Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The winning of Lucia : a love story online

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bare backs had felt neither plow nor harrow, only the
wild winds had swept them, and the sheep nibbled
them smooth. The low, melancholy bleating of their
wandering flocks infected the air, and for a few min-
utes the Colonel did not speak, not even when they
passed a large mansion of rough granite in a grove
of decaying trees, with the notable peculiarity of a
high roof of red sandstone. Lucia looked at this


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house with particular and evident curiosity, but be-
fore she could make up her mind what questions to
ask, they came in sight of Abbot's Rest, which burst
into the glow of firelight and candlelight as soon as
the carriage could be seen rising the last hill; and as
they entered its gates the linnets' sweet babbling was
in every bush.

One day leads to another, and the next three or
four days were passed in the not unpleasant trouble
of unpacking and packing away Lucia's many new
and beautiful garments. Then the house was in dis-
order and the weather was dark and stormy, and
Lucia found life very hard to bear. She had had a
long talk with Ann during their occupation, but it
had not comforted her. Ann regarded Mr. and Mrs.
St. Clair's opinions as a straight direct evasion of the
Law of God, nor would she believe in any of the vir-
tues which Lucia had found in Lord Arthur Fen-
wick. *Tour mother did not approve of him, miss,"
she said, "and that ought to be enough for you."

"It is not enough, Ann. Mother was in love with
my father. My father was very unfortunate to
mother. Their angels must have been set against
their marriage from the moment they met."

"No doubt they were. And I am quite sure your
angel is against your marrying Lord Fenwick. You'll
have trouble enough if you try it."


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"I shall try it."

"Your father will forbid it."

"Words will not alter me."

"What do you mean, miss?"

"Just what I say."

"Well then, miss, you'll excuse me if I talk no
more on this subject, for or against. The Colonel
was right twenty years ago. I think he was quite
right in going to Glasgow to save you ten days ago."

Then with an air of great offence and trouble Ann
went downstairs, and Lucia stood silently watching
the dreary landscape. "I had no time to think I" she
muttered. "Not a minute's private conversation with
Arthur. I had to act with cruel haste — it is the old,
old tragedy of mutual misunderstanding all through.
Oh, how unhappy I am 1"

Then through the swirling gray mist there burst
forth the sweetest, clearest snatch of song that mortal
ever heard, and Lucia bent forward and searched
into the dim from which it came. And as she did so,
the same joyous breve of melody greeted her, and she
saw sitting on the bare branch of a near-by cherry

The bird that man loves best,
The pious bird with scarlet breast,
The litde English robin

and her heart was glad, and she laughed softly and
thought, "It is a good sign. I will be happy now and


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hope to be happy very soon. I have not seen father
since luncheon. I must go and tell him about the

When she opened the parlor door she found the
Colonel lying on a wide, soft couch fast asleep, and
in the dim daylight he looked strangely white and
old. Was he dreaming of sorrow and learning
how to suffer? For a moment she stood regarding
him, then a touch of her hand so light as to be
only felt by the arm of the inner man awakened the

"Lucia," he said tenderly, "is it you? I believe I
was dreaming of you, and it is late — ^what have you
been doing?"

"I have been helping Ann to carefully put away
some beautiful clothing I do not require at present"
— and she smiled so sweetly he could make neither
dissent nor denial. He just let the sunshine of it fill
his heart with satisfaction.

Then she asked, "Have you seen the new tenant of
the Dower House, father?"

And he answered, "He has been with me all the
afternoon. You missed something, Lucia."

"Oh, it will be common enough before the month
is over."

"No, nor in a lifetime. He is a remarkable man."


"Yes, and no. He is large in bulk, ruddy in look,


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and radiant with life. But he is a peasant, though
he carries his head high with something more than a
courtier's dignity, and he is the most widely educated
man I ever met."

'*I am glad of that How does a peasant come to
be so well educated?"

*'Some nobleman observed his abilities, and sent
him to Kendal Blue Coat School, and afterwards to
Oxford, where he took orders with high honors. He
was seventeen years in his patron's immense library,
and so arranged it that it became both famous and
of great value. He came here, he says, of his own
choice and request — ^just as I did. He saw the hills
and the waters, the valleys, the larch woods, and the
people — ^these things bred in him a great content, and
he wanted to live among them."

"How strange I"

"I that have lived in courts and camps and great
cities did the same, Lucia. These plaided shepherds,
whom you have scarcely noticed, are not common
men. They live in the clouds, they have an aerial
creed, and they believe in angels. Perhaps they have
always done so; you will remember that no one but
shepherds saw the great company of angels who were
singing and praising God on the first Christmas

"You are wrong, father. I have noticed the shep-
herds. I have three or four friends among them.


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One told me when I went to Glasgow that I was go-
ing into love danger.'*

^'When a girl is young and beautiful she is always
in love danger."

"They have dreams and visions, too, father; they
used to tell me about them. One said he had seen an
angel, a warrior angel, standing amid black clouds on
the top of Helvellyn. He stood quite still watching.
Many things like that, I have been told. Ann be-
lieves in all the Bible angels, but she thinks they are
shut up in heaven."

"Do you think so?"

"No, indeed I My angel is always with me, and
Milton says:

^'Millions of ^iritual creatures walk the earth
Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep."

"Then why do we ever take a wrong step?"

"Because we all want to take them. When we
come to die, the feet of our angels will no doubt be
torn and bleeding, with the rough roads over which
they have followed us."

"I know nothing of such things, but this man seems
to live in a higher world than I do."

"What is his name?"

"John Studley, D.D., or any letters you like. He
owns them all, I think."

"Is John Studley a good name?"


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*'He makes It so. I mean he emiobles it.*'

"Father, is he old?''

"As old as I am."

"You are not old. You could lead a rattling
charge of cavalry today — no man better."

"I might do it again if this trouble in Africa ripens
into war."

She did not notice the remark, but continued her
catechian about their new neighbor, "Is he all
through English, father?"

"No, he is half Scotch. His mother is an English
Daleswoman — no better English than that."

"O father!"

"Good 1 We will put Yorkshire first 1"

"Is he more Scotch than English?"

"No. The English mother rules. From her he
gets all his sweet, homely nature and spiritual apti-
tudes, and also that kind of sixth sense by which he
apprehends the invisible and sees the world as the
prophets saw it."

"Then he gets his intellect from his father?"

"It is not the usual descent of mental power, but
I think he does. He is very large physically, has
great strength and endurance, and a big head full of
cold, shrewd brains. He is well compounded, how-
ever the elements are mixed in John Studley."

"I shall go to see him in the morning."

"Do, my dear. And why not take up the study of

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French and Italian with him? He is dever in both

"That might be interesting. Life, I fear, will be
colorless and wearisome here.**

"But at least tranquil.**

"Yes — ^very tranquil I We might call it the Land
of Forgetfulncss.**

She laughed a little at her own definition, but- the
Colonel heard, and felt the bitterness below the laugh,
and the evening was too silent and personal to be
pleasant. However tomorrow is always another day,
and holds its own possibilities, and Lucia's "Good
morning, father,** was as cheerful as the song of the
thrush singing at the open dining-room window. The
Colonel compared them as he listened, and when
Lucia turned to him he said :

"If you set your *good mornings* to music, Lucia,
they would explain your different moods very well

"But I do not want to explain my moods, father.
I fear you would not often get any pleasure from
them. Suppose we go and call on the new neighbor
this morning. I am curious about him.**

"Yes. Why not? He is at least another soul in
this Land of Forgetfulncss.**

They found him standing at an open window of his
study, watching the pigeons tossing themselves in
their homeward flight. He came forward and gave


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Lucia his hand, and one steady piercing glance from
the large gray eyes which illumined his face. Now
Lucia was in a twilight frame of mind that morning.
It was neither day nor night with her, but she saw
in that one glance that deceit or making-believe was
a thousand miles away from John Studley; and be-
fore the visit was over she liked him well enough to
promise an hour's study every fine morning.

As she talked she looked around the room with
some interest. It was a rather large room of a sin-
gular shape, and so spotlessly, painfully clean that
its whiteness was disquieting. Involuntarily she
asked herself what made it so almost offensively
clean and so deliciously scented. Of course white
paint and white lime cannot make a mystery of them-
selves, but the perfume! The etherial, entrancing
perfume I

**From what flower of Paradise does it come, Mr.
Studley?" Lucia asked eagerly.

"It is from the soul of the star-shaped woodruf.
The seed must have been dropped by some angel, for
angels rest where it grows. About midsummer I will
show you how to find it. We must go to the cool,
thick woods and look at the roots of great trees, where
there is plenty of grass and shade and solitude. I
think they keep their heavenly perfume until they
really fall to dust. I have had some in my Bible for
twenty years, and their soul is with them yet."


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"Their perfume seems to be all over the room —
how is that?"

"When I meet with a good book it is my habit
to put a woodruff-star in it, and as there are many
good books scattered about the room, the perfume
is all over.'*

At first Lucia did not appear to be so much im-
pressed by Dr. John Studley as the Colonel had hoped
she would, but as weeks went on she could not avoid
falling under his usual, well-defined influence. In his
company she was constantly charmed by his wide and
curious knowledge, and so pleasantly instructed that
she was talking French with him ere she could be-
lieve in her own ability to do so.

The advance also of summer brought much visit-
ing — ^water parties, and fishing and hunting parties,
balls and dinners, and races — all of which the Colonel
enjoyed, but Lucia was very unhappy. And perhaps
the hardest pinch of sorrow was the fact that her
lover had not found means to write to her. She be-
gan to doubt her father and Ann and even the post-
mistress. She told herself that Arthur had written,
and she lived to watch the coming of the mail and to
consider whether Dixon would be buyable or not. She
had an exquisite home, was tenderly loved, and her
natural and social surroundings were all that youth
and beauty could desire, and yet her life was just to
fear and to hope, to doubt and then to begin hoping


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again, to have but one thought and turn that one
thought a thousand ways.

She talked freely to Ann concerning her sorrow,
and always of it as a cruel calamity which had risen
out of her mother's grave to ruin her happiness, and
when Ann reproved this idea she quietly reiterated it.
"Why do the dead interfere with the living?'* she
continued. "No course of true love can run straight
if the dead are to meddle. How can they under-
stand? Neither people nor events stand still here."

"It would be good for the living if the dead inter-
fered more frequently. It would that," answered

"It would not. The living, sooner or later, by
hook or crook, would take their own way."

"That's likely, too. One said so who knew both

"O Ann I Ann I I am broken-hearted My disap-
pointment is more than I can bear."

"Dear, dear heart, you do suffer. I know you do.
I tell the Colonel that, often — he is suffering, too."

"If I had only a letter — ^just a line or two."

"I know. There is something strange about that.
I thought he would have written you as often as a
letter could come. I do think he has gone to some
foreign land."

"Without a word I O dear, dear, how can I bear


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**Wcll, miss, when wc have not what we love, then
it is the right thing to love what we have.*'

"Don't talk nonsense, Ann. I hate proverbs.**

"Does not Mrs. St. Clair tell you anything?**

"The St. Clairs are in America — perhaps he is with
them — ^but they say they know nothmg.**

"You have other lovers — Rye of Ryebcck, Thorn
of Thomycroft, and Sir James Lothian — all of
them waiting their opportunity. I see well enough
what they mean.**

"I wish you would not name them. If I cannot
marry Arthur, I will remain unmarried.**

"Now I will teU you something you have not
thought of. If you won*t marry, your father will
marry. Mind that I**

Lucia laughed, but there was a tone of fear in the
laugh, and she was instantly anxious enough to ask:

"What makes you say a thing like that, Ann?
And, pray, with whom is my father in love?**

"With that pretty girl, Lucy Pearson.**

"Why, Ann, Lucy is only eighteen years old I**

"You are only nineteen, and the Colonel isn't very
much older than Lord Fenwick.*'

"Ann I Ann Idle I My father is ages older than
Lord Arthur.**

"Doesn't look like it. Anyway, I heard that at the
last water meeting, when the guests had a little din-
ner and a dance at the hotel after it, the Colonel


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danced three times with Miss Lucy^ and took Parson
Pearson and Mrs. Pearson and Miss Lucy home/*

"I do not believe it."

"Dixon drove them in our best closed carriage—
the parson being delicate/*

"I wish I had gone to that meet, but I had a head-
ache. When I am with father, there are no such car-
ryings-on. I shall go with him for the future.'*

"I would if I was you. The Colonel is yet a very
finely set-up man, and hardly a white hair on his head.
The women run after him, I can tell you that — after
him and Abbot's Rest, which is a bit of valuable
property. Mind what Ann tells you — if you find it
wearisome to be Colonel Ragnor's companion, there
are several eligible ladies ready to take your place.
Miss Lucia."

"Thank you, Ann.**

"Change your tactics, dearie. You have no time
to lose, for either Lucy Pearson, or Hannah Millom,
or the widow Lorimer might be far worse as a living
stepmother than the dear little lady who sleeps in
Ulverston churchyard; if you think that she, being
dead, divided you from Lord Fenwick, a living step-
mother might divide you from your father and your
fortune both. You know how it was with the Thorpe
family, and the same way in the Singleton family, aa
well as in "

"Say no more, Ann. I see all that you want me to


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see/' Then they kissed each other tenderly, and
Lucia went to her room to think out the problem Ann
had set hen It was a perfectly natural one, she saw
that at once ; her father had a right to her compan-
ionship and sympathy, and she had left him very much
alone. She had preferred to sit silent and motionless
and think about her lover. Nothing about her
father's affairs or amusements had interested her.
Lord Fenwick's absence and silence and the probabil-
ities arising out of these conditions entirely occupied
her thoughts and her interest But the consequences
which Ann had pointed out were unthinkable. She
must change that order of things at once.

The next morning she proposed a canter to Kenton.
The Colonel was delighted and they went off as merry
as two children, took their lunch at the Inn, walked
about the old town and did shopping, called on the
rector and had a cup of tea with him, and then
sauntered home in the twilight. And as they sat down
to their dainty little dinner, Lucia had the pleasure of
hearing her father say, "I quite forgot Mrs. Lori-
mer's tea. I promised to be there about four o'clock.
And I sent no note of apology."

"I do not suppose Mrs. Lorimer will miss you;
certainly not if that bulky Squire Bell is there. Mrs.
Lorimer and Squire Bell would make a weighty mar-
riage — I mean in pounds avoirdupois."

The Colonel laughed and Lucia asked, ^^Are you


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not tired of teas? Such stupid affairs I All the
women are too like men and the men are all too like
women — even the fat squire at Mrs. Lorimer*s feet,
with his womanly cigarette and white rose in his but-
tonhole. Father, you are the only man round this
part of England that stands erect, and looks like a
Man. No wonder the women admire you 1"

The Colonel involuntarily sat erect, and with an
air of slight dissent said, ^'We have been their guests,
Lucia; we must not speak ill of them. Let me tell
you, dear, that you permit all the women to dress bet*
ter than you do.**

^'Dear father, I wiU not commit that mistake
again. Your daughter ought to dress worthy of her
father's rank and honorable service. Where do we
go tomorrow?**

"To Sir James Lothian*s.**

"To dinner?**

"Dinner and dance after dinner.**

The evening was spent in talking, music, and a
game of chess, and the Colonel was happy and Luda
at least far more satisfied than if she had sat silently
musing with a book in her hand, her face shadowed
by sorrowful fears and daily disappointment She
felt that in doing her duty to her father she had done
it to herself^ and into what good or kind deed does
not self insinuate itself?

Never is it very far from a woman*s inclination to

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dress handsomely. Besides, in Lucia^s case she told
herself that all her pretty wedding finery was going
daily out of style and^ though laid by in lavender and
white linen, subject to constant loss of color and fin-
ish. Yes, she would wear all for her father^s pleas-
ure. Arthur would never return. After the insult he
had received, she was foolish to expect it. Still she
did not in her heart believe in this settlement of the
question, and

... no sooner did the old hope go to the ground,
Then a new one straight to the selfsame mark,
she shaped her.

It was simply impossible that a love so sweet, so
strong and tender, should vanish in a few quarrel-
some minutes and be seen no more.

To such thoughts she arrayed herself for the Loth-
ian dinner in a pale-blue satin frock trimmed with
silver lace. Her hair was fashionably dressed, her
jewelry remarkable for so young a woman, and as
soon as her attire was complete she assumed to per-
fection that air of fine breeding, that cold calmness
and soft haze of impertinence which gave her ^'the
air'' of a woman of the world. Ann laughed, but yet
was unconsciously influenced by it.

"My goodness I" she ejaculated "Wherever did
you learn such ways, miss?**

"At the London school. They teach such ways

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there. They are very necessary for women who have
to meet aU kinds of disagreeable people."

"But don't be ill-natured, miss. That wouldn't be
like you."

"I'll try not to hurt anyone, Ann, but when you
carry arms it is easy to use them."

However, Lucia was not ill-natured. She aston-
ished and rather over-awed the women she had been
used to ignore, and when she saw how proud and
happy her father was in her success, she dressed con-
stantly to his satisfaction. It seemed a poor recom-
pense for the dreams and hopes of Love, but be the
trouble what it may, the glorification of self is not a
trifling antidote. The G>lonel took the greatest de-
light and pleasure in his daughter's small social tri-
umphs, and they made a light, interesting topic of
conversation for the hours of household resting and
waiting. And to the G>lonel a victory of some kind
was the fundamental thing in life; all else was mere

"Miss Ragnor's costumes are a combination of the
fine arts,^* said Mrs. Lorimer, "but she is very sweet
and kind in them. Nevertheless, ladies, anyone who
aspires to Colonel Ragnor and Abbot's Rest will have
to cross swords with two clever women. It is not
worth while, or I would try it.'*

*Two women I" ejaculated Mrs. Pearson. "He
has only one daughter— and a girl as handsome as

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Lucia Ragnor will marry without delay. There is
no other woman."

"There is the woman who brought up Miss Rag-
nor — ^went to every school with her as maid and like-
wise if the young lady but visited a friend. They
have never been parted until last winter.**

"Then if Miss Ragnor marries^ the woman called
Ann will go with her to her new home/* said Mrs.
Pearson. "That is very certain. Colonel Ragnor
will then be left alone. If there is anyone here who
thinks she could cheer his loneliness, I warn her it is a
task beyond her power. Colonel Ragnor is one of
those men who believes the women of his household
are superior to all other women in the world — there's
plenty of such men — and I say that any woman am-
bitious to take her ease in Abbot*s Rest must cut her-
self after the Ragnor pattern in everything, or have
a restless time of it.** All present declared they ad-
mired the Colonel and his charming daughter, but
when the conversation about them was finished, there
was very little left to admire. The tongue is not
steel, but it cuts. ' »

This life, however, satisfied neither the Colonel
nor Lucia. It was seldom they came home after an
evening*s so-called amusement without feeling the
emptiness of their lives and the poverty of their
hands. And this vague dissatisfaction annoyed the
Colonel. He attributed it entirely to Lucia*s disas-


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trous love affaifi and he said bluntly to her one nightt
''Lucia) you are wasting your life and happiness over
a worthless lover. Bury your past forever.**

"My past is in its grave, father, but its ghost
haunts me. Wherever I am, Arthur's voice calls me
all day long, and at night, when at last sleep comes, it
is sleep full of dreams and misgivings that make me
miserable before I awake to another aching day.'*

"You are very foolish.**

"It seems to me, father, you were just as foolish
about my mother.**

He looked at her in astonishment The presump-
tion implied in this criticism of her father's love
troubles seemed to him something too objectionable
to be noticed. So he turned away with an air of of-
fence, and left his dissatisfied daughter alone.

Thus the weeks went wearily on, but the experience
that does not make us better, makes us worse; and
Lucia was certainly becoming tired of "well-doing**
both as regarded her home and her social duties.

One hot, still night the Colonel lay long awake
pondering many things regarding his daughter, and
finally came to the conclusion that nature in all the
lovely moods she assumed around Abbot*s Rest had
no message of comfort for the love-sick girl. For
indeed love is an intellectual malady, and asks for
quite as much forbearance as a sick and suffering
body; and he said finally to himself, **We will go to


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London In the fall, and If he should come there, sail
for New York and Washington. I have military
friends In both places; she must have more life, more
change. I know after Vera's death there was noth-
ing but the army for me."

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe winning of Lucia : a love story → online text (page 7 of 19)