Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The winning of Lucia : a love story online

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soon learned their voices and were of trusting and
kindly natures. And the Colonel generally made
some remark about their being the revealers to him
of two friends who rose gladly to his necessity the
moment they heard of it. Then they went happily
home to the fireside and the good meal spread in its
glow and light. Perhaps there was a letter waiting
them from Arthur or Geoffrey. It was always met
with smiling welcomes, for they were getting anxious
to hear of their return, the North Sea having no
comfortable quarters after the advent of October.


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One evening when the Colonel had been speaking
of this dreary, restless sea, there was one of the wel-
come epistles waiting. It was from Geoffrey, and
addressed to the Colonel. He said they had been
spending a week or more with a large highland
farmer, whose big, far-spreading home was near
Wick and who lived there among his own people in
Homeric simplicity. But, he continued:

"We have some splendid grouse shooting on his
heathery hills, and Oh, sir, we would have given
much for your company! Such sport as we had
every morning and such lunches in a litde glen
beside a sparkling stream that gave us water to
dilute or wine or whiskey. Our host was one of
those highland gentlemen who supply the London
markets with game, and he was well pleased when
his guests were good shots and did not shatter
the birds and render them unsalable. They were
grandly welcome to his symposium pies, his
Flambro' sausage, hard-boiled eggs, and wine or
whiskey. While we eat, the gillies spread out on
the heather the spoils of the morning, in order that
their plumage might dry before packing because, I
was told, a fine bird is often spoiled by one wet
feather. He said also, that a good shot will easily
kill, if he has keeper and friend with him,
seventy-five brace of grouse, beside a few hares
and snipe."

"That is too commercial for me,'* commented the
Colonel. *1 do not call it sport I am glad I was


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not there. I might have said so and thus given

"Yet you would have been right, father," said
Lucia. "Does he say anything about Arthur?"

"He says Arthur shot well and enjoyed himself
very much."

"How soon are they coming home, father?" asked

He looked up and smiled at her and then glanced
over the paper and answered, "Geoffrey says they
start for home in a week. He is going to the St.
Clairs*. Arthur is coming here, though he may have
to stop at Fenwick Castle for a few days."

"How provoking I Fenwick seems to be on every
road he travels. I wonder if he could come once to
Abbot's Rest without first going to Fenwick?" She
looked at her father, but as he took no notice of the
remark, she added, "One might imagine that Lady
Fenwick still sat in her big chair, and called, 'Arthur,
come here I Arthur, go there 1' "

"It is the call of his farms and his fields he listens
to, Lucia; and it is for your welfare he listens."

"Then disappointment seems to be for my wel-
fare. All my wishes end in it."

"Everyone must travel his own road."

"Can anyone tell where my road leads to?"

"Fenwick Castle, I should say."

There was a kind of finality in the Colonel's words,

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and the subject was dropped Lucia lifted her sew-
ing, and the Colonel took it gently from her hands.
"Come,*' he said, "let us go over and see how Dr.
Studley fares."

"I am very happy here with you, father."

"But we may add sunshine to daylight by making
the happy happier. I have not seen Studley for a

"He has had a cold and fever — ^I heard Dixon say
so. Yes, I will go with you, dear."

Then Lucia rose and walked with her father to
the Dower House, and there they found the doctor
on the point of coming to Abbot*s Rest. "I was
anxious about you," he said as he clasped their hands.
"I do not know why."

"You have been sick, and have not seen us for
some dajrs. That would be reason enough."

"Yes, but it was not that. I have had fever and
have been dreaming. When did you hear from
Arthur and Geoffrey?"

Then the Colonel gave him Geoffrey^s last letter
and he read it with pleasure and approval "Arthur
must be in fine health," he said, "to stand that kind
of life — wet and dry, hot and cold, and a necessity
to keep up with your party. This is excellent news,
and I was fearful of bad news."

"What made you fearful, Doctor?" asked Lucia,
and there was a strange eagerness In her voice.


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"Some fever-haunted dream, I suppose; the fan-
cies of the unconscious man are a great mystery.
If they leave Saturday morning, they might be home
by Monday night. However, we must not expect
too much of young men out for pleasure. They are
apt to leave their road to get it.**

"They are most sure of real pleasure by keeping
to their road, at least on this occasion.'*

No one answered the Colonel. Studley was look-
ing intently at Lucia and Lucia's eyes were fixed on
Studley with that puzzled, eager, searching look in
them which may be noticed in the eyes of those try-
ing to remember a forgotten dream. The three
went back to Abbot's Rest together and spent many
hours in a conversation concerning the mystical and
spiritual facts that surround physical man and phys-
ical life. The quiet spaciousness of the room, its
soft gray light, the little blaze upon the hearth, the
old memories that yet clung to the cloistered house
had that night a singular power and influence, press-
ing down on the souls present, the sense of a life, not
this life. Something was there, greater than them-
selves, something neither seen nor heard, something
intensely real, that stirred at the very roots of their

Two days afterwards Lucia had a letter from
Lord Fenwick. He said they had altered their plan,
^nd instead of taking a train to Glasgow would take


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a little steamer, which would leave Wick the follow-
ing morning. Both Geoffrey and himself preferred
sea travel, and as the steamer was slow and had to
stop at various towns on its way, it promised them
a lazy trip down the Fife coast. He had never be-
fore written her so charming a love-letter; evidently
the prospect of meeting in a few days had stimulated
his passionate eagerness to do so, and he told no
stories of grouse or highland gentlemen. On the
contrary, the only incident he named was a curious
supernatural occurrence which Geoffrey had in no
way alluded to.

We had [he said] a litde dinner party last Mon-
day evening, and the McAslin, a friend of our host,
promised to be present without fail at six o'clock.
But when six struck he had not arrived. All of us
took out our watches, and as we did so, we heard
the rattle of wheels and our host said, "That's Mc-
Aslin. I know it because his horse has a loose
shoe and he could not have it fastened today. Lis-
ten how it clatters!" It clattered up to the en-
trance door and he gave his usual double knock.
The door was opened instantly by the man on
watch, and there was no one there. At the stable
no one had heard or seen anything of McAslin. A
messenger was sent to his house to see if he was
sick. He was dead. He had died while dressing
for dinner, but he had kept his promise to be at
our place at six o'clock. We may be home


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"Stop, Lucia," said the Colonel. "Is that all
about McAslin? There must be more."

Lucia glanced through the letter and said calmly,
"That is all. Arthur may be home on Monday or
Tuesday, I should think."

"It is a wonder Geoifrey did not name the cir-

"Geoffrey does not believe everything."

"It is natural to disbelieve what we cannot com-

"Dr. Studley has made you believe in many things,

"Being a soldier, that was easy, for faith or be-
lief in spiritual things is all to the soul that courage
is to the body. I have faith, because I have courage
to have faith. Do you see?"

"Not clearly. Dr. Studley knows the Fife coast
and he will be able to say when a coasting steamer
is likely to reach Glasgow ; then a day is enough to
reach Abbot's Rest."

"Much less than a day, if the wish and will to
come earlier be there."

But when Dr. Studley was consulted, he said no
one could tell the time with exactitude, especially if
the skipper of the boat was also partly or largely its
owner. "They may take on cargoes as well as dis-
charge what they have, and are very much at their
own pleasure, but I think Arthur could be here on


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Monday or Tuesday — unless he goes to Fen-

All Sunday Lucia privately watched and listened.
She could not help feeling that Arthur would work
some sort of a miracle to reach her. Had he not
written in the letter next her heart :

Darling! Darling I Darling! You are love and
hope and joy to me I I shall not really live until
I hold you once more close to my heart. Oh, for
the blessed day that makes you mine! Then we
shall part no more.

And the tender words made music in her heart,
and she said to herself, "If in Shakespeare's day,
lovers outrun the clock, surely now they will find
means to outrun the train. I think Arthur will be
here on Sunday afternoon. Of course there are no
trains allowed to leave Glasgow on Sunday, but if
he got to Glasgow on Saturday in time to catch a
train for Carlisle, there are plenty of trains over the
border, and he could be here easily on Sunday after-

So Sunday her soul was at the window looking
and watching, but nobody she cared for came. Mon-
day it was just the same.

"There will be a letter from Fenwick tomorrow
morning," said the Colonel very gloomily. But
Tuesday brought neither lover nor letter from him.


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The Colonel refused to speak his name. "The man
is sick again, I suppose," he replied when on Wednes-
day Dr. Studley uttered the first words of alarm.

"The young men were not to part until they
reached Glasgow; if Arthur was sick, Geoffrey would
have written. So then they must have reached Glas-
gow and parted."

"He is perhaps with Geoffrey at the St. ClairsV*
said Lucia.

"No, in that case, if Arthur were sick, Mrs. St.
Clair would have written. Do you remember the
name of the boat?"

"Arthur told me in his last letter it was The Mer*
tnaidj a coastwise carrying and trading ship."

"Such boats are often detained; for instance, she
would wait a day at my point. If by doing so she got
twenty passengers. And people are leaving Scotland
by every train or boat they can catch now."

"But why, Doctor?"

"The big sunmier hotels are closing and turning
off their help. The hunting and shooting lodges are
beginning to do the same thing. The herring fishery
is over and men who have been busy in the North
Sea are going back to their families with their wages
in their pockets. Indeed, travelers of many kinds
are now on all the Scotch roads leading south and
Arthur and Geoffrey are among them. They must
be here almost immediately."

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Studley spoke cheerily, but he was anxious and
worried "I will go down to the telegraph office/*
he said, **and have a word with the Hendersons and
Ball and Reed of Glasgow. They are sure to know
the whereabouts of The Mermaid and what time she
docked at the Broomielaw/* He was standing in
the middle of the room as he said these words, and
as he turned to the door, it opened slowly and Geof-
frey entered.

It was visibly and positively GeoflFrey, but not a
GeoflFrey any of them had ever seen before. The
man was the same and yet quite di£Ferent; no detail
of bodily appearance could describe the change in
him. But if a fresh, living, green leaf was taken and
a hot iron passed over it, the change in the leaf
would be marked and total. Every portion of it
would be seared and singed; fiber and stem and the
green soft leaf all alike show the burning, withering
furnace from which it had suffered. So it was with
Geoffrey. His strange pallor, his expression of un-
bearable grief, his trembling and weakness, his thin
broken voice, the womanish tears brimming his eyes,
the total and visible change in him showed plainly
the inner man was the great sufferer and that Geof-
frey had passed through the furnace with him.

He entered the room noiselessly and for a moment
stood still and was speechless. Everyone rose to his
feet and in tones of terror and amazement uttered


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his name. He went straight to Lucia and cried out
in sudden agony:

"He is dead I He is dead I If I could have died
for him I If I could have diedl" Then he fell into
a paroxysm of almost delirious grief. The Colonel
went to the sideboard and brought him wine. Dr.
Studley took his hands and comforted him as he well
knew how to do. Lucia had sunk back in her chair
and her father wished her to go to her room. But
she would not.

''I must hear the worst before I go/' she said.
"I am sure some terrible thing has happened to

And while the Colonel talked to his daughter,
Dr. Studley comforted his friend, and in those few
moments, though Geoffrey could not speak, he fell
into a sleep so profound that he was insensible to all
sound or motion and was laid on the sofa without
being at all conscious of what had taken place. Then
the room was darkened and Dr. Studley said, "I
shall stay in this room and watch my patient. I
think he will awake more like himself and be able
to tell us — ^whatever we have to hear."

"Is he ill. Doctor, or likely to be ill?"

"He is not ill. He is at the last point of exhaus-
tion — mental and physical — both. I should say flesh
and blood could bear no more and the inner man
knew sleep was the best and only restorer. He may


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sleep many hours, but he will be himself when he

"Then Lucia and I will go into the opposite par-
lor and you can look in on us as you feel inclined.
What time is it?'*

"About four o'clock. He may sleep ten or even
fourteen hours without movement. Nature has a
big job of repairing to do there."

Then the Colonel turned to Lucia's chair, but it
was empty. She had gone to her room with her
untold sorrow. Yet she knew Arthur was dead.
Geoffrey had said that plainly. It appeared to her
that this very message was the intense and only
motive of his life or death journey. And if Arthur
was dead, what else mattered? She was stunned and
shocked and wounded, but her grief was not one that
washes itself away in tears.

She was quite alone. Ann had gone to the village
to see if the men hired to paper and paint the best
rooms in the Cross Keys were doing their duty.
The Colonel was angry at her absence and when
she returned spoke more sharply to her than he had
ever done before, and she was so cowed by his voice
and manner she could hardly excuse herself and
hoped she had not been needed for any duty in the

"Your mistress is in her room, doubtless in great
trouble. Go and look after what she wishes."


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"Yes, sir. Immediate, Anything I can do in the
trouble, sir, you know "

"Unless you can do with Death, nothing you can
do will avail."

"Dear me, sir I As bad as thatl I will go to her
at once. It will be Lord Fenwick as usual — no one
else brings trouble here." The last sentence was
apparently a comment made to herself, and uttered
with the tone and air of one who speaks because
they can't help it. At least it appealed to the Colo-
nel in this way, and was so far in unison with his
own deepest real feelings that he involuntarily re-

"Lord Fenwick is said to be dead Do all you
can for Miss Ragnor."

"To be sure I will, sir, but Miss Ragnor is not
like she wz,^— there — ^he has left the room again and
me talking about his business too I It is time I left
Abbot's Rest and went to my own house. He might
have told me where Dick was, for if there was dan-
ger for Lord Fenwick, there was danger for Dick.
They were never far apart — I hope missee will have
her tongue this afternoon and find herself able to
talk. She says little to me these days. Them as
brings up other people's children have a bitter lot —
ingratitude and neglect is their payment. Ah, me I
I do wonder if Dick is all right! Dick is more to
me than either lord or lady."


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So with a cup of tea In her hand — the universal
English panacea for all sorts and conditions of
trouble — she went to Lucia's room. The door was
locked, but after an interval of entreaty^ Lucia rose
and opened it.

"No, thank you, Ann, I want no tea. I want to
be alone."

"I heard tell you was in trouble, miss, and "

"I know how to bear trouble, Ann, for I know
who is our strength in time of trouble.''

"But it does you good to talk it over with them
as loves you. And I am in trouble also, missee —
about Dick."

"That is an old, old trouble, Ann."

"But different now. Dick loves me again and is
good and kind. I heard Lord Fenwick was dead
and I am feared for my Dick. They were never far

"Naturally. I believe Dick was Lord Fenwick's

• "They was more like friends. My lord did noth-
ing without Dick's advice and ^"

"Ann, I want to be alone."

"Yes, miss, certainly, miss. Ann is of no use now.
She used to be, but "

"She is so taken up with Dick and herself now.
No one can love or serve two at the same time."

She was walking restlessly about the floor and she

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heard only by a distinct effort the words Ann was
saying. For there was a tumult in her heart like the
surging rebellion of an angry crowd.

"Very good, missee. I'll go away to my lone
sorrow. I think you might tell me a word about

"Ann, I heard nothing about Dick, but you might
know Lord Fenwick well enough to know if there
was trouble, he would look after Dick."

"Which the same would be right, miss, Dick hav-
ing a wife now to consider. And, miss, if you would
have taken my advice about Lord Fenwick "

"Ann, I wish to be alone.'*

"In a minute, miss, I will go. I was only going
to remind you that I said from the first that your
poor, dear, dead mother would never permit you to
marry Lord Fen "

"Ann, how dare you? If you name my mother
once more in connection with my marriage, I will
never speak to you again, never I I want to be

"I want to hear sdmething about my Dick.*'

"Then go to my father, or Dr. Studley."

She went straight to the dining-room, and seeing
its door wide open, was astonished. Nor would she
have hesitated to enter the room if Dr. Studley had
not with a peremptory motion waved her back. He
knew her garrulous disposition and he walked be-


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hind her until it was impossible for Geoffrey in his
life or death sleep to hear hen Then he said:

"Do not go near the dining-room."

"And where then will I serve dinner, Doctor?**

"There will be no dinner service today. When
Colonel Ragnor and I need food, It must be brought
with the utmost silence into the small parlor where
we are sitting. Dixon will come and get orders as
to what is wanted.**

"Sir, I did not come about dinner. I came to hear
what news there was about my Dick.**

"None at aU.**

"But he was with Lord Fenwick. You know they
were always together.**

"No, not always. Dick was not in America nor
yet in many other places with Lord Fenwick.**

"But he was with him on this last trip to the Mid-
lands, and the great London doctor showed my Dick
what to do for Lord Fenwick when his heart was
bad, and so Dick has gone and will go **

"You go to the kitchen at once, Ann, and let it
be your duty to keep the most absolute silence there
-^ven a teaspoon falling might be a death blow.
Do you understand?'*

"But my Dick '*

"He was not named. I dare say he will be in the
kitchen before midnight.**

"It is very hard, sir.'*

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**Very hard indeed on all who love Lord Fenwick,
The Colonel feels It much, and as for Miss Rag-
nor *»

"I have been to her, and took a cup of tea with
me — ^though needing it myself — and she was not cry-
ing nor in trouble, and she knows nothing of the
grief in my heart, for a lover is never to be compared
to a husband.'*

Dr. Studley did not answer. He had gradually
drawn her as she was talking to the kitchen door,
and he requested her again to remain in the kitchen
until midnight and to see that all was kept quiet.

As he returned to the Colonel he looked at Geof-
frey. He lay still as death on the very spot where
they had laid him. Simk far below the tide of usual
sleep, his breath was deep down and hardly per-
ceptible; but his pulse, though weak, was even and
not dangerously below its normal condition ; and from
Geoffrey's side to the Colonel he went with a hopeful

"He sleeps weU, Colonel. When he awakes, he
will have regained his physical power and be able to
give us his tidings — good or bad."

"Arthur is dead. There is no doubt of that and
my heart aches for my little girl. I wonder if there
was any accident — it is so sudden — so terribly un-

"The accident has been long foreseen. He had


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a heart responsive to every emotion and unable to
endure it. He doubtless died in some moment of
great excitement, and knew not death until he real-
ized the strength of immortality. It was perhaps
a glorious moment to him.**

"I am thinking of what it is to Lucia."

"It is all right, though dark and hard to us."

"Why does not God explain such interferences
with life? If He would only explain His rea-
sons "

"A God explaining and giving reasons would be
a plaintive thing; and as we cannot foresee, we should
not understand nor yet believe. God expects us to
trust. It is the great thing that we can do for Him.**

Then there was a silence so deep that the ashes
falling from the grate to the hearth were startling.
The opposite room was equally still; the whole house-
hold was waiting in silent fear; the message sealed
behind the lips of the sleeper in it.

He did not awaken until the next day*s sun was
high in the heaven. Early in the day Ann had gone
to Lucia and she was with her when the first move-
ment was heard. "Dixon is carrying in his break-
fast," Ann said. "I can hear the rattle of china and
silver, so Mr. Gardiner must have awakened. I
heard also the Colonel's voice; he was speaking to
Mr. Gardiner."

^*How was he speaking, Ann?'*


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"As if he was soothing or comforting him."
"Dear father, he has been trying to comfort me
often through this long, hard night."
"Now you will have your breakfast?"
"Yes, I am longing for a cup of coffee."
"And you shall have it, dearie, instantly."
And Ann was in her very kindest mood and
brought up all she thought good for Lucia, and they
smiled at each other and were friends again. For
in some way Dr. Studley's manner had frightened
and made Ann thoughtful. She had sat up with the
family all night and considered many past kindnesses
from them that she had almost forgotten in the flush
of her husband's returning love.

"It is so easy to be set up with a sweetheart," she
thought. "Dick has been with me most of the sum-
mer, and eat and drank his full, and had all my sav-
ings to buy the Cross Keys and the thought of being
master in his own public house had made him good-
tempered. Why wouldn't it? And I have worn
more new ribbons and finer aprons than enough be-
cause he liked his wife to look handsome — and he
said I was handsomer than any woman he knew —
and I was happy and good-tempered. What woman
wouldn't have been? But my family, both the Colo-
nel and the Miss, have been good to me in every
kind of time for twenty-two years." Such reflections
had done Ann's temper good. They had bruised her


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selfishness, and it is from this bruising the fragrance
of life comes.

Dr. Studley said it was close upon twelve o'clock
when Geoffrey first stirred. He heard the movement
and went softly towards him, and as he did so, the

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe winning of Lucia : a love story → online text (page 16 of 19)