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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The winning of Lucia : a love story online

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cousin, my lord," he said. "He is a right noble fel-
low, and if you humbled yourself enough and begged
his pardon humbly, why he would be more likely to
forgive you than not."

"I do not see the wicked sneer on your face, Dick,
tut I know it is there, but I do believe you have
^ven me good advice for once, and I should not be
astonished if for once I took it. And if I do take
it, Richard Ragnor is capable — if any man on earth
is — of the exalted charity your sarcasm intimated."

"Will your lordship go to bed now? Such good
thoughts are rare drowsy herbs to sleep on."

Lord Fenwick looked at the man with a kind of
admiration. He knew himself to be true to circum-
stances rather than facts, but Dick made no pre-
tence of either having or desiring to have one good
thought. In any piece of selfish pleasure, he had
always been ready to take his part, without annoy-
ing his master with inconvenient scruples. He knew
all Lord Fenwick's secret sins and sorrows, and Lord
Fenwick held him in check by the strongest of all ties
—the power to condemn him to prison and to death.

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THE WAY OF TEMPTATION

Dick hated all men, but in his hatred of his mas-
ter there was a kind of feudal feeling, which made
him at least prefer him before others. For his an-
cestors had served the lords of Fenwick for many
centuries, and he himself had been born in a Fen-
wick cottage upon Lord Fenwick's land. He had
done Colonel Ragnor the most cruel of injuries, and
the injurer never forgives, so he had freely hoped
that his master's pursuit of Miss Ragnor would
end, as most of his amours did, in sorrow and dis-
grace. But that the sorrow should fall on his mas-
ter's head and so by reflection on his own had not
been in his calculations.

Neither was it any part of his plans that Lucia
Ragnor should become Lady Arthur Fenwick. He
wanted no woman about his business and Lord Fen-
wick was his business ; rather than that, he told him-
self he would himself see Colonel Ragnor, and in
that case it would go ill with his master's hopes.

But while these two plotted against her, Lucia
slept the calm innocent sleep of one for whom daily
prayer is made. If she was in danger of forgetting
God while mingling with the mirth and frivolity of
this world, her father offered up constant supplica-
tions for her. So between her and all peril and sin,
hung this cloud of incense like a shield, and its motto
was, "Deliver her from evil.'*



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CHAPTER V

IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: "It might have bcenl"

Love sees alasl that there are places, where he m^
come too late.

COLONEL RAGNOR was very happy, for
there had just come to Abbot's Rest a let-
ter from Lucia, sa^dng that she intended
to return home almost inunediately and that a very
dear friend would accompany her. The Colonel had
no doubt that the very dear friend was Mr. Gardiner
and he was not ill pleased at the thought. For there
was no need of hurry about Lucia's wedding; she
might be all his own, for many happy years yet.
Then he pictured her in the low, study chair she had
always occupied, lifting her bright, changeful face to
his, for sympathy and instruction.

Today he heard with pleasure Ann's authoritative
voice scolding and giving orders. There was a cheer-

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IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN



ful stir and bustle through tbe house. It is incred-
ible how still and silent a house gets in which there
are no young people, and the Colonel recognized
this fact that day, though he had never consciously
done so before.

Ann, who had grumbled long about the lonely
house, was delighted. ''It was high time," she said
to the parlor maid, Susy, "high time that there was
some fresh carryings on," and she hoped Miss Lucia
would put a stop to the way the Colonel had fallen
into of going about the fells and in and out of the
cottages, reading a chapter of the Gospels to this or
that shepherd — talking with them, too, about old bat-
tles and old days, and worse than all, having things
cooked for them right in her kitchen — ^hare soup, and
calf-foot jelly, and the like. "I shall expect Miss
Lucia to put a stop to such nonsense I And then the
talking to us at night, about the sorrow and sickness
he has seen in the day. I hope she will put a stop
to such preachments nearly every night in a week.
It is a perfect wastrie of good talk." What did peo-
ple want with so many sermons ? She thanked heaven
one every Sabbath morning was enough to keep her
In the way she should go.

Susy said she supposed Dixon, who went every-
where with the master, would be glad to stay at home
and be rid of so much Bible reading, but Ann an-
swered:

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

*'Nay, not he, my lass I I'm just tickled to death,
with the sanctified airs the man puts on — ^but why
are you standing glowering at me? Folks that can't
talk and work too, should hold their tongues. No-
body ever knew my tongue to stop my work."

*'I am not stopping to talk, Ann. I was listening.
I thought I heard someone knocking at the door."

"Well, let them knock."

But as the knocking continued, and the Colonel
also rang his bell, Ann thought it might be as well
to send Dixon to see who was there. And before
Dixon returned to the kitchen, she was curious
enough. The arrival had evidently caused a sen-
sation. Whoever it was, had been taken into the
home sitting-room, a most unusual favor, and sub-
sequently Dixon had dismissed the hired carriage,
and carried the stranger's light luggage upstairs.

So Dixon's return to the kitchen was hailed with
a very express ^^Wellf*

'Welir Dixon replied.

"Who have you taken upstairs, I would like to
know?"

"I would like to know myself, Ann, but the master
did not tell me."

"Did the stranger give you no name, when you
opened the door to him?"

"He gave me a card, and certainly the master was
glad to read what was on it"

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IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN



"And you would make me believe you yourself
did not read what was on the card?"

"It was none of my business to read it, Ann."

"That is reason plenty for your doing it then. And
I know as well as you do, that you are acquainted
with the name of the man you took upstairs. If
you like to tell me, very good; if not, you can carry
your pipe outside. Til not have the smell o* it, in
my kitchen."

"Don't be so quick, mistress. I am going to tell
you. The man's name is Gardiner. I mind it, be^
cause it is the name of my own honest calling."

"Gardiner 1" said Ann, screwing up her mouth,
"and I wonder what he will be wanting here? It's
about Miss Lucia, and I'll take my oath on the same."

It certainly was Geoffrey, but he showed no dis-
position to speak of Miss Ragnor. All through the
long, peaceful evening she was not named. The many
problems which had secretly troubled, or perplexed
the young man, were all talked over in the light of
inspiration, and Geoffrey really thought it would be
good to build a little tabernacle in these quiet glens,
and escape the feverish tumult of the city.

Colonel Ragnor did not agree with him. "The
country is no guarantee for a pure and peaceful life,"
he said. "Besides, Mr. Gardiner, there is One who
knows what discipline we need, and who orders all
the events of our life, so as best to supply it."

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

Not until they were parting for the night, did Col-
onel Ragnor say — ^'I suppose I had better now make
the arrangements for my daughter's return." The
tone was cold and constrained, for the Colonel felt
hurt and puzzled at Geoffrey's apparent indifference.

"Miss Ragnor's return 1" replied Geoffrey. "I
iiad no idea such an event was in contemplation."

"But I received a letter from her this morning,
saying that she would return home in two weeks, and
that a friend would call on me, with whom I must
make some definite arrangements. I supposed jrou
might be that friend."

Geoffrey sat silent and troubled for a few mo-
ments, then he sadly replied :

"No, I cannot claim that privilege. I am sure
that Lord Fenwick is the person referred to."

"Whom did you say, Mr. Gardiner?" But be-
fore Geoffrey could repeat the name, Colonel Ragnor
had risen to his feet, staggered towards the bell rope,
and then fallen senseless on the floor. Geoffrey,
shocked and frightened, alarmed the household.
Ann knew at once what to do, and how to do it, but
it was some hours before perfect consciousness re-
turned. As soon, however, as he was able to speak,
he desired everyone to leave the room but Mr.
Gardiner and Ann. Then turning a face stem and
white to them, he said:

"Mr. Gardiner, tell me again who my child has

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" Before Geoffrey could repeat the name, Colonel

Ragnor had . . . fallen senseless

on the floor "



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IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN



chosen for her friend. Ann, stay a moment, and
listen to the name.''

"Indeed I" answered Mr. Gardiner, **I know not
what evil I am doing. I did but say that Lord Fen-
wick was Miss Ragnor's friend — Clover, I believe I
may truly say."

Ann listened aghast and terrified, and then pas*
sionately ejaculated, "Oh, my poor bairn 1 Oh, my
poor innocent bairn I Where were all the good
angels when he was let come your way?"

"How long has this intercourse been going on?
Tell me truly, Mr. Gardiner."

"Since before Christmas," said Geoffrey in a re-
luctant tone.

"And she never named him to me. I must be
dreaming. Make haste, Ann, I must take the first
train to Glasgow."

"A very unlikely thing, sir. It is dean impossible
for you to go to Glasgow until the morning. You
will have to take my advice this time, and if you had
done so before, it had been better for you. I have
told you, and told you, to have no words with that
black-hearted ne'er-do-well 1 What for did you
meet him at Penrith?"

"I had something good to do for an old friend,
and I could not do it without his signature."

"Lawyers are the only folk that could talk with
the like of him. And why did you not tell poor Miss

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

Lucia long ago about the handsome devil? If you
had done your duty, and trusted your child, this un-
chance meeting had never taken place/'

"If this blow had come from any other hand-
but that Lucia — that my own daughter I"

"Of course I That is always the way, any pain
but this pain, any loss but this loss, any trouble but
the one we have sorted out for ourselves. And Miss
Lucia I Poor, white lamb I She must bear the weight
of other folk's folly."

"OAnnI OAnnI Do not blame me P

"But I do blame you, sir. You knew well, that
the wolf was always watching your sheepfold. Has
he not done it before to the very height of his evil
purpose? Why did you not warn her that night at
Penrith? Why did you meet him there, in the very
house that your daughter was staying at? Why did
you not forbid your daughter to enter any room in
which you had company? You mostly make me think
that your own pride in your daughter's beauty led
you to risk the innocent child."

"O Ann 1 Ann 1 How can you say such cruel

"You wanted him to see that though he had not a
child to his great name, you had a little daughter that
was the beauty of the Lake District I Oh, I know
how men plume themselves on what some poor
woman died to give them I Forgive me. Colonel!

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IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN



Forgive me 1 I cannot blame Miss Lucia I I won*t
Everybody will be down on her. I must say a word
for a dear little lady that cannot speak for herself 1"
and she darted at Geoffrey — ^who was standing silent
and distressed — a look full of scorn and indigna-
tion.

As soon as she went back to the kitchen, she sent
Dixon off to bed. If the master needed anything
she could get it. Her face was gray and rigid, her
lips tightly pressed together. No one could doubt
that she was suffering intensely.

Geoffrey had asked and obtained permission to sit
with the Colonel, for he felt that there were now
some things to be said in his own behalf which the
Colonel ought to hear. Shocked as he had been by
the revelation of Lucia's duplicity, he still loved her,
and it was intolerable to him that trouble should
come to her by his means. He hardly saw yet what
it was best for him to do, yet one thing was evident.
He must confess to Colonel Ragnor his own love for
Lucia. This he did in a frank, honorable manner,
adding that he had from the first appearance of
Lord Fenwick supposed that a marriage between
Lucia and that nobleman, would be every way agree-
able to Colonel Ragnor.

Colonel Ragnor's reply was short and uncertain,
but in it Geoffrey found one faint hope. For he
most emphatically declared that a marriage between

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

Lord Fenwick and Miss Ragnor was a thing impos-
sible. If so, then the lists were yet open, and the
prize to be won.

Both gentlemen left Abbot's Rest the next morn-
ing, the Colonel for Glasgow, and Geoffrey for Edin-
burgh. The latter was glad to leave Abbot's Rest,
for Ann with that unreasonableness which some of
the best and shrewdest exhibit, confounded the bearer
of the evil news with the news itself and she had
made him both see and feel it Yet if he had been
capable of indulging resentment against the sorrow-
ful old woman, it would have faded before his last
sight of her, rocking her body backward and forward
and weeping in distressed abandon. The Colonel
saw it also, but he answered Geoffrey's look with a
negative shake of the head. ''Nothing," he said,
"would offend Ann more than to notice her trouble
or attempt to comfort her. She knows where to go
for comfort."

As it was only four o'clock when the Colonel
reached Glasgow, he determined to go at once to Mr.
St. Clair's office, and have the explanation over there,
unembarrassed by the presence of ladies. He would
then be better able to estimate the strength of the
affection existing between his child and his enemy
and decide on the course it was wisest and best to
pursue.

At first Mr. St. Clair's surprise and pleasure was

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IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN



so great, that he did not perceive that all was not
right.

"Why, Robert," he said joyfully, "I am the luck-
iest fellow I Only think. Lord Fenwick takes din-
ner with us tonight 1 He is some relation of yours,
is he not?"

"A sort of a cousin — ^we do not count it. And I do
not think he will dine with us tonight, Ralph. Shut
the door. I have much to say to you, and you must
excuse me if I ask you a question first. How is it
that I have never been informed of that man's do-
mestication in your house, and of his attentions to
my poor little Lucia ?"

"I do not think, Robert, that I ever considered
such a thing necessary. I supposed that Lucia kept
you informed of all the incidents of her life here."

"Only last night did I hear of his familiarity here,
and I was so shocked that I lost consciousness."

"Why so shocked? Upon my word I was going
to congratulate you. The connection is a very splen-
did one for Lucia."

"Pity me, Ralph. And pity her also, if she has
the heart to love him when she has heard the truth.
For the God who forbids a kid to be seethed in its
mother's milk, will surely frown on a child who
should marry her mother's murderer."

"Take care, Robert 1 Take care, you are making
a grave charge."

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

"A very true one. Alas, it is a cruel story. Will
you hear it now?"

"Why should you tell it twice? Lucia must hear
it, and Mrs. St. Clair also. Lord Fcnwick is now
at my house. Let us go there at once." So they
took the Colonel's cab and drove to Mr. St. Clair's
house, speaking only in monosyllables on the way.

In the hall they met Mrs. St. Clair, splendidly
dressed, and with a look of reproach on her face.

"I know I am late, Helen," said Mr. St. Clair
gravely. "This gentleman is my friend. Colonel Rag-
nor."

She had known him at once, and without any intro-
duction. His resemblance to Lucia had been suf-
ficient identification ; and she would have called Lucia
on the moment, but her husband by a gesture for-
bade it. Drawing her away he pointed out to Col-
onel Ragnor a door standing partly open from which
there issued a warm splendor of light and the soft
cadence of a rippling laugh.

Lucia and Fenwick were sitting there unconscious
of any intrusion. They were on a low ottoman and
the proud, handsome head Colonel Ragnor knew so
well bent with a love that was almost adoration to
the bewitching face lifted to his own. Lucia said
something in a low voice and he answered it with a
kiss. The sight was intolerable even to the well con-
trolled passions of Colonel Ragnor. An angry ex-

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IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN



damation followed and as Lord Fenwick hurriedl);
rose the Colonel threw himself between his child and
her lover. For a few minutes everything but the
sense of his great wrong was forgotten. It was no
longer the soldier and the earl — it was the injured
and the injurer, it was a father standing between
his daughter and dishonor 1

Holding the earl in the grip of a bulldog, and
noticing nothing of his daughter's caressing entreat-
ies, he said with a face flaming with passion :

"You understand why I am here, Arthur. Is not
the world wide enough? Release my daughter.
Leave the room at once.''

By a powerful cflfort Lord Fenwidc controlled
himself, and in tones of entreaty said, "Robert, be-
fore you utter another word, remember my father,
and the love of our own youth. Spare me and spare
your own child the misery which you have come to
inflict."

"If my own life could go as an atonement and you
and Lucia be innocent — I would not withhold it —
God knows 1"

"You are only asked to forgive the past."
"As far as it relateis to myself, I forgive it."
"Then give me your daughter. Give me my wife."
"How dare I give you Lucia I It is to sin against
God, and every holy affection. I cannot I I will
notl I will not even permit you to speak to her

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

again I If you have any honor left, you will con-
sider the dismissal final."

''I shall take my dismissal only from the lips which
accepted me. Lucia ! Sweet Lucia 1 Speak to me 1"

"Father! Father! How am I to answer? What
has Arthur done? What has Arthur done?"

"He participated in your mother's death — in re-
ality, caused it."

"You lie, Richard Ragnor! I never hurt a hair
of her mother's head! Prove your words! If I
had you in France this hour, I would make you prove
it to your sword's hilt."

^'Bombast/" echoed the Colonel. "You could not.
You are morally guilty of the death of all the Spen-
cer family, father, son and daughter." Then loosen-
ing his grip upon Lord Fenwick, he said in a voice
of command, "Go ! Leave this house at once. You
arc unworthy to enter it. There is no more to be
said."

"There is much more to be said!" Then turning
to Lucia he added, "My darling, you should have
heard this story from my lips, when I begged to tell
it to you. Now those that hate me will be my accu-
sers. No one will say a word in my defence. There-
fore I claim the right to defend myself. I will re-
ceive my sentence only from those sweet lips which
promised to be my wife."

Lucia rose during this speech, and regardless of

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IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN



her father's efforts to stay her, went to her lover's
side. Standing there^ she said :

"Let me stand here once more, father. If you
have told the truth, it is the very last time and I
want to acknowledge now that at the very beginning
of this acquaintance I was to blame. I met Arthur
when I was out riding in Penrith and I never told
you."

"Plotting deceiver!" said the Colonel furiously.
"You sent your lawyer to detain me with a pretended
atonement for past wrong so that you might have
free course to plot and plan for future injury."

"No, father! I was the deceiver, not Arthur.
He told me he was coming to Glasgow to see me,
and I, though I divined there was trouble and dis-
like between you and him, did not forbid it. In all
that has followed, I have been as much to blame as
Arthur, and whatever of sorrow or disappointment
I must now suffer, is the just result of my want of
honest truthfulness."

She was weeping passionately, and Lord Fenwidc
was moved beyond all control. He led her to a sofa,
and then almost staggering towards the Colonel, he
said, "Is there nothing I can do to obliterate the
past? Forgive me, Robert! I have suffered more
than you have."

"I give you my full forgiveness. It is impossible
that I should give you my daughter."

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

"I do not want the one without the other. I offer
you an opportunity to do a Christ-like act. You ar^
incapable of it. You have destroyed my last hope.
Let me pass you. You have your revenge. Lucia,
sweetest and dearest I Farewell !"

When he reached the hall a servant came hastily
forward. "Call me a carriage," he said. The voice
was forced and unnatural, but before the carriage
arrived at the door, he had calmed himself suffi-
ciently to give the man an elaborate apology for
Mrs. St. Clair.

Lucia would listen to no explanations and no sjrm*
pathy; she begged only that she might be allowed to
go to her room. And it was evident Maggie had
been expecting her, for all the house knew the Col-
onel had brought trouble into it, and with a native
consideration the little maid had left the room unlit
save for such fitful gleams as were produced by the
blazing fire.

No word was spoken while the rich satin robe
was removed, and one by one all the graces of her
toilet laid aside. Then she motioned Maggie away
and in the solitude of her room faced the first great
sorrow of her life. And some good angel doubtless
brought her the peace and courage she needed, for
Maggie returned to the room a couple of hours after-
wards found Lucia in that blessed sleep with which
kind nature soothes the sorrows of the young.



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IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN



There comes a day, alas I when grief banishes sleep
and nature has no balm for woe.

When she awoke, Maggie was quietly folding
away the clothing she had worn. She watched her
for a few minutes silently and then suddenly resum-
ing all her usual manner, said:

"Sit down, Maggie. I want to talk to you for you
are honest and would not tell a lie to please anyone.
Do the servants know what has happened?"

"Yes, miss."

"What do they say?"

"They are sorry for Lord Fen\ridc Tom said
that though he looked like a ghost he held himself
like a prince and though he could scarcely speak he
was as polite as ever."

"What did you say, Maggie?"

"Nothing, miss. It is not Maggie's way to speak
slightly of anyone, when their back is at the wall."

"How did you feel then?"

"Sorry for him, but glad for you."

"Why glad for me, Maggie? Say all you think."

"Well, then, miss, you two were not sorted for
each other. I always felt uneasy about you, felt like
watching you when you were in his company, as if
there was some unknown danger hiding near by."

"Why were you sorry for him?"

"Because, though I don't know what he has done
to put himself out of your notice, I am very sure he

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

has fretted sorely about it all the weeks he has been
coming here — that ought to stand somewhat to his
credit, but no one will count it to him, and forbye
he loved you so well, that the losing of you will go
near to breaking the proud, passionate heart of hinu
I never was as near liking him as now, when I have
doubtless seen the last of him."

"This IS the very first time, Maggie, that you have
said a word in his favor. Well, Maggie, this is
our very last talk on this subject."

"I am very willing, miss, and though I am not
wishing his lordship any ill, I am well contented that
he did not win his chief desire."

**Good night, Maggie I I shall always remember
how true and honest-hearted you are. I could not
pray for myself tonight, but you will remember both
me — and him."

"m not forget you, Miss Ragnor, but you must
not trust to the prayer of others. There is this com-
pact between praying and sinning — ^praying makes
us quit sinning— or else sinning makes us quit pray-


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe winning of Lucia : a love story → online text (page 5 of 19)