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tion and quick penetration into character, prevented
her from watching Clement, or discovering in him any
thing which might have led her to think that his
heart was ill at ease.

That first deception had led liira on much further
than he intended. When Captain Vivian met him
the day succeeding his visit, and proposed to him to
repeat it, asking, as a favour, that, besides giving


him help for amusement, he would assist him in a
case which was a question of business, Clement had
nothing to fall back upon to support his weak will,
and, of course, yielded ; and a second visit involved a
third, still apparently innocent, but making him, after
the excitement was over, very uneasy, and enabling
Captain Vivian to discover in the course of conversa-
tion all he required to know as to Mr. Lester's
movements, where he was likely to be in London, and
the probability of his return ; Clement telling every-
thing with perfect simplicity, and never for one
moment suspecting a meaning in this apparent in-

And he flattered himself, too, that he was gaining
something by the intercourse. Captain Vivian talked
to him of the sea and his fancy for it, and gave him
some useful advice not unmixed with flattery, pro-
mising, any day that he could manage it, to take him for
a sliort sail, merely that he might have a few practical
lessons, which were better, he said, than any talking.
If it had only not been against Clement's conscience,
he would quite have enjoyed going to the Grange,
especially as he found that by some means he was
free from Ronald's warning voice. Both days he had
been there Ronald had been absent, sent by his father
on some business to Cleve, or over the hills ; and
Captain Vivian had cautioned Clement playfully
against mentioning his visit, saying, that when tiiey
had made out their puzzling questions, he meant to
surprise him with his cleverness, for Ronald never
fancied he had a head for reckoning.

There had been a proposal that they should meet
G 3


again on this day, still with the excuse of what Cap-
tain Vivian called business ; and Clement had given
an evasive answer, which left it at his option to go or
not, as he might choose. So his conscience was tole-
rably easy for the present, though the past weighed
upon him most uncomfortably.

It was not likely that Bertha should suspect any
of this evil. Clement had kept regularly to hours,
and walked once with his sisters, and was attentive
to his studies. This afternoon, also, after some de-
mur, he agreed to go with them over the hills to
Greystone Gorge, to see Barney Wood ; and although
Bertha was not at all fond of being left in any way in
charge of Clement, feeling that her control was not
sufficient for him, she was satisfied that he seemed
more disposed than usual to be obedient. Perhaps
it was the consciousness of his unacknowledged fault
which made him particularly grave and quiet.

It was a long walk, and the days were now so
short that it was necessary to leave home early.
Without Clement, indeed, Bertha might have hesi-
tated about undertaking the expedition ; for it was
unpleasant to return over the hills alone, or only with
the children, when it was growing dark, and Barney
Wood's cottage had not the best possible reputation.
His mother, who was dead, had been Golfs daughter ;
and report said, that the crafty smuggler made use
of his son-in-law's house as a resort for himself and
his comrades, in case of necessity. It was certainly
very much out of the way of inspection, although Avi th-
in an easy distance of Dark Head Point, and not very
far from the Grange, — all advantages to persons en-


gaged in the contraband traffic carried on to sucli an
extent upon that part of the coast. Dark Head
Point was well known to be the general rendezvous
of the smugglers. It was the highest headland in
the neighbourhood, and from it they could keep a
strict watch over the country for miles ; and, though
called inaccessible from the shore, it was said that
the practised foot of the smuggler could find a footing
upon narrow ledges, which scarcely a goat could
venture to tread : and that the tubs, when landed,
were often hidden in recesses of the cliffs, which the
preventive men, with all their hardihood, could not
reach. But all this was but hearsay. Smugglers have
a code of honour peculiarly their own, and no one of
the Encombe band had ever yet been known to betray
the secrets of his comrades ; whilst the villagers would
have believed it an act of the grossest treachery to
reveal aught, either by word or look, concerning the
traffic in which so many of those nearest and dearest
to them were deeply engaged.

It was a difficult task intrusted to Mr. Lester, that
of guiding these lawless people : to himself they were
uniformly civil, and, for the most part, there was
little more to find fault with amongst them than
amongst the generality of their class. Drunkenness
was the prevailing vice, but there were few petty
thefts ; the children were sent regularly to school ;
the wives worked diligently at home ; the attendance
at church on the Sunday was as regular as it com-
monly is in a seafaring place ; on the Aveek-days,
few men would have been found, in any village
of the size, able to leave their daily work. Only
a 4


now and then, some affray with the preventive men
roused the fiercer passions of the people, and re-
vealed the depth of the mischief which, at other
times, was doing its work secretlj, but surely. And
it was not easy to find occasions for warning, where
the offence was so carefully concealed. The men
called themselves fishermen ; their boats were osten-
sibly fishing boats, and, indeed, often used for that
purpose ; they were connected, too, with other smug-
gling bands along the coast, and it was customary to
shift the offence from one to the other, till it became
almost impossible to attach it to any individual. But,
worse than all, they were unquestionably supported
and encouraged by powerful example ; and whilst
Captain Vivian remained in the village, Mr. Lester
felt bitterly that all hope of really improving his
people, or teaching them the actual culpability
of their conduct, was vain. Yet with him there
was even greater difficulty in fixing the offence,
than with the lower classes. The vessel kept off"
the coast, and known to belong to him, and to
be engaged in smuggling expeditions, was owned
nominally by another person, and was ostensibly a
trading vessel, which went backwards and forwards
for apparently innocent purposes of business. It had
even been searched, but nothing had been found.
Yet there was no more real, doubt of its being used
for smuggling purposes, than that the man chiefly
connected with it was a lawless villain ; all that was
needed was proof, and proof was never at hand.

It seemed hard to visit the sins of the guilty upon
the innocent ; harder still, when it was known that


temptation and threats were used in the village to
no slight extent ; and that those who would not join
the smugglers from interest, were compelled to do so
from fear. This had been the case, in some degree,
with Mark Wood, the father of little Barney. He
had been a quiet, respectable man, till he married
Goff's daughter. Even then he seemed anxious to
keep himself aloof from the evil practices prevalent
around him ; but once nearly connected with a man
of bad principle, and he could not again set himself
free. Mr. Lester had been a friend to Mark and to
his wife ; he had attended her through a long illness,
and been with her at the moment of death ; and at
that time it seemed that the unhappy husband's heart
was open to good impressions, and Mr. Lester, anxious
to follow them up, had taken especial notice of his
sickly boy, left without a mother's care. With the
assistance of Rachel and Bertha Campbell, he had
provided Barney with comforts, and even luxuries, in
the wish to keep up his influence with the father by
the means of his child. But the case was not as
hopeful now as it had been. Goff was more fre-
quently at the cottage ; his son-in-law was with him
oftener in other places. It had even been reported
that Mark Wood was to be seen, late at night, watch-
ing on Dark Head Point ; but this was only report,
and Mr. Lester could not leave the sick boy to suffer,
because his father was yielding to evil example. He
still allowed Bertha and Rachel to visit him, and
aided them in any little plans for the child's com-
fort, often making an excuse to visit the boy himself,
with the desire of meeting the father, and gaining an


insight into his habits. But, once a smuggler, and
Mark Wood's sense of honour and truth was as per-
verted as that of his companions. He would treat
Mr. Lester with civility, listen to his advice, and show
himself grateful for his kindness ; but there was no
more confidence between them. Mark had given
himself to a service which would admit of no com-
promise ; and if a lie could serve the purpose of con-
cealment, he would not scruple to use it for smuggling
purposes, though he would have scorned to avail
himself of it for any other.

The visits to Barney Wood were very satisfactory
to Bertha, for they were almost her only opportunities
of seeing Ronald alone. His care of the child was
watchful and unceasing. It seemed as if the little
fellow was a safety-valve for the softer feelings which
could find no other vent. For Ronald Vivian could
not live without some one to love. The strong feel-
ings which at times carried him beyond his own
control in anger, or exhausted themselves in the
better impulses of fiery resolve and strong determi-
nation, took also, occasionally, other forms of intense
longings for affection, eager and passionate desires to
find some work which should draw him away from
himself, and give him personal love in return for
devoted self-denial ; and then he seized upon the first
object which presented itself, and gave himself up to
it unremittingly, and with the same spirit of intense
reverence with which he had watched his mother,
during her lingering illness, whilst receiving the im-
pressions that had so often been his safeguard during
his most perilous life.


We cannot forget purity when once we have been
brought in contact with it. The memory of evil may
die when the soul has long dwelt in the presence of
goodness, but the vision of holiness is immortal, even
as He from whom it proceeds. Ronald Vivian had
learnt from his mother what a woman can be in
meekness, self-devotion, endurance, and faith ; and
not all those terrible scenes into which he had since
been plunged, had sufficed to eradicate the impres-
sion. Still the best resolutions of the present, and
the strongest wishes for the future, were formed from
the images of the past. In Bertha Campbell, and Ella,
and Rachel, he saw, or fancied he saw, his mother's
virtues reflected ; and when he tended the sick boy
on his suifering bed, he acted over again in imagi-
nation the scenes so deeply imprinted on his memory
when his mother had in like manner watched over

It was a marvellous power which could thus keep
before him a standard of goodness so infinitely beyond
any thing actually present to his eyes. Bertha was
wanting in his mother's grace and tact ; and Ella, he
could sometimes discover, was wayward ; and Rachel
was too young and seen too seldom to exercise any
very direct influence ; but to Ronald they were beings
of a superior order. They had the refinement and
delicacy — the soft voices and the gentle consideration
of manner — with which all his better feelings were
associated ; and when disgusted by the coarseness and
freedom of the rough men with whom he was so often
brought in contact, his thoughts reverted to them
with a feeling almost superstitious in its reverence, —


as if thej, and such as they, alone prevented this
earth from sinking to the horrors of Pandemonium.

And thus it was, from the longing to escape from
the scenes he loathed into a purer atmosphere, that
the care of little Barney had become Ronald's solace,
as offering a vent for his pent-up yearnings, — a duty
which would associate him with those who were as
his better angels, pointing him the way to Heaven.
When he found that Bertha and Rachel Lester were
interested in the sick child, his work became en-
nobled : when he could act with them, or for them, in
any plan which they might have for Barney's gratifi-
cation, it was as though he had been raised above his
natural sphere, and higher, purer pleasures and hopes
were being placed before him ; and in this spirit he
had begun, and for a time carried on, his visits to the
child. But a still deeper blessing, though yet an
earthly one, was in time granted him. Love he must,
in some form, either in remembrance, or reality, or
hope. Whilst he lived alone with his coarse-minded
father he had loved the memory of his mother, and it
was long before he could persuade himself that any
other affection could be vouchsafed him. But the
possibility dawned upon him as a star rising upon the
darkness of night, whilst he watched by the sick bed
of Barney Wood. His father might be harsh and re-
pelling ; Bertha might be too ffir above him for every-
day sympathy ; Ella and Rachel had interests quite
removed from his ; but there was one face whicli
always brightened when he drew near ; one little voice
which never failed to entreat in longing accents for
his return ; one eye which had learnt to know when


he was sorrowful, to look lovingly and anxiously for
his smile ; and the pent-up fountain of Ronald's heart
was touched by the loving hand of a child's sympathy,
and the affection which had hitherto exhausted itself
in regret, or been dried up by the scorching furnace
of sin, gushed forth pure and free to revive the droop-
ing spirit of the boy, and be in turn refreshed and
strengthened itself.

It was now very nearly Christmas, and Greystone
Gorge, inviting though it might seem in its wild lone-
liness beneath the beauty of a summer sky, looked
mournfully dreary under the dark atmosphere of a
December afternoon. There was not even the excite-
ment of frost and snow ; the sky was a cold, hard grey,
and though the sun tried to break through it at in-
tervals, it had but little power ; the thin coating of
turf had become brown ; the fern leaves were drv
and withered ; the straggling bushes seemed only fit
to burn; all was faded, and the cottage itself had
a mournful, neglected appearance. Barney had long
ceased to enjoy being laid upon a matrass out
of doors, though he was generally drawn every day
over the few paces of level ground in liis little car-
riage. Bertha and Rachel had provided him with a
thick wrapping-shawl, and Ronald had brought him
a sailor's coat to put over him, so that he could be kept
tolerably warm ; but since the winter had set in ho
had taken up a position on a small couch by the wide
open hearth, and when he did go out, could bear the
fatigue only for a few minutes. He was left very
much to himself. An old woman who lived in a cot-
tage lower down the Gorge was hired to take daily


care of Mark's household, but it was very little attention
which the suffering child obtained from her. She
dressed him roughly, then laid him on his couch, and
proceeded to her household work ; scolding Barney
if he interrupted her, and now and then reproaching
him with having so many friends that he wanted for

A grown-up person understands such a trial, and
suffers from it ; a child happily scarcely does, and
Barney was quite contented when he was left with
his picture book, and his scissors and paper, whether
Mother Brewer, as the old woman was called, at-
tended to him or not. He would occupy himself for
hours together with them, whilst his brothers and
sisters were at school ; and when they returned,
though it was fretting to be disturbed, there was
excitement and interest in hearing all they had done ;
and they were not at all rough with him, and his
father was especially tender ; altogether Barney was
not an unhappy child, and his little wizen face, though
thin and sharp from illness, could brighten up with
a smile which often became a hearty laugh, when
Ronald told droll stories or the children amused him
with their games.

He was looking out for Eonald this afternoon,
fancying it a long time since he had seen him ; and
he had persuaded the old woman to move his couch
to the opposite side of the hearth, and to leave the
door partly open, that he might hear the first sound
of footsteps. So he sat half upright, cutting pieces
of paper into strange figures which he called men
and women, and making a game of them for his own


amusement, all the time fully on the alert for what
might be approaching.

" Such a litter ! there's no end to the work,"
grumbled Mother Brewer, as she picked up the shreds
of paper which, in a sudden move, Barney had scat-
tered upon the floor. "Why can't you keep quiet,
child, eh?"

"He's not coming yet," was Barney's reply, — giving
vent to his own thoughts, without noticing the angry
tones to which he was so well accustomed. He laid
down his scissors, and listened again.

" Well ! and what's the use of an imp like you
fussing ? He'll come if he can, and if he can't he
can't. I won't have you lie there with the door open
much longer."

Barney strained his neck to try and look round the

The old woman gave him a tap on the shoulder,
sufficient to startle, not to frighten him. "Lie quiet,
can't you? Don't you know the doctor says you

"'Tis Captain John, and father, and grandfather,
'tisn't Ronald," said Barney. His face changed its ex-
pression ; he would have cried if he had not been

" What sharp ears the child has ! I don't hear any
one." The old woman went to the door. " Oh ! yes,
there they be ; we must move you, my master ; " and
she drew the child's couch back to the wall, placing
him in a position where, even if the door were
open, he could see nothing. " No crying ; don't let's
have any fuss ; father will beat you, if you cry. The


threat was disregarded, for Barney had never ex-
perienced a beating ; but he was very quiet, and self-
controlled, and shrank up into a corner of his little
couch, and turned his face away, as though he longed
to escape notice.

The three men came into the room together ; Cap-
tain Vivian first, GofF following him with the air of
an equal. Mark Wood lingered behind ; and when he
did enter, went up at once to his child's couch, and
patted his head.

" We don't want you, mother," was Goff 's uncivil
greeting to the old woman, who instantly left the
cottage ; " and we don't want him neither, eh, Mark ?"
he pointed to the child.

Mark looked at his boy for a moment. " No fear
for him; here Barney, child, cut the Captain out a
wolf; and he tossed him a scrap of paper. 'Tis a fuss
to move him ; it gives him pain, and besides we've no
time to lose."

" No, that's for certain ; your young fellow will be
upon us before long. Captain ; so now to work."

They withdrew to a distant corner, and carried
on the conversation in an under tone. Goff began :
" You're in for it Mark, remember.'*

Mark gave rather a sullen assent.

" And in for a good fifty pounds," said Captain
Vivian, jocosely. "Why Mark, my man, you'll be
off to America upon it."

Mark replied as gravely as before : " I should like
to understand the work, though, better. Captain.
I see no good in a man's undertaking a job till he
sees where it will lead him to."



"Folly!" interrupted Goff. "Haven't I told you
'twill lead nowhere ? The young gentleman's up to
a frolic, and we are going to help him to it, that's all.
But we'll have none of this nonsense. Do you mean
to keep your word, that's the question ? "

Mark hesitated.

" It's my own relation, my own flesh and blood, as
you may say," observed Captain Vivian, more gently.
" I'm not likely to go in any way against one of my
own kin. He and I are the best friends possible.
It's only a boy's lark."

" And the fifty pounds has nothing to do with it,"
continued Goff, observing Mark's perplexed coun-
tenance ; " that's for the other work, you know.
Land your cargo safe, and then come and hold out
your hand for the money. The boy's affair has
nothing to do with that."

" And it's not against the young gentleman's will ? "

" Not a whit, not a whit, man. And if the
parson's up in arms, why we know how to laugh at

The allusion was an unfortunate one. Mark
Wood might neglect Mr. Lester's advice, but he re-
spected him extremely. " I've no fancy to go against
the parson," he replied. "He's been a kind friend
to me and mine ; and if I've sometimes gone contrary
to him, more shame to me."

" Of course, of course. But the boy's not going to
be a parson ; so wherc's the use of keeping him tied
up as they do. Besides, Mark, my man" — and
Captain Vivian, resting his hands upon his two
knees, bent forward and fixed upon Mark a gaze of



stern penetration and defiance — " once ours, always
ours. Who is it the Preventives would give their
right hand to catch? and who may we give up to
them in a moment, eh ? "

Mark's countenance changed. The threat implied
would, he knew, be executed without remorse if the
occasion offered. Once suspected by his comrades,
he would on the first opportunity be left to the
vigilance of the coast-guard, even if no deeper
revenge were taken.

" It's not I that am wishing to draw back,
Captain," he said, in a more yielding tone. " I've
gone far enough with you, as you know, — too far, it
may be," he added, in a lower voice ; '^ but no matter
for that. Sink or swim together is a needs be, when
men have done what we have in company. But I've
no will to drag others in, specially a youngster who
is only just beginning to know his right hand from
his left."

" Trust him for that ! " exclaimed Goff, burstin<r
into a loud laugh. " He's as cunning a bird as any
in England. But put aside all that rubbish, Mark,
and tell us plainly, once for all — will or nill? that's
the question. Down on the beach with a quick, firm
oar, to-night at half-past seven, or " — his voice sank
ominously — " wandering like a skulking wretch,
afraid to meet his bold comrades ? Come, man, I
thought better of you."

" And his life is safe, you are sure ? " said Mark.

" Life ! safe ! Why man, you are enough to drive a
saint frantic, let alone Eichard Goff. I tell you it's
a question of fun. He'll be taken out safe and


brought back safe ; and tlien, won't we turn round
and have a laugh at the parson ? "

" 'Twill be the third night I shall have been away
from him," said Mark, pointing with one finger to
his child.

"Oh ! he ! nonsense ! the old woman will take care
of him, and thankful. He's not in your way."

" And we are to be away, how long ? "

"How can I tell? It's according to what time
you'll want. Just take your work, man, as it's given
you, and don't trouble about any thing else. You're
not in command yet; when you are, you'll know
more about it."

Captain Vivian rose and went to the door. " I
don't see my boy, yet," he said ; " but he'll surely be
here soon. We must have no more trifling."

" There's no disobeying you. Captain," replied
Mark, surlily.

" To be sure not," said Goff, in a cajoling tone.
" What would you be without the Captain, I should
like to know?."

" yery different from what I am," muttered Mark
to himself; and then he added, more loudly, " I must
understand what's to be done clearly. To-night at
half past seven ? "

" Aye, down on the beach, in the West Cove, by
the Point," replied Goff.

" And the vessel waiting outside," added Captain

" Then, when we and the young one come down,"
continued Goff, " we shall put him on board ; and you
are to haul off to the l)ark. When you are there,
H 2


your business will be done as to orders, and you*ll
have nothing to think of but your own old concerns."

" And he is to go with us, then, across seas ? "

" Yes, just for the sail. He'll be back with you."

" And we to show him all our sport ? That seems
folly enough," said Mark. " Why, he'll turn sharp
upon us when he gets back."

" Never you trouble your head with that matter,"
said Goff. "We are not going to let him see an

Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellCleve Hall (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 26)