A little before nine, Ulfar entered Sarah's
drawing-room. It was lighted with wax
candles. It was sweet with fresh violets,
and at the farther end Aspatria stood by
her harp. She was dressed for Lady
Chester's ball, and was waiting her chap
eron ; but there had been a little rebellion
against her leaving without giving her
admirers one song. Every person was
suggesting his or her favourite ; and she
stood smiling, uncertain, listening, watch
ing, for one voice and face.
Her dazzling bodice was clasped with
emeralds ; her draperies were of damasked
gauze, shot with gold and silver, and
abloom with flowers. Her fair neck spark
led with diamonds; and the long white
fingers which touched the strings so firmly
glinted with flashing gems. The moment
Ulfar entered, she saw him. His eyes, full
of fiery prescience, forced her to meet their
inquiry; and then it was that she sat down
230 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.
and filled the room with tinkling notes,
that made every one remember the moun
tains, and the merry racing of the spring
winds, and the trickling of half-hidden
Sarah advanced with him. She touched
Aspatria slightly, and said: "Hush! a
moment. This is my friend Sir Ulfar
Ria lifted her eyes sweetly to his eyes ;
she bowed with the grace and benignity of
a queen, and adroitly avoided speech by
turning the melody into song:
" I never shall forget
The mountain maid that once I met
By the cold river's side.
I met her on the mountain-side ;
She watched her herds unnoticed there :
' Trim-bodiced maiden, hail ! ' I cried.
She answered, ' Whither, Wanderer ?
For thou hast lost thy way.' "
Every word went to Ulfar's heart, and
amid all the soft cries of delight he alone
was silent. She was beaming with smiles ;
she was radiant as a goddess; the light
seemed to vanish from the room when she
"A Rose of a Hundred Leaves!' 231
went away. Her adieu was a general one,
excepting to Ulfar. On him she turned
her bright eyes, and courtesied low with
one upward glance. It set his heart on
fire. He knew that glance. They might
say this or that, they might lie to him
neck-deep, he knew it was Aspatria ! He
was cross with Sarah. He accused her of
downright deception. He told her frankly
that he believed nothing about the soldier
and his sister.
She bade him come in the morning and
talk to Ria; and he asked impetuously:
" How soon? Twelve, I suppose? How
am I to pass the time until twelve
"Why this haste?"
" Why this deception? "
" After seven years' indifference, are you
suddenly gone mad? "
" I feel as if I was being very badly
" How does the real Aspatria feel? Go
at once to Ambar-Side."
232 A Rose of a Himdred Leaves.
"The real Aspatria is here. I know it!
I feel it!"
" In a court of law, what evidence would
feeling be? "
" In a court of love "
" Try it."
" I will, to-morrow, at ten o'clock."
His impetuosity pleased her. She was
disposed to leave him to Aspatria now.
And Aspatria was disposed on the follow
ing morning to make his confession very
easy to him. She dressed herself in the
simple black gown she had kept ready for
this event. It had the short elbow sleeves,
and the ruffle round the open throat, and
the daffodil against her snowy breast, that
distinguished the first costume he had ever
seen her in. She loosened her hair and
let it fall in two long braids behind her
ears. She was, as far as dress could make
her so, the Aspatria who had held the
light to welcome him to Ambar-Side that
stormy night ten years ago.
He was standing in the middle of the
" A Rose of a Hundred Leaves." 233
room, restless and expectant, when she
opened the door. He called her by name,
and went to meet her. She trembled and
" Aspatria, it is you ! My Life ! My
Soul ! It is you ! "
He took her hands; they were as cold
as ice. He drew her close to his side ; he
stooped to see her eyes ; he whispered word
upon word of affection, sweet- meaning
nouns and adjectives that caught a real
physical heat from the impatient heart and
tongue that forged and uttered them.
" Forgive me, my dearest ! Forgive me
fully ! Forgive me at once and altogether !
Aspatria, I love you ! I love none but
you ! I will adore you all my life ! Speak
one word to me, one word, my love, one
word : say only ' Ulfar ! ' 1
She forgot in a moment all that she had
suffered. She forgot all she had promised
Sarah, all her intents of coldness, all re
proaches ; she forgot even to forgive him.
She just put her arms around his neck and
234 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.
kissed him. She blotted out the past for
ever in that one whispered word, " Ulfar."
And then he took her to his heart; he
kissed her for very wonder; he kissed her
for very joy ; but most of all he kissed her
for fervent love. Then once more life was
an " Interlude in Heaven." Every hour
held some sweet surprise, some accidental
joy. It was Brune, it was Sarah, it was
some eulogium of Ulfar in the great Lon
don weeklies. He had fought in the good
fight for freedom ; he had done great
deeds of mercy as well as of valour ; he had
crossed primeval forests, and brought back
wonderful medicines, and dyes, and many
new specimens for the botanist and the nat
uralist. The papers were never weary in
praising his pluck, his bravery, his gener
osity, and his endurance ; the Geograph
ical Society sent him its coveted blue
ribbon. In his own way Ulfar had made
himself a fit mate for the new Aspatria.
And she was a constant wonder to him.
Nothing in all his strange experience
"A Rose of a Hundred Leaves." 235
touched his heart like the thought of his
simple, patient wife, studying to please
him, to be worthy of his love. Every day
revealed her in some new and charming
light. She was one hundred Aspatrias in
a single, lovable, lovely woman. On what,
ever subject Ulfar spoke, she understood,
supplemented, sympathized with, or as
sisted him. She could talk in French and
Italian ; she was not ignorant of botany
and natural science, and she was delighted
to be his pupil.
In a single month they became all the
world to each other ; and then they began
to long for the lonely old castle fronting
the wild North Sea, to plan for its restora
tion, and for a sweet home-life, which
alone could satisfy the thirst of their
hearts for each other's presence. At the
end of June they went northward.
It was the month of the rose, and the
hedges were pink, and the garden was a
garden of roses. There were banks of
roses, mazes of roses, walks and standards
236 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.
of roses, masses of glorious colour, and
breezes scented with roses. Butterflies were
chasing one another among the flowers ;
nightingales, languid with love, weresinging
softly above them. And in the midst was
a gray old castle, flying its old border
flags, and looking as happy as if it were
at a festival.
Aspatria was enraptured, spellbound
with delight. With Ulfar she wandered
from one beauty to another, until they
finally reached a great standard of pale-
pink roses. Their loveliness was beyond
compare ; their scent went to the brain
like some divine essence. It was a glory,
a prayer, a song of joy ! Aspatria
stood beside it, and seemed to Ulfar but
its mortal manifestation. She was clothed
in a gown of pale-pink brocade, with a
little mantle of the same, trimmed with
white lace, and a bonnet of white lace and
pink roses. She was a perfect rose of
womanhood. She was the glory of his
life, his prayer, his song of joy !
" A Rose of a Himdred Leaves." 237
" It is the loveliest place in the world ! "
he said, " and you ! you are the loveliest
woman ! My sweet Aspatria ! "
She smiled divinely. " And yet," she
answered, " I remember, Ulfar, a song of
yours that said something very different.
' There is a rose of a hundred leaves,
But the wild rose is the sweetest ! ' "
And as she sang the words, Ulfar had a
vision of a young girl, fresh and pure as a
mountain bluebell, in her scrimp black
frock. He saw the wind blowing it tight
over her virgin form ; he saw her fair,
childish, troubled face as she kissed him
farewell in the vicar's meadows ; and then
he saw the glorious woman, nobly planned,
perfect on every side, that the child wife
had grown to.
So, when she ceased, he pulled the fair
est rose on the tree ; he took from it every
thorn, he put it in her breast, he kissed
the rose, and he kissed her rose-like face.
Then he took up the song where she
238 A Rose of a Hundred Leaves.
dropped it; and hand in hand, keeping
time to its melody, they crossed the thresh
old of their blessed home.
" The robin sang beneath the eaves :
' There is a rose of a hundred leaves,
But the wild rose is the sweetest ! '
" The nightingale made answer clear :
' O darling rose ! more fair, more dear !
O rose of a hundred leaves ! "'
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