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The winning of Lucia : a love story online

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of a diagram drawn on the back of a letter which
he held in his hand. This young gentleman was the
nephew of whom Colonel Ragnor had spoken to his
daughter, and he was in all respects the most remark-
able of the group, remarkable for his great stature
and powerful frame and for his singular face which
was hardly redeemed by all its intellect and expres-
sion, from the charge of ugliness.

He was standing with his back to the fire in the
center of the hearthrug, and the rapid decisive way
in which he was speaking made Lucia understand
instinctively that he was a power and an authority
in the house. Mr. St. Clair introduced his nephew as
Mr. Geoffrey Gardiner, and Lucia had the satisfac-
tion of seeing that her beauty, enhanced by her ad-
mirable toilet, had taken all by surprise. Mrs. St.
Clair resigned at once her intentions of patronage.

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

As for Mr. Gardiner he felt almost ill-used. His
uncle had spoken of Lucia In such a way as had led
him to think her a pretty, unsophisticated country
girl, whom it would be pleasant enough to amuse
and perhaps to fall in love with.

But before this charming girl, with her composed
manner, and fashionable dress, his magnanimous in-
tentions vanished. He gradually subsided from his
central position, and leaning on the back of a chair
watched the beautiful and animated face before him.
To this occupation he gave himself up with such evi-
dent pleasure, that Mr. St. Clair felt a sudden fear
for what he had done. If Geoffrey should love with
all the willful passion of which he was capable and
Lucia should refuse to listen to him, what trouble
might he not expect from his fierce and stubborn
temper?

He tried to renew the subject they had been dis-
cussing before Lucia's entrance, but the plans about
which Geoffrey had then been so eager had lost their
charm for him. He had a new subject of interest
which was likely to absorb all minor ones. Hitherto
with Geoffrey Gardiner to will a thing, had been to
accomplish it; every obstacle in life had given way
before his clear judgment, impetuous temper, and
magnificent physical power. To his uncle and aunt
he was an oracle; in the business house with which
he was connected nothing was done without his ap-

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THE FIRST WRONG STEP

proval. Old men of acknowledged capacity and posi-
tion spoke of him as "an extraordinary young man/*
Young ladies, in spite of his lack of beauty, courted
his attentions and repaid them with their sweetest
smiles. Tonight for the first time Geoflfrey Gardiner
doubted his invincible success, and feared before the
face of a woman. For Love had thrown its en-
chantments over him and he saw Lucia through the
glamor of a spell which exalted her above all mortal
women.

Some kind sprite knocks softly at every soul to
tell it when its fate is at hand, and Geoffrey had
heard the summons and answered it in his usual im-
pulsive way. And that the womanly instinct of Lucia
had divined much that had never been explained to
her was evident from the postscript attached to her
first letter home.

I have told you, father, that I think Mr. Gar-
diner the handsomest ugly man I ever saw. Was
It part of my mission here to subdue him ? If so,
I send you Caesar's bulletin — Feni, vidi, vicu



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CHAPTER III

LOVE CAME TOO LATE

Her young heart blows

Leaf by leaf, coining out like a rose.

If she be not so to me,

What care I how fair she be!

NO man ever acts from a single motive, and
there were some entanglements in the
course which Geoffrey had rapidly marked
out for himself that he scarcely yet saw how to avoid.
But in all his perplexities he had always gone to his
friend Archie Galbraith not so much for advice as
for the comfort of expressing to a sympathizing list-
ener his own views and feelings. Therefore, the
morning after the arrival of Lucia, the oj£ce of Gal-
braith and Company in Virginia Street was very
early honored with a call from Mr. Gardiner.

The friends sat smoking a few minutes without
much conversation, but Archie knew Geoffrey had
not come at that time in the day without some special
cause. So he waited patiently till it should appear,

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watching as he waited the smoke of his cigar curling
hazily upward in the heavy air.

At length Geoffrey said, "Archie, my aunt has got
a new pet."

"Really I Is it a terrier, or a King Charles, or an
Italian grayhound, or what is the style she has
selected this time?"

"You must speak with a little more respect, my
friend. It is a very fashionable young lady," and
there was the faintest touch of resentment in the
tone of Geoffrey^s voice.

"Oh I I beg pardon Geoffrey, but you know Mrs.
St. Clair's pets alwajrs have been — ^puppies."

"I hope you mean nothing personal, Archie," and
in spite of himself Geoffrey laughed at his friend's
comical look and intonation.

"Why, no, I have a very distinct remembrance
of at least half-a-dozen of them. There was that
little brute, who always took me for a rival and
treated me with an insolence that would have been
insufferable in a two-legged animal. Then there was
that skye-terrier with the national taste for whiskey,
and whom I firmly believe died of delirium tre-
mens — ^and" —

"Do be sensible, Archie. I came to talk to you
about the most beautiful woman I have ever seen,
and—"

"Geoffrey I have heard that story before."

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

**No, you have not. There may be lovelier girls
than Lucia Ragnor, but if those are, I have never
seen them."

^'I hope you are not going to fall in love with this
young lady."

"Why not?"

"Because it won*t do. It won't do, Geoffrey 1
There is little Flora Kelvin; you have been making
love to Flora for nearly two years. I expect she
loves you a little by this time."

"There is no engagement between us."

"Let me tell you, then, that there ought to be."

"Archie, how do you know? What reason have
you to make such a statement?"

"I could give you plenty of reasons. One will
suffice — ^you have taught her to love you. Do not
make it an unfortunate lesson for her."

"Well, of course I shall do nothing wrong to
Flora. I want you to come and take dinner with
me tonight. When you have been under the spell of
Miss Ragnor we can talk more on an equality."

"I cannot come tonight, Geoffrey. I am going
with Grace and Mary Lindsey to a concert."

"Why, Archie I Two old maids against Miss
Ragnor and mjrself."

"Two daughters of my father's dearest friend,
Geoffrey. I cannot, I would not, disappoint them."

"You arc a little beyond my philosophy, Archie,

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but I know you are right. Will you come tomor-
Towr

"If nothing prevents me — if there is any unavoid-
able prevention, I will let you know.**

Thus the friends parted. GeoflFrey fretted and
wearied over his accustomed duties until dinner-
time, and Archie resuming his seat at his desk dis-
missed everything from his mind but yams and com-
missions.

Six o'clock came, though Geoffrey thought it never
would, and through the bustle and light of Argyle
Street he made his way rapidly to the stately quiet
of the West End. It was his present object to be
dressed for dinner, and in the dining-room when
Lucia entered it, so that he might have the pleasure
of watching her, but he was disappointed. She was
already in the room. He saw her through the open
door, sitting before the fire rocking herself in a low,
comfortable American chair. An atmosphere of
thoughtful calm pervaded her, and to Geoffrey, with
his unrestful heart, going into her presence was like
going into a sanctuary.

She received him with a pleasant smile and asked
how he had spent the long, dull day.

Of course he told her an untruth and made the
usual remarks about the hurry of business and the
flight of time.

"WeU, Mr. Gardiner,** she replied, "I have been

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

unmistakably idle all day. According to Dr. Watts,
I ought to have been proportionably wicked, for
you know who he says finds the work for idle
hands.*'

"Dr. Watts is orthodox authority for that gentle-
man's engagements, I have no doubt. Don't you
think, for instance, that he has been helping you to
do mischief, by suggesting the bewildering toilet you
are wearing?"

"Oh, no I My maid Maggie suggested it.'*

"Nevertheless the toilet is — "

"Do not praise it, Mr. Gardiner. Consider the
source you have assigned it. And if you are a pru-
dent man, do not dispraise it, for, as the Spanish
nobleman said, ^you never know who is beside you.' "

"Are you superstitious?"

"Certainly, I am." Everyone is superstitious; only
I have the honesty to avow it. I am pretty sure you
will deny it."

"How can I acknowledge what I do not under-
stand?"

"A Scotsman's answer. You reply to one diffi-
culty by suggesting another."

"I am from your own side of the border. What
makes you think I am a Scot?"

"First your stature — like the Scotch mountaineers
you are a son of Anak; second your complexion, roy
is the national idiom, is it not? Third, your disposi-

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tion to answer questions by asking questions. Are
not three reasons rendered, enough?"

"If they are not more complimentary, quite so."
"What could you expect in return for your innu-
endo about my dress?"

Here they were interrupted by a summons to din-
ner, and a very pleasant dinner it was. Mr. St. Clair
had plenty of news and pleasant gossip, and Mrs. St.
Clair listened and made amusing conunents, just sar-
castic and spiteful enough to show their feminine
origin. The evening was a very gay one. Much
company came and went; there was music and danc-
ing and an after-midnight supper. This life certainly
was not a dull one, but was it one which

• • . durst send

A challenge to its end,

And when it came say, "Welcome friend !"

Just yet Lucia did not think of this. While Mag-
gie unbound and brushed her hair, she remained
long in reverie, but the subject of it was explained by
her first question :

"Maggie, what kind of a man is Mr. Gardiner?"
' "Mr. Gardiner, miss? Indeed it is easy seen, that
he is big enough, and handsome enough for any use
in life."

"That is not what I mean, Maggie. What kind
of a heart or disposition or temper has he got?"

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

'*His heart is big enough to hold up his body, big
as it is — and whiles I think Master Geoflfrey's faults
are better than some folks' virtues, as to his temper —
well — I am thinking he has as much of the devil in
him, as will keep the devil out of him/'

'That is a pleasant consideration, Maggie, in case
he does not find grace to mend his faults."

''There is another thing. Miss Ragnor. If Master
Geoffrey doesn't mind his faults as quick as might
be, he doesn't fash himself anent other people's
faults and maybe that ought to count something to
his credit."

"I think it will, Maggie. We are told on good
authority, that God will not judge hardly those who
judge others mercifully."

"I believe that. Miss Ragnor, besides which, it is
better to have to do with God than with all God's
saints."

"Well Maggie, we must try and accept our friends
and acquaintances as they are. We cannot alter
them."

"And also, Miss Ragnor, we be to accept our-
selves as we are, and not pretend to be what we are
not."

Lucia smiled and the thought lingered with her
until she lost it in sleep.

At this time Lucia did not know her own mind.
She had a romantic remembrance of the handsome

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LOVE CAME TOO LATE



Lord Fenwick, of his great beauty not injured but
matured by time, and of that air of distinction which
pervaded his every word and action and which is
only attained by habitual living on the highest peaks
of social life. Nor could she forget his seductive
melancholy, and the look of passionate admiration
with which he had regarded her, when he promised
to see her again, very soon.

Still when Geoffrey was with her, she felt all the
charm of his great mental and physical powers,
though she resented the concessions they forced from
her in his presence, and made constant resolutions to
oppose his influence. The fact was, however, that
her affections wavered ytt as

The swan's down feather,

That stands upon the swell at full of tide,

And neither way inclines.

Geoffrey's condition was still more unsettled and
perplexing, for he was neither "off with his old love,
nor yet on with his new love." At first he had sent
excuses to Miss Kelvin for his absences but grad-
ually even this form had been neglected, and as the
days grew to weeks it became more and more diffi-
cult for him to explain or to apologize. Very soon
he put the subject out of his thoughts, and was an-
noyed at any allusion to it, so that when Archie said
one evening:

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

''Geoffrey, I met Mrs* Kelvin this morning on
Buchanan Street and I promised her to call on them
this evening,*' he merely replied,

"Did you? How was she?"

"Very well"

"Did she name me?"

"Not in any way, but you may be named during
my call and if so, what am I to say?"

"I do not know. What do you advise?"

"Always the truth and the whole truth. If I were
you, I should go and tell Flora frankly about Miss
Ragnor and your passion for her. Flora is a proud
little lady, and will not trouble you either with com-
plaints or heroics. Go with me this evening. I will
wait for you, if you desire."

"I cannot go this evening. I have promised to go
out with my aunt and Miss Ragnor. You may be
able to give me better advice after seeing Flora. I
will wait and see."

Then he dismissed the subject There was some-
thing pleasanter to think about than Flora Kelvin
and his entanglement with her.

He kept the pleasanter thought with him as he
walked home, and its embodiment met him as he en-
tered it — a woman very fair, clothed in some white
transparent material, with the white, waxen berries
and glossy green leaves of the mistletoe gleaming in
her hair and on her breast — ^a woman

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LOVE CAME TOO LATE



• • • as pure as a pearl,

And as perfect — a lovely and innocent girl!

His strong passionate nature found a momentary
expression in one word — ''Lucia/''

Only that one word, but it was heart deep. Ap-
parently it found no echo. She answered coldly and
went on. Then he blamed himself bitterly for his
premature folly, for Lucia was shy and cold during
all the evening. In fact she had intended making a
much more effective entry, and she was angry at
Geoffrey's forestalling her intention. So she was
well disposed to teach her too eager lover the lesson
that most young men are too presumptuous or too
impatient to divine. Love out of time is always love
out of tune and no doubt Geoffrey felt love to be
out of time and tune all that evening.

So much so that his first remark to his friend
when they met on the following day was "Poor little
Flora I I suffered so much myself last night, Archie,
that I am almost ready to ask her to marry me."

"You will not be required to make such a sacrifice,
Geoffrey.*'

"What do you mean?"

"I was invited last night to Miss Kelvin's mar-
nage.

"Archie GalbraithI You are joking 1"

"I am in earnest. It is a fact."

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

"Well I Well 1 After that, who would trust any
woman again?*'

"Come, Geoffrey, you are living in a glass house.
I would not throw stones/*

"What did they say about me?"

"They never mentioned you. I was introduced to
the bridegroom."

"Oh, I know I that rich, gouty old Bailie Little-
john, I suppose."

"You are wrong. He is, on the contrary, a young
and exceptionally handsome man, a Captain in the
regiment of dragoons now at Stirling Castle. He
was quite splendid in scarlet and gold, I assure you."

"When is she to be married?"

"In a month."

"What is his name?"

"Captain Cathcart. He is of a fine family and
has seen service already. He returns to duty today
until the wedding.**

"I am glad of that, for I shall go and tell Miss
Flora what I think of her.'*

"Ask yourself, Geoffrey, what your opinions arc
worth before you trouble her with them."

"I am sure she has not forgotten me."

"I am sure she has. I thought her very much in
love with her handsome soldier."

"I shall go and see the false little flirt and have an
explanation, whether she likes it or not"

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LOVE CAME TOO LATE



"Do nothing of the kind It would be absurd
She has buried your memory; let it rest in peace."

The motives which led Geoffrey to disregard his
friend's advice were doubtless various and complex,
but one or more of them carried the day, and seven
o'clock that evening found him in the pretty drawing-
room where he had so often waited for Flora. He
thought of the shy, blushing girl that used to come
so softly and happily to greet him, of the little white
hand she had laid in his, of the blue eyes that looked
into his eyes, of the curly brown head and slim,
graceful figure, and his heart was warm and tender
when the door slowly opened and Flora entered

But it was a different Flora. The timid shrinking
girl that had been wont to meet him with tender,
blushing embarrassment, now approached with a
sang-froid and polite indifference more galling than
any amount of reproach. She drew her chair under
the gas, and crocheted with perfect ease and calm-
ness of manner. .So cold and serene was she, that
all his prepared speeches froze on his lips.

He had told himself that only the best of motives
brought him into her presence. Flora saw deeper
and discovered some that Geoffrey would not have
liked to acknowledge — even to himself — ^thoughts
which would have held Flora in reserve, thoughts of
the same selfish character, which ^sop gives the de-
testable dog in the manger. But she continued talk-

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

ing on indifferent subjects in the quietest manner
until the dock chimed etgjht. Then she rose say-
ing:

^'Tea is served now. Will yoo go and see mamma
and have a cup?" She would have opened the door,
hot he reached it first.

"Stop, Flora 1" he said. "Let ns speak honestly,
if only for a moment. Too love me, and yon are
going to marry Captain Cadicart.**

"I do not love yoo, Mr. Gardiner;** and she lifted
her eyes, and looked him steadily in the face.

"^nce when have yoo ceased to love me. Flora?**

"Since yon ceased to be worthy of it.**

"Too soon foond a more worthy lover,** said
Geoffrey, in a mocking tone.

"Rather, I retomed to an cid one. Captain Catb-
cart offered me his hand two years ago. Too know
why I then refused it. Mr. Gardiner might have
omitted the taunt. Satan reproving nn, is not a con-
sistent q>ectade.**

"Are we two to part thus?**

"We never ought to have met again. Why did
you come?**

"My heart brou^ me.**

"No, no, I will tell you why you came — to make
me suffer a miseraUe r^ret, to insult me with ex-
cuses for having ceased to love me. Do you not
understand, sir, that diere are wrongs hard for a

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woman to forgive? Allow me to pass, Mr. Gar-
diner/*

He had no right, he had no power to detain her.
He hardly knew whether he was glad or sorry, but
angry and stunned by his dismissal, he made his way
to the door and let himself out. As he did so, he
remembered how often under summer stars, and win-
ter moonlight. Flora had lingered on the porch with
him, both of them sorry to say "good night.*' But
he put that, and many other memories, away with a
resolute will. He would see the future only in the
star-like eyes of Lucia Ragnor, and perhaps his most
sincere marvel was the same as that of the hero of
Locksley Hall — how the young lady

• • . having known him, could decline.

On a range of narrower feelings, and a lower
heart than his, the never ending puzzle of cast-off
lovers, how women having had the advantage of
their acquaintance, could possibly put up with prigs
and dandies I Geoffrey certainly felt as if this night
Lucia had really a right to be kind to him, and if
she was, he told himself positively, he could let all
the rest go by.

It was impossible for Lucia to have had any
knowledge of this breaking of the old love between
Geoffrey Gardiner and Flora Kelvin, and yet some-

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

how women hold a divining cup in such matters. At
any rate, never had the new love been half so kind
and frankly pleasant, and a couple of hours of such
consolation enabled him to think of Flora with
equanimity; and Mr. St. Clair passing his nephew's
door late that night, heard him softly singing the
old English refrain:

'*Ii she be not so to me,
What care I how fair she be?"



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CHAPTER IV

THE WAY OF TEMPTATION

Time and chance are but a tide,
Slighted love is sair to bide.

THAT unknown something which stands in
the way of answering letters had in a meas-
ure Interfered with the long epistles that
Ann had at first written to beguile her loneliness.
But the old lady felt hurt at the short Infrequent
generallsms that repaid her detailed and circum-
stantial efforts and had gradually adopted a laconic
style which was under the conditions no darkening
of knowledge. For Lucia considered herself abso-
lutely familiar with all the probabilities and possibili-
ties of the life at Abbotts Rest.

She was, therefore, much astonished when Ann
informed her In a queer little note just before Christ-
mas that the Colonel had gone to Penrith. She
''hoped he had good reasons for traipsing round the
country-side at such a tempestuous time of the year,"

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

she said, *'but if he had, no other person knew any-
thing concerning them."

This circumstance interested Lucia far more than
Ann could have guessed. She was sure only some
important event would have taken her father from
home, during the season when the mountain roads
were full of snow and travel difficult and uncomfort-
able. Then she remembered that it was at Penrith
her father had met Lord Fenwick before and she
could not avoid putting him and her father's journey
together.

She had not forgotten the sad, handsome face
which had looked for a few moments into her life,
and this morning she abandoned all attempts to do
so. She fell into a reverie which ended in a reality.
There was the rattle of carriage wheels in the silent
square, an imperative ring of the door-bell, and then
Maggie with an expression and intonation only per-
ceptible to Lucia's quick ear, introduced ''Lord Fen-
wick/'

Lucia advanced blushing and beautiful to meet
him and he led her back to her chair and drew his
own beside her, explaining the while how an order
from the court had prevented him until this hour,
from fulfilling the promise he had made to see her
again very soon.

"But when did you see my father?" she inquired,
for she was sure that in some way or other there was

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THE WAY OF TEMPTATION

a connecting link between Colonel Ragnor's visit to
Penrith and Lord Fenwick*s visit to herself.

*Tour father. Miss Ragnorl I have not seen him
since we parted in your presence at Penrith."

"Indeed, Lord Fenwick, I surely thought you
brought me some message from him, for this morn-
ing I received a letter stating he had gone to Pen-
rith. As soon, therefore, as I saw you, I felt sure
you would be able to tell me why Colonel Ragnor
had taken such a disagreeable journey at this season
of the year,"

"I do not know, but I can conjecture."

"Then may I ask you to tell me?"

His eyes softened, and an untranslatable expres-
sion flitted across his face.

"It is connected with your mother. Her only
relative still lives there. Did you not know this?"
he asked, as he looked into her eyes and took her
softly by the hand.

"No. My mother has never been more to me
than a beautiful abstraction — as the angels in heaven.
I know nothing beyond Abbot's Rest. I did not
even know that my father and you had been friends
until I saw you at Penrith."

^^Had heenl You are right. Miss Ragnor. It is
my misfortune, that we are no longer friends."

"Your misfortune may not necessarily be your


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe winning of Lucia : a love story → online text (page 3 of 19)