Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

Feet of clay online

. (page 1 of 17)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrFeet of clay → online text (page 1 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES





.2 -




FEET OF CLAY



BY

AMELIA E. BARR

AUTHOR OF "JAN VEDDER S WIFE, " THE BOW OF ORANGE
RIBBON," "REMEMBER THE ALAMO," ETC.



NEW YORK
DODD, MEAD & COMPANY

PUBLISHERS



COPYRIGHT, 1889,

BY
DODD, MEAD & COMPANY.

All right reserved.



PS



CONTENTS.



PAGE.

CHAPTER I. BELLA CLUCAS, i

CHAPTER II. WANTED, A THOUSAND POUNDS, 23

CHAPTER III. THE COTTAGE IN GLEN MELLISH, 41

CHAPTER IV. BELLA S OPINION, - 63

CHAPTER V. SHADOWS OF COMING EVENTS, - 83

CHAPTER VI. FEET OF CLAY, - 102

CHAPTER VII. AN UNWELCOME VISITOR, - 125

CHAPTER VIII. ONE KIND OF DEATH, - - 142

CHAPTER IX. DRIFTING, - - - - 158

CHAPTER X. THE HEART OF BELLA CLUCAS, - 180

CHAPTER XI. MRS. PENNINGTON S PERPLEXITY, 204

CHAPTER XII. THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES, - 225

CHAPTER XIII. LOVE AND DEATH, - - - 246

CHAPTER XIV. YOUTH ON THE PROW, 275

CHAPTER XV. " LIKE AS A FATHER," - - 301

CHAPTER XVI. A SACRIFICE ACCEPTED, - 324

CHAPTER XVII. SUNRISE, - - - 349



FEET OF CLAY.

CHAPTER I.

BELLA C LUCAS.

" Where the wide heath in purple pride extends,
And scattered gorse its golden lustre lends,
Closed in a green recess, unenvied lot,
The blue smoke rises from the turf-built cot.

" Point me out a place,
Wherever man has made himself a home,
And there I find the story of our race :
What matters the degree? the kind I trace."



most beautiful feature of a Manx
X landscape is the lovely glen which runs
inland from the rocky beaches. In all coun
tries one may dream of such valleys ; in the
Isle of Man it is permitted that mortals shall
find in reality the intensely green verdure, the
wonderful flowers, the clear air, the charmed
stillness of their visions ; a stillness only
intensified by the everlasting murmur of the



4 FEET OF CLAY.

ocean, which vibrates through them like the
pulse of life.

Nearly half a century ago in one of these
lovely, lonely places stood the cottage of
Rutliie Clucas. Like all Manx cottages it
was built of unhewn stones roughly mortared
together, and whitewashed. But the scarlet
fuchsia clambered all over the walls, and
hedged in a pretty garden, where the delicate
veronica grew to luxuriant bushes, and the
lily-like amaryllis and the white odorous ever
lastings and the fragrant rosemary poured
lavishly their delightful incense.

The interior of the cottage was that of the
Manx fisher-farmer. On the wide hearth there
was a fire of peats, and up the chimney a huge
chain with hooks on which to hang the pans
above the low fire. The deal tables and
chairs and the three-legged stools were
scrubbed white as ivory. The equally white
dresser was gay with cups, and jugs, and basins
in bewildering quantity and of the gaudiest
colors. Bits of patchwork and pots of gera
nium and a clean white curtain at the win
dow gave freshness to the room. The wide
mantel-shelf was filled with ocean treasures,



SELL A CLUCAS. 3

marvellous things brought up in the nets from
the deep-sea fishing, or from strange countries
by adventurous sailors. On the walls were
hung some good trout lines, and the wool-
carders, and a miniature ship full-rigged in a
glass case. In one corner there was a small
round table,and upon it a Holy Bible and the
Book of Common Prayer. In another corner
the spinning wheel, and above it a little shelf
holding Ruthie s almanacs, and his rarely used
spectacles.

At the open door Ruthie s only daughter
Bella stood watching the sun set behind the
rugged masses of Spanish Head. Her face
had a dreamy and pensive expression, but
then who with a soul ever watched the daily
sun going down over the sea without a feeling
of melancholy ? The glory from the horizon
enveloped her in its rose and violet haze. It
turned her blue flannel skirt into something
royal, and her reddish-brown hair into an aure
ola of gold red radiance.

Few people thought her face beautiful, but
it was neither vulgar nor commonplace; for
she had a forehead which caught the light
and threw it back, and large blue eyes glinting



4 FEET OF CLAY.

and intense. Besides, there was around her
the charm of youth and of perfect health, and
her tall, supple figure embodied the idea of
womanly strength and courage. She looked
like a flower which had been hid away in some
sweet secret place, which the wind had not
blown nor the sun parched.

Yet this was hardly the case. Bella knew
the stress of seasons when the take had
been small and her father was gloomy and her
mother irritable or anxious. She had felt
keenly the small disappointments flowing from
such circumstances. One of her brothers had
been wild and brought anger and weeping
to the hearthstone many a time. She had
seen death come twice by way of the sea.
The little domestic frets, the daily inabilities
that make so much of a household unhap-
piness dropped their bitterness and cast their
shadows in her lonely home. Its humble un
hewn walls had seen everything that makes
up life ; the striving, the doing, the suffering,
the rejoicing of humanity.

But she had the dew of her youth. Trouble
had been like the shadow of a bird s wing.
It was there, it was gone. When she turned



&ELLA CLUCAS. $

her face to the setting sun it was the face of a
girl who trusted all her own hopes, and ex
pected happiness from day to day.

When she re-entered the cottage her mother
was sitting by the window knitting a stocking.
She was a pleasant-looking woman of fifty
years, with ruddy cheeks and bright piercing
eyes, and black curly hair put back neatly
under a white linen cap. Her home-spun
dress, her little shoulder-shawl, her clean
checked apron, her fingers busy with the glint
ing, clicking needles made her an agreeable and
homelike picture, as she lifted her eyes to
meet her daughter s smile.

" Bella, ma chree ! Why aren t you to The
House these two days?"

" I was waiting for Miss Harriet to be corn-
in here. Were you not knowin, mother, that
Mr. George is home again? What for would
I be intrudin then, and me not knowin if I
would be welcome, or not welcome ? "

." I heard the lady axin you."

" Just jokin like."

" I wouldn wonder! But before Mr. George
went away it was great friends you were, and
nobody suitin him like you."



FEET OF CLAY.

" Mayve ! I was thirteen years old then
a girl and no more. Things are different
when one is eighteen, I think."

" Of coorse, of coorse ! I was forgettin
entirely. He ll be changed too : I never
thought much of him. A poor heart he had,
and the selfish he was ! The selfish and ob
stinate aw, astonishin ! "

" Mayve you didn know him, mother."

" Mayve I don t know my right hand from
my left hand. Mayve it s hard to know them
that never thinks a straight thought, or takes
a straight road. Didn know him ! And him
comin here day after day, and chattin and
chattin , and me that taken with his smooth
tongue in spite of myself, and the sense I have."

" It s five years since, mother."

" Of coorse ! He ll be five years better, or
worse. That s the abslit truth. But what for
will you be taking him into your count ? Put
him neither here nor there in your life, Bella.
He s no more to you than a new chair or table
in his mother s house. Miss Harriet is dif-
feren , a poor girl can take love from a rich
woman, when love from a rich man might
mean destruction and damnation to her."



BELLA CLUCAS. ^

" Mother, what are you talking with the
like of them words for?"

" When it s a warnin it s the plainest words
a mother can find that she s wanting. It is
all on the look and the feel you have been the
last two days, Bella. Aw, a mother isn blind.
And it s too much you re makin of the comin
back of him that s nothing to you. The still
you were, and the sweet, and all your body Itst-
enin for the steps and the voice that didn come.
And bless my soul ! Why should they come ? "

" What are you wanting me to do, mother?"

" Chut ! Do what you would have done
if Mr. George was still in Anglan. There are
the plover s eggs that the young ladies think
diamonds of. Three days since the wet, nor
the far, nor this nor the other, would have
stayed you with them. The sun has set, but
there is two hours before the dim ; take the eggs
and go to The House, and be no more mindin
the young gentleman than if he wasn there.
And lay high if he speaks to you. I know him !
The nice he ll be, and the polite too, and are
you mindin of this, Bella, and hav you for
gotten the other, and carryin on that pleasin ;
but all as one, the divil in his heart and



8 FEET OF CLAY.

words. I know this kind of the quality ; the
like is at them! "

" You re foolish, mother, though. Do you
think I ll be listenin to what I shouldn hear?
Do you think, then, that Miss Harriet will be
lettin me listen?"

" Aw, my lass, you might be took on the
sudden. But you ll be safe now, for you re
warned afore, and the guard set, that is, if
you ll be mindin the words I have said in your
ear, and the words that you ll hear in your
own breast."

Bella had been longing to go to The House
for two days, and she was glad when her
mother s advice fitted so completely with her
own inclination. That it was hampered by
her restrictions and darkened by her evil fore
bodings did not not trouble her very much.
She wished George had not been so much mis
understood ; she felt sure that now he had be
come a man his maturer virtues would bury
his youthful faults. She told herself that no
one knew him as she did ; for girls of thirteen
have usually a great opinion of their own wis
dom and penetration, and Bella at eighteen
clung to her ideal lover of five years ago.



BELLA CLUCAS. 9

She would have liked to have put on her
muslin frock and best bonnet, but her mother s
face and directions to hurry convinced her
that any attempt to make herself more at
tractive than usual would be useless. But
there is a wonderful satisfaction in youth,
and as she walked rapidly forward she soon
regained all her ordinary composure. The
valley narrowed as she ascended it, and finally
by a mere foot-path emerged upon the hill
top.

The country here was bleak and open.
There were no trees, and The House stood
about half a mile from the cliff boldly facing
the sea, and in a great measure buffeted by
every wind which blew. It was surrounded,
however, by a spacious enclosure, and within
it the laburnums were dropping flowers of
gold, and the fuchsia hedges were a glorious
wonder of scarlet and purple bells. The subtle
woody smell of wall-flowers enthralled the
senses, white lilies lighted up the pansy beds,
and honeysuckle, ivy, and clematis clambered
over the gray stone walls of the dwelling, It
was a large, square house of the Georgian pe
riod with large square rooms and a wide cen-



10 FEET OF CLAY.

tral hall. About it there was nothing dim or
romantic or mysterious. It might have been
built by a man of the most mathematical mind,
whose highest rule of life was that two and two
make four.

Bella had been used to go directly through
the garden to Miss Harriet s room, and she fol
lowed her usual course. In spite of the long,
long twilight of the island it was getting a
little dusky among the shrubbery, and in the
lower rooms of the house, and Miss Harriet s
parlor was one of them. But very often at
that hour she was with her mother in the more
public room, and when so, Bella s approach was
always seen, and she was met by one of the
ladies. They were both fond of her, and
Bella s visits brought to them a slight change,
a sense of human fellowship which was very
welcome.

This night the garden was deserted. Neither
presence nor sound stirred its solitude. Bella
was disappointed. She felt as if Mr. George
would certainly be smoking in its sweet alleys.
She had hoped to see him first of all alone. If
he had forgotten her the shock would be more
easily borne ; if he had not forgotten, the



BELLA CLUCAS. It

joy would be sweeter if it were entirely
her own.

Her heart fell as she entered the silent hall.
The butler, a very aged man, was shuffling
through it, and he answered her good-night
with that apathy to youth and beauty which
dull old men feel. " My mistress is sick," he
said querulously, " and Miss Harriet is in
her own sitting-room. What have you got ?
Plover s eggs? Aw dear ! They re as unlucky
as can be ! And the ladies set on eatin them.
Women! Curious folk ! Yes."

" I never heard that plover s eggs were un
lucky, John Quayle."

"You are young and iggrint. Unlucky!
mortal unlucky to steal plover s eggs."

The incident trifling as it was affected her
unpleasantly. Why hadn t John Quayle told
her so before ? He had taken plover s eggs
frequently from her. Why? Who can tell?
How often all of us carry words in our hearts
for years, and then, in some moment when we
are scarce responsible for the act, fling them
like a fate at the consciousness of some one
whom we have hardly considered, and who
seems to have no connection with them.



1 2 FEET OF CLAY.

Bella placed the unlucky gift on a table, and
then went empty-handed to Miss Harriet s
room. Her light tap on the door did not bring
the ready " Come in, Bella," which was its usual
result. There was a minute s pause and the
sound of hurried, earnest speaking before the
lady uttered the customary permission. Bella
too made a little pause. That also was un
usual, and she entered suffused with that veiy
consciousness which she had been striving all
the way to suppress.

Captain Pennington stood by the window
absorbed in the abstraction of a cigar from its
case of leather and silver. He wore one of the
handsomest of cavalry uniforms, and he looked
in it, ah ! Bella thought he looked in it the
most beautiful and heroic of human beings !
He did not speak a word to her. He did not
look at her at all. " I am going out to smoke,
Harriet," he said, and with the words he saun
tered out of the room.

The two girls stood a moment facing each
other. Then Miss Pennington with a swift
movement took Bella s hands in her own, and
said almost angrily : " Why did you come,
Bella ? Why did you come ? Don t you see



BELLA CLUCAS. 13

that you have taken the first step ? It is easy
now for him to take the second."

" The why ? There was the plover s eggs
that Mrs. Pennington likes."

" Chut ! You wanted to see George, you
know you did. It was not right nor kind of
you, Bella. I was coming to see you to-morrow
about George. You might have waited, you
might have trusted me."

" My mother was sayin to me, Take the
eggs and I said, what for would I take
them?"

" The eggs ! the eggs ! A poor excuse,
Bella. You came because you wanted to
come."

" What for would I go to tell you lies ? My
mother was saying take the eggs, and never be
mindin if Mr. George is at home or in Anglan.
What is Mr. George to the like of you ? "

" Oh ! she thought you should face temp
tation and make believe it was not there.
Women can t do that, Bella ; it is better for
them to keep out of sight and hearing of
danger."

"The cross you are to-night, and the proud,
Miss Harriet ! But I ll go home, of course,



14 FEET OF CLAY.

and it s no more I ll be comin here, till you
be sendin for me."

" I am not cross and proud, Bella, but there
are troubles and reasons in all families that
are not to be told out of them. My mother is
sick with sorrow, and my own heart is aching.
If I should see wrong coming to you through
George Pennington, I should find it hard to
bear. We have been like sisters, have we not,
Bella?"

" Middlin like, Miss Harriet ; but there s a
deal of differ between you and me. Of coorse,
you ve been gracious to me, very gracious,
and what you tell me to do, the same I ll do
if I can."

* It isn t can, it is must, Bella. You must
do it, or sin may come of it, and sorrow may
come of it, and God only knows what follow
ing ! Hear what I say. My brother George
will tread upon the heart of any woman who
loves him, whether she be mother, sister, or
wife. Do you think I would say this to you
if I had not your interest in view? Oh,
Bella, we played together when we were
children, we have been firm friends ever
since we could say each other s name. Does.



BELLA CLUCAS. i$

it matter if I am rich and you are poor ? No,
indeed ! But because I am rich and you are
poor, I will not see you injured. I will not
see you in danger and not try to save you."

" Be content, Miss Harriet. If there be
danger near, there is the love to shield me,
and the good home for shelter, and the father
and brother that would fight for me, and
the mother that would lay her life down for
mine ; and I m not fearin with all them, and
God above me."

" And I love you also. Don t put me out
of your counting."

"No, surely, of coorse, but you re not trustin
me much, I think."

" Because I would not trust myself under
the same circumstances ; because, Bella, I am
myself in love, and I know what the heart of
a woman in love is."

The girls were about the same height, their
hands were clasped, their eyes met tenderly,
then they kissed each other. Harriet felt as
if the kiss promised her all she asked. Bella
had been a little offended, and she meant it as
the sign of reconciliation and renewed affec
tion,



1 6 FEET OF CLAY.

" Come this way, Bella. George is waiting
for you in the garden ; I know he is. You
will be forced to see him, but not to-night,
not to-night, dear. I want you first to tell
your mother what I have said to you, and I
want also to talk to George. One should
always do everything to prevent evil, that is
our part, only God can cure evil that has
really happened."

Holding Bella s hand, she was talking thus
to her as they went through a long passage
and a flagged court-yard to a rear door, which
led directly on to the gaery or uncultivated
land beyond.

There was a sense of hurry in all Miss Pen-
nington s ways and words, and Bella felt com
pletely over-ruled by it. But as she went
rapidly across the dusky gaery her eyes were
dim with tears, and her heart heavy with her
new experience.

" She was cross to me, and unjust ; desperat
unjust, thinkin wrong too, and me givin her
no rayson. Aw, scandalous! I ll go yandhar
no more ; I m intarmined on that! "

The sense of injustice filled her warm heart;
she walked rapidly, almost unconscious of her



BELLA CLUCAS. 17

footsteps. As she got further and further
away, she began to talk aloud, with little sobs
and short pauses between her words :

" She might hav waited, till the warnin
was needed. I m a poor girl, iggrint and
poor, and of coorse, of coorse the worst
is to be put to me."

When she reached the edge of the cliff she
turned and looked back at the house. In the
dim it had almost a spectral aspect, standing
up so white amid the dark foliage surrounding
it. Houses have their atmosphere as well as
individuals. In the stillness and solemnity of
the night they reveal something of their inte
rior spirit. Bella had turned and looked at it
hundreds of times before, and then dropped
into the little valley with the feeling of that
look in her heart. Hitherto it had been one
of lonely peace. This night it gave her a
thrill of restlessness and anxiety. She felt
that sorrowful women were walking about its
rooms, and gazing from its windows.

The first descent into the valley was steep,
and there were great boulders on either hand,
lichen-covered and half-hid in brackens.
Captain Pennington was leaning against one



1 8 PEET OF CLAY.

of them, smoking a cigar. She could hot
avoid him without turning back. Should she
do so ? She asked herself the question, and
resolutely answered :

" It s straight on I ll go. It s my way, and
the right way, and I ll be turnin* out of it for
nobody."

" Bella ! Bella ! " He flung his cigar away
and came towards her with outstretched
hands.

She trembled, she stood still, she was
speechless in her joy and fear and great sur
prise. For, though she had been sobbing to
her complaints of Harriet s injustice, it had not
been Harriet s injustice which had wounded
her most. Deeper than any sense of her
friend s suspicions was the pain of George s
silence and apparent neglect. It was well that
she had made no positive promise, for at that
moment she would have broken it.

"Bella! Bella! Have you forgotten me?"
He took her hand, and did precisely as Bella s
mother had foretold. And in a few minutes
Bella was quite at her ease with the handsome
soldier, who kept reminding her of the days
when they had gone trout-fishing together, and



BELLA CLUCAS. 1 9

the mornings on Scarlett rocks, and the even
ings out on the moonlit sea. " Do you remem
ber, Bella, the little cove where we let the boat
drift, and bade each other good-by for five
long years ? What a pretty girl you were !
And though I suppose you have forgot it, do
you know that you really kissed me, and
promised to be my wife when I grew up to be
a man?"

Bella lifted a face all alight with joy and love
to the dark, handsome one at her side. It drew
her like a magnet. The kiss almost asked for
trembled into the space between them, and
made it sweetly sensitive. All warnings were
forgotten. The valley was an enchanted val
ley ; right or wrong, she was happy beyond her
hope or dreaming.

To be young and beautiful, and to find her
self in the sweet hazy twilight of a summer
night, beloved by a being fascinating by nature
and endowed by her imagination with every
heroic and lovable quality, what hope was
there that Bella would or could listen to warn
ings or advices? Nay, the warnings and ad
vices had even in some measure prepared her
to resist them.



20 FEET OF CLAY.

She had a nature self-contained and self-
reliant. She was conscious of her own physical
strength and courage, and in her untrained
mind physical capability stood for mental
temper and resolution. Harriet Pennington s
words had not only wounded her pride, they
had roused in her an active antagonism : a de
sire to do the very thing she had been forbid
den to do, and in the doing declare her ability
to guide with wisdom her own destiny.

A strange tumult was in her heart, but it
was a happy tumult ; and Captain Pennington
was satisfied with the result of his interview.
He strolled home in a mood of sweet anticipa
tion, and the thought of Harriet s opposition
was an element piquant and provocative.

And at this stage Bella was too excited to
affect indifference or to contemplate deception.
Her mother was sitting on the step of the cot
tage. The day had nothing more to demand
of her; she had put away even her knitting,
and was idly gazing at the herring-boats lying
at rest on the horizon. Her husband and son
were with the fleet, but she was not anxious
about them, nor at that moment was she
troubling herself even about Bella.



JS ELLA CLUCAS. 21

But the girl s face startled her. " Sit down
Bella, ma chree ! " she said, " I wouldn trust but
you ve been worried a bit by the way you
look."

! "Miss Harriet was cross ; uncommon cross,
you d hardly credit the unjust she was, and
the suspicious ; aw, scandalous ! "

" Is it thrue you re tellin ? "

"And warnin me about the Captain and the
like, and runnin him into the garden, and me
out by the back door on to the gaery for fear
I d be spakin with him at all."

" Ladies airs and faddin ! Hav no regardin
for such. Captain Pennington isn t gold and
diamonds if all words are thrue words that are
spoke of him. There s odds of gentlemen, and
the best kind goin will do for you to leave
alone. Aw, yes, middlin bad, the most of
them !"

"Mother, I ll tell you the truth. At the
top of the glen Captain Pennington was waitin
for me, and that pleased and friendly ; and out
with both hands, and was I forgettin him,
and the good days behind us, and carryin on,
like that."

" Of coorse, of coorse ! Sweet as honey he d



22 FEET OF

be desperat sweet ; and it s as much as you ll
do to keep clear of him, but aw, ma chree !
shut your eyes to the like of him, and don t
mind what he says ; the soul of a foolish girl
dwells in her ear; aw, yes, and she may be led
away with a whisper."

"Let us go to bed, mother. You was allis
hard upon Captain Pennington."

" Aw, my dear, and you was allis too soft.
But bed is the best, and sleep, and mayve good
dreams to make the simple wise. Good-night,
ma chree ! Sleep and I ll wake for you. It s
a mother s prayer that brings the angels round,
and the holy thoughts, and the paysible.
She s gone God bless the girl ! "



CHAPTER II.

WANTED A THOUSAND POUNDS.

" Those who kindle a fire, must put up with the smoke."


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrFeet of clay → online text (page 1 of 17)