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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The winning of Lucia : a love story online

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

"Yes/'

''But these men are not to compare with Geoffrey
Gardiner. They are oldish, not at all rich| and have
many objectionable qualities and habits."

"I see you favor Geoffrey, Doctor.'*

"I favor no one with any fixed desire. The heart
of a woman is her destiny. Lucia will marry the
man she loves, or remain unmarried I have that
sure confidence in her; and I believe her to be in-
capable of loving a man unworthy of her."

The De Montane affair settled, it soon became a
forgotten thing, apd a house without some difference
of opinion to adjust or some little trouble to get
the better of is often deadly still and monotonous.
There were days which had seemed to Lucia forty
hours long, and evenings — ^when Geoffrey was
away — of unbearable monotony; for Geoffrey had
become by this time all the difference in her life be-
tween delightful satisfaction and wearisome ennui.

In fact her love troubles were fast becoming a tale
of old unhappy things, and a quiet joy came into
her heart, as one by one the clouds departed and the
light steadily grew. During this long waiting time
she had had some rare but imperishable moments,
when she had met herself and in her lonely, aching
disappointment, finding all earthly comfort fail, had
fallen back on God the Comforter; and latterly she
had begun to feel that this God was both wise and

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LQVFS EVERLASTING REMEMBRANCE

loving and gave new gladness when the old he took
away. She had told herself frequently during the
last months of the year's quiet that she did not de-
sire the things she once desired, and could not be
happy in the circumstances she had once looked for-
ward to with pride and satisfaction. And perhaps
after all, it is well for us that the past is generally
as unattainable as the future.

One afternoon at the end of September, she was
sitting with her father in disconsolate silence. It
was too hot either to walk or to ride, and every one
of Lucia's employments had lost all savor to her.
The piano was closed and she was resolved it should
remain closed; there was not a book she wanted to
read; and it was too hot to sew. There appeared
to be nothing for her to do, so she made herself com*
fortable among the sofa pillows and gave up her
mind to feeling and foolish foreseeing.

Presently die Colonel fell asleep, and the Army
and Navy News dropped from his hands to the
floor. Lucia looked idly at the paper, but made no
movement, and lying thus between sleeping and wak-
ing she saw Dixon enter the room and leave some
letters upon the table.

Lucia did not take much interest in the CoIonePs
mail. For there was usually a large percentage of
advertisements in it for things necessary on a sheep
farm or in the care and culture of gardens; and

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

two of the letters just noticed appeared to be of this
kind. These two out of the three he threw care-
lessly aside, but the third he read with a speculative
face. It was from Ann Idle. In it she begged to
come home. She said Dick had got her last shilling
and that everything at the Cross Keys was in the
hands of the sheriff, and Dick gone no one knew
where. The Colonel could not read the letter with-
out feeling very sorry for the woman, and when he
reminded himself of the probable early marriage of
Lucia, he was personally pleased at the thought of
Ann*s return to Abbot's Rest. It would at least
insure his physical comfort, and that was a matter
of some importance to Colonel Ragnor.

Very soon Lucia began to feel that he wished her
to awake, and she obeyed the impression, and with
a pretty shake of her head said, ''It is really three
o'clock, I see. Have I been asleep, father?"

"You looked like it, and I wanted to tell you
something."

"What is it, father?" she asked as she eagerly
brought a chair beside him.

"Well, it is this — ^Ann wants to come back. All
has gone to smash at the Cross Keys and she is
without a home or a shilling or, I fear, a friend.
What are we to do?"

Now while the Colonel had been speaking,
Lucia's mind had been busy. She knew her marriage

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LOVE'S EVERLASTING REMEMBRANCE

was within her v/ill. She knew that one word, one
look of encouragement would be sufficient to change
this conviction into a blissful reality; and that very
afternoon she had been telling herself that it was
time she made poor Geoffrey less anxious, and more
to Abbot's Rest. She had her lesson, she would
happy. And in such a case Ann would be invaluable
know her place and with a confident smile she told
herself, ''She will know my place also for the
future.'* So after a proper interval of reflection,
she answered:

"Father, I think we ought to tell Ann to come
home and give her her old position back. She is
very respectable and will be very respectful to me
now. I have missed her in some respects, for as
Mrs. Pearson said, she had been with me all my life
and gives at least a sense of almost motherly pro-
tection."

"Mrs. Pearson's remark was almost impertinent.
You do not need motherly protection now, and you
have a very careful fatherly protection."

"All that is understood, father. But Ann has a
certain claim upon us and I am not without affection
and gratitude. I can order our house now and Ann
will obey my orders. It was her ordering me that I
objected to. But I think now you may tell Ann to
come home as soon as she likes."

"I am glad you think as I do. Poor Ann I Her

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

husband has taken her last shilling and left her —
gone, she knows not where.*'

"Are you going to Lothian's tonight?"

"I think I ought to go."

"Then call on Ann and tell her to make haste
here and not talk too much of her troubles. I am
tired of love troubles of all kinds."

"Love and death or love and sorrow are always
together — ^people must talk of them."

"Oh no, father I Not always, surely."

"Ask your own heart But I will dress early and
go to the village and send Ann up here."

"Do you know where she is?"

"Yes. At the Cross Keys until Saturday."

This change proved a very contentful, peaceful
one. Ann took her old work and very near her old
position in Abbot's Rest, and everyone was satis-
fied, and as Lucia's methods in the house had be-
come fixed, Lucia was glad enough to delegate to
Ann the trouble of seeing them carried out.

Then there was a week or two in the which Love
poured heaven into that quiet house of life called
Abbot's Rest But behind this foreground of daily
life, its sights and its feelings, there was to Geoffrey
and to Lucia also a far sweeter and more satisfying
existence, for not yet "had fled the visionary gleam,"
and around them still the glory and the dream of
unspoken love made a different world. And perhaps





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LOVE'S EVERLASTING REMEMBRANCE

Luda was not anxious to ally this glory and this
dream of a perfect love with the ordinary affairs of
life. She had mentally set several occasions when
she would permit Geoffrey to speak and when she
would answer him to their united happiness; but into
every such occasion, there had crept some shadow
of discontent or some trifling disappointment, and
she was resolved everything in that hour should go
according to her plan and desire.

One afternoon the Colonel asked her to walk with
him as far as John Studley's, and she had fully deter-
mined if Geoffrey called that afternoon affairs
should come to a perfectly happy understanding be-
tween them. But the invitation satisfied her. It
said plainly, ''This is likely an unfortunate time, or
why else should you be asked to forego such an im-
portant intention?" She hardly knew whether or
not she was disappointed. Her present life was so
sweet and she was so happy in it, a change made by
herself might not be a good one. It was better to
wait until the hand invisible, all-powerful, and all-
wise made the move that sooner or later was sure
to come. Very pleasantly she went with the Colonel
to Dr. Studley's and found that the shepherds were
a little anxious about the flock on the highest fell.
"I think," said the Doctor, "we had better walk up
there and see what is really the matter. And I will
tell Geoffrey that Lucia is here and he will see her

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

safely home." And as Dr. Studley spoke, Geoffrey
entered the room with an open book in his hand and
Lucia looked at him pleasantly but critically.

Into the large scholarly room he brought an
astonishing sense of power, for he was not only
handsome, but handsome on so large a pattern that
it excluded the idea of whatever was mean and petty.
His massive head and face showed the mind to be
well rooted in matter. His eyes, so bright, so seek-
ing, were without guile or misgiving — his lips finely
shaped — ^his form straight and towering — ^his man-
ner frank and open-hearted — the very reverse of the
languid grace, of the high-bred slender Lord Fen-
wick.

And Oh, the clasp of his hand and the look in
his eyes I She had never before thought him so
handsome, indeed she had an instant's recollection
of thinking him rather ugly when she first met him
in Glasgow. But Geoffrey was now unmistakably
handsome in the highest form possible. His soul
had been in the schools of Love and Death, there it
had become beautiful, and it was gradually remodel-
ing and beautifying its earthly dwelling-place. Even
in old age it will perform this miracle — how much
more then when youth and love work with it?

"Let us walk home this charming afternoon," he
said, and as she smiled and nodded, he added, "and
let us go round about for the nearest way."

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LOVERS EVERLASTING REMEMBRANCE

And she put her hand In his and they went slowly
towards the pine planting. The Colonel had built
a rest among these trees, for he loved their fra-
grance — a rest of rough stones topped with two
large flat flags; and they sat down there and were
speechless in their love and happiness. For to both
had come the same sense of fatality, and as they
walked on and on both felt the sweet air, the fresh
wind, the bright sunshine, and the little birds twit-
tering secrets in the tree-tops to be so many friends
accompanying them to the turning-point of their
lives. The sunshine came through the waving
branches above them, full of golden shadows and
fell all over the white-clad maiden like some mystical
mantle. Geoffrey looked large, ruddy and radiant
with life. Her lovely face, her light, slender figure,
her most beautiful arms, and that beauty of promise,
which sets the budding rose above the full-blown
flower, had never been so noticeable and so charm-
ing. And when she lifted her love-beaming eyes his
words were not to be restrained, and he cried out :
"O love! O my love I Lucia! Lucia!"
The bliss so long afar was at length so nigh she
could no longer resist its claim upon her heart. She
whispered, ^'Geofrey^* and his arm was round her
waist and his kiss was on her lips. Then in that
intimate ardor that dispels all doubt and all dis-
quietude, she gave him that one little word whidi

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THE WINNIIsTG OF LUCIA

makes all diings sure. For his kisses unbarred her
soul and love grew so insensibly and so fast, it must
always have been there. For once then time and
place and the loved one were all together. Naturally
so, for

All things come by Fate to flower.
At their unconquerable hour.

Then how sweetly and swiftly time went by I And
the large yellow harvest moon and the sweet
strength of startide made their hearts' springs run-
ning over with sweetest love. Geoffrey's desire —
like all strong desires — had at last by its own energy
fulfilled itself.

They were unconscious of time until the pale»
pensive twilight of the wood admonished them.
Then they went into the open and saw the departing
sunbeams smiling on the last fell top. But the fad-
ing day and the rising moon only brought them fresh
rapture. With serenely happy faces and clasped
hands they walked slowly homeward. And how it
came let lovers tell, they both thought of Arthur
Fenwick, and both at the same moment spoke of
him. But even this sad subject was only a part of
that luxurious woe which the Colonel had declared
in some form accompanied love.

"Father said death or sorrow always came wiA
a true Love. Do you think so, Geoffrey?*' Lucia

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" She whispered, * Geoffrey ' and his arm was
round her"



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LOVE'S EVERLASTING REMEMBRANCE

softly asked, as they entered the gates of Abbot's
Rest together.

'If souls come Into this world to find each other,
and one knows and the other cannot be instructed by
the one knowing, then I can understand that sorrow
or death in a great variety of forms might ensue.
Perhaps Arthur's death was necessary. I have al-
ways believed that he would have been living hap-
pily and in good health this day if he had married
the lovely lady who is the mother of his two sons.
She knew and obeyed her heart; he also knew, but
he had not the moral courage to defy the world.*'

"And his mother 1"

"True."

Then they were at the door, and the Colonel
stood there to scold about the belated dinner, but
there was that in the faces of the truants that forbid
it They looked so superhumanly happy that he
divined the truth and in a voice distinctly saddened
said only:

"Come in, children I"

"We will be ready for dinner in ten minutes,
father. Tell Ann to see it served."

As Dixon was serving dinner, nothing was said
of the new engagement, patent enough to all who
saw the parties to it; but the conversation turned
unavoidably upon Lord Fenwick, for the Colonel
had received by that night's mail a letter signed by

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

his two sons, infonnlng him that their mother had
died the previous day.

"Poor Ardiurl" he continued, "his life was a
prolonged disappointment. He never got what he
wanted unless he tore it through the iron gates of
society or life." Then between them, this memory
touched so solemnly with the intimacies of life, its
meetings and partings, became almost a presence;
and Geoffrey said:

"We seem to forget, but we do not; we appear to
transfer so heartlessly the love of yesterday to to-
day, but we do not Every affection has its place,,
and whether it be here or there we give it a sacred
or tender remembrance."

"John Studley got her last letter. We are both
going tomorrow morning to be with the boys until
after the funeral," said the Colonel.

Then Lucia looked at Geoffrey, and asked him
softly: "Would you not like to go? It would please
Arthur."

"I will go with Colonel Ragnor and Dr. Studley.
It is the last kindness I can pay the man whom I
loved as a brother."

"I think you are right, Geoffrey," said the Colonel.
"Be ready to start at eight o'clock.

Then the conversation strayed into kind and noble
reminiscence, and the room was filled with an at-
mosphere of such tender sweet solemnity that there

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LOVE'S EVERLASTING REMEMBRANCE

was no need for speech. The eyes of the three men
were dropped, but Luda's face was outlooking and
her eyes lifted. The men were speculating, the
woman was believing. And she was the first t6
break the silence.

"Doctor," she said, "my father told me that Death
is the companion of Love. Do you think the same ?"

For a few moments the Doctor looked sadly at
her. He seemed averse to speak. But as Goeffrey
and Lucia and the Colonel all looked eagerly into
his eyes he replied: "Love and Death are veiled
figures moving hand in hand,

'Over men's heads; dread, irresistible;

To ope the portals of that other Land

Where the great voices sound, and visions dwell 1'

but it Is Love and Death that bring change and to
be perfect Is to have changed often.*'

Finer grew Lucia's listening face. It was as if
the words like music lingered there ; and the Doctor
added : "There must be flow in life, and just as that
flow is strong and rapid, we grow every day. Now
change is the spiritual surge of flow, and it is
nearly always that flow or movements In life, are
made by Love or Death. See for instance what a
change will be made in the life of Arthur's two boys.
Their mother's death throws them into the world,
makes them less dependent, leads them onward to

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

self-reliance* To us it looks regrettable and pre-
mature; those wiser duMi we are saw that the hour
had come Uo S4t Uf4 flowmyj' "

The conversation artsuq; out of this subject great-
ly impressed Lucia, and as Ann was brushing her
beautiful hair that night and coiJiag it for comfort-
able sleq>, she said to her:

''Ana, Dr Studley thinks that Love and Death
are doae companions} and that Love is hardly ever
present, unless Death or Sorrow is hand-in-haad
With him. What do you think ?"

''I think, miss, the Doctor is maybe akogether
right With some it is sorrow. I know lots of
wives who fret when they are going to have a child
because they say the condition is always ti trouble-
bringer. I have seen that idea come true nearly
every time it was feltf and perhaps every time; b^
cause there is often trouble when we know nothing
about it Some women keep it still, some women
tell it highway and byway, and some work or fight
or get rid of it in any Way they can* But love is the
almighty trouble-bringen I never knew a woman
in love that wasn't in trouble some way or other.
Look at your own self. You have had all kinds of
disappointment and annoyance with your love af-
fairs."

"I have that, Ann."

*'And look at me — lo<^ at poor Ann Idlel What

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LOVERS EVERLASTING REMEMBRANCE

did love bring her? Only wroag and loss and cruel
dQeq)tioa. But you nnd Mr. Gardnter have got oyer
your long lesson, though if you haven't learned what
she meant you to learn. Love won't forget; you will
have the lesson over again some way. Still if you
have learned it**-^nd you've heeft at her school for
nearly throe years-^why then, you won't have to
leant it again. I got my leasoa through Dick Idle.
Then when I was well fed and cared for and had
saved a good bit of money,. I forgot it; and I am
tins day kamtng It over again. A tumedybad^ lesf^
soa is often kird ttid ill to kam.^'

Now great results are often ibo issue of small
occasions, and undoubtedly diis conversation,, sad
the personal dioug^ flowing from it put forward
Luda'a marriage. She had said to Geoffrey: ^^I
have had enough oi Christmas weddings^ I will
be married in tho ^ring when the flowers begqi to
bloom and the birds to sing and buikL" And Geof*^
frey did not wish to wait until spring. He wanted
her to redeem the promise in the little word "Yes"
at quiddy aa possible and if thia conversadon did
not win her consent to Ua desbrea, I do not know how
else to account for her change of action. But on a
lovicly Sabbath morning m the middle of October
thia thing happened. Dr. Pisarson after giving the
benediction, said to his congregation t

^My friends. I am going to p c uf o rui the marriage

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

ceremony immediately between Geoffrey Gardiner
and Lucia Ragnor. All the congregation are cor-
dially invited to witness It Those who wish to re-
tire will have five minutes in which to leave the
church.**

With these words Dr. Pearson went into the ves-
try and every eye was turned on Colonel Ragnor^s
pew — a square, well-curtained, well-cushioned, car-
peted place of rest and privacy. None of the con-
gregation moved but a few women who had babies
at home doubtless crying for. their wants to be at-
tended to. Then Geoffrey rose and went forward
to the altar, he was followed by the Colonel and his
daughter, by Mrs. Pearson and Alice Pearson, Mary
Lorimer, and Jean Ashleigh, intimate friends of
Lucia. At the same moment Dr. Pearson and Dr.
Studley, clothed in their white vestments, took their
places and surrounded by a sweet sympathetic influ-
ence, the solemn words, the irrevocable words of
the greatest of human promises, were reverently
said.

The service appeared to everyone to be exceed-
ingly short, for all were admiring the lovely bride
in her traveling costume of silver-gray broadcloth.
Never had she been so radiantly beautiful before,
never so calmly and radiantly happy. The Colonel
looked white and old, but Dr. Studley*s face was
beaming and there was not a heart in the little crowd

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LOVE'S EVERLASTING REMEMBRANCE

standing and kneeling with Lucia in that House of
God, that did not bless her as she passed, blushing
and smiling, through them.

At the church door the Colonel's carriage was
standing, and amid the good-byes and smiles and
blown kisses of about five hundred men and women
who knew and loved her she was driven rapidly
away by Dixon. For a moment they saw her charm-
ing face smiling happily as it passed; then there was
nothing but the flutter of a white handkerchief, and
the fast disappearing carriage.

The Colonel stood by Dr. Studley. His heart
was weeping bitterly and he was white and irreso-
lute, but he finally turned with sharp abruptness,
lifted his hat to the lingerers at the church gate,
and taking Dr. Studley's arm said: *'Let us walk
home. You must stay with me today. Ann will be
more than I can manage. She was in hysterics I
think when we left the house. I have a heartache,
my friend."

"I am your companion. What a lovely wonder-
ful day it is I Blessed is the bride the sun shines on I
From Kenton where do they go?"

*To London^ Where else, I know not"

They found it hard to talk, and when they reached
Abbot's Rest all was so unhappily lonely. The house
looked as if sealed, the silence and sunshine were
crushing, and when they entered the quiet rooms,

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THE WINNING QF LUCIA

they felt distinctly an empty and sorrowful atmos-
phere.

But Ann quickly appeared with an af^tlzing
lunch and a boy with her brought wood and coal to
make the blaze give life to the hearth; and the two
men found comfort in each other** hopes and faith»
as well as in the black cock and fine wine and delicate
jelly and cream. And though Ann's eyes were red,
she had reached the sighing stage of sorrow and
was eager to know if there had been a good con-
gregation as witnesses to her poor lamb's marriage,
no notice having been given as should have been and
perhaps other things neglected too.

''Everybody in the village was present I think,
Ann, except yourself," said Dr. Studley.

"Ann is only a servant, but everybody in the vil-
lage would not suit her. She knows half-a-dozen
of them and that is enough and too many. A low
lotr and Ann rubbed the end of her nose with an
air of scorn.

The doctor smiled and turning to the Colonel
said: ''I wonder why people are so interested in our
marriage. Our birth does not disturb our acquaint-
ance, and when we are diristened or confirmed they
care nothing about either circumstance. We can go
into college or into business and the world takes no
particular notice. We may write a bode that all the
reviews praise, but our friends never read reviews.

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LOVE'S EVERLASTING REMEMBRANCE

If we do unj good thing, we liear little about it; we
might evtn commit a crime and they would not be as-
tonifib^; they would only say, they had always ex-
pected it We might die and they would be quite
unmoved. But they fling themselves into our mar-
riage with the greatest enthusiasm* Colonel, what
is the source of this strange, uncalled-for interest?"

The Colonel laughed pleasantly. ''I really do not
know. It must be of a feminine nature. Ask Ann.
I saw her listening to you with great interest."

'Tes, sir, not being deaf, I could not help hear-
ing. And as you know sir, I do always examine
every spoon and plate — ^the village girls not being
to trust — so not meaning to be listening, sir, I heard
what I could not help hearing."

''Well, Ann, why do people, especially women,
take so much interest in weddings?"

''Women always take a deal of interest in the im-
provement of men, sir, and when they see a man
repent of the loose ways of bachelor living and take
a wife to help him live decent and proper in the
sight of his God and his Queen, then all good women
do fed a most unconunon joy in that man, and theji


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe winning of Lucia : a love story → online text (page 18 of 19)