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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The winning of Lucia : a love story online

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long before Ann could speak with anything like
equanimity of the visitor. She gave him the blame
of everything that went wrong about the house. The
roasting jack was out of order — "No wonder 1 Birds
to cook the other night at ten o'clock." The parlor
chimney smoked — "It had never drawn right since
that fire was lighted in the spare room, for that Mr.
What-do-you-call-him." If Dixon drew himself a
glass of ale, she pathetically begged him to "be care-
fu' for she did not expect the last brew would be fit
to drink; folks couldn't brew good ale, and cook
kickshaws for company at the same time."

It was about two weeks after Mr. St CIair*8 visit,

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

as Lucia was one morning dreamingly balancing her
spoon on the edge of her coffee cup and half-listen-
ing to her father who was reading at intervals pas-
sages from The Times relating to the Irish question,
that Dixon came in and laid a letter by the Colonel's
plate. He glanced at it, and finished what he was
reading, before he took it up. Lucia divined that it
was from Mr. St. Clair, and she felt somewhat more
interest in it, than in a parliamentary discussion, but
her father appeared to be in no hurry to possess her
with its contents. She finished her breakfast, she
put away the potted char and Scotch marmalade,
she wiped the silver and the richly gilded china, and
gave Dixon full directions about the feeding of her
pets and the safe-keeping of her dahlia bulbs.

Still Colonel Ragnor made' no sign, and Lucia
had been too well brought up to intrude on her fath-
er's thoughts, or exhibit her own curiosity; and finally
her patience had its reward. The Colonel finished
his newspaper, walked thoughtfully across the room,
and at the open door said:

"Mr. and Mrs. St. Clair wish you to spend the
winter with them in Glasgow; and Mrs. St. Clair
is sure it will interest you to know that Maggie
Starkie has been her own maid ever since you left
school; and that she will be entirely at your service
during your visit. Who is Maggie Starkie? I do
not remember hen*'

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ABBOT'S REST



^Tather, she is a daughter of Ann's cousin who
married John Starkie who was in your regiment and
a Glasgow man."

"Certainly, I remember him — z good soldier !'•

"Maggie stayed with Ann while I was in London,
and when Ann could not be with me, she sent Maggie
in her place. I liked her to do so, for I was very
fond of Maggie. I want to see her again; and as
she is Glasgow-born and bred, she can tell me little
things I ought to know, which would take me some
time to find out."

"I remember the little girl now. You had better
tell Ann. It will reconcile her to your leaving home."

"I had better not name Maggie to Ann. Ann
thought herself badly used by her cousin two years
ago, and she has not allowed me to speak of Maggie
since. Ann was always a little jealous of my liking
tor Maggie. I would rather not name her."

"Very well. It is immaterial."

The Colonel made no further communication. He
went to his private sitting-room, and Lucia was glad
he did so, for her heart was in a tumult. The
road into the world, of which she had read and heard
so much was now open. Would she be allowed to
go up and through and prove it? Her father had
not yet spoken positively.



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CHAPTER II

THE FIRST WRONG STEP

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first wc practice to deceive 1

Marmion. Canto vi

THE Incense of coming triumphs, the glad-
ness of days unborn, brightened for Lucia
the long hours between breakfast and din-
ner. For Colonel Ragnor, wishing perhaps to give
her time for reflection, took his fishing-rod and wan-
dered up among the solemn misty mountains. It
was no purposeless stroll, he knew ''the strength of
the hills'' and he had good authority for going up
there to pray.

At dinner he seemed to have forgotten the sub-
ject. He talked about soups and praised the curry
and diverged very naturally from curry to the East
Indies, and there he seemed inclined to stay. Lucia
drew the conversation from Indian antiquities to In-
dian manufactures, hoping that this train of thought
would suggest Glasgow, but instead it carried him

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THE FIRST WRONG. STEP

still farther east, and brought on her a learned dis-
quisition on Serica and its wondrous silks.

Dinner came to an end at last, and Dixon who had
looked all the time as if he comprehended every word
and was much edified thereby, removed the doth.
Lucia gave her father his last glass of port and lift-
ing her sewing sat down to it with a countenance
strangely cold, and just a little angry. All was very
still, the ticking of a clock on the mantelpiece, and
the occasional cracking of a walnut, which the Col-
onel seemed to eat more as an accessory to his
thoughts than his wine» were the only sounds recog-
nized.

If he had then opened his heart to his child, she
was capable of a great sacrifice, and would have
gladly made it But he was one of those men who
find it easier to suffer than to speak. Also, he had
that day told himself when he stood alone before
God, that he would neither be selfish nor coward-
ly, and that he would trust his child to God's
infinite love and constant care. And if the Colo-
nel hesitated It was not for long, though the half-
hour seemed a very long hour to Lucia, before he
said:

''My dear Lucia, I think you must accept Mrs.
St. Clair's invitation to spend this winter with hen
You will need some additions to your wardrobe,
I suppose?"

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

"A few, father. The important ones will be bet-
ter bought in Glasgow."

"Well then, such things as you require at once,
you can get in Kenton« Ann will go there with you
tomorrow.'*

There were tears In his voice, and tears In his eyes,
and his hands trembled as he took from his pocket-
book a bank bill and handed it to hen And she saw,
and yet she did not see. Ah I who but God can see
the roads we make for ourselves. Yet He does see,
and shapes our ends "rough-hew them as we will**

The best kitchen at Abbot's Rest was always a
picture in its way; never more so, than when the blaz-
ing fire and candlelight made all sorts of dancing
reflections from whitened hearth and polished tins
and racks of many-colored earthenware. This night
It was bright and cheerful as usual, but something
troubled its presiding genius, for Dixon sat smoking
his pipe up the chimney — a compromise only neces-
sary in certain states of Ann's feelings — ^while she
was beating the oaten cakes with an energy indicat-
ing strong emotion. And Lucia understood that her
intended visit to Glasgow was the cause of trouble,
so she thought it best to open the subject at once.

"Ann," she said, for Ann had pretended to be
unaware of her presence — "Ann, I am going to Glas-
gow soon. I am going to stay all winter In Glas-



gow.



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THE FIRST WRONG STEP

"Glasgow, no doubt, is very much obliged to you
for your company. It is a great honor for poor Glas-
gow," and the sarcastic tone, and mock politeness
of this answer, could not be mistaken.

"She is heartily welcome to it, Ann. I expect to
have a splendid time. I shall have a great many
lovers and buy quantities of new dresses."

"rii// Lovers are scarcer than ever before, and
it ^U be strange enough if you come by an old one.
As to dresses, you have o'er many now, and that I
told the Colonel plainly."

"I did not think you could be so unkind to me,
Ann."

"More dresses than you have already, is even
down wastrie."

"But I must have the dresses, Ann, and you have
more experience than I have, an d "

"And if I have more experience, it is all of it
clean against a young girl going traipsing about Scot-
land, looking for a husband."

"What a shame to say such a thing about your
own Lucia 1 I can scarce believe it of you, Ann. I
am not going to look for a husband, but if I should
find one, I might possibly take him."

"I make no doubt of it. Fools are easy matched."

"But you have never found a mate, Ann."

At this remark Ann turned quite around and, look-
ing Lucia full in the face, replied, "If you weren't

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

your mother*s child, I would put you out of my
kitchen, miss, forever. Take your own way, and if
it leads you Love*s way, all the worse for you — all
the worse for you 1 That's all."

Something in her voice, tremulous and sad took
away from Lucia all desire for further banter. She
put her arms around her faithful friend, and told
her that no other love should ever make her forget
the only mother she had known. Then Ann softened
immediately.

"Well, well, my dear lassie I" she answered, "let
me get on with my cakes, for though it is straight
against my judgment, I'll go with you to Kenton, or
there's no saying how you may be guided."

As Colonel Ragnor sipped his tea that night, he
talked freely of his friend, Mr. St. Clair, but he was
not able to give Lucia much information about the
circumstances soon to surround her. He had never
seen Mrs. St. Clair, and he knew nothing of their
domestic affairs, excepting that they were childless.
However, they had adopted a nephew, who had
lived with them for many years. This last statement
he made in an embarrassed manner and Lucia felt
somehow uncomfortably conscious, and resented the
feeling, so to change the conversation she spoke of
her desire to go to Kenton in the morning, and this
being approved, Dixon received orders to drive her
and Ann there.



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THE FIRST WRONG STEP

England has few more beautiful towns than Ken-
ton on a fine day, and fortunately the next morning
was clear and sunny. Also the fair old town wore
a peculiarly picturesque aspect. Some civic holiday
was in progress, the streets were full of people, con-
versation and laughter everywhere, and over all the
pleasant tumult the haunting music of Kenton church
bells rang out their sweetest carillons.

After the shopping was satisfactorily finished,
diese chimes drew Lucia to the church, and she was
astonished to hear Ann ask her to remain outside,
while she went in to say a prayer. Why should Ann,
a strict Calvinist, want to pray in an Episcopal
church? She wondered at the circumstance and when
Ann came out, she wondered more, for it was plain
she had been weeping. Then Lucia was curious and
dioughtless enough to ask, "Why did you wish to
•tay alone in the church, Ann?**

"Because I wanted to weep for having gone there
once too often. See you don^t do die like of that
foolishness.** Her voice was sad and querulous and
her manner forbade further questioning, but Lucia
watched her all the way home and was conscious of
being in the presence of some unknown sorrow.

The next two weeks were full of busy preparation.
Days and nights passed rapidly away, and the last
mght came. It was a very happy one. She was
always ^ad to remember that — glad to remember

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

how cheerfully she read, how patiently she played,
how merrily she sang the simple Scotch ballads her
father loved. Towards midnight she toasted his
slice of brown bread, and made his negus by the par-
lor fire, and when he had finished it, they went to-
gether to see that all was safe and well. Then he
left her at her own room door with a kiss so sol-
emnly tender that it was a visible benediction.

For some reason, not at the time apparent to Lu-
cia, Colonel Ragnor instead of taking the train direct
to Carlisle, where Mr. St Clair was to meet them,
went in his own carriage to Keswick, and took the
coach from there to Penrith. It was after dark
when they arrived there, cold, wearied and hungry;
but the manifold comforts of the old Crown Inn soon
restored Lucia to an appreciation of life. ^ But Col-
onel Ragnor was evidently fighting either some pow-
erful passion or some painful restraint. All day he
had been restless and yet reticent, and now instead
of the slippered ease in which he always drank his
after-dinner wine, he was walking up and down the
room in an exceedingly nervous manner, and only
raising his glass occasionally, as he passed the table.

He seemed uneasy, too, at the presence of Luda,
and it was evident he wished to be alone. But she
had scarcely reached her room ere she heard a quick
imperative voice asking for Colonel Ragnor. It re-
quired no little courage to break the observance of

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THE FIRST WRONG STEP

a lifetimei and venture undesired into her father's
presence and business. But she was anxious, feeling
sure that he was in trouble, and she trusted her in-
trusion would be forgiven for her love's sake. While
she was hesitating and still uncertain, a chambermaid
appeared, and in reply to her inquiries, said the vis-
itor to Colonel Ragnor was Lord Fenwick. Who
Lord Fenwick was, all the northern counties knew,
and Luda wondered what business he could possibly
have with her father.

She resolved to return to the parlor, and on open-
ing the door she saw at once that a dispute of no
ordinary character was in progress. Colonel Ragnor
held in his hand some papers, about which he was
talking with a great deal more decision and even
temper than was at all conunon with him on any
subject

I^rd Fenwick leaned against the high oak mantel,
perfectly calm, almost indifferent in appearance, and
yet it was evident that Lucia's entrance powerfully
affected him. Lucia placed herself beside her father,
and he quietly took her hand, but made no further
acknowledgment of her presence. The exchange of
some property seemed to be the object of Colonel
Ragnor's anxiety, and the curiosity which had been
roused in Lucia by the knowledge of her father's
connection in any way with a nobleman so powerful
and so popular was not lessened by hearing him say:

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

"You know, Arthur, that you owe mc some rep-
aration financially, not to speak of other things which
nothing now can alter, and you may partially pay it
in this way without loss to yourself."

A slight color drifted across his lordship's face,
and his eyes looked dangerously bright, but he pre-
served the utmost impassibility of manner and an-
swered :

'Tou are right, Robert Late as it is, I admowl-
•cdge it. I will send Mr. Moser, my lawyer, to
arrange the nutter as you desire tomorrow mom-
mg.

"As soon as possible. We are going on to Car-
lisle by the noon train.''

"Will nine o'clock suit you?"

"VeryweU."

"Then he will be here at nine o'clock."

During this conversation Lucia had taken more
than a passing notice of Lord Fenwick's appearance.
She saw a remaricably handsome man, no longer
young, but possessing more than the usual charm
of yoitfh, perfect polish, an air of distinction, and
a power of self-control which enabled him whether
he humbled or exalted himself, to be master of the
situation.

There was a moment's silence after the arrange-
ment, and then Lord Fenwick said:

"Is this all I can do for you now, Robert?"
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' Lord Fenwick leaned against the high oak mantel,
perfectly calm "



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THE FIRST WRONG STEP

**I need nothing for myself. You know well that
this IS a matter of feeling, not interest."

'^I am sure of that Believe me, I am ^ad to have
an opportunity of gratifying your desire in this mat*
ter. You have not introduced your daughter to me.
Pardon me for reminding you of the omission."

Colonel Ragnor looked up with an expression at
once incredulous and indignant, but after a momentV
hesitation rose and went through the form of intro*
duction with great dignity. The little social cere*
mony had been forced from him and was evidendy^
displeasing, as was also the look of admiration on
his lordship's face. He reminded him of his promise
to send Mr. Moser early and by remaining standing
left Lord Fenwidc no alternative but to order hi»
carriage.

It had been well if Colonel Ragnor had diea
spoken positively to his daughter about this man
with whom he seemed to be at once so familiar, and
80 offended. But there were many things which
urged him to keep silent, chief among them the
necessity it would cause of a conversation about
Lucia's mother. He could not endure to think of
her, much less talk of her in conversation with Lord
Fenwick and he felt reasonably sure the nobleman
would never cross his daughter's path again. He
was glad now that she was going to Scotland. Fen*
wick might make an excuse for visiting Abbot's Rest»

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

but he could have no idea of Ralph St. Clair's resi*
dence, and long before Lucia returned home, the
meeting would have been forgotten. So he believed,
for nothing is more easily credited than the sophis-
tries our inclinations offer to our judgment

Before they finished breakfast next morning Mr.
Moser came, a little neat, pleasant-looking man, who
was apparently well acquainted with Colonel Ragnor.
As it was likely the gentlemen would be engaged for
an hour or more, Lucia proposed to herself a ramble
about the romantic old town. But Mr. Moser in-
sisted on her accepting the use of his pony carriage,
and she was still child enough to feel pleasure both
in the carriage and the ride.

And in the stillness and quiet of the early morning,
she saw a little parable whose lesson lingered in her
heart, until experience taught her how full of sweet-
ness and hope was its meaning. At the wide open
door of a pretty house there was a small table cov-
ered with a white linen cloth and on it a plate hold-
ing a little salt and some sprigs of rosemary and
boxwood. As they passed it, the driver raised his
hat and to the inquiring look of Lucia, he replied:

''It is Death in the house, miss. It is an old cus-
tom and Cumberland folk would not like to give it
up, and indeed 'tis no popish custom, or my lord
would not have it in his town; but what it means, I
don't believe the parson himself knows."

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THE FIRST WRONG STEP

"There is rosemary for remembrance," said Lucia
softly to herself; and she had a dim kind of under-
standing that the salt and the evergreens said, "Be-
lieve that beyond life is immortality." But not until
she had scattered evergreens above her own dead,
did she fully understand that sweet, low voice in
which nature comforts humanity, typifying in her
own changes the wonderful mystery of death evolv-
ing life.

On her return to the inn, she entered a little store
to purchase some of the pretty cushion lace which
gave to Penrith a wide local fame, and when she
came out. Lord Fenwick stood by the carriage talk-
ing to the man who was driving her. For a moment
she was irresolute, but before she could decide on
what she ought to do, he had placed her in the car-
riage, wrapped her furs around her, and commenced
a conversation. She hardly knew what about, but
no man living knew the art better, and somehow in
their five minutes' intercourse, he had managed to
find out, without asking a question, not only where
she was going but all she could tell about Mr. Ralph
St. Clair. While talking to her he held his hat
slightly raised, and Lucia noticed that in the daylight,
he was a little gray, otherwise he looked even hand-
somer than he did the previous night.

All at once the remembrance of her father's evi-
dent dislike of the man flashed across her memory,

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

and it made her say a much colder and more con-
strained "good-bye" than she might otherwise have
done. He understood the change, but refused to
acknowledge it, and he made his eyes speak the ad-
miration he durst not avow in any other way than by
a marked assurance that he would see her again,
very soon.

Lucia was much pleased and flattered, but she did
not tell her father of the meeting. This was her first
wrong step, and it caused her infinite sorrow. But
when she got back to the inn, there was barely time
to catch the northward train, and so at first she had
some shadowy excuse for her want of confidence.
During the journey to Carlisle, she would have
plenty of time to talk over the circumstance, and
she resolved to treat it as if it was a very natural
and simple occurrence. Yet she knew it was not a
natural and simple occurrence. Lord Fenwick told
her he had been watching two hours for her, and also
somehow managed to make her feel that it was a
very extraordinary and pleasant occurrence.

The railway journey was not propitious for con-
fidence. One station after another was passed, and
passengers were coming and going, and their car-
riage was never empty. And as the time went on,
the Colonel grew more and more depressed and
silent He seemed incapable of conversation, and
Lucia was incapable of forcing it, on the subject of

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THE FIRST WRONG STEP

Lord Fenwick. She knew instinctively he would
resent it and it would be dreadful to part with her
father in anger. The pleasure of her winter would
be ruined. All the way to Carlisle she argued the
case — ^to tell or not to tell — in her own heart and
finally decided it by a process not common in the
courts, that is, she acquitted herself this time, upon a
mental promise to commit the fault no more.

Mr. St. Clair was waiting for them at Carlisle
and Lucia was given to his care. They spent a pleas-
ant hour together, and parted in the midst of smiles
and good wishes. The Colonel was not a demon-
strative man, and Lucia was not disposed to err in
this respect in his presence. But each knew the depth
of love hidden in their common words of courtesy
and they trusted to it and were satisfied.

It was dark when they arrived in Glasgow and the
streets were gloomy, wet, and miserable enough. But
the handsome residence before which their carriage
stopped was all light and warmth and color. The
door opened as they approached, for their arrival
had been watched for, and a pretty, elegantly dressed
woman took possession of Lucia with great empress-
ment, and conducted her at once to her own apart-
ment. It was bright and glowing with fire and gad*
light, and a young girl stood at a toilet table arrang-
ing some geranium leaves and roses.

"Maggie,*' said Mrs. -St. Clair, "while Miss Rag-

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

nor is here, you are her maid;" then turning to Lucia,
she added, "Maggie understands her duties, dear,
and is a thoroughly good girl. Give her your keys
and she will put your things in order before dinner,
which I have put off for an hour and a half, so you
need not hurry."

With ready fingers Maggie removed Lucia's
wraps, and drew a low couch before the fire for her
to rest on. A cup of fragrant tea, and the pleasant
basking in the warmth and quiet, soon obliterated all
marks of fatigue, and by the time Maggie was ready
for the duties of the toilet, Lucia was quite awake to
their importance. For she understood thoroughly
the value of a first impression and was not inclined
to forego any advantage to be derived from a becom-
ing dress. After a slight consideration she selected
a gown of pale pink silk, elaborately trimmed with
white silk lace. It had always been a fortunate
dress, and she was inclined to try its power again.
She felt at home in it, and was confident of its
charms. This evening it behaved beautifully, came
out of its wrapping fresh as if new, and fell into its
proper folds at once. Her mirror told her how be-
coming was the dress, and how lovely she was, and
this consciousness of beauty invested her with a
power which is the divine right of beauty and against
which there is no enchantment that can prevail.

On going downstairs she was met by a footman

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THE FIRST WRONG STEP

who opened the door of a handsome room and an-
nounced *'Mis8 Ragnor." For one moment she stood
still, and in that moment photographed the scene on
her memoy. At one side of the fireplace in a large,
low chair Mrs. St. Clair reclined; her satin dress
shimmering in the brilliant light, her eyes half dosed,
one hand toying with her fan, and the other dropped
over the arm of the chair petting a skye-terrier.

Mr. St Clair sat opposite his wife ; he had laid his
newspaper across his knees and was listening to his
nephew who was explaining some statement by means


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe winning of Lucia : a love story → online text (page 2 of 19)