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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The winning of Lucia : a love story online

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In the midst of such reverie the mysterious travel
of sleep and Its visions came to him, and he had a
clear consciousness that he and his dead wife had
passed each other in the dark and exchanged a word
or a thought in passing. And he was awed and
thrilled, and tried In vain to understand the message.
But It was a memory touched so solemnly with the
intimacies of life that he could sleep no more that
night, and when Luda remarked his weary condition,
he told her frankly the circumstance which had kept
him awake.

And she answered with a sigh, "Poor mother 1 She
wanted to say a word for me, no doubt. I think I
could have understood her.'* Then she was silent,
and the Colonel was not quite pleased at her remark.
In a few moments he asked:

**Where are you going today? It is too hot to
study/'

"I shall take my microscope and textbook and go
into the pine forest. Dr. Studley has made It a con-
stant delight to me. You might choose a book and
come with me.'* -j

"You see I have on my linen suit. I am going to
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LOVE'S YOUNG DREAM



my studio. I want to think over my dream. I sup-
pose it was a dream?"

"Dear mother I A word we could understand
would make all the difference. Why is it not given?
I will go and sit among the high ferns by the Fairies'
Well to cat my lunch; bring yours and eat it beside
me, father. Then we will walk afterwards to the
lakeside and have a sail."

"I might do that."

"Yes, father, do. It is not a brilliant program,
but it is the best I can offer. By noon you will have
thought about your dream all that is good for you.
Thank you for telling it to me, father. It was a good
dream. Mother is thinking of us." Then she slowly
rose, walked to the piano and opened it. The Colonel
waited, for though she played and sang very pleas-
antly, she was by no means addicted to casual play-
ing. This morning she made no explanation of her
purpose, nor did she touch her music file, but striking
a few sweet, soft chords, her voice rose to them in a
transport of anticipating affection :

"O looking from some heavenly hill I
Or from the shade of saintly palms 1
Or silver reach of river calms I
Do thy large eyes behold us still?'*

Her voice lingered and rose and fell, and the Colonel
with eyes full of tears thanked her, with many loving

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

words. "Where did you hear it? Where did you
learn it?" he asked. "I never heard it before."

"Oh, but you did; only you were not listening.
Lucy Pearson sang it at the funeral of our old pastor,
and she gave me a copy."

"My dear, I will bring my lunch to the Fairies'
Well by one o'clock."

"Thank you, father I I will wait for you."



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CHAPTER VIII

THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR

LUCIA then went for her microscope and the
novel she was reading, and Ann gave her a
little green and white basket full of dainties.
"You will get water from the Fairies' Well," she said,
"and they do say the old monks blessed the well and
made the water lucky to drink and better to bathe in.
Your silver traveling cup is in the basket. Drink and
drink all good fortune to yourself. But do take care
of your frock. Something in gingham might have
done for the pine wood. You will get that white mus-
lin thing all wood-stained."

"What if I do? Ann will take all the wood-stain
out again." Then she kissed Ann affectionately and
went with a slow step through the garden and up the
fells to the murmuring pine forest. She became hap-
pier as she stood in their green shadows, thrilled
through with the songs and secrets of the nests they
guarded. And there was a pleasant whispering wind
above her, just fingering the tops of the trees. So in
the sweet gloom and silence she said:

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

"I will try and be happy in this happy place." But
happiness comes not at our call. Perversely her mind
would go back to the wonderful days in Glasgow, and
to the dear lover who had turned every moment into
a song, or tale of love and joy. She wished she could
cry— cry from all her heart — ^and wash away the grief
so silently hid there. An active, passionate grief, she
thought she could endure; but sorrow that just crept
like a mist over her life was a different thing— she
longed rather for the pang of conflict.

No one must imagine that the suffering from dis-
appointed love is a slight affair. To those who have
really found the man or woman whom their soul lov-
eth, separation or misunderstanding is a real and se-
vere affliction. There is hardly any physical anguish
to be compared with its fever, restlessness, and
despair; and the mind that can bravely bear it, keep-
ing the while a smiling face and doing a full service
of household courtesy and help, is a great mind. In
after-life there will be no need to doubt it under any
circumstances ; it will play up the game.

So Lucia seeing and feeling all the beauty of earth
around her, took off her hat, and with book and glass
began her studies. The jays and blackbirds went on
with their noisy housekeeping, and the thrushes in
every bush were telling her their family secrets, and
amid so much peace and pleasure she partly forgot
the yearning pain at her heart. In a little while the

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THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR

morning grew . very warm, and she stood up and
threw off her little silk jacket. Then finding it near
noon, she looked over towards Abbot's Rest to sec if
there was any sign of her father's approach. She did
not really expect him. He had too often and too
freely expressed his preference for a tablecloth, a
comfortable chair and Dixon behind it, to leave any
doubt in her mind that he considered a lunch by the
Fairies' Well a great act of self-denial not to be re-
peated too often at his age. Lucia imderstood this
and was by no means disappointed when she saw
nothing of her recreant guest.

She turned to the Fairies' Well again, her

. . . wavy, windy hair afloat,

And love songs whispering in her throat,

and lifting her basket spread a clean napkin on the
grass at the foot of the high ferns. The dainties Ann
had provided were soon laid upon it and she sat down
to enjoy them, being well shaded and shielded by the
great ferns behind her.

She was not quite alone. There was a robin red-
breast asking her softly from his perch on the tallest
fern, "Anything for me this morning?" and a little
speckled-breasted thrush, waiting almost at her feet
for the crumbs that he expected for his family's din-
ner, and the song of thanks he would sing before he
touched what was given him was already keeping his

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

beak apart and his wings all a-flutter. Lucia was quite
familiar with the birds; they had shared her lunch toa
often to fear her. She fed them both first, and then
drew her plate of cold grouse nearer.

"I will hush and bless myself in this green heaven,**
she said again to her restless heart, and she began to
eat and to enjoy the good things before her. Every
now and then she answered the thrush and the robin
in little low snatches of song, but deeper down than
she could fathom, she was conscious of a soft, eager
voice calling, calling, "Come back, Arthur I Come
backr

About the middle of the meal she heard a distant
voice — she heard her own name called She sat still
to listen. Again, and then again, she heard it.
"Someone is calling me," she said in a little excite*
ment, and she scanned carefully the hill behind the
well, but there was no one visible.

"Then whoever wants me comes through the
wood," she decided.

The quiet of the noon hour was all around, every-
thing was still as an hour glass, and when once more
"Lucia I Lucia!" rang down the wooded path, her
heart beat wildly, her eyes dilated with rapture, and
she said, "It is Arthur calling me I It is Arthur call-
ing me I" and she stood up to listen quivering with
hope and expectation.

In a few minutes Lord Fenwick passed out of the

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THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR

wood, and she saw him — ^in a few more moments they
met in each other's arms. She brought him to her
covert, and made him sit on the warm grass, and fed
him with everjrthing good she had. He was tragically
white and thin, and looked like a man who had es-
caped death by the skin of his teeth. She would not
notice these things. She looked into his eyes, heard
him speak, clasped his hand, and at that hour it was
sufficient. Indeed the visible presence of each other
was for a short time all they needed.

Her smiles and little sighs and tender attentions
filled him with a joy that brought tears to his eyes,
and her beauty thrilled and amazed him. For in her
great delight as she moved about the sweet, green
place, she seemed to have the bloom of flowers and
all their softness and sweetness. If she spoke, her
voice had a caress in it, and her very name went to
his head like wine. That sacred fear which fell upon
Lancelot, when he saw the maiden standing in the
dewy light, fell upon Arthur Fenwick. He had not
dreamed she was so beautiful.

"O thou most sweet I" he said, drawing her to his
side. "Let me tell you now why I could not come
to you before. I fell sick as soon as I reached Fen-
wick Hall, and I have lain in the Valley of the
Shadow of Death almost ever since. Much of the
time I have been insensible and until a month ago I
was unable to move. During the past three weeks I

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

have been preparing for this visit, and I have brought
-veith me such proofs of my innocence of all the evil
your father lays to my charge as will compel him to
restore to me his faith and friendship."

"Today dear, we will not talk of sorrowful things.
Only tell me that you love me. There is nothing
else I care to hear," and there was much room in her
beautiful pure eyes, such a glow of soft dark fire,
that they held him by a charm which revealed itself
constantly, in the low delicious stumbling patois of
love. Never man wooed with a nobler spirit, never
maid spoke so like a songbird. Oh, the vital mys-
tery, and ever-working miracle of Love I That day
the Fairies* Well was a drama of sun and scent of
Love and Hope — a real Paradise to the two sitting
alone in its charmful atmosphere, unknowing and un-
caring about the flight of hours, until the red sun
setting behind them showed that the blessed day was
over and a return to the homes of men necessary, and
that without delay.

In the meantime the Colonel was not as ignorant
of what had taken place as the lovers imagined. He
had easily and early put out of his intentions a lunch
at the Fairies* Well, and at the proper hour had
eaten a comfortable meal of hare soup and rook pie
with Dixon waiting on him with pleasant advices
concerning the dishes on the table. "The lettuce,
sir, is fresh and crisp — and the mushrooms, I got

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THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR

them in the lower meadow, sir. I thought you would
be glad to see them."

"You are right, Dixon, I am. In about half an
hour bring my light fatigue jacket, and my cane. I
am going to the pine forest."

He followed this intention promptly, smoking a
fine cigar as he did so, and wondering idly whatever
made him promise to go to the forest, and then to
the lake, when he was sure the glass was climbing up
to seventy-five degrees. "I must be a very good-
natured man," he decided. For a moment he smiled,
but grew suddenly grave, for the dream of his dead
wife and the sweet singing of the stray verse re-
minded him of the reasons for his ready acceptance
of his daughter's invitation.

He was then only about two hundred feet f rpm
the Fairies' Well, which lay at the bottom of the
ascent he had just climbed. Before taking the de-
cline, he went to a certain spot from which he was
accustomed to look for Lucia, and if she was present,
she always answered his view halloo with cheerful
promptitude.

On the moss-covered rocks he saw her sitting, and
as he looked she stood up, and he waited a moment
to see her slim loveliness raise itself straight and
white among the tall, waving ferns. The next mo-
ment his hand was at his mouth and he was on the
point of calling, when a gentleman, who must have

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

been lying on the grass at her feet, rose quickly and
stood at her side.

The Colonel's hand fell like a stone and he gazed
at the couple standing below him. They leaned lov-
ingly towards each other. He heard the ripple of a
laugh, and then they sat down together on the short
warm grass. And Lucia's hand was in the man's
hand, and he kissed it — often. Of course it was
Fenwick. It must be Fenwick— only he looked so
much slighter, and lighter in bulk. Yet it was not
any of her lovers in the neighborhood, and he
stood still wishing that the man — ^whoever he was
— ^would rise once more, and remove his hat.
The wish was hardly made ere it was granted,
and then he could no longer doubt it was Arthur
Fenwick.

His first feeling was one of rage and wounded
a£Fection. Lucia was deceiving him. He could not
believe such a thing. It was incredible. This point
must be determined first of all. If she was, he felt
as if nothing else mattered. He turned back sharply,
and arrived at Abbot's Rest in a highly excited state.
"It is the heat, Dixon," he said. "I ought not to
have walked in it. I will go to my room, and lie
down awhile."

After all, he could not move in the matter until
he saw Lucia. If she said nothing about her visitor,
then she was deceiving him; and a false child he

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THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR

would not own. She could go with her lover. He
would not put out a finger to stop her. He would
trouble his heart no more about the ungrateful girl.
He was angry also with Dr. Studley. He felt sure
that in some way or other he had brought about this
meeting of the lovers; well then, Lucia must have
made a confidant of Studley, and no doubt all three
had said what they thought of his behavior. He
could not keep this bit of self out of the circumstance
nor avoid a wonder as to what had been said. He
remembered that his friend St. Clair had not ap-
proved his opinion of Fenwick, and upon the whole
his personal as well as his fatherly feelings were
wounded and irritated.

His thoughts completely overcame him and he felt
as he had never done before the bewildering human
mysteries and anxieties of life. He walked to and
fro in his room rapidly, angrily, and finally in a kind
of passionate exhaustion stood still, and throwing
upward his arms, uttered a pitiful, ejaculatory prayer
for God's mercy and help to guide him. Profcably
never before had he felt more acutely his need of
God than he did on this drowsy, undevout hour of
the hot afternoon.

When he had dressed for dinner, it was much
cooler and he went into the garden. He took the
path usually taken by Lucia, for he wished to meet
her before she had any opportunity to make inquiries

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

of Ann to Dixon. There was a wise king who said:

"I was never out of it yet, when I judged men as
they judged women."

Yet Colonel Ragnor was judging his daughter at
that hour in a manner that would have provoked
his highest indignation had the same rules been ap-
plied to himself.

It was late and gray when Lucia returned. The
Colonel met her near the large entrance gates and
for a moment was charmed and astonished at her
beauty. Never, even in the most brilliant festi-
vals, had he seen her so radiant, so charming, so
full of joy. Love had transfigured her. It had
also made her brave, for in the moment she saw
her father, she resolved to tell him everything.
So she called him cheerfully, and he waited for
her.

"You did not come to the Fairies' Well, father,
did you?** she asked.

"Did you really expect me, Lucia?" he answered.
"It was an unusually warm day. I do not suppose
you missed me."

"Yes, and no, father. Dear father, stand here a
moment, we will not go a step farther, until I tell
you something — ^Arthur was with me."

"You mean Fenwick? Impossible!"

"I mean Arthur, Lord Fenwick, who loves me.
Father, he has been in the Valley of the Shadow of

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THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR

Death for more than three months, and he comes back
from the very grave, to ask you to be his friend once
more."

"He was very foolish.**

"Father, you must listen to him. He has now
the evidence to prove he never wronged you. You
do not want to wrong any man."

"I am just to everyone."

"But Arthur is more particular than everyone
else."

"I know not"

"Oh, yes you do. His mother was your mother's
sister. You were rivals in love and you won the
woman you both loved."

"WeU ^"

"Be not only just, be generous, for my sake — for
my mother's sake."

"Your mother disliked him."

"She likes him now, she is sorry for us, she spoke

to you last night and "

^ "Let us go forward, it is too damp to stand, and
Ann does not like dinner delayed."

"Ann I Who is Ann? How scandalously terri-
fied some men are of their servants I You are mas-
ter here. Have dinner when it pleases you — ^what
I am saying is of more consequence than "

"Now, Lucia, keep your temper."

" — Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding — there I"
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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

"I am thinking of your health."

"Father, I am begging my life."

"Nonsense! Where is the man staying?*'

"I don't know whom you mean."

"I mean Fenwick."

"He is with Dr. Studley."

"How is that?"

"The late Lord Fenwick was Dr. Studley's patron.
It was in Fenwick Library he worked for sixteen
years. Studley came to the old Dower House with-
out knowing who it was that owned Abbot's Rest."

"Do you expect me to believe that?"

"On my word, you may take it I It's the truth 1"

"And so Dr. Studley is the confidant?"

"You are wrong, sir. Arthur had been with Dr.
Studley nearly two days before I was named — all
last Sunday and Monday. You remember that it
stormed both days, and I sat most of the time break-
ing my heart for Arthur, and Arthur only a mile
away. If I had only known I"

The Colonel made no answer. They were at the
Rest, and Dixon standing at the open door. "We
are about half an hour late," said Lucia, "go to your
dinner, father. I will be with you presently."

"I shall wait until you are ready."

"Thank you I I will not detain you more than
ten minutes." And in very little more than ten min-
utes, she took her place at the head of the table, in

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a freshy white muslin frock, and radiating smiles full
of love and hope. There was a red rose in her loos-
ened hair, and a red rose at her belt, and her father
looked at her with wonder and delight. How did
Lucia do it? It took him generally a long hour to
make a toilet; how had Lucia done it in ten or twelve
minutes?

The next morning they walked together to the
Studley house. Everything was dewy and fresh, and
they stood a moment or two by a little plantation
of cedars, and in its dull stillness listened to the long
murmur among them.

"The pines have nobler tones,*' said Lucia.

"But the resinous odor of the cedars is sweeter
than a rose garden,'' answered the Colonel. "I used
to have happy hours in a cedar grove, and to inhale
the odor of cedars is yet like inhaling — like inhal-
ing "

"The fragrance of your lost youth, father."

"Yes, dear, just so, the fragrance of my lost
youth. There is Studley in his garden. Lucia, I
lost my temper I fear at St. Clair's; there must be
nothing of the kind this morning. You have influ-
ence over Lord Fenwick. I think I can take care of
myself."

Studley had been among his dahlias propping up
their splendidly colored and exquisitely pleated
blooms. He was quiet and a little troubled, and he

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led them into a large, lofty room that was magnifi-
cently furnished, though all its appointments were
certainly a century old It had an air of dignity,
ahnost of solenmity, quite different from the cheery
study with its books and flowers and "specimens'* of
all kinds and its heavenly perfume of woodruff. But
Lucia divined the moment she entered the apartment,
the Doctor's motive, in making it the scene of the
conference that was to be held in it. "Men must be
much excited," she thought, "very rough or vulgar
who would feel themselves able to transgress against
its atmosphere of serene and lofty propriety. And
I dare say Studley wishes to give an air of some
importance to the settlement of a feud of twenty
years' standing. It would make the idea of its re-
newal much harder to entertain."

The room was empty when they entered it, but
there was a locked portfolio on the table, and Stud-
ley placed chairs for the Colonel and himself near
it. Then the door was softly opened by Fenwick's
valet, and Fenwick entered. Lucia rose to meet him,
the Colonel turned rapidly and then stood amazed
and speechless. The pallor of the Valley of the
Shadow was still over Fenwick's countenance, his
figure was much slighter and his whole appearance
was that of a man who had barely escaped the grave.
For a moment he stood irresolute, then he advanced
slightly and said :

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"I am sorry to see that you have been so ill,
Fenwick."

"Yes, I have suffered — ^very much."

"My friends," said Dr. Studley. "There was a
great blunder made twenty years ago, followed, of
course, by its great penalty. We are together this
morning to prove it a blunder in its entirety, and to
forbid it any further influence over the lives it has
scarred and shadowed. I am going to show you
that in the whole tragedy of the Spencer family, my
friend Lord Fenwick had no part whatever for
which he deserves blame or reproach."

"I shall gladly be convinced of his innocence,"
said the Colonel, and Fenwick smiled faintly, and
lifted Lucia's hand.

"Lord Fenwick has been held responsible by those
ignorant of the facts for the moral and financial fail-
ure of Hal Spencer. Here are fourteen L O. U.'s,
aggregating eleven hundred pounds, and represent-
ing that amount loaned by Lord Fenwick to Mr. Hal
Spencer, not one of them bearing a penny's worth of
interest."

"Why no interest?" asked the Colonel.

"I do not put my friends to usury, Colonel."

"Here also are three letters Mr. Spencer, Senior,
sent to Lord Fenwick. From these letters it is evi-
dent that Lord Fenwick had been discussing with
HaPs father plans for his son's reformation, and one

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plan proposed by Lord Fenwick was, that Hal should
go to Canada, and re-commence his life and his pro-
fession in one of its large cities, Lord Fenwick agree-
ing to loan him five hundred pounds for his outfit
It is but bare justice to Lord Fenwick, for Colonel
Ragnor to examine these papers" — and he gently
pushed them towards him.

While the Colonel was thus employed, Dr. Stpd-
ley walked round the room with Lucia, and showed
her the tapestries and porcelains, and opened a little
inlaid cabinet, full of lovely trifles of all kinds.

"They belong,*' he said, "to the Dowager Lady
Fenwick. I am only their curator."

Then the Colonel laid down the papers he had
been examining, and Dr. Studley lifted them and
with a questioning look at Fenwick laid them in the
grate. With a slow precision he set fire to them
and then sat down. They were blazing and burn-
ing when Studley resumed his narrative.

"So we have this hour taken a great wrong out
of the lives of three people, burned and buried it
forever. Is this true. Colonel Ragnor?"

"Absolutely," answered the Colonel. "Lord Fen-
wick Is fully exonerated. He deserves praise for his
forbearance and generosity, rather than blame, as
far as I can judge."

"The case of Mr. Spencer, Senior," Dr. Studley
continued, "was a most natural sequence to the ruin

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THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR

and death of his son ; and the servant who accident-
ally killed the foolish young man was acquitted by
an empaneled jury. Lord Fenwick had no more to
do with this tragedy than had I or Colonel Ragnor
himself."

"I agree with you. We need not discuss the sub-
ject,** replied Colonel Ragnor.

"The last count against Lord Fenwick is the writ-
ing and publication of an exceedingly heartless, slan-


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe winning of Lucia : a love story → online text (page 8 of 19)