Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

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may satisfy you, — there is no legal proof ; I could
not bring it home to him, if I would."

Ronald turned slowly round and fixed his ghastly
eyes upon him : " Then the evil to you is done."

« Yes."

" And without remedy ? "

" Without remedy from him, except by his own
confession : that might indeed help me with my

"You shall have it. When it is in your hands,
and I am gone, Mr. Vivian, you will save his name
from disgrace."

Mr. Vivian seized his hand : " Disgrace cannot
attach to the name you bear, Ronald : whatever your
father may have done to tarnish it, you have nobly
redeemed it."

He did not smile nor answer, but a tear rolled down
his cheek, and his lip quivered with anguish. Pie re-
covered himself again quickly, and pointing towards
the entrance, said : " Look out ; when they are at the
foot of the cliff, you must go. Hark ! "

" God bless you, and help you, Ronald ; " and Mr.
Vivian held Ronald's hand with lingering affection.

«Go! go!"

Ronald's face grew troubled and eager ; yet as Mr.
Vivian left the cave, his eye rested upon him with
an expression that would fain have asked him to



Eh ! Ronald ! my lad ! in a scrape and calling for me
to help you out ! That comes of not keeping to quar-
ters. How on earth you got loose passes me." Cap-
tain Vivian entered the cave blusteringly. He
vp-ould not listen to Mark's request to tread with
caution, and in the dim light of the dying embers
scarcely distinguished where his son lay stretched
upon his rough bed.

"No one here," said Mark groping around, and
collecting some more sticks. " You'll see, Captain,
that it's as I said ; he's mortal bad " — and he held a
lighted brand so as to cast a gleam upon Ronald's
face, and then walked away to the entrance.

Captain Vivian snatched the brand from him, drew
near, looked, — then throwing the torch aside, stag-
gered back against the wall.

" Father ! " Ronald's voice was hollow as a call from
the grave.

Captain Vivian threw himself on the ground
beside him.

" Shot ! my boy, my poor boy ! The rascals ! But
we'll be revenged. We'll get you on board, and look
after you, and you'll do well ; there's no doubt of
that. Many's the ugly touch Tve had myself. Here !


" Stay, Father. I must not go : listen."

"Listen! to be sure. The rascals! I'll be re-

" It was not they. It matters not who it was ; I
would forget revenge."

" Forget it : you may ; but I tell you, Ronald, the
reckoning shall be kept till the last hour of my life —
ay, and paid too."

" Then your reckoning must be with Goff. He
raised the pistol ; I saw him. It was levelled at Mr.

No answer came, only a quick gasp of breathless

"It is for Mr. Vivian to revenge," continued
Eonald. " Father ! can you hear me ? can you listen
to me ? " for Captain Vivian was kneeling upright, —
his form rigid, his eyes fixed.

"Revenge! let him seek it down in the green
ocean — down, down ; he will not find it. Let him look
for it, — it is gone."

" Father ! speak to me, — oh, horrible ! " and Ronald
raised himself for a moment, and sank back shudder-
ing and exhausted.

" He's gone, my boy ; don't think of him, Ronald.
Rouse up — we'll forget. Where's Mark ? "

Mark came, and Ronald's lips were moistened
with brandy, and he found strength to utter, " Is he

" Drowned, Master Ronald," said Mark, coolly. " I
heard it said as I came across the Common ; but I
don't understand the rights of it all."

" Drowned, Ronald, my boy ;' and Captain Vivian


stood up, and drew near to Mark with an air of restored
confidence. " But we won't talk of him now. Mark
and I will put you into the boat, and be off to the vessel,
and see to you to-night ; and to-morrow, if it's needed,
we'll get more help — but I'm a clever surgeon my-

Ronald motioned Mark away : " Raise me. Father.
Drowned, lost in the deep waters ! " He hid his face
with his trembling hand. " Oh, God ! have mercy !
it is Thy judgment."

" Cheer up, my boy ; don't think."

" He is gone. Father. I may be going too.
Where ? — where ? " he repeated, and he caught his
father's hand, and held it with all the little strength
he retained.

" We can't think ; we don't know till the time
comes. Why trouble yourself, my poor lad ? "

" Oh ! it is time now ; there is no other time.
Father, think, repent. God will hear now."

" Too late for me ! " and Captain Vivian's voice
slightly trembled. " Well enough for you."

" His body lies beneath the waves, his soul is before
God," murmured Ronald, shuddering ; " and he had so
many crimes to burden it."

" May be so ; but none can tell what excuses may
be at hand for him or for any one. There's no need
to talk of him."

" Father ; yes, — let me but speak now. If only
one sin could be lightened, death would be less ter-
rible. Is it not so ? tell me ; answer."

" If it could be, but past is past."

" No, no, it is present ; it never dies ; it will come


full again. But it may be repented of, then it cannot

" My poor lad ! He's wandering." Captain Vivian
bent down anxiously.

" Fattier, I speak truth ; I know what I say. Oh !
by the thought of that fearful death — that awful
judgment, do not turn from me."

" If sorrow's necessary, I'm sorry enough," was the
moody answer ; " but I didn't come here to talk of

" Yes, indeed," and Ronald almost sat upright in
his eagerness. " It was for that I sent for you. I
may be dying ; God knows. I could not carry the
load to my grave. Father, our name has been pledged
to dishonour, — disgrace ; it has caused Mr. Vivian's

"Not caused it: it was his own doing. None
could have touched him if he hadn't dealt the first
blow himself."

" But the work he began^ — it was completed by you."

" Then it's done, and it can't be undone."

" It may be. Oh ! indeed it may. It may be ac •
knowledged, and, to the utmost extent of your means,
the sum may be restored."

"Acknowledge! Restore! Why, he knows all; he
would pursue me to the last gasp to be revenged on me.
He would take from me every penny I possess, and
leave me to beggary if it were possible."

" He has promised to forgive, and his word is
honour. If it were not, when we have injured others,
God will never forgive us, without confession and



" I don't know where you learnt your teaching ;
it's not my doing."

"I learnt it from my mother, when I said my
prayers to her. She talked of it when she was dying.
She would repeat it now. Father, your confession
may replace Mr. Vivian at once in his home."

" And balk me of the last hope of carrying out the
revenge for which alone I did the deed. Was it the
paltry money, boy, for which I hazarded ruin ? Would
the miserable thousands have tempted me ? If they had
been multiplied ten, twenty, a hundred, a thousand-
fold, I would have scorned them all rather than lose
my revenge."

" God also can revenge," replied Ronald faintly.
" And you are safe ; he says himself there is no legal

" If there had been would I have ventured myself
within his grasp ? No ; he has chosen his course, let
him follow it out."

" To-night will go against him," said Ronald.

" Of course ; I know it. I should never have
troubled myself with the boy if I had not known it.
He may thank his stars that it is no worse, — thatr the
young scapegrace is not now in the hands of the
magistrates. Let him make his way with the Gene-
ral as he can, with only his bare words to fortify
him, and Clement's folly to stand against him."

" Mercy! Father ! His life has been most miserable."

" He had no mercy on me," was the bitter reply.

Captain Vivian was about to rise, and again sum-
mon Mark, but Ronald's feeble hand rested on his


" Father ! if the gurgling waters were closing
round you, as they closed over that wretched man,
would you not wish that you had done it ? "

" I could never wish that I had disgraced myself."

" The disgrace was when the deed was done. God
help us to bear it."

" We will not bear it," exclaimed Captain Vivian.
"We will be off. We will set up our fortunes in
another place."

" The future is with God," said Ronald. " May it
please Him to spare me that sorrow."

" What ! would you forsake me ? "

" I would die, if it be God's will, for life without
honour is very terrible."

" Mad boy ! yet you wish me to disgrace myself."

" Because what you call disgrace is to me the only
road to honour. Father, grant my request, and if
God should spare me, I will follow you, labour with
you, slave with you, die with you, — so that the path
you take is one in which there is no sin. Refuse
me, and there is another duty before me. The debt
to General Vivian shall be repaid, and by my hands.
I will travel the world over, but I will work ; I will
toil, if necessary, with the poorest ; I will live the
life of an anchorite, and die the death of an outcast ;
rather than he shall be defrauded of one penny of
that which is his just due. We part to-night for
ever ! "

The words might have seemed prophetic, for Ro-
nald sank back exhausted with his own energy, and
pale and motionless as in death.

"Ronald, my boy, speak to me, only one word."
u 2


Captain Vivian bent over him in agony. He opened
his eyes, and at that moment Mark re-entered the

" Quick, Captain, one way or t'other. They are
coming from the cliff. The strange gentleman, and
the surgeon, and Mr. Lester. If you've any reason
for wishing to b^ off, you'd best be quick."

Captain Vivian looked at Ronald. "We'll take
him with us."

" Can't be. He's too far gone. We may come for
him to-morrow. They'll take care of him to-night ;
but you must be quick," and Mark went out again
to watch.

" Father ! " Ronald held Captain Vivian's hand ;
his glassy eyes rested on him long and steadily.

The hand was withdrawn, and with the other
Captain Vivian roughly dashed away a tear.

" If I die, still think of me."

" Think of you ! Ronald, Ronald ! forgive what I
have done to you."

" Not mine, God's forgiveness. Oh ! if the truth
were told. It might be written, even now, before
you go. Then I should be at peace."

" There is no forgiveness for such as I, Ronald."

" Yes, Father, yes ; one act ; it may be the entrance
on the right way. God grant us to meet at the end.**
He spoke very feebly.

Captain Vivian pondered. "If it is done, I go
disgraced by my own word, never to be heard of
again in England."

Ronald raised his hand to his head : " My eyes are
dizzy ; I can't see you. Will you do it ? Will you


Captain Vivian took a card from his pocket, wrote
a few words upon the back, and put it into Ronald's
hands. " It is done," he said ; " your father is a lost

" Saved ! Saved ! " exclaimed Ronald, and he fell
back and fainted.




That had been a long and intensely trying day to
Mildred Vivian. When Bertha left her she had spent
several hours with her father, vainly endeavouring
to persuade him to dismiss the thought of the lost
paper, until Mr. Lester could appear himself, to ac-
count for it. But General Vivian was not easily to
be persuaded in any matter, least of all in the con-
trol of his own mind, when he was touched upon one
of the tenderest points of honour.

His keen sense of justice was connected with the
strong feeling of personal claim to his property, and
this had aggravated his indignation, when his son's
supposed misdeed was first brought before him. But
the offence had been punished, as he said to himself,
rightfully, and then he felt at liberty to bury it from
all knowledge but his own.

That Mr. Lester, Mildred, above all. Bertha, should
be acquainted with it, wounded him almost beyond
endurance, and the mind which had so long allowed
itself to be warped by a one-sided justice, was no
longer proof against the prejudice which in any other
case he would have despised.

He spoke to Mildred of plots and conspiracies ; he
questioned her as to the stranger whom Mrs. Robinson
had received at the farm, and whom she imagined might


return. He would allow of no evasion, and drew from
her at length, the confession that Edward was ex-
pected — that he might be at Encombe that very night.
He was satisfied then so far that he asked no more
questions ; but it was evident that his mind had taken
a wrong turn, and that the step his son had made in
coming back to England, unsummoned, was likely to
prove a stumbling-block, rather than an assistance, in
the way of his restoration to favour.

Mildred was very gentle and patient, but she could
not help being sad, and this irritated the General.
It was a reproach to him. He said at last that he
would be left alone, and when Ella offered to read to
him as usual, he refused ; and then Mildred went
back to her own room, to bear as best she might the
burden which had fallen upon her.

Night drew on, and still the General did not send
for her. She tried to work, and made Ella read aloud,
but it was impossible to attend. She was thinking
of her brother, and longing for news of Clement.
Greaves was on the watch, and came in every now
and then to tell her any thing he had heard, but it
was all unsatisfactory. The smugglers were certain
to land ; they had a traitor amongst them, supposed
to be Mrs. Robinson's farm boy, Joe Styles, and he,
it was said, had given warning to the preventive men
who were on the watch. No doubt if they did land
there would be a desperate struggle.

Then came a report from the gamekeepers. Mr.

Lester and his friend had arrived ; they had walked

over the cliffs from Cleve to Encombe, and had gone

straight to Ilardman's, and from thence to the shore.

u 4


Somebody declared that Miss Campbell and Miss
Lester had been very much frightened by a smuggler
on their way home, but it was thought that could not
be true, because the smugglers were proverbially civil
to ladies.

Eight o'clock came, and tea was brought. Mildred
sent a message to know if they might have it with
the General, in his room ; but the answer was brought
— No, the General would drink tea alone ; IVIiss Ella
might go to him afterwards. That was a little com-
fort, and when Ella was gone, Mildred lay quietly on
the sofa, feeling it a relief to be as anxious as she
pleased, without the fear of dispiriting Ella.

Nine o'clock ! Ella came down, and said, grand-
papa was tired. Greaves was to go to him in a
quarter of an hour. He would not have Mildred
see him again, because it was such a trouble to her,
but he sent his love, and begged she would take care
he had his sleeping-draught.

" Ring the bell, Ella, and I will ask about it," said
Mildred. The bell was rung but not answered

" Ring again, my love, I can't think what the ser-
vants are doing."

They waited still some time.

" Just open the door a little, Ella ; I am sure I hear
a good deal of talking."

Greaves was trying to silence some one who was
speaking, and he came himself to answer the bell.

" The General will want you. Greaves, in a quarter
of an hour ; he is going to bed. I rang to remind you
of his sleeping-draught."


" Yes, Ma'am." Greaves looked at Ella, doubtfully.

" Go again, to grandpapa, Ella ; tell him Greaves
will bring liim his draught directly. I send him my
very best love, and trust he will have a good night.
Greaves," — and Mildred turned to the butler almost
before Ella was out of the room, — " you have news."

" Not much. Ma'am ; that is, — pray don't be fright-
ened. Miss Mildred ; it's better than could have been
thought. Master Clement is safe."

" Thank God ! but he must have been with the

" He was with them, and landed with them," re-
plied Greaves, rather sternly ; " and the preventives
were down" upon them, and there was a skirmish ;
more than an hour ago that was. But Master Clement
got away, I am told. Some say Mr. Bruce, that came
with Mr. Lester, this evening, helped him ; others,
that it was the Captain's son ; but any how, he got
free, and Mr. Lester went home with him. One of
the smugglers was taken, and "

"Well? what?"

" It's an ugly story, the rest, Ma'am. I can't say
how much is true. But that wretched fellow, GofF,
is put out of the way."

"Killed? By the preventive men? How hor-
rible ! " and Mildred turned very pale.

" Worse than that, if the tale's true. Hardman,
who was watching about the cliffs with Mr. Lester,
says that he had kept himself hid when the skirmish
began, and just at the end fired deliberately at Mr.

Mildred uttered a scream of horror.


Greaves paused for a moment: "The General's
waiting, Ma'am, I must not be long."

"But Mr. Bruce— Mr. Bruce ! " faintly ejaculated

" He escaped. Ma'am ; which was all very well ;
though, being a stranger in these parts, one doesn't
seem to care so much about him. But the poor
young gentleman at the Grange has been mortally
wounded, and there's many a sad heart for him. The
preventives were after GofF in a moment, and, trying
to escape, he was drowned."

Even in his haste to go to the General, Greaves
watched Mildred's countenance narrowly; but she
exercised immense self-control, and, uttering in-
wardly her thankfulness for her brother's safety, only
said aloud : " Oh ! Greaves, how terrible ! So des-
perate — so unprepared. And the poor boy — what
have they done with him ? "

" Carried him off to Mark Wood's cottage in the
Gorge ; so I'm told. Ma'am ; though I can scarce be-
lieve it, with the Grange so near at hand. But they
say, too, that he insisted upon it, and that the Cap-
tain is off somewhere. People think there must be
something more in it all than a mere smuggling fray ;
and why that fellow Goff should have had a spite
against Mr. Bruce no one can say."

" Yes, very strange ; very strange, indeed ! " but
Mildred spoke wanderingly. "Was that the Hall
bell ? " She raised herself up, and listened.

Greaves listened too. " I think so, Ma'am ; I vrill
see," and he left the room.

Mildred's heart beat with painful rapidity ; every


thing seemed to swim before her ; her eyes were dim,
and her knees trembled. She tried to hearken, but
could catch no sound. The rush of roaring waves,
the noise of tumultuous voices, the phantom sounds
of an excited imagination, were filling her ears with
their ghostly echoes ; and the undertone of voices
approaching, with the tread of footsteps across the
stone hall and along the corridor, mingled with her
fancies, so that she could scarcely distinguish their

Yet the door opened, and two persons entered,
Mr. Lester first, and Mildred's exclamation of plea-
sure was changed into a sharp cry of almost terrified
delight, as the next moment her brother knelt by her

She flung her arms round his neck ; her tears fell
fast and long. When she did speak it was to say,
" I have prayed for this, and God has heard me ! "

Mr. Lester looked round and closed the door. " I
sent Greaves away, but he may come back. Remem-
ber, you are still to be careful,"

"Not after to-morrow," exclaimed Mr. Vivian.
" All must be decided then."

" So soon ! — My father must be prepared. Oh !
Edward, you little know what you have to contend
with. And it seems — if I could but keep you here
with me as you are," — and again she clung to him,
as though fearing he would escape from her grasp.

" It is useless to delay," replied Mr. Lester ; " and
we have arguments, Mildred, which may work a great
change in General Vivian's feelings. You are igno-
rant of the charge brought against your brother, and


therefore you cannot hope, as we do, that it may be

" I do know it," said Mildred ; and turning to Mr.
Vivian, with a look of sad, yet tender reproach, she
added : " When I learnt the truth, I judged my father
more reverently and charitably. He was wounded in
the point on which his feelings are the most sensitive."

" Not by me ! " and Mr. Vivian started to his feet.
" As there is truth in heaven, Mildred, it was a for-
gery ; a base, miserable forgery ! "

" The paper ! — the handwriting ! Is it possible ? "

" It was not mine. I would have died rather than
do such a deed. John Vivian is responsible for it.
I have heard the acknowledgment from his own

" Oh, Edward ! God indeed be thanked ! " She sat
silent for some seconds, then turned to Mr. Lester :
" I can't understand. The paper — did my father
know about it ? — did he give it to you ? He says
that he has forgotten it."

" There is a mystery about that," replied Mr.
Lester. " Miss Campbell says it was found in my
pocket-book. I had not the most remote idea that it
was in my possession. Yet I can so far account for
it, that on the day when I was here, talking with
General Vivian about Clement, a box of papers was
upset, and several were scattered. I picked up all,
and restored them, as I thought ; but this I must
have carried off accidentally. Miss Campbell says
she recollects seeing it drop out with my handker-
chief, when she was conversing with me the same
evening, and that I took it up, without looking at it.


and put it in mj pocket-book. Of course she did not
know then what it was."

" And you have it, and will return it, and it will
all be proved."

" Ah ! Mildred, no," exclaimed Mr. Vivian ; " that
is a sore point ; it is gone. Almost the last act of
that wretched man Goff, who has to-night been sum-
moned to his dread account, was to take it from Miss
Campbell by force, and to destroy it."

Mildred sank back on the sofa.

" I have nothing but my word to support me," con-
tinued Mr. Vivian. " That, and Bertha Campbell's
evidence that the paper was taken from her. Yet
what need is there of more ? " And he drew himself
up proudly.

" He does not know my father." Mildred spoke
despondingly to Mr. Lester.

" I hope he does. I can't imagine General Vivian's
doubting him."

"Doubt me!" Mr. Vivian withdrew the hand
which had been clasped in Mildred's, and strode up
and down the apartment rapidly : " Let him breathe
but the thought, and I will go back to Jamaica — to
India — I care not where. Doubt me? — doubt his
son ? — a Vivian ! "

" Edward ! dearest, he is old ; his mind has lost its
elasticity, and it has been warped by sorrow."

" Yes, through me, — my faults. Oh ! Mildred,
Mildred, help me to be patient ! "

" God will help us all," replied Mildred ; " only
let us trust Him. My father may believe, yet he


may insist upon proof. Is tliere no other to be
brought forward ? "

" None, at least forthcoming at present. John
Vivian is beyond our reach ; if he were not, I scarcely
see how we could substantiate our charge."

" And Clement's conduct will vv^ork against you,"
continued Mildred. " He must, perhaps he ought, to
hear of it."

" To condemn me for my boy's follies ! Mildred,
is that justice?"

"It may be his justice," replied Mildred; and a
long pause followed.

Mr. Vivian broke it : " It matters not, Mildred ;
delay cannot help us. If it would, I could not bear
it. Even now, the suspense of my position is often
almost maddening. Let my father reject, — let him
even doubt my word, if he will ; the honour of a
Vivian rests not on words, but on the consciousness
of the inmost heart. One thing at least he cannot
take from me, — the comfort of having cleared myself
in your dear eyes ; of having seen you, — talked with
you, — looked again upon the old familiar walls.
Home ! my childhood's home ! " and his eye wandered
round the well-known apartment. " Does my father
know what home is ? "

" Too well ! dearest Edward. If he had cared for
it less, he might have been less severe in his endeavour
to uphold it."

" Rejected again ! Dishonoured ! doubted ! " mur-
mured Mr. Vivian. " Yet I liave loved and reve-
renced him, oh! so deeply. Mildred, he must see


me ; he must give me his blessing. I cannot die in
peace without it."

" Hope, Edward. I have lived upon it for many-
years. It may seem impossible," she added, speaking
to Mr. Lester, " to reject such evidence ; yet no one
can Calculate upon the turn his feelings may take."

" He will not reject it," replied Mr. Lester. " I
have no fear upon that point ; it would be an insult

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Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellCleve Hall (Volume 2) → online text (page 18 of 26)