Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

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the Rectory. In spite of her promises of amendment,
Bertha had reason to believe that she was by no
means thoroughly to be trusted ; and the little hint
which Fanny had thrown out respecting the last
evening's conversation with GofF, rested in her mind
with a very uneasy feeling. Anne had nothing to
tell, so far as Bertha knew, which all the world
might not hear ; but GofF's constant communications
made it evident that he must have some object in
keeping up the acquaintance. Bertha resolved that
Mr. Lester should be put thoroughly upon his guard,
and Anne's place was already, in her own mind,
vacant. That was not, however, to be thought of at
present ; Mr. Lester was to return in the evening ;
and then all this trouble, anxiety, and responsibility
would be lessened, even if before that Clement did
not make his appearance.

o 4



Bertha and Racliel had a very quiet walk. They
were both too thoughtful to talk — at least, at first.
Rachel often looked round, fancying she might hear
or see something of Clement. Bertha went on,
apparently noticing nothing, but in reality with
eye and ear thoroughly open, whilst the mind was
dwelling upon the most painful and, as it might have
been supposed, absorbing topics. And absorbing they
were, only all connected with the one idea of Clement's
absence. She thought of what he might have been
led to do ; of his father's horror ; Mr. Lester's pain ;
General Vivian's indignation ; the downfal of that
fabric of hope which for the last few months they
had been building. And then her own ^hare in it !
That came back again and again, and always with
the despairing feeling that she did not know how
to amend, that she gave offence without meaning it,
and had no power of expressing her feelings, and
was thoroughly misunderstood — even by Edward
Vivian, for whom the best years of her life had been
sacrificed. At length the lonely feeling could be
borne no longer, and it came out to Eachel, in
answer to a passing observation of delight at the
prospect of her father's return. " Yes, it will be
very nice for you. It must be very delightful to
have some one to whom you can say every thing."


" So pleasant ! " exclaimed Racliel ; and tlien,
checking herself as though it were wrong to think of
any thing pleasant just then, she said, "But it won't
be pleasant to-night, — unless we have news, that is."

Bertha avoided the painful allusion, and answered
the first part of the speech : " Very few people have
that happiness, Rachel; you should learn to make
the most of it.'*

" I do try, I hope ; but I suppose grown-up people
don't want it as much as children."

" Yes, they do — quite as much," said Bertha,

" But they don't want human beings to tell things
to, I suppose," replied Rachel, reverently yet timidly.

" They want them, but they don't find them,"
continued Bertlia ; " and that is why they are un-

" I shall tell every thing to papa as long as I have
him," said Rachel ; " but if he were not with me, I
don't think I could go and talk in the same way to
any one else."

" Then you would miss it dreadfully," replied
Bertha. •

" Yes, dreadfully ; I knoAv that. It used to make
me unhappy to think abo|it it, till papa said that love
for him was like a stepping-stone, that it was meant
to teach me how I was to love God ; and since that, I
have tried sometimes, when he has been away, to
think that I had God to go to ; and now and then —
not always, only now and then — it seems as if that
would make up for every thing."


" Ah, yes ! Rachel — now and then ; but what one
wants is to feel it always," said Bertha.

" It would be wonderfully pleasant, wouldn't it ? "
replied Rachel. " How it would help one in the world !
But, dear Miss Campbell, persons who are as good as
you are must always feel it."

" Oh, no, Rachel ; what a mistake ! " and Bertha
stopped suddenly.

Rachel was thoughtful and silent. Presently she
said, without any attempt at a preface, " One day I
was going up the hills, feeling very tired, and trying
so to get on, and then being quite out of breath ; and
at last papa came, and put his hand at my back, and
it made such a difference — I went on almost without
feeling it. And afterwards papa reminded me of it,
and said it was like the different ways in which I
could go through life ; trying to overcome difficulties
by myself, and thinking I had a point to reach, and
then God would love me, and be pleased with me —
that, he said, was acting from duty alone ; or else, feel-
ing that God was really with me now, helping me on
at every step ; and loving me, not because I had done
the things, but because I was trying to do them — and
that, he said, would be acting from love. And, do you
know, Miss Campbell — it is so odd — I have had it in
my mind ever since ; and when I feel cross and lazy —
and I do very often — then I think that God is quite
close to me. And I have a kind of fancy — I hope it
does not sound irreverent — that He is really putting
His hand at the back of my heart, and telling me, that
if I will move, He will keep it there, and make the


tiresome things easy. Is tliere any harm in such

" No harm, dear Rachel" — and a melancholy smile
crossed Bertha's face — "if you can really keep such
notions in you head."

" And it is true, isn't it ? " continued Rachel, ear-
nestly. "Not, of course, quite as I say — that is only
my way of fancying it ; but you know God does love
us now, and help us on, and make things easy."

"Yes, of course" — but Bertha's answer was not
quite as hearty as Rachel had expected ; yet she
went on, as was her wont, with her own thoughts.

" It makes such a difference to me now I think of
these things. When I only try to do what is right,
it all seems hard, and I get cross with myself because
I don't do all I want to do — it is just like a cold,
sharp, March wind blowing over one ; but when I
have the other feeling, it is like sunshine, and I go
on so happily. It is quite a pleasure to do disagree-
able things, because, you know, the Hand is there to
help me ; and when they are done, I can turn round
and see that God is pleased. I wish I could make you
understand ; it is almost like seeing, it is so real."

" Yes, very real, undoubtedly."

The full, implicit, childlike belief lit up Rachel's
thoughtful eyes with a brilliancy that was even
startling — and the flush of excitement was on her
cheek ; and in her eagerness she paused in her walk,
and resting her hand on her companion's arm, looked
at her with a gaze which thrilled through Bertha's
heart, for it might have been the expression of an
ancjel's love.


Strange ! the power which touches one heart by
the influence of another. That look did its work.
Not then — Bertha's thoughts were too occupied, her
heart was too full of home cares to understand it —
but it lingered by her till other days, haunting her
with its only half-understood meaning ; it did more
than Mr. Lester's instruction, more than Mildred
Vivian's suggestions — for it was the soul speaking
to the soul ; and He who made the soul, gave its
language a power beyond words. It was Bertha's
first vivid perception of the softening influence of the
motive of love.

The short conversation ended there as suddenly as
it had begun. Bertha felt, though she did not quite
know why, that she could not continue it ; and Rachel
had said what was in her mind, and relapsed into
silence. They walked for a short distance ; Bertha
jDondering upon Rachel's simplicity, wishing that
Ella was like her, and thinking that she might have
been if she had been brought up in the same way.

That, however, was a mistake ; the two cha-
racters were essentially unlike, and what was ex-
tremely good for one would have been very bad for
the other.

Mildred Vivian's personal rules and suggestions as
to strict self-scrutiny were absolutely necessary for
Ella, because she never took the trouble to think
about herself at all. They would have been injurious
to Rachel, by engendering self-consciousness, and
irritating a naturally sensitive conscience into a state
of constant scruple and morbid search into the state
of her own feelings. Ella required to be taught to


live in herself — Rachel out of herself. But Bertha was
not quick in perceiving such distinctions, and the
medicine which was good for one, she would have
considered good for all.

Her meditations were not left long uninterrupted ;
a man's quick tread was heard behind her, whilst at
the same moment a rough voice called out, " Why,
Miss Campbell, you walk so fast, one would think
you were running for a wager."

Bertha stopped, telling Rachel to go on, and let
her speak to Captain Vivian alone. He had proba-
bly, she thought, something to communicate to her
about Clement ; and since his kindness in the search
of the preceding evening, she felt a strange mixture
of suspicion and cordiality towards him.

Captain Vivian came up and held out his hand :
" Good-day to you. Miss Campbell. I was thinking
of coming up to the Lodge, but I was afraid it would
be no good."

" Then you have heard nothing ? " said Bertha, in
a tone of keen disappointment.

He shook his head : " Two of my men have been
out, round by Cleve, trying to hear something of the
fellows we traced last night ; and Ronald's off some-
where. We must have some tidings before night."

" I trust so ;" but Bertha's tone was not hopeful.

" Come, cheer up ; it's no use to be cast down,"
continued Captain Vivian, rather good-naturedly.
" 'Tis but a boy's freak, after all. I'd have done the
same at his age. But where may you be going
now ? "


" To the I-Iall. Miss Vivian and tlie General will
be anxious."

" You have heard, of course, that the old General
is ill," said Captain Vivian.

" Yes, we had a message. He had an attack of
faintness last night, but he is better this morning."

" He does not leave his room though, and at his
age attacks of faintness are serious matters."

" Yes, but Miss Vivian doesn't seem alarmed. Is
there any thing else you think we can do ? "

" Nothing, unless when do you expect Mr.

Lester home ? "

Notwithstanding Bertha's newly-awakened friend-
liness, she had an instinct of caution, and answered
ambiguously, that it was not quite certain.

" It ought to be. Haven't you sent a message to
him ? "

" No." Bertha was caught in a snare then, and
felt herself obliged to add, " He may be at home this

" Ah ! very good. The sooner he comes the better.
And his friend comes with him, doesn't he ? "

" I can't say." Bertha looked up in surprise.

Captain Vivian laughed : " You'll think I have a
wonderful knowledge of what goes on ; but it so hap-
pened that one of my men was at the Rectory just
now, about this business, and heard say that Mr.
Lester was expected, and perhaps a friend with him ;
so you see I'm no magician after all."

" No." Yet Bertha felt uncomfortable.

" They'll be here by the five o'clock coach, I sup-


" Probably, if they come at all."

Captain Vivian considered a moment ; then his
eye glanced at Rachel, who was standing a few paces
off, just sufficient to be beyond reach of hearing :
" You have a little companion with you, I see. Is
she going to the Hall, too ? "

" Yes ; we are rather in a hurry. I must wish you
good-b'ye, if you really have nothing more to say."

" Nothing more just now; but I may have. What
time shall you be coming back from the Hall ? "

" I can't quite tell ; it depends on how long I may
be kept there."

"But you'll not come home in the dark, I sup-


" I shall have a servant with me, if I do," replied
Bertha, rather surprised at his thoughtfulness.

"Oh!" Not a very well-satisfied "Oh!" and
Captain Vivian's face bore a gloomy and troubled ex-
pression, though he tried to laugh, and said, " I
would offer myself as an escort, only I know you
would not accept me."

Bertha showed involuntarily how she shrank from
the suggestion, and she began a hurried excuse. He
laughed again: "Of course I don't offer myself;
only perchance you'll be anxious to know what we've
been doing, and as it will be rather out of my way to
come to the Lodge, perhaps we might manage to meet
again half way. What do you say ? Shall it be the
turning into Encombe Lane, just as you get out of
Cleve Wood?"

" I can't say ; I don't know." Bertha did not at
all like to promise a second interview. Even this,


short though it was, made her nervous and im-

" Ronald promised to let me know every thing,"
she added, after a moment's thought. " Perhaps you
could be kind enough to send him to the Lodge, even
if you can't come yourself. I don't at all know what
time I shall be returning from the Hall myself, or
whether it will be before dusk or after ; — the days
close in so soon."

" I can't say for Ronald ; he's oiF somewhere. He
might'nt be back before midnight ; any how, I dare
say you'll hear news before long."

He turned from her, without even wishing her

Bertha fancied she had made him angry, and feared
she might be throwing away a hope for Clement.
But in another minute he returned : " I say, do you
chance to have an almanac in your pocket ? I wanted
to make a reckoning about some sea matters I happen
to be acquainted with, which might help us to a
glimpse of Clement."

Bertha took out her pocket-book, and asked what
he wanted to know.

" I can't explain exactly. Perhaps you'd just let
me look one minute," and. he held out his hand
for it.

Villain though he was, the moment was too
anxious for him to be quite calm. The faltering
tone of his voice struck Bertha, and she instinctively

" Oh ! I beg pardon ; I didn't mean to pry into


" There are no secrets," said Bertha, slightly blush-
ing ; and not knowing Avhat excuse to make, she
was on the point of giving it to him. At that in-
stant Rachel ran up to her : " Oh ! Miss Campbell,
some one so like Clement — so very like! He has
just gone down the lane to the Common : do come !"
And Bertha forgot 'every thing else, hurriedly re-
placed the book in her pocket, and ran after Rachel.

It was happy for her that Captain Vivian's mut-
tered exclamation was lost upon her. Standing upon
a bank overlooking the Common, he satisfied himself,
by his small telescope, that Rachel was quite mis-
taken, and then walked away across the fields to the

He went on, looking neither to the right nor left —
gloom on his brow, passion and fierce disappointment
in his heart. Could he but have possessed himself of
the paper, so close Avithin his grasp, all might have
been well. But the opportunity was gone, and now
what remained ?

The question could only be solved by an interview
with Goif, and to his cottage Captain Vivian repaired.
His own mind was bent upon escape. Perhaps he
was weary of the load which for eighteen years had
burdened his breast, reminding him day and night
that the hour of discovery and retribution miglit be
at hand ; perhaps, too, the morning's conversation
with Ronald had touched some latent feeling of re-
morse, which made him long to flee not only from
danger, but from the scenes associated with the pangs
of a guilty conscience.

But the influence of the comrade with whom he

VOL. II. p


had connected himself, was more powerful than the
weak impulse of a heart softened only because it
despaired of success. When told of the failure in the
attempt to obtain the paper from Bertha, Goff only
scoffed at Captain Vivian's cowardice, and insisted
that if the undertaking were intrusted to him, he
would even now gain possession of it before the
evening closed in.

They had succeeded, he said, hitherto ; Clement
was in their power, a hostage. Through him any
terms which they chose to impose were certain to be
accepted by Mr. Vivian. Why was all to be given
lip without one more effort ? Even if they failed as
regarded the paper, he would, if it depended upon
himself, brave the question, and by threatening Cle-
ment's life, force Mr. Vivian to destroy it. It was not
even certain, indeed, that the paper was that which
they imagined — notwithstanding all they had learnt
from Mr. Lester's servant, they were acting only
upon suspicion ; and if it were not, nothing could be
more senseless then to flee and leave the game in
Iheir enemy's hand.

His arguments were plausible, and aided by one
which he had always found sufficient to stimulate
the sinking spirit of his companion. To bind
Mr. Vivian to secresy would be to complete the
revenge already taken, by shutting him out for ever
from the hope of restoration to the General's favour ;
whilst by driving him from Encombe, and probably
from England, they would be left free to carry on
their schemes as before. Goff" dwelt upon these
points cunningly and successfully ; yet it was long


before any fixed agreement could be attained between
minds so differently bent, and each with a deeply-
rooted selfishness of purpose — Goff, desperately bold,
and willing to run all hazards for the furtlier-
ance of his own schemes, and the opportunity of
pursuing his profitable trade at Encombe ; Captain
Vivian shrinking from the prospect of meeting the
man whom he had injured, dreading the evils which
his misdeeds had brought upon him, and brooding in
bitterness of heart over Ronald's alienation and his
own degrading position.

A compromise between the two was at length
effected. It was arranged that Captain Vivian should
linger upon the shore or amongst the cliffs till dusk,
taking care to conceal himself carefully from obser-
vation ; whilst Goff should be on the watch for the
return of Bertha from the Hall, Avhen he was to
make another attempt to obtain possession of the
precious paper. In the event of success, immediate
notice was to be given to Captain Vivian, who might
then put in practice the scheme which he had so
long phmned — meet Mr. Vivian, threaten him with
Clement's perilous position, as certain to be engaged
in a smuggling affray, and induce him, in the hope of
saving his boy from danger and public disgrace, to
agree to any terms of silence with regard to the past
which his cousin might demand.

If, on the contrary, tlie important document on
which so much depended could not be secured.
Captain Vivian still insisted upon escaping without
delay. A boat was therefore to be in readiness
which would carry him off to his vessel. In that

P 2


case, Clement was to be left to his fate. Ronald, the
only person likely to help him, was a prisoner, and to
remain so till night; there would, consequently, be
no one to interfere with the iniquitous scheme, so
cruelly laid, to ruin him in his grandfather's eyes,
and raise, if possible, a still more formidable barrier
than that which now existed between Mr. Vivian
and the General. All minor arrangements as to
Ronald's release and future movements were left
till the main points were settled. Goff agreed ap-
parently to the plans proposed ; but he had his own
views for the future, and his own plans as to their
furtherance. They were such as could not be com-
municated ; yet in the secresy of his heart there
lay a desperate and fixed resolution that, come what
might, the stake for which he had already dared so
much should not be yielded without a struggle even,
if it were necessary, to death.



Gloom and silence brooded over the oak-pannelled
apartments, the deserted lobbies, and mazy corridors
of Cleve Hall. Stealthily passed the measured foot-
steps of the old servants ; and when, occasionally, a
lighter or a quicker tread ventured to break upon
the stillness, it seemed a profanation of the solemn
grandeur of the stately mansion. General Vivian
would not leave his dressing-room; Greaves waited
upon him, Mildred sat with him, Ella occasionally
went in and out with messages. He was not ill, it
was said, and he would not consent to see a doctor.
That was not surprising ; he hated doctors, and pro-
fessed to have no faith in them ; and he was never
known to be nervous about himself. He often talked
of death, but never seemed to realise in himself the
possibility of dying ; and he was not going to die
now, as far as any one could judge. The attack of
the preceding evening had passed and left no very
marked effects. Yet he would neither leave his room
nor enter into conversation, nor do anything except
attend to what he called necessary business. That
he appeared to be engrossed in, only Mildred saw that
his eye was often fixed as in inward thought when
it seemed to be resting on the papers or book before


him ; whilst his hearing, lately rather impaired,
had suddenly acquired a singular keenness — the
distant opening or shutting of a door, the roll of a
waggon, even the shouts of children in the dis-
tance, were all observed. No, whatever there
might be of mental suiFering, there was nothing of
death in the quick flash of his eye and the instan-
taneous turn of his head; but rather life, — vivid,
active, most keenly sensitive, yet crusted over by an
exterior so petrified that only those who watched
him narrowly, and understood him by the experience
of years, could have traced the current that flowed
underneath it.

Mildred seldom sat with him in the morning ; he
said generally that it was an interruption to him,
but now he could scarcely bear her out of his sight.
Yet he spoke to her seldom, and tlien never upon the
subject so paramount in its importance to both. It
had come, and it was gone. Who could tell what lie
thought of it, or how it would influence him.

Mildred was brave by nature — the gift of moral
courage had been her's from infancy — yet she could
not venture to break in upon this ominous silence.
Her father's character was still an unknown and
unexplored region. Though they had lived togetlicr,
one in interest and in love, for years, she could
rarely venture to speculate upon the way in which
events, or words, or actions would be taken by him.
She could not say but that by attempting to turn the
stream into one channel, it would, in resistance, be
diverted into the opposite course. All with him was
artificial ; — not untrue or put on for show ; but his was


a heart wliicli had been drilled into obedience to
self-imposed laws, and the free instincts of nature
had been curbed till it might have seemed that they
had ceased to act.

Long and weary were the hours that morning ;
memory lingering upon the past, fear busy v/ith the
future, and a sharp, present anxiety goading the
natural despondency incident to such a position into
suffering which it was almost impossible to conceal.

Clement's disappearance had been known at the
Hall on the preceding evening, yet not so as to oc-
casion any peculiar uneasiness. But in the morning,
soon after Mildred and Ella had finished their break-
fast together, another message brought the intel-
ligence that he had not been at home all night, that
a search had been instituted, jDonds dragged, mes-
sengers sent out, — but hitherto all in vain, except
that there was a report of his having been seen in
company with some desperate-looking men on the
road to Cleve.

Mildred's head turned sick and faint with fear.
Almost her first thought was of her fiither, and strict
orders were instantly given that the General was
not to be alarmed, — it might do him injury. Greaves,
who was the only person that ever waited upon him,
promised to be careful. Yet Mildred could not be
satisfied unless she sat in his room; and it was a
source of infinite thankfulness that, on this most
trying morning, he was not only willing but even
desirous of having her with him. Still, every time
the door opened she ftmcied that some one was about
to enter with painful tidings ; and Ella's careworn
p 4


face was sufficient in itself to have excited the
General's remark, if his thoughts had not been other-
wise and so intently preoccupied.

" You had better sit down quietly and read ; you
disturb me, coming in and out so often," said the
General, impatiently, as Ella entered for about the
sixth time, to glance at Mildred, and tell her by mute
signs that nothing new had been heard.

" Thank you, Grandpapa, but I have my music to

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Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellCleve Hall (Volume 2) → online text (page 13 of 26)