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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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cried out, with a fresh bitterness : " Father also is desert-
ing me! He promised to find out where Lancelot had
gone, and he has not done so. He can think of orchid-



GOD BRINGS THE TARDY BLESSING. 177

houses, and of getting married ; he can think so much
for his new wife that he forgets his poor little daughter,,
though her heart is breaking ! "

In her passionate complaining she did not even notice
the joy in her aunt's face and manner. Her own sor-
row so engrossed her perceptions that she had no intelli-
gence for another's happiness, and no sympathy with it.
Loida felt chilled by this selfish absorption, and she said,,
with some decision :

" Francesca, you are very unjust to every one. Are
you the only woman that has ever suffered ? You know
well that your father did everything possible to redeem
his promise to you. He wrote to Lancelot's mother,
and he got what answer back? 'Thou knows as much
as I do.' ' He wrote to Lancelot's lawyer, and was told
that his client's destination was unknown to him ; that
he had been instructed, when the Atherton Mill was sold,
to deposit the price of it at Ball Moser's bank, Liver-
pool. Then he wrote to the bank, and was told that
the name of Lancelot Leigh was not on any of their
books. What more could he do ? "

" If this Mrs. Mott had disappeared, he would likely
have found out something else to do."

" Francesca, do you not see that sometning has made
me very, very happy ? "

Then the girl lifted her head from the pillow and
looked at her aunt.

"Why, Loida!" she cried. "What has happened?
Has Lancelot come ? " And she leaped to her feet and
her face was transfigured with joy and hope.

" Dick has come! Only Dick."

"Oh, dear! Oh, Aunt Loida, how could you startle



178 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

and disappoint me so cruelly ? I thought it was Lan-
celot. Forgive me, aunt, I am disgracefully selfish. I
am a bad girl. I cannot feel happy with you. You
ought to hate me."

" My darling, I pity you most truly. I know how
you feel. I have felt something like it, often, only I
managed not to show it. Come and see Dick. Come,
it will do you good."

" Has he seen Lancelot ? "

" No."

"Yet you wrote and told Lancelot to go to the
mines where Dick was."

" Dick had left them a year ago."

" Oh, why ? Why did he leave them ? Everything
goes against Lancelot."

" Come down and see Dick. It will do you good."

" I would rather not, Aunt Loida. I am so miserable,
I should spoil your pleasure. But, indeed, I am glad
Dick has come. I look selfish, but I do not feel so.
Leave me alone a little ; I will try and come to you in
an hour or two."

After all, is there any of the apostolic precepts harder
than that which bids us " rejoice with them that do re-
joice " ? The joy, the fame, the wealth that is not ours
offends. To weep with those that weep, to play patron
and comforter these are offices highly congenial to the
most selfish. But the gracious benignity which can re-
joice with those who do rejoice, which can praise the
worthy without a secret hatred, and respect the honestly
wealthy without a cleaving envy, is a much rarer virtue ;
and only those possess it who are the beloved of God
men and women after God's own heart.



GOD BRINGS THE TARDY BLESSING, 179

Loida felt hurt and depressed by the want of Fran-
cesca's sympathy, and yet the suffering girl was not
entirely to blame. She was enduring that most absorb-
ing and distracting form of sorrow a grief that was not
sure, that was doubled by its mystery and its hopeless-
ness. If Lancelot had dared to make her know the
whole truth, she would doubtless have borne it as bravely
as himself. But to be told by a piece of paper that
they must part forever ; to be told she must forget her
lover, and no reason for forgetfulness given ; to be left
without any personal farewell; to be left in absolute
ignorance of his destination, without any promise for the
future was a situation devoid of comfort, unless she
could find in pride or in anger the strength to confront
it. Francesca had no pride where Lancelot was con-
cerned, and to be angry with him long was for her im-
possible.

Nor was she indifferent to the coming of a new mis-
tress to Atherton Court. Hitherto she had been the
power behind all other powers. Her will had been law,
she had been virtually the lady of the manor. There
was another power coming now ; a power that had an
evil reputation. To lose her lover was one kind of
trouble ; to get a stepmother was another kind. She
felt as if her father was already a stepfather. As soon
as she was silent and sorrowful, as soon as she made the
house dull, he had gone away and found another to
amuse and comfort him. That was the way she looked
at the squire's action, and, of course,- if she was right,
the squire was wrong.

Toward evening she went downstairs and saw Dick',
and Dick pleased her very much. He talked with her



180 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

about Lancelot and offered to write to the mines and
see if he was there. He promised to inclose a letter
which Francesca would write. He assured her that, if
Lancelot had reached the mines, General Bias, who was
now the superintendent, would find him out and deliver
her letter. He told her that it was utterly impossible
for Lancelot to forget her ; he knew, he said, by his own
experience. Lancelot would be compelled to return and
see her or die.

And love believes whatever love wants to believe.
Dick was so sympathetic, so hopeful, so sorry for Fran-
cesca, that she found herself talking freely before him.
He entered into her grief ; he put it into such expressive
words ; he saw so many ways out of it. No one had
ever comforted her as Dick did. For this was the man's
nature, his gift, his power, the attribute which had made
him prosperous. He was a son of consolation.

" And he is really quite handsome, Loida," said Fran-
cesca, as they sat alone, talking, that night. " He has
a fine figure, too, and such gentle ways. But what a
pity you did not know he was coming. You have not
been so unbecomingly dressed for a long^ time as you
were this morning, Loida. And then, to think he was a
man to build an orchid-house! When one waits ten
years for a lover, it would be nice to have a more ro-
mantic meeting."

All this was very true, and Loida could not avoid a
sigh at the contradiction of small events. Every other
morning, for a long time, she had put on some pretty
chintz or muslin gown. That morning it had been so
dark and wet, and she had felt so despairing, " what was
the good of it ? " And though she had imagined Dick's



GOD BRINGS THE TARD Y BLESSING. 1 8 1

return in many a different way, it had never entered her
mind to suppose he might come to the house as some
person on business, and she go to meet him, feeling a
little cross at the obligation, and consciously assuming
the manner which, least of all, she would knowingly have
met her long-absent lover with. All her ideal plans and
expectations had been made vain by blunt reality. She
had looked entirely different to what she had intended to
look. She had worn the least pretty of all her dresses ;
she had been almost embarrassed in her welcome ; in-
deed, she had repeated over and over the same words.
Fate is full of such contradictions. One would think
she loved to dash the cup of joy she could not longer
delay. So Loida sighed and was a little sorry for her
own disappointment, though she said :

" If the heart be true and good, does the body mat-
ter ? "

" Yes, I think it does, aunt. I remember the moment
I first saw Lancelot coming up the terrace-steps, singing,
in the sunshine. His bare head and handsome face, his
fine figure, his air of happiness, and his voice, like a
voice out of heaven, took all my senses captive. If he
had been little and ugly and badly dressed, and had had
a disagreeable voice, do you think I should have fallen
in love with his good heart f I am afraid not. And do
you think my father would have cared for Mrs. Mott's
cleverness and good temper, if she had not been, in his
opinion, 'the prettiest, brightest little woman in the
whole world ' ? "

" And do you not think, Francesca, that it will be a
great thing to have ' the prettiest, brightest woman in
the whole world ' at Atherton Court ? "



1 82 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

" It is so easy for you to ask that question now, Loida.
You are not going to live at Atherton Court." .

" That is true. When your father comes home, I
shall go to Alderson Bars to live."

" So ' the prettiest and brightest ' will not put you in
the shade. You will not have a stepmother at Alder-
son Bars."

" Francesca, I shall have a mother-in-law."

" But suppose "

" My darling, we will ' suppose ' no more to-night.
We ought to be asleep."

" I cannot sleep. I shall go on ' supposing.' "

"Then," said Loida, as she stood, smiling, at Fran-
cesca's door, " here is a problem for your suppositions :

" ' Supposing I were you ;
Supposing you were me ;
Supposing each were somebody else,
I wonder who we should bet '"



CHAPTER XI.

FORTUNATE GOLD AND SORROWFUL LOVE.

" Clear shining after rain."

" Love that left me with a wound."

THE north of England was at this time like the
prophet's roll written within and without with
desolations and mourning and woe. The total dearth
of cotton, the closing of the great Lancashire and York-
shire factories, the consequent idleness of an immense
population fit for no other kind of work, the famine and
nakedness and pestilence which no private nor yet na-
tional charity could far assuage, made a terrible total of
sectional misery.

But there was, at least, a speedy hope of peace. Dick
was sure that a few months a year at the utmost
must finally cripple the Rebellion. There would be a
superabundance of cotton ; then the great chimneys
would smoke once more, and the noise of the spinning-
looms make again that giant " hum " of labor, which
would be a song of rejoicing to the thousands ready to
perish.

The squire was not at this time seriously troubled
about these matters. He was traveling on the con-
tinent with his bride, and the bright, bewitching Mrs.
Atherton made items for the newspapers in whatever
capital they happened to be visiting. In the meantime



1 84 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

changes were in progress at Atherton Court, which
would bring still greater changes. The most evident
was, of course, Dick's return. This return implied
many things, the first of which was the settlement with
his creditors.

The day before the one appointed for this purpose,
Loida and Francesca went to Alderson Bars Fran-
cesca a little reluctantly. She could not feel the inter-
est she wished to feel, and would have been glad to
remain at Atherton alone, to brood over her sorrow.
But Loida was anxious to show her both Alderson Bars
and Vyner Hall. It was not yet certain which place was
to be the future home of Dick and herself. Loida,
with a beautiful generosity, insisted on their living with
Dick's mother. She told Dick it would be cruel to go
away from her. No other woman had so much de-
served the joy of his constant presence.

But Mrs. Alderson had an equal generosity. She in-
sisted on the young people going to Vyner Hall. She
pointed out the fact that the two places were only a
short distance from each other. She was sure they
would be happier in their own home. She was good
enough to pretend that she also would be happier to be
alone in her home. It was a contest of generous feel-
ing, and it was at least likely that age would be the
most persistent in its self-denial.

Francesca was charmed with both places. Vyner
was a much smaller place than Alderson, but its grounds
had been made very beautiful by Loida's father, its pos-
sibilities were great, and it would not require many serv-
ants to keep it in order. It was a happy day at Aider-
son Bars when Dick once more crossed its threshold,



FORTUNATE GOLD. 185

holding Loida's hand. All the sorrows and labors of
ten years vanished in that tread. They looked into
each other's eyes and were satisfied. Francesca also
exerted herself to add to the general contentment, and
the evening was a very joyous one.

But the greatest joy of it came when Francesca had
retired, and the three loving bearers and toilers for
honor's sake could sit down together and discuss the
eventful meeting of the next day. The call for this
meeting had created a sensation throughout the country-
side. When Dick had made the promise to his creditors
ten years previously, there had been in his few resolute
words something which inspired belief ; and the York-
shire farmers of that day did not readily give up an im-
pression. If any of them had ever doubted Dick's as-
surance, they now positively denied the doubt. One and
all said they had been " as easy in their minds as could
be ; and things hed happened so, as showed they were
about right."

It was, then, a pleasant crowd that gathered in the old
bank. The building stood in the main street of Tipham
Market, a plain, low house of two stories, the windows
of the lower one being covered with dust and cobwebs.
The upper rooms were inhabited by an old clerk who
had been connected with the bank from his boyhood.
Everything relating to its affairs were in John Stead's
head and hands. He knew its indebtedness to a far-
thing. He had paid out for Mrs. Alderson every shilling
of interest. The books of the bank were the pride of
his life ; he could show them balanced to date, on de-
mand, at any time.

To this old man and his wife and their middle-aged.



1 86 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

sons and daughters the " clearing up " of Alderson's bank
was an affair that stirred their little world to its center.
John Stead had a new suit of black broadcloth made
for the occasion ; and Mrs. Stead and her two daugh-
ters, having cleaned their rooms to a point of shining
perfection, put on their best dresses and sat down in the
parlor as if it was Sunday.

They were unexpectedly rewarded. Not only did
Dick Alderson come upstairs they expected so much
of Dick but Dick brought with him his mother and
Miss Vyner. It was the first time the ladies had ever
been in the bank rooms, and the Steads congratulated
themselves ever afterward on their forethought in having
them in such exquisite order. For in spite of their pre-
occupation with Dick's affairs, both ladies perceived
where praise would be delightful, and both gave it with-
out stint.

Yet they were listening with ^11 their souls, the while
they talked of the most commonplace matters listening
for Dick's voice, for he had promised to call them at
a certain point of the proceedings. They could hear
the murmur of voices, the opening and shutting of
doors, the vague stir more apprehended than real, which
is never absent where there is a number of human be-
ings together.

Depositors of small amounts had been paid off long,
long ago ; it was only those to whom the bank owed
large sums who were to be satisfied that day. About
sixty men were present, and it seemed to Loida that it
took a very long time to give each man a check which
was already made out. But as she was impatiently
listening to an account of Miss Margaret Stead's attack



FORTUNATE GOLD. 1 87

of ague, there was a sudden sense of movement, and
then a loud and oft-repeated cheer, and Mrs. Alderson
rose up nervously and looked at Loida, and Loida
hasted to her side, and the ladies went downstairs to-
gether. They saw Dick at the foot of them, and Loida
called to him : " We are coming, Dick ; " and in a few
moments they entered the bank with him.

The company were all standing. Some had checks
in their hands, others were buckling them up in their
capacious pocket-books. Such a crowd of large, rosy,
pleased-looking men! It gave a sense of new life to
go among them. They were all talking, and all talk-
ing together. Hearty laughs emphasized their words.
They had all been partakers in a deed which made them
think well of their kind, and they were as happy, and as
satisfied with themselves, as if they had each individu-
ally been the doer of it. In one sense they had. For
if Dick Alderson had worked and saved, they had
trusted and waited ; and they all felt that their forbear-
ance had not only given Dick a chance, but had also
strengthened the hands and heart of his mother to do
her part.

When she entered the room, they gave her a ringing
cheer. They crowded round, and shook her hands, and
told her she had a fine son, and that they were glad
to see him home again. And when she said " Gentle-
men ! " they hushed in a moment their noisy talk, and,
hats in hands, stood still to listen to her.

She looked at them with a happy smile.

"Gentlemen! Dick has done his best to atone for
his fault. I, his mother, ask you to blot it out of your
memories; to give him your respect and your confi-



188 LOVE FOR AN HOUX.

dence as if he had never forfeited them ; to meet him
at church and at market as you used to meet his father.
If you cannot do this, be honest, straightforward men,
and say : ' Nay, we cannot forget.' Then Dick will
go away from here, and I will go with him ; and we
will begin life elsewhere. But, gentlemen, I can trust
Dick. I can, indeed ! "

" And I can trust Dick, too. I can trust him with
all my happiness, with all my estate, with all the days
of my life, even unto the grave. Friends, if the love of
life is also the love of heaven, I can trust Dick for all
eternity."

It was Loida Vyner who spoke. She looked at the
gathered gentlemen, and then she turned to Dick ?.^d
put her hand in his.

There was a confusion of smothered ejaculations.
Men looked into their hats and fingered the Madras
.silk handkerchiefs which lay in them. They were all
much moved, and not quick in expressing feelings of
this kind. For a moment there was a painful silence,
and many eyes were turned upon one old man, Squire
Gerald Granby, a magistrate and a person of great so-
cial power. He was restless while Loida was speaking,
and he looked steadily at the young man standing be-
tween his mother and his betrothed. Not a man to de-
cide quickly about anything, Squire Granby, in this
case, came to an instant determination.

" Gentlemen," he said, " we have the name of being
honest men. Dick Alderson has proved he is an honest
man. That is about the difference between him and
us, eh ? "

"To be sure! To be sure, squire !"



FORTUNATE GOLD. 189

" In this respect, then, he has an advantage over us.
We know not by words, but by deeds that Richard
Alderson is an honest man. I will give him a hearty
welcome on my heart and at my table. I will give nim
my vote and my friendship in the hunt and the militia,
and if he chooses to open the doors of his father's and
his grandfather's bank, he may put the check he has
just given me down as the first deposit."

Then what a tumult there was! " Hear, hear! " cried
some. " Hurrah for Granby and Alderson ! " cried
others. A crowd shook Dick's hands again ; another
crowd gathered round the generous speaker. Mrs. Al-
derson leaned upon her son's shoulder and cried for joy.
Loida went to Squire Granby, who was an old friend of
the family, and gave him both her hands, and he said :

" Thou spoke like a good woman, Loida. More good
women like -thee would make more good men. Tell
me when thou marries Dick, and I will come and give
thee away. Good girl! Good girl! God love thee,
my dear!"

And so with kind wishes and kind words tumbling
over each other, the happy company departed. Then
the chief actors in the little drama also went homeward.
The hour dreamed of, worked for, endured for, waited
for, through ten long years, had been realized. Mrs.
Alderson wept softly and happily, and Dick and Loida
kissed her tears away. Dick was silent with his felicity.
Loida, in all her life, had never been so beautiful and so
lovable. Her long seclusion had given a kind of antique
bon ton to her that was charming, and her affectionate.,
loyal nature imparted to her presence a living sweetness.

Into this wonderful joy Francesca could not enter.



190 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

She was glad to return to Atherton Court. There were
places there in which Lancelot's personality was still
strong. She could not bear to think of him in strange
rooms, for in places they had never been together she
could not catch the spirit of those impalpable impres-
sions of Lancelot which remained like pictures in the
air of those spots familiar to their love and their hopes.

And she did not like to trouble Loida's late joyful
spring with the gloom of her own despair. Perhaps,
too, Loida's spontaneous sympathy was not now as act-
ive as Francesca's needs demanded. In spite of every
effort she could make, in spite of the new hopes on
every side of her life, Francesca was very miserable. If
she could only hear of Lancelot! If she only knew
where he was! If she only knew he was well! If she
only knew that he still loved her, then she could better
bear to live. As it was, she hated every day, for she
went weeping to sleep, and woke up sighing to think of
the long hours she must face with a serene countenance
and a breaking heart.

She thought that nobody now cared for her that is,
they did not care about Lancelot, or put themselves to
any trouble to find out what had become of him. Her
father's long absence convinced her that he had his
heart and his happiness with him. It made her sad to
think he could be dining and feasting and going on all
kinds of pleasure-makings, and never remember her de-
spair. And Loida was so entirely taken up with Dick and
the refurnishing of Vyner Hall, and the getting ready of
her new bridal garments, not to speak of the charge she
kept at Atherton, that Francesca never could get a long
talk with her about Lancelot. Some person or thing



FORTUNATE GOLD. 191

always interfered. Every one was forgetting Lance-
lot but herself. She could feel that his very name was
a bore, an intrusion, a cloud across the sunshine, a false
note in the song of happiness.

So the summer sped away. The squire was expected
home in September, and Loida and Dick would be mar-
ried immediately afterward. All the old life at Atherton
Court would then be past forever. A new mistress,,
with new ways, would take Loida's place, and Francesca
knew that her father would, in many respects, be a
different man. There would be changes of which he
might not be conscious, but which would be painfully
evident to her. For no one can live among strange
people and under strange influences for months and
remain unaltered by the circumstances.

These considerations moved her to take a desperate
step.

" Loida," she said, one evening, as they sat sewing
and thinking " Loida, will you go with me to Idle-
holme ? "

"To Idleholme! Why, Francesca, Jane is in Italy.
Why do you want to go there ? "

" I want to see Lancelot's mother. We could stay a
day or two at Idleholme, and I would ride over to
Leigh. Perhaps perhaps I might find something out."

" I do not think that course would be quite right,
Francesca."

" Yes, it would. Yes, it would. Remember, Aunt
Loida, that you are going away from me. I shall be
left here with a strange woman, who never saw Lancelot.
Who am I to speak to ? Father will not listen to me ;
and if he would, can I talk to him now? Dear Loida,



192 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

before you go, as a last kindness to me, give me this
satisfaction. If my mother were alive, I am sure she
would let me go. This morning I found a verse which
I said weeping to her, and then the thought of going
to Leigh came into my mind. It was this verse :

" ' Mother, mother, up in heaven,

Stand upon the jasper sea,
And be witness I have given

All the gifts required of me.
Hope that blessed me,
Bliss that crowned,
Love that left me with a wound.'

Let me go to Leigh, Aunt Loida."

" You shall go, dear. I will ask Dick to go with us.
But could not Dick go for you ? "

" No. I am , sure I can do better than any one.
Lancelot's mother is a very strange woman. Dick
would not know how to manage her ; but I think she
will be kind to me, for Lancelot's sake."

"Then we will go to Idleholme in a few days per-
haps next Monday."

" That is nearly a week away. I cannot, cannot wait
so long, Loida. Why not go to-morrow ? Dick returns
to Alderson Bars on Saturday, and he may not come
back for several days. Loida, days seem whole years
to me. I am so wretched that every moment is an
hour."

"Then we will go to-morrow. Leaving at nine
o'clock, we can gallop there in five hours, and Dick will
be a sufficient escort."


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrLove for an hour is love forever → online text (page 12 of 20)