Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The winning of Lucia : a love story online

. (page 6 of 19)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe winning of Lucia : a love story → online text (page 6 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ing. And I think if you would go your own self to
God this sorrowful night, you would find that the
love that is great enough for all heaven, is sufficient
for your sad heart I am not speaking without
knowledge, miss — I have known myself

"The stress of nights, that hoped for nothing from
the mom."

90

Digitized by VjOOQIC



CHAPTER VI

LIFE AT abbot's REST

I only know we loved in vain ;
I only fed — ^farewelll farewell I

THE first great sorrow of life strikes us with
a kind of amazement. We cannot credit
its hopelessness; somehow or some way we
feel sure there is escape from it, for when the heart
is young, nothing is too hard for it. So even amid
the first crushing sense of her disappointment, Lucia
felt nothing like despair. The course of true love
never did run smooth but things generally came right
in the end, and she would not relinquish this possi-
bility. In spite of trouble she slept heavily, but the
sleep of sorrow is not gracious and its awakening is
terrible. For in such daric and heavy sleep we meet
with dreams.

From the soul's subterranean depths upbpme.
As from an infinitely distant land —
Sad airs, and floating echoes, that convey
A melancholy into all our day.

91



Digitized by



Google



THE WINNING OF LUCIA

It was the same world and yet a changed world,
the same life with the motive taken out of its duties
and the flavor out of its pleasures. Lucia's first re-
quest was to be allowed to face the new experience
alone. Not even Maggie ventured to speak to the
motionless figure which with closed eyes was silendy
lifting its cross, and gathering strength in doing it.

Colonel Ragnor suffered scarcely less than his
daughter, but even yet had it been just or prudent
he would have preferred to have kept silence con-
cerning his sorrow. This was, however, no longer
possible, and the following evening while Mr. and
Mrs. St. Clair listened in sympathetic silence, he rose
and, walking up and down with steps that kept time
with the passion and suffering in his voice, said:

"You know, Ralph, that my father and mother
died in the East Indies, and that my uncle the Earl
of Westmoor filled their place. You know what a
warm friendship existed then between my cousin
Arthur and myself, and that in those happy days
when we were at Oxford together, there was not an
unkind thought between us.

**It was one morning during the long vacation,
the earl entered Arthur's private parlor, and found
Arthur and myself idling over a late breakfast. Til
tell you what, young men,' he said, *it is high time
you both tried public life a little. Now the lieges
of Kenton have sent for me to make some necessary

92



Digitized by



Google



LIFE AT ABBOT'S REST



speeches at the opening of their new Town Hall.
Suppose you go in my place.'

" 'Ready to do so, father,' replied Arthun *I will
eat the dinners, and Robert shall make the speeches,'
and it was in this happy mood that the arrangements
for a journey which was to end so tragically were
made.

*'In a day or two we found ourselves the guests
of a Mr. Isaac Spencer, a wealthy and enterprising
citizen whom my uncle had directed us to be very
attentive to. He had a delightful family, consisting
of an only son in good practice as a physician, a most
lovely daughter, and a maiden sister of Mr. Spen-
cer's who had taken charge of his children and his
house for many years. I soon found myself deeply
in love with Vera Spencer, and at the end of a few
weeks, she promised me her hand. However, when
I spoke to Mr. Spencer, I met a cold and positive
denial with a request to omit in the future my visits
at the Spencer house. But Vera was faithful and
vowed she would be my wife or remain Vera Spencer
all her life. So for the pleasure of a smile or a
glance as we met on the streets, I was content to idle
away week after week in the little town.

"Arthur in the meantime had grown cooler and
cooler to me, and I noticed, with anger and jealousy,
that he visited at the Spencer house continually —
that he escorted Vera wherever she went, and that

93



Digitized by



Google



THE WINNING OF LUCIA

he flattered her father and brother in every way
that his rank and wealth made it easy for him to do.
O Ralph, I began to find it very hard to bear his
triumphanti insolent manner, and our coolness ended
finally in some angry words. Yet I was still so
anxious to avoid a positive quarrel, that I resolved
to leave Kenton as soon as I could get a farewell
interview with Vera and make her understand my
plans.

^'But for three weeks I could not obtain a glimpse
of her, and I finally called on Mary Dallam, her
aunt, who had alwa3rs been favorable to my suit.
She told me that Mr. Spencer had taken Vera to
Kendal, and that it was likely their visit might last
several weeks.

'^I left her sick at heart, fearing I knew not what,
and my uncomfortable feeling was turned into one
of positive anger by meeting Hal Spencer on the
street and receiving from him a cool stare instead
of a return of my recognition. I knew the young
man had been greatly elated by Fenwick's friend*
ship, and if I had possessed the experience then I do
now, I should have paid but little attention to his
rudeness; but at that time it gave me great annoy-
ance, and I determined to go at once to Kendal and
watch the movements of my opponents. In a short
time I succeeded in obtaining an interview with
Vera's maid, and she told me that Lord Fenwick

94



Digitized by



Google



LIFE AT ABBOT'S REST



visited her mistress constantly, but she also declared
Vera Spencer to be unfalteringly faithful to the
promise she had given me. So I waited in Kendal
until I met Vera several times, and came to a perfect
understanding about our future hopes and plans.
Then «lso, we agreed upon a signal which should
call me to her help if affairs became desperate.

"To prepare for such an emergency, I opened up
a little home among the hills outside the town of
Ulverston, and I spent my time and money in mak-
ing it as comfortable and pretty as it was possible to
make it. My own mother had once lived in it, and
the empty shelves and pots of her little greenhouse
still remained in their places. I had the glasshouse
refilled, and all the faded cretons recovered, and put
warm fur rugs everywhere, and if the day was chilly,
I had fires lit in case the message came on a stormy
day; and every day, all the days long, I spent my
time in going from rocxn to room, and in watching
for the token that never came.

"I was nearly in despair when I received one morn-
ing a letter containing an ivy leaf. I knew what
that symbol meant, and I traveled night and day
until I reached Kenton, for Vera was now at home
again* How eagerly I clasped the little cloaked,
veiled figure that met me weeping. All the prepa-
rations for her marriage with Lord Fenwick were
progressing, her father was imperative, her brother

95



Digitized by



Google



THE WINNING OF LUCIA

watched her constandy, and her lover had made up
his mind to pay no regard either to her personal
aversion, or her appeals to his honor and declared
affection. Ann had also deserted her, having mar-
ried Lord Fenwick's valet, and *0 Robert I' she
cried, 'indeed I need your help and comfort now I'

"The next day we were privately married in
Ulverston church, and you can imagine the fury of
her father and brother. As for Arthur he made no
sign as to how he took his disappointment. And in
the absolute seclusion of our Lancashire home, no
sound of trouble reached us but through Mary Dal-
lam's letters. These as time went on became more
and more a cause of anxiety. Lord Fenwick had
gone to London and Hal Spencer had accompanied
him. Then we heard that Hal had abandoned his
profession, and given himself up to a recklessly dis-
sipated life; and that Mr. Spencer, disappointed in
his plans both for his son and daughter, had become
morose and very hard to live with. The next news
was still worse. Hal had been put in prison for
debt and his father, in order to release him, had
been compelled to seriously embarrass his own re-
sources.

"When we had been married for nearly a year
Ann came to us. She had walked all the way from
Westmoreland and was in a state of extreme ex-
haustion. She had left her husband forever, and no

96



Digitized by



Google



LIFE AT ABBOT'S REST



one who heard her story could blame her. She set-
tled down to our quiet life and took entire charge
of our domestic affairs and I was glad of it, for
Vera had been failing for some months, and I was
anxious about her.

**We never named Lord Fenwick, except when a
letter came from Mary Dallam. Then it was im-
possible for us not to consider the ruinous course on
which he was leading Hal Spencer. For the noble-
man's vast wealth hardly felt the expense, which was
taxing the utmost means of old Mr. Spencer; and
Hal could not stop, where his cool, calm patron
found it easy to do so.

"One afternoon I was sitting reading to my wife,
who had some needlework in her hand. She was
unusually gay and had been able to go through the
house and look at the pretty wreaths and crosses Ann
had hung up to greet the coming Christmas festival.
All at once we heard the rat-tat of the postman.
Ralph, it was a peculiar knock. I do not know how,
or why, but it startled every heart. Vera looked up
with a pale face and parted lips and said. Wow/'
and I with a strange, uneasy feeling went to meet
Ann, coming with lagging footsteps.

"I sent Ann to her mistress and took the letter to
my own room to read. The writing was unfamiliar,
and the letter was not addressed to my wife, but to
myself. It was from Mr. Spencer's lawyers and con-

97



Digitized by



Google



THE WINNING OF LUCIA

tained terrible news — ^Hal Spencer had been mur-
dered at Lord Fenwick's door — murdered by hit
lordship's servant

^'It came out at the inquest, that the poor boyi
driven to the greatest distress for want of money
and his father's positive refusal to help him any
more, had gone to Fenwick as a last resort. But for
some time his lordship had been shy and cold, fre*
quently denying himself to Hal, when Hal knew
well that he was in the house. This afternoon, how-
ever, his necessities were beyond rejection; and he
refused to believe the servant who was perhaps more
insolent than he had any authority to be. At any
rate Hal became very angry, and strudc the fellow.
He inmiediately returned the blow, pushing Hal at
the same time down the flight of stone steps. It is
probable that he never breathed again. Two men
who had witnessed the whole dispute gave informa-
tion to the authorities, and the papers on his person
served to identify him.

"Mr. Spencer went himself to London to bring
bade the remains of the son who had so cruelly
blasted all his hopes and who had himself so cruelly
perished. He looked broken-hearted at the funeral,
and immediately after the ceremony, went to his
room — and shot himself.

"I decided to tell Vera that her brother was dead
and her father seriously ill, and she understood at

98



Digitized by



Google



LIFE AT ABBOT'S REST



once that I must go to him, but I did not think it
necessary to tell the particulars of the tragedy, be-
cause in our isolated positioui they would probably
remain unknown, until she was in a condition to bear
them better.

''It was a sad and anxious journey to Kenton, and
I only arrived there a few hours before Mr. Spen-
cer's death. The great stately house which I re*
membered brilliant with light and noisy with life
was dark, silent, solemn — the blade shadow of its
former self; and Mary Dallam, in the pressure of
this overwhelming calamity, forgot to express either
surprise or pleasure. She only said, *You here,
Robert I That is welL All will be over soon.'

"Mr. Spencer's affairs were in a ruined condition
— the very house being heavily mortgaged to Lord
Fenwick, and this was the beginning of the end;
though it did not come in its bitterness until the fif-
teenth of the next March. On that day I went in the
afternoon to the village after some household neces-
sity. Half-way there, I met a man whose evil coun-
tenance seemed familiar to me. I watched him down
the hill with a strange misgiving and resolved to
return as soon as possible. But I was stopped on
the road by a boy, who had been thrown from his
horse, it being necessary to turn aside in order to
procure him the help needed.

"As I was returning homeward, I saw Ann run-

99



Digitized by



Google



THE WINNING OF LUCIA

ning wildly to meet me. My heart sank like lead.
She came nearer, touched me sharply, and said,
*Haste you home, sir I I'm away for the doctor.'

"I found my wife on a couch, but quite insensible,
and to all appearance dead. I do not remember
anything of that night, but its fear and suffering.
My daughter was bom next day, but I could scarcely
rejoice, and I did not dare to hope. It was not until
after the birth of the child, I remembered to ask
Ann what caused the sudden illness of her mistress.

" TAal,' she answered, pointing to a newspaper
lying under the sofa. I took it up, and examined it.
It was directed to my wife, and a long paragraph
headed *The Late Tragedy in Kenton' was conspicu-
ously marked round with red ink. It contained a
malicious account of our marriage, Hal's murder,
and Mr. Spencer's suicide, and was so cleverly writ-
ten that the two last events were made to appear the
natural results of the first. I knew who the writer
was well enough.

"Before her death. Vera made me promise to for-
give her enemy, and I have tried hard to do so. I
thought it best, too, that so much sin and sorrow
should be buried with the generation which ga'^^e it
birth, and so in spite of Ann's urging, I never named
it to Lucia. There are some pecuniary wrongs which
I pass over, and I had resolved to avoid all future
intercourse with Fenwick. But just before Lucia

100



Digitized by



Google



LIFE AT ABBOT'S REST



came to you, I received a letter from Mary Dallam
complaining that the new agent of the Fenwick prop-
erty was going to eject her from her old home. For
her sake, I went to Penrith to see Fenwick, and even
then he had the best of the bargain from a financial
point of view. Unfortunately, he saw Lucia in Pen-
rith. You know the rest, my friends."

At this point the Colonel sat down and ceased
speaking. There was a marked and not very sym-
pathetic silence. Mrs. St. Clair's eyes were dropped
upon the trimmings of her dress, and Mr. St. Clair
could not find any beginning to the observations he
wished to make. But the silence finally became so
tense, and the Colonel's look of astonishment so pain-
ful, that Mr. St. Clair blundered out the only de-
cision he had been able to come to.

"I think, dear Robert, you have been judging your
cousin altogether by feeling; we cannot make a fair
estimate unless we bring justice into court. Pure
scoundrel and pure angel dwell not on this earth. In
humanity there is no such thing as a straight line or
an unmixed color."

Then Mrs. St. Clair, taking the Colonel's hand
between her own, said, "My dear Colonel, Ralph
means, that the court in which you have tried Lord
Fenwick is too much like a drumhead court. Feeling
and honor are not legitimate witnesses in a common
court of law and after all, that is the standard by

lOI



Digitized by



Google



THE WINNING OF LUCIA

which the world will rate his lordship. And I really
thinki if tried by English common law, Lord Fen-
wick would be acquitted as guiltless on every count."

"You heard him ask me to forgive him."

"Yes, he has been a false friend to you, but we
do not pass the death penalty on a false friend.
Come and let us have some dinner, and we will fin-
ish the argument afterwards."

Mr. St. Clair rose at the invitation, and the Col-
onel was obliged to follow, and somehow Mrs. St.
Clair persuaded him to eat a very good dinner, while
she took great care to send Lucia all the most deli-
cate luxuries at the table.

"Tell her, Maggie," she said, "to eat everything I
have sent her. I will be up to see her soon."

So dinner was eaten to a discussion on a political
subject affecting the army about which the Colonel
was so deeply interested — ^it was easy to get him
much excited — ^and Lord Fenwick was not named at
the bountiful dinner that had really been prepared in
his honor. But when the gentlemen had their cigars
by the drawing-room fire Mr. St. Clair said:

"Robert, my dear old friend, let me tell you how
the world win look at your great criminal — for I
think It a pity that our Lucia should be made to
suffer more than is right and necessary. In the first
place, no one but Hal Spencer is to blame for the
young man's death. Of his own free will he went

I03



Digitized by



Google



LIFE AT ABBOT'S REST



into gambling hells, and other places of dissipated
resort. He played to great excess and ruined him-
self. Then he asked Fenwick to lend him money,
and Fenwick, as most men would have done, refused;
he quarreled with Fenwick's servant and struck him;
then the servant struck back and unintentionally killed
Spencer. Just a common tragedy from first to last.
But Fenwick was not to blame. Any jury in England
would acquit him. Then Mr. Spencer goes to Lon-
don for his son's body, and after its burial he comes
home and shoots himself. Now how is this to be laid
to Lord Fenwick's charge?"

"Lord Fenwick had heavy mortgages on all he
possessed. He was ruined."

"It was Hal's fault, I suppose,'* said Mrs. St. Clair.

"Yes, Hal had gambled it away to Lord Fenwick
and others."

"Father and son both knew what they were doing,
I should think."

"Do all these excuses alter the crime, Ralph?"
asked the Colonel.

"Not in the court of Heaven, but verdicts are ren-
dered here according to Blackstone, not according to
Moses or Christ. You have not named Mr. Spencer's
daughter running away to marry the man she chose."

"She came to me. Her father wished to marry
her to Lord Fenwick. We had been engaged for
some months."

103

Digitized by VjOOQIC



THE WINNING OF LUCIA

''Then all this trouble followed his daughter's dis-
obedience and flight to you, Robert?"

**Yes, but Vera was not responsible for it/'

"Yet she might have saved her father and brother
— ^perhaps — ^perhaps — " and Mr. St. Clair gazed
thoughtfully into some far distant vista of the past.
The Colonel grew restless and looked unhappy, and
finally asked if Fenwick was also innocent of his wife's
death.

"He told you tonight positively that he had noth-
ing to do with that piece of dirty work."

"That is to be inquired into. I believe he wrote
the newspaper article. Ann admits that her discarded
husband brought it to my house."

"Perhaps he also wrote it, Robert."

"He cannot write."

"Well, Robert, it was a miserably inhuman piece
of business, but It was not what the law calls a crime;
and Fenwick could not know the day and hour of
your wife's maternity, for you yourself did not, or
you would hardly have been out of the house."

"It seems that I have nothing to complain of" ; and
the Colonel lifted his hands and covered his face.
Then Ralph St. Clair threw his arm across his friend's
shoulder and said a few words to him that nobody
heard, while Mrs. St. Clair rose, and with a heavy
sigh declared she was going to see Lucia.

"When I think," she exclaimed, "of all the beautl-
104



Digitized by



Google



LIFE AT ABBOTS REST



ful clothing chosen, of the splendid jewels being reset,
of the grand old castle redecorated for the expected
wedding, when I think of the Court of London and
the travel abroad, I have no sympathy left for any-
one but Lucia Ragnor and Arthur Fenwick/*



Digitized by



Google



CHAPTER VII
love's young dream

THE important events of life do not bear talk-
ing about. We rob them by conversation
of that element of greatness and vagueness
which alone enables us to bear them. So Lucia in-
stinctively refused to discuss her lover. His exit had
been dramatic enough, and talking could not bring
hope or promise into it. She had one short conver-
sation with Mrs. St. Clair, but with her father she
ignored the subject. The worst that could happen to
her love-life had happened; she must try and forget
its charm and joyousness and turn her thoughts to
other objects. So she went in and out, preparing for
her return home but never mentioning Lord Fen-
wick. Yet she was watching, watching 1 All the day
long her soul was going to the window, and all the
day long she was whispering to it, "Tomorrow, per-
haps ! Tomorrow 1"

In less than a week all was ready for their return
to Abbot's Rest, and it was the general opinion that

io6



Digitized by



Google



LOVE'S YOUNG DREAM



it was a pity the Colonel had ever come to Glasgow.
"So much trouble some men make!" said the cook.
"He's as pleasant spoken as can be, but what's the
good of that when he acts as he shouldn't?" The
butler said, "Colonel Ragnor isn't much on tips —
military men being naturally saving — ^but being the
father of a handsome girl, it wasn't fair to fool him
behind his back, even if the second-hander were a
lord.'*

Maggie corrected him by declaring there had been
no fooling, nor intention of fooling. Lord Fenwick
was right to make sure of the lady's consent before
he asked for her father's.

Their last evening was to be a theatrical one, but
there was little enthusiasm about it, and Mrs. St.
Clair was dressed with less than her usual taste.
Lucia, however, had never looked so exquisitely fair
and lovely. They had scarcely taken their seats when
a stirring Scotch march from the orchestra and a cer-
tain sense of "approach" arrested their attention.
Then the gentlemen of a certain club entered, and
their leader was Lord Arthur Fenwick. Lucia did
not appear astonished and Mrs. St. Clair suspected
that she had known all about this special entertain-
ment and had probably discussed it with her lover.
At any rate he turned at once to the St. Clair's box
and bowed deeply to the ladies in it. And Lucia
slightly rose in her lily-like beauty, and returned the

107



Digitized by



Google



THE WINNING OF LUCIA

courtesy with a anile that seemed to bridge the space
between them.

"How handsome he is tonight 1** said Mrs. St.
Clair, and Lucia looked at him again. They could
not speak a word to each other, and yet they did
speak, and so clearly that both went home satisfied

The next morning the end of the visit came — came
with a little sense of satiety; and all felt that it would
be well to separate and give their friendship time to
grow. Lucia threw herself among the cushions when
the last handkerchief waving was over, and whis-
pered, "What a relief 1'*

"Yet, father, they were very kind to me.*'

"It was a kindness with a double aspect as far as
the lady was concerned.'*

Then the Colonel closed his eyes and appeared to
sleep, and Lucia communed with her own heart and
was still until the Colonel roused himself and said,
"How grand are these encircling hills I They are like
a great host at rest. Often I have pitched my camp
in just such Himalayan quarters. We will step out at
Carlyle and have a plate of fine Cheviot mutton.
We shall be at our own little station by four o'clock."

"I hope Dixon will bring the victoria. I like the
open drive through the hills, especially if we have
sunshine.**

It was not a cheerful afternoon, but it Is often the
commonplace which reveals to us the divine; and as

io8



Digitized by



Google



LOVE'S YOUNG DREAM



Lucia looked around and recognized the comfortable
familiarity of the scene, there sprang up in her heart
a little rill of unaccustomed prayer. How good was
her own home/ Her own father/ Her own coun-
try/ Yes, even her own servants and horses/ Such
unusual prayers are very refreshing to the soul. It
tastes in them a feeling new and full of human love.

Though not cheerful, it was a typical spring after-
noon just drawing toward sunset. Banks of dark
clouds drifted rapidly over a gray sky. On the south-
em slopes towards the valley they were playing foot-
ball, and the rise of the ball could be seen ; the air was
clear and still. In all the valleys or shielded bentd
there was the great industry of

Ploughing and sowing and rural affairs.
Rural economy, rural astronomy,
Homely morality, labor and thrift

going busily on. But the heights among which Ab-
bot's Rest stood had never been tilled. Their great,


1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe winning of Lucia : a love story → online text (page 6 of 19)