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A LIFE FOR A LOVE.

A NOVEL

BY

L.T. MEADE,

_Author of "Heart of Gold," "A Girl of the People,"
etc., etc._

MONTREAL:

JOHN LOVELL & SON,

23 ST. NICHOLAS STREET.

Entered according to Act of Parliament in the year 1891, by John Lovell
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A LIFE FOR A LOVE.




CHAPTER I.


The time was July, and the roses were out in great profusion in the
rectory garden. The garden was large, somewhat untidily kept, but it
abounded in all sweet old-fashioned flowers; there was the invariable
tennis-court, empty just now, and a sweet sound of children laughing
and playing together, in a hay-field near by. The roses were showering
their petals all over the grass, and two girls, sisters evidently, were
pacing up the broad walk in the centre of the garden arm-in-arm. They
were dark-eyed girls, with chestnut, curling hair, rosy lips full of
curves and smiles, and round, good-humored faces. They were talking
eagerly and excitedly one to the other, not taking the smallest notice
of the scene around them - not even replying when some children in the
hay-field shouted their names, but coming at last to a full stand-still
before the open window of the old-fashioned rectory study. Two men were
standing under the deep-mullioned window; one tall, slightly bent, with
silvery-white hair, aquiline features, and dark brown eyes like the
girls. He was the Rector of Jewsbury-on-the-Wold, and the man he was
addressing was his only son, and the brother of the eager
bright-looking girls.

"I can't understand it, Gerald," he was saying. "No, don't come in at
present, my dears;" he waved his white, delicate hand to his daughters.
"We'll join you in the tennis-court presently. Yes, Gerald, as I was
saying, it seems the most incomprehensible and unheard-of arrangement."

The girls smiled gently, first into their brother's face, then at one
another. They moved away, going through a little shrubbery, and passing
out into a large kitchen garden, where Betty, the old cook, was now
standing, picking raspberries and currants into a pie-dish.

"Betty," said Lilias, the eldest girl, "has Martha dusted our trunks
and taken them upstairs yet? And has Susan sent up the laces and the
frilled things? We want to set to work packing, as soon as ever the
children are in bed."

"Bless your hearts, then," said old Betty, laying her pie-dish on the
ground, and dropping huge ripe raspberries into it with a slow
deliberate movement, "if you think that children will go to bed on the
finest day of the year any time within reason, you're fine and mistook,
that's all. Why, Miss Joey, she was round in the garden but now, and
they're all a-going to have tea in the hay-field, and no end of butter
they'll eat, and a whole batch of my fresh cakes. Oh, weary, weary me,
but children's mouths are never full - chattering, restless, untoward
things are children. Don't you never go to get married, Miss Marjory."

"I'll follow your example, Betty," laughed back Marjory Wyndham. "I
knew that would fetch the old thing," she continued, turning to her
sister. "She does hate to be reminded that she's an old maid, but she
brings it on herself by abusing matrimony in that ridiculous fashion."

"It's all because of Gerald," answered Lilias - "she is perfectly wild
to think of Gerald's going away from us, and taking up his abode in
London with those rich Pagets. I call it odious, too - I almost feel
to-night as if I hated Valentine. If Gerald had not fallen in love
with her, things would have been different. He'd have taken Holy
Orders, and he'd have been ordained for the curacy of
Jewsbury-on-the-Wold, and then he need never have gone away. Oh, I
hate - I detest to think of the rectory without Gerald."

"Oh, Lilias," replied Marjory, "you really are - you really - you really
are - - "

"What, miss? Speak out, or I'll shake you, or pinch you, or do
something malicious. I warn you that I am quite in the mood."

"Then I'll stand here," said Marjory, springing to the other side of a
great glowing bed of many-colored sweet-williams. "Here your arm can't
reach across these. I will say of you, Lilias Wyndham, that you are
without exception the most contradictory and inconsistent person of my
acquaintance. Here were you, a year ago, crying and sobbing on your
knees because Gerald couldn't marry Valentine, and now, when it's all
arranged, and the wedding is to be the day after to-morrow, and we have
got our promised trip to London, and those lovely brides-maid
dresses - made by Valentine's own express desire at Elise's - you turn
round and are grumpy and discontented. Don't you know, you foolish
silly Lilias, that if Gerald had never fallen in love with Valentine
Paget he'd have met someone else, and if he was father's curate, those
horrid Mortimer girls and those ugly Pelhams would have one and all
tried to get him. We can't keep Gerald to ourselves for ever, so
there's no use fretting about the inevitable, say I."

Lilias' full red lips were pouting; she stooped, and recklessly
gathering a handful of sweet-williams, flung them at her sister.

"I own to being inconsistent," she said, "I own to being cross - I own
to hating Valentine for this night at least, for it just tears my heart
to give Gerald up."

There were real tears now in the bright, curly-fringed eyes and the
would-be-defiant voice trembled.

Marjory shook the sweet-william petals off her dress.

"Come into the house," she said in a softened tone. "Father and Gerald
must have finished that prosy discussion by now. Oh, do hark to those
children's voices; what rampageous, excitable creatures they are. Lilly,
did we ever shout in such shrill tones? That must be Augusta: no one
else has a voice which sounds like the scraping of a coal-scoop in an
empty coal-hod. Oh, of course that high laugh belongs to Joey. Aren't
they feeding, and wrangling, and fighting? I am quite sure, Lil, that
Betty is right, and they won't turn in for hours; we had better go and
do our packing now."

"No, I see Gerald," exclaimed Lilias. And she flew up the narrow
box-lined path to meet her brother.




CHAPTER II.


Gerald Wyndham was not in the least like his rosy, fresh-looking
sisters. He was tall and slenderly made, with very thick and rather
light-brown hair, which stood up high over his low, white forehead - his
eyes were large, but were deeply set, they were grey, not brown, in
repose were dreaming in expression, but when he spoke, or when any
special thought came to him, they grew intensely earnest, luminous and
beautiful. The changing expression of his eyes was the chief charm of a
highly sensitive and refined face - a face remarkable in many ways, for
the breadth of his forehead alone gave it character, but with some weak
lines about the finely cut lips. This weakness was now, however, hidden
by a long, silken moustache. Lilias and Marjory thought Gerald's face
the most beautiful in the world, and most people acknowledged him to be
handsome, although his shoulders were scarcely broad enough for his
height, and his whole figure was somewhat loosely hung together.

"Here you are at last," exclaimed Lilias, linking her hand in her
brother's arm. "Here, take his other arm. Maggie. Oh, when, and oh,
when, and oh, when shall we have him to ourselves again, I wonder?"

"You little goose," said Gerald. He shook himself as if he were half in
a dream, and looked fondly down into Lilias' pretty dimpled, excitable
face. "Well, girls, are the trunks packed, and have you put in plenty
of finery? I promise you Mr. Paget will give a dinner-party every
night - you'll want heaps of fine clothes while you stay at Queen's
Gate."

Marjory began to count on her fingers.

"We arrive on Wednesday," she said. "On Wednesday evening, dinner
number one, we wear our white Indian muslins, with the Liberty sashes,
and flowers brought up from the dear old garden. Thursday evening,
dinner number two, and evening of wedding day, our bridesmaids' toggery
must suffice; Friday, dinner number three, those blue nun's veiling
dresses will appear and charm the eyes. That's all. Three dresses for
three dinners, for it's home, sweet home again on Saturday - isn't it,
Lilias?"

"Of course," said Lilias, "that is, I suppose so," she added, glancing
at her brother.

"Valentine wanted to know if you would stay in town for a week or ten
days, and try to cheer up her father," said Gerald. "Mr. Paget and
Valentine have scarcely been parted for a single day since she was
born. Valentine is quite in a state at having to leave him for a month,
and she thinks two bright little girls like you may comfort him
somewhat."

"But we have our own father to see to," pouted Marjory; "and Sunday
school, and choir practising, and the library books - - "

"And I don't see how Valentine can mind leaving her father - if he were
the very dearest father in the world - when she goes away with you,"
interrupted Lilias.

Gerald sighed, just the faintest shadow of an impatient sigh,
accompanied by the slightest shrug of his shoulders.

"Augusta can give out the library books," he said. "Miss Queen can
manage the choir. I will ask Jones to take your class, Lilias, and Miss
Peters can manage yours with her own, Marjory. As to the rector, what
is the use of having five young daughters, if they cannot be made
available for once in a way? And here they come, and there's the
governor in the midst of them. He doesn't look as if he were likely to
taste the sweets of solitude, eh, Marjory?"

Not at that moment, certainly, for a girl hung on each arm, and a
smaller girl sat aloft on each square shoulder, while a fifth shouted
and raced, now in front, now behind, pelting this moving pyramid of
human beings with flowers, and screaming even more shrilly than her
sisters, with eager exclamation and bubbling laughter.

"There's Gerry," exclaimed Augusta.

She was the tallest of the party, with a great stretch of stockinged
legs, and a decided scarcity of skirts. She flew at her brother, flung
her arms round his neck and kissed him rapturously.

"You darling old Gerry - don't we all just hate and detest that horrible
Valentine Paget."

"Hush, Gussie," responded Gerald, in his quiet voice. "You don't know
Valentine, and you pain me when you talk of her in that senseless
fashion. Here, have a race with your big brother to the other end of
the garden. Girls," turning to his elder sisters - "seriously speaking I
should like you to spend about a fortnight with the Pagets. And had you
not better go and pack, for we must catch the eleven o'clock train
to-morrow morning. Now, Gussie - one, two, three, and away."

Two pairs of long legs, each working hard to come off victorious in the
race, flew past the group - the rector and the little girls cheered and
shouted - Marjory and Lilias, laughing at the sight, turned slowly and
went into the house; Gerald won the race by a foot or two, and Gussie
flung herself panting and laughing on the grass at the other end of the
long walk.

"Well done, Augusta," said her brother. "You study athletics to a
purpose. Now, Gussie, can't you manage to give away the library books
on Sunday?"

"I? You don't mean it?" said Augusta. Her black eyes sparkled; she
recovered her breath, and the full dignity of her five feet five and
a-half of growth on the instant. "Am I to give away the library books,
Gerry?"

"Yes, I want Lilias to stay in London for a few days longer than she
intended."

"And Marjory too?"

"Of course. The girls would not like to be parted."

"Galuptions! Won't I have a time of it all round! Won't I give old
Peters a novel instead of his favorite Sunday magazines? And won't I
smuggle Pailey's 'Evidences of Christianity' into the hand of Alice
Jones, the dressmaker. She says the only books she cares for are Wilkie
Collins 'Woman in White,' and the 'Dead Secret,' so she'll have a
lively time of it with the Evidences. Then there's 'Butler's Analogy,'
it isn't in the parish library, but I'll borrow it for once from
father's study. That will exactly suit Rhoda Fleming. Oh, what fun,
what fun. I won't take a single story-book with me, except the 'Woman
in White,' for Peters. He says novels are 'rank poison,' so he shall
have his dose."

"Now look here, Gussie," said Gerald, taking his sister's two hands in
his, and holding them tight - "you've got to please me about the library
books, and not to play pranks, and make things disagreeable for Lilias
when she comes back. You're thirteen now, and a big girl, and you ought
to act like one. You're to make things comfortable for the dear old
pater while we are all away, and you'll do it if you care for me,
Gussie."

"Care for you!" echoed Augusta. "I love you, Gerry. I love you, and I
hate - - "

"No, don't say that," said Gerald, putting his hand on the girl's
mouth.

Gussie looked droll and submissive.

"It is so funny," she exclaimed at length.

"You can explain that as we walk back to the house," responded her
brother.

"Why, Gerry, to see you so frightfully in love! You are, aren't you?
You have all the symptoms - oh, before I - - "

"I love Valentine," responded Gerald. "That is a subject I cannot
discuss with you, Augusta. When you know her you will love her too. I
am going to bring her here in the autumn, and then I shall want you all
to be good to her, and to let her feel that she has a great number of
real sisters at Jewsbury-on-the-Wold, who will be good to her if she
needs them, by-and-bye."

"As if she ever could need us," responded Gussie. "She'll have you.
Yes, I'll do my best about the books - good-night. Gerald. Good-night,
dear old darling king. That's Miss Queen's voice. Coming, Miss Queen,
coming! Good-night, old Gerry. My love to that Val of yours. Oh, what a
nuisance it is to have ever to go to bed."

Gussie's long legs soon bore her out of sight, and Gerald stepped into
the silent and now empty study. To an initiated eye this room bore one
or two marks of having lately witnessed a mental storm. Close to the
rector's leather armchair lay a pile of carefully torn-up papers - the
family Bible, which usually occupied a place of honor on his desk, had
been pushed ruthlessly on one side, and a valuable work on theology lay
wide open and face downwards on the floor. Otherwise the room was in
perfect order - the only absolutely neat apartment in the large old
house. Not the most daring of all the young Wyndhams would disturb a
volume here, or play any wild pranks in the sacred precincts of the
rector's study. As Gerald now entered the room and saw these signs of
mental disquiet round Mr. Wyndham's chair, the pleasant and somewhat
cheerful look left his face, his eyes grew dark, earnest and full of
trouble, and flinging himself on the sofa, he shaded them with his
white long fingers. There was an oil painting of a lady over the
mantel-piece, and this lady had Gerald's face. From her he inherited
those peculiar and sensitive eyes, those somewhat hollow cheeks, and
that noble and broad white brow. From her, too, came the lips which
were curved and beautiful, and yet a little, a little wanting in
firmness. In Mrs. Wyndham the expressive mouth only added the final
touch of womanliness to a beautiful face. In her son it would have
revealed, could it have been seen, a nature which might be led astray
from the strictest paths of honor.

Wyndham sat motionless for a few moments, then springing to his feet,
he paced restlessly up and down the empty study.

"Everything is fixed and settled now," he said, under his breath. "I'm
not the first fellow who has sold himself for the sake of a year's
happiness. If my mother were alive, though, I couldn't have done it,
no, not even for Valentine. Poor mother! She felt sure I'd have taken
Holy Orders, and worked on here with the governor in this sleepy little
corner of the world. It's a blessing she can't be hurt by anything now,
and as to the governor, he has seven girls to comfort him. No, if I'm
sorry for anyone it's Lilias, but the thing's done now. The day after
to-morrow Val will be mine. A whole year! My God, how short it is. My
God, save and pity me, for afterwards comes hell."




CHAPTER III.


The human face has been often spoken of as an index of the mind. There
are people who boldly declare that they know a man by the height of his
forehead, by the set of his eyes, by the shape of his head, and by the
general expression of his countenance. Whether this rule is true or
not, it certainly has its exceptions. As far as outward expression goes
some minds remain locked, and Satan himself can now and then appear
transformed as an angel of light.

Mortimer Paget, Esq., the head and now sole representative of the once
great ship-broking firm of Paget Brothers, was one of the handsomest
and most striking-looking men in the city. On more than one occasion
sculptors of renown had asked to be permitted to take a cast of his
head to represent Humanity, Benevolence, Integrity, or some other
cardinal virtue. He had a high forehead, calm velvety brown eyes,
perfectly even and classical features, and firm lips with a sweet
expression. His lips were perfectly hidden by his silvery moustache,
and the shape of his chin was not discernible, owing to his long
flowing beard. But had the beard and moustache both been removed, no
fault could have been found with the features now hidden - they were
firmly and well-moulded. On this beautiful face no trace of a sinister
cast lurked.

Mortimer Paget in his business transactions was the soul of honor. No
man in the city was more looked up to than he. He was very shrewd with
regard to all money matters, but he was also generous and kind. The old
servants belonging to the firm never cared to leave him; when they
died off he pensioned their widows and provided for their orphans. He
was a religious man, of the evangelical type, and he conducted his
household in every way from a religious point of view. Family prayers
were held night and morning in the great house in Queen's Gate, and the
servants were expected each and all to attend church twice on Sundays.
Mr. Paget had found a church where the ritual was sufficiently low to
please his religious views. To this church he went himself twice on
Sundays, invariably accompanied by a tall girl, richly dressed, who
clung to his side and read out of the same book with him, singing when
he sang, and very often slipping her little hand into his, and closing
her bright eyes when he napped unconsciously during the prosy sermon.

This girl was his only child, and while he professed to be actuated by
the purest love for both God and his fellow creatures, the one being
for whom his heart really beat warmly, the one being for whom he could
gladly have sacrificed himself was this solitary girl.

Valentine's mother had died at her birth, and since that day Valentine
and her father had literally never been parted. She was his shadow,
like him in appearance, and as far as those who knew her could guess
like him in character.

The house in Queen's Gate was full of all the accompaniments of wealth.


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