Ann S. (Ann Sophia) Stephens.

Rock run, or, The daughter of the island online

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.17. PRIQE, TEN CENTS.

Weekly. By Subecriptioc, $5.20 Per Annum. Entered at the New York Poet Office as Second-Class Matter. April 29, 1893.

Copyright, 1893, by F. M. Lupton.











^-






Rock Ruin ; or, The Dairter of tlie Island.



By Mrs. AKK S. STEPHENS.



CHAPTER I.

Where the coast of Ireland is m dented by one
of those lovely bays which creep inland, and are
60 sheltered by the hills that you can scarcely see
where they find outlet to the ocean, stood a noble
old abbey, partly in ru'us, but still vast and im-
posing. Its site overlooked the whole bay, and in
Lir weather commanded silvery glimpses of the
ocean. The monastic portions of this edifice had
been allowed to fall into decay, but that, to a po-
etic fancy, was the great charm of the place.
There was something sublime in the growth of
tall elms and oaks from the very altar-stone of
what had once been the chapel— something lovely
in the sheeted ivy and clinging moss, which had
been for years hiding all that had been art, and

fiving fresh touches of nature to the broken walls,
n connection and in harmony with these ruins,
many a modern wing and abutment had been
built— one in this century, another in that — but so
far apart that time had harmonized the soft gray
tints, and one scarcely knew which was most im-
posing, the ruined chapel, with its great gothic
window, filled with a lace-work of rich stone trac-
ery, through which soft ivy crept in and out, or
the picturesque variety of the inhabited building.
Both commanded the outlet of the bay, and both
gave you glimpses of the pale green waters be-
yond.

In a chamber of the most modern portion of the
building an old man lay upon one of those reclin-
ing chairs which restless invalids prefer to the
desolate certainty of a sick bed. He was propped
up with well-worn and faded crimson cushions,
from which a pillow of frost-white linen saved his

Sale cheek, receiving the scattered locks of his
air, which was only of a more silvery tint than
the fabric it floated over.

The invalid was very, very eld— some years
above eighty— and so thin that you- wondered how
the shrunken chest could bear the folds of that
heavy dressing-gown, under which it labored for
breath.

Another old man stood behind his chair, looking
down upon the worn face with such wistful trouble
in his eyes that you might have pitied him far
more than the invalid himself.

"Do you breathe easier, my lord? The air
comes in fresh from the water. It has a smell of
violets."

" Yes— yes. I remember she loved violets bet-
ter than anything. I found them pressed be-
tween the leaves of her prayer book long after
she was dead. It broke her heart when he went
away, you know, and she never cared for flowers
after that — nothing but dead flowers. You will
find them in her book after I am gone. Did I tell
you that?"

" Yes, my lord ; I know."

"But did I tell you what to do with the book
when I have done with it?" whispered the old
man, gasping faintly for breath.



"I think not, my lord."

" How old are you, Robert ?"

"Sixty-nine this month, my lord."

" Ah, that is young— veryl young. You might
travel over the world yet, and enjoy new sights."

The faithful servant wiped his eyes softly, and
held his breath, fearful that the sick man might
detect his grief.

"I shall never enjoy anything like being of use
to my master," he said, quietly.

"I know, I know; but you can be of use, groat
use to me, long and long after I am gone."

"If I could it would be a great comfort."

" Give me your hand, Robert— both your hands,
my good, faithful friend."

The servant surrendered his two hands to the
feeble clasp of those thin, white fingers.

" Robert !"

"Yes, my lord."

" Are we by ourselves — quite alone, Robert?"

" Quite alone, my lord."

"Lock the door.'"

Robert went to the door and locked it. Then
he came back to the patient, looking greatly
troubled.

"Robert, how long is it since that letter came
with the news of Ms death ?"

" Six years ago, my lord."

"Six years I It seems only yesterday. I began
to grow old after that — old and feeble. But they
cannot say that I am in my second childhood even
yet, Robert?"

"They cannot say that."

" Or that my judgment is not sound?"

" It is clearas ever."

" You can swear to that ?"

"I can."

"And will, if any one dares to question it? No
one has been with me so much as you have, old
friend. Your opinion will have weight. Every
one knows that you have never been an ordinary
servant, but have education, taste, and a fin©
sense of honor."

'•Oh, my lord, it breaks my heart to hear you
talk in this way."

" Hush, old friend ; I have a reason. Sit close
to me while I talk. This air does me good. I
can draw a deep breath ; my brain is clear as
crystal. Now liiten. Just after that letter came,
saying that my only sou had died in exile, child-
less and alone, my nephew suggested— I cannot
tell you how it was done, but he led me— that is
the word — led me into making a will, bequeathing
everything to him."

"A will, my lord ? I do not understand. In de
fault of direct issue, is not Hugh the heir-at-law,
both to the title and estate ?"

" That is what troubles me Robert. That is
what has kept me so restless. Why should he want
this will ? Time, the entailed property is unim-
portant. The great bulk I can give away from
the direct heirs, but without a will everything



Mr;^56i8



'iiOCK num:r ya,' the daughter of the island



goes to him. Tell me, Eobert, why was he so
anxious ?"

" Perhaps he feared that your old servants might
be too liberally remembered if he did not superin-
tend the disposal of your estate."

" No, he knew well what I had resolved on then,
and said nothing against it. Robert, a strange
thought came into my head yesterday, as I was
lying half asleep on the couch in yonder. Per-
liaps I was altogether asleep, for my wife was with
me. There was a scent of violets such as comes
through the sash now, and then the consciousness
of her presence. It was a dream, no doubt, but
very sweet and real. When remembrances of love
come back to an old man of eightj they take him
to heaven. Well, when I awoke— if I had really
been asleep— a vague anxiety filled my mind. She
had wanted me to write or say something, which
haunted my mind without enlightening it. At
last I thought of the will which ray nephew had
almost forced from me in the depths of my grief.
The events all come clearly before my mind— his
unaccountable anxiety, his want of delicacy in
urging a useless act upon me at a time like that.
I asked myself these questions : ' Why should I
leave that will ? Why did he ask it ? Why was the
doubt haunting me so persistently ?' "

"No wonder you asked these questions," said
Bobert, roused to animation.

" You think as I do, then — that the will was use-
less ?"

" Worse, nay lord. The very fact that it was use-
less makes it suspicious. What if my yoang master
were yet alive?"

"Alive? You have thought of that, too I" cried
the old man, starting up among his cushions and
clutching at his servant's arm for support.

"Alive, and disinherited by that very will."

"Robert-Robert!"

" Be tranquil, my lord."

" That very thought has troubled mo all night.
The possibility is horrible."

"Calm yourself. You have no strength to
spare."

"I know it— I know it," gasped the old man.
"But enough is left to tear that will into shreds.
Bring it here."

"Where shall I search— in the oak cabinet?"

"Yes— yes; in his prayer book. I laid it be-
tween the loaves. Bring the book here— kindle a
lamp that will burn the parchment to ashes — then
scatter them to the wind ! I cannot breathe till
then."

His state of excitement was painful. It terrified
the old servant, and he went at once to bring the
book from a heavily-carved cabinet of bay oak that
stood in a corner of the room.

Robert unlocked the cabinet and drew forth a
prayer book antiquely bound, and with heavy gold
clasps. He took the volume to his master and
gave it into his hands.

The frail wrists bent under the weight of the
book, and it fell upon the sick man's lap so heavily
that the jar made him tremble from head to foot.
He looked up wistfully, and tried to smile away
this proof of his helfjlessness.

" Hold it up while I undo the clasp," he said,
panting under the sudden weight.

Robert lifted up the book, and the old man made
a desperate attempt to unlock the clasp ; but the
spring was stiff, and resisted his feeble effort ; so
after a vain struggle his hands foil away, his eyes
cioseid, and one tear after another crept through



the still lashes and lost themselves amid the fur-
rows on his cheek.

"I am very feeble, Robert," murmured the old
man. " Open the book. No hands but mine have
ever unlocked the clasp since she gave it to me on
her death-bed, but I have no power left ; open it,
Robert."

Robert dropped on his knees, and resting the
volume reverently on the massive arm of his mas-
ter's chair, opened the clasp and held up the im-
prisoned leaves.

The old man leaned forward and turned the
leaves with his thin fingers. A scent of violets fol-
lowed this feeble movement, and two or three dead
flowers fluttered from the book and fell upon his
dressing gown. He picked them up one by one
and laid them softly back among the leaves, drew
a long breath, and commenced again. From cov-
er to cover he turned those illuminated and gild-
ed pages— then he paused, holding fast to one leaf
of the cover, and looking wildly into his servant's
face.

" It is not here."

" I see it is not, my lord."

" Neither the will nor that letter."

"Nothing is here save the book and these poor
dead flowers."

"I see— I see. Where have they gone? Who
has dared to touch this book— his book ?"

" Is it certain the parchment was left here?" in-
quired Robert.

" I placed it there with' these hands. That and
the letter," cried the old man, starting up in fe-
verish excitement, which sent a glow of crimson
through his wrinkles. "Both have been removed.
When— by whom— for what reason?'-

" He may have feared that you would destroy
the will, and so removed it."

" He— my nephew ! What ! open that cabinet-
touch her book ? Yes, it must be so. This is like
fraud, Robert."

" I fear it is fraud, my lord."

The sick man fell back upon his pillows, faint
and trembling. Thus for several minutes he lay,
speechless, but troubled with thought. At last a
strange illumination crossed his face, and he lift-
ed himself on one elbow.

" Robert, this must be amended. If that parch-
ment were burned, I should still dread to see its
ashes afloat, lest iniquity might spring from them.
There is some evil thing here, close by my death-
bed. Some one is robbing me before I am gone.
Who is it?"

" Do not be excited, my master. It is kill-
ing you. Only be calm, and all can be made
right."

"How?"

" Another will made, as if your son were now
alive."

" Yes— yes," gasped the old man.

" It will render the stolen parchment null and
void."

"Yes— yes; there lies the remedy. Feel my
pulse, Robert. Count it."

Robert touched the frail wrist reverently with
his finger.

"Oh, my lord, be calm I This pulse is leaping
at a fearful rate."

" I will be calm. There— there 1 give me drink.
Lay your hand upon my forehead— force me iuto
quiet. I will obey."

The old man closed his eyes beneath the sooth-
ing touch of his servant's' hand. The troubled



ROCK RUIN ; OU, THE liA UGUTEli OF THE ISLAND.



heave of his chest grew quieter, but hia temples
worked with thought, and his brows were drawn
downward, as if all his remnant of strength work-
ed upon the brain. Whether some life force went
forth from the younger and stronger man I do
not know. But a clear, light intelligence seized
upon the dying man, without impairing the little
strength that was in him. He rested, and yet
thought actively.

"Yes, that is the way, Robert. But how? My
solicitor is in Dublin, forty miles off. I am nearer
to the grave than that."

"It must be done— it must be done. He shall
bo brought and the will cancelled."

"If I am here," »«,id the old lord, faintly.

" I will set forth in an hour."

"You? No, Robert. That would be to take
awav my life at once. Send a groom."

Roberts' face clouded. He knew well that no
servant in that dwelling would be considered as
belonging to his master, who had been long ill,
and ignorant that the old retainers of the house
•had been, one after another, dismissed.

" Why do you start?" inquired the invalid, sud-
denly.

Robert sat directly before the window, which
commanded a view of the bay and the inlet which
connected it with the ocean. Ho was looking
vaguely out, when a graceful little yacht came
flitting' about the mouth of the inlet, like a great
white bird in search of a shelter. It hovered on
the outer waters just long enough to catch the
wind, then gave a curving swoop and ran up the
channel, displaying her colors clearly against the
blue sky and bluer waters.

" Start ! Did I start, my lord ?"

" Your hand shakes now. What is it?"

"The yacht, my lord. Mr. Gerald has come
home from his cruise."

" Gerald— my nephew ? I will not see him."

" Be cautious, my lord. Command yourself."

" You will not leave me, Robert ?"

"No, not if I can help it."

"And you will send for Hutton ?"

"Yes—yes."

" Put the book under my pillow. There, I feel
quieter. Go, now, and send the man. Let no
one suspect his errand. He will intercede with
the saints, and I shall have time. Go, Robert."

The servant went out, and the old man fell into
slumber, calmed by the scent of dead violets that
floated over his pillow. So still he lay, that a per-
son entering the room suddenly might have
thought him dead.

A Jovial party coming up from the yacht met
the Earl's body-servant going toward a little ham-
let which formed a picturesque feature around a
corner of the bay.

"Hallo, Robert! All right at the abbey? No
change, I suppose ?"

Robert took off his hat and waited, with his
gray hairs in the wind, till his master's nephew
came up. Then he answered, gravely, that the
Lord was about the same— perhaps a little strong-
er-he could not tell, and passed on.

Gerald MacCrea waited until the old man was
out of hearing, and then turned to his friends,
laughing.

" One would think, at eighty, a man would have
more consideration. Did you ever hear anything
so unreasonable ? Let my yacht atay out as long
as she will— weeks or months— it makes no differ-
ence. This is always the reply, "About the same ;'



or, more impudent still, 'A little more comfort-
able.' It's too much."

"Yes," answered a young man who^had been a
guest on board the yacht; "Parliament should
pass a law forbidding any man, rich or poor, from
living beyond seventy. The Bible ought to know
when it's the proper season to shuffle off the coil.
It's impertinent to keep on beyond the *ime it
sets. If a fellow is rich, it's taking advantage of
his heirs ; if he is not, it's an imposition on the
poor sons."

"Any way, there's no excuse for a man's wad-
ing through eighty years," la^ hed another of
the party, with a touch of sarcasm in his voice,
"especially when the heirs have anticipated his
income."

Another voice joined in :

" Now, I rather like the old gentleman's spirit.
If I was an earl with twenty thousand a year, and
no son to inherit, hang me if there wouldn't bo a
tussle before I gave it up. Eighty I Why, I'd live
to a hundred and fifty, sure."

"Don't hint at such a thing, or my friend up
yonder might catch at the idea, and keep my cred-
itors waiting a half century," said MacCrea.

" You are getting too near the abbey for speeches
like that," said one of the party, who had not yet
spoken, "if, indeed, there is any place where they
would be excusable or safe."

" Listen — listen ! How the lawyer breaks out in
Nelson I" cried three or four voices.

" Hush !" exclaimed the young man, in one of
those deeply-smothered whispers that are so
startling at times. He was looking upward, and
his finger was half lifted.

The whole group followed his gesture with an
eye-glance, when at the window stood Lord Ern-
ruth, the palest and most shadowy being that mor-
tal eyes ever looked upon. The sound of strango
voices had aroused him from one of those swee;
dreams that sometimes make the passing away
from earth heavenly as heaven itself. With the
wild strength that fright often gives, he had start-
ed from his chair, and staggering toward the win-
dow, looked forth on a scene he had never expect-
ed to see again. He heard, too, the mocking
gaiety of his nephew's voice, and gathered some-
thing of the conversation, for just then his intel-
lect was keenly acute, and a strong will was abso-
lutely keeping him alive. He was a good man,
this Lord Ernruth ; and now, just at his death,
the clear judgment of his youth came back with
almost miraculous clearness.

His eye fell upon the uplifted face of hia nephew.
That face had been flushed a moment before, but
now it had been fading off to a purplish white.
The bold eyes fell, abashed, down, and retreated
beneath the heavy lids. If an angel had looked
down upon him, he could not have been more
thunderstruck.

" Confusion ! He cannot have heard us, though,
nor seen us either. He has managed to creep to
the window for a breath of air— that is all. This
way, gentlemen, round to the south wing. Thank
heaven, the house is large enough to entertain a
score of guests without disturbing the' old gentle-
man, though I should not wonder if he snatches a
new lease of life and comes down among us. After
seeing him up and at the window, nothing can as-
tonish me."

MacCrea spoke in a low, hurried voice, and his
face was a long time in getting back its color.

The guests followed his direction, and entering



BOCK BUIN; OB, THE BAUGHTEB OF THE ISLAND.



a portion of the building remote from Lord Ern-
ruth's apartment, were soon comfortably at home.

MacCrea was right. The mansion was so spa-
cious that a much larger party might have been
entertained in it without disturbing the master.

Meantime, Roberts had pursued his course
around the head of the bay. It was a lovely walk.
The rich, heavy foliage of the shore was stirred by
a light breeze, and so bathed in sunshine that it
seemed as if light from the water had sparkled up
through the trees, leaving flashes of silver on ev-
ery leaf.

The old man paused on a corner of the road,
and looked around with that yearning interest
which a warm heart feels while gazing upon ob-
jects which he has loved a whole lifetime. So far
as his' eye could reach along the green shore and
out upon the water, every object belonged to his
master ; and far beyond that, the broad lands of
the estate stretched their luxuriant wreaths,
blessing the owner and the working men whose
labor had made nature so prolific and so beau-
tiful.

"And all this must go to that bad young man !"
thought Roberts, gazing upon the scene till his
eves tilled with tears. " Oh, if the young master
hiid but lived ! If "

The old man paused. Some strange feeling
checked the words on his lips. He was a shrewd
man, and for years every thought of his being
had centered in his master's affairs. There was
something strange about the letters that had come
from America, where the only son of Lord Ern-
ruth had gone into exile after the unhappy rebel-
lion. Since the old Earl's eyesight had failed,
these letters had always been* road to him by his
nephew and next heir. Even that which brought
the fatal news of the son's death had been read
to the bereaved old man, who placed so much
faith in his nephew that he never thought to ques-
tion the faithfulness of his intelligence.

But there was something in this which troubled
Roberts— a hesitation in the reading, and some
haste in putting the letters away, which aroused
his attention. With the deferential habits of an
. old family servant strong upon him, he had not
dared to mention these fears or take any steps to-
ward confirming them ; but a suspicion possessed
him with greater force everv day, and now it had,
as if by inspiration, seized upon the Earl also.
The will, so unnecessary if MacCrea was indeed
the true heir, so iniquitous if he was not, would
be annulled that night, if man and horse could be
obtained to carry a message to Dublin.

This was Roberts' object in visiting the cluster
of fishermen's cabins on the opposite shore. So
completely had the servants of Lord Ernruth's
household been brought under the nephew's con-
trol, that the faithful old man dared not trust his
message with any of them. But there was a man
upon the point lying so grimly in sight, whose
faith was undoubted. This man Roberts sought.

Peter Byrne was sitting in front of his cabin,
mending a net and singing at his work. He would
pause now and then to look over his shoulder and
bandy a word or two with some one inside ; then
the loud, rollicking words of his song would break
out again, while his fingers shot the wooden needle
in and out of his net, knitting the rents together,
and making the whole fabric tremble again under
his energetic handling.

A buxom young woman, with a 'kerchief under
her chin, came to the cabin door.



" Come along, Peter. Do yer hear, now ? The
praties are knockin' agin the lid of the pot, and
just bursting their jackets wid aigerness for the
alter."

" Be aisy — be aisy, Mary, astore. I'm just tyin'
up the last slit in me net, darlint. Tumble the
praties out in the wooden bowl, and let the jack-
ets burst if it plaises 'em. Faix, there's no harum
in it— only save some of the mailiest for the pig.
But never mind ; the childer'll do that same, any
way."

The smiling little woman went back into the
cabin, and directly a curl of steam came floating
through the open door, so odorous that Peter
dashed through the tangle of his net, looped the
twine right and left, tying desperate knots, now
here, now there, till at last, after a vigorous pull
or two, he bit ofl' a double thread of the twine
with his strong white teeth, and spurned the net
to the ground with his foot.

" I've give it a dash an' a promise for the once,
Marv," he said, casting up his arms and stretch-
ing himself full six feet high from the ground.
"Now for the praties— the smell on 'em makes me
hungry. Here, give me hold. I'll pale one wid
me fingers, while I watch who that is ccmin' for-
nenst. Be jabers, but this is a maily one ye have
given me. How ilegantly his brown coat has bust
open in front, do ye see, Mary?"

" In coorse, afther the pig, ye'd be sartin of the
best, Peter," answered the good wife. " Come in,
ye spalpeens ! Who told ye to forget what yer
father says? an' he atin' bis supper."

The children obeyed, making a dart for the
bowl of potatoes, leaving their father on the door-
stone, watching the approach of Roberts with some
anxiety.

" Mary, astore, come this minute and tell me if
that is not Misther Roberts. Mary, I'm afeard the
ouid Earl is worse, or something. Look sharp,
tell me if it's Roberts."

The little woman came close to her husband,
shading her eyes with one hand aud searching
the road.

"Yes, Peter; sure an' it's Roberts— walkin'
quick, too, as if somethin' was the matter."

"Yer right. It's him, sure enough ; an' walkin'
as brisk as he did twenty years agone. Some-
thing's amiss, Mary."

" Oh, Peter, me heart's in me mouth ! I'm all
of a trimble. What it the ould Lord was dead an'
gone!"

" Now, be aisy, an' go in to the childher. Don't
ye see that he's coming because of the company
that landed from the yacht? I see a whole boat-
load of 'em goin' up from the shore."

"I hope it's nothin' worse nor that," answered
the wife, shaking her head doubtfully ; "but Mis-
ther Roberts doesn't often leave the masther. I
have my misdoubts, Peter."

A cry from the children, who, in the struggle for
a particular potato, were rolling o^r and over on
the cabin floor, tugging at each other's hair,while
the pig demurely swallowed the vegetable in dis-
pute, soon took the little woman indoors. She was
easily cuffing the little belligerents, right and
left, when Roberts came up and accosted her hus-
band. ^ , , ,

*' Peter Byrne, I am glad to find you at home.
Step this way a moment."

"I'll do that same," said Peter, tossing away
the potato skin, and emptying his mouth with a
huge swallow. "Anything goin' wrong over



ROCK BTJIN; OR, THE DAUGHTER OF THE ISLAND.



there ? Ye look sort o' quare about the eyea, I'm


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Online LibraryAnn S. (Ann Sophia) StephensRock run, or, The daughter of the island → online text (page 1 of 17)