Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

Love for an hour is love forever online

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thinks he is in Mexico, I'll be bound."

Clara came forward with a letter in her hand.

" Toro brought it," she said, " and he wants a shilling
for his trouble. He has got the maids hysterical with
his singing and dancing, and I am trembling for my sil-
ver spoons."

Dick took the letter, and as he looked at it his face
flushed and his hands nervously broke the seal.

" It is from Mexico," he said, " from my old partner
he wants me he wants me at once there is an offer
for the mine a big offer. I must go as soon as pos-
sible. What luck it is!"

He had carelessly given a servant a piece of silver
for Toro, and was reading and commenting as he read,
with the utmost enthusiasm. Loida had risen and gone


to his side. The squire was watching him curiously.
Clara stood on the hearth looking thoughtfully into the
fire, until she suddenly lifted her face and darted an
inquisitive glance at Francesca. She, of all present,
seemed quite undisturbed by the letter. That Dick
should get a letter from Mexico was natural enough ;
she scarcely considered the circumstance ; but as soon
as the current of the conversation changed, her mind
went voluntarily back to the channel in which it loved
best to move and to speculate. Would Lancelot in any
way hear of his mother's death f Would it bring him
home? She had a hope that Doctor Thorpe knew
\vhere Lancelot was. Surely he would write to him ?
In a few minutes she began to remember that Dick
might meet Lancelot that he might even try to find
him. Looked at on the map Mexico did not seem such
a very large country, and she had an idea that Dick
had some unusual power or influence there.

She looked up at Dick. He was talking to Loida
and Clara in an excited manner. The squire had gone
to see Toro beyond temptation. He knew the gypsy's
fingers stuck to a bridle. And yet he liked the brown
Antinous. He had been born on Atherton moor, and
was, in a fashion, one of his people.

" Come, Toro, I will walk to the gate with you," he
said kindly, touching the gypsy on the shoulder.

" Too much honor for the poor person, squire." But
Toro put his fiddle in its green baize bag, and laugh-
ingly rose.

" Doctor Dyson says you bought his horse a bad
brute he is."

" No, no, squire badly managed. I know a horse


the minute I see him, temper and everything. The
doctor's horse is quiet with me."

" Why did you walk into poor Hodgson's hen-house,
Toro ? "

" Did I, squire f "

"Yes. Why?"

" Because he is poor. I do not spare the poor person
because he has little. No one is poor but them God
hates. That is the Rommany creed."

"It is a wicked one. You promised, when I gave
you a bit of land, to stay on it."

" The dog who travels about finds bones, squire."

" Are you sending your boys and girls to school ? "

" In the highways and byways. Good-night, and
good luck to you, squire. Did you fear I would put
dras in your mangers f None of us would hurt Ather-
ton or Atherton's horses."

" I know you do not wish to, Toro ; but sometimes
the devil "

" The 'good baron] squire, must have the good word.
He may be at our elbow."

" Speak for yourself, Toro."

But the squire laughed, and let the gypsy pass
through the gate with the laugh, and as he turned
toward the house the whole interview slipped from his
memory like a vagrant thought. He felt a sudden
melancholy assail him, and he qaickened his footsteps
and gladly re-entered the house. In the parlor Clara,
Loida, and Dick were standing together on the hearth-
rug, talking with great animation ; but Francesca's
face was upturned to the group with a shadow of pain
upon it.


" Well, Dick, is it to be Mexico again ? "

" Yes, squire, and at once. Loida is going with me."

" That is a nonsensical thing, Dick. It isn't a jour-
ney fit for a woman at all."

" Rashleigh, it is a lovely journey," said Clara.
" There is no danger whatever, and very little discom-
fort. If you were not so full of business about the mill,
I should ask you to take me also. What a splendid
party it would be ! "

Squire Atherton looked at his wife as a mother looks
at a child who cries for the moon. He did not consider
the supposition as a serious one.

" You see," continued Clara, " they have only to take
a fine Cunard steamer to New York, and pray what
danger or discomfort in that ? None at all. I know,
for I have crossed half a dozen times. From New
York they can take a steamer to Mexico, or they can
go to New Orleans and take a Mexican steamer from
that port. As Dick and Loida had no wedding-trip, I
think this journey together may just take its place. No
one knows what kind of stuff his or her love is made of
till they have tested it on a journey together. We came
near to shipwrecking our good opinion of each other
when we were on the continent once or twice. Eh,
Rashleigh ? "

" We did nothing of the kind, Clara."

" We certainly did, whether you know it or not. You
were so English so rampantly English all through
France and Germany, so tremendously Church-of-Eng-
land in Rome, that any sensible cosmopolitan, any lover
of human nature in all its charming variety, must have
felt chafed and restricted. I did. But as fast as my


intelligence blamed, my heart excused you. For, upon
the whole, Rashleigh, you were a most unselfish, delight-
ful traveling companion. I only hope Loida may find
Dick as really effective and sensible as you were. It is
not likely, though."

And she gave Dick a deprecating sigh, and turned to
her husband with the smile which always won her way
to his heart which always put his wishes or his will
under the feet of her least desire.

Loida had grown quite enthusiastic during the discus-
sion. The squire looked at her heightened color and
shining eyes with amazement. A year ago, a journey so
far and so hurried would have been to the deliberate,
methodical Englishwoman like a journey into an open
grave. Now she was absolutely at Dick's desire.

" She could be ready in a week, in half a week, in
twenty-four hours, if necessary."

"There is no time to lose, sir," said Dick to the
squire. " From what I learn, an English company pro-
pose to buy the mine, in which I still hold a controlling
interest. It will b,e a great thing for me. I shall then
have all my money in England. I can buy land ; I can
build a new house, and take the place in the county
that" I desire to take."

And this last argument was one that always appealed
to the squire. He was at once satisfied.

" Will you be long away, Dick ? "

" Not longer than half a year, and, as Mrs. Atherton
says, it will be a delightful trip. Loida will enjoy every
hour of it. It is time the dear little woman saw some-
thing of the world she lives in."

" And what of your mother, Dick ? " asked Francesca.


"What is to be done for Mrs. Alderson? How will
she like your going away, and to Mexico again ? "

There was a tone of reproach in Francesca's voice.
At the moment it annoyed Dick.

" I have not forgotten mother," he said, " and mother
never puts herself before my interest. The letter went
to Alderson, and she, seeing it was from Mexico, and
marked ' Immediate,' sent Toro here with it. Mother
will be glad to have Loida and me take a journey to-
gether, especially when the journey is a necessary one."

Then the details of this journey furnished a long and
interesting discussion. Clara knew so much about New
York, and Dick knew nothing at all ; so all Clara's
directions and advices were to enter in his pocket-book.
Dick knew everything about Mexico, but all his propo-
sitions were to discuss by the fresh element of womanly
taste and requirements. And there are matters which
require more time * to discuss than to realize ; it took
Loida about three hours to resolve to take one trunk only
with her ; it did not take one hour to pack that trunk.

It was already morning when " good-nights " were
said, and there was little sense of rest, even then, in the
house. Francesca, on reaching her own room, could
not find heart to unclothe herself. There was a harder
look on her lovely face than it had ever known before ;
and perhaps it was not unreasonably there. For in all
these discussions and suppositions, Lancelot had not
once been named. Dick and Dick's fortune and
Loida's comfort and pleasure had occupied all surmises,
and been reason sufficient for every preparation. No one
had even suggested the possibility of making a fresh
search for her lover, on the very spot of his disappear-


ance, in the general enthusiasm over Dick's good fort-
une and the extraordinary event of Loida actually going
to cross the ocean.

Her loving heart burned with indignation. She told
herself that she had rejoiced with Dick and Loida, and
that she had some right to expect they would at least re-
member she was weeping for her own loss. She felt as
if every one did Lancelot injustice, as if every one will-
fully forgot him ; yea, even at that moment she felt
angry at his mother for deserting him. " I would have
lived on in loneliness and suffering had I been in her
place," she mused ; " lived on, if only to pray for him,
and to welcome him home again." Then the thought
of the sorrow-haunted woman came to her with ex-
traordinary power and sympathy. She was instantly-
contrite for her angry memory, instantly and strangely
conscious of the agony that had consecrated every
room of that old, empty house, which but a little while
ago echoed to Lancelot's voice and step.

She could not keep her spirit at Atherton. It wan-
dered away to Leigh, and to that forlorn little church-
yard on the wold ; and there, reluctantly compelled by
some influence she could not escape, she remained
sleeping or waking the whole night she remained there
hesitating, trembling, mourning with every spiritual
sense, feeling the dead that were below and the souls
that were overhead.

Very early, while it was yet scarcely dawn, a tap at
her door awakened Francesca from her troubled visions.
She was glad to see it was Clara, glad to feel her living
face, the touch of her warm lips, and the clasp of her
soft, strong hands.


" I was unhappy about you, Francesca," said the
pleasant, sympathetic woman, sitting down on the side
of Francesca's bed. " I thought I heard you moaning
in your sleep somewhere far off have you been
dreaming badly, my dear ? "

" Yes, all night ; dreadful dreams."

" About Lancelot ? "

" Not exactly. Do not speak of him."

" I have come purposely to speak of him. I have
come to advise you to go to Mexico and seek him
yourself. I would if I were you. No one should pre-
vent me. Loida can go. Then you, also, can go."

" They never named him last night. They only
thought of themselves."

" You cannot tell their thoughts, nor yet their reasons
for not naming him. I, for instance, was quiet because
I knew it was not the time to speak to your father, and
I did not wish an ill-considered decision to prejudice a
wiser application. But it is certain your presence will
give diligence and interest to the search, and it is my
belief love will find out whatever is hidden."

" What will people say ? "

" Whom do you love ? ' People ' or Lancelot ? "

" Will father let me go ? "

" Ask him."

" If you would "

" No ; not unless you fail. There is a point which
honor forbids me to cross. Your father will refuse me
nothing. For that reason I cannot impose on his love.
He has an affection still deeper for you. Test it this
morning. You will find his love strong enough to grant
you this favor, I make no doubt. Would you like to


go to Mexico? Lancelot disappeared from sight in
that city. Will you trust to Dick and Loida making
inquiries, or will you go yourself? What do you
wish ? "

" I wish to go. Clara, I wish with all my heart to
go. Help me, dear! How shall I manage? What
shall I do ? "

"Go to your father. Tell him your desire. I will
stand by you."

" I will ! I will ! Clara, thank you for coming.
How blind, how stupid I am not to have thought of the
plan last night."

" No, Francesca ; the plan was one entirely out of
your mental horizon. If a girl has been taught she
must not see beyond her own four walls, she is hardly
likely to suppose she can see across the Atlantic. I
was taught to believe that the whole world and the full-
ness thereof was mine."

"O Clara, you give me such good hope! I feel
happy happier than I have felt for such a long time. I
must get up. I cannot rest. I wish breakfast was over.
Would it do to speak to father before breakfast ? "

Clara thought it would be better to postpone the
great question till the squire had got a good hold of
himself, and was in a mood to regard the subject from
his usual views, so that there would be no after-disput-
ing. Then, with a few brave, kind words, she left the
girl to think the matter over in her own heart.

The subject was not an entirely new one to Fran-
cesca. Many times such a project had flashed across
her mind, but it had appeared too chimerical, too sur-
rounded with insurmountable difficulties to entertain or


consider. It came and went like a flash, without ap-
parent reason or result. But now it appeared to be the
most reasonable of projects, and this change of feeling
in some singular way influenced her physical bearing
and appearance. In that hour the touch which removes
immaturity was given ; she looked no older, but she did
look more perfect. When she went to the squire's
room after breakfast, she went with a step and an air
as yet new to herself ; she went as a suppliant indeed,
but as a suppliant conscious of rights.

The squire was smoking, and reading his newspaper.
Francesca's presence was never an intrusion ; he smiled
to her over the top of the Leeds Mercury, and finished
the editorial he was reading. Then he looked again
at his daughter, and said :

" Art thou come to talk to me, love ? "

"Yes, father. I want to go with Dick and Loida,
and so I came to ask your permission."

"I never heard tell of such a thing! Does thou
know what thou art saying ? My love, it means cross-
ing three thousand miles of stormy water, and, for aught
I know, as many more miles when thou gets on the
other side of the world. It means living with strange
people, and sleeping in strange beds, and eating all man-
ner and makes of strange dishes. From all that I ever
read, or heard tell, when thou does get to Mexico thou
wilt be in a country where no life is safe. Fighting
and talk of fighting is all that goes on."

" Dick and Loida will take care of me."

" Happen they will, and happen they will not be able
to take care of themselves. Surely thou art not in
earnest ? "


" Indeed I am."

" Well, then, I cannot listen to such sheer nonsense.
I thought thou was joking. Go to Mexico! Thou
must have lost thy senses."

" Father, I have been sad and sick for a long time.
I have not been such a happy, pleasant daughter as you
deserve to have."

" Thou hast not that is the truth."

" It is about Lancelot. You know ? "

"To be sure I know I know too well."

" I think if I went with Dick and Loida, the sea
would do me good. It would make me mentally and
physically stronger. When I get to Mexico, I will see
that Dick looks after Lancelot. I do not think Captain
Benton ever did anything but spend money. I do not
think Lancelot is dead ; but if I myself can find out
nothing, then I shall know it is so. That would be a
great point. One can learn to accept the inevitable.
It is the alternations of hope and despair that kill."

" To be sure. If Lancelot is found, what then ? "

" I shall ask him to come home."

"Thou wilt not marry him, and stay in Mexico?
That would fairly kill me."

" I will not."

" Because thou knows thou art my only child ; thou
art Lady of Atherton Manor ; thou could not leave thy
father and thy home and thy land, and the duty thou
owes to each and all, just to please thyself. Thou could
not do a thing like that, Francesca."

" I could not be Francesca Atherton and do such a
thing. Lancelot must come back home if he wants to
marry me. If he will not come home for my sake, do


you think I will wrong you and every one that love?
me, and that looks to me, for his sake ? No, father. 1
will then give him up forever. I will come home to

" And then thou wilt worry and fret thy life out."

" I will be a good daughter. I will then do all
you wish me to do."

"God love thee! I will make no bargain with my
own dear little lass. If I let thee go, I will let thee go
freely ; for no matter how things turned, I could not
press a bargain with thee. Could I, Francesca ? "

" No, my father. You would lose your last hope

" Now, then, listen, and don't thee be put out at
what I say. I must help thee to look at every side of
so important a question. It means so much to so
many. Maybe then thou wilt find Lancelot easier thaa
thou thinks for. Maybe thou wilt hardly know th<i
man whom thou hast loved so truly. He has been liv-
ing in one kind of a way, and thou hast been living in
another kind of a way. Perhaps thou wilt meet an al-
together different Lancelot to the image thou has nursed
in thy own fond heart a Lancelot thy high, pure nature
could not love and could not trust. What would thou
do in such a case as that ? "

"If he came back to England must I not keep my
word ? I have no fear of Lancelot changing for the

" Keep thy word ? Not always. Circumstances alter
cases. It is pretty easy to do blundering wrongs under
the name of truth and honor."

" I never heard you talk in such a way before, father.' 1


" Maybe not. I went with Clara into the village
school the other day, and heard a lad saying some
verses they call ' Casabianca.' Clara called them very
silly verses, and I came to think she wasn't far wrong."

" Father!"

" Silly, and no mistake. Now, then, don't thee stand
to a foolish promise, but get off the burning deck of an
unhappy marriage without waiting for any orders but
thy own. As Clara said : ' If that boy Casabianca had
been a better sort of a hero, he would have known
when to act under orders and when to use his own
common sense.' There is a nobler way than mere
stupid obedience. Nelson refusing to see his admiral's
signal at the battle of Copenhagen was a bit of disobe-
dience that meant glorious victory. My dear lass, there
is a deal of be-praised Casabiancaism in this world, and
there is no worse form of it than sticking to the promise
of a marriage that has become unsuitable and is like to
be unhappy. There would be more honor and truth in
keeping off that kind of a burning deck than in stand-
ing by it. So if Lancelot found is not all thy fancy
has painted him, just issue fresh orders to thyself. But
I have not said yet that I would let thee go at all. I
must talk to Clara about it. I do not know what she
will say to such a move. I will tell thee plainly it is a
very great trial to me only to think of parting with thee.
But, my dear, I would lay my hands under thy feet to
make thee happy. It must be something more than my
own feelings that says ' No ' to any wish of thine."

And, of course, Clara combated all doubts and fears
and reluctances with a tact that left the squire without
a single reasonable opposition. She would not admit


that the customs and traditions of other ladies of Ather-
ton ought in any way to control Francesca's life. Fran-
cesca lived in a different period, surrounded by changing
ideas and by changed circumstances. Old models
would not fit her conditions; she was compelled to
order her life to its own individuality. As for danger,
Clara would not admit the possibility. She had been a
great traveler; many ladies of her acquaintance had
traveled still more. Slight inconveniences there might
be, but it would be good for Francesca to have her
thoughts diverted from the loss of her lover to little
physical inconveniences.

" You know, squire," she said, " how pressing and
absorbing such trials can be ; for I once saw you fret
for a whole week about the loss of your shaving-soap
on your wedding-trip, too ! "

"She may come across that young man, Clara.
Women are not only good seekers, they are good find-
ers ; and I do not wish her to meet him again."

" I never saw the young man, Rashleigh, and I can-
not say I am much impressed in his favor. Any reason
for his total silence, within the bounds of honor, seems
to me improbable. I think, with you, that Francesca
ought to do better. But it is necessary to get abso-
lutely rid of this old lover before Francesca can be in-
duced to consider a new one. I know something of
Mexico. If young Leigh is in that country, he will not
be easy to find. The Mexican dress is picturesque.
No handsome man would deny himself the pleasure of
adopting it. And his name will have suffered that
change which Latin races delight themselves in making.
The wisest way is to let Francesca go with her friends


Young girls believe their attachments to be immortal
They scout the idea that any material thing can influ-
ence them. My dearest husband, the sea air, the change
of air, the fresh men and women, the wonderful cities,
the new clothing to wear and the new viands to eat,
will all insensibly blot out that sentimental idea which
has been so well nursed by her seclusion among the
very scenes and circumstances which gave it birth.
When Francesca comes back, we will give her a season
in London and marry her to a lord."

" I would rather she married a middling well-to-do
Yorkshire squire."

" Very good. Then we will have fine house parties
and bring some well-to-do young squires to her feet."

" My word, Clara ! Thou can talk a man out of his

" That is a poor compliment, Rashleigh, after I have
talked a Yorkshire squire out of his heart."

And the squire drew himself up to his full inches, and
a flush of pride and love covered his large, open face ;
and he bowed to his wife, as men have almost forgotten
how to bow in these days a noble inclination of both
soul and body, a mingling of veneration, courtesy, high-
breeding and a sincere desire to please something very
different from the casual nod or the passing tilt of the

Half an hour afterward, Clara and Francesca were
trying to decide upon the proper trunk for the Mexican
trip, and the proper clothing with which to fill it.



" Wise men ne'er sit and wail their loss,
But cheerly seek how to redress their harms."

" For Love's sweet sake they bid her stay ;
She hung her head but answered straight
' For Love's sweet sake I go my way.' "

WHEN a current of life sets strongly in one direc-
tion, it is remarkable how many smaller currents
set in the same direction. Within two days there came
a letter from Doctor Thorpe to Francesca, asking her
if she could give him any information about Lancelot.

"The next heirs," he said, "are already moving to get charge
of the property, on the supposition that so long a silence indicates

This letter set Clara to asking questions, and finally
induced in her a strong belief that Doctor Thorpe was
at least acquainted with the reasons for Lancelot's
strange and determined silence.

"And you ought to know these reasons, whatever
they are," she said, positively, to Francesca. " Indeed,
my dear, they may be such as would justly prevent your
seeking your lover, because a meeting might only be
re-opening a wound. You must go and see Doctor
Thorpe. You can go to Leigh this afternoon, stay
with Mrs. Idle all night, and return to Atherton early



to-morrow. I dare say your father will like to drive

To this plan there were no objections made, and both
father and daughter threw away all thought of their
parting and endeavored to make the trip as charming
to each other as possible. Doctor Thorpe's house was
not far from Idleholme, and in the evening Francesca
found him there and at liberty.

How is it that a bachelor's house can be known the
moment it is entered ? Everything was in the neatest
order, but Francesca knew there was no wife in the tidy
place. Doctor Thorpe sat by a large fire ; he had his
slippers on, and was reading and making notes from a

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrLove for an hour is love forever → online text (page 17 of 20)