Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

Love for an hour is love forever online

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there at all, had speedily left, and who understood very
little that was said to him. Indeed, the many doubts
thrown around the visitor presumed to be Senor Leigh


appeared to Dick to far outweigh any likelihood of
assured information.

He had resolved to go alone to San Lepato, but he
found Loida and Francesca had quite determined to
see the mines, and it was in vain he represented to them
the mountains they must climb or the many dangers
and fatigues of the Canada they would be required to
traverse. Both women were sure they could "go
wherever Dick could go " ; and Francesca's face bright-
ened with delight at the idea of proving her affection
by her fortitude in weariness, by her contempt for her
own comfort and safety, and her resolution to discover
her lover at all risks.

" He would be most likely to disguise himself," she
said ; " he might even change his name ; but under any
disguise and under any name, I should find him out."

And after all, the journey was not so very fatiguing.
The season being early, there was some suffering from
cold ; but the air was so vivifying, and such perfect
arrangements had been made for their rest and refresh-
ment, that all declared the journey to San Lepato had
been, as yet, the most delightful part of their trip. Yet
toward the close of it they were obliged to go very
slowly, while their mules with cautious steps picked
their way over the crests of lofty hills, or oe -i deep
gullies where towering cliffs darkened the noonday.
But which way soever they rode, they crossed frequently
reins of precious ore, marked even at the superfices of
the ground by a red oxide of silver streaking the clefts
of the rocks, as bright as a trail of cinnabar.

The scene affected the whole party profoundly.
Francesca found it impossible to converse. A deep


solemnity hushed her heart and closed her lips. Loida
answered Dick's remarks in a low voice. Dick only
asked such questions as his care for their safety and
comfort required. They were in one of Nature's grand
cathedrals, they felt the presence of the Infinite, and
their souls said reverently : " How awful is this

At length they reached the mines. The director had
been notified of the visit, and every preparation possi-
ble had been made for their comfortable accommoda-
tion. Dick was at home. He showed Loida the little
hut in which he had lived so many years, his office, his
old books of accounts, and a great number of the
miners who had worked under his orders, and who re-
ceived him with noisy delight.

Then such mementos as had been left by visitors were
examined ; and finally the director remembered a slip
of paper upon which two gentlemen had written their
names. It was found, and given to Dick ; and the two
names were Lancelot Leigh and Richard Gilleland.
Then the director, being urged to remember all he could
concerning these gentlemen, said that "he was sure
they only remained two days. The younger of them
had gone down the mine unto the third gallery, and had
then been so ill that it was with danger and difficulty
he had been brought to the surface."

" It was the young senor who fainted. He fainted
when the sunshine fell again upon him. His friend took
him away the next morning."

"It was doubtless Lancelot," said Francesca. " He
loved the sunshine. He would faint and perish in the
gloom and death-air of a living pit. It was surely


Lancelot! I would have said so even if he had left
no name behind him."

Nothing further could be learned. Many visitors
came to the mines, and went down them as a matter of
curiosity. They excited no particular interest, except-
ing for the amount of gratuity left for the poor miners.
These two gentlemen had been very generous, and the
paistres they donated had become the measure by which
all future gifts had been counted ; and this circumstance
had preserved a clearer memory of their personal ap-

Inquiries among the miners who had seen them left
no kind of doubt in the mind of Francesca as to one of
the visitors being Lancelot. " A beautiful young man,
with a sad face, who walked like an emperor."

How could it be any one else ? Vague as the de-
scription was, it satisfied Francesca ; and she was sure
she was now treading the very places where Lancelot's
feet had been.

She wished to go down the mine as far as Lancelot
had gone. Dick could not frighten her from the inten-
tion. "Had ladies ever gone so far?" Dick was
obliged to confess that " a party of American ladies had
gone even two galleries deeper.".

" Very well, then, Dick, I am certain to go as far as
Lancelot went," said Francesca. " When we do meet,
Lancelot will understand the feeling which led me to
follow him. At the point he turned, my mind may
catch the thought of his mind ; and my soul may feel
after his soul, and I may divine whether he went north
or south or east or west."

Never had Francesca been so set upon any move-



ment as upon this descent into the San Lepato. And
in a few hours her enthusiasm had stimulated Loida,
so that these two timid Englishwomen, who a year ago
had been in the dark afraid of a walk about their own
house and garden, were now eager to explore the gal-
leries of a mine hundreds of feet below the ground.

There were some points in the descent favorable for
them. The mine was a dry one, and when Dick had
been its superintendent, he had substituted railed lad-
ders for the uncouth piece of notched wood which had
been the only road down to the depths, and up to the
daylight. And the strength of their race was in the two
women. They had determined to see the mine, and
they demanded of their souls to be strong enough for
the task they had undertaken. Dick found them
dressed for the visit, pale but resolute, cheerful and
quite calm.

The mine was entered by a horizontal gallery. Af-
ter walking three hundred yards along it they came to
the first perpendicular shaft; and as shaft succeeded
shaft in a slantwise position the lights that shone from
the bottom of the mine could be partially seen at the
top of the first shaft; besides which the ascending
miners, each with a candle in his helmet, made a singu-
lar moving glow that faintly indicated the loaded gnomes
passing up and down.

Dick went first, Loida followed. Then Dick returned
for Francesca. No word was spoken. They stood still
together on the first gallery. Gigantic shadows trem-
bled over the walls. Great vaults stretched away into
the darkness. Rough, glittering pilasters sustained
them, and the noise of footsteps reverberated in the


somber caves. From time to time lights struggled
through the deep gloom, the head-lights of the miners,
whose long, floating nair and bronzed, nearly naked
bodies looked gigantic, ominous, supernatural.

At the bottom of the second shaft a singular sight
arrested their steps, and made them feel the thrill of
emotions that touch another world. In a square of
glittering rocks the miners had constructed a rude
chapel ; an altar, lighted by several wax tapers, was in
the center, and a large cross of pure silver, bearing the
image of The Crucified, was upon it. Kneeling on the
very steps of this altar was an old man, whose long,
white hair flowed down upon his naked breast and
shoulders. He was lost in adoration. He perceived
not the presence of strangers. Suddenly he stood up-
right and began to chant :

" ' Santo Dios, santo puerte, santo imortal,
Libra nos, senor, detodo vial,' "

and instantly his companions in the rocky caverns joined
in the solemn melody until it echoed and reverberated
through the whole mine, so that even the lowest labor
was vocal with prayer and praise.

" Out of the depths they call unto Him ! " said Loida
softly. Francesca's hands were dropped and clasped,
her head bent, her eyes closed. She was experiencing
one of those divine Intimacies which are the blessed
earnests of our immortal destiny.

Dick was less moved ; the scene was familiar to him,
but its familiarity had never induced indifference. He
said, with considerable feeling :

" It is the 'Agios o Theos agios ischiros! ' of the Greek


Church. Is it not enough ? Higher than all creeds, far
above all superstitions ? "

After a short pause Francesca said, " Let us go back,"
and they went very quietly back to the visible earth and

The next day they began to retrace their steps to the
City of Mexico. A great despondency had fallen upon
Francesca. Loida perceived that hope in her heart was
dying. The gayeties of the metropolis gave her no
pleasure, and she ceased to make inquiries of Dick as
she used to do. Either she did not believe in his exer-
tions, or she had accepted the idea of a final separation
from her lover. Dick felt her attitude to be a little
provoking. He knew that he had done everything
possible to trace the young man, and he also knew
that Francesca only half believed that everything had
been done.

At length his own business was settled, and there
seemed to be no further reason for delay. Loida, though
she had thoroughly enjoyed her trip, was beginning to
think of her English home. It was April, and she could
not help saying continually in her heart :

" ' Oh, to be in England,

Now that April 's there!
And whoever wakes in England
Sees some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs of the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree's bole ar.e in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough,
In England now.' "

One day, when Dick was feeling that a move home-
ward must no longer be delayed, he met in the lobby of


the hotel an American, who pleasantly accosted him,
and then added :

" Had you stayed another day at San Lepato, we
might have traveled in company."

" You have been at San Lepato, then ? "

" Yes. I saw your names in the director's office. It
is a little singular how many Yorkshire people go there.
The last time I went to Lepato I went with a Yorkshire

Dick was on the alert instantly.

" A Mr. Lancelot Leigh, I suppose ? "

" That was the name, sir. I had the pleasure of sav-
ing his life and helping him to a sort of settlement. A
very nice young man, I think."

" Saving his life ! In what way had he put his life in
danger ? "

" In the most innocent way in the world. He was at
Guadaloupe at the time of the feast of Our Lady of
Guadaloupe. So was I. When the holy image of the
Virgin, preceded by the Host, appeared, Mr. Leigh stood
and gazed at it."

"That was natural enough."

" But it was construed by the populace as an insult to
their faith and to the Mexican people, and the muttered
curses at his attitude soon grew to cries of indignation
and to drawing of stilettos. Mr. Leigh was quite igno-
rant that he ought to have prostrated himself, and that
his failure to do so was an offense worthy of death."

" How did you make peace ? "

" I knew the people and the language, which Mr.
Leigh did not, and with great difficulty I explained his
ignorance. But the stubborn fellow would not do horn-


age to Our Lady of Guadaloupe, even to save his life,
and my task was only accomplished by promising an
enormous gratification in money for the offense."

" How much did he have to pay ? "

"He paid nothing. As soon as the procession had
passed on, we rode for our lives northward, and did not
stop until the Lepato mines were reached. Mr. Leigh
expected to find a friend there, but he had left the mines
when we arrived."

" Did you stay there any length of time ? "

" No. Mr. Leigh thought he might be secure in the
mines, but he found himself unable to endure their heat
and gloom. Indeed, he was made ill by a very short
experience of their horrors, and he declared that not for
all the silver coined from them would he remain twenty-
four hours in their depths."

" Can you tell me in what direction he went after
leaving San Lepato ? "

" He went to Texas in my company. I parted with
him in San Antonio. I should not wonder if he bought
land in that vicinity. He was powerfully taken with
that part of the country. Never saw a man who, gener-
ally speaking, went more naturally to camping out and
using a rifle."

" Your name is Richard Gilleland ? "

" Yes, sir, that is my name. I have no occasion to
shirk it." He was a sallow, long-haired, fiercely
whiskered man, whose great bell-spurs tinkled to his
long steps, and made a soft chime to the ring of coins
on the bar counter.

"Do you really think he is now living near San An-
tonio ? "


"Why do you wish to know, stranger? I would be
sorry to get any man into trouble. I would be particu-
larly sorry to trouble Lancelot Leigh."

" I am his friend. I am seeking him in order to make
him happy."

" Then I should say : Seek him within a hundred
miles of San Antonio. I do not know for sure he is
there, but I would feel myself as likely as not to come
across the gentleman in that direction."

This information seemed to be the most positive yet
received, but Dick was not sure whether he ought to
tell PYancesca. One hope after another had proved
false, and she was beginning to believe that she would
never see Lancelot again. It appeared to be a kind of
cruelty to unsettle the resignation she was trying to at-
tain to by a hope which might prove as futile as all pre-
ceding it.

He did not even tell Loida, for he knew that, sooner
or later, Loida would reveal all to Francesca. His busi-
ness relations and necessities had already frequently
proved a most elastic and convenient reason for any
movement he thought it best to make. All other reasons
Loida and Francesca argued and modified to suit their
own wishes ; but business reasons they had a profound
respect for. To submit to them was a necessity of their
sex and their fortune. So Dick calmly announced that
his business compelled him to go to San Antonio. He
said, if the ladies wished, he would take them to New
Orleans and leave them there, while he made alone the
Texan journey. Or, if they would like a camping-out
trip, nothing could be more charming in the spring of the
year than a leisurely journey across the Texan prairies.


Loida perceived that Dick wished the latter course.
She considered it very natural he should do so, for it
permitted Dick to have her with him. She was instantly
and warmly in its favor ; and as Dick went on to de-
scribe the arrangements he would make for their com-
fort, she became enthusiastic.

"Will it not be charming, Francesca?" she cried.
" We are to have horses when we wish to ride and a
cariole when we wish to take a rest. Think of it!
Riding through miles and miles of flowers and waving
grass, in the exhilarating atmosphere of Texas, with its
glorious blue sky above us! And Dick will get an
army tent and lots of blankets and mattresses and a
commissary wagon and a good cook, and we shall have
the whole State of Texas for a bedroom and a dining-

" I wish to go home as quickly as possible now, Loida.
I do not wish to go to Texas. I wish to go to England.
I am so tired of travel."

" How can you be tired f And it is possible we may
find Lancelot in Texas. I should think after Mexico
his first thought would be Texas."

" I wish you would not speak of Lancelot. Finding
him is becoming a wearisome farce, Loida. I wonder
that I was ever beguiled by it. I am tired of promises
that always fail".

She spoke with some temper, and Loida thought her
very unjust.

" I am sure," she answered, " everything, yes, every-
thing, possible has been done. Is it Dick's fault that
Lancelot has hid himself so well "? "

" I did not say it was any one's fault. I wish I was


a man! I wish Clara had come with us. 1 She thinks
of so many things."

" I am sure, Francesca, you are very ungrateful.
Dick has put himself to a great deal of trouble."

" I am much obliged to Dick."

She was indifferent, and she shrugged her shoulders
in a way which angered Loida, as far as it was possible
for that placid lady to feel anger. Dick said nothing.
He was not in the least offended with the disappointed
girl. He understood better than Loida did that she was
more angry at her fate than dissatisfied with him. He
could feel that she had come to a point when she felt
even Lancelot's name to be an offense. If people could
not help her in deeds, then words were as well unspoken.
This was her present mood, and Dick sympathized with it.

So he said not a word of the fresh hope. He only
so moved Loida's imagination that she was delighted at
the idea of going back to England by way of Texas,
and Francesca acquiesced in that spirit which silently
declares all things to be equally indifferent. Sometimes,
when Dick saw her hopeless eyes and listless manner,
he was tempted to give her the encouragement he was
acting upon, but at the end he always resisted the temp-
tation. For Dick had his superstitions, as all men have,
and he believed that it is in silence hope grows to frui-

" You may talk away the good fortune of anything
you purpose to do. I will be quiet and see what comes
of silence." And upon this resolve Dick acted.

For several weeks nothing came of it. Through an
earthly paradise they traveled day after day, and Fran-
cesca was not able to resist the vivifying airs and sun-


shine and the ineffable peace and glory of a Texas
spring. In spite of all her sorrow she grew light-hearted.
She was in such radiant health she could not, even if she
tried, be sorrowful. In the mornings she and Loida
cantered by Dick's side, singing together, for the very
joy of living. In the evenings they spread their blankets
amid the flowers and grass, and talked happily till they
fell into sweetest slumber. They traveled very slowly,
being only anxious to make the journey last as long as

Very frequently they camped at night near some cat-
tleman's cabin, or some camp of soldiers or rangers.
Then they had visitors, and the sound of the violin or
guitar, and the hearty chorus of men singing with all
their hearts, filled the great still places, and made even
Silence pleased to listen to their glad music.

At length the delightful journey was nearly over.
They were within a few hours of San Antonio. To-mor-
row they would become conventional beings again.
They would bid the great sweet heart of Nature " good-
bye " and go back to the restless life of men and women.

This last night, therefore, they resolved to taste every
moment of a joy so soon to vanish.

The sun set as they finished supper and sat down be-
neath the wide-spreading live-oaks. A full, golden moon
was rising to the zenith. The white asphodels shone like
stars all over the prairie. A mocking-bird was singing,
and stopping, and then beginning again. A Mexican
lying alone was singing softly to a mandolin. Others
were playing cards ; and one silent, dark Jarocha from
Vera Cruz was kneeling apart, making a " novena " for
his "dearly-beloved angel on earth" Dick was smoking,


and Loida sat beside him, with her head against his

Francesca's heart was like the moon at full. She was
thinking of Lancelot as she had not lately permitted her-
self to think with love and hope with a certainty of
seeing him with a devotion that she felt to be only
strengthened by disappointment and delay. Lately she
had absolutely forbidden herself to speak of her lover,
but as they sat in the divine, soul-subduing light, she be-
gan to recall in a gentle voice the days that were gone.

" They will come no more, Loida," she said tenderly ;
" and though I am almost compelled to think of Lance-
lot as dead, yet to-night I feel it a joy to hope that he
may be alive."

" My dear Francesca, you must remember those who
love you and who are certainly living. Your father "

"Ah, Loida! Do not think you need to plead for
my father. I promised him when I returned, if Lance-
lot was not found, to be his good, loving daughter. I
mean to be so. It will give me pleasure to make his

" He will think of a marriage between you and Al-
mund and Almund, I am sure, desires it."

" My father will hold his little daughter to no heart-
bargaining. I shall say to him frankly : ' My dear, I
cannot love any one but Lancelot. Living or dead, I
can only love Lancelot. Let me stay near you alway.'
And I know he will answer : ' God love thee, Fran-
cesca! God gave thee, and God forbid I should send
thee away.' My father will not bend me either this way
or that way. He can trust to my honor and my affec-
tion, as I can trust to his."


" But, my dear, there is the estate. You ought to
marry for the house and the land."

" I will tell you a secret that Clara told me before I
left. When I get home I may have a sister I may
even have a brother! Think of that, and of my father's

Loida did not answer. She could not bear to think,
at first, of her niece as anything less than Lady of
Atherton Manor. The secret made a slight embarrass-
ment, and Francesca rose and walked away into the
broader moonlight. Every little asphodel had a super-
natural beauty in it. Angels might have thought them
flowers of heaven and taken them by handfuls. They
made Francesca remember that glorious harvest night
when Lancelot gathered the August lily and sang her
the song that was all her own ; and she set her feet care-
fully between the white buds, for she had put into each
a golden memory, and she would not crush it.

Let no one say nature has no voice of comfort. That
exquisite hour was eloquent of hope. The asphodels
said to her, "ffe will come! " The mocking-bird sang,
"He will come! " The lover with the mandolin in his
hands and the lover with the rosary in his hands moved
her to their own hope. Her heart swelled to the beam-
ing moon, and whispered her, "He will come!" A
strong, sweet conviction swept away all doubt and fear.
She smiled to its promise. She stretched out her arms.
She whispered to the secret, sacred intelligences around

" O my love! My love! Send him to me! "

Then suddenly, out of the space beyond, there came
a wonderful voice a clear, silvery snatch of song that


was distinct from all other sounds. It thrilled the moon-
lit atmosphere as if it had been vibrant. It moved
Francesca as if a hand had touched her. She lifted her
head and looked all around. There was nothing to be
seen, but the voice was coming nearer. A little wood
of pecan-trees was to the right ; she turned to it, and as
she did so a horseman came from out its shadow. He
stood still in the broad moonshine ; he lifted his hat, and
let the cool gulf-wind stir his hair, and as he sat motion-
less, looking to the horizon, he sang :

" ' Then it would not seem miles
Out to the emerald isles ;
I should be there as soon
As the white birds at noon ;
Blue night and golden moon
Rising o'er me.' 1 "

As she listened her soul cried out with wonder and
joy. If this was not Lancelot, then she had never loved
him. No voice but Lancelot's could make her heart so
beat and tremble with rapture. She was impelled by
the spirit of love within her. Forward, into the broad,
white moonshine, she passed swiftly as a bird, and sing-
ing as she had never sung before. Her hands were out-
spread, her face was uplifted, and the melodious words
left her lips as if each word cried : "Lancelot ! "

" ' Have you seen but a bright lily grow
Before rude hands have touched it? ' "

The horse leaped forward, then it was instantly still ;
his rider was intently listening. And Francesca went
steadily toward him, singing as she went.

" It was Francesca! It was impossible! He must


see her! He must fly!" Such thoughts went like fire
through his brain and heart. "What should he do?
What should he do ? "

Oh, what use to ask himself ? He could see her face!
He could hear her! Feel her! She came closer! He
ran with outstretched arms to meet her. The song was
silenced against his beating heart. He kissed its melody
off her lips. For very rapture they could not say each
other's names. They were weeping for purest joy.
And all over them the moonshine fell like a silvery cloud,
and all around them the soft winds blew the scents of
flowers and the low sounds of love ; and they were held
some moments in a speechless trance an elysium of
supernal joy. It was in broken words of infinite tender-

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrLove for an hour is love forever → online text (page 19 of 20)