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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The winning of Lucia : a love story online

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fault. Lord Fenwick. Let me speak to my father for

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

you. He is incapable of nourishing ill will or anger
towards anyone."

''Do not name me at all at present, Miss Ragnor.
It would be a most unfortunate time to do so, and
might prevent our future reconciliation. Yet I ask
you to believe and trust me when I say that I have
sought your acquaintance, hoping for your interces-
sion and good offices at the proper time."

"You of course know the most propitious time,
but could there be any better opportunity than the
Christmas feast? All hearts are then inclined to
peace and good will."

Here Mrs. St. Clair's entrance interrupted a con-
versation rapidly becoming too confidential. Then
Fenwick exerted all his powers to charm the lady
and he fully succeeded. After a delightful half-hour,,
he left with a promise to return to dinner, and after-
wards to accompany the ladies to the theater.

In his conversation Lord Fenwick had said noth-
ing that could be construed into love-making, but he
had not avoided or chosen to avoid those vague
elusive impressions by which one soul enters into rela-
tions with another soul. And he was a fascinating
man; the woman who listened to him once would be
almost certain to listen to him again.

Mrs. St. Clair divined exactly the position between
Lord Fenwick and Lucia Ragnor, and she thought
it no wrong to favor a love affair that appeared to

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THE WAY OF TEMPTATION

be so advantageous to her guest, and so promising
to her own social hopes.

"You know, Ralph," she said proudly, to her hus-
band, "I am a Campbell of Lorn. I take no steps
down for Fenwick, and I intend this marriage of
Ragnor and Fenwick to set the door open for my
entrance into the northern nobility."

"I do not think Lucia cares a halfpenny for Lord
Fenwick."

**Is that all your eyes have taught you, Ralph?
Let me tell you, they are both equally in the love
song."

•*Do you really think so?"

"You might as well ask whether the fiddle or the
fiddlestick makes the tune. He is coming to dinner
tonight. Watch them a little. It is true that the
idea of Fenwick is yet but on the horizon of Lucia's
dioughts, but watch them both. When he enters the
room tonight, his eyes will seek hers, dilating and
flashing with delight and her blood will rush in a
crimson tide over her face. Surely Ralph, you Jwcve
seen the light which falls on the face of a mun out
of the face of a woman that loves him."

That night Love fashioned Destiny. When Lord
Fenwick entered the St. Clair drawing-room he
found Lucia alone, and he permitted himself to use
all the charms of his wooing. The beautiful girl in
her richly embroidered India muslin, with one white

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

Camilla among the laces of her bertha, had an irre-
sistible charm, and he counted her, even for herself
alone, well worth the winning. Further than this,
he had not asked himself for the reason of his in-
fatuation. He wooed her with words of fire and
music that went singing and shining like a glorified
atmosphere round her, and that night created in the
innocent girl at his side a great passion — such a
passion as only comes once in a life, a passion that
if it but rise above the sensual touches immortality,
a passion that could only be turned away at
great peril for it would leave behind an everlasting
regret.

Lucia took the pleasure that came to her without
either conscious acceptance or rejection. She only
knew that there was a new heaven and a new earth
around her, and that this man, so much older than
herself, yet so potently charming and handsome, was
a wonderful revelation, a spiritual ecstasy. Yes,
^s is the first emotion of a young girl's love. It is
a Kutti of piety which it is a wickedness to profane,
for to \ such sweet innocent girls God shows great
favor and the angels put their arms around them.

That night Geoffrey Gardiner returned home in
an unusually happy mood. He had been very pros-
perous in some important business, and the pleasant
excitement caused by his success filled his heart All
life's strings were set melodiously, until Maggie^

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meeting him at the top of the stairs, struck a dis-
sonant chord of the seventh as she said:

"I thought you would like to know, sir, that there
will be a gentleman to dinner and to go with the
ladies afterward to the theater.

"Thank you, Maggie," he replied yrith a gay
laugh. "I am not troubling myself about any gentle-
man tonight. Is Miss Ragnor present?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then all is right." In fact as he was returning
home he had been arranging an evening after his
own heart in which every event was to work pros-
perously towards the fulfillment of his great desire.
But he lost all his equanimity and good humor when
he reached the drawing-room. How could he help
it? For under one of the brilliant gaseliers stood
Luda with heightened color and drooping eyes list-
ening to a tall, elegant man who was talking in a
confidential tone about something interesting enough
to make them oblivious of his entrance. Not until
he had advanced well into the room, did Lucia notice
his approach. Then taking a few steps forward, she
presented Geoffrey to Lord Fenwick.

And when Geoffrey heard the name of their guest,
democracy sprung full-armed from his heart. What
had Lord Fenwick to do in their humble drawing-
room? Even his courteous, pleasant manner was an
offence — a piece of impertinent condescension. He

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

assumed a haughty, nonchalant air, which had the
effect of causing Lucia to devote herself with double
mterest to Fenwidc Furthermore, his anger was
greatly increased by his aunt's attentions, and his
uncle's cordial welcome to the nobleman, espedally
as the two latter fell naturally into reminiscences of
their mutual acquaintance with Colonel Ragnor.

Long before dinner was over, Goeffrey had be-
trayed to the wordly-wise nobleman the state of his
feelings toward Lucia. Then he took the trouble
to examine him more attentively — ugly, devcr,
honest, no tact, and no polish, his chances were just
good enough to make a contention with him very in»
teresting. Geoffrey had also been appraising his rival
and had written him down wily, proud, clever, and
handsome. He regarded him with stormy passion,
and it was with difficulty he controlled himself dur-
ing the long two hours at the dinner table.

When they left it, Maggie was waiting in the hall
with opera cloaks, and Geoffrey took from her a deli-
cate white silk wrap, and folding it around Lucia
put her carefully in the carriage. She drove away
without a word, yet at the last moment bent for-
ward, smiled, and nodded to him as he stood in the
open door, wondering whether he should shut him-
self in his own room or go and talk the matter over
with Archie Galbraith.

He decided on the latter, and turning round for

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his hat and gloves saw Maggie moving* about the
hall. Their eyes met, and Geoffrey knew instinc-
tively that she was aware of his grief, and sym-
pathized with him. So he went to her and said :

"Maggie, you have many opportunities to say a
word in my favor. Will you use them for me?'*
And he drew a sovereign from his purse and offered
it to her.

"Put up your gold, Mr. Geoffrey," she answered.
"The good will of an honest heart cannot be bought
with it I have spoken many a good word in season
for you before this and I am not likely to see that
black-eyed Englishman put you to the wall if I can
hdp it"

**Thank you, Maggie 1 Then I can rely on your
hdp?"

"In all that is fair and lawful, sir, and there is a
deal fair in love, that isn't fair in any other way."

The drive to the theater was short but Oh, how
full of happiness! The touch of Lord Fenwick's
fingers, his whispered words, his supporting arm, the
sense of the crowd, and the tender music — all these
things influenced her poignantly, so that even in the
m^t, when all was still and dark, the charming
strains of Verdi's "Trovatore'* wandered through
her consciousness, and she found herself whispering:

O the musici And O the way!

That voice rang out from the donjon tower!

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It had been a feverish, fitful day, and like all such
days full of events and changes that were both un-
foreseen and unprovided for, and Maggie had taken
them into her heart with all the influences of the
midnight's forebodings and threatenings. A great
deal of that fine presentiment which is almost an-
other sense, and its subtle warning, pointed not only
to the destruction of her young master's hopes, but
also to some vague misfortune to Lucia. The way
to avoid it was as yet hid from her, but she went
noiselessly to her room whispering to herself : "It is
all past my comprehension, but there's One Above
knows how to sort it. I thank God we are not in a
Fatherless world."

The dawn of morning brought to Lucia a different
train of feeling. She realized then how truly today
is the disciple of yesterday. She had begun by de-
ceiving her father in regard to Lord Fenwick, and
now she found that she was expected to continue the
deceit. Even Mrs. St. Clair advised her to say noth-
ing of his lordship's visit. She thought to be a peace-
maker might well excuse such a very venial fault as
a temporary silence. But Lucia was neither happy
nor satisfied, and both her honest nature, and her
education were against deception of any kind. Still
inclination is a powerful narcotic to the conscience,
and she was resolved to see and to interrogate Lord
Fenwick in the evening. Perhaps also she might

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have a letter from her father, which would clear her
of all wrong-doing.

The letter from Colonel Ragnor came by the
morning mail. It was written from Penrith, but
made no explanation of the circumstances which had
taken him on such an unusual journey. He merely
said that his visit had been necessary ''to secure some
property to an old and very dear friend.'* He did
not name Lord Fenwick, and it was evident that the
Colonel was still unaware of his child's intimacy with
the nobleman, while every day was making it more
and more difficult for Lucia to confide in hinu

In the meantime Geoffrey absented himself very
much from home. To his uncle's remonstrances he
answered that he could not ''leave his business to
dangle after any woman. Lord Fenwick had noth-
ing else to do." To Lucia's timid offers of friend-
ship, he gave a decided negative. His uncle, his
aunt, and Lucia fell alike under his suspicion and dis-
pleasure and were accused of designs and offences of
which they were quite innocent, for he was an angry
and disappointed man and such men tell many lies
to themselves.

So day by day Lord Fenwick gained that influence
which he bent all his power to win. The many ad-
vantages which rank, wealth and beauty give, were
his to choose from, while all the influences surround-
ing Lucia were in his favor. Half-reluctant and half-

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

consenting, she knew well the point to which her lifo
was drifting. One little word unsaid alone gave her
any control over her destiny. And this word was
begged from her with passionate entreaties and prom-
ises one evening just before Lord Fenwick was on
the point of leaving for a week's visit to the Duke
of Hamilton whose castle was about twelve miles dis-
tant.

Further concealment was then impossible. Lucia
had consented only on die condition that her father
sanctioned tdiat consent^ and her lover had promised
immediately on his return from Hamilton to see Col-
onel Ragnor and ask his approval of their marriage.
He pretended that there was no reason why this con-
sent should be withheldi but he knew well that there
were circumstances to be ignored or forgiven which
a man like Colonel Ragnor might refuse to forgive.
So he went very reluctantly to Hamilton Palace, for
he was afraid any day might bring the Colonel to
Glasgow to convoy his daughter home. There had
been two or three letters proposing such an event
and he thought the last of these offers had met its
refusal in a very dissatisfied spirit. So it was ^th
many doubts and fears he left Lucia, for he knew
that an explanation was inevitable and he was not
prepared for it.

Maggie, who was learned on the subject of young
ladies, guessed very quiddy what had happened. We

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are fearfully and wonderfully made, especially wom-
en, she thought. One said that that ought to know,
but the better-half of the wonder was hidden from
him. He should have seen the women of this gen-
eration. And while Mag^e was thus musing, Luda
interrupted her thought by suddenly asking:

"Maggie, were you ever in love?**

"No, indeed, miss. I have always been known
for my good common-sense, and there is nothing
more foolish than to like some other person better
than yourself.**

"But, Maggie, what would come of the world, if
every one had your uncommon sense?**

"Indeed, miss, it is none of my business to look
after the world. It does not trouble its head about
me-**

After a short pause Lucia said, "Lord Fenwick
has gone to the Duke of Hamilton's for a week.**

"I hope the Duke will make much of him, miss,
and keep him a year.**

Lucia's answer was prevented by Mrs. St. Qair*s
entrance. She had been out all morning but she ap-
peared in no way astonished at Lord Fenwick's offer
and movements. Indeed, there was no reason why
she should be ; there had been a thorough understand-
ing between them for some time.

She managed to persuade Lucia that it was the
proper course of events for Lord Fenwidc to be the

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

first to inform Colonel Ragnor of his daughter's be-
trothal, and that as he must know the best way to
approach her father, it was only fair not to embar-
rass his plans by her premature movements, and fur-
ther, that it was best to say nothing to Mr. St. Clair
and Geoffrey until the affair was sanctioned. And
Luda made the required promises, feeling as if there
was really no choice In the matter and that this con-
tinual yielding to what she felt was wrong was but
the natural result of her first concession.

If the knowledge that his home was freed from the
presence of Lord Fenwick was any comfort to Geof-
frey, he sorely needed the comfort, for he had just
heard news which had given him the greatest sorrow.
Archie, his friend, his brother in soul, had been
ordered by the house which employed him to leave
immediately for Turkey where in all probability
he might be detained for some years. Geoffrey, act-
ing on his uncle's advice, had decided to accompany
his friend as far as Liverpool. For his own house
had large business transactions both there and in the
manufacturing districts of Yorkshire and Lancashire,
and Mr. St. Clair hoped great things for Geoffrey
from the change and excitement afforded by the
trip.

"Besides, Geoffrey,'* he added, "you can come
home by the Caledonian Line, and stop a day or two
with my friend, Colonel Ragnor. He will do you

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THE WAY OF TEMPTATION

good Go and rest yourself mentally and bodily in
the cool, calm shadow of his presence."

"Perhaps I may, but say nothing to my aunt or
Miss Ragnor. My inclination or my courage, may
fail at the last hour."

Now the greatest desire of Geoffrey was to speak
to Lucia before he went away, but he was afraid to
force an interview. Yet when he found her on the
last evening sitting alone by the dying fire of the
deserted breakfast parlor, he was unable to resist
the opportunity. Indeed Lucia made it easy for him
to speak as she laid her hand lightly on his arm and
said kindly:

"I hear you are going to England, Mr. Gardiner."

"Yes," he answered. "I am going to Liverpool
tomorrow."

"I shall likely have gone back to my home ere you
return to Glasgow. Let us be friends. If I have
ever grieved you in any way forgive me before we
part"

Then Geoffrey went into deep waters. Great
waves of passionate love rolled over his heart. His
eyes filled with tears, he trembled like a reed in a
great wind, though her touch was light as a snow
flake.

"Lucia 1 Lucia I" he said. "Why did you tempt
me? I must speak now, and you must listen. I
know there is no hope for me, and yet I love you I I

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

love you as the cold, cruel heart that you have
chosen, never can love you I

"I have chosen I What do you mean, sir?"
"Miss Ragnor, the question is unworthy of jwi.'*
"Mr. Gardiner, we have been playing at cross
purposes too long. Can you bear the truth, if I tell
It to your

"Truth is easier to bear than falsehood."
"Very well. In the first place you have been cold
and cross to me because I have been kind to my fath-
er's old friend. Lord Fenwidc. In the second place,
you are jealous of my lord's handsome person, his
rank, and intellect, and you are cherishing in your
heart a bitter quarrel against him — a quarrel you
would be far wiser to explain away."

"Miss Ragnor, my quarrel with Lord Fen^ck is a
very pretty quarrel just as it stands; we should not
improve it by any amount of explanations. I do not
envy him a single thing he possesses, except your love
— and I do not object to him as your father's friend,
but as your lover."

"And why do you object to him as my lover?"
"Because I love you myself. It was perhaps a
foolish and presumptuous thing to do, but yet I
dared to love you as truly and deeply as an honest
true-hearted gentleman should do. I had hoped also
— but that is over— over and past. Teil me now,
that I must henceforward forget — and I — and I, will

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THE WAY OF TEMPTATION

try to do it. Life is too precious to be flung away
for a vain hope. Now then, be truthful, Lucia I
Answer me, Lucia! Shall I from this hour teach
my heart to forget you?"

"The lesson will be one of your own setting, Mr.
Gardiner, and I shall give you no help in the learn-
mg of it I think you ought to be ashamed and sorry
for being so rude and cross to me."

She left the room with these words and his oppor-
tunity was lost How angry he felt at himself. He
had been so hard to her timid appeal He had be-
haved shamefully. He was thoroughly miserable.
He would have humbled himself gladly now, but
he could not find her in any of her usual resorts, and
as a last effort he sent for Maggie, and after a con-
fession that he had happened to be very rude and
unkind to Miss Ragnor, he asked, "Do you know
where she is, Maggie, or what she is doing?"

Maggie looked doubtingly, yet admiringly at him.
"Indeed, sir," she answered. "Indeed, sir I I am a
great traitor to my own sex to tell you, but if you
will believe me, Mr. Gardiner, she is up in her own
room crying her very eyes out."

"6 Maggie I Maggie I Run and tell her how
broken-hearted I ami How ashamed of myself
I am."

"No, no, sir. No one shall send Maggie on a
fooPs errand. I am well pleased with her tears—

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

better pleased than I have been with anything for a
long time."

"What do you mean, Maggie?'*

"Just this, Master Geoffrey, no woman cries about
a man she does not care for, and now if you will be
careful, and go cannily, you may toss your head
yet at that English lord for all that is said and
done/'

"But I am going away tomorrow morning early,
and what will she think of me all the time we are
parted?"

"She will think better of you and more of you, if
you leave her with a good reason to think of you.
Some women like to rule, and some like to be ruled.
Miss Ragnor is one of the latter kind. If you are
fretting downstairs, she is fretting upstairs, and if
you will take my advice, you will neither meddle nor
make in the matter. It will sort itself before long.
The tears will do Miss Ragnor good. They are the
first signs of grace in her that I have seen since that
black-eyed border lord threw his witchcraft o'er her."

"But there is little in what you say, Maggie — ^just
generalities. I cannot hope on such grounds."

"Just hear the man I" exclaimed Maggie. "I won-
der whatever men expect when they are in love I And
as for hoping, don't do it, sir, if you fear to. I shall
hope to the very last hour, and if I was not a pious
lass, and a member of the Kirk in good standing, I

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would take a heavy wager on your winning the lady
after aU."



That same evening Lord Fenwick, cross and weary
and disgusted with everything, drew his chair before
the fire in his luxurious sleeping-room in Hamilton
Palace. "At last," he muttered. "At last the farce
is oven What a play it is I I wonder that we do
not laugh In each other's faces.'' His servant stand-
ing in the shadows at the end of the room watched
him with mingled hate and fear. He waited for a
summons, but as it did not come, he lifted his lord-
ship's dressing-gown and slippers, and with a shrug
of contempt, advanced into his presence.

"Well, Dick, were you in the city today?" asked
Lord Fenwick.

"Yes, my lord."

"At your post?"

**Yes, sir."

**Any news?"

"She was at a concert, my lord.'*

"Who with?"

"Mr. and Mrs. St. Clair."

"That young cub there?"

"Meaning Mr. Gardiner? No, my lord. He
sails for Liverpool tomorrow morning."

"He can go to the bottom of the sea if he likes."

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'Yes, my lord I have no objections — none what-



ever."



"How did she look?"

"BeautifuUer than ever I see her before, and
merry as she was beautiful."

"That's the way with women. Here I am, sick
with anxiety and love for her sake, and she can go
to a concert and laugh with a thousand other fools."

Dick made a grimace, the evil import of which
might be intended for Lord Fenwick and might have
a more general signification.

"You saw no signs of the old man, I suppose?"

"Meaning Colonel Ragnor, my lord? No, I never
thought of looking for him in a concert hall."

"Were you not at Mr. St Clair's house? Speak
the truth, sir."

"Well, yes, my lord. I did walk up there."

"And I forbade you. Dick, you will get yourself
into trouble. The Colonel would be sure to recog-
nize you. Were there any signs of company?"

"Only in the kitchen, sir. There was a very pleas-
ant little spread there."

"How long did you stop? What did you hear?"

"Just long enough to drink your health, my lord.
The servants were talking about your chances with
Miss Ragnor. Every one thought Mr. Gardiner
was Miss Ragnor's favorite."

"Such nonsense I What do they know? Take

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care, Dick, you are trying to make me angry, and I
shall not bear much of your evil temper tonight."

Dick looked evil enough with his lowering brow
and sulky manner, and the glance which answered
this remark, might have frightened a man of less
pride and confidence in himself, or with less contempt
for his inferiors than Lord Fenwick had. After a
few minutes' silence during which Dick was divest-
ing his master of his dress, boots and coat. Lord Fen-
wick said :

"I am sorry I took your advice, Dick, about this
young lady. It is going to cost me a deal of suffer-
ing, if I do not get her."

"Then you must have her, my lord. I would
rather she suffered than you."

Without noticing the innuendo. Lord Fenwick
said: ''Must is easily spoken. Tell me a way to
must."

"Go and ask Colonel Ragnor for her."

"You know that he would rather see her deadj^
than give her to me."

"Then take her, my lord. Your grandfather al-
ways took what he wanted — ^lady or land."

"I am not my grandfather, Dick, and the law is
above the lord in these days. Women are so decep-
tive. I thought from her pretty childish ways in
Penrith that she would be wax in my fingers and that
through her I could pay Richard Ragnor back some

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

of the debt I owe him. But I have been fool enough
to lose my own heart while I am far from certain
whether or not I have won hers."

Dick looked steadily at the white, anxious face
of his master, and seemed to find some private pleas-
ure in the suffering he saw there. "Go and see your


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe winning of Lucia : a love story → online text (page 4 of 19)