Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The king's highway. [microform] online

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In that case, I would be perfectly polite and
perfectly honest. You must wait for events,
you cannot force them."

To the young heart full of feeling, this wait-


ing for events is the great trial. Alice wished
for Lord Medway s arrival, in order that she
might at once put an end to his hopes, and her
own connection with them. But that day not
a person of any kind called, and the hours went
by with an exhausting monotony. It was,
however, some comfort to anticipate Jessie s
visit the following morning. She was sure
Jessie would approve her rebellion. Jessie
always admired women who had the neces
sary courage to stand by their wishes or their
opinions. But Jessie heard Alice s confidence
with a face that quite dashed her, and with a
silence that was most unlike Jessie s usual
readiness to advise or sympathise. Alice was
at last forced to a direct question.

"Have I not done wisely, Jessie?" she

"I don t think you have. If you wish my
opinion, I think you have acted very foolishly.
What excuse have you for throwing away so
much ? "

" I throw away Lord Medway because I do
not love him."

" Do you love any one else? "

" I do not know."

"And yet you give up a coronet for some
thing so intangible you don t know whether
you have it or not. Mr. Lloyd has reason to



be angry with you. Think of what people will
say. No one will believe for a moment that
you refused Lord Medway; they will look on
you with that contempt maids all forlorn and
maids deserted get from them. They will each
render their own version of his Lordship s rea
sons for refusing to marry you for only this
morning I saw your marriage announced in all
the principal papers."

"Jessie McAslin!"

"It is the truth."

" It is impossible ! I have never given any
one authority to make such a statement."

Jessie unfolded the morning paper she held
in her hand, and Alice, to her utter consterna
tion, saw her own and Lord Medway s portraits
in united circles. The marriage was definitely
spoken of as certain to occur during the sum
mer, and some entirely gratuitous statements
were made concerning the bride s age and
requirements; her reputed fortune; the mar
vellous presents she was to receive, and the
magnificent trousseau in preparation.

She read the article through with indigna
tion, her tears fell fast and hot upon the offend
ing paper. " It is my father s doing," she said.
" He thinks after this public report of it I will
be compelled to acquiesce. I will do nothing
of the kind."



" I am sorry you cannot persuade yourself to
accept good fortune. Most girls would marry
a much less desirable man for the sake of his

"I think Alice Lloyd just as pretty a name
as Lady Medway," was the reply. "To be
an American girl is distinction enough. What
worth is there in a title? "

" No worth at all," said Jessie, " but titles are
like the feathers in a cock s tail, or the ruffles
round a girl s neck; they are ornamental and
please the majority. All the way here this
morning I have been dreaming so pleasantly of
your marriage. I wish you were going to be
Lady Medway."

" Why should you wish that?"

" Oh ! I may as well confess that my reasons
were thoroughly selfish ones. I expected pleas
ure and tclat from the event. I hoped in some
humble fashion to take part in it, and I thought,
perhaps, if I managed a trip to England in a
year or two, you would invite me to visit you.
There ! there ! I have told the truth, and the
whole truth, for once. Not many girls would
have been so honest. Let us go to our music
lesson now."

"Just a moment I think you are in love
with that handsome fellow you call Steve
Morrison? "



" Suppose I am; what then? "

" Would you give him up for Lord Medway,
or any other lord ? Would you ? Tell me the
truth, and the whole truth, once more."

Jessie dropped her eyes and held her chin
reflectively. She evidently desired to return a
truthful answer, and Alice waited patiently for
it. In a few minutes it was ready. The eyes
of the girls met, a smile rippled over Jessie s
face, and she said with a frank decisiveness,

"No; I would not."

Then Alice laughed joyously as she answered,
" I thought you were better than your words.
Now, if you like, we will go to the piano."

Alice was quite right in attributing the public
avowal of her marriage to her father. Nicholas
Lloyd was a wise man where money was in
question ; he was a foolish man where women
were concerned. He had one fixed standard
for them, not understanding that one standard
will not at all times measure even one woman !
There are so many women in one woman ! He
had left his wife and daughter on the previous
day in a mood of great irritation, but their
opposition affected him in no other way. Ex
tremely sensitive to public opinion himself, he
found it impossible to believe in the indifference
of Alice to a power he so cringingly respected.
The idea of announcing her forthcoming mar-


riage struck him in the cars, and he considered
it a remarkably clever one. Indeed, many
wondered that morning at the serene smile of
satisfaction on his countenance, and some of
the knowing ones predicted the condition
of certain stocks from it.

As soon as he reached the city he sent to
the family photographer and procured some
late portraits of his daughter. He put them in
a conspicuous position on his private desk.
He expected Lord Medvvay to call, and about
noon that gentleman arrived. He read over
the draft of the papers relative to his marriage
and to Alice s fortune, and expressed his per
fect satisfaction, adding cheerfully:

" There is nothing, now, Mr. Lloyd, to pre
vent me wooing my bride, and fixing the date
of the ceremony as early as I can persuade her
to make me happy."

" Nothing but Miss Lloyd s consent," an
swered the father, with a touch of sarcasm ; for
his pride in both his money and his daughter
was offended by the young man s air of
easy acceptance. " Miss Lloyd astonished and
annoyed me very much yesterday by asserting
her right to choose her own husband, and her
disinclination to accept you in that capacity."

" But why does she now object to me? "

" Girls are queer," he answered musingly.


" Her pride is roused. She talks about mar
rying for love, and for love only. I thought
Alice was a thoroughly up-to-date girl, and then
as soon as marriage is named she is as full of
sentiment and romance as women have always
been. I don t know what to make of it, nor yet
what is to be done."

Medway looked much troubled. He was
not a mercenary young man, in the worst sense
of the word, but he had thought of Mr. Lloyd s
millions, and of Mr. Lloyd s daughter, until
they had become part and parcel of his life and
estate. Also he had talked of his good fortune
to both his friends and his creditors, and he
could not bear to think of the scornful doubts
which would surely follow his disappointment.

Lloyd perceived his perplexity and divined
its cause, and he so played upon the young
noble s chagrin and fears that he was willing
to do anything to consummate so desirable a
marriage. Then Lloyd lifted his daughter s
picture, looked at it with thoughtful specula
tion, and asked Medway if he had any of
himself. "You see," he continued, "if your
pictures were published together, and the mar
riage formally announced, it would be next to
an impossible thing for Alice to decline it.
She could hardly bear to go into society again
if it were broken off. "

1 06


"To force the young lady into marriage by
such means would be a cruelty," Medway an
swered. " I could not do it. There must be
some other way," yet even while he was mak
ing this disclaimer he was considering that a
public announcement of this kind would exon
erate him from any suspicion of trying to de
ceive or of trading on a lie, even if the affair
did finally fall through.

Mr. Lloyd smiled at his scruple. He did
not understand a man who was not ready and
willing to accomplish his ends and serve him
self by any sure means within his power.
"Alice s hesitations," he affirmed, "were sim
ply a girl s romantic fancies." He was certain
that the man who dared boldly to put them out
of consideration would, in the end, win her
love and gratitude for his courage and wisdom.
"Besides," he added, "if you think it best, lay
the whole blame on me. If it be a fault to
make a daughter accept a great fortune, then
I will take the blame. It is mine, and I am
proud to take it. Allow me to manage this
affair. I know Alice Lloyd better than you
do. I know the sex also. Nothing pleases a
woman more than to be forced into doing the
thing she has already determined in her own
heart to do."

"Shall I call on her to-day ?"


"To-morrow will be better. Send me down
immediately some of your photos. I will, in
the meantime, give instructions to reporters,
and to-morrow morning Miss Lloyd will find
herself absolutely committed to a marriage that
she will be proud enough of, as soon as she
understands it is inevitable. Why, it will
bring her everything a woman desires, even
that perpetual sympathy which is the sweetest
of feminine morsels. She will cry a little to
all her friends as she shows her finery, and
say she is being forced into matrimony, and
they will condole with her and envy her at
the same time. That is a kind of bitter-sweet
that women enjoy so much that they easily
reconcile themselves to its occasion."

"It is not a very honourable transaction."

" It is perfectly honourable. You cannot do
with women as with men. They don t under
stand a straightforward manner, for they are a
crooked sex. After your marriage you can tell
Alice all about it, and she will smile at our
clever diplomacy. Anyway and all ways are
fair in love."

And Nicholas Lloyd really thought so. His
moral character, by constant wear and tear in
the money market, had become thin, tentative,
and provisional. It spoke, or it was silent, at
his pleasure. But yet he did not like the


thought of meeting Alice, and he concluded to
take his new secretary home with him. His
presence would be a restraint, and the first ex
planation be softened by the social necessity
of control in the company of strangers.

Alice thought this meeting with her father
to be extremely important, and she came into
the dining-room with the offending paper in
her hand. Her eyes bore the traces of her
weeping, her face was white and troubled, and
yet there was an air of pride and anger in her
address that seemed likely to assert itself above
all conventionalities. She saw John at her en
trance, and a flash of feeling, clear and swift
as light, passed between them. His presence,
however, did not deter her from the inquiry
she intended to put to her father. She touched
her father lightly on the arm, and he looked up
from a letter he was reading, and said with an
affectation of pleasant surprise:

" Ah ! then, it is you at last. Now we can
have dinner. Is your mother coming down

" Mother is coming, and dinner is ready ; but,
father, first of all, you must look at this ; " and
she put the paper into his hand.

" So you have seen the report ? " he said.
"Well, what about it?"

"What about it? Everything wrong and


shameful about it. I expect you to punish the
makers of such lies."

"Lies? Nonsense! It is, perhaps, a little
premature. McAslin, how do these reporting
fellows catch on to things ? "

"Generally some one tells them, sir."

" And my picture, too, father, how did they
get it ? "

" From the photographer, I suppose. Come,
my dear, I am hungry, and I don t want my
dinner spoiled by silly complaining. Most
girls would like to be so "

" Placarded ! No, indeed, they would not.
It has nearly broken my heart. I am so mor
tified so indignant "

"Oh, rubbish! Don t be foolish, Alice.
You can t help it. Nobody blames you. I
have seen Medway, and he is quite pleased at
the compliment."

" Oh ! Perhaps it was his doing. I will
never speak to him again. I will not permit
myself to be compromised into marriage.
People may say what they like. I won t! I
won t!"

" Mr. McAslin, give your arm to Miss Lloyd.
We will have dinner before controversy. " Mrs.
Lloyd entered as he spoke, and he immediately
joined her and proceeded to the dining-room.
" We can discuss the matter later in the even-


ing, Alice," he said, turning his head to make
the remark, which he did with an unusual gra
cious indifference, as if it were a subject of lit
tle moment.

Alice then accepted the requirements of the
hour, for further discussion at that time would
have involved the taking of the servants into
the family confidence. So she allowed a smile
to brighten her face, and became suddenly
lovely, for the sole reason that she suddenly
knew herself beloved. How did she know it ?
How does the flower know when the sun shines ?
John did not say a word; he did not even dare
to glance into her face, but she knew he loved
her. There was a silent, secret understanding
between his soul and her soul. Perhaps their
angels had confidences, and had agreed upon
the marriage. Or perhaps Love had always
stood waiting at the door of their hearts, and
the very moment a glance set it on the latch
he had entered. Yet, though both were con
scious of their guest, neither had yet dared to
say, " Welcome, beloved ! Come in, and dwell
with me."

It was to Mr. Lloyd s interest to keep the
conversation as far as possible from society
affairs, from newspapers, dress, marriage, and
the like ; but so few subjects, except money and
the relations of money, ever entered his mind


that he could think of nothing to say. There
was a short silence, in which every one was
extremely self-conscious and uncomfortable;
then Mrs. Lloyd broke the embarrassing pause
by an inquiry about Max Lehman; and Mr.
Lloyd took an immediate advantage of the
question. Any subject far enough from Lord
Medway was welcome, even Socialism.

"Lehman," he said, "is a passionate, vio
lent man, is he not, Mr. McAslin?"

" He is of the people, and for the people,
sir; but he is at least sincere."

" Perhaps, but sincerity is not truth. Error
of the worst kind is often sincere. He has a
bold voice and a few taking phrases, and these
things go a long way with such audiences as
Lehman has ; in fact, they go all the way. "

"I cannot say that," answered John. "The
people whom he addresses are mostly poor and
distressed, and like all sufferers they are look
ing for a remedy."

"There is no suffering and no want that is
not cared for in the city of New York. Look
at our hospitals, schools, libraries, charities of
all kinds and descriptions."

"But, Mr. Lloyd," said John, "these very
things convict our social condition of its sins;
they are the medicine of disease, not the bread
of life. The mere giving of money is not suf-


ficient if we are morally blind; we must do as
Lehman does, enter into the feelings and suf
ferings of others. Then our emotions will en
lighten our understandings, and we shall try to
prevent rather than to cure."

Mrs. Lloyd looked at John with a face so
eager, so full of question and desire, that even
her husband was astonished by its unusual ex
pression. " To prevent ! " she cried. " Oh, if
we only could! But how is it to be done?"

"There are so many ways possible to the

" That is so easily said. If you could be
more specific ! "

" I can. I think a rich man should set him
self some one great and possible work. He
could rebuild some of the worst parts of the
city, and give to the poor homes in which it
was possible for them to live cleanly and virtu
ously. He could found a university in which
there should be absolutely free tuition, and no
one could compute how much this one good
deed would change the world in a single gener
ation. He could keep the House of Legisla
ture pure "

" Oh ! oh ! Come now, Mr. McAslin ! you
are magnifying the power of gold in the wrong

"No, Mr. Lloyd," replied John McAslin,
8 113


" I am not. A great fortune could keep the
house pure by supplying funds for prosecutions.
If members knew they would be called to ac
count for bribery and corruption, for perjury
and for every malfeasance of office, small and
great, they would not render themselves liable
to indictment. A great fortune could found
free libraries in a large number of villages,
and it is from healthy, intelligent villages that
our large cities ought to be reinforced. A
great fortune could found local hospitals suffi
cient for every need. Oh, there are so many
ways, all equally noble and necessary, so many
things that rich men could do, and be happy
in the doing, far more happy than they are in
collecting pictures or indulging themselves in
luxury, or in simply amassing money."

" You are laying the regeneration of society
and the elevation of the poor upon the rich,"
said Mrs. Lloyd. " It is too great a work for
any class. Religion is the only power able for
it. Suppose we denied ourselves to the utter
most, and gave all we possessed to the poor?"
"It would be as nothing without charity."
"But is not giving up everything charity?"
" No, indeed ! The rich man must give him
self as well as his gold. If he wants to taste
the greatest blessing in the world, to know be
forehand the very happiness of heaven, he must


live for others. There is no true happiness till
this law is fulfilled, and the vainest of things
is to dream that denying self will do as well.
To die to self we must live for others."

"I do not understand."

"We must feel with others, be touched oy
their suffering, and busy for their happiness.
We must do as Christ did, lay our hands upon
the poor, and even the leper, and not stand afar
off and throw them a piece of gold."

"But that is the business of the church."

" Mrs. Lloyd, the church of the past is dying
now of its own respectability; the church of
the future must make the divine secular, and
the secular divine."

" But how ? "

"It must cover the whole ground of ordinary
life, with its multitude of interests and re
quirements. It is a miserably selfish religion
which busies itself about what will happen
when we die, which goes to church and repeats
creeds, and totally ignores the great law of
human brotherhood set forth by Christ as the
very rule of his Kingdom."

"The world has got to be carried on, sir,"
said Mr. Lloyd, with a little temper, "and pray
tell me, how is the law of human brotherhood
to be brought into business? It is pure non
sense ! Who cares for this brotherhood ques-


tion, when it is a matter of push, or the chance
of making a corner, or of cutting prices, or of
buying in the cheapest market ? You may rant
about equality, human brotherhood and liberty,
but what does it amount to ? There are no such
things in the market-places of the world."

" Yet no one can deny that these very words
represent the aspirations and hopes of untold
millions. And if the church of the future does
its duty, it will not leave a revolutionary press
and atheistical expounders to be the only teach
ers to use them. The church of the future will
take these magical words up in the name of
God, and give to them their truest and noblest

" Your sister Jessie, Mr. McAslin, has often
said to me, My brother John ought to be a
preacher. I agree with her," said Alice.
" You have an evident call for this church
of the future the church that shall teach the
brotherhood of men, liberty, and equality."

" There never can be any such thing as equal
ity," said Mr. Lloyd.

"There is an equality and there is an ine
quality, and both are of the ordination of God.
All men in his sight are of equal value. All,
according to their ability, are equally respon
sible. But until men and women are born
equally good and clever, equally healthy and


industrious, inequality in this world must ex
ist, and, indeed, as we advance in civilisation,
it will be more and more in evidence."

"Then you admit at least one irremediable
evil?" said Mr. Lloyd.

"I do not think this inequality an evil,
quite the contrary. Is it an evil in the family
where the weakness of age, the helplessness of
infancy, or the sickness of one of its members
calls forth all that is beautiful and self-deny
ing in love? Indeed it is not."

"You think, then, Mr. McAslin," said Mrs.
Lloyd, "that the weak member of a family I
mean weak in any respect ought to be con
tinually pitied, borne with and helped? "

"I do."

" And what if he fails again and again ? "

" He must be helped again and again. If
there is some weakness to be borne with, there
is always some good to be strengthened."

"Yes! yes! He must be helped again and
again!". Her face flushed, her eyes were
gleaming and tender.

But Mr. Lloyd rose up hastily, and with evi
dent annoyance.

" Come ! Come ! " he said, " we have had

enough, and more than enough of this. Let

us go to the drawing-room, and Alice will give

us some music. " But he was not any happier



under the charm of song. In the midst of mel
ody he could not keep Lord Medway out of his
mind, nor yet look at his daughter without an
uncomfortable feeling, though he kept privately
assuring himself that he had only done his
duty, and that in the long run Alice would
thank him for doing it.




IT was easy enough for Mr. Lloyd to reason
himself out of everything he ought to believe
and to feel; and while Alice and John were
making melody, and forgetting all else, he
slipped quietly out of the room. He wished
to avoid any discussion about Lord Medway;
for he believed that every hour the subject
could be deferred would make it more man
ageable. There was a little room on the ground
floor which he called his private office, and
thither he retired. Alice had never ventured
to trouble its selfish seclusion at any time, and
he threw himself on a comfortable lounge with
the easy reflection that he was safe at least for
that night.

In less than half an hour he was amazed to
see his wife intrude upon his privacy. Such
an event was unprecedented. He was not pre
pared in any way for a visit so unusual, and he
asked, with a show of anxiety, " Is any one ill ?
Is the house on fire? What remarkable thing
has happened ? "



"I have come to talk to you about Alice,"
she answered.

"This is a new departure," he said scorn
fully. " Since when have you begun to con
sider your daughter s affairs? "

" If I have appeared remiss in the past, there
is no necessity to continue the error. I wish
to spare Alice as much as possible; and I know
any conversation about Lord Medway will be
painful to her."

"Your duty is to talk to her on that very
subject. Any other mother would do so."

"I might talk to her in a way you
would not approve. If she does not love
Lord "

" Love ! love ! love ! It is all women think
of. I don t believe there is such a thing. I
intend Alice to marry Lord Medway, whether
she imagines herself in love with him or not.
The business part of the alliance is satisfac
torily completed; if you have any regard for
Alice s future, you will persuade her to get
through the sentimental part as soon as possi
ble. The young man will not wait too long
on her fancies ; not even for the pile of money
he gets with her."

"We know, Nicholas, what a loveless mar
riage means. "

"Yes, we do. You are right there."



"Do you wish Alice to suffer all I have
suffered ? "

"You have chosen to imagine yourself ill-
used. I can t help that. You have had every
thing a woman needs to make her happy."

" Everything but love. It would have been
better if I had had love and wanted everything
else. I insist upon Alice having perfect free
dom in the matter of marriage. She shall not
be forced into a life she hates. I will protest
against it even to the altar."

" What is the matter with you ? And as for
insisting, that is sheer folly."

" You will not find it so. I came here to
night on business. I am ready to make a bar
gain with you, for it is the only argument you

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe king's highway. [microform] → online text (page 6 of 19)