Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

Cleve Hall (Volume 2) online

. (page 17 of 26)
Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellCleve Hall (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

not men to give up their prize without a struggle.
They will put your boy first, thinking it for their
safety, and that the preventives will deal gently with
him. Trust to that if you will. His life is in
danger ; and should he escape, his deeds will be
blazoned over the country, as a disgrace to the proud
name he bears."

" Serpent ! " exclaimed Mr. Vivian ; " and it is
your doing."

"That matters not. If it has been mine, it will
be yours. Say but the word, and the smuggler
lies quietly at her anchorage ; the preventives are
outwitted ; and a boat brings your boy on shore,
with nothing against him but the rumour of his

"Your price?— name it!" The tone was agony
but ill concealed by a cold haughtiness.

" I might take you at your word and ruin you, but
you are poor enough already " — and Captain Vivian


laughed mockingly. "I have no wish to injure
you ; I require only that, whatever your purpose
may be in returning to Encombe, there shall be no
raking up of the grievances of past days — a small
fiivour to demand for saving your son from disgrace
and it may be death."

" A small favour, indeed ; too small if it had not
a hidden meaning. John" — and all the bitterness
of long-smothered enmity broke out in the words —
" from my heart I distrust you."

"From my heart 1 hate you might have been
better," was the sarcastic reply.

" No ; I may have had cause enough, but God
knows I have forgiven, — I would forgive, if I dared.
You have played a desperate game against me. I
see it now, for my eyes have been opened. It was
you who ruined me with my father."

"And you who ruined me with the woman who
should have been my wife." Then with a taunting
sneer, which perhaps concealed the pang of some
painful memories, Captain Vivian continued : " Let
by-gones be by-gones ; it is all I ask."

" And if it is only by recalling by-gones that I can
explain myself to my father, then to promise is my

" And not to promise, is your boy's."

Mr. Vivian turned away to control the agony of
his feelings. " We will endeavour to understand each
other," he continued, after a moment's pause. " It is
useless to endeavour to persuade me that the stipula-
tion you demand is of no consequence. It is, and it
must be of the very utmost consequence to me ; yet,


do not think to deceive me, too well I know that it is
far more so to you."

" Prove it ! prove it ! " exclaimed Captain Vivian,
scornfully. He clenched his hand, and muttered be-
tween his closed teeth, '' Would I have put myself in
your power, if you could prove it ? "

"I care not for legal proof; but were the deed
hidden in the depths of the earth, it should come
forth to clear me with my father, and to be an
eternal dishonour to you. I make no stipulations
with a forger."

" As you will." Captain Vivian slowly took a
match box from his pocket, and held it as if about to
strike the light : " The first blaze, and the boat
makes for the shore."

"Stay! stay!" exclaimed Mr. Vivian. "There
may be a compromise."

" No compromise ! Silence for ever with the
General and with the world upon all points — sworn
for yourself, your sister, Mr. Lester, and Bertha

" My oath must be for myself ; I cannot bind

" It must be given by them also, — and to-night,
before two more hours have passed."

" ]My father is generous ; he will never raise a word
against you when he finds that I am under a promise
of secrecy."

" General Vivian's generosity! Ask me rather to
trust to the mercy of the winds and of the waves.
Silence or disgrace : make your choice between


He struck the light. Mr. Vivian caught him by
the arm, and the movement brought the burning
match in contact with the light dry brushwood. The
flame sprang into the air, and fast and wide spread
the rushing blaze, hissing and crackling among the
withered leaves and the broken twigs, — and far away
across the sea gleamed the cold light of the moon, —
darkened by one black speck, as the smuggling-boat
made its way over the surging waters to the shore.



The shore was safe, for it was deserted before the
boat had landed. The four men who rowed, had
loaded themselves with the tubs, and were making
their way towards the cliff. A fifth lingered behind,
and with him came Clement Vivian. He walked
slowly and doubtfully, — not with the eager energy
of a boy in the height of his adventurous spirits.
His step was unequal ; his head turned quickly from
one side to the other. Perhaps he was planning an
escape, but his companion kept close by his side and
urged him on.

They reached the foot of the cliffs, and the men
paused and gathered together. Mark Wood was
foremost. They looked up at the cliff, then took a
survey of the shore.

" Safe ! now for it ; along the ledge to the cave !
Come, youngster ; " and the man who seemed to have
charge of Clement stood back to put him first : " It's
plain sailing."

Clement delayed : " I have had my frolic ; I will
go no farther."

" What ! that's new talking ! — up I say." He would
have pushed Clement forward, but the boy drew back
indignantly : " Touch me again, if you dare."


" On, young Master— on, for your life ; " and Mark
Wood drew near, and pointed to a projecting angle of
the cliff above them, where a dark immovable spot
was to be seen.

The men as with one consent began to scale the
cliff, not by the path, but by ledges, corners, shelving
rocks, often with a footing which a goat could scarcely
have held; and not in the direction of the cave, but
away beyond the Headland, to a point which all
seemed to know as by instinct. They reached a
smooth ledge, wide enough for them to stand toge-
ther. The cliff rose perpendicularly behind them ;
before them a huge rock, which seemed about to pre-
cipitate itself into the sea, threw a dark shadow on
their resting-place. They waited to take breath.
Clement, who had followed them with difficulty, ap-
proached Mark : " Is there danger ? Are the pre-
ventives abroad ? "

" Above and around, that black head was on the
look-out, — now on."

Before Clement could ask another question, Mark
was leading the way again, but now in a different
direction, towards the cave. He stopped after he
had gone some paces, and muttered a few words to
Clement's first guide. The man evidently differed
from him, and Mark spoke angrily, and went on by
himself. The four who were left kept close to
Clement. A sound like a call, which might, how-
ever, have been nothing more than the wind, fell on
the ear, and it was answered by Clement's guide.
The others interchanged a few words : " The cave's
free for us!"


" Was that the cry ? "

" Yes ; didn't you hear ? "

" All right!" and they went on.

They were drawing near the cave. From the west
side it was difficult of approach — the ledge was
narrow, and the angle by which it was entered sharp.
The men settled the tubs on their shoulders, and
seemed prepared for a false step. Mark Wood, who
had been considerably in advance, came back. Cle-
ment heard him say : " I've a doubt that we're in for
it, Hale ; let him go."

" Go, and peach," was Hale's answer. " You are
a fool ; on with you." He thrust Mark forward, and
then looked back to Clement : " Keep close, young-
ster. If I throw you the tub, you'll know how to
carry it ; " and they moved forward again, one by
one, with slow and cautious steps, clinging to the
cliff, and once or twice sliding where the footing was
too unsteady for support.

Mark turned the corner first ; Clement and Hale
followed. They were then before the entrance of the

" Now, youngster ! I must be left free." Hale took
the tub from his shoulder.

" Best not," whispered Mark, drawing him within
the passage : " look below."

A body of the coast-guard were at the foot of the
cliff ; a little behind lingered Mr. Vivian.

"In with you, man, — in.: clear the way;" and
Hale forced Mark into the cave, and tossed the
tub upon the ground. The others followed his ex-


A shout rose from below, and the preventive men
hurried up the cliff, followed by Mr. Vivian.

" Stand to it boldly ! for your life." The smug-
glers placed themselves before the cave, and Clement
stood with them, — his spirit excited by the danger.

" Clement ! Master Clement ! this way," shouted
Mark from within ; but Clement did not or would
not hear. The preventive men were nearly on a level
with the Cave — Dennis and Ryan foremost.

" A step nearer, and we fire ! " shouted the smug-
glers, and the preventive men drew back.

There was a mutual pause. Whilst the two parties
confronted each other, Mr. Vivian unperceived,
scrambling, clinging to the side of the cliff, advanced
to the smugglers' rear, and seized Hale's arm. The
preventive men rushed forward. Hale strove violently
to extricate himself, and his companions came to his
rescue. A desperate, deadly struggle began.

" Clement ! Clement ! " called out a voice of thunder,
in the tumult, " up the cliff, — to the left ! for the
sake of Heaven — for your father's sake!" and the
boy, terrified yet excited, looked round him with the
impulse to obey.

" Not to the cliffs — through the cave ; Mark Wood
waits you there."

It was Ronald Vivian, who standing before the
cave, spoke hurriedly, yet in tones low, and deep,
and clear.

Clement paused for one moment in indecision, and
the grasp of Dennis, the preventive man, was laid
upon his collar.

"A prisoner! a prisoner!" he exclaimed; but a

VOL. n. T


sudden blow from Ronald felled him to the ground.
He rose again instantly, and they grappled together.

" Into the cave," shouted Ronald, turning his head
for a second ; and Clement waited no longer.

" Ronald Vivian to be dealt with at last ! " burst
from the lips of Dennis, maddened at recognising the
boy from whose hands the blow had been received.

Mr. Vivian heard the call : " Save him ! — do him no
injury; I will bear you free;" but his call was in

The contest with Hale and his comrades had ended
in Hale's capture. The other smugglers had escaped,
but not without pursuit from the preventive men.
Ryan, however, remained behind, and came to the
assistance of Dennis.

" Yield, or we fire ! " was the cry.

But Ronald fought desperately, for danger to liim
was safety to Clement.

"Yield! Ronald, yield!" called Mr. Vivian, and
he placed himself by his side.

A dark face, not till that moment seen, peered from
behind a rock, and a pistol was levelled at Mr. Vivian's

"Ha! Goff! the scoundrel!" shouted Ryan, catch-
ing the outline of the well-known features. He
moved aside, and a bullet aimed at Mr. Vivian, whizzed
past, and Ronald, struck by it in the shoulder, fell to
the ground.

" Murder ! " The cry echoed wildly amongst the
rocks, as the men, catching a momentary glimpse of
Goff, followed him down the cliff and along the shore.
It was a frantic chase, over the loose shingles, and


rough stones, with, masses of broken cliff impeding
them. Goff kept close by the cliff, the path most
difficult of pursuit. On, with the speed of a maniac,
— for safety or for ruin ; on, to the East Point.
Behind it, in a little cove, lies a small boat ; and there
waits Captain Vivian, ready, eager to carry him to
the vessel which will be his harbour of safety.

He was close upon the Point ; the path was diffi-
cult — the moon had become darkened; he stumbled,
and the delay brought his pursuers near. Their
voices were heard high above the booming of the
waves, and the increasing roar of the wind. Conceal-
ment ! no, it was impossible ; the spot which he had
reached was bare of the sheltering rocks. Escape by
the cliffs ! impossible also ; they rose frowning above
him, — no longer easy of access. He turned towards
the edge of the shore, and shouted long and loud ;
and a little boat manned by one person rounded the
Point. It was lifted high by the waves, then again
it sank, — for a moment it might have been thought
engulphed, — it could not near the beach.

" Rascal ! scoundrel ! " shouted the preventive
men. They were rushing from the cliff; their feet
were crashing the pebbles. He almost felt their
grasp ; — one plunge, and he was breasting the waves
towards the boat. The foaming water rose high, and
he was hidden ; — it broke upon the shore, and his
black, shaggy head was seen rising as a spot in the

Fierce and strong are the angry billows, — they
are bearing him away from the boat. He sees it,
and one hand is uplifted, and a howl of terror comes
T 2


across the watery waste. Pie is struggling, — his
head is tossed as a plaything by the crested waves.
The boat is drawing near : he will be saved, — yes,
he must be ; — his hand is actually touching the boat.
And the grasp is faint, and the waves are strong,
and — the wretched, guilty head moves with one
agonising effort, and sinks, to be lost to sight for



Ronald lay upon the ground, the blood oozing fast
from his shoulder ; by him knelt Mr. Vivian, vainly
endeavouring to stanch the wound. The shouts of the
men, and the cries of pursuit, reached them as distant
echoes. Mr. Vivian thought that Ronald had fainted,
but he was still sensible, only growing weaker and
weaker — his sight becoming dim, his lips refusing
to utter a sound. Mr. Vivian made him rest against
his knee, and spoke to him. There was a feeble
smile upon the cold, white lips ; and Mr. Vivian took
off his coat, and making it into a pillow, laid Ronald's
head gently upon it, and leaving him for an instant,
went a few steps forward and called, but received no
answer. The spot a few minutes before so dizzy with
tumult, was now utterly deserted.

He came back again, and groped his way into the
cave. It was quite dark ; but something soft lay on
the ground, — a coat, and he took it up and felt in the
pocket. It contained a small flask. Mr. Vivian
brought this out into the light, and moistened Ronald's
lips with the brandy which was in it, and covered
him with the coat. He was a little revived then,
and it seemed possible to move him within the shelter
of the rock; but the start when he was touched,
showed that the attempt would be agony.
T 3


In despair Mr. Vivian called again ; and this time
a voice answered him, but from within the cave ;
and the rattle of stones, accompanied by a few hasty
ejaculations, was followed by the appearance of Mark

He came forward w^ith stealthy steps, glancing
doubtfully at Mr. Vivian ; but the sight of Ronald's
ghastly features seemed to give him courage to draw
near. " You called," he said.

" Yes, I called." Mr. Vivian pointed to Ronald :
" He has been wounded in the skirmish, and we must
move him."

" The sharks ! Cowardly villains ! Are they gone ? "
Mark went a few steps down the cliff.

Mr. Vivian called him back : " Gone now, but
they may return. It was not they who did it."

" All safe now," muttered Mark." He put his arm
under Ronald tenderly.

" We must have more help," said Mr. Vivian.

" By-and-by; we'll take him inside first. Stay I"
— he lighted a match and set fire to a brand, which
he thrust into a crevice of the rock, — " that w^ill do
to show the way. Now then ;" and with Mr. Vivian's
assistance he raised Ronald, and disregarding the
moaning which showed the suffering he caused, bore
him into the cave.

Some straw and dried fern leaves lay in a heap in
one corner, and over this Mr. Vivian stretched the
coat with which Ronald had been covered. He was
then laid upon it ; and Mark proceeded to collect
together some dried sticks, which he lighted.

Mr. Vivian looked at him with some surprise. " Is


he safe?" lie said. " The preventive men may be

" Safe enough just now. We've left a couple of
kegs in their way at the foot of the cliff, which they'll
seize, and then, ten to one, be off. They've caught
Hale, and are after the others."

" But if they look for him ? " and Mr. Vivian glanced
at Ronald.

" He's as safe here as elsewhere. If we tried to
get him home, we should meet them on the cliffs.
An hour hence it will all be right enough. Now,
give him another taste of the brandy-flask, and see
if he'll come -to more."

The warmth of the fire, and the cordial, had the
effect desired for a few moments, but Ronald soon
sank back again into his former state ; and Mr. Vivian,
greatly alarmed, insisted upon the necessity of sum-
moning more aid. Mr. Lester, he said, was certainly
within reach.

" The Parson ! He's off home with the young
gentleman. 'Twas he who met me, and bade me
come back. I shouldn't have ventured myself so soon
again within reach of the sharks, if it hadn't been for

Ronald slowly opened his eyes, and by the lurid
light of the fire Mr. Vivian saw that his lips moved.
He bent down, and heard the word " Clement."

« Safe, thank God!"

Ronald smiled, and his head fell back.

They waited for nearly a quarter of an hour longer
in silence — Mark keeping up the fire, and occasionally
watching at the entrance of the cave ; whilst Mr,
T 4


Vivian, supporting Ronald, stanching his wound, and
from time to time forcing him to sip the flask of
brandy, succeeded at length in restoring him to some
degree of strength.

His sufferings, however, became greater as his
power increased. A suppressed groan followed every
attempt to move him, and a clearer consciousness
brought a look of anguish to his face, which Mr.
Vivian vainly endeavoured to read.

" If we had another hand we might move him
now," said Mark, returning to Ronald's couch, after
another survey of the cliff.

Ronald raised his hand, as a sign against it.

Mr. Vivian replied to the gesture : " You must
not remain here, Ronald ; it will kill you. Mr. Lester
will come, and we will carry you very gently."

He looked impatient, and beckoned to Mark. Mr.
Vivian moved aside.

" Sad work, Master Ronald," said Mark, compas-
sionately. " What made you mix yourself up with



" My father," murmured Ronald, taking no notice
of the question — " where is he ? "

Mark glanced at Mr. Vivian, who was, however,
too far off to hear the answer.

" Gone on board by this time. He was to be off
to the vessel, so we were told, as soon as the second
light flamed up."

" On board, — away ! " A look of convulsive agony
crossed Ronald's face.

" Not away yet. She's off there still, I take it;
and pretty close she was five minutes ago."


" I must see him."

" To be sure ; he'll be back, if not to-night, to-

" No, no; to-night, — now."

" Not so easy that — the Captain's not to be sent
for in a moment ; and he's gone for a purpose."

" It must be, — it must. Mark, who knows ? I
may be dying."

" Not so bad as that. Master Eonald. You've had
a good knock, however it happened ; but you'll come
round. Let me just go and get a helping hand, and
we'll have you at the Grange before half an hour's
over our heads."

The mention of the Grange renewed Konald's
excitement, and he exclaimed vehemently, " Not

His accent caused Mr. Vivian to draw nearer.
Ronald raised his glassy eyes to his with a glance of
mingled confidence and despair ; and as Mr. Vivian
stooped to be nearer to him, he took hold of his hand,
and held it Avitliin his own, and tried to speak, and
then the words seemed to fail, and he muttered some-
thing unintelligible.

" You have a wish, — let me hear it ; it shall be

"Let my father come, now — safe."

" He shall come, and be safe, if it is in my power
to bring him ; we will take you home, and you shall
see him."

" Here ! here ! — not home."

Mark interposed, and drew Mr. Vivian aside. " It
would never do," he said, " to take Master Ronald at


his fancy ; it might be easy enough to get hold of
the Captain, who was sure to be on board the
vessel, and within call ; — but to leave him there on
the ground, — he would be shot himself sooner."

" It frets him to insist upon moving him," replied
Mr. Vivian ; " and it will really make but little
difference. Let Captain Vivian come, if you know
where to find him; and when he comes, let me go
into the village for further help. I will bring back
a surgeon with me. There will be less delay then,
and "

A faint call from Ronald summoned Mr. Vivian
again to his side. His face was bright with thank-
fulness : " Let Mark tell him quickly. To-morrow" —
and the light of his eye became darkened, and his
voice grew fainter — "I may not need him."

Mr. Vivian pressed his hand affectionately, and
repeated the order.

Yet Mark still lingered. " 'Twas a mad errand,"
he said, as he once more appealed to Mr. Vivian ;
"and likely to be the boy's death — waiting there
instead of being tended. And if the Captain came,
it might be sore work for them : no one knew what
he would be like when things went contrary. If

they might have taken Ronald to the Grange "

He stopped suddenly, for a moan escaped from
Ronald, drawn from him by excessive pain. Yet
even then he waved his hand for Mark to leave him ;
and Mr. Vivian seconding the entreaty, the man

The time of Mark's absence seemed hours to
Mr. Vivian. It would have been unendurable but


for the thought of Clement's safety — that was
comfort through every thing ; and Ronald's wan face
was a sufficient reproach, when impatience was about
to master him. Yet as the moments passed on,
many doubts as to the prudence of agreeing to his
wish suggested themselves : danger from the pre-
ventive men ; the possibility that Mark would not be
able to manage his boat; the difficulty of landing
again ; — obstacles which Mark had not appeared
to contemplate, but which seemed aggravated, as
Ronald's suffering evidently increased, and the neces-
sity for surgical aid became more and more urgent.

He scarcely thought of himself, his own fears
and hopes, and plans for the future. He could but
look at the pale countenance of the noble boy,' so
suddenly struck down in the pride of his strength,
and think of the short, stormy life, with its strong
impulses, its earnest resolve, and unflinching will
— and ponder upon the deep mystery that one so
formed for good should have been placed under the do-
minion of evil. It was a thought only to be borne by
the remembrance of that inscrutable Wisdom which
" searcheth the heart," and " knoweth what is in man,"
and will require only what has been given. And bit-
terly in contrast rose up before Mr. Vivian's memory
the recollections of his own boyhood — with virtuous
examples, the rules of strict rectitude, the support of
an honourable name, the prospect of a fair inhe-
ritance to lure him to good; yet all deserted, and
bringing upon him only a severer condemnation.
What we might have been ! It is a terrible thought
to realise ?


" Mr. Vivian," — Ronald stretched out his hand and
touched him ; " are they coming ? "

" I don't know ; I think not ; but I will see." He
went out to look, and returned : " The boat has left
the vessel ; I can't tell who is in it."

" My father will be here — you must go."

" Not till he comes."

" Yes, before — now ; raise me." And Mr. Vivian
lifted him up, and made him support himself against
the wall. He spoke more easily then, and seemed
relieved by the change of position : " Now go,
please ; quickly." Yet as Mr. Vivian looked towards
the entrance of the cave, he held him back : " One
word. I have done what I could •, you are satisfied ? "

"'Fully — entirely — thankfully; more than tongue
can tell."

" But I have not done all. I will try."

"But not now. Oh! Ronald, is it for my sake
you would see your father ? "

" I told Miss Campbell I would do the utmost ; if
I am to die, I must do it."

" You have done every thing that could be re-
quired; and more, a thousand times. It is for
Clement's sake that you are here now."

" The utmost," repeated Ronald ; " it was my
promise. Tell her I kept it. And you will pardon
him if the offence were — " he stopped suddenly.

" I know what it was."

Ronald let Mr. Vivian's hand drop, and turned his
face to the wall.

Mr. Vivian continued, quietly, " I will not tell you
now, Ronald, how it was discovered. But one thing

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellCleve Hall (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 26)