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" Oh, Mr. Lester is not coming home, then. Betsy
told me that, and she heard it from Anne."

" They are both great gossips," observed Bertha,
quickly. " I don't think any thing is settled as to Mr.
Lester's return. Rachel only wrote in case he might
not come."

Her manner fretted Mrs. Campbell, and, being in-
clined to complain, she returned to Clement : —
" Where do you say you left him, Bertha ? You
ought not to have left him ; there are a great many
bad people about; no one knows what mischief he
may be led into."

" A boy of his age must learn to keep himself out
of mischief," said Bertha, rather proudly. But
though she spoke with seeming unconcern, she looked
out of the window to see if he was coming.

" I am glad he has given up being Avith Ronald,"
observed Mrs. Campbell, " now that we know what
a mess Captain Vivian is likely to get into."

" Is there any thing new about Captain Vivian ?
any thing particular?" asked Bertha, with quick

" Betsy tells me that the Preventive officers are
not going to be outwitted any longer ; and they vow


they will search the Grange from the garret to the
cellar," said Mrs. Campbell.

" And very much they will find there ! " said
Bertha. " If they mean to do any thing, they should
not let Betsy know it."

" She can't help knowing it ; it's talked of every
where," continued Mrs. Campbell ; " and what's
more, Betsy has a brother somehow mixed up with

" Poor girl ! that is trouble enough," said Bertha,

" She asked me to let her go out and see him,"
continued Mrs. Campbell ; " and I said she might, if
she was in in time ; so she went about four o'clock."

Bertha was too much occupied with painful
thoughts of her own, to take any particular notice
of this piece of information ; and Mrs. Campbell con-
tinued : —

" Betsy thinks there's something going on now.
Mark Wood had come for her brother, and had taken
him out with him, so that she couldn't see him. She
takes it to heart a good deal. I think. Bertha, you
might just as well see her presently, and find out
what she is afraid of."

" Perhaps the less we know about such matters
the better," replied Bertha, looking again out of the
window. "If Mark Wood has been in Encombe,"
she added, with an air of consideration, " it must
have been after we saw him going down the

" He and Stephen Hale had left Betsy's cottage
just ten minutes before she got there," continued Mrs.
L 4


Campbell, evidently i^leased at having something to
talk about, which seemed to draw Bertha's attention.
" Betsj was told they went off towards the Point ; it
is the place they all go to. There is a cave, or some
such place, I believe, where they meet."

" Not a very convenient rendezvous," replied Bertha ;
" it must be so difficult to reach. But it must be
all talk about any thing particular going on now ; if
there were, they would never let it out in that way."

" I don't know, I am sure," replied Mrs. Campbell ;
" at any rate, it is high time that something should
be done. The village is getting into a sad state.
Betsy says her brother is quite a different person
since he mixed himself up with the smuggling. I
can't think, for my part, what Mr. Lester can be
doing, to let things go on as they do. He calls him-
self a good parish priest ; I know his parish is the
worst in the county."

Any suggestion to Mr. Lester's disadvantage was
felt as a personal incivility by Bertha, and she im-
mediately began saying, that no one could be better
aware than Mr. Lester himself of the bad state of liis
people, or do more to remedy the evil ; but whilst
things were carried with such a high hand by those
who ought to set a good example, there was little
hope of amendment. Whilst Captain Vivian re-
mained at Encombe, it must and would be a dis-
reputable place.

" Well, then, he will be taken from it soon, we
may hope," replied Mrs. Campbell, rather triumph-
antly. " Betsy has a cousin in the Preventive
service, so she hears both sides; and she tells me


that they vow they will have the smugglers in their
power before the new year begins ; that is what
makes her so afraid for her brother."

" They must be quick about it, then," said Bertha.
" It wants but a very short time to the new year."

" We shall see something before it comes," said
Mrs. Campbell, oracularly ; and Bertha echoed the
words in her own mind, though with a different
meaning. Mrs. Campbell relapsing into silence, she
took the opportunity of leaving the room, and going,
not up stairs to take off her things, but into the
garden and the lane, to look for Clement.

Bertha went a little way down the lane without
meeting any one ; then, hearing some persons ap-
proaching, talking noisily, she turned into a by-path,
by a cottage garden, and stood there till they had
passed. The voices, which she recognised, made her
very glad that she had avoided the meeting. Mark
Wood, Stephen Hale, and Goff, were together, appa-
rently disputing. Bertha watched them till they were
nearly out of sight, — if sight that could be called
which was only the indistinct perception of twilight,

— and, even when they were gone, felt unwilling to
move from her hiding-place, lest they should return.
Not that she had any cause to fear, — it was un-
likely that they would notice, still less speak to her ;
but the rough voices, and the very distant possi-
bility of being brought in contact with them, made
her shrink into herself. She waited what seemed a
long time, — though, in fact, it was only a few minutes,

— then, scolding herself for folly, ventured back into
the lane, and had gone some little distance, when


once more, as she liad dreaded, the voices were heard,
and very near. The men had taken a short cut, and
were returning. Bertha did not like to run back,
that would attract notice ; still less did she wish to
proceed. For a moment she stood irresolute ; but the
sound of a footstep behind gave her confidence, espe-
cially when, on looking round, she recognised Ronald.
His finger was raised to his lips, as a sign for silence,
and without noticing her, he turned shortly, strode
down the lane at a rapid pace, and entered the path
which Bertha had just left.

Bertha was surprised, yet her momentary feeling of
fear was over. She felt that a protector was near ;
and went on boldy, smiling at her own weakness, as
the men lo^\nered their voices when she passed, ]Mark
Wood and Stephen Hale even touching their hats.

Five minutes afterwards, as she stood at the Lodge
gate, Ronald joined her ; his voice was agitated, and
he began without apology or explanation. " Clement
is with you. Miss Campbell, of course."

" No, not yet ! I expect him."

" Not with you ? When did you leave him ? "

" He left us just as we entered the village ; he
stayed behind."

"Behind? Alone?"

" Yes ; that is Louisa was with him ; but she came
back to us. What is the matter, Ronald ?"

" Nothing. Have you been long returned ? "

" Not very ; we were all late. For pity's sake,
Ronald, tell me what this means ? "

" I thought Clement might be with GofF. I knew
he was loitering about the cottage, and I watched


after you were gone, but could not see him at first ; I
did afterwards. He followed the path you took, and
I followed, too, some distance. Then "

"Well! what then?"

" I met my father ; he sent me back to the cottage
on a message ; and I lost sight of you all. Good
night," — he broke oif abruptly ; " I will look for
Clement ; " and he hurried away.

His course was rapid and intricate. He knew all
the by -lanes and short cuts of the village, and every
cottage garden was open to him as to a friend ; and so,
with almost a direct course, he made his way to the
Grange, noticed only by a few stragglers returning
late from work, who, recognising his step, greeted
him with a laugh and, " How are ye. Master Ronald ? "
but not troubling themselves as to his wandering
movements, and scarcely even making a remark upon
his evident haste.

The shrubbery gate of the Grange was wide open,
and the large, lonely house was silent and dreary in
the glimmering twilight, neither fire nor candle to
be seen through the uncurtained windows of the de-
serted apartments ; and when Ronald entered, his
footsteps sent a hollow echo through the long stone
passages. He went first to the parlour, which was
empty ; but the cloth was laid for dinner, and the
shutters were closed. A rough, club stick lay on the
table, and a glove was on the floor. Ronald, without
any particular thought, picked up the glove and laid
it down carelessly, whilst he stood for a few moments
thinking whether to remain for his father or return
to the Lodge to satisfy his mind about Clement. An


uncomfortable misgiving was still haunting him.
Barney's imperfect hints of a mystery returned to
him, and with it came the impulse to go at once to
the Point and watch whether any thing more than
usual was going on there. But the evening was
growing darker and darker, and the moon would not
he risen for another hour ; he could see nothing, even
if he were to go; and, in the meantime, if any
mischief were afloat it would most probably be some-
thing which would bring Clement to the Grange.
Just at that moment Ronald's eye fell upon the glove,
a rough winter glove — too small, surely, for Captain
Vivian's hand. He tried to put it on ; it was too
small for himself; it must be Clement's, left there
probably the previous night he had been there. But
no, Ronald recollected now that he had seen Clement
wearing it that very day, and had thought at the
time that he would try and procure a pair of the
same kind for Barney.

He rushed out of the room; but still, habitually
cautious, controlled his eager step as he passed
through the hall and the back passages, and softened
his voice when he encountered the solitary domestic,
of whom he inquired whether his father had re-
turned to the Grange within the last hour.

It might or it mightn't be an hour, the woman
couldn't say, but the Captain had been in and put off
dinner; — and she walked away, sulky from the ad-
ditional trouble.

" Stop, Madge ! can't you ! Was my father alone ?"

" Who's to say Master Ronald ? not I. D'ye think
I showed my nose in the parlour ? "


"But you may have heard. Was he speaking to
any one ? Did he seem as if he was alone ? "

" Seem ? Why he was alone when I saw him.
What should you keep me here talking such daft
folly for ? " — and Madge retired within the precincts
of her own domain, and closed the kitchen door
violently, as a hint to Ronald, that he was on no
account to follow.

Ronald opened the hall door, and went out into the
gravel sweep, and listened ; and he heard the distant
trampling of a horse's hoofs, and the cry of a sick
child, in a cottage occupied by one of the farm
labourers. But the wailing wind drowned all other
sounds, save that which mingled with and deepened
it — the hoarse rush of the waves beating against the
precipitous cliffs.

For several minutes he stood there, his face turned
towards Dark Head Point. A rising mist had now
obstructed even the faint gleam of lingering day ; but
twice Ronald fancied he saw a light gleaming in that
direction, though so far off that he knew it must be
from a vessel at sea ; and then, again, there seemed
another moving, and higher up, upon the cliff; but
the mist gathered over again, more thickly, and all
was obscure.

Some one clapped him on the shoulder, with a heavy
hand. "What, Ronald, my lad, watching? what's
that for?"

" For you, father ; I wondered where you were."

"No cause for wonder, I shoukl think; I'm out
often enough many hours later than this. But, come,
let's in to dinner."


Captain Vivian hurried on ; and when Ronald would
have lingered to watch the light on the cliff, he
called to him impatiently, saying that they had both
Yv^aited long enough, and he was ravenous. Yet
Ronald did linger, for some seconds, and when his
father had entered the house, he stood for several
moments on the step of the door with a longing, which
he could scarcely resist, to brave Captain Vivian's
displeasure, and run back to the Lodge, to gain some
tidings of Clement.

" Ronald, where are you ? Come in, I say. I won't
have that wind through the house ; shut the door, and
come in.'

And Ronald obeyed mechanically.

They sat down to dinner. Captain Vivian talked
more than was his wont. Ronald gave but short
answers. He was considering in his own mind,
whether it would be wise to mention Clement's name,
and ask how his glove had been found there. Nothing
in any way, however, led to the subject. Captain
Vivian's conversation was confined to discussions
upon the superiority of the little smuggling vessel
over the regular traders upon the coast, and anec-
dotes of the wonderfully short voyages she had lately
made. Once, Ronald mentioned Barney "Wood, and
made a remark upon Mr. Lester and Miss Campbell's
kindness ; but it was badly received. Captain Vivian
turned it off with a sneer, and went on as before,
somewhat incoherently and unconnectedly — his words
uttered very fast, his tone half jocular, half hasty.
Ronald could not think, he could only listen and


A loud peal at tlie Hall bell! Captain Vivian
went himself to answer it ; Ronald also followed a
few paces behind. A message from the Lodge was
brought bj Mr. Lester's gardener. " Mrs. Campbell's
compliments, and she would be glad to know if
Master Clement was at the Grange."

Captain Vivian burst into a loud laugh, and almost
shut the door in the man's face. " Master Clement
here ? What folly will be asked next ? My compli-
ments to Mrs. Campbell, and Master Clement doesn't
trouble me much with his company. She must look
for him elsewhere. What, Eonald ! " he grasped his
son's shoulder, as Eonald was going to re-open the
door ; " rushing after ? what for ? Do you think the
tender chicken's lost ? "

" He has been here. I know it ; I have a proof."
Eonald tossed Clement's glove upon the floor.

Captain Vivian kicked it from him ; his face was
livid either with anger or fear : — " Clement was here.
He is gone home, or he ought to be. Now, back to
dinner, and no more of this folly."

He led the way to the parlour ; Eonald followed
moodily. Both sat down to the table, but only Cap-
tain Vivian talked. He had apparently repented his
hasty show of authority, and tried to bring Eonald
round, pressing him to eat, urging him to take wine,
joking him about his books ; but Eonald still sat with
his abstracted gaze, listening for distant sounds, and
giving only such short answers as were absolutely
necessary. L-ritated by his total absence of interest,
Captain Vivian began in another strain : — " So Eonald^
you mean to show yourself a pleasant companion, to


leave the conversation in my hands ; I thank you for
it ; it is all, of course, I have a right to expect from
my only child. Yet I might have thought that so
much woman's teaching might have given you a touch
of good manners. Bertha Campbell sets up for a
lady, but it's little enough of a gentleman that you
have shown yourself since she set foot in Encombe.
Don't think I am surprised, though; it's the old
grudge, malice carried on for a dozen years — cun-
ningly, too, setting my son against me."

Ronald had given his full attention to this last
speech, but he could not answer it. Had not Bertha
Campbell, though unintentionally, been the means of
embittering the feelings which, even before, were but
too acutely conscious of his father's faults ?

Captain Vivian went on more painfully, because
with less of sarcasm : — " I am not what many fathers
are, I know that. I'm not the man to set up for a
Squire, and make a fuss about my boy, and put him
in the way of fine people. It never was my way,
and it never will be. I was brought up roughly,
myself, and I've led a rough life, and it's too late now
to mend it; and what I am my son must be. But I
should never have thought that for that reason he
was to be made to turn against me, to plot with my

" Plot with them ? Oh ! father, how little you

" Aye ! plot with them," continued Captain Vivian.
" You don't think, do you, that I'm so blind as not
to have an eye for what's going on close at my


" I don't know what you refer to, Father," re-
plied Ronald.

" Probably not ! You would be the last person
to own, if you did."

Captain Vivian's manner was proud and coldly
determined. It might have been the manner of his
early days, never entirely forgotten ; and it struck
a chill, and something of a feeling of awe, into
Eonald's heart. It was as if, after all, there was
something better left than that low recklessness,
which had of late been his chief characteristic.

Ronald answered more quietly, and even respect-
fully : " If you are suspicious of me. Father, and will
tell me your suspicions, I will try to remove them."

"What! how?" Captain Vivian started up and
went to the door looking out into the hall : " Folly ;
it's only the old woman's tramp."

He came back again, and stood with his back to
the fire : " Suspicions you were talking of, Ronald :
what would you give to hear them ? "

"A great deal, Father, if I could make you believe
they are unfounded."

" Well then ! " — a pause — a second commencement,
and a second pause — at last the words came with
thundering emphasis : " Suspicions that I have a
traitor in my camp, who would desert me at the last
gasp ! "

Ronald pushed aside his plate, and rising paced
the room in a tumult of excitement.

Captain Vivian went on coldly : " What is the care
for this miserable boy, Clement Vivian ? What is the
devotion to Bertha Campbell, and the obedience to



Mr. Lester ? — treachery, treachery from the begin-
ning to the end."

" Are they your enemies, Father ? " Ronald's voice
was husky with agitation, for his promise to Bertha
was present to his mind, and even now it seemed he
might be called to fulfil it.

" Circumstances made them my enemies," was the
reply ; " that's enough for you to know."

" Then Clement is your enemy for his father's

Captain Vivian answered cautiously: " Such a boy
as that my enemy ! he is beneath me."

" Yet " — Ronald hesitated — " through him you
might work harm to his father."

" Who tells you that ? " and Captain Vivian turned
upon him fiercely.

" My own reason partly," replied Ronald; and sum-
moning more courage, he added : " I know through
Miss Campbell that you have, as you yourself say,
cause for mutual enmity."

"Ha! the family secrets! And pray what may
Miss Campbell have thought proper to confide to

" She has given me warnings rather than confi-
dence — warnings, Father, which I would fain give to

" I am obliged to her ; " Captain Vivian's face
showed a change of colour. " Threats, I presume ; a
notice that I shall be taken up for a smuggler, as they
call me."

" They were very vague, indirect threats," replied
Ronald, in an unmoved tone, though his heart beat


painfully; "yet they made me feel that danger might
be at hand."

" Danger at hand, and you not tell me of it — un-
grateful boy ! "

Bitter reproaches followed, which Ronald, leaning
against the wall, heard, yet without hearing, for still
his thoughts reverted to Clement ; and the words fell
upon his ear, as they had often done before, almost as
sounds without meaning.

Captain Vivian stopped at length, and then in a
calmer voice insisted upon knowing every thing
which Miss Campbell had dared to say. Ronald was
hesitating for a reply, when another and more violent
ring at the hall door a second time interrupted the

This time Captain Vivian did not go out himself,
but stood in the open doorway ; and both he and
Ronald, as by mutual consent, paused to hearken.

It was a man's voice speaking, and angrily. Mrs.
Campbell had sent another message : " Master Clement
had been seen, with Captain Vivian, going to the
Grange. Mrs. Campbell desired to know when he
had left it, and what direction he had taken."

Ronald turned upon his Father a look of keen dis-

Captain Vivian's countenance did not alter. He
went directly to the door, and said: "My compli-
ments to Mrs. Campbell. Master Clement was here
for two minutes, and I walked with him a little way
down Long Lane, but he turned off at the end. Is
she uneasy about him ? "

" He hasn't been home yet, and it's past eight," said

H 2


the man, gruffly. " Mrs. Campbell said she was sure
the people at the Grange knew something about

"Who is looking for him?" inquired Ronald,

" One or two people have been asked ; but we have
been expecting him in every moment, when we were
told that he wasn't here."

'• We will go to the cliff," said Ronald, and he took
up his hat, and stepped into the porch. To his sur-
prise his Father made no attempt to stop him.

" We thought he might have been with Goff, and
some of his men. He's fond of getting about with
them," continued the gardener, more cordially ; " but
Goff's at home, and doesn't know any thing about

Captain Vivian came out, and stood with Ronald
in the porch : " You may tell Mrs. Campbell, that my
son and I will go down to the shore, and make in-
quiries," he said.

" Yes, tell her we will go in every direction,"
added Ronald, eagerly ; " we will not return till we
have had tidings of him. You may trust me, man,"
he continued, laying his hand on the arm of the
gardener, as he lingered with an evident feeling of

The light from a little oil lamp in the hall fell
upon Ronald's face ; it bore an expression which
could not be doubted. Captain Vivian's was hidden
in the shade of the porch. Ronald repeated again : —
" You may trust me," and the words were received


with a hearty " To be sure, Master Ronald ; every
one trusts you."

The man departed ; and Ronald would liave set off
instantly for Dark Head Point, but a strong hand
detained him : " You don't escape me, my lad, in
this way. Every word that Bertha Campbell has
uttered about my aiFairs before you stir."

" I have told all," replied Ronald ; " and yet, — no,
I have not told all. She has said. Father, that what-
ever wrong there might be between Mr. Vivian and
yourself, he would be the last to press it against you,
if only you would acknowledge it, and clear him in
the General's eyes."

A mocking laugh interrupted him : " A woman's
folly ! And you believed it .^ Was that every thing ?
At your peril deceive me."

Ronald paused, — in the tumult of his mind, he could
scarcely tell whether he was at liberty to betray more
of what had passed ; he added, with hesitation, " She
warned me also that it might soon be in their power
to enforce what now is only a request."

Not a word escaped in reply, but the dim thread
of light from the little lamp showed a face ghastly
with conflicting passions ; and Captain Vivian, seiz-
ing Ronald by the arm, strode forth into the

M 3



Morn rose gorgeously over the sea ; an atmosphere
of orange light seeming to penetrate and mingle -with
the long line of grej clouds, which stood as a wall
against the horizon, and here and there breaking
through it in a crimson line, until at length the full
burst of radiance flooded the eastern sky, and shed its
myriads of golden sparkles upon the waters ; not
resting upon them with the long and lingering gaze
which sunset gives to the world its brilliancy has
gladdened, but lightly playing upon the surface of
the rippling ocean, and tracing upon it, in a pale yet
far-spread glory, the joyous smile of the opening

Ronald Vivian wandered alone upon the sandy
beach. Behind him were the red cliffs, and the dark
headland worn by the fretting of the sea, hollowed
into caves, cut into projections, and in parts clothed
with scanty lichens ; before him spread the intermin-
able expanse of ocean, without a sail to mark its
distance. Ronald's eyes were fixed upon the beach.
He would have appeared deep in meditation, for the
water plashed gently against the rocks, and rippled
closed to his feet, and still he seemed unconscious of
the tide; whilst, with folded arms and a slow and
weary step, he walked towards the jutting point

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Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellCleve Hall (Volume 2) → online text (page 10 of 26)