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A HAPPY HOUR. 8 1

had called her to see Lancelot and Francesca walk-
ing slowly up the terrace steps. They were both bare-
headed ; they were both dressed in white, and the moon-
shine made a wondrous glory all over and around them.
Lancelot's face was bent to Francesca's. He was tell-
ing his love in such words and tones as are only learned
in moments of inspiration, and only repeated when men
forget that they are mortal.

They came to the lily-bed, and they stood there. It
was no wonder. The great white flowers in the
heavenly light looked like the flowers of heaven. Their
perfume made the heart faint with joy. Lancelot gath-
ered one. For a momnet he held it to his lips as if he
would catch its perfume to make more sweet his song.
Then he gave it to Francesca, and she would have
kissed it, but Lancelot caught the kiss between her lips
and the flower ; and so began to sing again. His bright
face was lifted, and it mirrored the full glory of the
moon. Francesca leaned toward him as a flower leans
to the sun.

" Have you seen but a bright lily grow
Before rude hands have touched it?
Have you marked but the fall of the snow

Before the soil hath smutched it?
Have you felt the wool of the beaver?

Or swan's-down ever?
Or have smelt o' the bud o' the brier?
Or the nard in the fire?
Or have tasted the bag of the bee ?
Oh, so white! Oh, so soft! Oh, so sweet is she! "

The exquisite words were breathed in exquisite music,
in notes full of passion, sweet, ringing, and delicate. It



82 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

was like a "Gloria in Excelsis" of Palestrina's. The
squire stood breathless, listening, tears were in Loida's
eyes ; without analyzing their emotions, they felt how
truly a noble singer is a reed breathed through by the
Spirit of God.

They went very quietly back to the house. In each
heart there was the same thought that it would be a
kind of sacrilege to disturb such a service of love. Only
the squire said, with a tender, melancholy sigh : " I wish
I was a young man again, Loida." When they reached
the house he sat down by the open window. But the
song was finished, and the garden was as quiet as a
garden in a dream. In an hour the lovers followed.
They were silent, they were almost melancholy with the
sweet sadness of earthly love. They had been on En-
chanted Ground in the Land of Blissful Silence. They
knew that when they uttered a word the spell would be
broken.

Loida met them with a little effusion of solicitude.
She divined and wished to cover their self-conscious-
ness.

Was the dew falling ? Was Francesca sure she had
not taken cold ? Were they not hungry ? Francesca
had so little tea.

The squire asked if the reapers were still at work.
Did they hear their voices when they left the garden ?
And then, suddenly : " What wert thou singing to-
night, Lance ? I never heard that song before ; no,
nor anything like it."

"I was singing a love-song by 'rare Ben Jonson.' I
set the words to music. Francesca inspired it."

" Sing it once more, Lance."



A HAPPY HOUR. 83

" I would rather not, sir. I made the song for Fran-
cesca only. I will sing anything else you desire."

" Well, then, we will have some sea songs. There is
nothing like them." And he rose and went toward the
piano.

Lance was already striking some introductory chords,
and the squire, who had the strange love which agricult-
uralists have for hearing of and singing of " the sea,"
was soon joining his fine baritone to Lancelot's tenor
in " Hearts of Oak " and " Britannia Rules the Waves,"
" The Heaving of the Lead," and a dozen other nautical
favorites, until they sailed with the gale " On the Bay
of Biscay, O ! "

This was always the squire's last song. He felt that
nothing could come after its magnificent roll and its air
of stormy salt water. When it was finished he sat down,
as he always did. with a sigh of satisfaction, and an in-
tense admiration for the British navy and all the jolly
tars that made it. Music is a noble interpreter; the
squire and Lance found each other's hearts among the
sympathetic chords. They shook hands at parting as
they had never done before. Francesca stood by her
father's side, and they both kissed her.

" It has been a happy hour," said the squire, and
Loida smiled her sweet assent, and Lancelot once more
kissed his love " Good-night " ; and none of them saw,
in the blue heaven of their hopes, the little cloud above
them the little cloud, no bigger than a man's hand.



CHAPTER VI.

"IT HAS TO BE BORNE."

As if a door in heaven should be
Opened and then closed suddenly ;

The vision came and went,

The light shone and was spent. Longfellow.

THE cloud came from the west from the far south-
west. It was the shadow of war; and what had
war to do with the love of Lancelot and Francesca?
Though the rumor and the fear of it had been in the
hearts of thoughtful men for months, hitherto Lancelot
had not been much troubled. His father had borne
the burden of anxiety for both mills. Cotton had
always been forthcoming for the looms at Atherton ;
Lancelot had not imagined a time when he would want
" material " and not receive it.

But the time was near at hand, for the cotton land
was in rebellion and its ports blockaded. There had
been a great deal of talk about such a terrible calamity,
but Lance had never believed it possible. The want
of cotton, the consequent want of work, the certain
famine and distress, had seemed to him like the light-
ning in heaven, far off.

He went to consult with his father. He found him
in great anxiety and distress, but he also found that he
had risen to the noblest point of the situation.



"IT HAS TO BE BORNE." 85

"Are you going to close your mill, father?" Lance-
lot asked, even as the two men met and shook hands.

" Not I. I shall keep it running as long as I hev
a shilling to buy cotton with."

" Margraves has shut his mill."

" Hargraves is a big fat bear. He can live on him-
self rarely, and niver feel that he is a selfish brute for
doing so. I am none of his kind."

" But your cotton will not last long, and then you
will have to shut your gates."

" I won't shut them as long as I can buy cotton
at any figure. I have begun to run half time for a
half -loaf is better than no loaf at all and I shall try
to keep up to that mark till peace comes, or till we
get Indian staple in sufficient quantities to bring down
prices."

" What shall I do at Atherton ? "

" What does ta think thou ought to do ? I gave thee
Atherton Mill when ta won Squire Atherton's daughter ;
now, then, do whativer thou thinks is right. I don't
keep thy conscience, my lad! My awn is about all I
can manage."

" It is none of our quarrel, father."

"Ay, but it is our quarrel, Lance. It is ivery good
man's and ivery good woman's quarrel. I hevn't heard
a word contrary from any of the poor souls that will
have to go hungry for it. I am going to sell my
horses and stop wastry of whativer kind ; and thou had
better do the same. Thy mother sent off all the house
servants but one."

" Is that fair? Servants must live also."

" A servant can be a servant anywhere ; they cau g<



86 LOVE FOR A\' HOI'R.

to Bradford and get work. A cotton-spinner is fit for
nothing else."

" Do you think the war will continue for any length
of time ? "

" Well, I should say it would. The North has been
preaching to the South a long while, and the South has
been calling the North ivery ill name it can think of
and from what I can understand they can think of a
good many aggravating ones and words hev come to
blows at last ; and I'm afraid they won't find out in a
hurry which of them can hit the hardest."

" Well, then ? "

" ' Well, then ? ' What does ta ask me questions for ?
Thou knows thy duty. Thou knows Yorkshire men
and women won't beg under any circumstances. If
thou art wicked enough to let them starve, they will
starve without a word. Thou hes made a bit of
money, and thou hes a good bit more thy grand-
father left thee. I don't think at this time thou can
save thy money and save thy honor and thy manhood
also. Thou ought to know which thou values at the
highest figure. I cannot help thee, my lad. When
thou took the mill as a gift from me, thou took it with
all it might bring thee loss or gain. No man could
then foresee what has come to pass."

" And you cannot help me ? "

" I cannot help mysen. I'll hev more to do with my
awn mill than I can manage, for I shall keep it going
half time if I sell the watch out of my pocket to do so.
I'll not shut the hands out to starve till I cannot raise
another shilling. Thou can do as seems right to thee."

" I was making money fast, father."



"77- HAS TO BE BORNE." 87

" To be sure. And them can save all thou hes made
if thou chooses to shut thy mill till the war is over. I
hev no doubt when that takes place two million bales
of cotton mebbe more will be poured into Man-
chester market. Then them as hev saved their money
can buy, and can run things about as they fancy to run
them. I shall not be among that crowd, I can tell
thee. And if thou art my son, I shall not find thee
among them."

Lancelot smiled pleasantly.

" You will find me wherever you are, father. I may
perhaps run the Atherton Mill a year on half time if I
use all the money I have. Will the war be over in a
year ? "

" Nobody knows that, Lance. We can but do ivery
day's duty as it comes, and hope for the best. I hev
twice as many hands as thou hes, and my money is
badly tied up, but a lot will hev to happen before I
shut my mill-gates."

It was a pathetic country through which Lancelot
rode back to Atherton. Many of the great mills he
passed had been closed that Saturday night, and the
silent, empty places, the smokeless chimneys, and the
idle inhabitants standing in groups talking of their
calamity, filled him with sorrowful apprehensions. He
had begun to take great pride in his mill begun to
look upon it as a friend. He had also felt much in-
terest in his hands; he had considered their comfort
and pleasure, and Atherton was almost a model mill
village.

But to have people on half time, half fed, perhaps
sick, was not a comfortable outlook. And it did cost



88 LOTE FOR AN HOUR.

him a pang to pay out pound after pound of the money
left him by his grandfather to pay it out on a " per-
adventure," not even to feel sure that his generosity
would at last avail. The squire gave him but a cold
approval. Between a man saving money and buying
land and a man spending his capital there is a funda-
mental difference. . The man himself is different ; and
the act, though really a far grander one than those the
trumpet was blowing from west to east, was done with-
out even a decided self-approval. Virtue may be her
own reward, but Lancelot desired not only the ap-
proval of his own conscience he wished this self-satis-
faction indorsed by the good opinion of the man whose
respect he greatly valued.

But Squire Atherton was in the position of one who
sees the evil thing prophesied come to pass. Never
before in his village had there been suffering beyond
his power to alleviate. In times of agricultural distress
he and his tenants and laborers bore the curtailment
together, and were drawn closer by their mutual mis-
fortune. They were, too, his own people sons of the
soil who had lived from it and on it, in their genera-
tions, as long as the Athertons had lived at Atherton
Court. But these white-faced, half-famished "hands,"
sitting on the steps of their emptied houses or standing
in mournful, hopeless groups at the street-corners, were
strangers from Manchester, Salford, Oldham, etc.
They looked at him, he fancied, with sullen ill-will, and
he resented this intrusion of commercial poverty and
discontent into his hitherto satisfied community.

He declined to talk about affairs with Lancelot. He
let him see that he felt injured and offended; that he



"IT HAS TO BE BORNE." 8$

regretted his late toleration of the mill, and withdrew
any approval he had given. And his sympathies it
he expressed any were on the side of the Southern
land-owners. He put slavery, as an idea, out of the
question. He thought only of the proprietors of the
land having it invaded, and their homes wasted that
their laborers might be benefited. Perhaps he took
this view because it negatived any special virtue in
Lancelot spending his substance for this idea. He
could not bring himself to give it any encouragement
or enthusiasm.

On the contrary, Francesca and Miss Loida were on
the side of the weak and suffering, and the squire did
not prevent them showing it. He privately thought his
barns and hay-ricks might be safer if he let the ladies of
his house go with the popular current. And in his
really kind heart he was glad to see Miss Loida giving
out soup, and sparing the whole household of milk and
watching every slice of bread, that as much as possible
might go to the hungry little children. He was glad to
see Loida and Francesca busy all day making garments
for them ; glad to know they were going from house to
house, helping the weak and the suffering. Quietly he
gave a great deal himself ; for if sickness and hunger
were visible things, he could not bear to pass them with-
out imparting succor. But yet there was a deep resent-
ment in his heart at the introduction of such contingen-
cies into his special neighborhood.

Lancelot felt this want of sympathy very keenly. He
knew that the squire's regulated and acknowledged
charity might have been a great help in his hopeless
struggle with war and famine. And he did suffer, also,



90 LOVE FOR A.V HOUR.

in the gradual wasting away of his own substance.
Every pound spent put his marriage with Francesca
further off ; and he was quite sure the squire would tell
him that if he preferred to give his all for an idea, he
must be content with the satisfaction the gratified idea
gave him. Francesca could not marry a poor man ;
and Lancelot could not expect could not, indeed,
wish the squire to make him a rich man by his gift
or favor.

So the months passed drearily enough away. He
knew from his mother's letters that his father was fight-
ing an equally hopeless battle :

" He is simply selling all he has to keep the mill going."
" Cotton is rising, and father is desperate, but not to be moved."
" I am terrified your father will mortgage perhaps sell LeigTi
Farm. I am only able to think of this one thing."

Such like sentences in her letters indicated the con-
dition of things at Garsby, and they only varied as the
hopes of a speedy peace rose or fell again.

At the close of the second year all the manufacturing
portions of England dependent upon cotton were in a
desperate and deplorable condition ; hunger, naked-
ness, and pestilence had taken possession of them. By
this time, also, Lancelot had spent all he had ; yet the
peace so ardently hoped and prayed for seemed as far
off as ever. Then the day came he had feared the
day when he would be compelled to close his mill. It
was a dull, wet morning in the middle of summer; a
time when rain and clouds seem most of all mournful
and unnatural.

His last pound was gone, and he knew that a few



"IT HAS TO BE BORNE." 91

hours' work would clear out the last tuft of cotton. He
walked through the mill with an aching heart. Some
of the looms had already stopped. There was no more
cotton to feed them. At others the " hands " were
watching the loads upon the looms, minute by minute
getting smaller and smaller. In a short time there was
not a shred left. Then men and women stood looking
at Lancelot. There was something fearful and un-
natural in the idleness and stillness of that busy, noisy
place. The very looms seemed conscious of calamity.

With tears in his eyes, Lancelot raised his hand, and
gave the order to stop the machinery. Then he
turned to his people and said, almost sharply :

" Men and women, I have done my best and my
uttermost."

There was an indescribable movement of assent and
pity, and after a moment's pause the over-looker said :

" Thou hes, master. We are none likely to forget it."

They left the mill very quietly, without a murmur
facing the inevitable ; and Lancelot, standing alone
amid his silent looms, heard the slow, heavy steps of
the nine hundred go out of his gates. In the midst of
his own despondency he recognized their heroism, for,
in their way, these half-starved men and women had
shown a self-respect equal to their master's. The
wages he had been able to give them was nearly two
shillings a week less than the charity which the relief
fund would have allowed them ; but not one soul had
preferred it. All had worked manfully and woman-
fully as long as any pittance of wage was possible,
rather than take the charity of the nation until they
were compelled to do so.



92 LOVE FOR A.V HOUR.

He felt a sentiment of respect almost of hope as
he considered this pathetic perseverance in honorable
independence, unrecognized and unrewarded. Surely
what these men and women could do and bear he also
could do and bear. What if the squire failed to ap-
preciate his self-denial ? What if he had the world to
begin over again ? Thousands of good men were in
like case ; nothing more than was common to humanity
had happened to him.

And he had Francesca's unvarying sympathy. Per-
haps she held privately some of her father's opinions,
but she never allowed Lancelot to know that she did
so. In her presence it was almost impossible for the
squire to be less friendly to her lover than he had been.
She drew them together by all those sweet, affectionate
arts which good women know and never have to learn.

Loida was also true as steel, for Loida had very
old-fashioned ideas about love. She believed a lover
in trouble ought to be twice as dear ; she scorned the
idea of deserting him for any financial cause ; she told
Francesca plainly that her troth-plight was as sacred as
a wedding-plight, and that so long as Lancelot was
personally worthy of her love she would be base and
cruel to take back her gift. Yes, indeed, with some
misgivings, the dear lady thought, " It might be the
duty and privilege of some women to love on, even if
their love seemed to be unwisely given."

Francesca listened to such advices with cordial ap-
proval. They agreed with her own ideas ; for though
Lancelot handsome, rich, joyful, successful was very
dear to her heart, Lancelot handsome, poor, unhappy,
the victim of unavoidable and unmerited misfortune,



"IT HAS TO BE BORNE." 93

was a thousand times dearer. In the early days of
their love Lancelot had been the lord and giver of
happiness ; but now she was the lady of all consola-
tions ; and even in love it was more noble and blessed
to give than to receive. Never had Lancelot been to
Francesca so endearing as when he came to her in
trouble to be comforted.

It was at this time the squire began to learn how
little real power a man ha, even in his own house,
if there be a majority of women holding opinions dif-
ferent to his own. He was not, indeed, prevented
from expressing his views, but it required a great
amount of courage to do so ; for Francesca answered
him silently in looks of amazement and indignant re-
proach, or else she obviously gathered up her sewing
and left the room in such marked distress that he felt
as if he had wounded a singing-bird or done some
other despicable and inexcusable act of cowardice.
Then Miss Vyner would say calmly : " Squire, I am
astonished at you!" or, "Whatever has changed you
so much, brother ? " Or, if his offense was very bad,
she appeared too much hurt to question him at all, and
the miserable gentleman was made to feel, at the same
moment, that he was brutally cruel and yet shamefully
misunderstood.

Mournful enough was the farewell Lancelot took of
his love before he left Atherton. It was impossible to
say how long it might be ere he could return in circum-
stances which would warrant the renewal of his offer
of marriage. He was almost penniless. He feared his
father was in a similar condition. The only plan he
had for retrieving his fortune implied an expatriation



94 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

from England. He thought it possible to buy cotton
in Mexico. Thousands of bales were said to be passed
through Texas, across the Rio Grande, to the Mexican
territory. From some Mexican port, it might be pos-
sible to ship it to Liverpool. The squire thought it a
highly feasible speculation. He knew that there were
a great many spinners who had money lying idle ; he
supposed they would be glad to send out a young man
full of enterprise and spirit, and as to blockade-running,
every one was aware that fabulous fortunes were made
very quickly by it.

Lancelot talked his plan over with Francesca, and
such discussions brought them very close together.
Love, and love only, is cloying sweet ; but wonder and
fear, the sense of distance and strangeness, the assur-
ances and despondencies, the possible glory of a glad re-
turn, all these things were strong, pungent flavors, tinct-
uring the sentiment with emotions that blended together
the romance of love and the delightful confidences and
reliances of a still closer and dearer tie!

" I will never forget you ! Never cease one moment
to love you ! My own ! My sweet Francesca ! " said
Lancelot, one night in July, as they stood together in
the clematis arbor.

He had come to say " Good-bye." He knew not
for how long. It might be for a year, or for many
years. It might be forever. But in any case, he vowed,
with all the passionate tenderness of first love, with
tears, with fond embraces, with sweet, long, sorrowful
kisses, never! never! never! to be faithless to Fran-
cesca.

Francesca echoed every vow. Her lovely face, pale



"IT HAS TO BE BORNE." . 95

as the pale flowers around them, was transfigured with
her love. The soul shone through the flesh, and made
it luminous. Her eyes were starlike. She made a
kind of glory where she stood. For those few last
moments she threw aside the usual sweet reserve of her
manner. She put her arms around her lover's neck.
She put her lips to his lips. She kissed her promises on
them. The tears that fell from her eyes were on his
cheeks.

" Forever and ever I am yours, and yours only ! "
she said.

" Forever and forever I am yours, my love," he
answered ; and the strong, sweetly solemn words fell
slowly, one by one, into her heart, each sealed with the
sorrowful kiss of a long farewell.

He left her in the arbor, and she watched, him going
down the terrace-steps in the moonlight as she had
watched him at their first meeting coming up them in
the sunshine. He went slowly, step by step, out of her
sight, and she stood like one entranced till he had gone
beyond her vision till the very echo of his last foot-
falls was inaudible.

Miss Loida had permitted and guarded this lonely
parting. When it was over she went to her niece and
let her weep in her arms.

" Tears will wash away the bitterness of grief," she
said. " But he will come back, Francesca. He will
come back, my dear. I know he will."

" No, he will not come back, Aunt Loida. There
is a weight of death on my heart. I shall never, never
see him again."

" Do not bespeak such ill fortune for him and foi



96 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

yourself. O Francesca! Good comes to the call of
hope, and not to the cry of despair. Go to your room,
my dear girl, and tell all your fear and sorrow to the
good God. Like a Father, He pities His children ; like
a Father who has both the power and the will to make
His children happy. He will take care of Lancelot."

" But you do not know what I suffer, Aunt Loida.
I am broken-hearted."

" Good hearts, brave hearts, faithful hearts, do not
break, Francesca. They go on loving and hoping.
And I know! I know! I have suffered. I once
thought I should die of suffering. But, Francesca, the
rose-tree stripped of every rose does not wither away
and die down to its very roots. It bears its loss, and
when the spring comes again it buds and blossoms, and
is fairer and sweeter than ever. Can you not be as
strong and brave, and as true to yourself and to all who
look to you for joy and comfort ? "

But in reality Loida knew that for heart-grief there
is no known consolation. // has to be borne. Comfort
cannot be given. It must spring from the very root of
sorrow. When she left her niece, Francesca was kneel-
ing at her bedside, sobbing with all the pitiful surrender
to the inexorable that youth feels. For the heart is long
in learning that tears are useless. Perhaps at three-
score we may accept with dry eyes the blow we cannot


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrLove for an hour is love forever → online text (page 6 of 20)