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

When the baron at last received the letter which this rider had been so abashed to deliver, slow but lasting wrath began to gather in his gray-lashed eyes. It was the inborn anger of an honest man at villany mixed with lofty scorn and traversed by a dear anxiety. Withal he found himself so helpless that he scarce knew what to do. He had been to Frida both a father and a mother, as she often used to tell him when she wanted something; but now he felt that no man could administer the velvet touches of the female sympathy.

Moreover, although he was so kind, and had tried to think what his daughter thought, he found himself in a most ungenial mood for sweet condolement. Any but the best of fathers would have been delighted with the proof of all his prophecies and the riddance of a rogue. So that even he, though dwelling in his child’s heart as his own, read this letter (when the first emotions had exploded) with a real hope that things, in the long run, would come round again.

“To my most esteemed and honoured friend, the Lord de Wichehalse, these from his most observant and most grateful Aubya Auberley, Under command of his Majesty, our most Royal Lord and King, I have this day been joined in bands of holy marriage with her Highness, the Duchess of B , in France. At one time I had hope of favour with your good Lordship’s daughter, neither could I have desired more complete promotion. But the service of the kingdom and the doubt of my own desert have forced me, in these troublous times, to forego mine own ambition. Our lord the King enjoins you with his Royal commendation, to bring your forces toward Bristowe by the day of St. Valentine. There shall I be in hope to meet your Lordship, and again find pleasure in such goodly company. Until then I am your Lordship’s poor and humble servant,

Aubyn Auberley.”

Lord de Wichehalse made his mind up not to let his daughter know until the following morning what a heavy blow had fallen on her faith and fealty. But, as evil chance would have it, the damsels of the house and most of all the gentle cook-maid could not but observe the rider’s state of mind toward them. He managed to eat his supper in a dark state of parenthesis; but after that they plied him with some sentimental mixtures, and, being only a man at best, although a very trusty one, he could not help the rise of manly wrath at every tumbler. So, in spite of dry experience and careworn discretion, at last he let the woman know the whole of what himself knew. Nine good females crowded round him, and, of course, in their kind bosoms every word of all his story germinated ninety-fold.

Hence it came to pass that, after floods of tears in council and stronger language than had right to come from under aprons, Frida’s nurse (the old herb-woman, now called “Mother Eyebright”) was appointed to let her know that very night the whole of it. Because my lord might go on mooning for a month about it, betwixt his love of his daughter and his quiet way of taking things; and all that while the dresses might be cut, and trimmed, and fitted to a size and fashion all gone by before there came a wedding.

Mother Eyebright so was called both from the brightness of her eyes and her faith in that little simple flower, the euphrasia. Though her own love-tide was over, and the romance of life had long relapsed into the old allegiance to the hour of dinner, yet her heart was not grown tough to the troubles of the young ones; therefore all that she could do was done, but it was little.

Frida, being almost tired with the blissful cares of dress, happened to go up that evening earlier than her wont to bed. She sat by herself in the firelight, with many gorgeous things around her wedding presents from great people, and (what touched her more) the humble offerings of her cottage friends. As she looked on these and thought of all the good will they expressed, and how a little kindness gathers such a heap of gratitude, glad tears shone in her bright eyes, and she only wished that all the world could be as blessed as she was.

To her entered Mother Eyebright, now unworthy of her name; and sobbing, writhing, crushing anguish is a thing which even Frida, simple and open-hearted one, would rather keep to her own poor self.