Katharine Sarah Macquoid.

Lost Rose. And other stories (Volume 1) online

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nothing to hide from the mother's eyes the
sight that was there waiting for her.

Many feet down the cliff, between the rock
itself and one of the fantastic crags that pro-
ject from it here and there she saw Eeuben.
He lay on his back, and the white upturned
face looked ghastly in the early light.

*' May the Lord have mercy on me ! " broke
involuntarily from Mrs. Leir's blanched lips,
but she did not even sob or wring her hands
as a less self-contained woman would have
done ; she forced herself to act. She saw she
could not reach her son. It was impossible
to get down the face of the rock, and certainly



LOST ROSE. 23

she could not climb over the rough masses of
granite from below. She must seek help.
She looked up, and the huge bird again
swooped across just over the spot where Eeu-
ben lay.

She shuddered. If she went away, the
foul bird might attack the senseless body.
But help must be got.

'^ God will care for him better than I can,"
she said ; and she ran rapidly along the way
to Mercombe Mouth.

** They will be stirring at Williams's by
now," she thought ; and the hope seemed to
give her wings. Williams's farm was a few-
hundred yards from the beach, abutting on
the green lane which led from Mercombe.
A noisy chorus of pigs clamouring for their
breakfast greeted her as she opened the five-
barred gate ; but she scarcely heard them.
She felt almost as if she must fall down on
her knees in thankfulness in the midst of the
pig-trodden straw that littered the yard, for
there stood in front of the farmhouse not
only Joe Silly, Mr. Williams's factotum and
the most experienced fisherman in Mercombe,
but Mr. Williams himself. The farmer was



24 LOST ROSE.

dressed ready for a journey, and was busy
stowing away parcels in the cart that stood
before the garden-gate ; for the house lay
some way back from the pig-yard, and he did
not see Mrs. Leir. But Joe Silly saw her,
and instantly noted the anguish in her face.

*' What ails ye, Missus Leir ? " he said,
kindly. "• This is early for ye to be out-
doors."

The kindly voice and the look of sympathy
took away her courage — she broke down.

*^0 Joe, Mr. Williams!" she sobbed.
*' For God's sake, come ! My boy's fallen
over the cliff by the landslip, and he lies
there now half-way down."

Mr. Williams's head had been buried in
the cart ; but he drew it out in a hurry.
His red face had groT\Ti purple, and his stiff
iron-gray hair seemed to be standing on end
with the shock of the widow's words.

*' Bless my soul ! d'ye mean it ?" he said.
** Good heavens ! how did it happen ?" Then
he turned to his man. *' We must leave this
job ; mother'll see to the horse," he said.
*' I'll go round to the foot of the cliff with
Mrs. Leir, and you get a couple of men and



LOST ROSE. 25

a long ladder, and ropes and a blanket, and
follow over the beach. Mother 11 see to the
horse. Come, Mrs. Leir ; come and show
me where the poor fellow is down ; " and he
led the way to the beach.

He did not tell Reuben's mother that he
had thus quietly set aside an important jour-
ney for her sake ; something in her white
agonised face compelled him to help her, and
to be silent.

By the time they reached the bay below
the landslip the tide had turned ; they could
stand below, but they could get no glimpse of
Eeuben. The projecting crag, which looked
so small from above, quite obscured the spot
on which his mother had seen him.

*^ Are you sure, missus ? " said Williams,
speaking for the first time since they had left
the farm.

'' I'm as sure as I can be," she said sadly.
As she spoke, the great black bird swooped
slowly down and lighted on the point of the
projecting crag.

"Williams gave a loud cry, and the star-
tled cormorant flew out seawards, uttering a
harsh croak as he sailed overhead.



26 LOST ROSE.

The waiting seemed interminable ! Mrs.
Leir paced up and down, gazing at the chfif
with eager eyes to see if the least chance of
a footing thereon was practicable ; but there
was not a crevice to be found in the hard
close-grained rock. Then she went out as
far as she could seawards, among the slippery
rocks that bordered the sea, to get a glimpse
of the precious burden hanging so high in
mid -air.

She was recalled by a joyful shout from
Mr. WilHams.

''Here's Joe," he cried, ''and his ladder
and all!" And Joe and his two companions
came quickly round the angle of the cliff
that formed the near corner of the bay.

It was a terrible suspense. Martha Leir
could do nothing. She offered to help in
holding the ladder, but the men put her
gently on one side — they could manage, they
said. She could only stand gazing with hard
dry eyes while two of them mounted, cord in
liand. Mr. Williams stood by the ladder,
and she saw them start when they reached
the spur of rock on which she knew the body
lay, and then thoy stooped down. She



LOST ROSE. 27

covered her eyes and prayed for her boy's
life.

" That's right ; don't look," said kind Mr.
Williams. '*' We shall have him down
directly. Keep a good heart."

It seemed so long standing there with her
eyes hidden by her trembling hands. She
started when Williams took her arm and led
her forwards.

'' Good news/' he whispered : ''his heart
beats still."



28 LOST ROSE,



PAKT II.

"DEUBEN LEIR recovered slowly. He was
terribly bruised and injured; and his leg
was broken in that awful fall — he will never
walk again without a stick or a crutch.

Martha sits and gazes at her son, scarcely
daring to believe he is restored to her ; and yet
she is so little softened by the trial she has
undergone, that in her heart she curses Rose
Morrison as the cause of Reuben's calamity.

In one way Mrs. Leir has learned and
profited. In all these anxious weeks of
nursing she has found out how kind her
neighbours are, and also how helpful outward
sympathy is to a heart that has to bear its
burden alone. From the vicar to the poorest
cottager came some tokens of goodwill or offers
of help. Some time went by before Reuben
showed consciousness of what had befallen
him; and, when he learned how grave the
injuries were, he relapsed into almost constant
silence.



LOST ROSE. 29

About two months have gone by, and Mrs.
Leir sits knitting beside her son's sofa.

Reuben starts. ** There is a tap at the door,
mother; are you not going to answer it ?" he
says ; such a strange shy tone comes in his
voice that his mother looks up. There is a
faint pink streak on her son's pale cheeks. She
feels uneasy and perplexed ; she hardly knows
why ; but she goes to the door and opens it.

Eose Morrison is standing in the little
garden. Her eyes are full of tears, and she
blushes when she sees Martha Leir.

'* Wait," the elder w^oman says, holding up
her hand ; and she goes back and shuts the
door of Eeuben's room. Then she comes
back and looks sternly at the frightened girl.
'* What do you want. Miss Morrison?"

'* 0, Mrs. Leir," — Eose is angry as well
as frightened, — ''don't look at me like that
— don't now, — you only make me feel
wicked."

*' I should like to make you feel unhappy,
for you desei-ve it. Do you know that it was
you that sent my son nearly to his death ?
We learned that from his talk in his illnes»»
He never speaks of yon now."



30 LOST ROSE.

'* Ah !" Eose wipes her eyes. '^ I am so
sorry. Please, do let me see him, Mrs. Leir.
Poor dear fellow, I know the sight of me
would do him good ; and I am so sorry, and
he will believe I am sorry. He is not so
cruel as you are. Do let me in ; I do long so
to see him again."

*' You long to see my Eeuben — you who
could fancy he was content to share you with
that fellow Gaspard ! Go along with you ; you
are worse than I thought you. Rose Morrison.
You are not fit even to look on Eeuben's face
again."

She puts her strong bony hand on Eose's
shoulder and pushes her from the door, and
then closes it behind her.

When she goes back to Eeuben, she is
amazed to find that he has dragged himself to
the window and stands there looking out.

** That was Eose ? " Then, without waiting
for his mother to answer, '* How kind of her
to come and inquire for me ! "

Mrs. Leir turns, full of wrath, and with
bitter words ready; but Eeuben is clinging
to the casement, trembling and overpowered
by the unusual exertion he has made. His



LOST ROSE. 3T

mother puts her arm round him very ten-
derly, and guides him back to the sofa.

*' My poor dear lad," she whispers, '' I
must only think of you."

Another month has gone by, and Eeuben
can now get about alone, leaning on a stout
stick, a present which Farmer Williams
brought him from Exeter. His mother still
likes to thinks her arm as necessary as the
stick; but Reuben is anxious for independence,
and to-day he has persuaded her to drive over
to Colyton with a neighbour for the sake of
the change.

As he paces slowly up and down in front
of the cottage, he is thinking of his mother.

*' How loving and unselfish her care of me
has been, and not one word of reproach! How^
could I have vexed her! for such a girl as
Rose Morrison ? "

He turns to pass down the road again, and
there is Rose. She has come up behind him
unobserved. Reuben grows pale and then
red, and then he tries to pass her, walking
so fast that he stumbles, and would fall but
for the stick.



32 LOST ROSE.

"• Eeuben,'* the girl cries out, ** won't you
even speak to me? You would if you knew
how unhappy I am, and could see how I
grieve for you."

'* I am obliged to you, Eose," he says, in a
strange choked voice, '*but there can be no
friendsliip between you and me now."

She fixes her dark glowing eyes on his
changing irresolute face ; then she bursts into
passionate weeping.

Eeuben is troubled. He stands pale and
trembling. The old love tugs at his heart —
he forces himself to remember Jacques Gas-
pard, and that walk along the beach. But it is
very hard to stand unmoved by Eose's tears.

*' Don't cry, Eose," the poor fellow says, at
last ; '^ I forgive you, and I hope you will be
happy."

" I shall never be happy again, Eeuben. I
was the cause of your accident, your mother
says ; and tjou think I deceived you."

Eeuben is tired, and this agitation robs him
of his little strength. The girl's quick eyes
see his weakness.

*^Dear Eeuben," she says, tenderly, *'you
are not well enough to stand talking ; let me



LOST ROSE. 33

help you. There, dear, put your hand on my
shoulder and let me come in-doors."

Her eyes are so sweet and loving, her
whole manner so softened from the petulant
Eose he loved so dearly, that Eeuben gives
up his resistance. He puts his hand on
the little soft shoulder so lovingly offered,
which does not give much support after all ;
and yet, somehow, by the time he reaches his
Bofa, he looks brighter, and more like his old
self than he has looked since the accident.

Five minutes after, Eose is seated on the
sofa beside him, her head nestling on his
shoulder.

''And you are not going to many that
French fellow ? " says Eeuben, after a little.

Eose raises her head and looks at him in
her old saucy fashion.

*' Many liim ! I am ashamed of you,
Eeuben. Why, I never cared a bit for Jacques,
and he went away to France evor so long ago,
and some people say he has a ^vife there."

When Mrs. Leir came home m the evening
she was sm-prised at the change for the better
in her son.

''I must go away, again, "^ — she smiled

VOL. I. D



34 LOST ROSE.

lovingly ; " you seem to get on best alone, my
boy."

Eeuben felt the blood rush to his face.
Why should he hide this happiness from his
mother ? She had shared all his sorrow, why
should she not share his joy ?

'^Mother," — she was leaning over him,
and he took both her hands in his, — ^* I must
tell you what has happened. I have seen
Eose, and we are friends again."

Mrs. Leir drew her hands away.

'' That girl ! Oh, Reuben " — in a broken
voice that was full of unutterable pain.

^' Don't say anything against her, dear
mother." He raised himself and kissed her
face, now turned away from him in bitterness
of heart. '' She is so sorry, and she has
always loved me. She never cared for
Jacques. You will take her for a daughter,
won't you, mother dear ? "

Mrs. Leir's mouth trembled ; but the
earnestness in her son's face conquered.

'' I can't stand in the way of your happi-
ness," she said sadly : "• and if this is your
happiness, I will receive Eose Morrison. But,
Oh, my boy, my boy, don't risk yourself a



LOST ROSE. 35

second time ; don't give yourself in a hurry
to a light woman who has cared for other
men before she cared for you, and will care
for them again. Ah, my Reuben, you are
worth the first place in a girl's heart, instead
of coming in at the end."

Eeuben had gro^^Ti very red indeed.
'' Thank you for your consent," he said ;
*' but, mother, please don't speak badly of
Eose ; it's unjust, and I can't bear it."

Eeuben resented his mother's words, and
yet, as soon as he was free from the witchery
of Eose's presence, his heart was heavy with
doubt. Not because he had seen her with
Gaspard ; she had explained that to him, and
he knew the man so well, that he could
believe he had forced his company on the
girl. The doubt that troubled Eeuben was
about himself. Could he make Eose happy ?

''I am such a slow, quiet fellow; I can't
amuse her," he thought, '' and since my fall I
often feel stupid ; and she is such a lively
darling."

But the strong love he felt — the greater
now that it had been repressed — drew him
next day to the quarry.



36 LOST ROSE.

He lifted the latch of the garden-gate, and
went into the pretty tree-shaded garden. The
place was so green that the tulips and ane-
mones seemed to gain in brilliancy of colour.

Eeuben had hurried fast along the road,
spite of his weakness ; but by the time he
reached the cottage-door he had lost strength
and courage, and his knock had a timid sound.

Mrs. Morrison's lame tread was heard on
the lime-ash floor, and she opened the door.
A small dark woman with narrow sharp eyes
that seemed to be always prying into those of
the people to whom she spoke. She was very
trimly dressed, and she looked more like
Eose's elder sister than her mother.

**Ah!" she smiled up in Eeuben's face,
"it is then Monsieur Leir ? I am glad to see
you, monsieur, and I am sorry, for you do
not come I know to see me. I am glad to
see you walk again, but Eose is not at home."

** Where is she ? " Eeuben said abruptly.

" Ah, mon Dieu ! " she held up her hands
with a gesture of deprecation, "what can I
tell you, monsieur ? Eose goes here and she
goes there, and I do not ask her where she
goes. Believe me, it is a great mistake to



LOST ROSE. 37

interfere with young people ; and when you
marry Rose, you must treat her as I do ; she
likes her own way. I am glad you are
friends again, Monsieur Leir."

There was such a cunning look in her eyes
that Eeuben started.

'* I will wait, if you please, Mrs. Morrison,"
he said. *^I want to see Eose."

'' Certainly ; come in. Monsieur Leir."

Mrs. Morrison pointed to a chair, and
Eeuben seated himself, and looked round the
square low-roofed room. Hoy/ much prettier
and more trim it was than his own house !
What tasteful muslin curtains those were in
the windows, and how charming the little
nosegays looked, placed exactly where the
room was dark and bare !

Mrs. Morrison watched him as he sat there,
and this made him fidgety.

*'Eose dresses up the room. Monsieur
Eeuben ; she likes pretty tasteful ways, and
that is why I am glad she is to marry you.
You are able to give her a good home, and
money to spend on clothes ; and Eose likes
pretty dresses. Monsieur Eeuben."

*' I suppose most pretty girls do," he said.



38 LOST ROSE.

But the woman's prying eyes and coaxing
manner fidgeted him ; he wished he had
walked on to meet Rose instead of waiting.

He sat silent, and presently Mrs. Morrison
began on new ground.

^^ Do you not find Hookton very sad, Mon-
sieur Leir?" she said. *^ Ah, mon Dieu ! " —
she clasped her hands and threw up her eyes,
** there is not a man in Hookton fit to look
at ; unless, indeed, when Monsieur Gaspard
arrives. Ah, that is diff'erent ! "

Reuben stared; he was not accustomed to
this sort of talk from his mother, and he
shrank from the mention of the Frenchman.

** He is not here often, I think," he said
sullenly.

Mrs. Morrison laughed.

**He comes and he goes more often than
people think. Monsieur Leir. He will be
here soon again ; yes, very soon. Ah, he is
full of life and spirit !'*

Reuben rose hastily, and nearly stumbled.

'' I will go and meet Rose. Good after-
noon, Mrs. Morrison."

She begged him to stay, but he would not.
He seemed to breathe more freely when he



LOST ROSE. 39

gained the road. There was something
oppressive and artificial in Mrs. Morrison's
atmosphere.

" Eose is so simple, so unlike her mother.
She will never speak to Jacqnes Gaspard
again. Why should I feel this jealous tor-
ture ? ''

But he did feel it sharply ; and when at
last he saw Eose coming along the road, he
resolved to open his mind to her.

" Eose darling," — they had walked some
way lovingly together, under the shade of the
trees that bordered the road, — " I must speak
about something that troubles me. Suppose,
after all, you do not love me as you think you
do. Listen, child!" he spoke with unusual
firmness, for she had begun to remonstrate ;
'' suppose, when Jacques Gaspard comes back,
you find you have made a mistake ?"

''Eeuben!"

Eose tossed her head and pouted, but
Eeuben's earnest gaze showed her that this
was not the assurance he expected.

" I have said I love you, Eeuben,"
she said, sadly; "what more can a girl
say ? "



40 LOST ROSE.

But Eeuben was strangely moved this
afternoon.

There was an unusual flush on his cheeks,
and a glowing light in his eyes.

*^I believe you, my darling," he said
fondly; *'but give me a proof you're in
earnest. Will you marry me this day fort-
night ?"

Rose began to exclaim.

"• But my clothes, Reuben — I must have
proper clothes."

He stopped her.

*^I asked a proof, Rose; you will not
refuse me, my darling girl ? "

She looked confused, ready to cry.

*'Very well," she said slowly; *^ I will
tell mother, and you can settle it with her."

They had reached the garden-gate, and
she ran in, leaving Reuben gazing with loving
eyes after her, a charming vision as she ran
through the tree-shaded garden.

It is the day before the wedding. Both
Hookton and Mercombe have been full of
eager anticipation and gossip. Rose has not
been so triumphant as some of her neigh-



LOST ROSE. 41

bours expected. Mrs. Leir has been pale and
sorrowful, but Eeuben lias looked full of
happiness, and his recovery has progressed
with astonishing rapidity.

When he awoke this morning, he said to
himself, ^' To-morrow, only till to-morrow ; "
and then he went off early, to put the last finish-
ing touches to his new home. He will not
turn his mother out of the cottage where she
has lived so long. His hope is that eventually
she will grow to like Eose, and they shall all
live there together. For the present, he has
rented a small dwelling down in the valley
beside the river.

Eose has been very restless this morning ;
she has promised to wait in for Eeuben, and
yet she has a longing to go dowTi to Hookton.
She tells her mother this.

*^Best keep at home, my girl," the mother
says ; and then to herself she adds, '•' Jacques
Gaspard came into Hookton last night. She
is best out of his way at present."

Eose wanders listlessly about the garden.

^' I wish Eeuben v\'as not so slow ;
I do like a little more fun in a man,"
she says. ''He is a kind good soul, but



42 LOST ROSE.

he wants life : and I hate that mother of
his— I do ! ''

She has just turned her back again to the
garden-gate, and she hears behind her three
distinct taps and a low whistle.

Kose stands still ; a rush of warm colour
spreads to her forehead. She knows Jacques
Gaspard's signal.

*'I told him I would never speak to him
again," she saj^s, fretfully. '* Well, when he
hears I am going to be married, he will go
away in a rage." She ran back to the cottage.

'^ Mother, don't let Eeuben go after me, if
he comes. I shall be back directly."

Eose left the garden and went into the
quarry. There were caves here running deep
into the stone, and yet scarcely showing any
opening. Eose paused before one of these
and whistled softly. In a moment the whistle
came back, like a powerful echo, and the girl
went forward into the cave.

Light came from above, some way down,
through fissures in the stone ; and Eose saw
at once that Jacques Gaspard was very angry.
She felt frightened and drew away from him,
but he grasped her arm firmly.



LOST ROSE. 43

*' What is the meaning of all this I hear,
you little flirt ? " he said. '' Did you not tell
me I was the only man you had ever loved?"

''Oh, don't grip so hard, Jacques; you
hurt me. I won't speak while you hold my
arm," she said defiantly.

The Frenchman let go her arm, hut he
stepped forward so as to stand hetween her
and the entrance to the cave.

'' Speak away," he said ; " hut mind you
speak the truth this time. Eemember that I
am not a soft fool like like your new lover,
Mr. Leir." There was a mocking sound in
his voice, and Eose trembled.

*' You are cruel," she sobbed; ''you say
you love me, and you do not marry me.
Why do you come back and spoil my life ?
I do not love Reuben Leir ; but he loves me,
and I mean to be a good wife to him. He
offers me a good comfortable home, and he
does not play fast and loose, as you do."

Jacques swore fiercely.

" That's a lie — I am ready. Say you will
come away at once, and I will marry you and
give you all that a woman can wish for."

Eose gave him a loving wistful look.



44 LOST ROSE.

**Will you marry me before you take me
away?" she said timidly.

^'Ah, bah!" the sailor said. *' Women
are all alike ; they expect unlimited trust to
be placed in them, and they don't give any.
Why do you doubt me, Kose ? "

'* You've made me to. No, I will not
listen ; I was wrong to say so much. I have
promised Keuben, and I will keep my word.
Now I must go. Good-bye."

The sailor stood thinking; at last he
shrugged his shoulders, and stood aside to let
her pass.

'* As you will, Eose. My plan v>^ould have
made you a happy woman. Well ! I bear you
no malice. Marry your Reuben. I will bring
you a wedding present, if you care to have it."

*'A present! What?" Rose stopped and
looked at him.

A smile crossed Jacques's face. ** A brooch
and a pair of earrings fit for a princess.
Listen : I will come to the point below the
landslip, if you will meet me there."

" There!" Rose shuddered.

**Yes, there and nowhere else, at nine
o'clock to-night," he said roughly.



LOST ROSE. 45

Rose hesitated. ^'All riglit ; I will be
there," she said suddenly, and she ran back
to the cottage.

She was not back a moment too soon.
Before she had recovered the fright and flutter
of Jacques's visit, Eeuben came limping up
the garden-path.

*'Ah, how I wish he was more like
Jacques ! " she said to herself.

Reuben sat talking ; he was in gay spirits,
but Rose could not rally. She was by turns
cross and tearful, and at last she asked her
lover to leave her to herself.

'"■ I will go now," he said ; *^ but I've not
said all I've got to say, my girl. I'll come
down and have a talk in the evening."

Rose turned so white that he noticed her
paleness.

" Not to-night, Reuben, please," she said
more gently. ^' My mother wants me all to
herself."

*' You're rather a tyrant, my pet," he said;
*^ but I will obey you. Till to-morrow, then,
God bless you, darling ! " and he kissed her
fondly.

As Reuben went away, he saw Mrs. Mor-



46 LOST ROSE.

rison coming back from the draw-well at the
other side of the garden ; he went across to
her, while Eose walked to the gate.

"Mrs. Morrison," he said, eagerly; "do
spare Eose to me this evening for a little ; tell
her I will meet her soon after nine beside the
quarry."

Mrs. Morrison nodded. As she and her
daughter stood at the gate looking after
Eeuben, the mother noticed Eose's pale face.

" Go and lie down, child," she said; "you
look like a ghost. I have promised you will
meet Eeuben Leir this evening beside the
quarry."

It was a w^arm evening. Mrs. Leir had
been busy at the newly-furnished cottage till
late, so that she did not see how disappointed


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