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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The winning of Lucia : a love story online

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riage?"

"You are supposing the question under entirely
new conditions, father. You would have acted dif-
ferently. I should have felt differently. Everything
would be changed by a change of conditions. I can
imagine very probable circumstances that would have
excused the marriage — if it needed excuse. If the
marriage was a proper marriage, death could only
add a touch of solemnity to a rite never made as
solemn as it ought to be. Marriage is really a new
life; there are better ways of entering it, than by
eating and drinking and dancing. But what is the
use of talking? You had better see to Studley. He
will relieve you of all trouble incidental to the mis-
erable affair, and when you return I will be able to
consider our destination, for I must leave here early
tomorrow."

"You are talking great rant. You cannot leave
here. Arthur will come no doubt as soon as the
funeral is over. Really, I ought to go to the funeral.
Lady Fenwick was my mother's half-sister; I think
Arthur will feel it very keenly if I do not go to Fen-
wick. I had selfishly forgotten this side of the ques-
tion."

"Father, you had better see Dr. Studley. I hope
it will not be too selfish to inform our friends and

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the public that the death of Lord Fenwick's mother
prevents him honoring his promise to the girl he was
to make his wife."

"It is not a nice position for Lord Fenwick to be
placed in, but every man of property and family will
understand it and S]rmpathize with him," observed
the Colonel.

"And the forsaken girl? What of her?"

"She is not forsaken. Let her wait the appointed
hour. It will come in its proper time."

"I think It is exceedingly doubtful. Make haste,
father. I want to leave very early in the morn^
ing."

"Where do you want to go?"

"I do not know until I have a talk with you."

"I do not approve of your leaving your own home*
It Is not the correct thing to do. At any rate you
must wait until we hear from Arthur. He will want
to see you after the funeral."

"I will not sec him. Let him keep away from me.
I am going somewhere to hide myself. I know how
people will look at me, and what they will say."

"Wait till you get Arthur's next letter. That is
only fair. Dear me 1 I hope Arthur will not feel
hurt at my absence."

"Go to Fenwick, by all means, father. The woman
will not be buried imtil Saturday. You have plenty
of time."

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"I will wait for Arthur's next letter. It will be
here tonight or in the morning."

''In the morning may be too late for me. I should
like to leave tonight Tomorrow ought to have been
my wedding-day. I cannot stay here — you ought not
to ask me."

''Well, I will go and ask Studley to take my place.
Of course, he will attend Lady Fenwick's funeral,
but that will not take place until Saturday — ^perhaps
Monday. Many of the Fenwicks will have a long
journey to take, but they will all be present. Lady
Fenwick is very much respected."

Lucia threw herself on her bed and did not an-
swer, and the Colonel suddenly became aware of how
much there was to undo, and how little time was left
for the undoing. So with a few words of common-
place advice he hurriedly left the room, and when Lu-
cia heard him ridingswiftlydown the avenue, she rang
her bell, and it was answered instantly by Ann Idle.

"I knew you were wanting me, dearie I What can
Ann do for you ?"

"Everything that can now be done, Ann. First,
send all my trunks to the railway station. Are they
addressed?"

"Eight of them are locked, strapped, and ad-
dressed to Fenwick Castle."

"Tear off that address. I will give you another.
Tell Dixon to get the wagon and take them to the

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railway station and when he is ready the new address
will be ready."

In half an hour the change had been effected, and
Lucia from her window watched Dixon driving the
trunks to the railway station. Ann had made no
opposition and asked no questions. There was
something about the mood and manner of her young
mistress which denied all interference — a touch of
her father's temper and stubbornness that scouted
all advice or meddling. Silent, with an air irre-
vocable and unalterable in purpose, she sent away all
that she possessed, and Ann found her accustomed
freedom of speech desert her. She saw that the
trunks had been readdressed to a London hotel, but
she found no words that seemed fitting to ask for a
reason for this. She noticed that the Colonel had
laid out some entirely black clothing and she had
wondered whether he really meant to wear mourning
for Lady Fenwick, and, further, if he intended to go
to the funeral.

This last question she finally ventured to propound
to Lucia. It was answered by an indignatnt nega-
tive. "I shall not permit it," she said. "I have no
one but father, and he must go with me and stay
with me."

"Tell me, honey, where you are going? Where-
ever it is, Ann must go with you."

"O Ann I Ann! My heart is nearly broken with

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

wounded love and cruel shame. This Is the second
time my marriage with Arthur has been prevented,
and you know what everyone will say. I cannot
bear to see the faces of those who have been with
me the last few months. I have been too happy,
Ann, too set up with my great fortune, and too ready
to talk of all I intended to do for everyone I knew.
They will make sport of me — all kinds of sport —
and I deserve it ! Oh, yes, I deserve it I"

*Tou do not. You have only been kind as you
could be. Who can help death? It comes from the
will of God— or the devil. What do you want Ann
to do, dearie?"

"I do not know what will come about in a year,
Ann, but if I do not marry Arthur, at the end of it,
then I will never come back to Abbot's Rest. I am
going somewhere for a year and you must go with
me.

"What will come of the house?"

"Dbcon and John Studley will be sufficient to care
for the house, after you have put all safely away.
Father must go Tnth us."

"Tomorrow morning?"

"I shall leave tomorrow morning by the eight
o*clock train. I was to be married at half-past
eleven. I shall be in London at that time."

I cannot leave the house as it is, dearie. Think
of the silver and crjrstal, the fine linen and bedding,

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the expensive wines and furniture. It will take me
a hard week's work.'*

"Then, Ann, I will wait in London for you."

*'And, there is the wonderful store of good things
to eat we have been preparing; what is to be done
with them?"

"Send the Pearsons the best of the game and the
big Norfolk turkey and your finest pastry and con-
fectionery. Give all the rest to the poor women and
children of the village. Studley will look after the
bell-ringers and pay for father what has to be paid."

Until it was quite dark, the Colonel and Studley
were busy in the melancholy business of undoing and
unsaying, and the Colonel came home in a real or a
pretended bad temper. Ann thought it was real.
Lucia was sure it was all put on for the purpose of
suppressing any show of anger or feeling on her part
and this idea aroused in her a fixed determination
to carry out her own desires.

In the first place, the Colonel came to the dinner
table with the orthodox band of crepe round the
sleeve of his black coat, and casting a look of aston-
ishment and displeasure upon his daughter's gay
crimson satin, asked, "Have you not a black dress
in your wardrobe, Lucia?"

"I have several, father."

"Why, then, do you not wear one?"

"I do not like black."

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"But you must wear it — for Arthur^s sake. He
will be deeply hurt at any omission of respect In the
mourning for Lady Fenwick."

*'I do not mourn for Lady Fenwick. I shall make
no pretence of doing so."

"Have you considered what remarks will be made
on its omission?"

''No. I am indifferent to them. I shall go to
some place where Lady Fenwick was never heard
of."

"You will remain here — in Abbot's Rest — at least
for some time."

"I wish to leave tomorrow morning by the eight
o'clock train. I expect you will go with me, father.
You ought to do so. If you will not, I shall take
Ann. We are both ready."

"What foolishness you arc talking I You cannot
go away tomorrow. It would be an act of cowardice
that I shall not permit you to perpetrate."

"You would prefer me to stay here, and be the
mock of every fool, and the jibe of every ill-natured
man and woman. You prevented most unjustly my
marriage in the spring. Now an old woman of
eighty locks the door against it, but I ought not to
fret over such a bridegroom. Had he been worthy
of me, he would have found out a way."

"It is not Arthur's fault."

"It is. If he had come to me in the spring — ^if he

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had found ten minutes to see me — and he could have
done so easily — I would have run away with him.
But he was afraid of his mother. Tied to her apron
string, as he always has been. If he or you had but
spoken of our marriage the night we first heard of
Lady Fenwick's sickness, the enthusiasm of the com-
pany would have carried it through, for it was as
if some power had foreseen and prepared for it.
There was a feast on the table, there was a gay com-
pany of friends, I fittingly attired, and Arthur would
probably have delayed an hour so that this dreadful
position might have been spared me.'*

''You talk like a wicked, disobedient girl. I and
Dr. Studley have had some most unpleasant hours
undoing the foolish or excessive preparations made
for your intended marriage. I was always in favor
of two or three friends and a plain religious cere-
mony.'*

"The excessive preparations came from Arthur's
desires."

"Instigated by your vanity and extravagance."

"Father, I am suffering enough. The lash of your
reproofs is unnecessary. But when you are capable
of such cruel judgment and hard words, what can I
expect from jealous acquaintances and suspicious
strangers?'*

"I will tell you Tiiiat you may expect — ^perhaps
dien you will see diat it is your best policy to remain

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

under your father's roof and protection. Some will
$ay, *It is a very queer thing — a few months since
they should have been married, but Lord Fenwick
disappeared — sick, they said — but who knows what
was the matter; now he runs away because he hears
his mother is sick. Dear me ! It is a queer world I
I'm dashed sorry for the girl. Some man may in-
terpose. She's a nice girl, and pretty beyond the
usual, but very high-tempered they do say who
ought to know. And women are sly creatures; she
was too kind and too fair to be without a lover while
the real lover was sulking.' That is the way people
wiU talk.'*

"I suppose it is — from what I have observed."

"Well then, be wise and stand by your own good
name. The matter has been explained to all our
friends, the Westmoreland Gazette will say what is
necessary to the public, and the young people who
were to take part in what I must still call your ex-
travagant ideas have had the circumstance made
clear as daylight to them.*'

"They will believe nothing but their own sus-
picions and desires.'*

"And if you left suddenly and clandestinely and
without your father's company and protection, they
would be justified in saying what they suspected and
thought. Do you not also see that if Arthur heard
of your disappearance, he would either remain at

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Fenwick or he would go somewhere to try and find
you — but he would not come here; and that circum-
stance alone, would give color to the worst anyone
would care to say."

Lucia had not taken this last argument of the Col-
onel into her consideration in any respect. It was like
a gate shut in her face. She did not know how to
get through it or over it, and she remained silent
But the sorrow and perplexity on her white face
touched the Colonel deeply, and he said in a much
kinder voice :

'Xucia, remain here for a few days. No one will
dare to say an unkind or disrespectful word of you
or to you while I stand at your side. Arthur will
come here as soon as the funeral is over. He will
meet in your society all our friends. He will remain
long enough to talk to all who have known him.
There will be no question but the true one, and no.
one can manufacture wrong out of that. There will
be inmiense interests of various kinds relating to Fen-
wick to examine and put in business shape, and
Arthur will have much to do for many weeks or
months, but as soon as his presence has put all right
here then I will go away with you and we will get
over the interval as happily as we can. What do you
say to this, the only reasonable course left you?"

"And tomorrow was to have been my wedding-
day I O father, father, I am heart-broken with shame

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

and grief r' and with these words she burst into pas-
sionate sobbing and weeping. Colonel Ragnor
watched her a moment or two. He had never before
seen a woman in such an abandon of sorrow, and
while he was wondering what to do and going to
touch the bell for Ann, Ann entered the room, irate,
flaming, and ready to fight Lucia's battle. She took
Luda to her breast, and petted and consoled her with
words very uncomplimentary both to the Colonel and
Lord Fenwick, to the living and the dead, and to all
concerned.

"Your poor, hunted, little lamb I'* she cried. "Is
he worrying you to death, darling?"

"O Ann, Ann I If my mother was only alive
tonight I She would pity me I It is not my fault, is
it, Ann? Yet I am scolded, as if I could help Lady
Fenwick dying. And about the ices and cakes and
flowers and bell-ringers, and all the extravagance.
It is not my fault, is it, Ann?"

"Not a bit of it. It is the Colonel's fault, and
Lord Fenwick's fault, and I suppose the lord can pay
for it."

"Annl"

"Yes, Colonel, it is. Miss Lucia has been fairly
scrimpy. The darling has not spent half enough on
her clothes. Not half enough ! She had to have a
wedding garment, I suppose. Jesus Christ knew that
much — all the rest just came natural. I call this a

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very uncommon way of carrying on against a litde lass
heart-broken with sorrow and disappointment I wish
her mother was alive 1 God knows she needs herl"

"Ann, if you talk that way you must leave my
presence.'*

"Yes, sir, and your house too— a haunted, gloomy,
God-forsaken place, it is. And when I go, I will
take my little one with me. I'd be reasonable, sir,
for once in a lifetime, if I was you."

"I want nothing, Ann, but that she should remain
at home with me until after Lord Fenwick has been
here. You must see how necessary this is.'*

"No, sir, I do not see it. She had better never
see him again. Take her away or I'll go with her
myself, and then what will come of this house I
wonder?"

The Colonel made a movement of great impa-
tience. "There is no use talking to women," he mut-
tered. "They won't see the right from the wrong —
they won't do it."

"You have an uncommon way of looking at things,
Colonel Ragnor. You know that by tomorrow at
this time all the fellside will be ringing with Lucia
Ragnor. She must go away."

"She will stay here with me as long as I think
proper and necessary. Go and send Dixon to wait
on me. I want my dinner. I have been in the saddle
all day nearly."

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

"Dixon? Yc8, sir! To be sure you are hungry,
and a hungry man is an angry man. Miss Lucia
should have waited "

"Luda, come to your place at the table. When
you have had your dinner you will be more reason-
able."

But Lucia left the room widi Ann, saying as she
went something about her mother which made the
Colonel very uncomfortable. He missed their full
import, but the word mother was quite sufficient.
He felt as if his long-lost Vera was at his side, and
mentally he began to justify himself to her. And his
dinner was spoiled. His hunger was gone and noth-
ing tasted right to him.

Lucia fared better than her father. Ann brought
to her room a tray full of delicate and delicious food,
and then coaxed her to eat by all those kindly, lit-
tle personal arguments whose convincingness women
know so well — "You must eat, honey, you will have
a hard day tomorrow — ^whatever comes or goes.
This breast of grouse will keep up your courage;
grouse are game-birds, and you will require some-
thing to help you to stand up to your father — he*s
in a nasty temper. I never saw him in the like be-
fore."

"Periiaps he is right, Ann."

"If you have made up your mind to go away in
the morning, don't you let yourself even think he

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might be right Be sure you are right, and he is
wrong, or you will have no comfort. He did say
one thing, that has a sound of common-sense in it.
It struck me as reasonable because it took into ac-
count the wickedness of men and women."

''I think ever3rthing he said was against me.*'

"Like enough! Men can't bear crying women,
especially if it's time for eating; but he did remark
that he wanted you to stay until Lord Fenwick came
here after the funeral. He wanted folks round to
see there was no quarrel and no turn-back for you ;
that it was really death that parted you for the pres-
ent, and not ill will. That was not bad sense. People
have to believe their own eyes and ears and he likely
thought you were a soldier's daughter, and could do
what you had to do, however disagreeable it might
be, and pass it off as if it was a smiling every-day
aif air. It is a man's way to think a woman is just
what he wants her to be. Some women can be it
and some wouldn't if they could, but it is the pride
of my heart to say that Lucia Ragnor knows what is
right and wrong and will always do the right whether
she likes its way or not."

"Ann, you may say that surely and I am going to
consider now whether my father's plan is better than
mine. If so, I shall follow it."

"To be sure you will. Indeed, miss, you could so
easily turn your own sorrow into the joy of others

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

that the f ellside would ring with your praise and that
would be better than the bit of foolish romance that
would come out of running away and hiding yourself.
What for should you do the like of that? Colonel
Ragnor's daughter may look the world in the face
and never droop an eyelash. The Colonel will also,
no doubt, come to his best self in the nighty for there
are words said at night you couldn't hear in the day."

Peiiiaps the Colonel heard some of these counsels
of the night, for he rose in that calm and cheerful
mood, which is disposed to make the best of any
situation. The putting off of Lucia's marriage al-
lowed him to retain his daughter for at least another
year and that was a compensation adequate and satis-
factory. For he knew well that the ceremony of
^'giving away" in the marriage rite was an actual and
very real surrender. After it his daughter would
never be the same; at the very best, he might per-
haps hope to share what was once all his own.

And Lucia after her night's session with her own
heart and her own best interests, was also wisely dis-
posed. It was truly the day she had set apart in
sweet and loving thought as her wedding-day, and it
had come with disappointment only. The cold dawn
broke silently and there was no carillon of bells as
she had planned there should be, chiming joyously.

Hail happy mom!
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But she met her father with smiles and that cheerful
face which is the right of the breakfast table, and
instantly and confidentially opened the subject that
was the only interesting one at that time.

^Tather," she said, '1 have thought a great deal
about what you advised and I have come to the con-
clusion that you are right — as you always are — and
that I will do cheerfully all you propose." Then he
opened his arms and took her to his heart, and they
sat down to talk the matter thoroughly over. The
few points relating to her continuance at Abbot's
Rest were so evidently wise and prudent, that they
were soon arranged and agreed to. Then Luda
asked:

*^What must be done with all the luxuries prepared
for the wedding-guests, father?"

"I have thought of that, Lucia. We have eight
shepherds on the fells, and all of the eight must have
a fine Norfolk turkey and what game and sweetmeats
Ann thinks right We will have the Pearsons and
Dr. Studley to dine with us and give them the best
of all the good things prepared. Whatever is over
Dr. Studley will direct to the old and poor and sick
in the village so that after all our marriage feast
may actually resemble the one described by St. Mat-
thew where the wedding-guests were furnished from
the highways because those bidden did not come."

"I think your idea a very good one father* and
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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

we will call in Ann and tell her to prepare baskets
and messengers. And you will see Dr. Studley and
the rector yourself, will you not?"

'^I will certainly do so," and he touched the little
silver bell at his side. Its clear, sweet tinkle brought
Ann in a moment or two, and she looked so weary
and careworn and so full of trouble, that Lucia could
not resist the impulse which made her haste to com-
fort her. *'Ann," she cried, "we are going to send
all the good things prepared for my wedding to the
families of the shepherds and to the old and poor
and sick in the village."

"That is the first bit of good tidings this weary
wedding-feast has brought me," she answered, and
then from her more intimate knowledge of the peo-
ple to be favored, she made some excellent plans and
suggestions, which she was left with absolute power
to carry out according to her judgment and desire.

The little dinner for the Colonel's intimates was
also splendidly ordered, and Lucia so far followed
popular feeling as to wear black with a great deal
of white trimmings, or perhaps it was white, with
a great deal of black trimming, but it was a conces-
sion that greatly pleased her father and brightened
his face with the light she loved best to see there.

Dr. Studley brought with him a loving letter from
Lord Fenwick, and a little precious case containing
the plain gold marriage ring, and a guard for it

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composed of the most splendid gems. He desired
her to put it on then and there for his sake, and
promised to see her as soon as it was possible to do
so. Dr. Studley had gone down to the village for
this letter and ring, and Lucia thoroughly under*
stood the kindness of heart, that had made him re^
member that the earlier a love-letter comes, the wel-
comer it is. She thanked him with a glance of her
beautiful eyes, and asked him as they stood quietly
together and a little apart from the other guests to
put the rings upon her finger, and with a whispered
blessing he did so. : ;

That was on Thursday night and there was a
short note from Fenwick on Friday morning, after
that complete silence for three days. Lucia became
very unhappy and remained in her room. She was
too tired of supposing and inventing excuses and
reasons. ^'Arthur has not written, and that covers
the whole ground," she said wearily on Monday
night as they sat down to dinner. *^If he had writ-
ten, the letter would have been here. I suppose he
is sick again."

Soon after dinner was over Dr. Studley came with
the delayed letter, but it was not from Lord Fen-
wick but from a doctor resident near the castle. It
was a touching bit of script, and the doctor thought
it would be a welcome peacemaker.

''I have a letter from Fenwick," he said as he

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

gratefully took a seat within the warmth and glow
of the large hearthstone. "Yes, I have a letter from
Fenwick."

**Is it from Lord Arthur?" asked the Colonel.

"No. It is from Dr. Moffat, a physician of good
reputation. He says Lord Fenwick has been seri-
ously ill but is recovering, and he expects to be able
to travel in about a week." Then, he added, "I hope
I have not done wrong in bringing the news today."


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe winning of Lucia : a love story → online text (page 12 of 19)