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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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thou been faithful 1 "

"When the loved one is absent and silent, he can



THE SQUIRE AND THE SPINNER. 33

neither grieve nor wrong us. Then it is easy to be faith-
ful. And what is life worth without love, Rashleigh ? "

"A poor thing, Loida! It is earth without verdure,
and it is bread without salt. Tell Frances to go to Jane
Idle's wedding. Maybe nothing comes of it! A girl
may go through the world and never meet a lover ; and
then some day, when she is safe at home, Love may
come riding up and wreck her whole life. It is a very
queer thing, but I have seen it so. I am going to the
cover for an hour. When I am a bit put out it is re-
lieving to fire a gun at something, is it not, Loida ? "

She watched him out of sight, and then went to look
for her niece. Francesca had gone to the village. No
one knew why she had gone, nor yet why she had chosen
to walk there. Indeed, Francesca could not herself
have explained the " wherefore " of her whim. But it
was an exquisite morning in October, and the sweetly
insinuating melancholy of the season inclined her to put
herself in touch with it. She pushed her feet through
the faded grasses and leaves. She felt the perfume of
the dying strawberry-vines, and it went to her heart like
a psalm. The air was subtle, and the amber rays shone
through the delicate mist as through an ethereal veil of
air made visible. And all the time the church-bells were
ringing slowly and softly a grave harmony, swelling
and dilating in the morning air. Now and then also a
breeze a mere puff just lifted the dying leaves, and
left her senses full of delicious perfume and languor
that intermediate melancholy which is at the root of all
true happiness.

She wandered slowly onward, knowing no more why
she did so than why in June she went to the rose-bushes



34 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

every morning to lay her face against the flowers, and
taste their scent and feel the rose-dew on her lips. She
was not thinking of anything, but her mind was in that
quiescent state which good influences can inform. So
she slowly strolled homeward, and was in a road where
the interweaving branches of birches made a lace-work
of trees against the sky, when she heard the quick gallop
of a horse's feet. It roused in her no speculation, and
gave to her heart no warning. Only when the rider
drew rein and leaped to her side did she turn her eyes
upon him.

It was Lancelot Leigh, and in the moment of their
meeting Lancelot saw both love and joy flash into her
face. It was swift as thought to come and go, but it
made an unconscious community of feeling between
them. With his bridle over his arm he walked by her
side, saying only the commonest words, and yet charg-
ing them with all of love's subtle longing and uncon-
scious worship. The first formal greetings over, there
were a few moments of silence. Both were embar-
rassed.

It was Francesca who first began to talk with eager
rapidity, on whatever subject was nearest to her.

" That is the wise robin," she said, as they passed the
bird. " He sings as cheerfully among the scarlet haws
in October as he did in March among the hawthorn
flowers."

" I wonder if we shall be like him as happy facing
our life's winter as our youth's spring ? " said Lancelot.

" I think we ought to be. My father was as happy
as he could be, until "

Then she suddenly remembered, and became silent.



THE SQUIRE AND THE SPINNER. 35

" Until my father began to build the mill. I am so
sorry about it. Will you believe me ? "

" Yes ; I do believe you."

" I would not give you or any one you loved pain.
If you desired it, and the mill was mine, I would stop
building this hour."

" Have you ever walked through Atherton Dingle ? "

" No. I would like to visit it. Will you show it to
me some day f I hear it is a little fairyland."

" Indeed it is. In May and June and July it is like
that heavenly hill which God called ' Paradise.' The
lights are so softly green, the little cascades leap so joy-
fully, and oh, the wild-flowers and the lady-ferns ! They
are beautiful beyond belief. To make its waters black
with oils and dyes ; to cover its flowers and verdure
with the refuse of spinning-mills! How could any one
think of such a desecration ? I am sure Nature can suf-
fer murder. The sod would feel the sharp spade, and
the sweet flowers sadly give up their fair lives, and the
waters mourn for their loss, for

" ' 'Tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.'

Can you not feel this ? "

" I feel every word you say, like a wound in my own
heart. But, alas! to most men

" ' A primrose by a river's brim
A yellow primrose is to him,
And it is nothing more.' "

" We have both been quoting Wordsworth," said
Francesca.

"People quote him almost unconsciously; he has so



36 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

many ' felicities.' I do not profess to be less practical
than my age, but yet I prefer poets to philosophers, for

" ' Philosophy will clip an angel's wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air and gnomed mine.' "

"That is true," answered Francesca. "There was
an awful rainbow once in heaven. But we know its
woof and texture, and have put it into the dull catalogue
of common things. That is also a poet's way of lament-
ing the practical life we now live. Do you hear the
blackbird singing? It sings at noon when all the other
birds are silent. I wonder if he is proud of his song."

" I suppose so. What joyful creatures birds are. No
wonder that Aristophanes makes them address men as

" ' Naked and featherless,
Feeble and querulous,
Sickly, calamitous,
Creatures of clay ; '

and bids them

" ' Attend to the words
Of the sovereign birds,
Immortal, illustrious
Lords of the air,
Who survey from on high,
With a merciful eye,
Our struggles of misery,
Labor and care.' "

"Is that from Aristophanes? I have read his life,
but none of his poetry. Men read such books at their
college, do they not ? "

"You may read with delight his 'Birds.' It is the
'Midsummer Night's Dream' of Greece."



THE SQUIRE AND THE SPINNER. 37

He was not really thinking of the Greek poet. He
was only feeling how soon the pleasant meeting would
be over. He could not say what he wanted to say, and
if he had found the language he desired, he would still
have been afraid to utter it. The girl at his side walked in
an atmosphere he could not enter. And yet she delayed
her steps, and he felt she willingly delayed. She listened
to him with eyes full of light and sympathy ; he felt that
he interested her. But all his usual self-confidence had
deserted him. The petty, pretty compliments he had
offered to a score of lovely women seemed too cold and
meaningless. He would have talked to her in words made
on purpose, but he could not make them. For he felt
that their conversation had been forced and misleading,
a thin coat of ice over a river deep, resistless beneath it.

And they were now at the park gates, standing in the
shadow of the thickets of laurestine and pyracanthus.
She was thanking him hoping to see him again
speaking such ordinary words as were natural, but in a
strangely conscious, embarrassed manner. For at this
last minute, Lancelot's eyes were saying what his coward
tongue had shirked ; and as she hesitated her common-
place adieu, his dilating iris held her to the spot. He
was reading her very soul, and paying no attention
whatever to her words.

Then there was the sound of rapid footsteps, the lau-
rels were sharply struck, the birds flew out in a cloud,
and Squire Atherton set the gate wide open. He looked
at Lancelot and returned his bow very slightly. Fran-
cesca said :

" I met Mr. Leigh in the birch avenue ; he has kindly
walked to the gates with me, father."



38 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

"Very kind of Mr. Leigh, I am sure. Good-day,
sir." Then he turned suddenly and faced the young
man : " And thou may as well understand the ' good-
day ' is for every day as well as this one. I did not seek
thy acquaintance, and it is not pleasant to me to have it.
If thou had any sense or right feeling, thou would have
understood so much."

" Squire, I beg your pardon. I have no ill feeling
toward you."

" Thou would be a queer one if thou had. I never
did thee or thine any wrong that^I know of. But Leigh
is wronging Atherton this day and every day, and when
I tell thee to keep out of my sight, and away from my
home and my daughter, I show thee quite as much
Christianity as thou has any right to expect."

Lancelot looked at Francesca, and his eyes made an
appeal that was irresistible.

" Father," she said, " Mr. Leigh is very sorry about
the mill. He told me so. He would stop the building
of it if he could."

" Then he is a very bad son a particularly bad son
and I am right glad he is no kin of mine. If he had
stood by his father and threeped me to my face that his
father was right, and I was far wrong, I would have
thought a deal better of him."

The squire was answered by Stephen Leigh himself.
The old man had seen his son and Miss Atherton to-
gether, and had felt a sudden kind feeling toward the
young people ; and as Stephen had the most exalted
idea of his own influence, and of his own way of man-
aging the most difficult affairs, he had felt no delicacy
in interfering. His heart was full of affection ; he was



THE SQUIRE AND THE SPINNER. 39

planning a munificent offer, and no doubts or wavering
stayed his steps. The squire, Francesca, and his own
son stood a little behind the laurels at the entrance. In
the intense feeling dominating each heart Stephen's foot-
steps on the turf had not been noticed ; and when he
answered boldly the squire's assertion, he took every one
by surprise.

" I can threep for mysen, squire ; and if Lance thinks
differently to his father, he is a man now and he has a
right to his awn thoughts. Good-morning, Miss Ather-
ton. I saw you and my Lance walking together, and
a bonny couple you made. The eye not charmed with
you has no light in it. Come, squire ; if you will walk
forward a bit I hev a friendly offer to make. Why
should we bark and bite at each other? "

" Mr. Leigh, you have done your worst to Squire
Atherton. Your mill is an offense to me, morning,
noon, and night, and your offer of friendship is insult
added to wrong."

" Well, squire, one may bid, but it takes two to make
a bargain."

" Sir, I want to make no bargain with you."

" Mebbe, now, our children may hev more sense. I
notice that my Lance is varry fond of being near Ather-
ton Court. The apple is not far from the apple-tree,
is it, squire ? "

" Speak for your own child, Mr. Leigh. My daughter
is beyond your consideration."

" No offense meant, squire. I am used to speaking
plainly. There are no mouse-corners in my mind."

" Your mind is your own, sir. I do not interfere with
it!"



40 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

Then he looked toward Francesca, and saw that Lanw
celot was talking to her in hurried, eager tones plead-
ing, apologizing, saying he hardly knew what.

" Francesca!"

The one word, uttered by the angry father, was in-
stantly obeyed. Francesca bowed slightly to Lance-
lot, and went to her father's side. He stood a mo-
ment looking at the two Leighs, then his fine breeding
asserted itself. He lifted his hat, gave his daughter
his arm, and with a forced deliberation turned into the
park.

Francesca had obeyed him, but her heart was in re-
bellion ; and as they walked homeward and the squire
muttered to himself and kicked the pebbles at his feet
with a meaning indignation, she gradually began to ex-
press her anger, in most unequivocal words.

41 You treated me very badly, father. I do not like
to be called, as if I was a dog, ' Francesca! ' "

And she imitated the dictatorial tone of the squire,
with temper that made the one sweet word an intoler-
able offense.

" Thou should not call thyself in any such way. I
never did so."

" Yes, you did, father. And you behaved badly to
the Leighs. Suppose they havj built a mill near us!
They bought the land to build it on. All Yorkshire
does not belong *o us. A great many county families
have had to put up with mills near them. In the long
run, they find the mill a great benefit. Mr. Leigh
wants to be friendly."

" Be quiet. Leigh friendly ! I wonder if the world
is coming to an end! I wonder if I am Squire Ather-



THE SQUIRE AND THE SPINNER. 41

ton or not! I wonder if thou art really Francesca
Atherton! Everything is upside down, I think!"

" Mr. Lancelot Leigh met me in the birch walk. I
suppose he had as much right there as I had. He got
off his horse, and walked with me to the park gates.
And we talked of Wordsworth and the birds and such
like."

" He had no right to get off his horse. And ' birds
and Wordsworth and such like ' are not for thee and
him to talk about. The ' weather ' was far enough for
him to go and too far. I know what ' Wordsworth
and such like ' means. I know men send poetry where
good honest prose would not dare to venture. If ever
a young man and a young woman get together, they
begin talking poetry. It is their way of flying round a
candle."

" I never knew you to talk vulgarly before, father."

" My lass, every one gets down to their vulgar tongue
when their heart is hot with insult and wrong. I think
thou behaved very badly, talking poetry and birds and
such like with a spinner's son. Ask thy Aunt Loida."

" Aunt Loida will say I did nothing wrong."

"Thou wilt find out different."

And greatly to Francesca's amazement, Loida took
the squire's part, decidedly.

"The lady of Atherton Manor," she said, "ought
not to walk with young men in the lanes and by-ways.
If Mr. Leigh wanted to see you," she continued, with
mild indignation, " he should have called here. He had
no right to get off his horse and impose his company
on you."

" I liked his company. It was no imposition. I am



42 LOVE FOR AX HOUR.

so weary of this life. The days come and go, and they
are all the same. Oh, how I wish something strange
would happen ! "

" It is very foolish, Francesca, to wish to see beyond
your horizon. And wishes are like bits of stained glass :
you see nothing through them in its true colors."

" Aunt Loida, I have heard that you were once very
fond of company and gay doings. How can you live
here?"

"Ah, Francesca! When our joys die, they find no
grave for us. We must live on, just as the rose-tree
lives, though all its flowers be broken off. The spring
brings roses again if the tree lives on ; perhaps I am
waiting for life's second spring. If you are tired of this
quiet home, however, you may soon have a change.
Jane Idle is going to be married, and we are going to
Idleholme."

" How glad I am! Whom is Jane going to marry ? "

" I do not know the gentleman. He is called Crewe.
Jane has a brother, I believe ? "

" I have heard talk about him. His name is Almund.
He is very clever. She used to boast of him when we
were at school. But all the girls boasted of their
brothers. Shall I have some new dresses, Aunt Loida ? "

" Some new dresses will be very necessary. Come
and let us look through your wardrobe."

No better way could have been devised to soothe the
irritation of the morning, and in the discussion of toilet
fineries Lancelot was for the time forgotten.

But Lance was not able to forget. His ride home
was rendered bitter, not only by a sense of personal
defeat and humiliation, but by the anger of his father.



THE SQUIRE AND THE SPINNER. 43

Stephen Leigh felt all the reasonable indignation of
those whose gift is flung back in their face.

" I came up with a kind heart," he said, " and I think
mysen as good a man as Rashleigh Atherton. I fancy
he looks down on us a bit, but we can count Leighs
with Athertons any day. And if it comes to brass, we
can put down a hundred sovereigns to one that any
Yorkshire squire hes! Ay any of them! "

" I have set my heart on marrying Miss Atherton,
father."

" Well, then, thou shall marry her, if thou hes set thy
heart on her. Eh, Lance, iverything can be bought,
but day and night."

" I am afraid your interference this morning was a
mistake. You do not know anything about such men
as Squire Atherton, and the society he lives in."

" Niver thee mind. I know all about investments
and percentages; and though love may do a great
deal, money does iverything. By all I could make out,
that young lady seemed well suited with thee. I thought
you were walking varry loving-like together, and I came
up ready to settle iverything plain and square, for I hate
any back-stair work."

" I fear, however, that I have lost her forever."

" Nay, I wouldn't fear anything. Hope is as cheap
as despair."

" The squire is beyond calculation, and "

" He is beyond pleasing, if that is what ta means. I
don't blame him varry much. He sees that he'll soon
be nobody where he hes been iverybody. What is the
squire to the loom-lord who runs a thousand spindles
and keeps a whole village thriving and busy ? "



44 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

" The squire is an old friend to the village."

" My lad, it isn't the old friend, but the rich friend.
Poor folk cannot afford to know poor folks. That is
it."

" But even so, why should the loom-lord put down
the squire? There is room for both."

" Nay, there is not. If two apples grow on one twig,
and the twig is too small for both of them, the weakest
is bound to fall to the ground. Atherton Village is too
small for two masters, and the master that hes the
' wherewith ' will hev the service. Now, then, let that
proud girl go. Thy mother is fain for thee to marry
Maria Crossley. Couldn't thou fancy her for a wife ? "

" I will marry Miss Atherton, or die a bachelor for
her sake."

" Well, I niver! Thou is a fool! And I don't know
whether I ought to answer thee according to thy folly
or not."

Lancelot laughed.

" You are in no greater strait than Solomon was,
father. First, he says : 'Answer not a fool according to
his folly, lest thou be, also, like unto him.' Then again
he says : ' Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he
be wise in his own conceit.' "

" Well, then, what dost thou make by that f "

" I suppose Solomon was balancing between the
homeopathy and the allopathy of morals."

" Keep thy jokes to thysen, Lance, and see if thou can
find sense enough to get a new sweetheart. Maria is a
varry pretty lass."

" There is only one love in the world for me, father."

"Tip-top nonsense!"



THE SQUIRE AND THE SPINNER. 45

And the old man looked at his son with that con-
temptuous pity age often bestows on a youth who
throws away a fine appetite on a dinner of one course.
They were at the stable-door, and as Stephen slowly
got out of his stirrups, he added :

" It is not hard to forget, Lance. Keep away from
Atherton for a week or two. Out of sight is out of
mind, my lad."

But while the father was giving orders about the
weary horses, and talking of oats and buckles and sad-
dles, Lance was walking through the leafless garden,
singing softly to himself :

" ' That out of sight is out of mind,
Is true of most we leave behind ;
It is not true, nor can be true,
My own, my only love, of you!' "



CHAPTER IV.

MARRYING AND PROMISE OF MARRIAGE.

The fountains mingle with the river,

And the rivers with the ocean ;
The winds of heaven mist forever

With a sweet emotion.
Nothing in the world is single,

All things by a law divine,
" In one another's being mingle,

Why not I with thine?"

HOWEVER careful we are in the arrangement of
our plans, something, and often the most impor-
tant thing, escapes consideration. Squire Atherton in
encouraging the visit of his daughter to Idleholme never
reflected on the possibility of its being in the neighbor-
hood of Leigh Farm, nor yet that the two families might
be acquainted with each other. Yet both of these cir-
cumstances existed, and they were made evident to
Francesca a few days after her arrival at Idleholme.

As her stay was likely to extend over some weeks, she
was accompanied by her own riding-horses and groom ;
and one morning, when every one appeared to be ex-
clusively occupied with affairs relating to the approach-
ing marriage, she determined on a gallop across the
wold, attended only by her servant. She was accus-
tomed to a life so quiet and so full of orderly refine-
ment that the hurry and laughter, the endless demands,
the running about, the sense of feasting, and of prepara-



MARRYING AND PROMISE OF MARRIAGE. 47

tion for more feasting, had become excessively tiresome
to her. She was nervous and fretful, and longing for
the peace of Nature, even though Nature appeared to
be hostile.

For the weather was gray and wintry, and the black,
low-hanging clouds portended a coming storm. Jane
protested and Miss Loida advised, but Francesca was
not to be moved from her desire.

" If I do not ride this morning I cannot dance to-
night," she said. " I am tired of human beings. Let
me take my own way now, and I will take every one's
way afterward."

She had been, indeed, singularly affected by daily
contact for a week with Jane's brother, a young man of
distinctly modern type. Almund Idle had been every-
where and had seen everything. He could play bill-
iards, and quote Horace, and make money on the stock
exchange. . Small, alert, and rather handsome, he was
also polished and exceedingly proper; there were no
angles about him, and he had no illusions.

" I am not at ease in his company," Francesca said
to her aunt. " If there is any thought in my heart, I
need not put it into words ; he is sure to know all about
it."

" Your father thinks very well of Almund Idle. He
will be a great man, Francesca, and I think he is fond
of ladies' society."

" He is very fond of his sister Jane, and she is as
clever as her brother."

" He was saying yesterday that Shakespeare had a
miraculous intelligence in making Hamlet sisterless.
He thought Hamlet failed in being a hero because he



48 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

had no sister to help him. His mother was not good,
and Ophelia withdrew, and there was no sister Jane
near. That was the way he put it."

Francesca was buttoning her habit, and she tossed
her beautiful head a little scornfully as she answered
Miss Loida :

" It was Hamlet's own fault that Ophelia withdrew.
I heard Jane teasing her brother yesterday about some
young lady she called Lydia. I hope he is engaged. I
should feel so much more at ease with him if I knew
he was human enough to be in love."

Then she kissed her aunt and went out into the grim
winter day ; for no scenery in England is sadder and
wilder than that of the West Riding in winter weather.
The bleak range of low hills before her was partitioned
into fields by leagues and leagues of stone walls, and
here and there she came upon a dreary village or a des-
olate mansion standing forlorn on the bare wold.

The uncouth manner, and the strong, rude dialect of
the quarrymen she met was disconcerting. They stared
at her with sullen ill-will, or looked down upon the
earth as they passed her. The very sheep lifted their
heads as if annoyed at her intrusion, and watched her
suspiciously as she rode away into the gray dull damp-
ness enveloping the landscape.

It was a relief to come suddenly upon a little church
set in a grove of yew trees. There were a number of
carriages around it, and some rosy-cheeked children :
"It wer' a wedding doo-ment." They were waiting for
bride coins, and in the interval spelling, across the
churchyard gate, a name and date across a marble slab
standing white and lonely near by.



MARRYING AND PROMISE OF MARRIAGE, 49

She read it to them :

"'You shall pray for the souls of Bernard and Margaret
Dysart, who died A.D. 1600.' "

Then she went thoughtfully onward. There was a
nearness to heaven in the words ; a sure belief that God's
mercy for departed souls was still to be reached by
human intercession, that gave to her a singular serenity..
The world seemed instantly another place. She began
to pray for the souls of Bernard and Margaret Dysart ;
and the act made her realize something of that personal
communication with God which Adam lost and which
Protestants reject.

The few solemn words lifted her above the dreeping
atmosphere, and then so startling are the antitheses of
life out rang the wedding-chimes

" Low at times and loud at times,
Rang the beautiful old chimes."

And, as she listened, the wind changed, and snow began
to fall. She was at least six miles from Idleholme, and
she looked around for some house in which she could
take shelter.

" If we could find a cottage, Peel," she said to her


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrLove for an hour is love forever → online text (page 3 of 20)