Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A rose of a hundred leaves; a love story online

. (page 5 of 9)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA rose of a hundred leaves; a love story → online text (page 5 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


might be away in the morning ere she was
aware. She put down her cup, and while
she stood a moment to collect her strength
and thoughts, the subject on all its sides
flashed clearly before her.

A minute afterward she opened the par
lour door. Brune sat bent forward, with a
poker in his hands. He was tracing a
woman's name in the ashes, though he
was hardly conscious of the act. Will's
head was thrown back against his chair;
he seemed to be asleep. But when Aspa-



I2O A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

tria opened the door, he sat upright and
looked at her. A pallor like death spread
over his face ; it was the crimson shawl, his
mother's shawl, which caused it. Wearing
it, Aspatria closely resembled her. Will
had idolized his mother in life, and he wor
shipped her memory. If Aspatria had
considered every earthly way of touching
Will's heart, she could have selected none
so certain as the shawl, almost accidentally
assumed.

She went direct to Will. He drew a
low stool to his side, and Aspatria sat
down upon it, and then stretched out her
left hand to Brune. The two men looked
at their sister, and then they looked at
each other. The look was a vow. Both
so understood it.

" Will and Brune," the girl spoke softly,
but with a great steadiness, " Will and
Brune, I am sorry to have given you so
much shame and trouble."

" It is not your fault, Aspatria," said
Brune.

" But I will do so no more. I will never



For Mother's Sake. 121

name Ulfar again. I will try to be cheer
ful and to make home cheerful, try to
carry on life as it used to be before he
came. We will not let people talk of him,
we will not mind it if they do. Eh, Will?"

"Just now, dear, in a little while."

" Will, dear Will ! what did that card
mean, the one Ulfar's friend gave? You
will not go near Ulfar, Will? Please do
not!"

" I have a bit of business to settle with
him, Aspatria, and then I never want to
see his face again."

"Will, you must not go."

" Ay, but I must. I have been thought
of with a lot of bad names, but no one
shall think ' coward ' of me."

" Will, remember all I have suffered
to-day."

" I am not likely to forget it."

" That ride home, Will, was as if I was
going up Calvary. My wedding-dress
was hea^y as a cross, and that foolish
wreath of flowers was a wreath of cruel
thorns. I was pitied and scorned, till I



122 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves,

felt as if my heart my real heart was
all bruised and torn. I have suffered
so much, Will, spare me more suffering.
Will ! Will ! for your little sister's sake,
put that card in the fire, and stay here,
right here with me."

" My lass ! my dear lass, you cannot tell
what you are asking."

" I am asking you to give up your re
venge. I know that is a great thing for
a man to do. But, Will, dear, you stand
in father's place, you are sitting in father's
chair; what would he say to you? "

" He would say, ' Give the rascal a good
thrashing, Will. When a man wrongs a
woman, there is no other punishment for
him. Thrash him to within an inch of his
cruel, selfish, contemptible life ! ' That is
what father would say, Aspatria. I know
it, I feel it"

" If you will not give up your revenge
for me, nor yet for father, then I ask you
for mother's sake ! What would mother
say to-night if she were here? very like
she is here. Listen to her, Will. She is



For Mother's Sake. 123

saying, ' Spare my little girl any more
sorrow and shame, Will, my boy Will ! '
that is what mother would say. And if
you hurt Ulfar you hurt me also, and if
Ulfar hurts you my heart will break. The.
fell-side is ringing now with my troubles.
If I have any more, I will go away where
no one can find me. For mother's sake,
Will ! For mother's sake ! "

The strong man was sobbing behind his
hands, the struggle was a terrific one.
Brune watched it with tears streaming un
consciously down his cheeks. Aspatria
sunk at Will's feet, and buried her face on
his knees.

" For mother's sake, Will ! Let Ulfar
go free."

" My dear little lass, I cannot ! "

" For mother's sake, Will ! I am speak
ing for mother ! For mother's sake ! "

" I I - Oh, what shall I do, Brune ? "

" For mother's sake, Will ! "

He trembled until the chair shook. He
dared not look at the weeping girl. She
rose up. She gently moved away his



124 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

hands. She kissed his eyelids. She said,
with an irresistible entreaty: " Look at me,
Will. I am speaking for mother. Let
Ulfar alone. I do not say forgive him."

" Nay, I will never forgive him."

"But let him alone. Will! Will! let
him alone, for mother's sake ! "

Then he stood up. He looked into
Aspatria's eyes ; he let his gaze wander to
the crimson shawl. He began to sob like
a child.

"You may go, Aspatria," he said, in
broken words. " If you ask me anything
in mother's name, I have no power to
say no."

He walked to the window and looked
out into the dark stormy night, and Brune
motioned to Aspatria to go away. He
knew Will would regain himself better in
her absence. She was glad to go. As
soon as Will had granted her request, she
fell to the lowest ebb of life. She could
hardly drag herself up the long, dark stairs.
She dropped asleep as soon as she reached
her room.



For Mother s Sake.



125



It was a bitter
awakening. The
soul feels sorrow
keenest at the first
moments of con
sciousness. It has
been away, perhaps,
in happy scenes, or
it has been lulling
itself in deep repose,
and then suddenly it
is called to lift again
the heavy burden of
its daily life. Aspa-
tria stood in her cold,
dim room ; and even
while shivering in her thin
night-dress, with bare feet
treading the polished oak floor,
she hastily put out of her sight
the miserable wedding-garments. A large
dower-chest stood conveniently near. She
opened it wide, and flung dress and wreath
and slippers and cloak into it. The lid
fell from her hands with a great clang, and




1 26 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

she said to herself, " I will never open it
again."

The storm still continued. She dressed
in simple household fashion, and went
downstairs. Brune sat by the fire. He
said: "I was waiting for you, Aspatria.
Will is in the barn. He had his coffee
and bacon long ago."

" Brune, will you be my friend through
all this trouble?"

" I will stand by you through thick
and thin, Aspatria. There is my hand
on it."

About great griefs we do not chatter;
and there was no further discussion of
those events which had been barely turned
away from tragedy and death. Murder
and despairing love and sorrow might
have a secret dwelling-place in Seat-
Ambar, but it was in the background.
The front of life went on as smoothly as
ever; the cows were milked, the sheep
tended, the men and maids had their tasks,
the beds were made, and the tables set,
with the usual order and regularity.



For Mother's Sake. 127

And Aspatria found this " habit of liv
ing " to be a good staff to lean upon. She
assumed certain duties, and performed
them; and the house was pleasanter for
her oversight. Will and Brune came far
oftener to sit at the parlour fireside, when
they found Aspatria there to welcome
them. And so the days and weeks fol
lowed one another, bringing with them
those commonplace duties and interests
which give to existence a sense of stability
and order. No one spoke of Fenwick ; but
all the more Aspatria nursed his image in
her heart and her imagination. He had
dressed himself for his marriage with great
care and splendour. Never had he looked
so handsome and so noble in her eyes,
and never until that hour had she realized
her social inferiority to him, her lack of
polish and breeding, her ignorance of all
things which a woman of birth and wealth
ought to know and to possess.

This was a humiliating acknowledg
ment; but it was Aspatria's first upward
step, for with it came an invincible deter-



128 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

initiation to make herself Worthy of her
husband's love and companionship. The
hope and the object gave a new colour to
her life. As she went about her simple
duties, as she sat alone in her room, as
she listened to her brothers talking, it
occupied, strengthened, and inspired her.
Dark as the present was, it held the hope
of a future which made her blush and
tingle to its far-off joy. To learn every
thing, to go everywhere, to become a
brilliant woman, a woman of the world, to
make her husband admire and adore her,
these were the dreams that brightened the
long, sombre winter, and turned the low
dim rooms into a palace of enchantment.

She was aware of the difficulties in her
way. She thought first of asking Will to
permit her to go to a school in London.
But she knew he would never consent.
She had no friends to whom she could
confide her innocent plans, she had as yet
no money in her own control. But in less
than two years she would be of age. Her
fortune would then be at her disposal, and



For Mother s Sake.



129



the law would permit her to order her own
life. In the mean time she could read and
study at home : when the spring came
she would see the vicar, and he would
lend her books from his library.
There was an Encyclopaedia in
the house ; she got to
gether its scattered
volumes, and began
to make herself
familiar with its
melange of in
formation.

In such efforts
her heart was
purified from
a 1 1 bitterness,
wounded vanity,
and impatience. Life
was neither lonely nor
monotonous, she had a noble
object to work for. So the winter
passed, and the spring came again. All
over the fells the ewes and their lambs
made constant work for the shepherds;
9




130 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

and Aspatria greatly pleased Will by go
ing out frequently to pick up the perish
ing, weakly lambs and succour them.

One day in April she took a bottle of
warm milk and a bit of sponge and went up
Calder Fell. On the first reach of the
fell she found a dying lamb, and carried it
down to the shelter of some whin-bushes.
Then she fed it with the warm milk, and
the little creature went to sleep in her
arms.

The grass was green and fresh, the sun
warm ; the whins sheltered her from the
wind, and a little thrush in them, busy
building her nest, was making sweet music
out of air as sweet. All was so glad and
quiet: she, too, was happy in her own
thoughts. A wagon passed, and then a
tax-cart, and afterward two old men going
ditching. She hardly lifted her head ;
every one knew Aspatria Anneys. When
the shadows told her that it was near noon,
she rose to go home, holding the lamb in
her arms. At that moment a carriage
came slowly from behind the hedge. She



For Mother 's Sake.



saw the fine horses with their glittering
harness, and knew it was a strange vehicle




in Ambar-Side, so she sat down

again until it should pass. The lamb was

in her left arm. She threw back her head,



132 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

and gazed fixedly into the whin-bush where
the thrush had its nest. Whoever it was,
she did not wish to be recognized.

Lady Redware, Sarah Sandys, and Ulfar
Fenwick were in the carriage. At the
moment she stood with the lamb in her
arms, Ulfar had known his wife. Lady
Redware saw her almost as quickly, and in
some occult way she transferred, by a
glance, the knowledge to Sarah. The car
riage was going very slowly ; the beauty
of the thrown-back head, the simplicity of
her dress, the pastoral charm of her posi
tion, all were distinct. Ulfar looked at her
with a fire of passion in his eyes, Lady
Redware with annoyance. Sarah asked,
with a mocking laugh, " Is that really
Little Bo Peep?" The joke fell flat.
Ulfar did not immediately answer it; and
Sarah was piqued.

" I shall go to Italy again," she said.
" Englishmen may be admirable en masse,
but individually they are stupid or cross."

" In Italy there are the Capuchins," an
swered Ulfar. He remembered that Sarah



For Mother s Sake. 133

had expressed herself strongly about the
order.

" I have just passed a week at Oxford
among the Reverends; all things consid
ered, I prefer the Capuchins. When you
have dined with a lord bishop, you want
to become a socialist."

" Your Oxford friends are very nice
people, Sarah."

" Excellent people, Elizabeth, quite su
perior people, and they are all sure not only
of going to heaven, but also of joining
the very best society the place affords."

" Best society ! " said Ulfar, pettishly.
" I am going to America. There, I hope,
I shall hear nothing about it."

" America is so truly admirable. Why
was it put in such an out-of-the-way place?
You have to sail three thousand miles to
get to it," pouted Sarah.

" All things worth having are put out of
the way," replied Ulfar.

" Yes," sighed Sarah. " What an ad
mirable story is that of the serpent and
the apple ! "



134 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

" Come, Ulfar ! " said Lady Redware,
" do try to be agreeable. You used to
be so delightful ! Was he not, Sarah? "

" Was he? I have forgotten, Elizabeth.
Since that time a great deal of water has
run into the sea."

" If you want an ill-natured opinion
about yourself, by all means go to a
woman for it." And Ulfar enunciated
this dictum with a very scornful shrug
of his shoulders.

" Ulfar ! "

" It is so, Elizabeth."

" Never mind him, dear ! " said Sarah.
" I do not. And I have noticed that the
men who give bad characters to women
have usually much worse ones themselves.
I think Ulfar is quite ready for American
society and its liberal ideas." And Sarah
drew her shawl into her throat, and looked
defiantly at Ulfar.

" The Americans are all socialists. I
have read that, Ulfar. You know what
these liberal ideas come to, always
socialism."



For Mother s Sake. 135

" Do not be foolish, Elizabeth. Social
ism never comes from liberality of thought :
it is always a bequest of tyranny."

" Ulfar, when are you going to be really
nice and good again? "

" I do not know, Elizabeth."

" Ulfar is a standing exception to the
rule that when things are at their worst
they must mend. Ulfar, lately, is always
at his worst, and he never mends."

There was really some excuse for Ulfar ;
he was suffering keenly, and neither of the
two women cared to recognize the fact.
He had just returned from Italy with his
father's remains, and after their burial he
had permitted Elizabeth to carry him off
with her to Redware. In reality the neigh
bourhood of Aspatria drew him like a mag
net. He had been haunted by her last,
resentful, amazed, miserable look. He
understood from it that Will had never
told her of his intention to bid her farewell
as soon as she was his wife, and he was
not devoid of imagination. His mind had
constantly pictured scenes of humiliation



136 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves,

which he had condemned the woman he
had once so tenderly loved to endure.

And that passing glimpse of her under
the whin-bushes had revived something of
his old passion. He answered his sister's
and Sarah's remarks pettishly, because he
wanted to be left alone with the new hope
that had come to him. Why not take
Aspatria to America? She was his wife.
He had been compelled, by his sense of
justice and honour, to make her Lady Fen-
wick; why should he deny himself her
company, merely to keep a passionate,
impulsive threat?

To the heart the past is eternal, and
love survives the pang of separation. He
thought of Aspatria for the next twenty-
four hours. To see her ! to speak to her !
to hear her voice ! to clasp her to his
heart ! Why should he deny himself these
delights? What pleasure could pride and
temper give him in exchange? Fenwick
had always loved to overcome an obsta
cle, and such people cannot do without
obstacles ; they are a necessary aliment.



For Mother's Sake.



137



To see and to speak with Aspatria was
now the one thing in life worthy of his
eittention.

It was not an easy thing to accom
plish. Every day for nearly a
week he rode furiously to
Calder Wood, tied his horse
there, and then hung about
the brow of Calder Cliff, for
it commanded Seat-Ambar,
which lay below it as the
street lies below a high
tower. With his
glass he could see
and Brune passing
house to the barns
and once he saw
meet her brother
lift her face to >J
Will put her






and so go
How he
What a




Will

from the
or the fields,
Aspatria go to
Will ; he saw her
Will's face, he saw
arm through his arm



with her to the house,
hated Will Anneys !
triumph it would be to
carry off his sister unknown to him and
without his say-so !



138 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

One morning he determined if he found
no opportunity to see Aspatria that day
alone he would risk all, and go boldly to
the house. Why should he not do so?
He had scarcely made the decision when
he saw Will and Brune drive away to
gether. He remembered it was Dalton
market-day ; and he knew that they had
gone there. Almost immediately Aspatria
left the house also. Then he was jealous.
Where was she going as soon as her
brothers left her? She was going to the
vicar's to return a book and carry him a
cream cheese of her own making.

He knew then how to meet her. She
would pass through a meadow on her way
home, and this meadow was skirted by a
young plantation. Half-way down there
was a broad stile between the two. He
hurried his steps, and arrived there just
as Aspatria entered the meadow. There
was a high frolicking wind blowing right
in her face. It had blown her braids loose,
and her tippet and dress backward ; her
slim form was sharply defined by it, and



For Mother's Sake. 139

it compelled her to hold up both her
hands in order to keep her hat on her
head.

She came on so, treading lightly, almost
dancing with the merry gusts to and fro.
Once Ulfar heard a little cry that was half
laughter, as the wind made her pirouette
and then stand still to catch her breath.
Ulfar thought the picture bewitching. He
waited until she was within a yard or two
of the stile, ere he crossed it. She was
holding her hat down : she did not see
him until he could have put his hand upon
her. Then she let her hands fall, and her
hat blew backward, and she stood quite
still and quite speechless, her colour com
ing and going, all a woman's softest
witchery beaming in her eyes.

" Aspatria ! dear Aspatria ! I am come
to take you with me. I am going to
America." He spoke a little sadly, as if
he had some reason for feeling grieved.

She shook her head positively, but she
did not, or she could not, speak.

" Aspatria, have you no kiss, no word of



140 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

welcome, no love to give me?" And he
put out his hand, as if to draw her to his
embrace.

She stepped quickly backward : " No,
no, no ! Do not touch me, Ulfar. Go
away. Please go away ! "

" But you must go with me. You are
my wife, Aspatria." And he said the last
words very like a command.

" I am not your wife. Oh, no ! "

" I say you are. I married you in
Aspatria Church."

" You also left me there, left me to such
shame and sorrow as no man gives to the
woman he loves."

" Perhaps I did act cruelly in two or
three ways, Aspatria; but people who love
forgive two or three offences. Let us be
lovers as we used to be."

" No, I will not be lovers as we used to
be. People who love do not commit two
or three such offences as you committed
against me."

" I will atone for them. I will indeed !
Aspatria, I miss you very much. I will



142 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

not go to America without you. How
soon can you be ready? In a week?"

"You will atone to me? How? There
is but one way. You shall, in your own
name, call every one in Allerdale, gentle
and simple, to Aspatria Church. You
shall marry me again in their presence,
and go with me to my own home. The
wedding-feast shall be held there. You
shall count Will and Brune Anneys as
your brothers. You shall take me away,
in the sight of all, to your home. Of all
the honour a wife ought to have you must
give me here, among my own people, a
double portion. Will you do this in
atonement? "

"You are talking folly, Aspatria. I
have married you once."

" You have not married me once. You
met me at Aspatria Church to shame me,
to break my heart with love and sorrow,
to humble my good brothers. No, I am
not your wife ! I will not go with you ! "

" I can make you go, Aspatria. You
seem to forget the law



For Mother's Sake. 143

" Will says the law will protect me.
But if it did not, if you took me by force
to your house or yacht, you would not
have me. You could not touch me. As-
patria Anneys is beyond your reach."

" You are Aspatria Fenwick."

" I have never taken your name. Will
told me not to do so. Anneys is a good
name. No Anneys ever wronged me."

" You refused my home, you refused
my money, and now you refuse my name.
You are treating me as badly as possible.
The day before our marriage I sent to
your brother a signed settlement for your
support, the use of Fenwick Castle as a
residence, and two thousand pounds a
year. Your brother Will, the day after
our marriage, took it to my agent and tore
it to pieces in his presence."

"Will did right. He knew his sister
would not have your home and money
without your love."

She spoke calmly, with a dignity that
became well her youth and beauty. Ulfar
thought her exceedingly lovely. He at-



144 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.

tempted to woo her again with the tender
glances and soft tones and caressing touch
of their early acquaintance. Aspatria
sorrowfully withdrew herself; she held only
repelling palms toward his bending face.
She was not coy, he could have overcome
coyness ; she was cold, and calm, and
watchful of him and of herself. Her face
and throat paled and blushed, and blushed
and paled ; her eyes were dilated with feel
ing; her pretty bow-shaped mouth trem
bled ; she radiated a personality sweet,
strong, womanly, a piquant, woodland,
pastoral delicacy, all her own.

But after many useless efforts to in
fluence her, he began to despair. He per
ceived that she still loved him, perhaps
better than she had ever done, but that
her determination to consider their mar
riage void had its source in a oneness of
mind having no second thoughts and no
doubt behind it. The only hope she gave
him was in another marriage ceremony
which in its splendour and publicity should
atone in some measure for the first. He



For Mother's Sake. 145

could not contemplate such a confession
of his own fault. He could not give Will
and Brune Anneys such a triumph. If
Aspatria loved him, how could she ask
such a humiliating atonement? Aspatria
saw the shadow of these reflections on his
face. Though he said nothing, she under
stood it was this struggle that gave the
momentary indecision to his pleading.

For herself, she did not desire a present
reconciliation. She had nursed too long
the idea of the Aspatria that was to be, the
wise, clever, brilliant woman who was to
win over again her husband. She did not
like to relinquish this hope for a present
gratification, a gratification so much lower
in its aim that she now understood that it
never could long satisfy a nature so com
plex and so changeable as Ulfar's. She
therefore refused him his present hope,
believing that fate had a far better meeting
in store for them.

While these thoughts flashed through
her mind, she kept her eyes upon the
horizon. In that wide-open fixed gaze her



146 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves,

loving, troubled soul revealed itself. Ulfar
was wondering whether it was worth while
to begin his argument all over again, when
she said softly : " We must now say fare
well. I see the vicar's maid coming. In
a few hours the fell-side will know of our
meeting. I must tell Will, myself. I
entreat you to leave the dales as soon as
possible."

" I will not leave them without you."

" Go to-night. I shall not change what
I have said. There is nothing to be done
but to part. We are no longer alone.
Good-by, Ulfar ! dear Ulfar ! "

" I care not who is present. You are
my wife." And he clasped her in his
arms and kissed her.

Perhaps she was not sorry. Perhaps
her own glance of love and longing had
commanded the embrace ; for when she
released herself she was weeping, and
Ulfar's tears were on her cheeks. But
she called the vicar's maid imperatively,
and so put an end to the interview.

" That was my husband, Lottie," she



For Mother's Sake. 147

said. It was the only explanation offered.
Aspatria knew it was useless to expect any
reticence on the subject. In that isolated


1 2 3 5 7 8 9

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA rose of a hundred leaves; a love story → online text (page 5 of 9)