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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The winning of Lucia : a love story online

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derous, and untruthful account of this double tragedy
in the Maryport Journal^ making it appear that it
was the natural result of Mrs. Ragnor's marriage
with Colonel Ragnor. Had Lord Fenwick done this
shameful thing, John Studley would not say one
word in his favor. But Fenwick had nothing to do
with it. He was not in England at the time it was
published. He was shooting in Canada, and stay-
ing with the Governor-General. The article was
published, as you may all see, on March sixteenth.
Here is a letter written by Lord Fenwick to his
mother dated New York, March ninth. Here are
other letters written to various persons from Canada
and bearing Canadian postmarks; and they cover all
of February, March and April.**

Then there was a pause while the Colonel exam-
ined the letters, which he did very carefully. The
rest of the party were quiet and silent. The intense
feelings evoked in the discussion of a subject so per-

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

sonal and momentous to all had changed the air of
the room. It was now full of an electric tension
that everyone felt, though it affected Fenwick the
most deeply. He could not sit stilL His face had
flushed. He was livid with emotion. It took all
Lucia's silent influence to prevent him from inter-
rupting the Colonel's careful, slow reading and sus-
picious examination. It implied a doubt, which he
could not endure, and he said sharply:

"Doctor, call Dick."

Until Dick's arrival, Lucia paced the long room
with her lover, whispering words of affection and
patience. But she was also wise in her womanly
way, and she said:

"Arthur, father is right, in wanting to be quite
sure. A lingering half-suspicion is dreadful — some-
thing that torments, and you dare not speak
about it."

"Good heavens, Lucia ! Do you know that he is
suspecting me of writing a blackguard, defaming let-
ter that is not even written and spelt as a gentleman
writes and spells."

"Father is a suspicious man; he had to be in the
army. He was always watching, watching."

"A most unpleasant habit, most "

Here Dick entered quite at ease. He looked at
his master who never noticed him. Before he dared
to speak. Dr. Studley asked:

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"Do you know this piece of newspaper, Dick?**

"Yes, sir! I told you so last night."

"Now you are telling Miss Ragnor, Lord Fen-
wick, and Colonel Ragnor that you know it. How
do you know it?"

"I concocted it myself."

"Did you write it?"

"Couldn't write it — got Tonuny Evers to write it
for me."

"Why?"

"Because we was old chums and because he could
write and had a job in setting up type on a paper.
I gave him two pounds for writing it, and then I
took it to the man who can put things in a paper,
and I gave him two pounds. He acted as if he was
not sure he ought to believe me, but I showed him
two letters from my lord, which I happened to have
in my pocket."

"You rascal! How dared you show my letters?"

"Did these letters say anything of Mrs. Ragnor's
death?" continued the Doctor.

"My lord did not know she was dead. He was
in America when she died. The letters told me to
take rooms for him at the North British Hotel and
meet the steamer with his own carriage."

"Who took this paper to Mrs. Ragnor?"

"I took it to the house myself."

"How did you know where Mrs. Ragnor lived?"
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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

"My wife lived with her. It was my business to
know where my wife lived."

"Did you see your wife?"

"Not at that time. I didn't want to see her. I
had told her a bit of my mind the day before. She
thought I had left Ulverston. I just watched until
I saw her go into the garden with a big white bowl
in her hand to gather blackberries. Then I passed
it in by the second girl."

"That is sufficient," said Colonel Ragnor. "Send
the man away." And when he left the room the
Colonel rose to his feet and continued:

"One of the trivial things connected with my
wife's death is that bowl of blackberries. Someone
in a hurry had thrown it over, and the ripe berries
had stained the white damask cloth, as if with
splotches of blood. It annoyed, and even frightened
me. I said, 'It is a bad sign,' and as I walked that
dreary, lonely place all night long, it affected me
more and more. Gentlemen, remember Death was
fighting for my wife's life in the next room, and the
cries of the cruel struggle filled my ears and nearly
broke my heart. I have never touched a blackberry
since. I forbid my gardener to have a single black-
berry vine on the place; it is a rather humiliating
thing to confess the influence of this vulgar super-
stition over me, but truth is truth, and Fenwick's
valet has told the truth. I know it. I need no fur-

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THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR

ther proof of the folly which led me to nurse for
twenty years supposed wrongs into positive hatred.
But the thing is done. I believed I was right. I
regret the irrevocable with all my soul."

After a moment's delay, Fenwick said clearly but
very softly, "Let those twenty bad years be forgot-
ten. There is joy and peace in the years to come" ;
and he looked with passionate affection into the face
of Lucia beaming love and hope upon him.

Dr. Studley was not quite satisfied. The men had
approached each other too carefully. He wanted to
see real affection break down the barriers of personal
feeling, and also he perceived that Lucia did not
consider the reconciliation complete. She looked at
him and he answered the look by lifting a book and
as if reciting from it, thrilled the room and the hearts
of all present with the following words :

"The human soul that crieth at thy gates,
Of man or woman, alien or akin,
Is thine own soul that for admission waits.
Rise, let it in!"

Fenwick and Lucia rose to their feet sponta-
neously, and Fenwick stretched out his hand and
cried, "I am sorry with all my soul, Robert 1"

"So am I, Arthur r

"Forgive me for Luda's sake."

"Forgive me, Arthur 1"



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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

Then Lucia clasped their hands between her own
and kissed them both, and the Colonel drew Lucia
within his right arm and said:

"I shall make a little festival over this event.
Will you both join us at dinner at seven o'clock to-
night?"

Fenwick did not seem to hear the invitation; he
looked passionately into the Colonel's eyes and said
in a low, intense voice:

**Robert, this is a question for eternity. Will you
now give me your daughter for my wife ? For God's
sake answer me." His heart throbbed in his words,
the very air tingled in which they stood, and the
Colonel lived for a moment or two at the very height
of his being. Then he laid Lucia's hand in her
lover's, and she kissed them both, as the Colonel,
drawing her to his side, said, "My dear I My dear I
May God bless you both !"

He was trembling and exhausted with the sup-
pression of feeling, and he hurried Lucia away, after
a solemn agreement that not one of the party should
ever allude to the subject again; and as a kind of
seal to the compact Fenwick took all the letters and
papers concerning it, and laid them on the ashes of
the first, pitiful records of Hal's folly and destruc-
tion.

Then the subject was dead, and all felt that silence
was now far more decorous than discussion. Luda,

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THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR

with womanly tact and generosity, had not named
her own hopes and plans, and that night also they
were quite ignored. There was a delicious dinner
prepared, and the pretty room was dedced with pop»
pies and dahlias and autumn flowers, and they talked
a little of the coming season and of a trip to the
south of France and a great deal of military affairs,
about which both men were enthusiasts, and as the
night deepened, Lucia sang a little, and in the heav*
enly light and grace of forgiveness everyone was
happy. A pleasant glow suffused the house and
whether they talked of sdence or the army, of so-
ciety or books, their talk was like singing — ^it was so
full of those glad, melodious tones that only children
and birds and lovers know how to use.

At ten o'clock the guests went home in the Col-
onel's closed carriage, and Luda went back to the par-
lor and talked of Dr. Studley and their plans for the
next day. She stood before the hearth, holding thus
early in the autumn a few blazing logs, and one of
her small feet in its pretty sandaled slipper was on
the low brass fender, and she slightly lifted the robe
of violet gauze in which she looked so enchantingly
lovely and happy that her father had a sharp pang
of jealous unsatisfied affection and disappointment
He wondered at her love for Lord Fenwick. He
felt as if he could have resigned her more easily to
some youth nearer her own age. He told himself

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

bitterly that the title was a poor payment for every
other advantage.

Lucia saw and felt the change and she went away
before it began to explain itself in words, but a cloud
stole over her heart, and she walked slowly upstairs
as if suddenly tired. But she was really weary, and
^he threw off her pretty garments hastily, smiling a
little to herself as she untied the pretty sandaled
slippers, and admired the smallness of her feet which
Fenwick had so often admired. She had intended to
send for Ann and have a long confidential talk with
Jber, but she was too weary and sleepy and she slipped
in between the white sheets, and laid her head on
the soft pillow and in the delicious relaxation of
blissful lassitude fell fast asleep. However deep as
Jber sleep was, it left

... a door on hinge,

Whence the soul, ere the flesh suspected,

Was off and away.

The sweet strength of the stars, the magic of the
moon, the noble repose of the night, were all hers;
and she was weary with love and joy, so she surely
ought to have "slept sweetly as a babe who yet re-
members heaven," but she did not. Her soul called
her from dark and lonely places, and she was
troubled with the somber terrors which are only too
ready to pursue us in the shadow of the night hours.

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The Colonel sat for half an hour nearly motion-
less. Doubts invaded his mind. Fears troubled his
heart, and he wondered if he had been as hastily
foolish in forgiving, as he had once been in blaming.
Suddenly he rang the bell, and asked for Mrs. Idle,
if she had not retired.

In a few minutes Ann stood within the door, but
there was no smile on her face nor any shadow of
sympathy in her perfectly correct inquiry, "What is.
it you wish, sir?"

"Come in, Ann. Shut the door and sit down. I
wish to tell you something very important."

"Yes, sir ! The malt is boiling, sir, and near read^
for the hops. Dixon is not to trust — ^as you know."

"Never mind the brewing. You were the only
soul with me in the great sorrow that smote me
twenty years ago."

"Mrs. Ragnor died in my arms, Colonel."

"You have cared for her child ever since."

"I took it from her arms. Yes, sir, I have cared
ever since, God knows 1"

"You have always done your duty to her and to
me. Ann, you are going to have some difficult days
now — so am I, God help me."

"You will find me to be depended on, sir. What
you desire, Ann will see to herself."

"The house is likely to be much disturbed for the
next three or four months."

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

^'Well, sir, nothing suits me so much as to see
you and Miss Ragnor suited. It will take a deal to
disturb a house Ann Idle has to manage, but to be
plain with you, sir, if there is to be much compznjj
two more women servants and one man servant will
be needed.**

"There will be company on and off, Ann, and
going and coming, and you must hire what extra help
is required. You can judge when I tell you that
Miss Ragnor will be married to Lord Fenwidc about
the New Year."

"It is hard to believe that, sir — ^vcry hard indeed I
I am taken all aback — you must excuse me, sir. Til
just go to myself."

"No, Ann, you must ^t down and listen to what
I say. Lord Fenwick has given me the most posi-
tive proof that he had notlung whatever to do with
the troubles of the Spencer family."

Then Ann answered with some temper, "Sir! I
am not forced to believe what Lord Fenwick says I
As for you, sir, you can please yourself what you do.
There was my poor mistress— she died in my arms I
I know what she believed."

"Lord Fenwick was in America at the time of my
wife*s death. He had been in America for some
months before it; he was there long after she died.
It was quite impossible for him to have been in any
way cognizant of that tragedy."

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THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR

''Them as was In his confidence could keep watch
for him. He is used to giving orders, and leaving
others to do his dirty work."

''Ann, get rid of such thoughts and never again
voice them in my presence. Never again, Ann 1 Re-
member that I I have forgiven my cousin the finan-
cial wrongs he has done to me. We have clasped
hands over our reconciliation. My only child loves
the man and will marry him or no other. What can
I do? Oh, what can I do, but submit? It must be
the will of God."

"That I will not believe, sir. If I did, I would
throw my Book of Common Prayer and my Church
Catechism out of the window."

"Ann, I have accepted the situation. I saw no
other way. Now Lucia will depend on you or go
to strangers. Ann, you must do all you think her
mother would do under these circumstances. She
will expect you to keep your promise to her most
especially at this time."

"I will keep my promise to its last letter, sir. But
it is beyond wit to teach wisdom to a maid In love —
though what she sees to love In the man confounds
me. He looks as old as you do, sir, and to my think-
ing you are a far handsomer man than Lord Fen*
wick."

"Now, Ann, you are stretching the truth beyond
all likelihood. Everyone acknowledges the great

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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

beauty and grace of Lord Fenwick. I was always
his inferior In manly beauty, though not, thank God,
in manly strength and vigor I'* and the Colonel threw
his broad shoulders backward, and lifted his head to
a military standard Nor was he quite insensible to
Ann's estimate of his physical advantages. He re-
membered that beautiful women had admired him,
and that his wife had always declared him to be the
handsomest man in his regiment

"Now, Ann 1" he added, "I rely on you to help me
over these few hard months, by making all as pleas-
ant as you can. We cannot prevent the marriage,
and we must make the best of it You can do so
much to bring good out of evil, I am going to trust
in you, Ann."

"Well, sir, when we can't hinder, it is often the
best thing to help.'*

"Just remember, that he has explained everjrthing
to me, and that I am satisfied."

"Yes, sir, and it will be well for him to remember
that he has got God Almighty to square with yet.
Good night, sir 1 I hope you may sleep welL"

"But I know he won't sleep one hour," she mut-
tered to herself, "and he don't deserve to— consider-
ing "

The Colonel, sighing, rose as she left the room,
put out the lights, threw the burning logs backward
into the deep chinmey, and then sauntered slowly to

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THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR

his bedroom. He was miles and miles away from
sleep; he was as wakeful as if he was on patrol duty.
He tried to remember his past life. It was all over,
and could not threaten him with griefs strange and
unexpected. He had met and conquered the past,
so he tried to keep his thoughts on it, but could not.
These dead days and dead feelings had lost all their
power over him. They just drifted past his memory,
like dead leaves on the backwaters of a forgotten life.
But the present was vitally, forcibly, persistently
with him, and the little doubt cast by Ann as to Lord
Fenwick*s knowledge and directions would not He
still. It kept asking, what if Ann should be right?
What If he had planned the outrage and left it to
Dick to carry out? Had he been fooled again? He
had relied on Studley — was Studley any wiser than
himself? With questions like these haunting his con-
sciousness, how could he sleep? And what kind of
sleep could he expect with such dreams sitting on his
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CHAPTER IX

LOVE AND DEATH

Love and Death,

Veiled Figures hand in hand
Move o'er men's heads; dread, irresistible,

To open the portals of that other Land
Where the great voices sound and visions dwdL

LIVING in the house with lovers who are pre-
paring for their marriage is far from a
restful or pleasant experience^ but so many
of my readers have doubtless suffered from its weari-
some selfishness that it is unnecessary to enter into
the events of the next four months in particular de-
tail. Abbot's Rest was anything but restful, for its
life was now ordered according to the demands of
two lives exigent and uncertain, who had their own
very special desires and wants and who seemed in a
great measure to have forgotten there were any other
desires and wants in the whole world.

Lucia at least took her tale of love under the trees
and the moon and the stars as something quite new

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and peculiar to herself. In sunshine that went to
the heart of man and the root of every green thing,
'mid the fragrance of late roses and lilies, through
autumn's melancholy odor of decay when the far
receding hills had a light like dreamland lying over
them and the whole landscape was full of meek lone-
liness and pastoral dejection, Lucia's lover

. . . looked at her as a lover can,
She looked at him as one who awakes,
Her past was asleep, and her life began*

Startide and the cheerful flame from the hearthstone
brought fresh rapture and that sweet patois of love
which happiness uses so welL

"Oh Lucia, my love I Listen, dear heart of mine 1
You are the honey, the milk, the sweet strong wine of
my world I Oh, how I love you !"

"And how I love you ! You know my heart,
Arthur, and from you I shall never hide it**

Thus they talked as the bliss so long afar at length
drew nigh; and for some weeks this lazy, selfish
adoration of love went on, only broken by Fenwick's
short visits to London or Fenwick Castle on business.
Finally, however, the marriage was fixed for the sec-
ond day of the coming new year; and then the prep-
arations that had been lazily progressing, became
urgent and rather hurried in their necessities.

It was almost a relief to the G>lonel and his house-
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THE WINNING OF LUCIA

hold, when this monotony of love-making was broken
by costumers from London, jewelers, decorators, and
people who had some real business in life and who
had to be attended to. Lord Fenwick felt himself
also compelled to return to his home and attend to
the changes which in more than one direction must
follow his marriage. His mother's duty was to retire
to her Northumberland dower house, but Fenwick
admitted she was adverse to doing so. She wished
to remain in Fenwick Castle; she pleaded her long
residence in it, and the great labor and personal ex-
pense she had been put to in the complete restoration
and renovation of its ancient rooms. And with Lord
Fenwick his mother's opinions and claims were be-
yond all dispute. If anyone was inviolably and per-
petually right in this world, it was Lady Henrietta,
wife of the late Lord John Jerome Alexander Fen-
wick. It would have seemed a kind of impiety to
Lord Arthur Fenwick to doubt or dispute any com-
mand or even desire of his mother's.

This parental servitude had become very evident
to Lucia, and she was not at all sympathetic with it.
And Lord Fenwick had noticed her indifference to
all his favorite anecdotes and descriptions of the
Lady Henrietta and resolved that after his marriage
this want of reasonable appreciation must be at once
corrected. Lucia would not consider the question;
she simply put it out of her consciousness. The

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LOVE AND DEATH



trouble, if it was one, was not to be met for some
months. Her marriage and honeymoon were to come
first With these thoughts the contingent of a
mother-in-law was a far-off consideration. Her love
absorbed all her feelings and filled her heart and her
imagination as completely as crimson fills a rose.

During the month of November, Fenwick was three
weeks absent from Abbot's Rest. It was, he claimed,
an absence most unwelcome and unavoidable. The
finishing up of business of great importance, the buy«
ing of much new furniture, and his own necessary
visits to his London tailor were excuses sufficient;
especially as they were in some respects duplicated
by similar wants on the bride's part. For though the
preparations of Lucia's wedding garments had been
going on for nearly three months, the great miracle
of the marriage vestment was yet to be considered —
the sumptuous wedding-robe of white satin and silver
gauze — ^and she resolved during this interval of woo-
ing to have the London costumer a couple of days
at Abbot's Rest, and give her whole time and atten-
tion to the creation of this bridal necessity.

Fortunately, the Colonel was going to Lord
Lothian's to join the Westmoreland Hunt for a
week, and Lucia's plan was carried out without let
or hindrance. On the third morning after the
Colonel's departure the white wonder of satin and
silver was fitted and pleated and trained to perfeo-

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tion, and the whole household having paid it a visit
of adoring admiration, it was carefully laid away
until the happy morning when Lucia would startle
her wedding guests with its unexpected loveliness.

Then Ann gave a great sigh and sat down heavily
in an adjacent chair. *'Miss Lucia, my dearie/* she
said wearily, "I am going to give every servant on
the place a bit of holiday. They are all womout
with running after two nKn, and I'll tell them there
is no hurry push for three days, and they may take
dieir time about what there is to do and put a sleep
in between whiles if they can manage it.'*

"Are they so tired as all that, Ann?**

"You forget, dearie, that the Colonel is up before
dawning, and the lord awake long after midnight
The fires are never out, the lights are aye burning,
and someone is on the watch all the time, while Ann
has to look after everything and everyone. So Ann
herself is a bit tired — that stands to reason.**

"Then I'll kiss you and love you, Ann, and that
will make you well. I am afraid I have not loved
you enough latey.'*

"No, you have not, that is the very truth.**

"Arthur was so hard to satisfy. He wanted to be
loved and petted all the time.'*

"Man-like. They never forget their mother*s
baby talk. Some woman has to cut and clip her
words for them all their lives long.**

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"Ann, now that you have seen Arthur day after
day, don*t you like him better?"

"Not a bit better."

"He has such fine taste. He will be charmed with
my wedding-dress."

"Fine taste is not a moral quality, miss. Any-
body that had eyes in their head would admire the
dress.'

"But you like him a little better, Ann?"

"I thought the thing over last night, miss, and I'm
sure I do not like him any better."

"He is my heart's choice, Ann."

"Such as it is, and we woin't go into the ethics of
the subject now."

"Well, you will have to live with him, Ann, for
you and I cannot be separated. Arthur has a way
of his own — ^but "

"What Arthur has not a way of his own?"

"But he is easily managed."

"I have seen you fail to manage him on not a few
occasions."

"OAnn!"

"Yes, I have."

"Perhaps I gave in of my own accord."

"That was just what you did. If men were all
made alike, miss, there might be fixed rules for their
management, but" — ^and Ann shrugged her shoul-
ders, and laughed softly as she remembered the con-

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tradictions and contrariness and endless variety of
the provoking masculine element

'Ton will find any man a handfull, and a heart-
full, miss/' she continued. "Men are out of sorts
at all times and seasons, and it is seldom they'll tell
you the reason why. But sooner or later all married
lives must come to the same system, if they are to be


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe winning of Lucia : a love story → online text (page 9 of 19)