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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The winning of Lucia : a love story online

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borne at all — ^you will have to give and to take and
to bear and forbear — just like any other poor mar-
ried woman. Now I will go and give the women
and men a little relief, and I think I shall take a
nap myself this afternoon."

"Ann, wait a few minutes. You have run away
from me lately whenever I wanted to talk to
you."

"Well then, dearie, what do you want to say to
Ann?"

"Ann, I want you to like Arthur for my sake. He
is quite a changed man lately — since he loved me.
Dr. Studley says so."

Then Ann laughed scornfully, and her face
flushed, and her gray eyes flashed angrily. "I would
not give a broken bone button for John Studley*s
opinion," she answered. "Who is John Studley?
His father was a ploughman to Farmer Brent. How
can a man like John Studley, a peasant bom, judge
a real lord?"

"You must not talk in that way, Ann. Dr. Studley
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is a gentleman. He has won the right to the title —
father says so."

"Title I Yes, maybe, but he can*t look like Lord
Fenwick nor carry himself like Lord Fenwick nor
talk like Lord Fenwick. None of us like John Stud-
ley. He puts on airs and is so beyond reason clever
and good. O, miss, I don't believe he is a bit better
man than Lord Fenwick. When I was first out at
service, I heard my master often say a verse, that
just suited such good men as John Studley. Maybe
you would like to hear it?"

"Perhaps I would. Tell me it."

Then Ann said with inimitable emphasis :

"Thus spoke the crab unto the snake,
As in his claw he trussed him,
'Walk straight like me, you wriggling rake I
I hate that sideway custom.' "

"The master said some old Greek wrote it, so
there must have been men like John Studley long,
long ago. You know he has never got married.
Women see through him."

Lucia laughed and kissed her old friend and Ann
was very happy and told her to come down at twelve
instead of one, and she would find a nice little lunch
ready. *We had breakfast an hour earlier than
was right and proper," she added, "and when you
have eat a bit, lie down and dream an hour away.

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The house is sleepy and lonely without men folk. I
wish the Colonel would bide at home more. I sup-
pose he is looking for someone to whisper baby talk
to him.*'

*'He is not doing anything of the kind, Ann. He
told me that he had neither wish nor will to marry,
and father has an iron will; no one could make him
marry against it.*'

*'I don't care what kind of a will the Colonel has.
Women never go for a man's will — they know bet-
ter — they throw spells over their judgment, poor fel-
lows I"

"Spells I What nonsense, Ann I"

"If a woman has eyes worth anything, she can
throw spells. You, yourself with a glance could be-
witch any man. Do you think Lord Fenwick con-
sults his judgment or his reason when he makes him-
self a fool over your beauty, and says you are *the
pearl and flower of all womanhood?' You have
thrown a spell over him. You have not spoken to
him. Your eyes have done the business — a look
down and a look up, and what then had reason or
judgment to say? Tell me that."

"I wish you would hurry up lunch, Ann. I am
really hungry. Let us talk about some cold roast
beef and roasted apples and cream and a kiss from
Ann to make up for all my late neglect." And Lucia
looked so loving and delightful as she stretched out

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her aims that it was easy for Ann to take the kiss
in full pajrment for all the small slights she had been
blaming Lucia for.

Thus the days and the weeks wore away, and
perhaps they were not as perfectly happy as either
Lucia or Fenwick had intended them to be. Lucia's
position was that of queen and mistress of the house-
hold and it gave her natural inclination for power
every opportunity for pretty little, tjrrannies, not al-
ways as acceptable to Lord Fenwick as she thought
they would be. For his lordship had to the full
height of its measure an Englishman's conception of
the unapproachable authority of the husband So
though he submitted to Lucia's whims and ways with
a smile or a compliment, he held a reserve position
in his thoughts; he knew well— or thought he did^-i
that his day was coming.

Little changes in the whole household had been
brought about almost unavoidably. The Colonel
went more to the hunting fields in the neighborhood,
and he brought home with him more visitors than he
had been used to do; so that there was a constant
sense of entertainment in the old house. Lord Fen-
wick was frequently called to London by his lawyers
or to Fenwick Castle by his mother, and Lucia was
happily busy about her last preparations for the great
event of her life.

But life goes on with a relentless pace, whether

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days are happy or unhappy. Christmas came at its
appointed time and brought its usual gifts and feast-
ing; and after it| Lucia began to count the days —
only nine days — only eight "Only seven days now,"
she said one bright winter morning to Ann, "and I
don't believe your dress is even tried on, Ann. Yet
you must go with me to the church."

"I will do nothing of the kind, miss; and if
I did, pray who is to attend to the wedding break-
fast?"

"Lord Fenwick said the man who would bring
the wedding-cake from London would help you in
arranging the table."

"I'll have no help. I'll set it myself, everything
about it— -or I will not touch a cup and saucer. The
man from London is not wanted. He can leave the
cake, and take himself off."

"Have you seen Lord Fenwick this morning,
Ann? Did he breakfast in his room?"

"I saw him riding away with the ColoneL They
are gone to worry some poor fox to death. Lord
Fenwick will have a wife to worry soon; that will
please him better than a dumb beast that can't talk
back to him."

"Why do you hate Lord Fenwick so much, Ann?
You know it hurts me."

"I never was one to change my opinions. I
thought badly of Lord Fenwick twenty-three years

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ago, and I don't like him any better for running off
with you — ^the dearest thing in all my life.*'

"I wonder if they will bring anyone back with
them."

"I dare swear they will. They don't seem to be
able to wear the evening hours away without strang-
ers lately."

Then Lucia kissed Ann, and went away. She
would not notice Ann's remark, not even in her own
consciousness; but below all thought there lay a
sense of wonder and worry. Had she really ceased
to be quite sufficient for both Arthur and her father?
And it was this sense of wonder and worry she an-
swered when she whispered persuasively to herself:

''Oh, not I have lost nothing. Father fears los-
ing me — ^and Arthur! Why he is anxious only that
the seven days should be over that he may have me
altogether to himself. He hates company of all kinds
and calls them interferers."

Yet, if she could have been honest with herself,
she would have discovered that the monotony of love
undiluted had invaded even her own intense satis-
faction. She knew all her lover's fine speeches and
she had sometimes felt his poetical quotations to be
tiresome, and if they were from Browning, she pre-
tended they were not understandable. As lovers they
were in a false and even dangerous position, they
were familiar, but not familiar enough for those last

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confidences which are only possible to the husband
and wife. Both had their reservations; there were
places in both lives into which Love had not yet come,
and where it was possible he might come too late.

The shadow of this trouble was not quite absent
from Lucia's sensitive nature, but she would not see
it, nor make any inquiry, even to her own heart
about it To Lord Fenwick the shadow was quite
distinct, but he was learned in love, and in love's
devious ways, and it portended nothing to him but
what he felt quite able to manage. He never thought
of it but with a satisfactory smile.

And he was glad the trying period of love's pro-
bation was so near its close. An intensely proud
man, he had felt wooing — especially when there was
ho longer opposition — to be something of a humilia-
tion. He was going to make Lucia his wife, a peeress
of the realm, a lady of the English Court, and yet
he had been expected to wait on her time, to humor
her foolish ideas and to lengthen his term of wooing
nearly a month beyond his desires. It was certainly
a pleasure to him in many ways to remember that in
seven days more he would be a free lord of creation
again, owing neither obedience nor submission to
anyone but to his gradous Queen and his perfect
mother.

Some feeling — ^which she did not attempt to de-
fine — made Lucia array herself in great splendor

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that evening. Even her father, who was a lover of
fine dothingi wondered a little and asked her jok-
ingly if she was going to a St. James' drawing-room,
and she kissed him and said she wanted to wear her
pretty frocks first of all for his pleasure. And the
tears sprang to his eyes and he held her to his heart
for a moment.

"Thank you, my dear!" he answered. "And I
am glad to share my pleasure with so many of our
friends, as will be here tonight. I brought home
two ladies and two gentlemen with me and Lord
Lothian and Mrs. Lorimer will be here by seven
o'clock.**

So at half-past seven a goodly company sat down
to dinner at Abbot's Rest ; and Lucia had never been
so peerlessly beautiful, so magnificently gowned, nor
shown to her friends a manner so gracious and grace-
ful or so radiantly happy. Even Lord Fenwick, who
had had a disappointing day in the field, was de-
lighted anew. He anticipated the sensation her
beauty would make at Court; he felt that he had won
a great victory and tasted in advance the pleasant
cup of other men's astonishment and envy.

During the third course of the dinner while Dixon
was serving the Colonel's finest vintage and every
face was beaming with pleasure, there was a loud
knock at the door. Now the faculty of a knoc^ at
the door is to produce silence, and in this instance

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the silence was sudden and remaricable — ^renurkable
because the booming sound of the iron knocker of
the early monks was a fearsome sound, and sudden
because in the midst of laughter and feasting no one
expected the loud alarming sunmions of its fateful
call

The Colonel was the first to speak. He lodced at
John Studley, and said: '*It will be some shepherd
very ill and needing our help, Doctor;'* but while he
was thus speaking, a servant entered bringing a let-
ter for Lord Fenwick. Lucia with a half-uttered
exclamation stood up. She looked anxiously at her
lover and said faintly, "Arthur what is it?**

"It is the worst thing that could happen in this
world,** he answered, as he rose in passionate haste
and grief. "It is my mother calling me I She it
dying! I must go to her I I must take the next
train — Robert, what is it?**

Before the Colonel could answer, Lord Lothian
said: "By driving quickly to Kenton, you can catch
the North British train at Carlisle, about eleven
o'clock.**

"Dixon," said the Colonel, "you know the horses
best. You must go with Lord Fenwick to Kenton.**

"I will be ready in ten minutes, Dixon,** said Fen-
wick and with the words he left the room, giving
Lucia a glance so compelling that she instantly
obeyed its demand. There was a lighted room

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opposite the dining-parlor, and Fenwlck drew her
into it.

"Lucia, my darling!" he said, in hurried accent.
"You see, I must go at once. This letter is from Sir
James Hobart, the famous London physician. He
is with mother, and says I must not lose a moment
if I would see her alive T*

"You know, Arthur, that it is only seven
days ''

"I know I And I know I must see my mother or
I should never have another happy hour! I cannot
talk now. I will write to you from Fenwick Castle."

"Arthur I"

"Good-bye, darling!"

"But you will be here before"

"There is Dixon with the gig."

"Oh, no not yet, Arthur."

"And I have a few orders for my valet, and I
must get my purse, dearest. I will write, what I
have no time to say. My beautiful Lucia!" And
he hurriedly kissed her. Then she heard him going
up the stairs, and a low agonizing cry followed him,
though he heard it not. At the same moment her
father entered the room. "Lucia," he said, "come
to your guests. Your absence is inexcusable."

"I cannot ! I cannot 1 Arthur is leaving me."

"For three or four days. What is that to make
a sensation about? Come, my girl, you are a sol-

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dier's daughter. If this is a trouble, meet it bravely
and cheerfully." With such words he persuaded her
to return with him to the dinner table, and there she
played the part Fate had assigned her without either
affected indifference or exaggerated disappointment.
The Colonel praised Fenwick*s devotion to his
mother, he spoke of their deep attachment and of
all the sick lady had done for the house of Fenwick;
and was sure only something pertaining greatly to its
interest had forced her to recall her S(hi when his
wedding-day was so near at hand.

But apologizing conversations are never interest-
ing. The social tone of the evening which had begun
so happily, was sensibly lowered and the stay of the
guests much shortened. In the main these results
were the work of John Studley, for he knew the lady
of Fenwick Castle and he knew also the inexorable
traditions and customs of the family of Fenwick;
and his heart failed him for fear of some unfore-
seen calamity.

However, to Lucia the shortening of the evening
was a blessing. She thanked Studley with her eyes
and played her part better because she understood
he was curtailing the trial as much as possible; also
she was glad that he himself remained with her
father after all the other guests had departed. She
did not feel as if she could talk with her father; he
had taken her lover's impatient hurry to obey his

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mother's demand in far too complacent a temper.
She thought he ought to have said, ^'Arthur, your
absence at this time is impossible/' She was sure
that some definite promise as to his return should
have been exacted and it was her father's place to
speak for her in such an extremity.

So she slipped away to her room and almost im-
mediately Ann came to her. Ann had heard of the
bridegroom's journey and had no hesitation in char-
acterizing it.

"It is a mean do as ever I heard tell of/' she said
with hot anger.

"A very famous doctor says Lady Fenwick is dy-
ing, Ann."

"I have heard famous doctors say that for more
than twenty years, miss. She can't die and she won't
die until she is called. She ought to be glad she is
not wanted. What did John Studley say?"

"Dr. Studley said nothing. He looked almost
sternly at Lord Fenwick, but he did not oppose his
going away and he also looked at me but still said
nothing."

"He did not know what to say. It is the hardest
thing in the world for a man to discover what a
woman really wants him to say. If they find out
what they mutually think about the weather, it is
as much as can be expected of them. And maybe
Lord Arthur was only giving you a lesson."

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"A lesson?"

"Yes, letting you sec that even when the wedding-
bells were about to ring, he would put himself and
his mother before you. If so, he will be back here
in time to please himself. Men like to give the
woman they are going to marry a little example of
their superiority, especially in the way of putting
self and company before her.'*

"There is no man that can serve me in that way.
I have as many rights as Lord Fenwick, and as much
of every right as he has. He may be equal to me,
but he is not above me.'*

"Well, miss, them as thinks the wife inferior to
the husband have the Bible on their side; and you
had better remember this before you talk of your
equality and the like of it. How can any woman
hope for consideration with St. Paul standing be-
tween her and her husband? Now, I'll tell you
what, you may talk against Paul and vow he was
only a disappointed old bachelor, and people will
smile and take it easy; but if, when you are Lady
Fenwick, you talk of your equality and your rights
as some women are beginning to do, everyone will
be up in arms at once and you will hear words you
won't like about the foundations of society and the
sacredness of home."

"I shall not heed them. They can talk."

"Then that remarkable thing called respectability

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will be touched, and that will touch Lord Arthur to
the quick; and he will take up the parable against
you, and he has his mother's tongue, if it be not well
oiled"

"We are away from our subject, Ann, and I shall
not offend respectability in any way. I will honor
my husband and he will honor me equally. I will
obey him, and he will obey me equally. I will have
justice, then I shall have love."

"I am glad to hear it, miss. Women have been
snubbed and bullied long enough, but to say ihey like
it is to add insult to injufy. And I think you may
take my word that Lord Arthur will be back in time
for his wedding. This is a little scare. It is one of
his mother's fine plans to increase his importance."

"So I am to be kept anxious to the last moment
in order to increase Lord Arthur's importance."

"Just that, but it is only for a week. It is after
midnight now, it is really Thursday morning, and
next Thursday is your wedding-day."

And Lucia said, "Perhaps/" and the next moment
was angry at herself for uttering the ill-omened
word. A little crossly she added, "Lord Fenwick is
on the train now, and I want to sleep. You say it is
now Thursday — ^when will Lord Fenwick reach his
home?"

"Tonight, easy, about ten o'clock."

"Then he could sit and talk with his mother all

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Friday and be back here on Saturday. Is that so?"
''He could do that if he wished. But say he took
Saturday night's train, he could be here on Sunday
night. That would give him two days with Lady
Fenwick and he would have three days here to help
us in the last work and way for Thursday morning.
They begin to decorate the church next Tuesday,
Matthew Holt told me. Lord Fenwick gave him the
order, and he was to spare no expense in doing it.
Good night, or rather, morning, miss, and I hope
you will have some resting sleep.'*

"Why not, Ann? I heard father say he was feav-
ing for the hunt soon after six. It is to be his last
ride before my marriage."



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CHAPTER X

THIS, TOO, WILL PASS AWAY
Alasl how easily things go wrong

« 4^ 4^ « 4t 4e ♦

And there follows a mist and a weeping pain,
And life is never the same again.

WARM and sweet and rosy with comfort-
able sleep, Lucia awoke the following
morning, and with a lazy sense of happy
well-being stretched out her fair limbs, feeling the
exercise to be just what she wished and required In
these moments of awakening there was no sense of
trouble in her heart. She had forgotten that trouble
existed, but it soon found her out and the mere name
of it smote her with fear and anxiety.

Arthur had left her in dubious uncertainty. There
had been no time for explanations or rearrangements.
From the knock at the door to the receding sound
of his departing vehicle only half an hour had
elapsed, and of that half-hour she had received but
a few minutes of promise and consolation.

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She rose hurriedly and began to dress, and was
glad when Ann came to her with some letters and the
information that the Colonel had left home at day-
light and that her unserved breakfast was putting
back the whole business of the day. "And you have
to go to Kenton, miss, and would you like to have
Elbert drive you there? He isn't a bad driver,
though of course without Dixon's experience,"

**I will have no one drive me, Ann. Tell Elbert
to saddle my riding horse and be ready to attend me.
I will be there and back in time for lunch." Then she
laid her hand on Ann's arm, and looked at her
anxiously. "Is it any use going, Ann?"

"Why not, dearie?"

"Arthur may not get back in time for our "

"Such nonsense ! He would be a man in a million
if he did not get back.'*

"Well, he might just be that man in a million."

"Why are you boding ill to yourself ? The master
has no fears. He went away this morning whistling
like a ploughboy, whistling just for very content.
You must be wanting your breakfast to be so faint-
hearted. I never saw the like, but a cup of coffee
and a gallop to Kenton, will set you up a bit, no
doubt of it."

In a measure, Ann was right Lucia came back
from Kenton glowing with the exercise, and quite
able to fling every doubt and fear behind her. She

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enjoyed her lunch, for Ann served it and talked of
her wedding preparations the whole time with more
than her usual confidence and satisfaction. And in-
deed the meal was much delayed by this conversa-
tion, but it blended itself comfortably with the de-
licious food and cheering cup of Pekoe. Lucia rose
from it happy and confident, the more so because
just at this favorable moment the postman brought
her a letter from Lord Fenwick which he had found
time to write while waiting at Carlisle for the north-
eastern train.

It was a letter written in haste and turmoil and
great trouble of heart, but it was also a passionate
love letter and Lucia told herself that it was all she
could expect or desire. He also explicitly stated in
it that he would be back at Abbot's Rest three da3rs
before the blessed morning that he was to make her
his wife.

With this white comfort next her heart she went
to her room to rest. But she was far too happy and
too exigently alive to be still. "There is sure to be
someone calling," she thought. "They are so curious
in the village, and they expect in some way to share
all the pleasure of the ceremony. And Oh, how glad
Arthur and I will be to escape all the fuss and feast-
ing and wedding obligations! Why Arthur would
even like to run away from breakfast and the cut-
ting of the wedding-cake. I hope Lucy Pearson will

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get Ac ring in it I think I will dress eariy-
onc can tell what may happen, or who will come."

An hour afterwards, just as she was pinning a
spray of mistletoe m her hair, there was a sound of
carriage wheels on the graveled walk, and imme-
<fiate!y after the booming of the big iron knocker
on the door. Its sound annoyed her. There was a
modem bell for visitors, quite evident and handy,
and she was provoked it had not been seen and
used.

"It must be some stranger," she said irritably.
^Anyone from the village knows the knocker is only
for show; indeed I shall not forgive the postman
using it last night. It frightened everyone, and the
'Haste^ notice was no excuse. He "thought it was
important, and that the family might have retired.'
Such nonsense I The house was alight. And pray
who can be knocking now? At four o'clodc in the
afternoon when everybody rs busy about something.
1 wish Ann would come and tell me-^I am getting
nervous — I hate that old monkish knodcer — I will
ring for Aim. She ought to come to me about every-
thing—especially at this time. She takes too much
on herself and I shall tell her so." Then Ann tapped
at tile door, and before Lucia could speak entered
the room. She looked grim and out of temper, as
she said :

**Here is a young person from Fenwick Castle.

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She insists upon seeing you — says she has a letter
for you from Lady Fenwick and so on "

**Why did yon not bring her to we at once?"

^'Because I was trying to find out if she was com-
ing with good or bad intent. I did not want you to
be put out of the way unnecessarily, but she will tell
me nothing."

**Then send her to me."

"Are you sure you want to see her?"

"Yes. Send her to me."

Ann with a disappointed air went about her
errand, and Lucia walked to her largest mirror and


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe winning of Lucia : a love story → online text (page 10 of 19)