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Ronald made quite sure of that ; and then he fastened
the door in the inside, and entered the outer apart-
ment.

Bertha had taken Barney in her lap, and was
showing him a book of prints, which she had brought
with her, whilst Rachel, kneeling by her side, watched
with eager interest the expression of the child's face.
Clement was playing with Mark Wood's dog, in front
of the cottage ; and Louisa and Fanny were running
up and down the banks.

Barney recognised Ronald's footstep the moment he
entered, and called out to him, without any intro-
duction — " Here's a beauty, Ronald ! isn't he ? And
ain't she kind ? " he added, lowering his voice to an
aside, as Ronald came close to him.

" Very pretty indeed, Barney. What a house for
you to live in ! " And Ronald drew his attention to
the brilliant white edifice, Avith yellow and green trees
standing behind it, which formed the frontispiece.
He was glad of any thing to cover his shyness, for he
was always particularly shy with Bertha Campbell ;
she knew so much more of him than any one else did.

"Barney told me you were gone, Ronald," said
Bertha, giving him her hand with a cordial smile,
which said more than any words.
I 3



118 CLEVE HALL.

" And I said I was sure you were not ; that you had
only run away to hide yourself," said Rachel, laughing.
" Do you know, Barney, that Ronald very often tries
to hide himself when he sees us, only he is so tall
that his head will peep out, wherever he is."

"I don't like hiding," said Barney, quickly and
bluntly. "Falher and Captain John hide. Ronald
went to see after them."

"They are not here, are they ?" Bertha inquired of
Ronald.

" I think not ; I believe not." But Ronald's man-
ner was a little hesitating.

Bertha looked uncomfortable. "I felt sure," she
said, " that we should meet no one here, unless it
might be you, Ronald ; you told me your father was
always on the shore at this time of the day."

" My father is not here, now," replied Ronald. " I
saw him go down the Gorge. Goff, too, I think, is
gone ; but he has been here."

Bertha turned pale. " He won't be coming back,
you think ? "

" I hope not ; I don't know what he should come
for ; " but as he said this, Ronald glanced uneasily at
the door.

" Look ! Here's a cow, and two sheep, and a big
dog like father's Rover ! Look ! you must look."
Barney drew Ronald towards him impatiently.

But Ronald did not look, his thoughts were wan-
dering.

" Show them to me, Barney," said Rachel, whose
quick tact made her see that both Bertha and Ronald
were full of anxious thoughts. She came close to the



CLEVE HALL. 119

child, and turned over the leaves of the book for him,
and began, in her simple way, to describe the pictures.

" Can't you come out with me for a few minutes ? "
said Bertha, addressing Ronald.

He followed her to the door without speaking ; then,
as he caught sight of Clement, he went up to him and
shook him heartily by the hand.

" I did not expect to see you here^ old fellow," said
Clement, good humouredly. "I thought you were
buried in your books. "VYhat a rage you have for
them now."

" I came over to see the child. I come most days
when I can. Have you seen any one go by here just
these last few minutes ? "

" Not a soul. Whom did you expect ? "

"I fancied GofFwas here, he was just now ; but I
suppose he's gone," said Ronald carelessly. " When
does Mr. Lester come back, Clement ? "

" I don't know. Aunt Bertha is the person to
ask."

" He doesn't say when he will come ; he may be
here any day," replied Bertha.

" But not to-day ? " said Ronald, quickly.

" No, not to-day, certainly. A friend of his is ill ;
that detains him."

Ronald raised his eyes to hers, and read in her face
that Mr. Lester's absence was a source of anxiety.
There was an awkward pause. Clement began to
play with the dog again, and ran off scrambling up
the bank, and trying to make the animal folloAv.

Ronald called him back. " Halloa ! Clement, won't
you do something for me ? "
I 4



120 CLEVE HALL.

Clement could scarcely refuse, but he came back
unwillingly.

" I've got a word to say to Miss Campbell, but I
meant, if I could, just to have drawn Barney once or
twice up and down the green. He mustn't stay out
more than a few minutes. Would you mind taking
him out for me ? Rachel will wrap him up."

" It won't do to trust her," said Bertha ; " let me
go;" but Ronald prevented her. "Please not; I
am sure he will let Rachel put his coat on. Be off,
Clement ; " and Clement, naturally good-natured, and
flattered at being trusted, went into the cottage.

Bertha followed him with her eyes, so did Ronald,
till he was out of hearing ; then he turned anxiously
to Bertha, and said : — " I wanted him gone ; isn't Mr.
Lester coming back soon ? "

" Soon, but not directly ; at least, I can't be sure,
Ronald ; why do you ask ? "

" I can scarcely tell. I wish he was here, or that
Clement was away."

" You must have a reason ; why don't you tell it
me at once?" said Bertha, with slight impatience in
her tone.

"Because it is not a reason — only suspicion — and
it may all be wrong."

" But tell me — tell me — this is mere tormenting ;"
and Bertha looked and spoke great annoyance.

Ronald was pained, and his answer was cold: —
"The last thing I should desire is to torment any
one, still less Miss Campbell. My father and Goff
keep their plans secret, but that they have them I
don't doubt. It can scarcely have been for nothing



CLEVE HALL. 121

that Goff brought Clement to the Grange, the other
night."

" To the Grange ? — what ? — where ? "

" Surely you know. He was there three nights
ago." Then seeing Bertha's countenance change, he
went on : — " There is nothing to alarm you ; he only
came with GoiF, on his way back from the Hall, and
rested there for about a quarter of an hour. Clement
may not have thought it worth while to mention it,"
he continued, in a tone of exculpation ; " he does not
know what I do."

" Unjustifiable ! — disgraceful I " began Bertha ; and
she looked towards the cottage-door, as though she
would at once have gone to reproach him.

Ronald interrupted her : — " I will ask, for my own
sake, that the matter may pass now. He will feel that
I have betrayed him, and he won't understand my
motive."

" So mean ! — so deceitful !" exclaimed Bertha ; and,
with a sigh, she added, — " These are the things which
make one feel that one is working for nothing."

Ronald made no reply to the remark. His atten-
tion was still directed to the cottage.

Bertha considered a little. " I shall write to Mr.
Lester, and tell him that he must return without delay."

" Yes, that will be the best plan — much the best ;"
and Ronald spoke eagerly and earnestly. Till ho

comes " he paused, not wishing to exaggerate

her fears — " Iwill do my utmost to keep Clement from
the Grange ; so, doubtless, will you."

"Yes of course. Would he were to be trusted!
But, Ronald, I may trust you for him."



122 CLEVE HALL.

" I would entreat you to keep him with you," re-
plied Ronald, gravely. " It may be quite out of my
power to help him."

Bertha's fears were a'gain awakened ; and she said,
" You have a motive for speaking in this way, and
you are afraid to tell it me."

" No, indeed ; I could not fear to tell you any
thing — every thing. I have a motive — Clement's
safety."

Bertha looked round her anxiously, and said, " We
had better go home at once."

" Yes. Not that there is cause for fear now ; so far,
at least, as I know. I dread more Clement's renewed
visits to the Grange ;" and Ronald sighed deeply.

Bertha saw the expression of his face, and read his
thoughts. " Ronald," she said, " I need scarcely tell
you how I thank you."

He stopped her. " Miss Campbell, that can never
be required."

Bertha, without heeding him, continued : — " You
will believe, I trust, that, even if forced hereafter,
from circumstances, to estrange ourselves apparently,
neither Mr. Lester, Edward Vivian, nor myself, can
ever really forget your noble conduct. We feel that
Clement is safe with you as with us."

" I have a debt to pay," he replied, gloomily. '^ It
is not yet discharged."

" The debt is not yours," replied Bertha. " I was
unwise to lay the obligation upon you. Mr. Lester
has made me see this. Let me entreat you to forget
it."

" Forget it ! " he exclaimed. "Forget that the name



CLEVE HALL. 123

I bear can never be uttered witliout a thought of re-
proach — that even now I may be reaping the fruits
of dishonour ! Miss Campbell, tell me rather to for-
get my own existence ; to bury it, as full often I fain
would, in the grave ! "

" Ronald, this is wild and wrong. Your position is
the ordering of God's Providence ; and the grave,
when we seek it for ourselves, is not the death of dis-
honour, but its birth for eternity."

" Yes, I know it, I know it. But, Miss Campbell,
there are feelings to which you, a woman, — nurtured
in innocence, your name untainted, — must be a
stranger. You have never known that goading feel-
ing for which even Heaven's Mercy has no cure —
disgrace ! " The word, as it escaped his lips, was
almost inaudible.

" I may not have known it, Ronald, but I can ima-
gine it, and feel for it."

" Impossible ! I also once thought I knew it by
imagination," and he laughed bitterly. Then, in a
half scornful, half sorrowful tone, he went on, speak-
ing rapidly: — "There is a tale — my father read it
to me once, when I was a child — he little thought
then that I should find its likeness in my own his-
tory ; — it tells of the living man bound to the dead,
and left to perish in the lonely wilderness. Miss
Campbell," — and his eyes flashed for a moment, and
became dim again with struggling anguish, — " that
is disgrace — the dead sin that clings to the memory
— inseparable ! "

" But, Ronald, it is not your own disgrace ; and, as
yet, it is not disgrace in the eyes of the world."



124 CLEVE HALL.

He smiled grimly. " Who can separate the father
and the son ? When the living man sank beside his
dead burden in the wilderness, there were none to
see ; but did he, therefore, feel its horror the less ?
The Eje of Heaven is upon him who is disgraced ;
and were it possible for that Eye to be hidden from
creation — were he alone, the one, solitary, living
being, in the vast universe — there would be the eye
of his own heart, from which there can be no es-
cape ! Miss Campbell, do not try to comfort me ;
tell me only how I may serve you."

"I will not try to comfort you, Eonald," replied
Bertha; "in your present mood you could not
receive comfort. You have brooded over your
position till its evils have assumed a giant magni-
tude. Years, and experience, and God's blessing
upon your sincerity, will prove to you that even
when disgrace is irretrievable in the eye of man, it
is never so in the sight of God ; that before Him we
are all dishonoured, the best even as the worst ; and
that repentance, which has restored the one, can also
give the place of honour to the other. It is but
human pride which looks upon any disgrace as in-
delible before God, for it is only that which rejects
the Atonement that can make 'the sins which are as
scarlet to be even as white as wool.' "

" It may be so ; the time may come when I may
feel it."

" It will come ; I do not doubt it," replied Bertha.
"And, in the meanwhile, Ronald, there may be

means " She stopped, afraid of being carried

away beyond the limits of prudence.



CLEVE HALL. 125

Eonald waited respectfullj, but, finding tliat the
sentence was not concluded, he said, " What means ?
For what purpose ? There are none which Miss
Campbell could suggest that I should not be too glad
to use."

Still Bertha's face expressed doubtfulness ; but,
after a few seconds, she replied, " Means of averting
public disgrace, I was going to speak of; but I ought
not to name them to you, except that they may be
your father's safety."

" I am willing to hear them," he replied.

" It is but repeating what I have said before," con-
tinued Bertha. " You will, I am sure, understand that,
if any influence of yours could induce your father to
own the wrong we have every reason to believe he
has done, Mr. Vivian is the last person who would
j)ress a charge against him. If it were only for your
sake, he would overlook everything ; he owes his life
to you, and the obligation can never be forgotten.
All that we desire is that any false impression should
be removed from General Vivian's mind. Perhaps
there would be less difficulty in bringing him to this
point, if he knew that we may soon be in a position
to compel what now we only request."

A cloud of haughty feelings darkened Ronald's
countenance, and he turned away. But the feeling
was momentary. He came back again, and said, with
stern self-control, " It is not an easy task to require a
son to bring his father to confession."

Bertha looked distressed. " I fear I have done
wrong," she said ; " yet I have spoken in the hope of
averting greater evil. One thing is most certain,



126 CLEVE HALL.

that your father's danger will be as nothing if he
himself will come forward and acknowledge the
truth."

" And if he does not ? "

" It may be, I must not say it is, imminent. Oh,
Ronald ! " — and Bertha's voice suddenly changed into
earnestness most unlike her usual placidity, — " think,
I beseech you, of what I say ; think of what you may
avoid, — for your own sake, for your mother's sake."
He stood by with a face pale as death, but made no
answer. She read the working of his mind : — " For-
give me, forgive me, that I have so grieved you. At
first, when I told you all, I scarcely knew what I
was doing ; I longed only to have a friend on our side.
I thought 3^ou might do more for us than any other
person."

" I will do more. As there is truth in Heaven, I
promise it ; but not against my father's safety."

"Not against it, but for it. Time presses, and
events are hastening on. A few weeks, a few days
even, may see Edward Vivian openly arrayed against
your father; they may place a barrier, Ronald,
between us for ever. I am not speaking from fear
or fancy, indeed I am not. If you ever believed my
word, count upon it now, if possible."

He wrung her hand in silence, and, as with one
consent, they both moved towards the cottage.



CLEVE HALL. 127



CHAP. XXXVIII.

The twilight shades were gathering round the woods
of Cleve ; the heavy trunks and leafless branches were
becoming one dark, indistinct mass, above which
lurid clouds were gathering together in the wintry
sky, piled into fantastic shapes of mountains gilded at
their crests, and traversed by lines of fiery light ; and
islands floating in seas of liquid gold, appearing for
a moment, and then passing into other forms, and
sinking swiftly, yet almost imperceptibly, into dark-
ness. And in the library at Cleve, in a heavy arm-
chair, covered with crimson leather, drawn close to
the wide hearth, sat General Vivian ; on a low stool
at his feet was Ella; whilst, resting on the sofa
opposite, lay Mildred. The room was dark ; yet the
dancing light from the blazing logs flickered along
the walls, and seemed to mingle mysteriously with
the departing rays afar in the western sky, which
glimmered faintly through the narrow diamond panes
of a window, deeply embayed.

It was an hour for kindly thoughts, — the expression
of those inward feelings which never come forth so
freely as when twilight or darkness veil the changes
of the countenance, and we speak, as it were, to our-
selves, not willing to recognise the shadowy, ghostly
forms of the friends who are scarcely visible in the
dimness.



128 CLEVE HALL.

A change had come over General Vivian's home
since Ella had become its inhabitant. Months before,
he would have spent that sobering hour in reveries —
severe, if not gloomy ; and Mildred, fearing to intrude
upon him unsummoned, would have used the lingering
moments of day in thoughts of quiet meditation, —
blessed indeed, and most soothing, yet solitary, as
regarded aught of communion on earth.

Now they were together, talking little, thinking
much, — and probably very differently, — yet with a
certain feeling of common interest, of added cheerful-
ness and hope. Ella was scarcely to be thanked for
this : at first, indeed, her presence had been a restraint ;
it had fretted the General's conscience, though he would
not acknowledge it ; and he had seized upon all the
weak points in her character, which were many, and
dwelt upon, and exaggerated them. Yet still she was
an interest to him. The lonely, stern mind, which had,
for years, lived to itself, brooding over its own plans,
and building up a toAver of self-confidence, was now,
in a degree, diverted into another channel. Even when
he found fault with her, he liked to watch her ; and
when he did watch her, his strong sense of justice
assisted him against his prejudices. Ella was im-
proved, under Mildred's guidance ; she had made
resolutions, few and simple, but they had been kept ;
and this had given her confidence ; and, of her own
accord, she had then ventured to do more. The
General perceived this. Ella was more punctual at
breakfast and dinner, and that pleased him ; she read
steadily, and when he questioned her, the answers
brought out her talent ; and, as Mildred had hoped,



CLEVE HALL. 129

he began to feel proud of lier. AYlien it was pro-
posed that she should go home, he felt that he should
miss her. Not that he would acknowledge it to him-
self; the excuse which he made was, that she was
a comfort to Mildred. Yet once it had flashed across
his mind whether it would be possible to keep her
with them always, — he did not say to adopt her, —
that would have brought up the old question of justice ;
but without minutely considering the arrangement, he
fancied that she might just as well live at one place
as the other. And Ella, on her part, was not without
some degree of romantic reverence for her grand-
father. His very faults inspired the feeling. She
could see into, and through, most minds ; she never
seemed to reach beyond the surface of his. It was
a painful fascination at first, and had sometimes
rendered her perverse. She amused herself by ap-
pearing wayward, and expressing strange, wild opi-
nions before him, and watching their effect upon him.
It was a kind of play, in which she was the heroine ;
but she was bafiled by him. His notice was too
slight to be exciting ; often she could not tell whether
he even heard what she was saying ; and when, with
an absurd self-consciousness, she became more ex-
travagant, and more wilful, she was put down by a
sharp rebuke, which yet was not felt to be irritating ;
for it was the reproof of a strong, powerful character,
given without petulance ; and there is more pleasure
than pain in this kind of subjection, especially to
those whose strength is mental, rather than moral.
She became in consequence more gentle and submis-
sive ; and the very difficulty of discovering whether

VOL. il. K



130 CLEVE HALL.

her grandfatlier was pleased, or the contrary, gave
an interest to her efforts. There was a little quiet
excitement always going on at the Hall, which af-
forded a stimulus to her indolence, and so satisfied
her conscience, and put her in better humour ; and
at length, as the consciousness dawned upon her that
he was beginning to like her, came the pleasure of
power, — power over one whom every one else dreaded ;
and Ella loved power dearly, in spite of her indo-
lence. She felt that she could amuse her grand-
father, — that he was interested in her conversation ;
she had that sense of being appreciated, which espe-
cially tends to bring out talent, and this made her
exert herself the more. All these motives were, of
course, very mixed, — they could not, in any way, be
depended upon for the steady improvement of cha-
racter; but Ella's faults were not those which the
labour of days or weeks, or even of months, could
cure; they were insidious evils, — pride, wilfulness,
indolence, — requiring patience and self-examination,
and constant watchfulness ; and Ella was only just
beginning to understand her defects, — how then
could she be expected, all at once, properly to apply
the remedies ? Mildred was often obliged to say this
to herself, for Ella was continually disappointing her,
— and even her good deeds were not seldom alloyed
by some taint of the old leaven. Most especially it
was difficult to make her see the eifcct which her
faults had upon others. Indolence had rendered her
selfish, and selfishness prevented her from putting
herself in the position of those with whom she lived,
and understanding their feelings. Besides, without
being conceited, she had the consciousness of talent



CLEVE HALL. 131

wliicli is inseparable from its possession ; and know-
ing that she could make herself very agreeable, it
was not easy to believe that she was often just the
contrary.

Then, too, her offences, though very tiresome and
irritating, were not the result of wilful malice, if the ex-
pression may be used. She was always wishing to be
much better than she was, and fancied that every one
must see this, and understand it ; and so, when she had
done wrong, the fault Avas blotted from her own memory
quickly, because there was no depth of bad intention
in it, and she forgot that without a confession or
an apology, it could not be forgotten by those who
witnessed it. She would be most provokingly disre-
gardful of Mildred's wishes, and would even speak to
her proudly and disrespectfully, and then go about
her usual occupation as if nothing had happened, and
return to Mildred in perfect good humour, v>^ithout,
perhaps, the thought once crossing her mind that her
aunt had reason to be annoyed.

Every day made Mildred see more plainly how
much Bertha must have had to bear with in a cha-
racter so unlike her own.

Yet there was an improvement, an obvious one, and
Mildred was by nature patient and hopeful, and Ella
was very young, and had, it was to be trusted, a long
life before her for the task of self-discipline, and so it
was not difficult to give her encouragement ; and this
made Ella's life much happier than it Avas at home,
and rendered even the silence of the old Hall more
cheerful to her than the mirth of the Lodge.

She was cheerful now as she sat with her grand-



132 CLEYE HALL.

father and aunt in the twilight, ruminating upon
her own fancies, and from time to time venturing
to give them forth ; and Mildred had a pleasure in
listening to her, even though occasionally she saw
cause to check her.

" Grandpapa, do you and Aunt Mildred never go
to London ? " was the question, after a silence rather
longer than usual.

" What should we do in London, child ? TVe can
neither of us move about."

" But it would be the world ; Encombe and Cleve
are not the world."

" They form our Avorld," observed IMildred, " and
that satisfies us."

" But they are not the world, — the real world. It
is like being in a dream living here."

"And you don't like the dream, Ella?" The
General did not mind asking the question ; he knew
he was quite safe as to the answer.

" Oh, yes, grandpapa, I do. Sometimes I think it
is a dream I should like never to waken from."

The General patted her head, and Ella drew nearer
to him. "But, grandpapa, don't you know what I
mean ? There is a difference between dreaming and
living."

" A wide difference," said Mildred, laughing, " but
I should have thought Ella, that dreaminess was
quite in your way ; you don't like active exertion."

" But I like to see it in others," said Ella, " and
that is why I should like to live in London."

" You would soon grow weary of it," remarked the
General, shortly.



CLEVE HALL. 133

"Did you, grandpapa?" The question was an
experiment. Ella often tried to make him talk of
his young days. Occasionally he would, but he was
very uncertain.

" Yes, too soon for my own good, or for others'
pleasure," was the reply. " They would have had me
live in London, Mildred," he added, less gloomily.
" What would you have said to that ? "

" Not part with Cleve, grandpapa ! " exclaimed
Ella, interrupting the answer.

" Aye, child, part with it, every acre ; sell it,
divide it, scatter it to the winds ; the property which
had come down from generation to generation for the
last four hundred years."

It was strange the impulse which made the General
revert to such a subject ; perhaps his conscience was



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