Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

Love for an hour is love forever online

. (page 4 of 20)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrLove for an hour is love forever → online text (page 4 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


groom, " I would remain there until you went back and
sent the carriage for me. I do not like to ride through
a snow-storm."

She was really thinking how uncomfortable it would
be for every one if she took cold and was ill during the
wedding festivities.

" I should think there was a house behind yonder
plantation of firs, Miss Atherton. It is not more than
half a mile away."



50 LOVE FOR AA r HOUR.

She looked a moment at the dark spot in the gray
atmosphere, and galloped toward it. The groom's sup-
position was correct ; it was the screen on one side for
a large rambling mansion, whose frontage and gardens
faced the other way. Francesca rode up to what ap-
peared to be the main entrance, but she could obtain
no recognition, and she directed her horse to a large door
at the other end of the building.

Here she was met by a middle-aged woman, who not
very willingly acceded to her request for shelter until a
carriage could be sent for. It was evident the woman
felt no pleasure in granting the hospitality requested ;
but hospitality is the native instinct of a Yorkshire
woman, and the circumstances which kill it altogether
must, indeed, be unusual and unavoidable. Indeed,
after the first reluctance had been surmounted, Fran-
cesca's hostess softened in a very marked manner. She
would not permit the groom to 'have the extra care of
the emptied horse.

" Thou wilt hev enough to get thysen and thy awn
horse over the moor," she said. " I'll hev the young
lady's sent to manger. Ride hard, or thou mebbe won't
ride at all."

Then she led Francesca into the house. It was a re-
markable old place, and Francesca won her way into
the woman's heart by her frank expression of interest
and delight.

"Thou should see it in summer-time," she said,
proudly. " Such a place for bees and birds and fruit
and flowers isn't in Yorkshire ! No, not in all Yorkshire.
Come in, thou art freely welcome."

They went into a long, low parlor with deep, sunk



MARRYING AND PROMISE OF MARRIAGE. 51

windows and a waist-high wainscot of black oak.
There were heavy oak beams across the roof, and Dutch
cupboards in the corners, full of Royal Derby china.
There were some old pictures upon the walls, and a
sword over the door that had been used on Edgehill and
at Marston Moor. The furniture was massive and
homely, but it had an air no money could buy.

" The Leighs hev lived here, young lady, for genera-
tions on generations," said Francesca's entertainer.
" We niver did count oursens county people, but we are
mebbe a bit better than some that do. I hev a husband
that is all for new ways of living ; his awn father and
mother wouldn't know his thoughts, and I hev a son
who couldn't abide to live in the old house as it was.
His father and him hed a new part built, and they hev
satin and gold chairs gilt I mean, honey, for all the
gold is gilt these days. And they hev books and pict-
ures and music-making instruments and ivery other kind
of nonsense. But I live here. I live here in the old
rooms where my people lived and died before me.
They went to heaven out of them, and I am not sure
they like heaven as well. For they come back here.
Yes, they do!"

She made the statement with such solemn conviction
that Francesca never thought of disputing it.

" I hev seen Grandfather Leigh twice this week.
Husband says I am dreaming. But I told him it was
not varry likely I would be ironing fine laces or count-
ing up my dairy book and dreaming of Mark Leigh at
the same time. Was it, now ? "

" I am sure it was not."

" Well, I was doing up a bit of Brussels last Wednes-



52 LOl'E FOR AN HOUR.

day, and in he came. I saw him as fair as I see you. He
went straight to that cupboard, and began to move the
tea-cups, and I said, ' Grandfather! ' and he was gone."

" Why did he go ? Why did he not tell you, or show
you, what he wanted ? "

" Nay, my lass! Dead men seem to be as contrary
and senseless as living ones. Grandfather niver would
tell his women anything while he lived, and he does not
appear to be any more open in his mind now that he
is dead. He came again on Saturday just at the edge
of the night. I was adding up the milk and butter, and
he stood right there, by that table, and watched me. I
said : ' Wait a minute, do, grandfather ! ' and I went to
call my husband, but when we came back he was gone.
Stephen that is my husband said 'it was a varry
queer thing.' And I am sure it was. I thought Stephen
would hev laughed at me, but he didn't ; he just looked
sharply in my face, and went out again. There was a
' feeling ' in the room that made one's flesh creep and
turn cold, and Stephen said, ' It's a varry queer thing,'
and went away."

" Have you lived long here ? "

" All my life mebbe longer."

She was sitting by a little table at Francesca's side,
and she appeared suddenly to remember herself.

" Why-a, whativer am I thinking of ? " she asked.
" Thou wilt hev a cheese-cake and a glass of milk, I
dare say. Or if ta likes a bit of Yorkshire pie, I hev
one that cannot be beat."

She served Francesca with a Yorkshire plenteousness,
and, as the girl smiled her thanks, she said, question-
ingly :



MARRYING AND PROMISE OF MARRIAGE. 53'

" You tell me that you have lived in this house all your
life may be longer. What do you mean ? "

" Dost ta really think one lifetime, however long it be,
can give us enough of this world? Nay, my lass.
There is a deal more to see and to hear, to learn and
to feel, than can be got through with in threescore and
ten years."

Francesca looked curiously at the woman. She was
slowly rubbing the polished blade of a knife with a fine
napkin. Her interest appeared to be settled on the
homely duty, but she was thinking of eternity. When
she lifted her eyes, they were full of dreams and specu-
lations.

"You must love this old house, then, Mrs. Leigh?"

"Love it! If it was a needs-be, I would glue its
stones together with my heart's blood ay, my lass,
with the heart-blood of them that are dearer to me than
my own life. What is this life ? " she asked; with a con-
temptuous flip of the napkin in her hand. " Only a
moment out of eternity. But my talk is all nonsense
to thee, I dare say, and I wish my son Lance was at
home. He knows how to talk ay, to the best of peo-
ple. But there is a wedding on hand not far off, and
if you go to a wedding you hev to take a gift in your
hand, or a cold welcome would be given, I'm sure."

" When I am married I will not accept gifts from my
guests," said Francesca.

" I wouldn't if I was thee. It is a mean doo, and
varry few gifts come with a good will."

Then a servant entered with some complaint, and
Mrs. Leigh left Francesca alone. The girl ate her
cheese-cake and drank her milk, and sat before the fire



54 LOVE FOR AX HOUR.

musing, until she fell asleep. It was so strange to be
in Lancelot's home and to be conversing with his
mother. In all her simple life nothing so like an ad-
venture had happened to her. She had discovered, also,
that there must be an acquaintance between the Idles
and the Leighs, or the latter would not have been asked
to Jane Idle's wedding, nor would Lancelot have felt
himself obligated in the matter of bride-gifts. And she
thought of these things until she slept, and the thoughts
in her mind turned to dreams.

When she awoke, Mrs. Leigh took her all through
the house ; for, in spite of her affected indifference to
the modern additions, she had a certain half-scornful
pride in the gilt and satin and the music-making instru-
ments.

" This is my son's parlor," said the proud mother ;
and Francesca stepped with a shy pride just within the
portal.

It was a very interesting room, well lighted, full of
books and pictures and beautiful things. Standing
boldly out between two windows there was a grand
piano ; it was open and strewn with loose music. Mrs.
Leigh touched the notes in a nervous manner.

" It is a varry fine instrument," she said. " It cost a
lot ; and Lance does take a deal of joy out of it. I
wish you could hear him play and sing. My word!
He can charm the tears and smiles out of the hardest
heart."

Mechanically Francesca walked toward the instrument,
and her eyes fell upon a sheet of written music above
the keys. It was a song, and the name was " Fran-
cesca!." She glanced down the page. Many words



MARRYING AND PROMISE OF MARRIAGE. 55

were there, but she could only see that one word
"Francesca! " and it sang itself like music in her heart.

Yet she was glad to escape, for she had almost the
sense of having been dishonorable. She had surprised
a secret, but it pained her, just as surprising a mother-
bird off her nest had often pained her. It was a relief
to hide away in the corner of her carriage, and shut her
eyes, as if by doing so she could shut her discovery
from herself.

It was a little adventure also to Mrs. Leigh, for she
lived even more out of the world than Francesca did ;
and a beautiful young maiden eating a cheese-cake at
her hearth was very like a fairy visit. She could hardly
wait until Lance had removed his wrap to tell her news.
While he was doing so he was talking rapidly.

" I have had quite a pleasant day, mother," he said.
" I saw all kinds of pretty things, and I met Mary
Taylor. Do you remember the little girl? She is
grown into a beauty. It was worth going to Leeds to
see her."

" If ta hed stayed at home, thou would hev seen a ten
times bigger beauty. There was a young lady here this
morning that could take the shine out of any beauty I
hev ever seen."

" A young lady here ! "

" To be sure. The snow sent her to shelter, and
she staid with me while her groom went for a carriage.
I gave her a bit to eat and talked to her. A more
sensible lass I niver saw nor more agreeable. I took
her all through the house, and she said ivery room in it
was as nice as could be except thy room, Lance. She
said nothing about thy room, and I do think she



56 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

thought as I do : that thy piano stands in a varry much-
in-the-way place."

" What was she like, mother ? Any one we know ? "

" Nay, I know nobody like her. Her face was just
sweet and bonny and loving. I took no notice of the
color of her hair or the make of her clothes. She came
on horseback, and she went away in a carriage dne of
Squire Idle's, or I am much mistaken."

" Then it was some young lady who is staying there
for the marriage."

Having given this opinion, he was silent. He was
thinking of Francesca, but not dreaming that she had
been in his home. Indeed, no suspicion of the fact ever
came to him until Jane Idle's wedding-day ; for there
was a heavy fall of snow and much bad weather, and it
so happened that Lance did not call at Idleholme pre-
viously.

And it was one of the charms of Francesca's sweet
nature that her love was not of that selfish kind which
breeds jealousy and suspicion of slight or unkindness.
The purest affection " thinketh no evil ; " and Francesca
did not mentally pout because her lover had no super-
natural intuition of her presence in his neighborhood.
Every day she hoped a little ; every night she thought :

" How sorry he will be when he finds out we have
missed another day."

She heard him frequently spoken of. Jane even
wondered at his absence.

" I suppose," she said to her brother, " you and Lance
Leigh have had another altercation ? "

" We had a little argument about Lydia Thornton
but then, I enjoy Lance's arguments,"



MARRYING AND PROMISE OF MARRIAGE. 57

Almund was not inclined to discuss Lance Leigh with
his sister. He knew Jane admired him very much, and
he was averse to making Lance a point of interest in
any conversation when Francesca was present. For he
admired Francesca, and the idea of her as his future
wife was growing sweetly into his life. He had been
informed that a marriage between himself and Miss
Atherton would be agreeable both to Squire Atherton
and to his own father ; and he knew well that an alli-
ance with Lydia Thornton would not be agreeable to
his family. Balancing the two loves in his mind was
neither a difficult nor a disagreeable mental exercise.

For his love, in any case, would be a conscious and
well-considered act. The elaborate and long-continued
education of an English gentleman had destroyed in
him all spontaneity of feeling. He had no illusions, and
he was accustomed to challenge his emotions just as he
challenged his opinions. Both had to show good
grounds for their existence.

He put a stop to Jane's discussion of Lancelot by
taking Francesca to walk upon the covered terrace.
He had no objections to talk about the young man,
but he wished to avoid Jane's comments on the sub-
ject.

" I suppose you have not seen Mr. Leigh ? " he said.
" He has not called here since you came. Lance Leigh
and I do not always agree ; indeed, we very often dis-
agree. Mr. Leigh is like his class emotional. But
you would enjoy his music. No one finds any fault with
him at the piano. If he was not rich, he could make
his living with his love-songs. His voice is what they
call ' so sympathetic.' I have heard that he writes



58 LOVE FOR AN HOUR,

poetry. I dare say he does. Fellows with his type of
tact very often do."

" ' His type of face ' is then unusual ? "

"It is regularly handsome. Byron, Keats, and Shel-
ley, and men of that kind, have those regular faces."

"There are so many ugly and so many sharp faces
now. I should think some regular faces would be pleas-
ant. Have you noticed the men in a big city, how very
much alike they look as if they were all going to mar-
ket ? Sharp noses, sharp chins, calculating eyes, and an
expression of ' cheat or be cheated.' Whenever I go to
Leeds or Bradford that is the way the men's faces strike
me."

" What is to be done ? We must have money. Every
door in life is barred with gold."

" Oh no, it is not! Ability opens the door to power,
and learning opens it to honor. Friendship opens it to
kindness."

" And love opens to gold."

" No! I am sure not. Love opens to love."

He looked at her glowing face and shining eyes, and
felt the door of his own heart stirring. For a moment
or two he had an envious greed of those who could take
Love to their arms, and count him lord of all. But he
was far too polished to give such an elemental emotion
tolerance. It belonged to an elder world, to half-civil-
ized societies, to natures which could be pleased like
children, with sophisms and phantasms and fallacies of
the feelings. For Almund Idle saw no mystical veil
shadowing some unseen wonderful shekinah. He stood
at that point where men do not try to lift the veil, be-
cause they are sure there is nothing behind it.



MARRYING AND PROMISE OF MARRIAGE. 59

Yet he listened to Francesca's enthusiasms with a kind
of delight. A wife with such candors, such capabilities
for loving, such sweet, flattering ideas of masculine su-
periority, might be a far more charming and satisfactory
life-companion than a girl like Lydia Thornton a girl
who saw through all the shams of life as clearly as he
himself did.

After this he paid a great deal of attention to Fran-
cesca. He praised her beauty and admired her dresses,
with all the curious frankness of the modern lover ; and
felt her old-fashioned vivid blushes raise a very old-
fashioned vivid delight in what he was pleased to call
"his heart."

He had fits of reservations and fits of absolute surren-
der many times a day, until the wedding morning. Then
he resolved to let his liking for Francesca grow to any
comfortable condition of love that it was capable of.
His last reservation was withdrawn. It was necessary
to his perfect satisfaction that the public should indorse
his choice, and Francesca was acknowledged to be the
fairest of all the fair women present. The bride was in-
deed the center of interest, of kind speculation, and of
good wishes ; but Francesca was the center of admira-
tion. Her pale-violet velvet dress, her white velvet bon-
net, and abundance of white furs gave to her aristo-
cratic beauty a queenly mean and semblance.

It was at first sight wonderful how any mere mortal
man could find courage to offer escort to a creature so
evidently more divine than himself. But Francesca's
native gentleness and her cultivated consideration were
like the outstretching of the golden scepter. All men
could feel in her presence that she sweetly deprecated



60 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

her own charms and exalted their masculine excellen-
cies. And as Almund was really of less stature than
Francesca, this secret, subtle, quite unconscious flattery
to mere manhood was very reassuring and compliment-
ary.

On the morning of the wedding, when the church was
crowded with guests, Lancelot again saw his love. She
was leaning upon the arm of Almund, and stepping
altarward to the sound of a noble marriage hymn. He
saw her before he saw the bride ; afterward he saw
nothing but her. A fresh adoration filled his soul. He
longed to kiss the chancel flags over which her feet had
passed. He noticed just where she stood, and promised
himself to come back and fill the same space of air and
light. Something of her personality might remain there,
though but the scent of her garments, the inaudible echo
of her voice, the invisible emanations of light from her
luminous countenance.

As the wedding-party passed out of the church, he
contrived to meet her in the porch. She had been ex-
pecting the meeting, and she gave him, in passing, the
glorious smile she had been keeping for him alone and
the clasp of her unglovei hand. And then his happi-
ness was higher than the clouds, and his chagrin deeper
than the ocean ; for she had foreseen their meeting, and
shown him such gracious and considered favor ; and he,
alas ! he had not been prepared for it.

He called himself stupid and blind and unworthy, in
a score of different ways. He felt as if nothing he could
do in the future would atone for that momentary want
of intuition. And at the wedding breakfast he was
placed far from her ; too far to catch her eye or hear her



MARYING AND PROMISE OF MARRIAGE. 6 1

voice, though not too far to see Almund's devotion to
her service. He was very angry with Almund Idle his
little nod of recognition in Francesca's presence seemed
an intentional offense. It was too patronizing, and
Lancelot, while drinking the bride's toast, was wonder-
ing what he should do to the man, what he should do to
restore his own self-esteem, and what he should do to
wound Almund's satisfied complacencies.

For lovers are either in a heaven of confidence or in
a hell of despair. And Lancelot, with a mortal's per-
versity, thought little of Francesca's ravishing ^smile and
freely given hand ; his own dullness the mortification
of it ; Almund's offensive salutation ; his air of famil-
iarity ; his attentions to Francesca and her apparent
reception of them all these things made the wedding-
feast a miserable affair to him. And then when the
breakfast was over, Francesca left the room with the
bride, and there was no hope that he would meet her
more closely at that time. But there was to be a ball
in the evening, and perhaps he might then be more fort-
unate. Still, he must wait until nine o'clock at night,
and it was only noon. How was he to get the nine
hours over?

Now, the day that begins badly often ends well, and
the ball fully atoned for the breakfast. And oh, how
lovely, how lovesome, how loving she was! Such
happy dances; such happy confidences about nothing
at all; such eloquent rests among the palms in the
greenhouse ! And then, in a kinder moment, the little
secret she had hitherto kept :

" I was caught in a snow-storm, and I sheltered in
your house."



62 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

" Was it really you ? "

"It was really me. And I saw your mother. I think
she liked me."

" I am sure she did. She said you were a beauty.
And mother does not take to every one."

" I should like to see her again."

" Will you ride over to Leigh Farm with me to-mor-
row? I will so gladly call for you."

" It would be delightful to do so. I will ask Aunt
Loida."

And so the conversation went on words that meant
little in themselves, and that meant so much as the
vehicle for a language not otherwise translatable.

After this every hour was joy-filled. Aunt Loida was
not able to resist the youth's charm and Francesca's
entreaties, for love's young dream had never grown old
or cold in her tender heart. To cross a true love
seemed to her a sort of crime against the soul. Lance-
lot and Francesca made her their confidante and the
sharer of their happiness. And Loida made little mes-
sages for them occasions for their meeting solitudes
which her presence did not break secrecies she inno-
cently shared.

It was Aunt Loida who was to bring the squire to
reason, and it was Aunt Loida who tried to inspire in
Lancelot's mother a sympathy equal to her own. But
Mrs. Leigh was really a stronger opponent of the lovers
than Squire Atherton was ever likely to be. The girl
she had liked at first she soon began to dislike. She
perceived that Lancelot's heart was set upon her, and
she understood at once how such a marriage would
affect interests dearer than life to her. If Lancelot



MARRYING AND PROMISE OF MARRIAGE. 63

married Francesca, he would, of course, go to live at
Atherton Court. Leigh Farm would be let to strangers.
She could get no further than this supposition. The
terror of such a contingency stopped thought ; she could
only feel.

Still, for a month Francesca was very happy ; for if
Mrs. Leigh withdrew more and more from her, Stephen
Leigh was unusually proud and satisfied in his son's
success. And yet he had a heart which could fully
appreciate the view Squire Atherton would take of
such an alliance.

" It is varry like treason in his only child, and I'd
call it so if it was against mysen," he said.

" But, father," replied Lancelot, " we love each other
so much. Love such as ours breaks all other ties."

" Then it is a varry poor kind of love, and I
wouldn't hev anything to do with it. If wife-love and
husband-love doesn't hallow and strengthen father-love
and mother-love, it is a miserable, please-mysen, un-
blessed bit of business. If ta hed a daughter of thine
own, would ta think it a fair thing for her to forget all
thy love and all thy care and goodness, as if they hed
niver been? To set thee in Cold-Shoulder Lane for
some lad that was a stranger a month or two ago?
If Miss Atherton is willing to do that for thee, I am
not willing to hev her for a daughter. I'd set little by
her, and I'd tell her so quick enough."

" One would think you were Squire Atherton's
friend."

" I hope I'm not his enemy. I was fair and square
with him in business, and I'm none to blame if he
cannot see his awn interest. Be thou as honest with



64 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

him about thy love as I was about my mill. He is
a varry good, gentlemanly sort of man, and happen
God doesn't make ivery good man to be a cotton-
spinner. Now I'll tell thee what: Go to Atherton
with thy Francesca I wish she hed a more world-like
name tell the squire to his face what thou hes said
tc his daughter, and what she hes said to thee. That
is only fair. Hes ta asked her to be thy wife ? "

" She says she will marry no one but me."

"They all say that, my lad, or words varry like
them."

" Miss Vyner has promised to speak to the squire
and try and persuade him to "

" Nay, then, if ta isn't man enough to tell thy awn
tale, thou art right to send a woman with it. That
wouldn't be my way, I can tell thee. I would go
straight to Francesca's father and say thus and so,
and ' What do you want us to do ? ' "

" He may say he wants us to part."

<( Then I'd say : ' Varry well, squire ; for how long ?
Will a year do?' If he makes it two years, he will
do a varry wise thing. You are both young enough to
wait and grow wiser. But niver thou send a woman
on any business thou should do thysen. I'd be
ashamed if I was thee! Face thy awn music. A
woman indeed! A woman! They are foolish coun-
selors and worse envoys, and in love as unlucky as
can be. If ta can't speak for thysen, my lad, then hold
thy tongue forever."



CHAPTER V.

A HAPPY HOUR.

See the mountains kiss high heaven,

And the waves clasp one another ;
No sister flower would be forgiven

If it disdained its brother :
And the sunlight clasps the earth,

And the moonbeams kiss the sea ;
What are all these kissings worth

If thou kiss not me? Shelley.

Oh, for the old true-love time,

When the world was in its prime! Croly.

T ANCELOT was not averse to take his father's ad-


1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrLove for an hour is love forever → online text (page 4 of 20)