Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A rose of a hundred leaves; a love story online

. (page 4 of 9)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA rose of a hundred leaves; a love story → online text (page 4 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


He looked at her steadily, and she
returned the gaze. His face was like a
flame ; hers was white as snow.



92 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

" There are things in life worse than
death, Aspatria. There is dishonour, dis
grace, shame."

" Is sorrow dishonour? Is it a disgrace

O

to love? Is it a shame to weep when love
is dead?"

" Ay, my little lass, it may be a great
wrong to love and to weep. There is a
shadow around you, Aspatria; if people
speak of you they drop their voices and
shake their heads ; they wonder, and they
think evil. Your good name is being
smiled and shaken away, and I cannot
find any one, man or woman, to thrash
for it."

She stood listening to him with wide-
open eyes, and lips dropping a little apart,
every particle of colour fled from them.

"It is for this reason Fenwick is to
marry you."

" You forced him ; I know you forced
him." She seemed to drag the words
from her mouth ; they almost shivered ;
they broke in two as they fell halting on
the ear.



Only Brother Will. 93

" Well, I must say he did not need forc
ing, when he heard your good name was
in danger. He said, manly enough, that
he would make it good with his own name.
I do not much think I could have either
frightened or flogged him into marrying
you."

" Oh, Will ! I cannot marry him in this
way ! Let people say wicked things of
me, if they will."

" Nay, I will not ! I cannot help them
thinking evil ; but they shall not look it,
and they shall not say it."

" Perhaps they do not even think it,
Will. How can you tell?"

" Well enough, Aspatria. How many
women come to Ambar-Side now? If
you gave a dance next week, you could
not get a girl in Allerdale to accept your
invitation."

"Will!"

" It is the truth. You must stop all this
by marrying Ulfar Fenwick. He saw it
was only just and right: I will say that
much for him."



94 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

" Let me alone until morning. I will
do what you say. Oh, mother ! mother !
I want mother now ! "

" My poor little lass ! I am only brother
Will ; but I am sorry for thee, I am that ! "




She tottered to the
bedside, and he lifted her
gently, and laid her on it; and then, as
softly as if he was afraid of waking her, he
went out of the room. Outside the door
he found Brune. He had taken off his
shoes, and was in his stocking-feet. Will
grasped him by the shoulder and led him
to his own chamber.



Only Brother Will. 95

"What were you watching me for?
What were you listening to me for? I
have a mind to hit you, Brune."

" You had better not hit me, Will. I
was not bothering myself about you.
I was watching Aspatria. I was listening,
because I knew the madman in you had
got loose, and I was feared for my sister.
I was not going to let you say or do
things you would be sorry to death for
when you came to yourself. And so you
are going to let that villain marry Aspa
tria? You are not of my mind, Will. I
would not let him put a foot into our
decent family, or have a claim of any kind
on our sister."

" I have done what I thought best."

" I don't say it is best."

" And I don't ask for your opinion. Go
to your own room, Brune, and mind your
own affairs."

And Brune, brought up in the religious
belief of the natural supremacy of the
elder brother, went off without another
word, but with a heart full to overflowing
of turbulent, angry thoughts.



96 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

In the morning Will went to see Mrs.
Frostham. He told her of his interview
with Ulfar Fenwick, and begged her to
help Aspatria with such preparations as
could be made. But neither to her nor
yet to Aspatria did he speak of Fenwick's
avowed intention to leave his wife after the
ceremony. In the first place, he did not
believe that Fenwick would dare to give
him such a cowardly insult; and then,
also, he thought that the sight of Aspa-
tria's suffering would make him tender
toward her. William Anneys's simple,
kindly soul did not understand that of all
things the painful results of our sins are
the most irritating. The hatred we ought
to give to the sin or to the sinner, we give
to the results.

Surely it was the saddest preparation
for a wedding that could be. Will and
Brune were " out." They did not speak to
each other, except about the farm business.
Aspatria spent most of her time in her
own room with a sempstress, who was
making the long-delayed wedding-dress.



Only Brother Will. 97

The silk for it had been bought more than
a year, and it had lost some of its lustrous
colour. Mrs. Frostham paid a short visit
every day, and occasionally Alice Frost-
ham came with her. She was a very
pretty girl, gentle and affectionate to As-
patria; and just because of her kindness
Will determined at some time to make her
Mistress of Seat-Ambar.

But in the house there was a great de
pression, a depression that no one could
avoid feeling. Will gave no orders for
wedding-festivities ; a great dinner and
ball would have been a necessity under the
usual circumstances, but there were no
arrangements even for a breakfast. Aspa-
tria wondered at the omission, but she did
not dare to question Will ; indeed. Will
appeared to avoid her as much as he
could.

Really, William Anneys was very anx
ious and miserable. He had no depen
dence upon Fenwick's promise, and he
felt that if Fenwick deceived him there
was nothing possible but the last ven-
7



98 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.



geance. He had this thought constantly
in his mind ; and he was
quietly ordering
things on the
farm for a long
absence, and
for Brune's
management
or succession
He paid several
visits to White-
haven, where was
his banker, and to
Gosport, where his law
yer lived. He felt, during
that terrible interval of sus
pense, very much as a man
under sentence of death
might feel.

The morning of the
fifteenth broke chill and
with a promise of rain.
Gable was carrying
flict with an army
assailing; h i s




dark,
Great
on a con-
of gray clouds
summit and bod-



Only Brother Will, 99

ing no good for the weather. The fog
rolled and eddied from side to side of the
mountains, which projected their black
forms against a ghastly, neutral tint behind
them , and the air was full of that melan
choly stillness which so often pervades the
last days of autumn.

Squire Anneys had slept little for two
weeks, and he had been awake all the
night before. While yet very early, he
had every one in the house called. Still
there were no preparations for company
or feasting. Brune came down grumbling
at a breakfast by candle-light, and he and
William drank their coffee and made a
show of eating almost in silence. But
there was an unspeakable tenderness in
William's heart, if he had known how to
express it. He looked at Brune with a
new speculation in his eyes. Brune might
soon be master of Ambar-Side : what
kind of a master would he make? Would
he be loving to Aspatria? When Brune
had sons to inherit the land, would he
remember his promise, and avenge the



ioo A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

insult to the Anneys, if he, William, should
give his life in vain? Out of these ques
tions many others arose ; but he was natu
rally a man of few words, and not able to
talk himself into a conviction that he
was doing right; nor yet was he able to
give utterance to the vague objections
which, if defined by words, might per
haps have changed his feelings and his
plans.

He had sent Aspatria word that she
must be ready by ten o'clock. At eight
she began to dress. Her sleep had been
broken and miserable. She looked anx
iously in the glass at her face. It was as
white as the silk robe she was to wear. A
feeling of dislike of the unhappy garment
rose in her heart. She had bought the
silk in the very noon of her love and
hopes, a shining piece of that pearl-like
tint which only the most brilliant freshness
and youth can becomingly wear. Many
little accessories were wanting. She tried
the Roman cameos with it, and they
looked heavy ; she knew in her womanly



Only Brother Will. 101

heart that it needed the lustre of gems, the
sparkle of diamonds or rubies.

Mrs. Frostham came a little later, and
assisted her in her toilet; but a passing
thought of the four bridemaids she had
once chosen for this office made her eyes
dim, while the stillness of the house, the
utter neglect of all symbols of rejoicing,
gave an ominous and sorrowful atmosphere
to the bride-robing. Still, Aspatria looked
very handsome ; for as the melancholy
toilet offices proceeded with so little in
terest and so little sympathy, a sense of
resentment had gradually gathered in the
poor girl's heart. It made her carry her
self proudly, it brought a flush to her
cheeks, and a flashing, trembling light to
her eyes which Mrs. Frostham could not
comfortably meet.

A few minutes before ten, she threw over
all her fateful finery a large white cloak,
which added a decided grace and dignity
to her appearance. It was a garment
Ulfar had sent her from London, a long,
mantle-like wrap, made of white cashmere,



IO2 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

and lined with quilted white satin. Long
cords and tassels of chenille fastened it at
the throat, and the hood was trimmed with
soft white fur. She drew the hood over
her head, she felt glad to hide the wreath
of orange-buds and roses which Mrs. Frost-
ham had insisted upon her wearing, the
sign and symbol of her maidenhood.

Will looked at her with stern lips, but
as he wrapped up her satin-sandalled feet
in the carriage, he said softly to her, " God
bless you, Aspatria!" His voice trem
bled, but not more than Aspatria's as she
answered,

" Thank you, Will. You and Brune are
father and mother to me to-day. There
is no one else."

" Never mind, my little lass. We are
enough."

She was alone in the carriage. Will
and Brune rode on either side of her. The
Frosthams, the Dawsons, the Bellendens,
the Atkinsons, and the Lutons followed.
Will had invited every one to the church,
and curiosity brought those who were not



Only Brother Will.



103



moved by sympathy or regard
Fortunately the rain held off,
though the air was damp and
exceedingly depressing.

When they arrived
at Aspatria Church,
they found the yard full ,
every gravestone was occu
pied by a little party of
gossips. At the
gate there was
a handsome
travelling-
chariot
with
fo u r
horses.
It lifted
a great
weight of
apprehen-
William
told him
kept his word.








sion from
Anneys, for it
that Fenwick had
He helped Aspatria



to alight, and his heart ached for her. How



IO4 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

would she be able to walk between that
crowd of gazing, curious men and women ?
He held her arm tight against his big
heart, and Brune, carefully watching her,
followed close behind.

But Aspatria's inner self had taken pos
session of the outer woman. She walked
firmly and proudly, with an erect grace,
without hesitation and without hurry, toward
her fate. Something within her kept say
ing words of love and encouragement ; she
knew not what they were, only they
strengthened her like wine. She passed
the church door whispering the promise
given her, " It is I. Be not afraid."
And then her eyes fell upon the ancient
stone font, at which her father and mother
had named her. She put out her hand and
just touched its holy chalice.

The church was crowded with a curious
and not unsympathetic congregation, t As-
patria Anneys was their own, a dales-
woman by a thousand years of birthright.
Fenwick was a stranger. If he were going
to do her any wrong, and Will Anneys was



Only Brother Will. 105

ready to punish him for it, every man and
woman present would have stood shoulder
to shoulder with Will. There was an unde
fined expectation of something unusual, of
something more than a wedding. This
feeling, though unexpressed, made itself
felt in a very pronounced way. Will and
Brune looked confidingly around ; Aspa-
tria gathered courage with every step.
She felt that she was among her own
people, living and dead.

As soon as they really entered the
church, they saw Fen wick. He was with
an officer wearing the uniform of the
Household Troops ; and he was evidently
pointing out to him the ancient tombs of
the Ambar-Anneys family, the Crusaders
in stone, with sheathed swords and hands
folded in prayer, and those of the fam
ily abbots, adorned with richly floriated
crosses.

When he saw Aspatria he bowed, and
advanced rapidly to the altar. She had
loosened her cloak and flung back her
hood, and she watched his approach with



106 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

eyes that seemed two separate souls of
love and sorrow. One glance from them
troubled him to the seat of life. He
motioned to the waiting clergyman, and
took his place beside his bride. There
was a dead stillness in the church, and a
dead stillness outside; the neighing of a
horse sounded sharp, imperative, fateful.
A ripple of a smile followed ; it was a lucky
omen to hear a horse neigh. Brune
glanced at his sister, but she had not
heeded it. Her whole being was swal
lowed up in the fact that she was standing
at Ulfar's side, that she was going to be
his wife.

The aged clergyman was fumbling with
the Prayer Book : " The Form of Solemni
zation of Matrimony " seemed hard to find.
And so vagrant is thought, that while he
turned the leaves Aspatria remembered the
travelling-chariot, and wondered whether
Ulfar meant to carry her away in it, and
what she would do for proper clothing.
Will ought to have told her something of
the future. How cruel every one had



Only Brother Will. 107

been ! It took but a moment for these
and many other thoughts to invade Aspa-
tria's heart, and spread dismay and anx
iety and again the sense of resentment.

Then she heard the clergyman begin.
His voice was like that of some one speak
ing in a dream, till she sharply called her
self together, hearing also Ulfar's voice,
and knowing that she too would be called
upon for her assent. She glanced up at
Ulfar, who was dressed with great care and
splendour and looking very handsome, and
said her " I will " with the glance. Ulfar
could not receive it unmoved; he looked
steadily at her, and then he saw the ruin
of youth that his faithlessness had made.
Remorse bit him like a serpent, but re
morse is not repentance. Then William
Anneys gave his sister to his enemy ; and
the gift was like death to him, and the
look accompanying the gift filled Ulfar's
heart with a contemptuous anger fatal to
all juster or kinder feelings.

When the service was ended, Fenwick
turned to Aspatria and offered her his



io8 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

hand. She put hers into his, and so he led
her down the aisle, and through the church
yard, to her own carriage. William had
followed close. He wondered if Fenwick
meant to take his wife with him, and he
resolved to give him the opportunity to do
so. But as soon as he perceived that the
bridegroom would carry out his threat, and
desert his bride at the church gates, he
stepped forward and said,

" That is enough, Sir Ulfar Fenwick.
I have made you keep your word. I will
care for your wife. She shall neither bear
your name nor yet take anything from
your bounty."

Fenwick paid no heed to his brother-in-
law. He looked at Aspatria. She was
whiter than snow; she had the pallor of
death. He lifted his hat and said,

" Farewell, Lady Fenwick. We shall
meet no more."

" Sir Ulfar," she answered calmly, " it
is not my will that we met here to-day."

" And as for meeting no more," said
Brune, with passionate contempt, " I will



Only Brother Will. 109



warrant that is not in your say-so, Ulfar
Fenwick."

As he spoke, Fenwick's friend handed
Will Anneys a card ; then they drove rap
idly away. Will was carefully wrapping
his sister for her solitary ride back to Seat-
Ambar ; and he did this with forced delib
eration, trying to appear undisturbed by
what had occurred ; for, since it had hap
pened, he wished his neighbours to think
he had fully expected it. And while so
engaged he found opportunity to whisper
to Aspatria : " Now, my little lass, bear up
as bravely as may be. It is only one hour.
Only one hour, dearie ! Don't you try to
speak. Only keep your head high till you
get home, darling! "

So the sad procession turned homeward,
Aspatria sitting alone in her carriage,
William and Brune riding on either side
of her, the squires and dames bidden to
the ceremony following slowly behind.
Some talked softly of the affair ; some pas
sionately assailed William Anneys for not
felling the villain where he stood. Gradu-



no A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.



ally they said good-by, and so went to their
own homes. Aspatria had to speak to
each, she had to sit erect, she had to bear
the wondering, curious gaze not only of




her friends, but of the hinds and peasant-
women in the small hamlets between the
church and Seat-Ambar; she had to en
dure her own longing and disappointment,
and make a poor attempt to smile when
the children flung their little posies of late
flowers into the passing carriage.

To the last moment she bore it. "A



Only Brother Will. 1 1 1

good, brave girl ! " said Will, as he left her
at her own room door. " My word ! it is
better to have good blood than good
fortune : good blood never was beat !
Aspatria is only a little lass, but she is
more than a match for yon villain ! A big
villain he is, a villain with a latchet! "

The miserable are sacred. All through
that wretched afternoon no one troubled
Aspatria. Will and Brune sat by the
parlour fire, for the most part silent. The
rain, which had barely held off until their
return from the church, now beat against
the window-panes, and drenched and scat
tered even the hardy Michaelmas daisies.
The house was as still as if there had been
death instead of marriage in it. Now and
then Brune spoke, and sometimes William
answered him, and sometimes he did not.

At last, after a long pause, Brune asked :
" What was it Fenwick's friend gave you ?
A message? "

" A message."

" You might as well say what, Will."

" Ay, I might. It said Fenwick would



112 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

wait for me a week at the Sceptre Inn,
Carlisle."

" Will you go to Carlisle?"

" To be sure I will go. I would not
miss the chance of 'throwing' him, no,
1 not for ten years' life ! "

"Dear me! what a lot of trouble has
come with just taking a stranger in out
of the storm ! "

"Ay, it is a venturesome thing to do.
How can any one tell what a stranger may
bring in with him ? "



CHAPTER IV.

FOR MOTHER'S SAKE.

IN the upper chamber where Will had
left his sister, a great mystery of sorrow
was being endured. Aspatria felt as if all
had been. Life had no more joy to give,
and no greater grief to inflict. She un
dressed with rapid, trembling ringers; her
wedding finery was hateful in her sight.
On the night before she had folded all her
store of clothing, and laid it ready to put
in a trunk. She had been quite in the
dark as to her destiny; the only thing that
appeared certain to her was that she would
have to leave home. Perhaps she would
go with Ulfar from the church door. In
that case Will would have to send her
clothing, and she had laid it in the neatest
order for the emergency.

On the top of one pile lay a crimson
Canton crape shawl. Her mother had



114 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

worn it constantly during the last year of
her life ; and Aspatria had put it away, as
something too sacred for ordinary use.
She now folded it around her shoulders,
and sat down. Usually, when things trou
bled her, she was restless and kept in
motion, but this trouble was too bitter and
too great to resist ; she was quiet, she took
its blows passively, and they smote her on
every side.

Could she ever forget that cruel ride
home, ever cease to burn and shiver when
she remembered the eyes that had scanned
her during its progress? The air seemed
full of them. She covered her face to
avoid the pitying, wondering, scornful
glances. But this ride through the valley
of humiliation was not the bitterest drop
in her bitter cup ; she could have smiled
as she rode and drank it, if Ulfar had been
at her side. It was his desertion that was
so distracting to her. She had thought
of many sorrows in connection with this
forced marriage, but this sorrow had never
suggested itself as possible.



For Mother's Sake. 1 1 5

Therefore, when Ulfar bade her farewell
she had felt as if standing on the void of
the universe. It was the superhuman
woman within her that had answered him,
and that had held up her head and had
strengthened her for her part all through
that merciless ride. And the sight of her
handsome, faithless lover, the tones of his
voice, the touch of his hand, his half-
respectful, half-pitying kindness, had awak
ened in her heart a tenfold love for him.

For she understood then, for the first
time, her social and educational inferiority.
She felt even that she had done herself
less than justice in her fine raiment: her
country breeding and simple beauty would
have appeared to greater advantage in the
white merino she had desired to wear.
She had been forced into a dress that
accentuated her deficiencies. At that
hour she thought she could never see
Mrs. Frostham again.

To these tempestuous, humiliating, heart
breaking reflections the storm outside
made an angry accompaniment. The



1 1 6 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.



wind howled down the chimney and wailed
around the house, and the rain beat
against the window and pattered on the

flagged walks.
The darkness
came on early,
and the cold grew
every hour more
searching. She
was not insen
sible to these
physical dis
comforts, but
)they seemed
.Ml so small a

part of her
misery that
she made no
resistance t o
their attack.
Will and Brune,

sitting almost speechless

downstairs, were both thinking of her.
When it was quite dark they grew un
happy. First one and then the other




For Mother s Sake. 117

crept softly to her room door. All was as
still as death. No movement, no sound of
any kind, betrayed in what way the poor
soul within suffered. No thread of light
came from beneath the door: she was in
the dark, and she had eaten nothing all day.

About six o'clock Will could bear it no
longer. He knocked softly at her door,
and said : " My little lass, speak to Will !
Have a cup of tea ! Do have a cup of
tea, dearie ! "

The voice was so unlike Will's voice that
it startled Aspatria. It told her of a suf
fering almost equalling her own. She
rose from the chair in which she had been
sitting for hours, and went to him. The
room was dark, the passage was dark ; he
saw nothing but the denser dark of her
figure, and her white face above it. She
saw nothing but his great bulk and his
shining eyes. But she felt the love flow
ing out from his heart to her, she felt his
sorrow and his sympathy, and it comforted
her. She said : " Will, do not fret about
me. I am over-getting the shame and sor-



1 1 8 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

row. Yes, I will have a cup of tea, and
tell Tabitha to make a fire here. Dear
Will, I have been a great care and shame
to you."

"Ay, you have, Aspatria; but I would
rather die than miss you, my little lass."

This interview gave a new bent to Aspa-
tria's thoughts. As she drank the tea, and
warmed her chilled feet before the blaze,
she took into consideration what misery
her love for Ulfar Fenwick had brought to
her brothers' once happy home, the anxi
ety, the annoyance, the shame, the ill-will
and quarrelling, the humiliations that Will
and Brune had been compelled to endure.
Then suddenly there flashed across her
mind the card given to Will by Ulfar's
friend. She was not too simple to con
ceive of its meaning. It was a defiance of
some kind, and she knew how W 7 ill would
answer it. Her heart stood still with
terror.

She had seen Will and Ulfar wrestling ;
she had heard Will say to Brune, when
Ulfar was absent, " He knows little about



For Mother s Sake. "119

it; when I had that last grip, I could have
flung him into eternity." It was common
enough for dalesmen quarrelling to have
a "fling" with one another and stand by
its results. If Will and Ulfar met thus,
one or both would be irremediably injured.
In their relation to her, both were equally
dear. She would have given her poor
little life cheerfully for the love of either.
Her cup shook in her hand. She had a
sense of hurry in the matter, that drove
her like a leaf before a strong wind. If
Will got to bed before she saw him, he


1 2 4 6 7 8 9

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA rose of a hundred leaves; a love story → online text (page 4 of 9)