Read CHAPTER V of Frida / The Lover's Leap‚ A Legend Of The West Country, free online book, by R. D. Blackmore, on ReadCentral.com.

Lovers come, and lovers go; ecstasies of joy and anguish have their proper intervals; and good young folk, who know no better, revel in high misery. But the sun ascends the heavens at the same hour of the day, by himself dictated; and if we see him not, it is our earth that spreads the curtain. Nevertheless, these lovers, being out of rule with everything, heap their own faults on his head, and want him to be setting always, that they may behold the moon.

Therefore it was useless for the wisest man in the north of Devon, or even the wisest woman, to reason with young Frida now, or even to let her have the reason upon her side, and be sure of it. She, for her part, was astray from all the bounds of reason, soaring on the wings of faith, and hope, and high delusion. Though the winter-time was coming, and the wind was damp and raw, and the beauty of the valleys lay down to recover itself; yet with her the spring was breaking, and the world was lifting with the glory underneath it. Because it had been firmly pledged and who could ever doubt it? that the best and noblest lover in this world of noble love would come and grandly claim and win his bride on her next birthday.

At Christmas she had further pledge of her noble lover’s constancy. In spite of difficulties, dangers, and the pressing need of men, he contrived to send her by some very valiant messengers (none of whom would ride alone) a beautiful portrait of himself, set round with sparkling diamonds; also a necklace of large pearls, as white and pure as the neck whose grace was to enhance their beauty.

Hereupon such pride and pleasure mounted into her cheeks and eyes, and flushed her with young gaiety, that all who loved her, being grafted with good superstition, nearly spoiled their Christmas-time by serious sagacity. She, however, in the wealth of all she had to think of, heeded none who trod the line of prudence and cold certainty.

“It is more than I can tell,” she used to say, most prettily, to anybody who made bold to ask her about anything; “all things go so in and out that I am sure of nothing else except that I am happy.”

The baron now began to take a narrow, perhaps a natural, view of all the things around him. In all the world there was for him no sign or semblance of any being whose desires or strictest rights could be thought of more than once when set against his daughter’s. This, of course, was very bad for Frida’s own improvement. It could not make her selfish yet, but it really made her wayward. The very best girls ever seen are sure to have their failings; and Frida, though one of the very best, was not above all nature. People made too much of this, when she could no more defend herself.

Whoever may have been to blame, one thing at least is certain the father, though he could not follow all his child’s precipitance, yet was well contented now to stoop his gray head to bright lips, and do his best toward believing some of their soft eloquence. The child, on the other hand, was full of pride, and rose on tiptoe, lest anybody might suppose her still too young for anything. Thus between them they looked forward to a pleasant time to come, hoping for the best, and judging everyone with charity.

The thing that vexed them most (for always there must, of course, be something) was the behaviour of Albert, nephew to the baron, and most loving cousin of Frida. Nothing they could do might bring him to spend his Christmas with them; and this would be the first time ever since his long-clothed babyhood that he had failed to be among them, and to lead or follow, just as might be required of him. Such a guest has no small value in a lonely neighbourhood, and years of usage mar the circle of the year without him.

Christmas passed, and New Year’s Day, and so did many other days. The baron saw to his proper work, and took his turn of hunting, and entertained his neighbours, and pleased almost everybody. Much against his will, he had consented to the marriage of his daughter with Lord Auber-ley to make the best of a bad job, as he told Sir Maunder Meddleby. Still, this kind and crafty father had his own ideas; for the moment he was swimming with the tide to please his daughter, even as for her dear sake he was ready to sink beneath it. Yet, these fathers have a right to form their own opinions; and for the most part they believe that they have more experience. Frida laughed at this, of course, and her father was glad to see her laugh. Nevertheless, he could not escape some respect for his own opinion, having so rarely found it wrong; and his own opinion was that something was very likely to happen.

In this he proved to be quite right. For many things began to happen, some on the-right and some on the left hand of the-baron’s auguries. All of them, however, might be reconciled exactly with the very thing he had predicted. He noticed this, and it pleased him well, and inspired him so that he started anew for even truer prophecies. And everybody round the place was-born so to respect him that, if he missed the mark a little, they could hit it for him.

Things stood thus at the old Ley Manor and folk were content to have them so, for fear of getting worse, perhaps toward the end of January, a. . De Wichehalse had vowed that his only child although so clever for her age, and prompt of mind and body should not enter into marriage until she was in her eighteenth year. Otherwise, it would, no doubt, have all been settled long ago; for Aubyn Auberley sometimes had been in the greatest hurry. However, hither he must come now, as everybody argued, even though the fate of England hung on his stirrup-leather. Because he had even sent again, with his very best intentions, fashionable things for Frida, and the hottest messages; so that, if they did not mean him to be quite beside himself, everything must be smoking for his wedding at the Candlemas.

But when everything and even everybody else save Albert and the baron, and a few other obstinate people was and were quite ready and rejoicing for a grand affair, to be celebrated with well-springs of wine and delightfully cordial Watersmeet, rocks of beef hewn into valleys, and conglomerate cliffs of pudding; when ruddy dame and rosy damsel were absorbed in “what to wear,” and even steady farmers were in “practice for the back step”; in a word, when all the country was gone wild about Frida’s wedding one night there happened to come a man.

This man tied his horse to a gate and sneaked into the back yard, and listened in a quiet corner, knowing, as he did, the ins and outs and ways of the kitchen. Because he was that very same man who understood the women so, and made himself at home, by long experience, in new places. It had befallen this man, as it always befell any man of perception, to be smitten with the kindly loveliness of Frida. Therefore, now, although he was as hungry as ever he had been, his heart was such that he heard the sound of dishes, yet drew no nearer. Experience of human nature does not always spoil it.