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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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I hev done well. It is all right, and He knows it now."



THE HOUSE OF DEATH. 113

" How could it be right to treat my father so cruelly ? "

" Thy father should hev done his duty to them that
hed the first claim on him. Why-a! He was on the
point of selling his house to save his mill! Did ta iver
hear tell of such wickedness ? Going to turn the dead
and the living out, and put strangers or worse still, the
Newbys into these rooms. If he was a Leigh, he
deserved to be sent where he would learn his duty bet-
ter. If he was not a Leigh, but just some stray soul
that had got away from his awn people, then he hed no
business here : and the sooner he went to his awn, the
better for him, and for us."

" Mother, I can only hope and pray that you are not
sane on this subject."

" I am as sane as thou art, and a good bit saner. I
know what I hev done, and I am well pleased with my-
sen for doing it. Now then, do thy duty. I expect so
much from thee. Sell that big, ugly mill. Get rid of
them hundreds of men and women who hev eaten up
all our substance. Set thysen to take care of Leigh
House and Farm, make it fairer and bigger than iver it
was before, and I'll welcome any wife thou chooses to
bring here. And if ta must hev something to do that
is more money-making than sowing and reaping, study
and make thysen a doctor, or a lawyer. Now then, I
hev hed my say. Speak for thysen."

" I say that I will touch nothing that was father's, and
still ought to be father's neither mill nor house. I am
going to Mexico."

" And who is to be master of Leigh ? It hes niver
been without a master before, not in hundreds of years."

" Do as you will with it ; I could not live under this



114 LOTE FOR AN HOUR.

roof. O mother, mother! You have ruined my life
as well as "

' Say the words in thy heart, Lance ' as well as mur-
dered my father.' I am not .afraid of any word, and I
did not murder him. I gave him his chance. There
hev been hours lately when I hev seen him talking to
Joshua Newby that I could hev stabbed him with the
knife I was cutting his bread and meat with. I did not
do it ; for thy sake for thy sake only. I thought it
might hurt thee with that fine lass thou hes set thy fool-
ish heart on thought it might mebbe be a red stain on
ivery year of thy life. So I waited, and I gave him his
chance. He hed a tussle with Death, and I neither
helped one or the other. Most folks think doctors are
as much on the side of death as life."

" What does father think now, looking back upon
life ? "

" I hope to goodness he thinks different to what he
did. If he doesn't, he is only one against me, and there
are hundreds and thousands ready to say : ' Martha
Leigh did right for Leigh.' The land stays ; the man
goes. Stand by the land, then. Now, don't thee go
away, Lance."

Lancelot shook his head and rose from the table. He
could not continue a conversation so painful. He went
back to his father's room, and looked again at the still
figure. His mother had washed and straightened him.

A fine linen winding-sheet smelling of lavender was
around him. His large hands were clasped across his
breast. His face was full of peace; his thick brown
hair had not a strand of gray, and it curled thickly all
over the grandly domed head. The wind that came out



THE HOUSE OF DEATH. 115

of the garden and from off the wolds stirred it gently
upon the sunken temples. The room was as sweet and
white as if it was a bride- and not a death-chamber.

Lancelot held a long session in it. There he faced
the inevitable results of his mother's crime. Whether
she was morally responsible or not for it, the world
would hardly take time to inquire. Its verdict would
be sharp and swift, and it was as likely as not that, in
some moment of irritation, she would dare its utmost.
To bring Francesca into relationship with such sorrow
and shame would be wicked and cruel ; dishonorable to
do it without the full knowledge and consent of the
squire ; chimerical to hope that his consent would ever
be given. He was also sure that he had no right to be
his mother's accuser ; sure that his good father, if he
was alive, would plead for her, excuse her, and depre-
cate her suffering. It seemed best then, on every side,
to go away and to leave to omniscient love and wisdom
the unraveling of a destiny so cruelly tangled.

He then wrote to Francesca, and sent her the little
love-song that was associated with the happiest hours of
his life. He told her of his father's death, and his own
sorrow in losing so sweet and strong a friend. He could
not bear just yet to cut the tie between them. When
he was at sea he would take time to consider ; or at any
rate he would wait until he was on the point of leaving
England ; and he wrote so truly, with all his heart :

"My Beloved: The space between us is full of my longing and
heartache. It will be so, even when I am in Mexico. Oh, to
kiss your foot -prints! to touch the hem of your robe! to feel the
perfume of your presence! the magic of your beauty! the glory
of your smiles and glances ! Francesca! Francesca! Angel of



116 LOl'E FOR AN HOUR.

my hopes and dreams ! Send me one loving thought each hour,
for, if you do not, I shall perish miserably for want of it. Adora-
ble Francesca! Live in happiness and sweetest peace.

" LANCELOT."

And the words were realities. Their greatest reality
was in their extravagance ; their only untruthfulness in
their poverty. Lovers will understand. Those who
have never loved lack the special intelligence let
them pray God for the divine interpreter.



CHAPTER VIII.

LOVE'S DESPAIR.

Yes, it was love if thoughts of tenderness
Tried in temptation, strengthened by distress,.
Unmoved by absence, firm in every clime,
And yet oh, more than all! untired by time,
Which nor defeated hope nor baffled wile
Could render sullen. Byron.

So writhes the mind Remorse hath riven ;
Around it, flame ; within it, death. Byron.

THERE was a sweet credulousness about Miss Loida
which was one of her greatest charms. She found
it so easy to believe in good, to hope for good, and when
disappointed, to begin hoping again. For ten years she
had lived, not unhappily, in such hope and disappoint-
ment, and then renewed hope. She knew nothing of
that fatal malady the incapacity to be happy. It is
true she had loved and she had suffered, and there had
been hours in which she had felt nigh unto despair.
But she had never been despondent ; and there is this
blessed difference between the two conditions: In de-
spair there is life and activity, an infinite in an infinite
sorrow ; but despondency is only a fatal, somber dream
on which the soul feeds secretly a lotus leaf of languid,
inert grief, not far from annihilation.

Every year about the autumn Loida went on a short
journey. She was never more than two or three days



Il8 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

away, and yet it was an affair of great importance to
her, and she pleasantly occupied many days in her prep-
arations. No one spoke to her concerning it ; the
squire understood its object, and had long ago ceased
to interfere ; and Francesca, who had no restraints or
reservations with her aunt on other subjects, felt a singu-
lar reluctance to question her on this one.

On a bright sunny morning in August Miss Vyner
came down ready for her journey. The squire served
her with kind empressement, and Francesca hovered
around her with thoughtful care. They put her into the
carriage with many kind words and wishes, but without
a single message or question. And neither father nor
daughter made a remark to each other about the strange,
lonely excursion. Francesca understood there was some
secret she ought to respect. The squire had too noble
a nature to discuss circumstances sacredly personal to
another.

Through a very thinly populated country Loida rode
swiftly until the noon-hour. Then she came to a way,
side inn, where she changed horses and took some re*
freshment. Afterward, her journey was among high
hills and across desolate moors until toward sunset, when
she approached a small town. It stood in the midst of
an agricultural district ; a strange old place, quiet as a
dream. Its mortared houses were roofed with red tiles,
and each one, even on the main street, was set in its own
pretty garden. The bells of the ancient church were
ringing for evening prayers as she passed slowly through
the town and entered the gates of an inclosed place.
There was a heavy mist among the timber, and no sign
nor sound of life but the querulous inquiries of the rooks.



LOVE'S DESPAIR. 119

A short drive brought her in sight of a large white
house. There was a glimmer of light in one of the
lower windows, and as she approached, an old man
wearing knee-breeches made of corduroy, and a mole-
skin vest, came to meet the carriage.

" Mistress has been looking for you," he said. " Go
your ways in, miss. You are varry welcome, I'll war-
rant."

She went in as if she knew the house well, through a
long, flagged passage to a parlor at the end of it. An
old lady was sitting at a small table drinking tea. She
had a large cat on her knee, one of the real brown tor-
toise-shell that, as a pure breed, are now nearly extinct.
She was talking to it as Loida entered, and she kept
it in her arms as she rose with evident delight to wel-
come her.

" My dear," she cried cheerfully, " you are better than
sunshine ! I have been expecting you for a week. I
had given you up for to-day."

"We were detained at least an hour. One of the
horses I got at Redmond's Inn was a poor one ; but
here I am at last."

"And freely welcome. Will you go to your room at
once ? "

" Yes, at once."

"You know the way, dear. Nothing changes. I
try to keep everything the same."

Nothing had changed for at least ten years. Loida
could have gone through the house with her eyes shut.
She knew the lofty room to which she went as she knew
her alphabet; knew its large, carved bedstead, with
snowy trappings of Marseilles and ruffled lawn, and



120 LOVE FOP AN HOUR.

hangings of rich, gold-colored brocade. She knew its
polished floor, so difficult for her to walk on, its fine
dressing-table and sets of drawers and ancient oak dower
chests, its Wedgwood ewers and basins, its prayer-table
with the open Bible, and the scent of roses everywhere
how well she knew the room!

She stood before the large mirror and looked earnestly
at herself. Though there was only one old lady to see
her, she was very anxious to appear handsome. She
had dressed with great care in rich and becoming gar-
ments, and her habits were so quiet and reposeful that
her journey had scarce ruffled her attire. She bathed
her face and brushed out the long, soft curls of her
brown hair, and put fresh lace at her throat, and then
she smiled back at the lovely woman the glass showed
her.

The consciousness of her beauty and grace gave her
an air of distinction, and she went downstairs feeling
that she was in a position to give and to receive pleasure.
Some additions had been made to the tea-table ; richer
viands, more beautiful china, and some napkins of dam-
ask as fine as satin. The two women sat down at the
table opposite to each other, and they made a very strik-
ing picture the pretty old woman with the charm of
life's afterglow over her gray, quiet head and pale, strong
face the pretty young woman in the full charm of her
thirty years, flowing, graceful, high-bred, with eyes as
clear as truth, and a face lovely as a perfect rose in
the twilight ; for roses then are soft and tender with the
dew and mist, and drooping a little, as if hiding some
sweet, sorrowful story.

At the first glance the elder woman's eyes looked dull



LOVE'S DESPAIR. 121

and soft and full of uncomplaining patience, but as soon
as she began to talk her resolute soul filled them with
fire and light.

" I have heard nothing," she said " nothing at all,
Loida, for nine months. If I had I should have written
you."

" Silence is so cruel, mother."

" It is, my dear. If the dead could only speak or
write it wouldn't be so hard, now, would it ? Why don't
they ? If they live anywhere, why don't they speak ? "

" I am sure Richard is not dead. If he were dead

*

I should know it. I think he may be on his way home."

"Eh, my dear! What a thing it is to have hope
always near you. Will I ever see Dick again, Loida?"

" I am sure you will, mother. I think he is coming
very soon. He might come to-night as we sit talking
of him."

" Nay, nay, Loida. Such a surprise as that would be
could only happen in Pen-and-ink Land. The son
doesn't come home, and the lover doesn't come back
that kind of way, except between book-covers. Never
the bright hour, and the happy circumstance, and the 7
loved one all together."

" Oh, dear mother, when Dick comes back he will
make the right hour and the happy circumstance, and
then all three will be together!"

" God bless you, Loida!"

" I am afraid you have been having hard times,
mother. I never knew you despond before."

" I have been having things a bit crooked, my dear.
Every which way has been contrary. It has been a
bad year. Some valuable cattle died in the spring and



122 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

had to be replaced. And the two Swale children came
of age this year, and their money was to raise. It was
more than a thousand pounds. I had to sell two
meadows and a fine mare to get enough. But then,
what is land to Dick's honor ? "

" Nothing at all, mother. Let the land go."

" And the house, too, if it be necessary. Eh, Loida ? "

" To be sure, mother. Dick's good name is before
everything. How about the interest ? "

" I shall pull through this year. But oh, Loida, if he
never comes home again ! "

" He will come. It is impossible such love and self-
denial will be made vain by death. Dick is sure to
come. I have brought a trifle to help the interest ac-
count. I wish I was richer. I can do so little, mother."

" It is hard for you to scrimp yourself, only for Dick's
good name."

" I hope Dick's good name is my good name. It is
a great happiness to me that you take so frankly what I
can do. Mother, I have only one fear, one great fear,
about Dick coming home. What if he has forgotten
me ! What if he loves some one else ! What if he "

" Nay, nay, Loida, you know different. Dick has
but one hope and thought, that is to put himself right
for your sake. Every letter I have is set to this tune.
My dear, he would be such a scoundrel as never was
heard tell of if he could forget you or put any other
woman before you."

" It is ten years since women change so much in ten
years."

" You have grown lovelier every year, Loida. When
Dick went away, you were nothing but a slip of a girl.



LOVE'S DESPAIR, 12$

You were only a rose shut up in green leaves. You
were just the possible glory of the woman you have
grown to be. The bud in the green case has become
the perfect rose, and, my dear, there is no naming the
bud and flower together. Nobody would care for a rose-
tree if they didn't know the buds would grow to flowers.
I have told Dick in every letter I could send him what
a beauty you had become. If Dick could forget you,
I could find it in my heart to forget Dick."

" It is only a passing fear, mother. Dick is too fine
a fellow to be false."

" Yet you know, Loida, that many people once said
hard things of Dick. He partly deserved them, too ; I,
his mother, say that."

" Dick made a great mistake. He is doing his best
to put the wrong right. He has put much of it right.
When he pays the uttermost farthing, what else can be
required of him? And Dick has suffered, also. We
must think of that."

All that night till very late, and all the next day, the
two women talked of Dick. In the sweet old sunny
garden they talked of him, and recalled a thousand
things he had done and said among its fruits and
flowers. In every fair, old-fashioned room of the house
they talked of him. Every room was full of Dick.
Through ten years of absolute absence his personality
retained a hold on each. His picture at various ages
hung throughout the house. In one room Baby Dick
smiled and held his toes, and his mother stood before it
with her mother-soul in her face. " In another there was
Dick as a school-boy. In another he looked uncom-
fortably conscious in his academical gown and square



124 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

cap. There was a full-length painting in oils of Dick at
his majority in the drawing-room. There was one in
the library of " Captain Richard Alderson " in the glory
of a militia uniform. Dick in cricketing suits and yacht-
ing suits ; Dick masquerading as Romeo ; Dick on his
favorite hunter ; Dick in every picturable situation was
present.

" They are all a great comfort to me," the mother
said. " When I get a fear about him, I walk through
the rooms and look at them all. There are so many
Dicks I cannot help feeling that one of them must surely
come back."

" The very best of Dicks will come back. Dear me,
mother, what a day it will be! He is sure to come here
first of all. You will send a man to tell me. Don't
trust to the post. We are so out of the way it might be
days before I got the letter."

" I will send the very hour Dick comes. Toby will
do the distance on Sylvia's back in six hours."

" I shall listen, then, for the beat of Sylvia's feet.
And whenever I hear a galloping horse, I shall be sure
it is Sylvia. O mother! mother! What if Toby was to
send in a month in a week the very day after I leave
you. Don't you feel as if Dick was nearly here ? I do."

" Sixty-five cannot feel as thirty does."

" Would you wish it ? "

" Ay, I would, just for Dick's home-coming. For an
hour I would like to feel as I did when I was thirty
feel in every nerve and pulse. Yes, I would, though I
used up ten years of life in that hour."

" Will he not be astonished when he comes back and
finds out all you have done ? "



LOVE'S DESPAIR. 12$

" No ; I don't think he will. He would know it in
his heart. Dick knows his mother so well. He would
be sure I would do the topmost thing possible. But I'll
tell you what, Loida. He will be astonished and de-
lighted to find out how much you have helped me
scrimping yourself for his sake. My word! I think
when I tell him all you have done, he will find out tears
he never had before ; he will find out deep places in his
heart he would not ever have found out in any other
way."

"I see his dog is still about ; and won't he be
astonished to find Tabby still purring on his chair-
cushion ? "

"Tabby does not purr much now. She has not
purred much since Dick went. Really, when I come to
think of it, I do not think she has ever considered any-
thing worth purring about since. And as for Chief!
Chief is always watching. The look of inquiry in his
big brown eyes is more than I can bear sometimes. It
says to me so plainly : ' When will Dick come home ? ' "

This one day every year was the heart holiday of
Mrs. Alderson and of Loida Vyner. Whatever they
might have to do other days, this one was Dick's, and
Dick's only. They filled it with recollections of him
and with hopes for him. It was the heart-food on which
they both lived many other days. It went all too quickly
away. And in spite of Loida's charming anticipations,
no glad surprise came to them in it ; not even a white-
winged letter of hope. They parted as they had met,
in the visible presence of a sad certainty, in the passion-
ately expressed glamour of a future hope.

Loida's heart fell as soon as she left Alderson Bars.



126 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

It grew heavier with every lonely mile. She had spent
her stock of hope so lavishly, she had none now left
for her own necessity. Her thoughts wandered far,
and yet brought nothing back but that truly English
word " Why? " Why had Dick done so wrong ? Why
did he not come ? Why did he not write ? The little
plaintive questioning word, almost poetical in itself, grew
tragic in its persistent iteration.

It was after sunset when she reached Atherton, and
that twilight dejection, which even animals feel, had in-
tensified the melancholy of her mood. She had ceased
even to expect the "improbable letter" of the future.
But oh, how soon all shadows fled before the light in
Francesca's face, and the hearty welcome in the squire's
greeting! How many good things were yet left her!
How much love! What a happy home! Her coming
to it made an air of rejoicing through the house. Tea
had been delayed that they might take it with her.

She threw off her sense of trouble and disappointment
by a conscious effort, as she threw off her cloak and
bonnet, and then turned with smiles to her brother and
niece. Something strange and unlocked for had hap-
pened ; he saw a shadow of it about the squire. She
perceived it in the face and manner of Francesca. But
they talked for a little while on the most commonplace
and indifferent of things the weather, the crops in that
part of the country through which Loida had passed,
the poor horse Hedmond had given her, the catching of
a fox in Atherton hen-coops, finally the condition of
Atherton village.

" It is bad enough," said the squire. " I am veiy
sorry for poor Lance. When trouble comes, it comes



LOVE'S DESPAIR. 127

every way at once, I think. Francesca tells me
Lance's father is dead. I am very sorry! "

" It is true," said Francesca, answering her aunt's
look of sorrowful amazement. " Lance's last letter
said his father was very ill ; but his death must have
been unexpected, I think. Lance writes like a man
distracted."

" He was particularly fond of his father," said Loida,
" I never saw a father and son so much one."

" I liked that," answered the squire warmly. " I
liked the way in which Lance stood by his father's ad-
vice and word. And I am sure Stephen Leigh was a
fine man. I am sorry I quarreled with him. It hurts
me to think I was speaking badly of him yesterday,
and him not on earth to answer me back. My word!
It is a dangerous thing to talk badly of the absent.
You never know whether they may not be closer to
God than you are."

They talked all evening of this subject, but no one
named it as it mainly appealed to Francesca. Her
first reflection had been : " Now Lance cannot go
away from England. There will be Garsby Mill and
Leigh Farm and his mother to look after." But she
gave no utterance to her thought, for it seemed selfish
and unfeeling.

Neither did the squire speak of any change in
Lance's prospects ; perhaps he, also, considered it
would be unfeeling; or perhaps he did not speak
of such a result because he did not wish it. At
any rate, it was not alluded to ; but Francesca kept
the possibility as a new hope in her heart. Yet she
felt hurt and offended that no one had foreseen sucL a



128 LOVE FOR AN HOUR.

change, and given her the comfort of discussing it.
Under the circumstances silence seemed almost active
ill-will against her lover.

The next morning the squire announced his intention
of going to Stephen Leigh's funeral.

" I can stay with my friend Thomas Idle," he said.
" No doubt he will be going to Leigh, and I think it is
t>nly right I should go, too for Lancelot's sake. Nay,
then, I'll not put Lancelot's cloak over my doings. I'll
go because I think well of Stephen Leigh. It was only
as the mill-owner and spinner I didn't like him. He was
as honest and straightforward a gentleman as ever lived."

Thus it is that death opens the eyes of the living,
and permits excellencies to be seen not acknowledged
before its revealing touch.

So that day Squire Atherton went to Idleholme,
from which place he sent a message of sympathy to
Lancelot. But he did not go to Leigh Farm until the
day of the funeral a soft, misty, warm day, full of a
Still melancholy. There was a great company present,
and the little graveyard on the windy wold was crowded
with middle-aged gentlemen, squires, and spinners, who
had been Stephen Leigh's friends and acquaintances
tall, handsome men mostly ; full of a splendid vitality,
subdued and solemnized by the shadow of death and
the thrilling words of the white-surpliced priest at tl:^
open grave.

The service over, the crowd dispersed very silent!}'.
The majority were on their own hunters, and they rode
through the green lanes bordered with ripe wheat in
a silent, thoughtful mood. They had to pass Leigh
Farm, and Squire Atherton stopped there. He really



LOVE'S DESPAIR. 1 29

felt as if he ought to give Lancelot some personal
sympathy, and also find out how so unlooked-for a
calamity would affect his future movements.

The place appeared to be deserted. No one came


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrLove for an hour is love forever → online text (page 8 of 20)