn to dark, but no token
of remembrance came. The flowers began
to bloom, the birds to sing, the May sun
shine flooded the earth with glory, but

54 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

fear and doubt and dismay and daily dis
appointment made deepest, darkest winter
in the low, long room where Aspatria
watched and waited. Her sewing had
been thrown aside. The half-finished gar
ments, neatly folded, lay under a cover
she had no strength to remove.

In June she wrote a pitiful little note to
her lover. She said that he ought to tell
her, if he was tired of their engagement.
She told Will what she had said, and asked
him to post the letter. He answered
angrily, " Don't you write a word to him,
good or bad ! " And he tore the letter
into twenty pieces before her eyes.

" Oh, Will, I cannot bear it! "

" Thou art a woman : bear what other
women have tholed before thee." Then
he went angrily from her presence. Brune
was thrumming on the window-pane. She
thought he looked sorry for her; she
touched his arm and said, " Brune, will
you take a letter to Dalton post for

" For sure I will. Go thy ways and

Forgive me, Christ ! 55

write it, and I '11 be gone before Will is

It was an unfortunate letter, as letters
written in a hurry always are. Absolute
silence would have piqued and worried
Ulfar. He would have fancied her ill,
dying perhaps; and the uncertainty, vague
and portentous, would have prompted him
to action, if only to satisfy his own mind.
Sometimes he feared that a girl so sensi
tive would fade away in neglect; and he
expected a letter from William Anneys
saying so. But a hurried, halting, not
very correct epistle, whose whole tenour
was, " What is the matter? What have I
done? Do you remember last year at
this time?" irritated him beyond reply.

He was still in Italy when it reached
him. Sir Thomas Fenwick was not likely
ever to return to England. He was slowly
dying, and he had been removed to a villa
in the Italian hills. And Elizabeth Red-
ware had a friend with her, a young widow
just come from Athens, who affected at
times its splendid picturesque national

56 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

costume. She was a very bright, hand
some woman, whose fine education had
been supplemented by travel, society, and
a rather unhappy matrimonial experience.
She knew how to pique and provoke, how
to flirt to the very edge of danger and
then sheer off, how to manipulate men
before the fire of passion, as witches used
to manipulate their waxen images before
the blazing coals.

She had easily won Ulfar's confidence ;
she had even assisted in the selection of
the cameos ; and she declared to Elizabeth
that she would not for a whole world
interfere between Ulfar and his pretty
innocent! A natural woman was such a
phenomenon ! She was glad Ulfar was
going to marry a phenomenon.

Elizabeth knew her better. She gave
the couple opportunity, and they needed
nothing more. There were already be
tween them a good understanding, trans
parent secrets, little jokes, a confessed con
fidence. They quickly became affectionate.
The lovely Sarah, relict of Herbert Sandys,

Forgive me, Christ !


Esq., not only reminded Ulfar of his vows
to Aspatria, but in the very reminder she
tempted him to break them. When As-
patria's letter was put into his hand, she

was with him, marvellously arrayed in
tissue of silver and brilliant colours. A
head-dress of gold coins glittered in her
fair braided hair; her long white arms
were shining with bracelets ; she was at

58 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

once languid and impulsive, provoking
Elizabeth and Ulfar to conversation, and
then amazing them by the audacity and
contradiction of her opinions.

" It is so fortunate," she said, " that Ulfar
has found a little out-of-the-way girl to ap
preciate his great beauty. The world at
present does not think much of masculine
beauty. A handsome fellow who starts for
any of its prizes is judged to be frivolous
and poetical, perhaps immoral: you see
Byron's beauty made him unfit for a legis
lator, he could do nothing but write poetry.
I should say it was Ulfar's best card to
marry this innocent with the queer name :
with his face and figure, he will never get
into Parliament. No one would trust him
with taxes. He is born to make love, and
he and his country Phyllis can go simper
ing and kissing through life together. If
I were interested in Ulfar "

" You are interested in Ulfar, Sarah,"
interrupted Elizabeth. " You said so to
me last night."

"Did I? Nevertheless, life does not

Forgive me, Christ ! 59

give us time really to question ourselves,
and it is the infirmity of my nature to mis
take feeling for evidence."

" You must not change your opinions
so quickly, Sarah."

" It is often an element of success to
change your opinions. It is hesitating
among a variety of views that is fatal.
The man who does not know what he
wants is the man who is held cheap."

" I am sure I know what I want, Sarah."
And as he spoke, Ulfar looked with intelli
gence at the fair widow, and in answer she
shot from her bright blue eyes a bolt of
summer lightning that set aflame at once '
the emotional side of Ulfar's nature.

" You say strange things, Sarah. I wish
it was possible to understand you."

" ' Who shall read the interpretation
thereof? ' is written on everything we see,
especially on women."

" I believe," said Elizabeth, "that Ulfar
has quarrelled with his country maid. Is
there a quarrel, Ulfar, really?"

" No," he answered, with some temper.

60 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

Sarah nodded at Ulfar, and said softly :
" The absent must be satisfied with the
second place. However, if you have quar
relled with her, Ulfar, turn over a new
leaf. I found that out when poor Sandys
was alive. People who have to live to
gether must blot a leaf now and then with
their little tempers. The only thing is to
turn over a new one."

" If anything unpleasant happens to
me," said Ulfar, " I try to bury it."

" You cannot do it. The past is a ghost
not to be laid ; and a past which is buried
alive, it is terrible." It was Sarah who
spoke, and with a sombre earnestness not
in keeping with her usual character. There
was a minute's pregnant silence, and it was
broken by the entrance of a servant with
a letter. He gave it to Ulfar.

It was Aspatria's sorrowful, questioning
note. Written while Brune waited, it was
badly written, incorrectly constructed and
spelled, and generally untidy. It had the
same effect upon Ulfar that a badly
dressed, untidy woman would have had.

Forgive me, Christ ! 6 1

He was ashamed of the irregular, childish
scrawl. He did not take the trouble to
put himself in the atmosphere in which
the anxious, sorrowful words had been
written. He crushed the paper in his
hand with much the same contemptuous
temper with which Elizabeth had seen him
treat a dunning letter. She knew, how
ever, that this letter was from Aspatria,
and, saying something about her father,
she went into an adjoining room, and left
Ulfar and Sarah together. She thought
Sarah would be the proper alterative.

The first words Sir Thomas Fenwick
uttered regarded Aspatria. Turning his
head feebly, he asked : " Has Ulfar quar
relled with Miss Anneys ? I hear nothing
of her lately."

" I think he is tired of his fancy for her.
There is no quarrel."

" She was a good girl, eh ? Kind-
hearted, beautiful, eh, Elizabeth?"

" She certainly was."

He said no more then ; but at midnight,
when Ulfar was sitting beside him, he

62 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

called his son, and spoke to him on the
subject. "I am going almost gone
the way of all flesh, Ulfar. Take heed of
my last words. You promised to make
Miss Anneys your wife, eh? "

" I did, father."

"' Do not break your promise. If she
gives it back to you, that might be well;
but you cannot escape from your own
word and deed. Honour keeps the door of
the house of life. To break your word is
to set the door wide open, open for
sorrow and evil of all kinds. Take care,

The next day he died, and one of Ulfar's
first thoughts was that the death set him
free from his promise for one year at the
least. A year contained a multitude of
chances. He could afford to write to
Aspatria under such circumstances. So
he answered her letter at once, and it
seemed proper to be affectionate, prepara
tory to reminding her that their marriage
was impossible until the mourning for Sir
Thomas was over. Also death had soft-

Forgive me, Christ ! 63

ened his heart, and his father's last words
had made him indeterminate and a little
superstitious. A clever woman of the
world would not have believed in this
letter; its aura subtle but persistent, as
the perfume of the paper would have
made her doubt its fondest^ lines. But
Aspatria had no idea other than that cer
tain words represented absolutely certain

The letter made her joyful. It brought
back the roses to her cheeks, the spring
of motion to her steps. She began to

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