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CLEVE HALL. 167

forming the western extremity of Eneombe Baj.
Occasionally, however, it might have been seen that he
was not so abstracted. As the passing breeze brought
to his ear what might have been the echo of a school-
boy's shout, or the morning greeting of the labourers
passing to their work, he would pause for a moment
and listen, and then glance quickly round, and per-
haps stoop to examine some dark object at his feet —
a stone, or a knotted mass of sea-weed : he was look-
ing, and watching, and searching still, but it was
not the search of hope.

Three hours of that night had Ronald spent in fruit-
less, and, in a great degree, irritating inquiries. His
father had been with him, allowing him no freedom,
stopping every question which might possibly have
led to the discovery of Clement's movements, whilst
pretending the warmest interest in the result. Ronald
had at times been tempted to break from him, and
insist upon carrying out his own views in his own
way ; but it was difficult to resist a parent's autho-
rity, and Captain Vivian had always some plausible
reason at hand to silence his remonstrances.

Yet he was kind in his manner, — much kinder
than Ronald had supposed possible, when they left
the house together, after Ronald had communicated
Bertha's warning. A moody silence had followed
for some little time, and then all seemed passed away
and forgotten, except that the softness which suc-
ceeded, carried with it at times a tone of mockery
more galling than reproaches.

One thing, however, was quite clear to Ronald
— whatever might be concealed under Bertha's hints,
M 4



168 CLEVE HALL.

they had worked upon his father to a degree which
gave cause to think they were well founded. The
defiant, self-reliant manner which had been Captain
Vivian's characteristic was gone. He was fitful, ab-
stracted, — often lost in thought, only fully conscious, as
it seemed, of one fact, that he must not lose sight of
Ronald ; and when, after their long search, they had
returned for a few hours' rest to the Grange, it was
with a promise that they should go again, at day-
break, to the shore, to renew their inquiries together.
This was now Ronald's purpose. He had risen
very early, disturbed by anxiety and foreboding.
But his father was gone before him, and had left a
peremptory message in writing that he was to join
him directly at the cave under Dark Head Point ;
the reason given for the order being, that Captain
Vivian was himself going to the shore, as the most
likely place to hear what they wished. Ronald
felt bound to obey, yet his step unconsciously lin-
gered as he drew near the place appointed for tlie
meeting. Sleep had raised a barrier of years between
his present feelings and the excitement of the past
night. He looked back upon it, in a degree, as men
look upon the turmoil of youth from the dreary waste
of middle life. His spirit had been roused to anger
then — now he was only saddened. His thoughts
had been full of eager excitement for Clement then ;
now he wa^ tempted to consider his absence as pos-
sibly a boyish freak. Doubt and delay were wearing
his spirits, whilst exhausting his energy. More than
all, — then, in the bitterness of his heart, and the rush
of his fiery temper, he had felt able to cope even with



CLEVE HALL 169

his father, and dare and suffer peril or misery, if only-
he might save Clement, and redeem the evil which
had been wrought ; now, in the glad light of morning,
with the sights and sounds of daily life and daily
toil around him, spirit, and heroism, and self-devotion
had vanished, and all that he could feel was the
consciousness of his father's degradation, and the
stain of disgrace which had not even the strength of
passionate feeling and impulse to enable it 'to be
endured.

The test of our true selves is to be found in the
morning resolution and the morning feeling ; and Ro-
nald had yet to acquire the temper of mind which
can be as resolute to begin work, without previous
excitement, as to pursue it, when circumstances both
moral and physical have aroused the imagination, and
given force to the nervous energies.

Yet that quiet walk along the sea-shore was sooth-
ing to him, and in its measure supporting. The
ocean is always great, and it was the feeling of
greatness which Ronald needed. The hard beach,
furrowed with ridges, spread for about half a mile
before him, crossed at times by little streams, tinged
with deep yellow from the iron-ore of the rocks.
The water in some places was deep above his ancles ;
yet he turned neither to the right nor left, but went
on, directing his course by a dark spot visible at the
height of about one-third of the cliff. This, on a
nearer approach, was seen to be a hollow, perhaps
the opening of a cave, perhaps only a cavity formed
by the mouldering away of the rocks. There were
many such along the coast, and report said they Avere



170 CLEVE HALL.

often used by the smugglers for tlie concealment of
contraband goods.

The cliff at this point projected far into the sea,
and at high tide could only be passed with difficulty,
by scrambling over the huge broken rocks which,
having fallen from above, were heaped around its
base. Ronald, however, made his way over them with
the ease which showed that every stone was a familiar
resting-place, and paused only upon the summit of
one of the highest rocks, when a glance along the
beach showed that no one was in view ; then step-
ping upon the nearest point of the cliff, a few bounds
brought him, slightly out of breath, but in no other
way exhausted, to a level with the opening, which
was now seen to be not so much a cave as a passage,
formed partly by nature, partly by the hand of man.

It was carried for about a distance of twenty feet
inwards, and where the cliff had fallen away, it had
been built up by stones ; then it terminated in a more
regular cave, remarkable only for being a clear, hol-
low space, capable of containing perhaps a dozen men.
The walls were smoothed artificially, but one large
stone had been left at the further end, probably to serve
as a seat. The place was evidently used for the pur-
poses of rest or concealment. Some burnt sticks showed
that a fire was occasionally lighted in it, the smoke
escaping through vent-holes at the side ; a hammer
and hatchet lay in the corner, and a rough wooden
bench, and small deal table, gave it some appearance
of a human habitation.

It was empty, however, now ; and Ronald, throw-
ing himself upon the ground, rested his back against



CLEVE HALL. 171

the wall of sandj'rock, and bending liis head forward,
so as to catch the glimpse of sea discoverable at the
extremity of the passage, awaited in gloomy medita-
tion his father's arrival.

The delay was not long. Five minutes had scarcely
passed, when a long shrill whistle from below gave
notice of an approach. Ronald answered it, but with-
out moving from his resting-place ; and not till his
father appeared in sight, ascending the cliff by what
was something of a regular pathway, did he remove
his gaze from the fixed point in the far horizon, upon
which his attention seemed to have been concen-
trated.

Then he rose slowly, and went forward a few steps.
The greeting was abrupt on both sides ; yet Captain
Vivian expressed himself well satisfied with Ronald's
punctuality. "I should have been here myself be-
fore," he said, in a tone of indifference, as he sat
down upon the bench ; " but there were more searchers
being sent out for this young scamp. A pretty game
lie has played us ! "

He raised his eyes stealthily to Ronald's f^xce, as he
spoke, seeking, probably, to read there the difference
between his evening and his morning mind.

Ronald replied, that if searching was still going
on, he was willing to take his part as before,

" That's as may be. I don't see why we are to put
ourselves out of our way any more for those avIio, if
the opportunity came, would do us an ill turn as soon
as not. The boy's off", and let those look after him
who have driven him off"."

" Driven him I " repeated Ronald.



172 CLEVE HALL.

" What else has done it, but the being shut up with
books, and tied to his aunt's apron strings ? What
boy of any spirit would bear it ? Not you, Ronald,
I am sure."

"If I were in Clement's place, and did not bear it,
I should be to blame," answered Ronald.

" Eh ! what ? But it's folly even to name you two
in the same breath ; even Bertha Campbell would own
that. You have seen her, I suppose, this morning ? "

It was a conciliatory question, but Ronald's answer
was cold : " No ; I came here direct, as you had ap-
pointed."

"Good! — obedience for ever, say I. It's Mr.
Lester's lesson, isn't it, Ronald?"

" Mr. Lester tells me I am bound to obey you in
all things in which I lawfully may," replied Ronald.

" Good again," repeated Captain Vivian. He
rested his elbows upon his knees, and leaned his fore-
head upon his hands. Presently he looked up, and
said, "Lawfully — what docs he mean by that, Ro-
nald ?"

"I understand, though I mayn't be able to ex-
plain," replied Ronald.

" You understand ; that won't do for me : what I
understand, is the question. It's my belief that Mr.
Lester and I have different views upon that same
point of obedience. Before long it may be we shall
test them."

" I am willing, I hope, Father," replied Ronald, " to
show you all the obedience you have a right to re-
quire ; but" — he paused for a second, the flash of his
father's eye startled him — " I should be sorry to have



CLEVE HALL. 173

the trial carried too far. Perhaps, though, you will
tell me without delay what you wish, for you do wish
something."

His frankness seemed to take Captain Vivian by
surprise. He hesitated, stammered, uttered a few
broken words, and at length laughed ; but it was a
dreary, skeleton laugh — the body without the soul ;
and the wind bore it through the arched passage,
and its echo died away in the faint wailing of the
breeze which murmured over the sea.

Ronald spoke again : " I thought we were to plan
another search ; if you have nothing to say, we ought
to lose no time." He moved, as though he would
have gone out.

" Sit down ; " Captain Vivian touched Ronald's
shoulder with his stick. " You are a brave boy,
Ronald ; I trust you."

" I hope so. Father. I don't know what I have
done to cause distrust."

" Yes, I trust you. You wouldn't go against your
father, Ronald."

" Never, Father, never ; " but Ronald's voice was
faint, for his heart beat quickly.

"I thought not — I knew not; I told GofF you
couldn't."

" Goff! Father, do you consult him about me?"

" I didn't consult, we talked it over. He doesn't
do you justice, Ronald."

" A matter of very little consequence," was Ronald's
answer.

"To you, perhaps, — not so to me. Ronald, if I
didn't trust you" — he paused.



174 CLEVE HALL.

" Well, Father ; if you didn't trust me ?"— Ronald
looked at Captain Vivian steadily, and the gaze which
he encountered sank.

" If I didn't trust you, I couldn't ask you to help
me out of a difficulty."

A pang of doubt shot through Ronald's heart, yet
still he answered quietly : " You know that you may
reckon upon me in all things in which there is no
breach of the laws of God and man."

" Umpli ! " the limitation was unsatisfactory. Cap-
tain Vivian considered a little. " Are you ready for
a long story, Ronald ? "

So steadily was the question uttered that even
Ronald could not perceive the trace of any inward
agitation.

" I will listen," was all he could say. He rested
against the rock, and turned his face from his father ;
but the changed voice, which spoke in accents low
and deep, made him look round again.

" A promise, an oath never to betray, that must be
given first."

" A son may be trusted without an oath," replied
Ronald.

" Not so, he may be led away."

" Never to betray his father, to ruin."

" A quibble ! an unworthy quibble ! " exclaimed
Captain Vivian.

" Yet all which I will give," replied Ronald.

A look of fierce anger crossed Captain Vivian's
face ; yet there was less real indignation in the
softer tone in which he said, " Then my son will not
promise, but forsakes me."



CLEVE HALL. 175

"Your son will promise to do nothing, and to
reveal nothing to his father's injury."

" A play upon words ; but " — Captain Vivian
took out his watch — "there is no time to argue the
point."

" No arguments would alter me. If I am worthy
to receive confidence at all, I am worthy to receive it
freely. Father, if this is all you have to say, I will
leave you."

"Proud boy! wilful from your childhood. But
you must — you shall hear. Betray me, and a father's
curse will be yours, and it lights surely and heavily."

Ronald shuddered, but he was silent.

Captain Vivian went on : " I take your promise, I
hold it to be binding. You have heard Bertha Camp-
bell's threats ; you know what she is always hinting
at, aiming at. She talks of my standing between the
General and Edward Vivian ; — did she ever explain
herself more clearly ? "

Ronald felt his father's eye upon him as he an-
swered, " She told me Mr. Vivian's early history and
yours."

" She told it, did she ? In her own way, doubtless.
She said nothing, of course, of deception, treachery,
— how I was led on to believe myself secure — en-
couraged, flattered, befooled, triumphed over ; as they
thought," he added in an under tone, " but I had my
revenge."

" She told me that you were led away by false
hopes," replied Ronald.

"False! yes, fiilse with a woman's falseness!
What that is, let those tell who have experienced it.



176 CLEVE HALL.

Flora Campbell deceived not me only, Ronald ; she
deceived her father and her mother. Again and
again they told me that I was safe, that she had no
other attachment, and her honied words and her
treacherous smile said the same. I loved her —
Heaven knows how — I can't talk of it ; and she
might have made me what she would." He paused,
and Ronald, touched by a confidence so unlike what
he had expected, said in a tone of sympathy, " It must
have been a hard trial."

He received no answer for some seconds. Then
the momentary softness seemed to have passed away,
and Captain Vivian spoke again : " Mean spirits
sink under hard trials, as they are called. That was
not my way : I lived for revenge, Ronald ; you would
do the same."

" It would be my temptation," he replied.

'' Temptation ! pshaw ! What a man is made, that
he must be. Neither you nor I could ever live to be
trampled on. Yet revenge must be taken according
to circumstances ; and if it falls in with profit,
Where's the blame ? What I did might not suit all.
Some would have called Edward Vivian out and shot
him ; but I had no fancy for that game."

The mocking laugh which followed the words
curdled the blood in Ronald's veins ; and, without
lifting up his eyes, he said, in a hollow voice, " You
ruined him."

There was the hesitation of a moment, but the
assertion was a relief, and Captain Vivian continued,
hurriedly, " Well ! let it be said, I ruined him. He
was a fool, Ronald ; it was not fit to deal with him



CLEVE HALL. 177

as with a man of spirit. And he threw the game
into mj hr.nds. For months he had let himself be
led blindfold. He told me all his follies ; I even wrote
his letters for him. He had not the sense to see I
was his rival ; not, at least, till the very last. Then
he turned round and reproached me with plotting
against his happiness — he who, at the very moment,
was plucking from my grasp the prize I valued above
all on earth. Surely, when he had succeeded I had a
right to take the advantage he had put into my hands.
I knew his debts and his difficulties ; he had placed
me in possession of all before his miserable marriage,
and had arranged that I was to go to England, and
see the old General, and get from him all I could,
whether in fair words or good deeds. That, again,
was his folly — for the General hated me — but his
fate blinded him. ' Quem Deus vult perdere prius
dementat,' as they used to teach me at school. How I
laughed in my heart as he played into my hands. It
so happened, too, that just at that time I had another
ally, — Goff, who was his servant. Long before I had
bought the fellow over to my side, and a good deal
I learnt through him ; nearly enough to have stopped
the marriage, only, as ill luck would have it, they
had a desperate quarrel about a week before it came
off, and Goff was turned away at an hour's notice, and
came straight to me. When the deed was done, and
the marriage could not be prevented, he was my
right hand in my plans, for he knew all the ins and
outs of Edward Vivian's life, and was as much his
enemy as I was ; why, — he didn't tell me then, but
I found out afterwards. There was some question of

VOL. II. N



178 CLEYE HALL.

honesty pending. Goff was never very scrupulous,
and there were threats of inquiry into his doings.
But all that was nothing to me. I had got the man
I needed, and he had got the master who suited
him. We understood each other, and he was willing
to back me ; and so we started for England directly
upon the news of the marriage, I taking care not to
betray my disappointment, but still writing to Edward
to trust me and I would put all straight with the
General."

A groan was uttered by Eon aid.

Captain Vivian laughed faintly. " Tut ! lad, cheer
up. You don't understand such matters. Well for
you ! perhaps. But a man who means to carry out a
scheme musn't be scrupulous ; and you know it's all
gone by now. I was young then, and hot-headed, and
what I'd set my heart to do I would do. 'Twouldn't
be the same now. Cheer up," he repeated, as Ronald
still hid his face from him.

" Go on," was all he said ; and his father went on,
yet less carelessly than before. He was approaching
that part of his story where even his hardened spirit
shrank from the confession of its guilt.

" We came to England, and saw the General ; and
there was a long talk about the marriage and the money
affairs. He was primed to take offence, and, of course,
I didn't let matters appear too smooth. I had full cre-
dentials given me some weeks before, so there was no
question that I was an accredited agent. To do the old
man justice, he was so straightforward he would have
run his head against a stone wall if it had been built up
right before him. He took my word for truth, and if



CLEVE HALL. 179

there was a doubt, Goff was at hand as a witness.
So we told him some pretty gambling histories, — a
little embellished, perhaps, as was fair — and the
marriage history as a conclusion ; and he was willing
to consider me as his son's friend, and talk over
arrangements for settling the debts. But that wasn't
quite my notion. He was stiif and hard, but there
V\^as a twinkle in his eye which told of yielding and
forgiving ; and if it had come to that, good b'ye to
all hope of revenge. No ; I wasn't to be baulked in
that way !" Captain Vivian uttered the last words as
though addressing himself, for something seemed to
check him when he would have pronounced Eonald's
name ; and he rose up, and walked once or twice up
and down the cave, and went to the extremity of the
passage to look out upon the sea. Then he came back
again, and said, in a tone of icy unconcern, " That was
the tug of war between us, but I gained the day.
When nothing else would answer, I handed him a
paper which did for Vivian : a promissory note for
five thousand pounds."

Ronald started up. " A forgery, father ! Say it
was not a forgery ! Oh, God ! have mercy !"

Miserable he was, but not so miserable as the
wretched man, from whose face every tint of colour
had faded, and who stood, haggard, yet defiant, con-
victed by the confession of his own mouth.

A long, long silence — whilst the waves plashed
softly upon the smooth-sanded beach, and the cry of
the sea-gull was faintly heard amongst the rocky
cliffs.

Captain Vivian was the first to recover himself.

N 2



180 CLEVE HALL.

" The deed's done, Ronald, and the day's gone by ;
and if you wish for sorrow, I've had sorrow enough.
But, good or bad, its not for a son to go counter to
his father, or refuse to lend a helping hand when the
time is come to save him from ruin.

Ronald did not answer, and he continued : — " It's
what I have always looked to. When it has crossed
my mind that things might take an awkward turn, I
felt I had a friend at home. Your mother said it."

" My mother ! Thank God she did not live to see
this day," and Ronald, roused for a moment, sank
again into his former attitude.

A trace of emotion was visible in Captain Vivian's
face. " Thank God, too," he said, " but she would
have helped me."

" Father, what would you have me do ? " Ronald
looked up steadily, with a glazed eye, and a counte-
nance which in those few moments seemed to have
been stamped with the suffering of years.

"Edward Vivian is in England," was the reply.

" Yes ; I know it."

" He has been at Encombe ; he is coming again.
When he does come, it will be to reclaim his inherit-
ance."

Ronald only bent his head in assent.

" His success will be my ruin," continued Captain

Vivian, " unless . There is a paper, Ronald

— that which did the mischief; it is in Bertha Camp-
bell's hands. How she got it passes my comprehen-
sion, but it is there. It would be proof certain, and
your father Avould end his days as a convicted felon.
That paper must be in my possession before another



CLEVE HALL. 181

day has passed over our heads." He paused, and in
a lower tone added, " You must contrive to lay hold
of it."

Captain Vivian's penetrating glance rested upon
his son, and a secret, yet irresistible, influence seemed
to compel Ronald to confront his gaze. Their
eyes met, but neither of them spoke for some
seconds.

"Well!" burst at length from Captain Vivian's
lips.

" You must find another to execute your purpose,"
was the answer.

" Traitor ! " exclaimed Captain Vivian.

Ronald continued, in a tone cold and hard, as if
every feeling were petrified. " Mr. Vivian's claim is
just ; to destroy the proof of his innocence would be
unjust."

The rocky walls of the cavern rang with a fearful
imprecation, and, standing before his son. Captain
Vivian poured forth a torrent of reproaches, which
yet only served to deepen the immoveable expression
of Ronald's face. When his father's violence had in
a degree exhausted itself, he said, — "Ask me what
you will, that may be granted without sin, and were
it to give up my life it should be done."

Captain Vivian laughed scornfully. "Sin! — to
save a father, by the destruction of a paltry paper !
The boy is mad."

" Then God grant that the madness may last ! " re-
plied Ronald. Changing his tone, he continued, in a
voice of pleading earnestness, which might have been
the whisper of that womanly tenderness inherited from

N 3



182 CLEVE HALL.

his mother : — " Father, you have asked a favour of me,
and I have refused to grant it. I have no right, there-
fore, to seek kindness from you ; yet I do — ^I must.
Miss Campbell's warnings are clear to me now, so
also are her promises. Trust her — trust Mr. Vivian

— and, by all that is sacred, I do affirm my convic-
tion that you are safe."

Captain Vivian looked at him wildly.

" Yes," repeated Ronald, " safe by their own pro-
mises, by all the obligations of gratitude. Once I
have saved Mr. Vivian's life — once I assisted in saving
his daughter. He acknowledges the claim ; I have
heard it from his own lips — no matter how or when

— but for my sake he will dread to injure you. As
surely, father, as there is truth in man, he will be
true to you, if only you will trust him."

He was interrupted mockingly. " And give my-
self up to the nearest magistrate ? Ronald, you are
a desperate fool!" and Captain Vivian paced the
floor of the cave with short and hurried steps.

After a few seconds he stopped. " You have seen
Edward Vivian ; I guessed as much. Let me know
the how and the when."

" I saw him the last evening that he was here ;
we had met upon the Croome, and he had betrayed
himself I knew then that there was enmity between
you. I did not know for what cause."

" Mean, wretched boy ! Plotting against your
father, deceiving him for months! And Edward
Vivian — an idiot still, preaching of promises and trust,
when wealth or ruin was at stake ! The experience
of centuries would not be enousrh for such a man."



CLEVE HALL. 183


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Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellCleve Hall (Volume 2) → online text (page 11 of 26)