Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

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weak, but he would scarcely allow Greaves to wait
upon him, and when he went into his dressing-room,
he ordered his books and papers to be brought, and
endeavoured to write a letter ; but his hand shook so
much, that he was obliged to give up the attempt.
Mildred was sitting with him at the time, and offered
to write for him. He refused. " It was no matter of
consequence," he said, " and would do just as well
another day. His hand was a little shaky from lying
in bed so long." It was evident that he did not
choose to be thought ill.

Luncheon came, and he made an effort to eat, but
nothing suited his taste. He was full of complaints,
and at last took only a little wine-and-water and a
biscuit ; even that he only pretended to eat, and
soon put it aside, and sent for the newspaper.

Greaves brought the " Times."
VOL. n. Y


" Not that ; the county paper. Where is it ?"

Greaves looked at Mildred.

" I thought you wouldn't care to read that, Sir,
and I took it to my room," replied Mildred.

" Bring it ; " and Greaves went unwillingly.

He came back : " I am very sorry, Ma'am, I have
looked every where in the morning-room, and can't
find it."

Mildred regarded him scrutinisingly : "Are you
sure it is not there. Greaves ? "

" Very nearly, Ma'am. I will look again if you
wish it."

" Ask Miss Ella ; she may have it," said Mldred ;
but Greaves showed no alacrity to obey.

" Ella ! what has she to do Avith newspapers ? " in-
quired the General. " You don't let her read them,
do you ? "

" Not often, Sir ; only "

The General interrupted her : " Go and ask Mss
Ella for the paper, Greaves. Tell her to bring it
herself, if she has it."

He sat bending over the fire, and did not even look
at Mildred.

Ella came, the newspaper in her hand : " Do you
want me. Grandpapa ? Shall I read to you ? "

" What is there in the paper worth reading ? Any
thing particular ? "

Ella became as pale as death, — then the blood
crimsoned her very temples.

The General repeated the question : " You have
been reading it yourself, child. What was there
in it?"


" Aunt Mildred let me see the account of the
smuggling fray," replied Ella.

" What smuggling fray ? At Encombe ? Let me
see it?" He adjusted his spectacles, turned to the
light, but could not read, and gave the paper back to
Ella. " It tires me, my dear. Lying in bed so long
makes one's eyes weak. Read it out."

Ella would fain have handed the paper to Mildred.
The General observed it.

" Read it yourself, my dear ; don't trouble your

And Ella read a long prolix account of the landing
of the smugglers, and the watchfulness of the coast-
guard, with some uncomfortable particulars of the
struggle between them, and the detail of Golf's death.
Then she stopped.

"Is that all, my dear?"

" Nearly all. Grandpapa."

" Well, make haste, finish it. Mr. Lester will be

" It isn't exactly about the smugglers. Grandpapa ;
it is only "

" Read it, — read it, child."

Ella's voice shook so that her words were scarcely
intelligible : " We regret to say, that a rumour is
abroad implicating a young gentleman of honourable
birth in this disgraceful affair. The circumstances
are very mysterious, but are said to be connected
with a train of unfortunate events by which the
succession to one of the finest estates in the county
has been alienated."

" What ? " General Vivian caught the paper from

T 2


her hand and looked at it, though it was clear he
could scarcely distinguish the words. " Carry it to
your aunt, Ella."

'' I have read it, Sir, thank you. Ella, you may go."

The storm was about to burst when Ella closed
the door. Mildred said timidly, " I did not like to
worry you, Sir, when you were so unwell."

" Nothing worries me. When did it happen ? "

" Four nights ago, Sir : the evening you were taken
ill the second time."

" Where is the boy ? "

" At home. Sir, with Mrs. Campbell. But indeed
the papers are hard upon him."

" Of course, when they say disagreeable things.
Does he mean to take up smuggling as a profession ? "

" My dear Father ! indeed, indeed, you are cruel
upon him. He did not join them, — at least not will-
ingly ; he was led away."

" No doubt : all persons are who go wrong."

" I think, Sir, if you could hear him, — if you could
see him, you would judge him more gently. He is
so entirely penitent for his folly."

" All persons are when they are suffering from
the consequences."

" But he is so young," continued Mildred, — " such
a mere boy ; and he did not in the least intend to go
with the smugglers, — he was entrapped. It was
Captain Vivian's doing."

" Doubtless ; the same game which he played
years ago."

" Mr. Lester will say more for poor Clement than
I ^an," continued Mildred ; " he has heard all the


particulars, and he is thoroughly convinced that
Clement is deeply grieved for what has happened, ■
and is resolved to amend."

" I never said that Clement was not grieved. But
since Mr. Lester knows every thing," — and there was
a peculiar stress upon the words, — " no doubt he
can explain more of the mysterious circumstances
alluded to."

Mildred looked thoroughly disheartened : " I would
rather Mr. Lester should talk to you, my dear Father.
I know all so indistinctly, — by hearsay."

" Hearsay troubles itself with things which very
little concern it," observed the General, "when it
remarks upon the disposition which it may please me
to make of my property. "Whoever wishes, however,
to know my final and irrevocable decision upon the
subject, is perfectly welcome to do so. The old lands
of the Vivians shall never, with my consent, descend
to the hands of base swindlers, or be wasted by the
companion of smugglers."

" Edward a swindler ! My dear, dear Father, how
little you know ! "

" What else is it but' swindling," continued the
General, " to promise that which you have no jDower
to pay ; to give away that which is not your own ; to
mortgage an inheritance which a single word may
alienate ? Like father, like son. Let them go. And
for you, Mildred, and Mr. Lester," — he paused — his
words came thickly — "you may plot too deeply for
your own honour and for mine."

" Father, you mistake me ; you do me wrong."
Mildred's voice was eager, and her cheek flushed

T 3


with all tlie inherent pride of her race ; but in one
moment it was checked. "I am sorry, — forgive me
— I will not speak of myself; but, indeed, you are
unjust to Mr. Lester. And for Edward, — Oh! be-
lieve me ; there is indeed a mystery, but he never
did the deed for which you disinherited him. The
paper brought before you was a base forgery."

General Vivian's eye was stony and fixed, his face
was rigid. Mildred drew near, and sat down beside
him. " My dearest Father ! You hear it ; it is truth.
Edward himself says it. May he not — will you not
let him come to you and tell you so ? "

He regarded her almost vacantly, yet he repeated
the word " forgery ? "

"Yes, indeed," she continued; "you can't doubt
him. It was revenge, — Captain Vivian's revenge.
It is certain."

" Let me see the paper." The General passed his
hand across his forehead.

" Dearest Father ! will you listen to me ? Shall
we wait? Mr. Lester is coming, and will explain.'*

"I must see it, — it was his handwriting — his
own. Give it me, — in the box; but it is gone,
Mr. Lester took it. Oh, Mildred ! my child ! plots,
plots, everywhere ! " and he turned his head away
from her and rested it in utter feebleness and ex-
haustion against the back of his chair.

Mildred allowed him to remain thus without in-
terruption for some seconds ; then she again said,
very gently : " Mr. Lester's coming will make all
clear to you, Sir. He will be here almost directly."

He kept her hand clasped in his, clutching it at


times convulsively. She thought he did not hear
when the hall-door bell rang ; but he raised himself
with a sudden effort, pushed her aside, and tried to
draw the table near to him, then sank back again

Mildred watched him with anxiety. "If it is
Mr. Lester, dear Sir, will you see him ? "

He bent his head in assent, and again tried to sit
up. Mildred put a cushion behind him, and made
him rest his feet on a footstool. Even at that
moment, it struck her how old and worn he looked —
much older than his age. " Shall I stay for
Mr. Lester, or will you see him alone ?" she asked.

" Stay ; put a chair ; tell Greaves to bring me my
draught first."

That caused a little delay, which Mildred did not
regret, earnestly though she longed for the interview
to be over. It was a breathing time ; it gave her a
moment for prayer. Greaves bustled about in the
room longer than seemed necessary ; but he did good ;
he distracted the General's attention and roused him.
He said, at last, " That will do ; go." And the irri-
table tone was a comfort to Mildred.

One glance interchanged between Mildred and
Mr. Lester told little to either of aught except sus-
pense. Mr. Lester went up to the General : " I am
afraid I find you ill, Sir."

" Better, thank you ; I am sitting up."

" Yes ; he has kept his bed the last four days,"
observed Mildred. " I don't exactly know what lias
been the matter."

X 4


" Gout hanging about. You have been to London,
Mr. Lester?'*

" For a day or two, Sir. I returned just before
you were taken ill, and should have called to see you
if I had been allowed, but they said you ought to be
kept quiet.**

" I have business with you."

" Have you, Sir ? Might it not be as well to delay
it till you are rather stronger ? "

"I am obliged to you, but I am the judge of my
own strength. You have a paper of mine. I gave

it " He stopped, and looked distressed, and

turned with an appealing glance to Mildred.

" No, dear Sir ; if you recollect, you did not give
it. It was that which worried you. But Mr. Lester
will tell you about it. He was telling me last night.**

That acknowledgment was repented of as soon as
made, for a frown rested on the General's face.

" It must have been taken up by me accidentally,"
observed Mr. Lester, " the day I was with you. Sir,
looking over your papers. That is the only way I
can account for its having come into my possession.
Certainly I was not aware that I had it, until Miss
Campbell told me she had found it in my pocket-

" Campbell ! Campbell ! " muttered the General to
himself. " Is she in it ? " The mention of the name
had evidently awakened some old prejudice and
dislike. He spoke more distinctly, "I must have it

back; it is important. Mildred says "

" What is quite true. Sir, — that it is a forgery."
" I would look at it, — fetch it for me, Mildred. I


beg your pardon, Mr. Lester, I don't know who has
it, — it has been taken from me — I must see it."
The tone became more and more excited.;

Mildred and Mr. Lester glanced at each other in

" What makes you look so ? Why don't you speak
out? If it's a forgery, why isn't it proved? It shall
be proved ; I will have it tried. The last penny I
have shall be spent to try it."

"If you will see your son. Sir," said Mr.Xester,
mildly, " he will convince you. Had you not better
see him ? He is at Encombe, longing to be admitted
to you."

General Vivian turned round upon him sharply :
" Is that your object, Mr. Lester ?"

" My object is to see justice done. Sir."

"And mine, — mine too. I don't doubt you, Mr.
Lester. You are a gentleman. Where is the paper ? "

" Destroyed, Sir ; " — there was no escape from a
direct answer ; — "by a most unhappy mischance.
The villain Goff, Captain Vivian's witness, and the
sharer, I presume, in the profits of his crime, took it
by force from Miss Campbell, as she was returning
the other evening from the Hall, and tore it to atoms.
How he obtained the information that she had it, I
cannot tell."

The General was quite silent.

" I need not say. Sir, that Miss Campbell's word is
above suspicion."

" You saw the paper, Mr. Lester ? "

" No, Sir ; I knew nothing about it until my return
from London.'*


" I saw it," exclaimed Mildred.

" Then you can tell ; yes, you must be the best
judge of all. Was it your brother's handwriting ? "
and the General's eye rested upon her with its cold,
clear, scrutinising glance.

Mildred felt herself defeated by her own words.
She could only say that certainly it was very like it,
but that of course it would be, to be a successful for-
gery. She had not examined it minutely.

"And Miss Campbell obtained possession of it,"
murmured the General to himself.

"Accidentally, Sir. — She found it by mistake in
my pocket-book."

" Where it should have been left, Mr. Lester. It
was not Miss Campbell's business to pry into the
concerns of another family."

^ " She meant no harm, my dear Father. It was
very natural; she felt the paper to be of im-

" Of the greatest importance. — So much so, Mil-
dred, that without it " — he stopped—" Mr. Lester, I
don't doubt you."

" Then, Sir ; you will see your son."

"My son,— tell him from me that I forgive him."

"My Father! My dear, dear Father, have pity
upon him. His heart yearns to see you," exclaimed

" I have pity, I forgive him. Justice forbids me
to do more without proof. Mr. Lester, bid him look
after his boy, or there will yet be a further disgrace
awaiting us. Mildred, ring for Greaves. I would
go to my room."


Mildred delayed, with lier hand on the bell, and
looked entreatingly at Mr. Lester, then doubtfully on
her father.

The General read their countenances.

" You think me hard. If you could stand in my
place you would judge me better." He tried to rise
liimself from his chair, but he was too weak. And
as he sat down again, and leaned his head upon his
hands, Mildred saw tears trickle through them.

She kissed his forehead, and he did not repel her,
though he would not notice her.

She whispered to him : " Is there not comfort in
the thought of his innocence ? " And then he dashed
away the hand which lay upon his, and told her to
leave him.

Mr. Lester made one more effort. " General Vi-
vian! You speak of justice. It is unjust to refuse to
see your son, and to hear what he can say in his own

"Proof," murmured the General; "let him bring

" But if he cannot, my dearest Father ; if you insist
upon that which it is impossible to obtain ?"

The General shook his head, his clearness of in-
tellect seemed failino^ ao^ain.

" We must not urge it," whispered Mr. Lester to

She rang the bell, and when Greaves came, Mr.
Lester left the room, the General taking no notice of
his departure.



EoNALD Vivian sat in a large arm-cliair, by the
side of the low, open hearth in Mark Wood's cottage.
Barney's couch was opposite : the child was much
attenuated, and his face expressed more constant pain.
In a distant corner. Mother Brewer was busied in
knitting a pair of small woollen socks. The traces of
what might have been years of sickness and sorrow
were visible in Ronald's worn countenance, yet still
more visibly was stamped upon it the energy which
might still struggle and conquer, grounded upon the
endurance which might suffer but would never yield.

His wound was not deep, though it was very pain-
ful. He spoke of it himself now as something light,
scarcely worthy of a thought. Yet it distressed him
so much to move, that it was clear that great care
would be needful before it could be expected to heal.
Barney was trying to amuse himself with cutting
out figures, but it was an effort to him to hold the
scissors. From time to time he looked up wistfully
at Ronald, whose eyes were closed.

" He's asleep, isn't he ? " said the old woman, laying
down her knitting.

" Not asleep, thank you. Mother ; " and Ronald
opened his eyes and smiled.


" Why do you shut up your eyes if you ain't
sleepy?" asked Barney, rather sharply.

" Because it rests them. When one's ill one's
eyes ache."

" I'm ill, but my eyes don't ache. Is it 'cause they
shot you, that your eyes are bad ? "

" I suppose it is ; but I dare say they won't ache
long. You know I'm getting well."

" Sooner talked of than done, — that," muttered
Mother Brewer from her corner ; and Barney turned
round and looked at her, but did not trouble himself
to ask what she said.

" I don't want you to get well, Ronald. I like you
best to be ill ; only you can't play so easy."

" I don't know tliat it's very kind of you, Barney,
to wish that I should always be ill; but I suppose
you mean it so."

" You'll be going off if you get well," said Barney ;
" and father said one day that if you didn't you'd go
to Heaven with me, and that's what I should like."

" But, Barney, you know we may travel the same
way, and meet at the end, though we don't go quite
together. I've got a good deal to do before I get to

" I dare say you'd be let off, if you asked," said
Barney ; " and you'd like best to go."

Ronald was silent.

" You would like it, sure," continued the child ;
" every body likes to go to Heaven, 'cause it's so
beautiful. I want to see the golden streets : Mother
Brewer thinks that they ghine as bright as Miss


Rachel's picture-frame yonder, when the sun's on it.
Shouldn't you like to see them ? "

Ronald still delaying his answer, the question was
repeated again rather querulously. " Yes, by-and-
by ; very much indeed," was the reply. But Ronald
spoke as if his thoughts were scarcely in his words.

" It's wicked of you if you don't wish it," con-
tinued Barney. " Parson Lester says, nobody ever
speaks cross there, or says bad words."

" No indeed, they don't," said Ronald, sadly.

" And there are beautiful angels all dressed in
white, and singing wonderful," continued Barney ;
" and a river so clear, you can see quite through, and
fine trees, and fruits. — Don't you want to go?"

" If God is pleased to take me, I hope I shall be
quite glad to go," replied Ronald. " But, Barney,
I don't think God does wish me to go yet ; and so I
would rather stay and do His work here."

" Work! what work? Captain John don't work."

" But I must."

" Fishing ? " asked Barney.

A smile came over Ronald's face ; but Barney
looked at him quite steadily and earnestly.

" Not that kind of work, but trying to make myself
good ; and others too," he added, in a lower voice.

" That's not work," said Barney ; '* that's praying."

" But praying is a kind of work, because some-
times it is a trouble to say one's prayers."

" I don't like it, sometimes ; but that's 'cause I'm
not good. When I get to Heaven I shan't say my
prayers to Mother Brewer ; and then I shall attend."

" Ah ! but, Barney, we must learn to attend before


we get to Heaven; and we must do a great many-
other things besides, which are hard to us, and we
must try to set a good example."

" What's 'sample ? " asked Barney.

" Behaving well before others," replied Ronald,
" and so showing them how to do the same."

" Well, then, if you and^ I go to Heaven, we can
set a good 'sample there."

" But people don't want to have any examples set
them in Heaven, because they live with God and
Jesus Christ, and so they have the best example be-
fore them, and never do wrong."

Barney was thoughtful. Presently he said : " Father
don't set me a good 'sample ; he says bad words, and
speaks out. And Captain John don't set you one,
does he ? "

" He speaks out sometimes," replied Ronald eva-

" Then do you mean to set him a good 'sample
instead ? "

« If I can."

" And that's why you want to stay," said Barney,
still looking as if he were pondering deeply. In an-
other moment he turned his head aside and sobbed
as if his little heart would break.

" Barney! my poor child!" — Ronald was going to
move from his chair, but was stopped by the old
woman, who put down her knitting and went up to
the couch.

" What's the matter now ? what's a crying for ?
Come, stop ; be a good boy, leave off," said Mother
Brewer, alternating between anger and coaxing.


" I want to be put next Ronald, in my chair,'*
sobbed Barney.

" You shall be put next me if you leave off crying ;
but I can't let you come till you do," said Ronald.

The child exercised singular self-command. His
tears were swallowed almost instantaneously ; but his
neck still heaved convulsively.

The old woman placed him in a high chair, propped
him up with pillows, and carried him to the opposite
side of the hearth.

He put his hand in Ronald's, but did not speak
till Mother Brewer had retired again to her corner ;
then he hid his face on Ronald's shoulder and
whispered in a voice interrupted by sobs : " I don't
want to stay and set father a 'sample. Must I?"

Ronald passed his arm lovingly, for support, round
the poor, little skeleton -frame, and answered : " I
don't think God wants you to S; ay, Barney ; He only
wants you to be good whilst you are here."

"I'll be very good, — I won't cry once, and I
won't look about when I say my prayers, and I'll
say all my hymns through; only I don't want it
to be long ; it pains me so ; " and again he began to
cry, but more gently, from weakness and over ex-

Ronald let him rest quietly, and hoped he might
go to sleep ; and he did close his eyes for a few mo-
ments, but opened them again to say, in a dreamy
voice, " You'll come too, Ronald ? "

And Ronald answered cheerfully, " Yes, soon ; by-
and-by ; " and that seemed to satisfy him. At length
he fell asleep, and Ronald, motioning to the old


woman, he was taken back to his couch, and laid
upon it.

Mr. Lester came whilst Barney was still asleep.
He saw Ronald regularly ; and his visits were com-
forting, yet not to himself quite satisfactory. Ronald
was very reserved, and seemed unwilling to say what
was on his mind ; and though Mr. Lester knew what
had passed between him and Mr. Vivian, and that
he was fully acquainted with his father's conduct,
he dared not bring forward a subject so full of
pain. Yet there were many allusions to it. Ronald's
chief interest was for Mr. Vivian, and the probability
of his being admitted to an interview with the
General, and obtaining his pardon. Almost the first
question he asked when he saw Mr. Lester the day
after the smuggling skirmish, had reference to this
point ; and he was now frequently referring to it. It
was indeed an engrossing subject of thought ; for on
the failure of the meeting depended the necessity, so
intensely painful, of coming forward with his father's
written confession. Mr. Lester once proposed that
Mr. Vivian should come and see him, but Ronald
seemed to dislike the idea> ■ Jle had not even as yet
begged to see Miss Campbell, though he always sent
a message to her. A spirit of torpor seemed, for the
most part, to have succeeded his natural daring ex-
citement of temperament ; and he was willing to sit
for hours brooding over the fire, now and then ap-
parently asleep, but in reality alive to every thing
which might take place around him."

He was more like himself this day, for Barney had
done him good by making him anxious, and when



tlie old woman had left him alone with Mr. Lester,
there was a topic to enter upon at once, without the
preliminary questions as to his own health, which
were always irksome to him.

" He is looking worse to day," was his remark,
made in a low voice, as he pointed to the child.

Mr. Lester went up to the couch, and stood for a
few moments, watching Barney's irregular breathing,
and the burning spot on his little thin cheek.

" Yes, he does look a good deal worse," he said,
coming back to Ronald's chair, and drawing his own
near the fire. " Has the doctor seen him ? "

" He is coming by-and-by ; but no doctor will help
him now;" and Ronald brushed his hand across his

" One can't wish it ; it would be no good to him to
keep him."

" And it won't matter to me," said Ronald. " Any
how I shouldn't be here to see him ; and I would
rather think of him as safe."

"And look forward to joining him," replied Mr.
Lester. " That may be before very long for any of
us ; though it may seem long to you, Ronald, with
life before you."

" I musn't think of that yet," replied Ronald.
Changing the subject, he said quickly: "Is Mr.

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Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellCleve Hall (Volume 2) → online text (page 20 of 26)