Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

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" It was I, father, who extracted the promise. I
who spoke of trust. I who do, and will, trust."

" And you who sold yourself to his purpose, and
promised to aid him for your father's destruction."

" Oh, God ! pardon me ! Have pity upon me ! I
am very miserable." Ronald's spirit gave way, and
he cast himself upon the floor in an agony of grief.

Captain Vivian stood by him silently. What-
ever might be his feelings of indignation against
his son for having kept from him his communi-
cation with Mr. Vivian, it was not then the moment
to shew it. Too much depended upon Ronald's
consenting to be a partner in his schemes to ad-
mit of any expression which would be likely to
repel and irritate him; and during those first few
moments of suffering there was sufficient time for
self-recollection to convince him that if his object
was to be obtained, it must be by very different
means than threats or violence.

When Ronald, somewhat calmed by the outburst
to which he had given way, at length rose and
moved towards the entrance of the cave, willing,
apparently, to put an end to the conference, he was
stopped by a voice which sounded rather like the
entreaty of a brother, than the command of a parent :
— " And you leave me, then, Ronald, to ruin ? "

" I leave you, father, because I cannot help you as
you would be helped ; but I will wait your orders
at home."

" Home ! I have none. I am a wanderer, sent
forth by my own child. Is it so that you keep your
mother's last wish ? "

N 4


Eonald put his hands before his eyes. " My brain
is dizzy, — I can't think ; give me but an hour's

" When we are in safety, — not before. Your
father's shame will be yours also."

" I know it ; oh, yes, I know it, too well I "

" And if it is so that Edward Vivian is under such
deep obligation, he can never find fault with you for
taking from him what, according to your own story,
he would never consent to make use of as proof."

" I don't know, father ; I can't understand. My
head is burning." Eonald leant against the wall for

Captain Vivian went on slowly. " He says that
he is willing to hush the case. It may be so, but I
won't put my head into the lion's mouth ; or, if I do,
I will first draw his teeth. Granted that he takes
no measures against me, who is to answer for the
General ? I have not lived fifty years in the world
to be duped by promises. The paper must be mine ;
if not by fair means, then by foul. But with you,
Ronald, it would be an easy matter. Bertha Camp-
bell puts faith in you, even to folly."

" Impossible ! I have no excuse. I could make no

" Pshaw ! " Captain Vivian's tone relapsed into
coarse good humour, as he fancied himself gaining
the ascendant. " You don't think I have learnt what
I have without forming my plans accordingly. The
thing is easy enough. Mr. Lester had the paper;
it must have been given him by the General. In my
folly I fancied that the old man, in his stiff, family


pride, would destroy it, that it might never tell the
tale of his son's misdeeds. Doubtless Edward Vivian
and his friend are, at this moment, planning to make
use of it. But while there's life there's hope. It is
not in their possession now. Bertha Campbell has
it, — she keeps it about her in her pocket-book. I
learnt that by ways which you would never guess.
You must go to her with news of the boy, — of Cle-
ment; the story is easily concocted. He shall be
suspected to have gone off" on a lark, with some
strange friend of Goff*'s, — a smuggling friend, if you
will," and Captain Vivian tried to laugh. " You
may guess that they'll be back some particular day,
and have a fuss about the date ; any thing to induce
her to bring out the book. Then let Goff or me be
near, with some sudden message which shall make
her lay it down at the right moment, and leave you
with it, and good luck to your cleverness in taking
advantage of the opportunity. A good scheme, eh ?
Don't you think so?" and he pryed keenly into
Ronald's pale and stony face. Obtaining no answer,
he added: — " What's an easy job for you, would be
desperately difficult for me. She's on her guard the
moment she sees me. Ten to one that I should ever get
admittance to the house ; and twenty to one that if I
did, I should make her forget herself enough to leave
the book with me. And there's no time for fjiilure ;
what's done must be done to-night, or good b'ye to
Encombe, and hurrah for Botany Bay ! "

Ronald neither moved nor spoke.

" Well, are you agreed ? " was his father's next
impatient query.


He shook his head, but he could not utter a word.

" Senseless boy! this is no time for jesting. Say,

" Impossible ! " The word seemed to come from
the depths of his heart.

Captain Vivian caught its accent of resolution.
" Impossible ! Let Heaven be witness, it shall not be
impossible. Yet stay ; it may be as well to hear the
wise reasons which you can produce for bringing
your father's grey hairs to the grave in shame."

" It is false and unjust ; and I have pledged myself
to repair injustice," was Ronald's answer.

*' Pledged yourself against me !"

" Not against you," replied Ronald, " but to restore
Mr. Vivian to his right. Father, your son would
sacrifice life for you, but he cannot sacrifice honour.
And if your plan were carried out," he continued,
more calmly, " it could but partially save you ; all
feeling of obligation as regards myself would be can-
celled. Mr. Vivian would be your open enemy, and
mine also, and every motive of self-justification would
induce him to sift the matter to the bottom. What
the event would be who can say ? Disgrace ! yes,
at least, disgrace!" he repeated, shuddering at the

" A noble, cautious boy ! Most sagely prudent !
And what then would be your wise advice ?"

" A wrong has been done," replied Ronald, " there-
fore let the wrong be repaired. I do not ask, father,
that you should put yourself into danger, or trust
even Mr. Vivian as I would trust him. If j^ou will,
let us leave the country, and place ourselves in safety,


and then let the confession be made by writing. So
far all will be done that could be to replace Mr.
Vivian in his right position with the General. As
regards the debt, let me work. Father, you do not
know how I can work, — how I can endure. Give me
but this object, and death only shall hinder me from
obtaining it. And when we have restored to General
Vivian, or to his family, the sum unlawfully taken
from them, even though we may never return to
England, we yet may live honoured and free." A
gleam of bright hope shot across Ronald's face as he
stood up proudly ; and the expression of his young
and noble features told how earnestly, how unwaver-
ingly, the plan he had proposed would be carried to
its conclusion.

But the unhappy man to whom he addressed him-
self was too far entangled in his own snares to be will-
ing to adopt it. He did not indeed ridicule it ; perhaps
even a softened look of admiration might have been
traced in his countenance ; but he put the idea aside,
as he would the dream of a simple child, and merely
replying, " Good enough, perhaps, for some people, if
it were only possible," again inquired whether Ronald
would consent to yield obedience to his will.

And Ronald answered, " On this point, never ! "
And both were silent.

Then Captain Vivian spoke once more abruptly :
" So the boy's doom is fixed."

Ronald caught his arm. " The boy ? Clement ?
Father you know where he is."

Captain Vivian withdrew himself, and strode to
the entrance of the cave, muttering as ho went.


"Father, in mercy — in pity tell me! Let me save

" You may, but you will not," was the answer.

" Cruel, cruel ! " exclaimed Ronald, and he covered
his face with his hands.

" Do my bidding, and he is safe," continued Captain
Vivian. " Refuse, and this very day I leave England,
and give him up to his fate."

" His fate ! what fate ? Oh, father, where is he ?
Let me only know that I may judge." There was
yielding in Ronald's tone, and in his words.

Captain Vivian returned again into the cave and
sat down. "Where he is I can't say just now.
Where he may be, I can guess. In a desperate scrape,
— in prison, probably, before the night is over our

Ronald looked at him in wild terror. " In prison ?
Then he has been tempted, — led away."

His father interrupted him. " Led away ! The
boy's of an age to judge for himself."

" Help me, — help me, — what can I do for him ? "
And Ronald clasped his hands together in the anguish
of his entreaty.

" I have told you. I am not going to trust more
to a son who won't stretch out his hand to save his
father from public disgrace. Clement's fate is in
your hands."

" I can't tell, — I can't think." Ronald threw him-
self upon his knees, and words of earnest but inco-
herent prayer burst from him.

His father turned away, — he could not mock him.

The long, shrill, well-known whistle I Ronald
started up.


« 'Tis he ! Goff ! " exclaimed Captain Vivian. « He
comes to know your determination."

Ronald's face had recovered its expression of calm
resolution. " Tell him that I will not do evil that
good may come. Father, God grant you repentance
and pardon."

He would have rushed away, but a powerful grasp
arrested his movements. " We will talk of this again,
in another place ; you go with me now to the Grange."

Ronald had no means of escape. They were met
at the foot of the cliff by Goff. A hasty glance and
murmured words told that the interview had been
fruitless, and Ronald had no will to enter into ex-
planation with his father's base accomplice.

They reached the Grange. Captain Vivian led the
way into the house. He had not uttered a word on
the way. Now he said, moodily, " We have much to
talk of still. Ten minutes hence I will call you, and
you shall hear more of my plans ; in the meantime
you will wait in your room." Ronald hurried to his
chamber unspeakably thankful for the few moments
of rest and solitude. He did not know that he was
watched, he did not see that his steps were followed ;
but as once more he knelt by the side of his rough
bed, seeking relief in prayer, he heard the heavy lock
of his door turned on the outside, and realised that
he was a prisoner.



The same glorious sunrise which Ronald had beheld
as he walked along the beach was watched also by
Bertha Campbell, whilst she stood at her bed-room
window. Yet to her, as to him, it brought but little
perception of beauty.

She had stood there very late on the preceding
night, and she had stationed herself there again long
before dawn ; and now she was lingering still with
that heavy load of wearing suspense and responsi-
bility, which deadens both heart and intellect to every
sense but that of wretchedness.

Bertha had but a woman's power, and even that
had never been fully exercised. She did not know
what she could do, and she was not confident what
she ought to do. That last night had been a terrible
trial. Mrs. Campbell's nervous, angry uneasiness,
the children's fears, and her own infinitely worse fore-
bodings, were all to be borne ; and they were borne
with Bertha's characteristic composure, but the trial
did not work the less inwardly. Messages were sent,
and men dispatched in all directions, and every ne-
cessary inquiry was made ; and at length, about half-
past eleven o'clock, Captain Vivian and Ronald made
their appearance at the Lodge, to announce that they
had traced Clement to the shore, wliere he had been


seen in company with some strange men, supposed to
be a party from Cleve, but beyond this no tidings
had been heard. Mrs. Campbell found comfort in this.
It proved, she said, that he had not fallen over
the cliffs, or been drowned. She thought it might
be a boy's freak, — perhaps planned for the very pur-
pose of frightening them, and she confidently antici-
pated his return the next day; but Bertha's mind
had, from the beginning, been more harassed by the
idea of his being led into evil company than by the
dread of an accident ; and the information only
confirmed her worst forebodings, except that it
seemed to exonerate Captain Vivian and Goff from
any share in misleading him. She had parted from
Ronald with the earnest assurance, on his part, that
he would, with the earliest dawn of light, prosecute
his inquiries, and would not rest till they were satis-
fied ; and then she had gone to rest, but not to sleep.
Conscience, stimulated by anxiety, was busy with
reproaches, and, perhaps, not all unfounded. She felt
that she had not watched over Clement rightly ; she
had lived apart from him, allowing herself to be en-
grossed with interests peculiar to herself, and not
realising that, having been placed towards him in
the position of a mother, or, at least, of an elder sister,
she Avas called upon for sympathy which should draw
him out, and make his home happy. Mr. Lester had
often warned her that irritation and coldness might
drive him to seek amusement from home ; and yet
she had not always, — she had very seldom, indeed,
— been able to command herself. So she had thrown
him entirely upon Ella's companionship ; and this, —


wayward, indolent, proud, and self-indulgent, — had
tended to strengthen his faults, and made him fall a
more easy victim to slight temptations.

Doubtless Bertha exaggerated her own shortcom-
ings, and ascribed to them worse consequences than
could properly be said to fall to their share. "We are
all responsible for our misdoings, whatever may be
the defects of those set over us ; and Clement had
received instruction and warnings sufficient to keep
him from evil, if he had been inclined to attend to
them. But it is nevertheless true, and it is one of
the great mysteries of our present state of being,
that the influence which we exercise without thought,
daily and hourly, is working, either for good or ill,
upon the moral character, and consequently upon the
eternal condition of those with whom we dwell.

We go on, it may be, sinning and repenting, —
making faint resolutions, and breaking them, ftincy-
ing we are in the right way, and that if we offisnd,
our offences are those of human infirmity, upon which
God will look mercifully ; and so, searching only into
our own hearts, we are, upon the whole, satisfied.

But there is another reckoning, — it will, be seen
at the Judgment Day, — which tells the effect of every
hasty word, every proud, cold look or tone, upon the
hearts of those who dwell with us. God have mercy
upon us when that revelation is made !

Even now its bitterness is, at times, forestalled.
Petulance, coldness, selfishness, proud reserve, an over-
weening love of power, labour silently, day by day, in
raising up barriers in our homes ; and at length some
unlooked-for circumstance shows us that the work is


done, — that we have estranged affection, and lost
respect; it may be that we have saved ourselves,
but ruined the souls intrusted to us.

Not that all which has been said could be appli-
cable to the case of Bertha Campbell. With her the
evil was but in its infancy, and she was beginning
to open her eyes to it, before Clement's unlooked-for
disappearance had called forth her self-reproach so
bitterly. But it was quite true that Clement had
often been induced to linger with Ronald, or to idle
his time upon the shore, because Bertha's cold words,
and constant habit of finding fault, made home dis-
tasteful to him. It was quite true that his indolence
and wilfulness had been fostered, because Bertha,
by never taking any interest in his pursuits, had
thrown him entirely upon Ella for sympathy ; and
now, when foreseeing the fatal consequences which
might arise from such apparently trivial circum-
stances, it was not to be supposed that she could
exactly discriminate what her own share in the evil
had been.

They were very mournful moments which she
passed standing by the window, watching, as she
thought, but in reality lost in reverie ; and the sun,
as it rose higher in the eastern sky, brought to her
mind only a burdensome sense of chill and darkness in
her own heart, rendered more evident by the contrast
of external brightness. She was physically weary
also ; her rest had been broken, and tlie atmosphere
of a December morning, though the season was un-
usually mild, made even the fur cloak in which she
had wrapped herself a very insufficient covering



Yet it required an effort to dress, and prepare for
the business of the day. All order seemed broken up :
she did not know what to do, — what to think of ;
and this to a mind usually regulated like clock-work,
was a considerable addition to every other trouble.

The post was late, and Mrs. Campbell's excitement
much increased in consequence. The point to which
every one looked was Mr. Lester's return, and this,
Mrs. Campbell now asserted, was impossible. There
were no letters, and, if he did not write, it was cer-
tain he would not come. It was in vain that Bertha
pointed to the clock, and showed that the postman
was only five minutes behind his time, which was
a common occurrence, and therefore there was no
need to despair. Mrs. Campbell's fears were as
quickly excited as her hopes, and her anxiety showed
itself by incessant suggestions and orders, mingled
with complaints of Bertha's quietness, wdiich she
called indifference, and reproaches against Mr. Lester
for being absent ; whilst every now and then she
wandered into murmurs against General Vivian, and
reminiscences of things said and done in by-gone
years, which had doubtless, in her own mind, some
connection with the present uneasiness, yet which
it was not very easy to follow.

Bertha bore all quietly, not attempting to reason,
but listening to what was said, with her head turned
towards the window. At last she observed, in a very
calm voice, " I think that is Rachel coming up the

Louisa was at the front door with lightning speed.
" A letter, Rachel ! — have you heard ? "


"Yes, he comes to-night," was Rachel's answer,
but her face was only partially brightened ; yet she
followed Louisa quickly to the parlour, and meeting
Bertha at the threshold, repeated the fact instantly.

" Thank God," was Bertha's whispered ejaculation,
and she kissed Kachel heartily ; but it seemed as
though she had no power to say more.

" Come here, my dear — sit down by me : tell me
what message your papa sends," said Mrs. Campbell,
beckoning Rachel to her.

Rachel sat down and unfolded her letter, with a
slight feeling of pride at being the bearer of an
important communication.

Bertha sat opposite, her breath coming quick and

"He says," began Rachel, reading aloud, — "my friend
seems better, and I think it possible I may bring him
down with me for a little change ; we may be at home
to-morrow night. Don't depend upon us, but don't be
surprised if you see us." — " That is very nice, isn't
it?" she added, looking up doubtfully in Mrs. Camp-
bell's face, as if nothing could be very nice just then
to any one.

"Yes, my dear; but I wish, — oh, dear! Bertha,
what time does the coach come in ? "

" There are two coaches," replied Bertha. " Mr.
Lester doesn't say which he shall come by."

Rachel turned immediately to Mrs. Campbell to
answer the question : " Papa comes by the five
o'clock coach generally, — when he does go away, tliat
is. Dear Miss Campbell," and she addressed herself

O 2


to Bertha, with an accent of gentle sympathy, "won't
it be a comfort to you to have him back ?"

" Yes, great ; but the letter with the receipted bill
may go astray."

Even at that moment of anxiety, Bertha's mind
would fix itself upon any thing which happened to
be irregular.

" Oh ! it won't signify. Every thing will be right
when papa comes." Rachel paused, for she was think-
ing of Clement, yet could not bring herself to men-
tion his name. She repeated again : " Every thing
will be right when papa comes."

" Do you think Clement will come with him ? "
asked the blundering Fanny, who had only paid a
half attention to what was being said.

Louisa caught up her words : " Fanny, how silly !
You always do say such silly things. \Yhat bill was
it, Eachel ? "

" Never mind, my dear ; it is not your concern,"
said Bertha, alive directly to her duty as monitor.

Louisa still persisted: "But I thought, Aunt
Bertha, that you didn't send the bill ; it was in your

" What bill, Louisa ? You astonish me. What do
you mean by prying into every person's concerns in
this way ? "

"I didn't pry. Aunt Bertha" — and the angry flush
Tushed to Louisa's cheeks ; " but if you remem-
ber, when I told you yesterday that Anne at the
Eectory was still fussing about a lost paper, you
said, ' Oh ! she needn't trouble herself ; Rachel
knows all about it : I took it and put it in my


pocket-book.' I remember quite well that was what
you said ; and I told it to Anne when I saw her, as
we came back from our walk."

"I wish you to have no gossip with Anne of any
kind," observed Bertha, quickly ; " I won't have you
speak to her."

" I don't think Anne gossips more than other peo-
ple," muttered Louisa.

" She does, though," exclaimed Fanny, anxious to
put in her opinion upon the state of passing affairs.
" She was talking a long, long time to Goff last even-
ing, after we came home — I saw her from my
window; and he looked so ugly and fierc e, I wond
she wasn't frightened at him."

" I want to hear no more of either of them," ob-
served Bertha. She turned to her mother, and
added : " I am thinking of going to the Hall. Miss
Vivian will be anxious to know what we have heard
and done."

"I don't know what there is to tell," replied
Mrs. Campbell ; " I can't understand myself what
any one is doing."

"The gardener is gone off to Cleve, trying to
trace the men who were on the shore last night,"
answered Bertha, without endeavouring to excuse
herself; "and there is another man sent to give
notice to the police ; and Job Horner is over the
hills by Barney Wood's cottage ; and Ronald said he
and his father would search along the cliffs, and
keep a watch upon the beach. I don't think we can
do anything more till Mr. Lester comes, — only wait ;"
and she sighed deeply.

o 3


" I wish you could cheer one up, Bertha ; you
always take the black side. Poor boy! I am sure
he will be back soon. But those dreadful men must
have led him into it for a freak. I am sure he will
be back this evening. Where did you say you were

"To the Hall," replied Bertha. "I think some
one ought to see Miss Vivian. Rachel, will you go
with me ? Fanny and Louisa have colds."

Mrs. Campbell, not choosing her consent to be
taken for granted, began to make objections. She
disliked, she said, to be left ; if persons came in, she
shouldn't be able to see them, and Bertha ought to
stay at home and give orders; and Bertha ac-
quiesced, and began to prepare for the children's
lessons. And then Mrs. Campbell changed her mind,
and was surprised that Bertha could be so indifferent,
and thought that all kinds of stories might reach the
Hall if some one did not go and explain matters.
She was in that irritable, nervous state in which
nothing can please, and when to see others quiet is
only an aggravation of suffering. But Bertha felt
that she must do something, if it were only for the
sake of the children. No good could accrue to them
by sitting down in idle lamentations, or walking con-
tinually from one room to the other, and looking out
of every window ; so a compromise with Mrs. Camp-
bell's conflicting wishes was made at last ; and it was
settled that Bertha should wait till after the early
dinner, set the children to their lessons, and hear all
that might be heard of the result of the different
inquiries, and in the afternoon walk with Rachel to


the Hall;Vliilst Louisa and Fanny were left with
their grandmamma.

This was the best arrangement Bertha could think
of, but it did not thoroughly satisfy her. She dis-
liked leaving the children at home, for with Louisa's
curiosity there was always the dread of gossip with
the servants, and though Betsey at the Lodge was
very discreet, the same could not be said of Anne at

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Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellCleve Hall (Volume 2) → online text (page 12 of 26)