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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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HOPE AND TWO SAD WOMEN. 22$

a living spirit, I will come and tell thee where he is.
For he must let the world know he is alive."

" What has the world to do with Lancelot's life or
death ? "

" If Lancelot were dead, Sally Wood of Wood Hall,
eldest daughter of my husband's eldest sister, is the next
heir. And what does ta think? Joshua Newby is
courting her. Newby says he is bound to hev Leigh,
either by wedding or deading, if gold willn't do it ; and
I hev told him, he niver shall hev the right to enter
Leigh. But does ta see what the scoundrel is after?
His son will wed Sally Wood, and then he will buy the
right from Sally, and come in here, and spread himsen
before the living and the dead, as master of Leigh. I
could not bide that, neither for the love of heaven nor
the fear of hell. I would come back and slay him,
someway. I would! I would! So thou must keep
Lancelot in the land of the living. That is thy part.
Thou understands ? "

"Yes, mother."

" If any one says, ' Lancelot is dead,' threep them
down as liars. Leigh House must stand empty till a
Leigh comes to dwell in it. It niver hes gone in the
female line, and it niver shall."

The subject excited her very much, and Francesca
tried to pass it over, and talk of Martha's own condi-
tion.

"You ought, for Lancelot's sake," she said, "to
live, and so take care of yourself. If Lancelot could
see you and his home now, how distressed he would
be!"

"Thorpe says I hevn't long to live. If I \vanted to



226 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

live, I shouldn't die ; but I don't want to live. I can
do a deal more for Leigh out of the body than in it."

" Should you not have more warmth, more comforts,
a servant to wait upon you ? "

" I live as I want to live. I hev plenty of money.
I need not grudge mysen any comfort and I don't.
But heat or cold, comfort or discomfort, when you are
companying with death and racked with pain what
does it signify? Nothing at all." She was silent a
little, and then she asked suddenly :

"Thou means to marry Lancelot when he comes
back ? "

" Yes. I mean to marry no one else."

" I will be glad to think of thee here. I like thee now.
I wish I hed always liked thee ; things might hev been
a good bit different. Come here as often as ta can,
when ta is married to Lancelot. I shall know it, I'm
sure, and I will give thee a blessing."

So they talked until it was near two o'clock. Then
Francesca bid her " Good-bye." She did not wish to
make Clara's conciliation harder than need be, and she
walked in the avenue until she heard the Atherton car-
riage approaching. It stopped at the gates of Leigh
House, and Clara met her with that effusiveness of
welcome which indicated a prior dispute. The squire
was undoubtedly angry, but he folded the carriage
wraps tenderly round his daughter, and felt a painful
sense of heartache when he saw how wan and sorrow-
ful she looked.

" How is Mrs. Leigh ? "

It took him a few moments to compel himself to this
courteous inquiry, but the kindness done, he felt its



HOPE AND TWO SAD WOMEN. 22J

influence ; and when Francesca answered, " She is
dying, alone, without a friend, and careless of all help
or comfort," he felt honestly sorry.

" She is a very proud, sensitive woman," he said,
" She was very rude to me once, but she did not know.
It was the day of the funeral. I thought her slightly
off her judgment. God pity her! "

And even while the kindly prayer was uttering,
Martha, half-unconsciously, was making for herself the
same petition :

"God pity me! I meant to do right! God pity
me if I hev done sinfully ! "

For her punishment had become almost unbearable.
The silence of her son was a cruel sorrow, but if the
law should construe this silence as death, and suffer the
next heir even a partial or limited possession, how could
she bear it f She did not like her niece Sally ; she hated
young Newby. Sometimes she felt she could live in
perpetual agony, only to live and keep Leigh House
until her son came home to claim it. Then a miserable
doubt invaded even this resignation. Would Lancelot
live in it if he came back ? Perhaps not. Still, his
right would keep others out. And she had a hope that
Francesca understood and would carry out her desires.

But what miseries sat in the lonely house with the
lonely woman. She fought them with all her power ;
but intolerable pains and intolerable despairs filled her
with mortal and immortal suffering. The house per-
meated with such influences took on, as a countenance
would, an expression of being haunted. An unhappy
atmosphere was reflected from it, and at night its one
feeble light in an upper room thrilled every heart thaJ



228 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

looked toward the forlorn dwelling with pity and with
terror. What Martha Leigh was doing there and what
she was enduring, no one knew. She made no com-
plaint, and asked for no human help. In moments of
intolerable anguish it was God she spoke to. It was
to God only she cried : " Pity me ! Pity me ! Re-
member that I am but dust! "



CHAPTER XIII.

MARTHA LEIGH ATTAINS UNTO PEACE,

A Soul . . .

Joying to find herself alive,
Lord over nature, Lord of the visible earth,

Lord of the senses five. Tennyson.

We hurry to the river we must cross,

And swifter downward every footstep wends ;

Happy, who reach it ere they count the loss

Of half their faculties and half their friends. Landor.

A LIFE filled with duty may be a very noble life, but
II the heart craves some tender resting-places built
by love, and wanting them, duty is very like a day of
sunshine, or an orchard without singing birds. It was
these little resting-places built by love and sympathy
that made life endurable to Francesca during the fol-
lowing weeks. Her hopeful conversations with Clara
the tears she could shed in her company the letters
sent here and there for information the things supplied
topics of conversation that touched Lancelot, and made
tangible sources of comfort and compassionate inter-
change of feeling, and thus enabled the unhappy girl to
bear the long recurring days that brought her yet no
tidings of her lover.

They were not days, however, devoid of interest in
other directions. Clara was moving them in many re-
spects to wise and kindly ends ; for, from her first com-



230 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

ing to Atherton, she had been grieved by the desolation
of the village and the stagnation of interests which
ought to have been working steadily for the good of
all. The squire laid the blame on the war, and felt
himself easy in thus shifting the responsibility. It was
not pleasant, therefore, to have Clara continually intro-
ducing an unpleasant subject.

" That mill ought to be opened, Rashleigh," she said
again one day, as they rode through the village together.
"Look at those cottages standing empty."

" I do look at them very often," answered the squire,
with some temper. " I spent a great deal of money
building those cottages, and while the mill was running
the rents were worth gathering. Now they are going
to ruin, or they are sheltering some miserable family
whose head has gone to Oldham or Clitheroe or even
to America, in search of work. I look at them very
often, Clara."

" Open the mill, Rashleigh."

" I tell you it is not mine, Clara. It belongs to that
young man whom Francesca is killing herself about."

" You ought not to speak of Miss Atherton as killing
herself ; though I suppose we all do kill ourselves, in
some way or other, eating, drinking, loving, fretting,
working, even hunting. Squire Foxly chose hunting.
But I am talking about the idle mill and the empty cot-
tages. I should rent the mill, if I were you, and set
every loom to work. I do not like to see Atherton vil-
lage so mournful and poverty-stricken."

" It is poverty-stricken ; there are so many people
here who have no business here."

" Then find business for them. Open the mill."



MARTHA LEIGH ATTAINS UNTO PEACE. 231

" Clara, if I did not love you so much, I should be
angry at this monotonous cry of yours. Can you not
understand that I should feel it a great degradation to
become a cotton-spinner, a mere trader ? "

" I cannot understand it at all. Why should it be
more degrading to spin cotton to clothe people than to
grow wheat to feed them ? The occupations seem to
me equally honorable. As for trading, it is the most
ancient, honorable, and enterprising of occupations."

"The agricultural and pastoral life stands higher,
Clara."

" Then it ought not to stand higher. And you have
too much sense to think it does."

" Its antiquity "

" Antiquity is worn out. Besides, if antiquity is worth
anything, trading has plenty of it. Those agricultural
patriarchs, counting their sheep and oxen and squab-
bling about water-holes in the desert, are commonplace
enough put against the great merchant companies from
Midian traveling down into Egypt with camels and
swordsmen and all kinds of wealth. Rashleigh, I have
heard with considerable weariness your monotonous
cry about doing your duty by the land. Well, sir,
you are neglecting your duty shamefully; you ought
to double the value of every foot of land in Atherton
village."

" There are certain prejudices, Clara "

" I am sure you have strength of character enough
to follow your convictions and your interests, and let
' certain prejudices' go to the limbo appointed for such
useless lumber. I should rent the mill, if I were you ;
then you can rent your empty cottages and make every



232 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

one happy and Squire Atherton rich. Mr. Horsfall has
begun to spin cotton."

" I do not indorse Mr. HorsfalPs opinions."

"Squire Drayton is vaporing about ' landed gentle-
men ' and coming to you to borrow money. I do not
suppose you indorse Squire Drayton's opinions. You
see, you could rent the mill from Mr. Leigh's lawyer,
and when Mr. Leigh returns he will doubtless relieve
you in a very profitable way of your responsibility. I
have such a fine idea of the plan, that if you decline it,
I think I shall speculate myself. ' Clara Mott Ather-
ton, Cotton Spinner,' would not be a bad name for a
firm. I have a lot of money as good as idle."

Squire Atherton looked at his wife with some anxiety.
He could not tell whether she was in earnest or not.
Clara made the impossible thing happen so often. Her
face was speculative and thoughtful; she was smiling,
and yet she appeared to be mentally adding up a sum.
He thought it best to turn the suggestion into an unmis-
takable and preposterous joke, and she only smiled a
little more, and said, with a nod of her head : " You
will see."

And no man's heart is proof against the continual
drop, drop of an idea. The idea either wins the heart
or hammers it hard as iron. Squire Atherton's heart
could not be hard to his wife's reasoning, and she taught
him such clever ways of answering and combating prej-
udices that he soon felt a kind of pleasure in provoking
an antagonist to conflict. He was sure of victory, for
he never doubted his own arguments, and he never sus-
pected his opponent had any argument worth consider-
ing. Clara taught him the word " obsolete," and he



MARTHA LEIGH ATTAINS UNTO PEACE. 233

blandly defined all old customs and prejudices by that
word. She led him to have a special contempt for that
condition she called " behind the times " ; and so glori-
fied the present era, with all its progressive thought and
movements, that Squire Atherton, in adopting them,
conceived a huge respect for himself as being a man
greatly in advance of his neighbors.

Such changes were not, of course, made at once, and
yet they were quickly made ; for the mind, when put
into favorable conditions for growth, progresses with that
marvelous celerity which distinguishes all mental move-
ments. It takes years for the boy to become a man,
but a few hours is often sufficient to make a man turn
out of doors his present mind and welcome one entirely
different.

Squire Atherton's transformation was effected more
gradually. He floated in his wife's companionship al-
most imperceptibly into a higher and wider stratum of
thought. Her opinions, repelled at first, still struck fire
against his feelings and intellect, and day by day he
became possessed and enthused by them. To make
money, to make himself the bread-giver to thousands, to
become a living fountain of wealth, to double the value
of Atherton land these ideas grew into stringent mo-
tives for action, and he was led into a mental condition
he would once have repudiated with scorn as one false
alike to his principles and his order.

It must be admitted that the squire was also in-
fluenced by Dick Alderson, for Dick and Loida made
frequent visits to Atherton ; and Dick's descriptions of
the Mexican grandees, who drew their immense reve-
nues from mining, greatly impressed his imagination.



234 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

If Mexican nobles were miners, why could not English
squires be manufacturers ? Indeed, it often seemed to
Clara that Dick had a secret longing for the life he
had abandoned. She noticed that every time he came
to Atherton he dwelt with more loving enthusiasm on
the adventurous existence which he had led for ten
years. She noticed that he had not reopened the
bank, though he had been requested by a unanimous
call of the people in the vicinity of Tipham Market to
do so. And Clara, putting these and other things to-
gether, argued that Dick did not find riding about his
fields and going to the hunt a sufficient exchange for
the excitement, the danger, and the rich results of his
Western experience.

It is true, he had Loida and he had his mother, and
he had one, nay, two, really charming homes. What
more could he want ?

" The trivial round, the common task,
May furnish all we ought to ask,
Room to deny ourselves ; "

but Dick could not attain to this condition. And
Clara sympathized with him. Loida's sweet repose, her
gentle content with life and Dick, her failure to see
Dick's restlessness, irritated her. She felt herself com-
pelled to try and rouse in the placid lady a thought that
this sameness, though a sameness of love and happi-
ness, might become a little fatiguing to restless spirits.
One of these discussions brought out a fact which made
her think well of Dick's forethought, and also showed
her a way full of possibilities as far as Francesca was
concerned.



MARTHA LEIGH ATTAINS UNTO PEACE. 235

They were all sitting together one evening, in the fall
of the year. It was chilly and rainy, and there was a
little fire in the grate. The squire was smoking, Fran-
cesca reading, Loida sewing, Dick looking into the fire
or the far West Clara doing nothing with her hands,
for her restless mind gave her sufficient employment,..
The languid melancholy of autumn was distinctly pres-
ent, for unless it be in characters of vivid vitality, it is
true that

" The swift beat of the brain
Falters, because it is in vain
In autumn, at the fall of the leaf; "

and the chief joy seems to be quiet and to muse secretly
over our own dreams.

" I suppose this is what is called a peaceful, simple,
sweet, idyllic life," said Clara. " I think ' peace ' and
' simplicity ' idols quite as little entitled to worship as
graven images are. What can people do in such lives
but fold any solitary talent they have in a napkin and
bury it in a field ? "

"But ther, Clara dear," said Loida, in her sweet,
low voice, " we are out of danger and out of tempta-
tion, and the very air is full of peace and rest, and our
hearts are full of love, and what more can we desire it
this unhappy world but peace and rest ? "

As she spoke she looked at Dick, who did not lift his
eyes or indorse her statement by even the faintest of
smiles, while Clara's looks contradicted the assertions
even as they were made. And as soon as Loida ceased
speaking, she said :

" ' Peace ! ' ' Safety ! ' ' Out of temptation! ' I do
nc't think much of such words. They are mere words



236 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

the Dogberry and Verges of morality." And then,
with a charming mockery, she quoted : " ' You are to
bid any man stand in the prince's name. But how if
he will not stand in the prince's name ? Why, then,
take no note of him, but let him go, and presently call
the watch together, and thank God you are rid of a
knave.' Peace and rest, indeed ! You may bid peace
or restj or even love, stand in any name you like ; but if
they do not stand ? And if all you can do is to call
the watch together, and try and thank God, and talk
about knaves, what then ? "

" Did you say ' love,' Clara dear ? "

"Yes, Loida dear, I said 'love.' I think peace and
rest are suffocating atmospheres for love. That is the
reason I have labored like a galley-slave to set Rash-
leigh to work in a mill. I am in hopes the mill will stir
the stagnant air, and give love some chance to live and
grow. Any plant but a weed dies in perpetual sun-
shine."

Dick looked at her with a bright, thoughtful face.

" Have you heard of Nirvana ? " he said. " And
what do you think of such a state, Clara ? "

" I think Nirvana might be the heaven of a Platonic
oyster, or a jelly-fish in tropical seas. I could never
dream of Nirvana."

" But, Clara, the jelly-fish has already explained that
it is destitute of a sensorium."

" And that is where it is, Dick. We have sensoria,
and sensoria make Nin'ana impossible ; though, in-
deed, I have been at some places here that were even
worse. Shall I ever forget Mrs. Sykes and her even-
ing party f "



MARTHA LEIGPI ATTAINS UNTO PEACE. 237

" I was not there," said Loida.

" Unfortunately Francesca and I were there. It is
easily described : We sat about the room, quiet as a
funeral, in the midst of many candles. I was hysterical
with the silence. I had to go to the piano and sing,
or I should have shrieked. I am anticipating the
opening of the mill. What a pleasure to hear the rush
of steam, the rattle of machinery, and the ' hum-m-m '
of wheels."

" Clara dear, I have heard the noise of the mill. I
thought it dreadful. If cotton could only be spun with-
out noise."

"I do not suppose it would then be spun at all.
Fancy a silent factory! " cried Clara. " How oppressive
it would be! No one could do monotonous work
without noise; it would be unendurable; it would
drive the workers crazy."

Dick sprang to his feet.

"By Saint George, you are right, Clara!" he cried.
"I have seen such noiseless mines in Mexico penal
servitude. Dear me! I was thinking of Mexico, feel-
ing glad that I still had a hold on the country. After
all, there was a great charm in going to work every
morning with the hope of a ' find ' that might be a fort-
une. You sow a field, and know almost to a shilling
how much its harvest will be worth. You go to your
-.nine, hoping everything, for everything is possible ; and
in mining you set your hopes to the possible, not to the
probable."

" You still have a hold on the country ? " asked Clara.
" What do you mean ? "

" I did not sell my right in the San Rayas mine. I



238 LOVE FOR AX HOUR.

could not sell advantageously at the time, and now I
am glad of it, for my last letters from Mexico say that
there has been a new labor opened up that is, a new
vein of silver. I may have to return and look after my
interests in it."

Loida dropped her work and seemed unable to speak.
Dick took her hand and answered her terrified inquiry
with an assuring smile.

" I shall take you with me, Loida if I have to go."

Then Clara perceived a singular advantage, and she
glanced intelligently at Francesca as she answered for
Loida, the quiet English lady being nonplused by the
very suggestion of her going to Mexico :

"Loida, how charming! How delightful! How
perfectly delightful! Loida, how I envy you! To go
to Mexico! To breathe its exquisite air! To see such
a picturesque life! I would give a great deal to be
you. Rashleigh, I am sorry now I persuaded you to
begin spinning. We might have gone to Mexico with
Dick and Loida. What a trip it would have been!
And then we could have come back by way of New
York."

The squire could hardly have looked at his wife with
more amazement if she had suggested a summer's trip
to Jupiter, with a return call at the moon. And he an-
swered, with an almost comical decision :

" I shall never go to any part of America in this life,
Clara."

Clara shook her head with the air of one who pities
and consoles.

" Never mind, Rashleigh," she said. " This life is
only a chapter in an eternal book of life. The scene



MARTHA LEIGH ATTAINS UNTO PEACE. 239

of the next chapter may, perhaps, be laid in America.
I think we have good reason to hope so. An American
wife in this life is a kind of I O U to an Englishman
that his next experience may be in America. Regard
me then, Rashleigh, as 'a promiser of good things to
come.' "

She was happy, she was hopeful, she saw a door open-
ing for Francesca, though Francesca did not yet see it
for herself. And as Clara was not ready to draw any
attention to it, she talked in a fashion which no way rep-
resented her real thoughts, but which always gave the
squire and Loida and Francesca plenty of occupation
to apprehend.

In the morning there was a very large mail, and no
one had the leisure to perceive that Francesca received
some unusual communication. It was an old-fashioned
letter, folded as letters were folded before the days of
envelopes, and it was sealed with wax, though wax had
long given place to mucilage. But the writer of this
letter was Martha Leigh, and Martha was faithful to
the old methods she had used in her youth.

" I'll niver seal my letters any such way," she said to
Lancelot, when envelopes were first brought to Leigh
House ; " it's a way out of nature, and I'll niver be the
one to asK my tongue to do the work of my hands."

Francesca guessed in a moment the writer of the let-
ter, and her loving heart beat with a fresh hope.

" Surely Mrs. Leigh had heard from Lancelot, or
perhaps even Lancelot had come home ! "

She slipped out of the breakfast-parlor as quickly as
possible, and, after a moment's hesitation between the
garden and her room, she chose the garden. The



24O LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

maids would be upstairs, and she felt as if she could
not endure the eye and the ear of any woman. So she
walked down the terrace to the lower garden, and, in
the solitude of the apricot standards, broke the seal. It
was from Martha Leigh. And every letter of the sad
epistle, though large and clear, was shaken by the palsy
of death.

" My dear," said the dying woman, "my dear, I am going
out into the great dark. I may live one week or happen two
weeks, no longer ; so come to me if you can. My lad has never
sent me another line. His silence has been a sharp knife; it has
dug my grave. But he is not dead. He will come back here
again. Tell him I died blessing the very thought of him. Tell
him not to judge me. I am going to the righteous Judge of the
whole earth. My sentence is with Him. I have suffered since I
saw you. I have been racked with pain and with heart-longing
and with fearful looking forward. I would like to see your face
once more ; but I can die alone. My dear lass, it is a hard fate
to dree when you have to stand in the way of Fate. I did what I
thought was right to every one dead and alive and I got the
wage of the stand-between ill from both and all. Sally Wood
has married young Newby ; they think Lancelot is dead. He is
alive. Stand by that. Say you are sure of it. You may be.
One that does not lie has told me so. And Lancelot dead would
have spoken a word to his mother. It is the living that forget us :
the dead have better memories than the living. God bless you!
I fear I shall see your face no more. It is very dark to go away.
If there was one to hold my hand! Have I done wrong? Noth-
ing has come right. It is all a maze of sorrow and trouble. I
have been three days writing this; I am just stepping into my
grave. Good-bye, my dear. Tell Lance it is all over. I can
write no more pain and pain and sorrow and a thick cold dark-
ness. God be merciful. Pray for the soul of Martha Leigh."

No word from Lancelot. No word at all. The
letter was ablow. Some how, she had always anchored



MARTHA LEIGH ATTAINS VNTO PEACE. 241

to the belief that Lancelot's mother and home would
bring him back. And the strange old woman, with her
heart full of love, was dying. All her longing had been
useless. Lancelot had not felt it. What did it matter
if he was alive, when the circumference of the world
was between them ? For the first time she had a senti-
ment of anger against her lover. No circumstances


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrLove for an hour is love forever → online text (page 15 of 20)