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more prudent and less kind. As it was, Francesca
suffered very much. No one knew at the time how
much, for the circumstances seemed to suddenly develop
in her girl-heart a woman's reticence and noble restraint.
For some days the affair was not spoken of again, and
the squire noticed the pallor of his daughter's face and
the singular stillness of her manner.

" Whatever is the matter with my little girl? " he said
to Miss Vyner one afternoon. " She is either sick or in
trouble. Is it about that young man, Loida ! "

" Things are not very pleasant about him, are they,
Rashleigh ? "

" No, they are not. I am not to blame, am I, now 1 "

" I cannot say you are."

" Well, then ? "

" Nay, brother, I never talked much about my own
trouble ; it is not likely I will talk of Francesca's. I
dare say she will tell you sooner or later, whatever there
is to tell."

" Has he gone away yet ? Tell me that much."

Before Loida could answer, the door opened and
Francesca entered. The squire looked kindly at her,
and drew her chair close to his own. She sat down
and laid her head against his big breast, and as he
silently stroked her head, she began to cry. He was
much moved. His voice trembled with the tears in it,
as he said :



146 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

"Francesca! Why, honey! Why, joy! Whatever
is the matter ? "

" Lancelot has gone away from England, father."

" He will come back, I'll be bound! "

"He says he will not come back. He gave me back
my troth. He says I must forget him forever."

"The impudent rascal! He gave thee back thy
troth! My word, but he was never worthy of thee! "

" Father, you must not say a word against Lancelot.
It is because he is so noble, so honorable, so truly fond
of me that he gave up our engagement. I want you to
find out where he has gone to. He did not tell me."

" Nay, my dear, I will not do that. If he has gone,
let him go. Francesca Atherton is not such a lass as
to run after a sweetheart prince or spinner."

" Father, dear, Lancelot was something more than a
passing sweetheart. \Ve had only one heart and one
life between us. If anything happens to Lancelot, I
shall die too."

" Nay, thou wilt not. Thou hast more sense than to
break thy heart for any man. Why-a! it is not maidenly
to talk that way."

" Father, I do not live in scraps and little bits as
some women do ; an hour of love and an hour of merry-
making, a thought about money and a thought about
marriage and so on I love you with all my heart I
would not for one week give you up, father, to be queen
of England. I love Lancelot in the same altogether
way. Lancelot has gone away because he has a mis-
fortune he will not let me share. I want to find out
where he has gone to, for I want to write to him and
tell him I would gladly share all his misfortunes.



LOVE TIED IN A KNOT. 147

Father, here is his last letter. Read it. Any one may
read the words of a love so broken-hearted."

The squire took the letter with some reluctance, and
only read it because Francesca's head upon his heart
made her pleading irresistible.

" It is a middling bit of despair," he said, when he
had glanced at Lancelot's "farewell." "And I must
say the lad has done the very best thing possible under
the circumstances."

" But what circumstances, father ? "

" My dear, I do not know that I can say ' what cir-
cumstances.' I may have my suspicions, but I have no
right to give them a name. It would never do to put
suspicions into words ; that might be the biggest wrong
of all. But I will, say this much : Lancelot is in no way
to blame, I am sure. I hold him to be square and
honorable as a man can be."

" Then find out where he has gone to, father."

" I'd rather not. Thou might write to him."

" Yes, I would write to him."

" It would not be kind of thee. Forget, and let him
forget."

" No ; I will not forget. He may forget, if he can.
I will not forget. I will remember, and I will love him
to the end of my life."

" Dear me ! What stubborn stuff women are made
of!" And he looked half reproachfully at Loida, who
sat, with an expression of approval on her face, opposite
to him.

"Brother," she answered, in reply to his accusing
glance " brother, it is a very good thing for men gener-
ally that women are made of stubborn stuff. I cannot



148 LOl'E J-'OR AX HOUR.

think what men would do if women were not so made as
to believe black was white, and stand to their conviction."

" To be sure ! To be sure ! "

" Father, you will find out for me where Lancelot has
gone to. I cannot do such a thing as that for myself.
Can I ? "

" I should think not. Don't thee cry in such a way
as that. Thou breaks my heart. I will do what thou
asks me to do ; but I tell thee plainly I would a deal
rather not do it. And don't thee try my love too far. I
would call it taking a mean advantage of a fond heart."

He rose with the words, and going to the window, he
said :

" It is raining hard. But I think I will go to the
stables a bit. There are always things that should be
done there in bad weather. And they will not get done
if somebody does not see after them."

It was an errand made to escape the sorrowful atmos-
phere of the room, and perhaps neither of the women
was sorry for it. The squire was evidently only sym-
pathetic in a small degree, and Francesca felt as if the
world ought to turn upon the axis of her loss. Nothing
else in it appeared worth thinking about or conversing
about, and she sat down in the large chair her father had
just vacated, the very picture-of woe.

For a short time Loida remained silent. The rain
beat against the windows ; the fog shut the nearest trees
and shrubs from sight ; vision was restricted to the room
in which they sat ; and, except for the leaping, blazing
fire and the shining steel grate and hearth furniture, the
room partook of the gloom outside. The pictures were
dim, the furniture almost black, the carpets darkly inde-



LOVE TIED IN A KNOT. 149

terminate, the curtains had a depressed " hang," the
china ornaments a ghostly pallor, and there was no>
cheerful sound to appeal to another sense; only the
wind wailing round the garden and dashing the loose ivy
sprays against the casements.

Youth is so impatient of suffering, and Francesca was
not only amazed, but almost indignant, at the cruel fate
which had suddenly deprived her of her happiness-.
Always before, in all her small trials, she had received
instant and unqualified sympathy ; always before the
squire had been sufficient to bring her help or relief.
She would not believe but that he could, if he would,
bring back Lancelot. She was sure Lancelot was going
away for want of money, and she felt her father's silence
on this subject to be particularly unfeeling. She had
still a childish idea that her father's resources were un-
limited ; and she was certainly feeling, at that hour, that
the chief and most desirable use of money was to bring
home again her lover.

"What is the use of being rich," she asked Loida,
"if you cannot use riches to save love? There is
nothing on earth better than love, eh, Loida ? "

" Yes, there are things better than love nobler than
love without which any love worth having cannot
exist."

"That is not so, Loida. Love is everything. I
would give my life for my love."

" You might give your life, but yet there is something
you would not give, something more precious than life
honor. I know what you are thinking, Francesca. I
know you are inclined to blame your good father for
not offering Lancelot money enough to keep him in



150 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

England. My dear, if Lancelot had taken such money,
I, for one, would despise him. In a little while you
would despise him also. A man who cannot support a
wife has no business with one. To take a man's daugh-
ter is a great demand upon any father's heart, yet a lover
for the daughter's sake may find courage to ask so
much but to take money also! We will not discuss a
contingency like that. It is out of honorable consider-
ation, and I am sure Lancelot is an honorable gentle-
man."

"It is easy to talk of 'honor,' Loida. Honor!
Honor! What is it? A noisy nothing, invented by
the proud. Am I to lose love for honor ? And how is
Lancelot's honor at stake ? I do not understand. He
spent all his money in that dreadful mill, for his honor.
Our marriage was put off because his money was gone,
and it was not ' honorable ' to ask for me while he was
poor. One can understand how poor women suffer for
love, in some way or other, all their lives long. But it
is not fair to throw ' honor ' at their hearts also."

" Being what you are, Francesca, honor obliges you
to be noble in all things ; and so to nobly deny yourself,
even in love."

" I shall die for ' honor,' then. I cannot live long
without Lancelot."

" Other women have loved and lost, and lived on."

" I am not ' other women.' Every one is cruel to
me, even Lancelot. Why did he go away without see-
ing me ? If there was any dishonor in the case, I would
have forgiven him the dishonor."

" Lancelot would never forgive himself. I should
say that a dishonorable thought was impossible to him.



LOVE TIED IN A KNOT. 151

There may be circumstances unknown to any one, mak-
ing it a kind of dishonor to see you again. And do not
speak lightly of such self-denial. For no one can annul
dishonor ; it is irreparable, and though its loss may be
forgiven, who can restore it ? A fleece stained by the
dyer never regains its whiteness. A character stained
by dishonor never recovers the glory of a stainless in-
tegrity."

" Do not preach to me, Loida. I am so miserable."

There was a few minutes' silence. Francesca sat
with her head thrown back and her eyes closed. Loida's
hands were busy with her crochet, but her heart was in
a tempest of feeling, of uncertainty, of pitiful sympathy.
She glanced upward ; the storm was unabated, the room
growing more and more gloomy. Francesca's face was
the image of despair ; its pallor was the dull pallor of
heartache. The child was suffering greatly; no one
knew that better than Loida Vyner.

She came suddenly to a determination. Then she
put aside her trifle of work and took her chair to Fran-
cesca's side. Francesca let her clasp her hand. It was
cold, and the limp fingers made no responsive effort.
She did not move or open her eyes or acknowledge in
any way her aunt's attention to her. She had made up
her mind to bear her sorrow without discussing it.

" Francesca, my dear."

"Yes, Aunt Loida."

" Look at me and listen to me. I am going to tell
you about Dick Alderson : Dick was I hope in God's
mercy Dick is yet my lover."

Then Francesca opened her eyes and looked with in-
terest into her aunt's face.



152 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

" I never talk to any one about Dick. I have not
uttered his name to mortal man or woman, except to his
dear mother, for ten years ; yet, Francesca, I love him
I love him with all my heart and soul. Must I tell you
about Dick ? "

" If you please, dear aunt."

" Your mother and I were co-heiresses of a small
estate near Tipham Market. Our parents died when we
were young. We had no near relatives. The Alder-
sons were friends ; we went there very often. Dick
was their only child, and Dick loved me when I was a
girl ten years old. At a ball in the city of York your
mother met Squire Atherton, and when she married
him I spent my time between this house and Alderson
Bars. You know how you love Lancelot ; so I loved
Dick. There never was any other lover or thought in
my heart.

" Dick's father and grandfather had been private
bankers in Tipham Market. The farmers and traders for
twenty miles round used Alderson's bank, and thought
it safer than the Bank of England. When Dick was
twenty-seven years old his father died, and then he suc-
ceeded to the business. I was then seventeen, and it was
decided that as soon as I was twenty Dick and I were
to marry. My dear, I was so happy ! I was so happy ! "

" Was Dick handsome and good ? "

" I have never seen any other man half so handsome.
He had a charming face and a manner no one could
resist. Old and young, rich and poor, loved Dick
Alderson ; and he really loved his fellow-creatures.
O Francesca, for four years we loved each other without
a shadow. For four years life was a love-song that we



LOVE TIED IN A KNOT. 153

sang together. For four years it was a wonderful love-
story, and we two wrote it together. In the twilight in
the garden ; in the sunshine on the moor ; in the dear
old church, praying together ; sitting hand in hand in
the fire-lit parlor ; dreaming the same dream, catching
the same words from each other's eyes and lips. You
know, Francesca?"

" I know I know."

" It was near the day fixed for our marriage. Our
house was furnished ; my bridal dresses were ready ;
the company was bid to the wedding-feast. I had no
fear of evil fortune. I thought it would always be well
with me. I was as gay and busy as the birds building
in the garden ; so gay and busy I never noticed at the
time that a singular shadow was on Dick's face ; that
he was silent and preoccupied, often making figures in
his note-book and writing many letters, even when at
home. I thought of these things afterward ; at the
time they were only a part of the great, the happy
change which was coming into our lives.

" One afternoon, Dick came home very early. I was
with his mother in a small parlor, and we were packing
up in their baize-lined mahogany cases the silver which
was to go with us to our own home. We stood over it
at a table crowded with the shining pieces. Dick's face
was as white as yours is at this moment. He came in
quickly, and then went back and shut the door. His
mother and I both looked inquiringly at him, he was so
much earlier than we expected. Then he did not kiss
us, as was his wont ; but laying his hand on his mother's
hand, he said, oh, so pitifully :

"'Mother! Loida! I am a ruined man! Every^



154 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

thing is lost! I must go away instantly this very
hour. All will be known to morrow.' "

" Aunt, how could you bear it ? "

" We do not know what we can bear until we come
to the moment of trial. I went to his side. His
mother said :<

'"Sit down, Dick, and tell us the truth. What is the
trouble, my dear ? ' "

" As she was speaking, we all sat down on the sofa,
Dick sitting between us. I put my hand into his hand.
He turned his face to his mother, and said :

" ' I have been speculating in railway stock. I
thought it was sure and safe. The stock is worthless.'

" ' Do you mean that you used the money in the bank
to speculate with ? '

" ' Yes, mother.' He said the words in a whisper,
and never lifted his eyes as he spoke.

" ' Is there no hope ? ' she asked. ' Can we not sell
everything?'

" ' Mother,' answered Dick, ' hope has led me on and
on, and this morning I got news which leaves me ruined
every way. There is a meeting of the directors in a
day or two, and then all must be told. I can hide the
facts no longer.' "

"Aunt Loida, what did you say ? "

" I did not speak. His mother stood up and an-
swered : ' Then, Dick, 'you must tell them. You shall
not run away. I would keep you a prisoner myself,
rather than let you do such a cowardly thing. Meet
the men you have wronged face to face. Show them
how and where the wrong is. Pledge them your hon
your whole estate to secure the interest of their money.



LOVE TIED IN A KNOT. 155

Tell them you are going to this new land of gold just
discovered in America, to make the principal.' "

" Was that California, aunt ? "

" Yes, my dear. People were then rushing there from
all parts of the world ; and Dick's mother told him he
must also go and try to retrieve his fortune. ' If you
will not do as I tell you, Dick/ she said, ' why, then, run
away like a rascal and a coward, and forget you ever
had a mother.' She asked me if that was not the right
thing to do, and I could just whisper 'Yes.' And I was
like a woman going out of the sunshine into a vault,
and all the world was a sudden black void, and life felt
as if it could not be borne."

" Aunt, it was worse for you than it is for me! "

" I think it was, dear. I felt then that no other
woman had ever met with such shame and grief."

" What did Dick do ? "

" Everything his mother advised. He saw the people
he had wronged and made the best arrangements pos-
sible. They were not hard with him : far from it. One
old squire, who had been his father's friend, cried for
very grief, and blamed himself for not advising Dick
better. He even offered to lend Dick money. But
Dick had to go away, Francesca. It is ten years since.
I was twenty then ; I am thirty now."

" But you hear from him ? "

" His mother does. Before he left I gave him back
our betrothal ring. I told him when he brought it to
me again with clean hands, I would marry him. He
will come some day. I am waiting for him."

" How long you have suffered ! Did he go to Cali-
fornia ? "



156 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

" No. He met on the voyage out a young man who
was going to some Mexican mines as superintendent ot
engineers. He strongly advised Dick not to go to Cali-
fornia. He said he was unfit for a struggle with the
preponderating population, and he offered Dick a good
position. The certainty seemed best, and doubtless was
best for Dick. He has sent home every year varying
sums of money, sometimes a great deal, sometimes not
so much. But the debt is very near clear. We think
he is now blockade running, for no letter has come for
nearly nine months. He spoke of this change in his
last letter, and there are no post-offices at sea."

" When you go away every year, is it Dick's mother
you go to see ? "

" Yes. And she writes to me whenever there is any
news. I do not let myself fret or fear. I get up every
morning wondering ' if Dick will come that day ' ; and I
go to bed every night saying : ' Well, then, perhaps to-
morrow ! Perhaps to-morrow ! ' "
" It is hard to be a woman, Loida."
" It is. No wonder tragedies are made from us."
"Were you always patient and hopeful, Loida?"
" No ; I was not. I nearly died of grief. It was a
living death at first. Wisdom never comes at the begin-
ning of a sorrow. It is the late fruit, after the tempest
and wind and frost of calamity."

" When Dick comes home, can your love ever be the
same ? "

" No. I do not hope for the impossible. We have
both outgrown love's first rapture. I know that, for, a
little while ago, I opened a volume of Moore's poetry
that we used to read together and think the most won-



LOVE TIED IN A KNOT. 157

derful poetry that ever was written. I think it now ex-
tremely silly,, and yet and yet, when alone at the close
of a year, I wonder

" ' Is the nightingale singing thereof

Are the roses still sweet by the calm Bendemeer? '

But I know nothing will bring back the glory of those
days before I knew what sorrow and sorrowful love
meant. Neither, Francesca, do I wish them brought
back. Nothing you have to go back for is worth hav-
ing."

" You still love Dick ? "

" He is the one thought that runs through all my days."

At this point the squire entered. He was rosy and
damp, and had the breath of the chill rain about him.
For the wind had changed, and it was growing very
cold. He walked to the fire at once, and stirred it vig-
orously.

"My word! "he said. "Women will talk, if they
freeze."

He assumed a pleasant little bluster, and pretended
to be colder and damper than he was, for he wished to
put out of mind all memories of the conversation which
had sent him into the storm.

" They are doing well enough at the stable," he said
to Loida, " so I went over to Asquith's about some
timber. He does beat everything for an ill-thinking
man."

" Does he not live in that lonely house by the Chime-
of-Bells Inn ? "

" Yes. He hath a fierce dog to give you welcome,
and a currish voice to confirm it, and the way out of his



158 LOVE FOR AN HC'^R.

place is open always. His dog and he are the only
good fellows in the world, he says, and my word !
we should be a poor lot if they were the best."

" I heard his dog took a prize in the London dog
show."

" That is true. He wanted me to send my dog Sul-
tan to the show, also."

" Why did you not do so ? Sultan is far beyond As-
quith's dog."

" Loida, I am astonished at thee. Send Sultan to a
dog show ! Dogs have feelings, and a decent dog does
not like being looked at by a lot of people he does not
know anything about. I put it to myself. I said:
' Rashleigh Atherton, how would you like to be exhib-
ited in a man show?' Sultan has very gentlemanly
feelings."

" About a dog there is a great mystery."

" To be sure there is. Sultan has a good deal of
humanity in him ; and of a noble kind, too. When he
walks out with ladies, he treats them as if he wereflreux
chevalier; and at such times he never notices any other
dog. But when he walks out with me, he likes to put
on airs and have a fight. He has thrashed all the dogs
for miles round, and he is fair melancholy for some new
ones to come into the neighborhood ; " then he looked
round, and saw that Francesca had left the room, and
he stooped forward and said softly : " The poor little
one! Is she in very deep trouble, Loida?"

" Yes, brother but she will conquer it. We all have
to do so, in a fashion."

Then a servant entered with candles and the tea
service, and the squire began to speak of Asquith's dog.



LOVE TIED IN A KNOT. 159

So the little domestic play of talking of one thing and
thinking of another went on its usual uninteresting,
desultory way. The servants were not deceived by the
conversation. They had already decided that " some-
thing had gone wrong between Miss Atherton and Mr.
Leigh "



CHAPTER X.

AT LAST GOD BRINGS THE TARDY BLESSINO

*' Who know themselves and know the way before them,
And from among them choose considerately,
With clear foresight, not a blindfold courage ;
And having chosen, with a steadfast mind
Pursue their purposes."

" God hath brought the tardy blessing
Round her at the last."

LANCELOT did not find it as easy to escape from
his sorrowful dilemma as he expected. The death
of his father and his own serious resolve to take nothing
from an estate fallen too early into his power made the
carrying out of his cotton plan difficult, and, to himself,
undesirable. He had not either the cash or credit to
personally back the scheme. And he had resolved to re-
main away from England some years. Indeed, as soon
as commercial circumstances made such a sale possible,
he intended to sell his own mill at Atherton, and with
the proceeds pursue fortune in some other land.

The resignation of his cotton scheme also left the world
open to him. Mexico had then no special claim on his
fancy or interest. On the contrary, India, Canada,
Australia presented far more natural opportunities. He
did not, however, speak of any such change of deter-
mination. The world around him had already accepted
the necessity for cotton as an excuse sufficient for desert-



GOD BRINGS THE TARDY BLESSING, l6l

ing his home and apparent interests, and it seemed best
to allow it this resolution of whatever was strange in his
conduct.

He had never before supposed it would be difficult to
obtain two thousand pounds, but it was several weeks ere
his lawyer managed to effect this loan upon his Ather-
ton mill. During these weeks he kept himself in great
seclusion. To his mother he spoke very little. She had
accepted without dispute the charge Lancelot threw
upon her respecting the property, and her first step was
to send for the overlooker, and in Lancelot's and her
own name close the Garsby Mill. Then she immediately
hired more servants, and began a systematic and thor-
ough cultivation of every inch of Leigh Farm.

"Wheat and fodder will be wanted as long as the
world lasts," she said ; " and if folks stick to the land,
the land will feed them, and happen make money for
them."

Lancelot opposed nothing and indorsed nothing, and
when she found all efforts at conciliation and co-oper-
ation unresponded to, she hid herself entirely behind
a countenance cold, impassive, and expressionless.
Lancelot sat at meat with her ; they had nothing else in
common. The youth wandered alone among the thickly
shaded walks in the garden, or he sat musing in his dis-
mantled rooms. He could not read ; every subject but
Francesca slipped away from his consciousness ; and
the sound of his piano would have shocked and offended
him. Francesca supplied all the springs of his mind ;
her sweetness ; her beauty ; her confiding love ; her


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrLove for an hour is love forever → online text (page 10 of 20)