Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

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inch beyond his nose if we don't choose ; and one
way you may make special use of him, — if the sharks
are after you, put him first, and see if good doesn't
come of it."

Mark gave a start of horror. " Put him first ! into
danger ? — why Gofi", you are a scoundrel."

" Thanks for your good opinion," said Goff,
carelessly ; " I'm not more a scoundrel than my
neighbours, only I speak out and they keep in. But
I'm not saying the boy's to be put in danger, — only
put first. Let the sharks know who he is, and there's
feeling enough for the old General to keep them from
doing him harm. And if they catch him, 'tis. but
an hour or two's rough handling for him. He's not
such a tender chicken for that to hurt him. Come,
trust me, Mark," he continued, seeing his companion's
changing and undecided expression. " You've never
got into mischief yet by trusting me."

" Pshaw ! what signifies urging ? " exclaimed Cap-
tain Vivian impatiently. " If he won't do it, there
are a dozen others who will. And we shall know
where to look for our friends for the future."

"And we shall have the boy with us, at all hazards,"


continued Goff. " We are not going to be baulked
of our plans by a downhearted fool, who hasn't a
spark of fun in him."

The observation seemed to strike Mark in a new
light. " You are bent upon it, then ? " he said.

" Aye, to be sure. Who ever knew Richard GofF
take a plan into his head, and give it up ? " And GoiF
laughed loudly and harshly.

Mark considered.

" A loss of fifty pounds," muttered Captain Vivian.

Mark glanced at his child, who was sitting up on
his couch, his large black eyes sparkling Avith
eagerness as he fixed them upon his father. Pro-
bably he feared to attract notice to the boy, for the
look was but momentary ; and then he said, more
boldly, " Fifty pounds paid down?"

" Sterling gold, if you v/ill," said GofF.

" Fifty pounds, which will go a pretty long way
toAvards paying the old General the rent of tlie
cottage and the land," said Captain Vivian.

" And which if you don't have, you must needs go
forth to wander where you can," pursued GofF

A second quick glance at the child : — perhaps ima-
gination pictured the little fellow's grief in having to
give up the only home he had ever known, — perhaps
there were images of bygone days and past happiness
rising up before Mark Wood. It would be a terrible
trial to leave the cottage in the Gorge ; but so it must
be, unless the rent of the house and the land could bo
paid before another month was over. His fiiltering
resolution was betrayed by the question, again re-
peated, — " You are sure the boy's life is safe ? " to

H 3


which GofF replied by shaking his hand violently, and
exclaiming, " As safe as yours or mine, man ! and
what would you want more ?" He laughed again, so
did Captain Vivian. Mark Wood only replied sullenly,
— " Then the matter's settled, and we'll say no more.'*

He took up his hat, intending to leave the cottage.
Goff followed him to the door, looked out, and
dragged him back. " Hist ! I say ; not a word to
the youngster ; he's coming. Captain, its time for
us to be off. Where's your back outlet, Mark ? "
He tried a little door near Barney's couch. Mark
went up slowly and opened it.

" Not a word, remember," said Captain Yivian, in
a low, hurried voice, — he slipped half-a-cro\vn into
Mark's hand ; — "I am glad we caught you at home ;
but remember, not a word."

They passed through the little door, whilst INIark
sat down on a chair by the deal table, and, resting
his elbows upon it, buried his face in his hands.



" Are they gone, father ? " Barney's voice broke
suddenly upon Mark Wood's meditations.

" Aye, I suppose so. What do you want, child ? "

" Grandfather speaks out so, and Captain John's
wicked ; I wish they wouldn't come here."

" That's a bad boy, to say so. We'll have Mother
Brewer back ; " and Mark stood up.

" Ronald's coming ; I don't want Mother Brewer,"
said Barney.

" Ronald won't come ; nobody won't come, if you
talk like a bad boy. There, go to your cutting and
clipping again." Mark tossed him a piece of paper
from a quantity which Rachel had provided for his

Barney scarcely noticed the gift ; but as his
father still stood moodily by the window, he con-
tinued, "Mother Brewer says Captain John makes
folks wicked."

" Idiot ! what does she know ? " Mark turned
angrily upon his little boy ; and the child, frightened
at the expression of his eyes, began to cry. The
father's heart softened. "There, leave oiT; don't
fuss, Barney, boy ; don't whimper ; take to your
cutting, and we won't have Mother Brewer back.
And here's Ronald ; you'll be glad to see Ronald."
u 4


He placed tlie cliild more comfortably on his couch,
gave an uneasy glance round the room, wishing to be
certain that no traces of his recent visitors were left,
and went to the door just as Ronald came up.

" Good-day to you, Mark; how's Barney?" Ro-
nald's open face, and manly, good-humoured voice,
were a great contrast to Mark's clouded brow, and
sullen tone of half welcome.

" The boy's nigh the same, thank you. Master Ro-
nald. You'll be going in, I suppose?" and Mark
moved aside, to let Ronald pass.

" There's no one in, is there ? " asked Ronald, stop-
ping. " I thought I saw some one moving about in
the back yard."

" Mother Brewer's been here, but she's gone home
for a bit," was the evasive answer.

" I thought Goff might have been here, or my
father ; they were before me some way on the hills.
But I suppose they turned off to the Point."

" I suppose so. Will you please to walk in ? The
child will be glad enougli to see you." Then recol-
lecting himself, and remembering that Barney would
be sure to mention the visit he had just had, he
added, — " The Captain and Goff were here for a bit ;
but they're off now ; I don't know where."

Ronald had early been taught the watchfulness en-
gendered by guilt and suspicion ; even these few
words of Mark's, showing an unwillingness to men-
tion Captain Vivian's visit, gave him the clue to
something not satisfoctory. He would have asked
some questions, but Mark was evidently unwilling
to stay and talk. He muttered a few words about


business and waste of time, and again begging
Ronald to go in, for Barney would be mighty glad
see liim, he walked away with a lounging, idling

Ronald went up to Barney's couch, and the child
threw his arms round him, and kissed him, but with-
out speaking.

" That's enough ! Why Barney, my man, I shall
be stifled!" Ronald laughed, and tried to disengage
himself, but the child still clung to him.

" I like you to come. I don't like Captain John ;
and Mother Brewer says he's wicked ; but father
won't let me say it." He stopped suddenly, catching
the expression of Ronald's face : — " Is it naughty in
me to say it ? "

" Captain John is my father, Barney," said Ronald.

" He ain't a bit like you ; and father is like me,"
continued Barney.

"All fathers and sons arn't alike, Barney; but
what made you think of Captain John ? "

"'Cause he's been here ever so long, and grand-
father, and father ; they've been talking."

" What, this morning ? A long time ? "

" Ever since Mother Brewer moved me up in the
corner. Captain John doesn't speak out, like grand-

" And they let you stay here ? "

" Father said 'twas a trouble to move, and they
hadn't time ; and he gave me this " — Barney held up
his paper — " to cut out a wolf for Captain John ; but
I didn't cut — I listened!" His brilliant eyes were
fixed with keen intelligence upon Ronald.


" But, Barney, they didn't mean you to listen ; that
was wrong."

" They talked out, sometimes," said Barney, quickly.
" Grandfather made most noise."

"And they went away just before I came, I sup-
pose ? " said Ronald.

" Just a bit before. Father was cross then."

" Barney, Barney, what does Mr. Lester tell you ?"

" I ain't to say father's cross. I won't say it, but
he is."

" But you do say it ; and that's naughty. You
must try to be dutiful. I've told you so often."

" Captain John's cross to you sometimes, ain't
he ? " said Barney.

A perplexing question ! Eonald replied to it, in-
directly, " He tells me when I don't please him."

" Then, ain't you dutiful?"

Ronald's countenance changed, and Barney's quick
eye noticed it. " When father's cross I don't like
him," he said ; " that's naughty of me ; but you al-
ways like Captain John, don't you ? "

" We mustn't talk about liking our parents ; we
must like them anyhow," said Ronald.

Barney seemed perplexed ; but presently he went
on : — " Mr. Lester says that God likes good people ;
must we like wicked ones ? "

Ronald made no answer ; his head was turned aside,
and a large tear was rolling down his check.

Barney caught his hand, and forced him to look at
him. " Why do you cry ? I didn't mean to make
you cry!" he said. "Is it 'cause Captain John's


" Because I am wicked myself, too, Barney ;" and
Ronald brushed his hand across his eyes, and tried to

" Miss Campbell and Miss Rachel think you very
good," said Barney. " They say if I go to Heaven,
that you'll go, too. I asked them one day ; for I
shouldn't like to go alone."

" Miss Campbell and Miss Rachel may wish me to
go to Heaven, but they can't tell that I shall," said
Ronald ; " and we must be very good, indeed, you
know, Barney, to go there."

" That's why I shan't go, then," said Barney,
quickly ; " 'cause I don't like father when he's cross."

" But you know you must say your prayers, and
ask God to forgive you, Barney, when you've been
so naughty ; and then, perhaps. He will let you go to
Heaven still."

" Is that what you do ? " asked the child, with a
strangely inquisitive expression in his worn face.

Ronald hesitated ; but Barney was determined upon
obtaining his answer. " Do you say prayers when
you are naughty? Is it 'Our Father,' you say?"
He would not let Ronald move, but kept his hand
closely clasped between his own small, long fingers.

" Yes, sometimes. People don't always say the
same prayer, you know, Barney," was Ronald's

"I like 'Our Father' best," continued the child,
" because Miss Campbell says it's God's prayer ; but I
don't say it when I am naughty. I say, ' Pray, God,
forgive me, and make me a good boy, for Jesus
Christ's sake.' Is that what you say ? "


" Something like it, sometimes ; " — Ronald still

" I'm glad you say it. I like you to say the same
things as me. But then you arn't naughty when
Captain John's cross. What makes you naughty
ever ? "

" A great, great many things, I am afraid," said

" But tell me what ; I want to know."

" I couldn't tell you ; you wouldn't understand."

" Shouldn't I ? " A look of thought came over his
face. " When I'm a man, then, I shall understand ;
but I don't want to be a man."

" Don't you, Barney ? why not ? "

" Men are wicked," said Barney. " Wicked's
worse than naughty."

" Oh ! Barney, Barney ! who taught you any thing
about wickedness ? "

" Father taught me some, and Mother Brewer.
She hopes I shan't be like father, nor grandfother,
nor Captain John, nor any of them ; and so I say in
my prayers, — 'Please God take me out of this wicked
world.' Do you say that too ? "

Something seemed to rise up in Ronald's throat, to
choke his utterance.

Barney kept his eyes fixed upon him intently, and,
obtaining no answer, said, half reproachfully, — " You
wouldn't like to go."

" Shouldn't I ? Oh, Barney, if I were but sure ! "
The words escaped apparently without intention ; for,
the moment afterwards, Ronald added, — " Never
mind me though ; you are sure."


" I ain't," said the child, quickly. " Miss Campbell
tells me to say, * through Jesus Christ,' to make sure ;
and you can say it too."

Ronald half smiled. " Yes, I can say it, certainly ;
but saying's not every thing. You'll know that, fast
enough, Barney, when you're a man."

" I shan't never be a man ; but I know about that
now," was the grave answer.

" What do you know?" Ronald sat down by the
couch, and leant over the child fondly.

" I know He got us the place, and made it all
ready for us ; and if we say our prayers properly,
and try not to cry and be cross. He'll give it us."

" But if we don't say our prayers properly, and are
cross, what then, Barney?" and the sorrowful tone
struck upon the child's ear, though he could not com-
prehend its meaning.

'' Somebody else will take our place," he said, with
a scrutinising look, which seemed to inquire whether
Ronald could possibly be alluding to himself.

" And we shall be punished," said Ronald.

" You won't be," said Barney, " because you say
your prayers when you are naughty."

" Ah ! but Barney, that isn't every thing. If we
don't do right, we deserve to be punished."

" Parson Lester says He was punished for us,"
said Barney, quickly. Ronald made no answer, and
Barney continued: — " Parson Lester told me that one
day after I'd had a dream ; and I thought God was
going to put me down into a deep dark place, 'cause
I'd called father cross. He said that if I'd say my
prayers, and try to be a better boy, God wouldn't


punish me, because Jesus Christ had been punished
for me. It was very kind of Him to be punished,
wasn't it?"

" Yes, very kind ; but still, if we don't try to be
good, we shall be punished," said Ronald.

Barney looked up rather impatiently : — " But I
don't like to think about being punished, — I like to
think about being good ; and Jesus Christ loves me,
and so He won't punish me."

" Oh, yes, indeed, Barney, He will ; if you are

" But He won't if I try not to be naughty. INIother
Brewer was scolding me last time Miss Campbell was
here, and she said she wasn't to scold me, 'cause I
was trying; and so, if I try, God won't scold me.
And I do try," he added, looking earnestly at Ronald's
face ; " I didn't cry once all day yesterday."

" There's a good little man ; I'm glad to hear
that ; " and Ronald stroked the child's head.

" And He loves me then, don't you think so ? Miss
Campbell says He does, and Miss Rachel said He
loved me better than you do. Does He ? "

" Ah ! Barney, yes, I know He must ; but I love
you very much."

" And I love you with all my heart ;" and Barney
raised himself suddenly, and tried to reach Ronald's
head, that he might bend it down to kiss him. " I
love you now, and I mean to love you when I get
to Heaven ; and then by-and-by you'll come there.
I'm sure there's the place ready, with your name
upon it."

Ronald looked away, and busied himself with re-


placing the child's cushions. When he spoke again,
it was to make some trifling observation.

Barney was perplexed ; presently he said, in a low,
almost frightened voice, as if conscious that he was
venturing upon forbidden ground, " I should like to
know whose name's there, besides. Do you think
Captain John's is ? "

Ronald could bear it no longer ; and, careless of
the child's presence, he leant his forehead upon the
arm of the couch, and groaned.

" Don't take on ; what's the matter ? Please don't
take on," said Barney. " I dare say he'll be there,"
he added, seizing upon the point the most likely to
have caused such distress. " Don't take on," he
continued, trying to draw away Ronald's hand, and
force him to raise liis head. But Ronald did not
look up for many moments ; his countenance was so
haggard, when he did, that the poor child gazed on
liim with alarmed amazement.

"If Captain John says his prayers he'll have his
place there, too," he said, timidly. " And we'll ask
God to teach him his prayers, shall we ? I'll ask it
every day, if you will."

Ronald bent down and kissed him with a woman's
tenderness. " Barney, will you ? I shall like that."

" Shall you ? I like to do what you like. I can
say it when I pray God to bless father, and grand-
father, and brothers, and sisters, and Ronald." He
paused, then added, — "I never forget that ; one day
I asked if you might have the place next mine, so I
dare say you will ; and 'twill be so happy."

It was a strange, thrilling feeling which those few


words created in Ronald's breast; he could scarcely
call it hope, and yet it was hope : even when he felt
that they were but the expression of a child's affec-
tion, touching upon subjects immeasurably beyond
its comprehension. They were so vivid, so un-
doubting ; the faith was scarcely to be called faith,
it was reality ; and it is this which our dim-seeing,
earthly minds require to give them strength.

A smile reassured Barney, and made him feel that
the cloud had passed away; and suddenly, with a
child's quick forgetfulness of the serious questions
which had been occupying his mind, he insisted upon
Ronald's sitting down by him to show him how to
cut out some curious figures which be had promised
him. All his thoughts were turned into that channel,
except at intervals, when any sudden noise made him
look up timidly. He was evidently afraid of the usual
visitors at the cottage, and at last he begged Ronald
to go to the back yard and see if Captain John was
there. "I shouldn't like him to be out there," he
said ; " perhaps he'd stay there all night."

*' Oh, Barney, how silly ! People don't stay out of
doors all night; and if he did, he wouldn't do you
any harm."

"People do stay out all night," replied Barney,
quickly. " Father's going to be out to-night."

" To-night ? Wha^t for ? What do you mean ? "

" Mother Brewer's coming here ; grandfather said
she'd do for me."

" I don't understand. Do for you ?"

"Father's going away," continued Barney; "but
he doesn't like it."


Eonald's interest was excited ; but he said, without
expressing the least surprise, " Was that what father,
and grandfather, and Captain John, were talking-

" They made a great hushing and whispering up
in the corner ; I couldn't hear."

" But you heard something ? " Ronald's voice was
tremulously eager.

" I heard grandfather say Mother Brewer should
come when father Avas gone in the boat. They didn't
stand here ; they were out by the door."

"The boat? oh!" And Eonald's interest sank,
for he thought it was only some smuggling scheme
which had been planned.

" Is it any thing wicked, do you think ? " continued
Barney ; " 'cause father doesn't want to go."

" I can't tell. Was that all you heard ? "

The question was too direct. The boy had been
trained to silence, though he often forgot his lesson ;
and now, recollecting himself, he said, " I mustn't tell
any more ; father won't let me ; he'll beat me, he says,
if I do ever tell what I hear."

"But, Barney, if I want to hear, — if it is of great
consequence that I should, — you would tell me
then?" Ronald's conscience reproached him, as the
words were uttered. He corrected himself quickly,
and added, " But never mind, never mind. When is
Mother Brewer coming back ? "

" I don't know. You arn't going ? "

" Perhaps so ; I think I must. Which way did
Captain John go, Barney ? "



"Out at the back yard. D'ye think he's there
now ?" The old, frightened look returned.

" No, no ; lie quiet. There's nobody."

" There is somebody ; I hear him. Oh ! Eonald
won't you look ? "

"Barney, that's naughty, I tell you there's no
one; only — " he stepped to the window; — "yes,
can't you see ? I'll move you ; — now, look out at
the door, across the Gorge ; who's that coming ?
Some one you'll be glad to see, I'll answer for it."

The child stretched his neck forward, so as to catch
a glimpse of the pathway up the Gorge. His eyes
sparkled with delight, " Miss Campbell and Miss Ra-
chel ! " he exclaimed, " and the young gentleman, too,
and the little ladies ! "

" What, Clement ? " Eonald hurried to the door.
The party were drawing near. Ronald returned again
to the child : — " You are sure, Barney, that grand-
father and Captain John are gone."

" They went out at the back, you can see." Barney
paid but little attention to the question; his interest
was given to the new arrivals.

Ronald quietly opened the back door, and went into
the scullery, and from thence into what was called
the yard. It was shut in by the hills, which rose
immediately behind the cottage, but there was no
regular enclosure. Nothing was to be seen from it,
but the precipitous banks which formed the head of
the Gorge ; bare, and desolate, and scattered over
with large, loose stones and rocks. Upon one of
these rocks Ronald mounted, and gazed around with
the quick sight of one who, from infancy, had been


tutored to vigilance. At some distance was the track
which led from the secluded Gorge to the open com-
mon between Cleve and Encombe, and from thence
to the headland of Dark Head Point. Along this
path one figure was to be seen ; it looked like Mark
Wood ; but no one else was near, except the party just
arrived from Encombe. He heard their voices ; the
children and Clement were running races, — Bertha
trying to keep them quiet, lest they should come too
suddenly upon Barney. They seemed all in liigh
spirits. Rachel was with them ; and her laugh espe-
cially, with its sweet ringing tone, came distinctly to
the ear. Ronald watched, and listened ; and the feel-
ing, painfully morbid, which so often checked him in
his happiest moments, riveted him to the spot. What
was he, that he should attempt to mingle with those so
much beyond him ; — whose innocence and ignorance
of sin he could never hope to attain ? He left the rock,
and walked a few paces away from the house, to a
smooth bit of turf, almost the only level spot near. His
inclination was to go away, without being seen, but
there were other restraining feelings, one especially,
which he could not account for ; a dread, — a thought
that he must remain near as a guard, though why, or
for what purpose, he could not reasonably tell. He
waited till they had entered the cottage, and then sat
himself down on the further side of the rock, upon
which he had been standing, till he could quiet the
tumult of his feelings, and summon courage to meet

There was an intense stillness immediately around
him. The sea-gull, the only living creature to be
I 2


seen, was winging his flight towards the ocean noise-
lessly, and not even the tinkling of a sheep-bell broke
upon the wintry quietness. And yet Ronald listened ;
and as he listened he heard the closing of a wicket-
gate, which gave admission to the small plot of ground
near the cottage, cultivated as a garden. It startled
him, and his impulse was to stand up and look round ;
but he did not stand, he only moved so as to see with-
out being seen. Two men passed from the back yard
into the garden, one was Captain Vivian, the other
was GoiF. They stood and spoke together for a few
moments ; then Captain Vivian went down the Gorge ;
and GofF — Eonald did not see what became of him,
but when he looked again he was gone.

There was no shyness nor morbid fancifulness in
Ronald's mind now; his thoughts were distracted
from himself; they were set upon suspicion — very in-
coherent, but still enough to quicken his perceptions.
Yet his only definite idea was, that Goff was lingering
about in the hope of meeting Clement, and that, by
watching, he could be a safeguard. This idea made
him go at once to the cottage, walk round it, ascend
the hills a few steps to look about, and then go through
the yard and the scullery, glancing quickly and care-
fully around. He could not see any one ; but the door
of the scullery (wliich Eonald remembered to have
shut behind him, fearing the draught for Barney) was
open, — an indication that some one had gone out since
himself. As far as he could tell, no one was there
when he went through, yet he could not feel quite
sure. The scullery was large, for so small a cottage,
crowded with thing's which did not all belono- to


Mark Wood, — several casks, and boxes, and an old
mahogany chest, Avhich were Goff's property ; and it
was dark, lighted only by one little window, and that
dimmed by the hill rising behind the cottage ; a
j)erson might easily have been overlooked, standing
in the farthest corner. Perhaps that miglit have been
the case before; but there was no one there now,

Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellCleve Hall (Volume 2) → online text (page 7 of 26)