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Title: Beauchamp - or, The Error.
Author: James, G. P. R. (George Payne Rainford)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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   2. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].



COLLECTION
OF
BRITISH AUTHORS.
VOL. CVII.

----------

BEAUCHAMP BY G. P. R. JAMES.
IN ONE VOLUME.



TAUCHNITZ EDITION.
By the same Author.

MORLEY ERNSTEIN (WITH PORTRAIT)    1 vol.
FOREST DAYS                        1 vol.
THE FALSE HEIR                     1 vol.
ARABELLA STUART                    1 vol.
ROSE D'ALBRET                      1 vol.
ARRAH NEIL                         1 vol.
AGINCOURT                          1 vol.
THE SMUGGLER                       1 vol.
THE STEP-MOTHER                    2 vols.
HEIDELBERG                         1 vol.
THE GIPSY                          1 vol.
THE CASTLE OF EHRENSTEIN           1 vol.
DARNLEY                            1 vol.
RUSSELL                            2 vols.
THE CONVICT                        2 vols.
SIR THEODORE BROUGHTON             2 vols.



BEAUCHAMP;

OR,

THE ERROR.

BY

G. P. R. JAMES.


_COPYRIGHT EDITION_.


LEIPZIG
BERNHARD TAUCHNITZ
1846.



BEAUCHAMP;
OR,
THE ERROR.



CHAPTER I.
The Attack and the Rescue.


It was in the reign of one of the Georges--it does not matter which,
though perhaps the reader may discover in the course of this history.
After all, what does it signify in what king's reign an event
happened, for although there may be something in giving to any
particular story "a local habitation and a name," yet there is
nothing, strange to say, which gives one--I speak from my own
experience--a greater perception of the delusiveness of every thing on
earth, than the study of, and deep acquaintance with the annals of a
many-lined monarchy. To see how these spoilt children of fortune have
fought and struggled, coveted and endeavoured, obtained or have been
disappointed, hoped, feared, joyed, and passed away--ay, passed, so
that the monumental stone and a few historic lines from friend and
foe, as dry as doubtful, are all that remains of them--it gives us a
sensation that all on earth is a delusion, that history is but the
pages of a dream-book, the truest chronicle, but a record of the
unreal pageants that are gone.

However that may be, it was in the reign of one of the Georges--I wont
be particular as to the date, for Heaven knows I am likely to be
mistaken in the curl of a whig, or the fashion of a sleeve-button, and
then what would the antiquaries say?

It was in the reign of one of the Georges--thank Heaven, there were
four of them, in long and even succession, so that I may do any thing
I like with the coats, waistcoats, and breeches, and have a vast range
through a wilderness of petticoats (hooped and unhooped, tight, loose,
long, short, flowing, tucked up), to say nothing of flounces and
furbelows, besides head-dresses, in endless variety, patches, powder,
and pomatum, fans, gloves, and high-heeled shoes. Heaven and earth
what a scope!--but I am determined to write this work just as it suits
me. I have written enough as it suits the public, and I am very happy
to find that I have suited them, but in this, I hope and trust, both
to please my public and myself too. Thus I wish to secure myself a
clear field, and therefore do declare, in the first instance, that I
will stand upon no unities of time or place, but will indulge in all
the vagaries that I please, will wander hither and thither at my own
discretion, will dwell upon those points that please myself as long as
I can find pleasure therein, and will leap over every unsafe or
disagreeable place with the bound of a kangaroo. That being settled,
and perfectly agreed upon between the reader and myself, we will go on
if you please.

It was in the reign of one of the Georges--I have a great mind to dart
away again, but I wont, for it is well to be compassionate--when a
gentleman of six or seven-and-twenty years of age, rode along a
pleasant country road, somewhere in the west of England. It was
eventide, when the sun, tired with his long race, slowly wends
downward to the place of his repose, looking back with a beaming
glance of satisfaction on the bright things he has seen, and like a
benevolent heart, smiling at the blessings and the benefits he has
left behind him.

The season of the year was one that has served poets and
romance-writers a great deal, and which with very becoming, but
somewhat dishonest gratitude, they have praised ten times more than it
deserves. It was, in short, spring--that season when we are often
enticed to wander forth by a bright sky, as if for the express purpose
of being wet to the skin by a drenching shower, or cut to the heart by
the piercing east wind--that coquettish season that is never for ten
minutes in the same mind, which delights in disappointing
expectations, and in frowning as soon as she has smiled. Let those who
love coquettes sing of spring, for my part, I abhor the whole race of
them. Nevertheless, there is something very engaging in that first
youth of the year. We may be cross with its wild tricks and sportive
mischief, we may be vexed at its whims and caprices as with those of
an untamed boy or girl, but yet there is a grace in its waywardness, a
softness in its blue violet eyes, a brightness in its uncontaminated
smile, a lustre even in the penitential tears, dried up as soon as
shed, that has a charm we cannot, if we would, shake off. Oh yes,
youth and spring speak to every heart of hope, and hope is the magic
of life! Do you not see the glorious promise of great things to be
done in that wild and wayward boy? Do you not see the bright assurance
of warmer and mellower days to come in that chequered April sky?
Youth, and spring, and hope, they are a glad triad, inseparable in
essence, and all aspiring towards the everlasting goal of thought--the
Future.

It was the month of May--now if poets and romance-writers, as we have
before said, have done injustice, or more than justice to spring, as a
whole, never were two poor months so scandalously overpraised as April
and May. The good old Scotch poet declares that in April,


          Primroses paint the sweet plain,
          And summer returning rejoices the swain,


but rarely, oh, how rarely, do we ever see primroses busy at such
artistical work; and as for summer, if he is returning at all, it is
like a boy going back to school, and lingering sadly by the way. Such,
at least, is the case now-a-days, and if the advice of another old
poet, who tells us,


                    Stir not a clout,
                    Till May be out,


would seem to prove that in ancient times, as well as at present, May
was by no means so genial a month, as it has pleased certain
personages to represent it. Nevertheless, we know that every now and
then in May, comes in a warm and summer-like day, bright, and soft,
and beautiful, full of a tempered sunshine, appearing after the cold
days of winter, like joy succeeding sorrow, and entendered by the
memories of the past, such was the sort of day upon which the
traveller we have spoken of rode on upon his way through a very fair
and smiling country. The season had been somewhat early in its
expansion; the weather had been unusually mild in March; frequent and
heavy showers had succeeded in April, and pouring through the veins of
the earth the bountiful libation of the sky, had warmed the bosom of
our common mother to a rich and lovely glow. The trees were all out in
leaf, but yet not sufficiently unclosed to have lost the rich variety
of hues, displayed by the early buds. The colouring would have been
almost that of autumn, so bright and manifold were the tints upon the
wood, had it not been for a certain tenderness of aspect which spoke
of youth and not decay. There was the oak in its red and brown, here
and there mingled with the verdant hue of summer, but beside it waved
the beech, with its long arms robed in the gentlest and the softest
green, the ash pointed its taper fingers in the direction where the
wind was going, and the larch lifted up its graceful spire, fringed
with its grass-like filaments, while its beautiful cones, full of
their coral studs, afforded ornaments, that queens might be proud to
wear. The fields were spangled with a thousand flowers, and every bank
and hedge was jewelled with vegetable stars; not only the pale violet,
and the yellow primrose, but the purple columbine and the white
hawthorn, even the odorous-breathed cowslip, the wild geranium, and a
long list beside, were all spreading their beauty in the evening air,
and glittering with the drops of a shower not long passed by.
Overhead, too, the sky was full of radiance, warm yet soft, deep in
the azure, yet tinted with the evening light, as if the sunbeams were
the threads of a crimson woof woven in with the blue warp of the sky.

But enough of this, it was a very fine evening, of a very fine day, of
a very fine season, and that surely was enough to make any man happy
who had good health, a guinea in his purse, and had not committed
either murder or bigamy. The horseman seemed to feel the influence of
the scene as much as could be expected of any man. When he was in a
green bowery lane, with the wild plants trailing up and down the red
banks, and he could neither look to the right nor to the left, he
whistled snatches of a popular song, when he rose the side of the
hill, and could gaze over the world around, he looked at the green
fields, or the clear stream, or the woody coverts with searching and
yet well satisfied eyes, and murmured to himself, "Capital sport here,
I dare say."

He seemed to be fond of variety, for sometimes he trotted his horse,
sometimes made him canter, sometimes brought him into a walk, but it
would appear that there was a certain portion of humanity mingling
with the latent motives for these proceedings, inasmuch as the walk
was either up or down a steep hill, the canter over a soft piece of
turf wherever it could be found, and the trot, where the road was
tolerably level. Ever and anon, too, he patted the beast's neck, and
talked to him quite friendly, and the horse would have answered him in
the same tone, beyond doubt, if horses' throats and tongues had been
formed by nature with the design of holding long conversations. Such
not being the case, however, all the beast could do to express his
satisfaction at his master's commendations, was to arch his neck and
bend down his under lip till it touched his chest, and put his
quivering ears backwards and forwards in a very significant manner. It
was a handsome animal, of a bright bay colour, about fifteen hands and
a half high, strongly built, yet showing a good deal of blood, and its
coat was as soft and shining as satin. There was a good deal of red
dust about its feet and legs however, which showed that it had made a
somewhat long journey, but yet it displayed no signs of weariness, its
head had no drowsy droop, like that of a county member on the back
benches at three o'clock in the morning after a long debate. Oh no,
there was muscle and courage for forty miles more, had it been
necessary, and the noble beast would have done it right willingly. The
horseman rode him well--that is to say, lightly, and though he was
tall, muscular, and powerful in frame, many a man of less weight would
have wearied his horse much more. His hand was light and easy, his
seat was light and easy, and his very look was light and easy. There
was no black care sat behind that horseman, so that the burden was not
burdensome, and the pair went on together with alacrity and good
fellowship. The gentleman's dress was in very good taste, neither too
smart nor too plain, well fitted for a journey, yet not unfitted for a
drawing-room in the morning. This is enough upon that subject, and I
will not say another word about it, but as to his face, I must have a
word or two more--it was gay and good-humoured, and though it might be
called somewhat thoughtless in expression, yet somehow--I know not
very well from what cause--when one examined it one was convinced that
the thoughtless look was more a matter of habit than of nature. He was
dark in complexion, but with a healthy glow in his cheeks, and though
certainly his face was not as perfect as that of the Apollo of
Belvidere, yet few would have scrupled to pronounce him a good-looking
man. There was also an easy, almost careless swinging, rapid air about
him, which generally engages kindly feelings, if it cannot secure much
respect; and one could not watch him come cantering over the lea, with
his open, smiling face, without judging he would make an entertaining,
good-humoured companion, with whom any body might pass a few hours
very pleasantly.

Thus he rode along, blithe as a lark, till the sun went down in glory,
showing at the distance of about a couple of miles, the spire of a
small church in a small town--or perhaps I had better call it a
village, for I am not sure that it had grown up to townhood in those
days.

The hint I have given that he could see the spire of the church must
have shown the reader, that at the moment of the sun's setting he was
on the brow of a hill, for there are no plains in that part of the
country, and it was well wooded also. Down from the spot at which he
had then arrived, in a line very nearly direct towards the spire,
descended the road, crossing first a small patch of common, perhaps
not twenty acres in extent, and then entering between deep, shady
banks, as it went down the hill, not only arched over with shrubs, but
canopied by the branches of tall trees. There was quite sufficient
light in the sky to show him the entrance of this green avenue, and he
said to himself, as he looked on, "Wat a pretty approach to the
village; how peaceful and quiet every thing looks."

He was not aware that he had work to do in that quiet road, nor that
it was to be of anything but a peaceful character, but so it is with
us in life, we never know what is before us at the next step. We may
scheme, and we may calculate; we may devise, and we may expect, but,
after all, we are but blind men, led we know not whither by a dog, and
the dog's name is, Fate.

When he saw that he was so near the village, he slackened his pace,
and proceeded at a walk, wishing, like a wise and experienced
equestrian, to bring his horse in cool. At the first trees of the road
a deeper shade came into the twilight. About half a mile farther it
became quite dark under the boughs, whatever it might be in the open
fields; the darkness did not make him quicken his pace, but the minute
after he heard some sounds before him which did. It is not very easy
to explain what those sounds were, or by what process it was, that
striking upon the tympanum of his ear, the two or three air-waves
conveyed to his brain a notion that there were people in danger or
distress at no great distance. There was a word spoken in a sudden and
imperative tone, and that was the first sound he heard, and then there
was a voice of remonstrance and entreaty, a woman's voice, and then
something like a shriek, not loud and prolonged, but uttered as if the
person from whose lips it came caught it as it was issuing forth, and
strove to stifle it in the birth; some loud swearing and oaths were
next heard, mingled with the noise of quick footfalls, as if some one
were running fast towards the spot from the side of the village, and
the next moment the horseman perceived, at the first indistinctly, and
then clearly, a number of objects on the road before him, the largest,
if not the most important of which was a carriage. At the head of the
horses which had drawn it stood a man with something in his hand which
might be a pistol. At the side of the vehicle were two more, with a
saddled horse standing by, and they were apparently dragging out of
the carriage a lady who seemed very unwilling to come forth, but from
the other side was hurrying up, as hard as he could run, another
personage of very different appearance from the three other men. By
this time he was within ten yards of them, and our horseman, from his
elevation on his beast's back, could see the head and shoulders of him
who was approaching, and judged at once that he was a gentleman.

I have said that under the trees it was quite dark, and yet that he
could see all this, but neither of these is a mistake, whatever the
reader may think, for just at that part of the highway where the
carriage stood, it was crossed by another road which let in all that
remained of the western light, and there the whole scene was before
his eyes, as a picture, even while he himself was in comparative
darkness. Impulse is an excellent thing, and a great deal more
frequently leads us right than reason, which in cases of emergency, is
a very unserviceable commodity. It is only necessary to have a clever
impulse, and things go wonderfully well. The horseman stuck his spurs
into his horse's sides: previously he had been going at a trot, since
the first sounds struck his ear, now it became a canter, and two or
three springs brought him up to the carriage. He was making straight
for the side, but the man who was at the horses' heads seemed to
regard his coming as unpleasant, and shouting to him in a thundering
voice to keep back, he presented a pistol straight at him with a
sharp, disagreeable, clicking sound, which, under various
circumstances, is peculiarly ungrateful to the human ear, especially
when the muzzle of the instrument is towards us, for there is no
knowing what may come out of the mouth at the next minute. But the
horseman was quick, active, and not accustomed to be daunted by a
little thing like a pistol, and therefore, holding his heavy
riding-whip by the wrong end, though in this instance it proved the
right one, he struck the personage opposite to him a thundering blow
over the arm. That limb instantly dropped powerless by his side, and
the pistol went off under the horse's feet, causing the animal to rear
a little, but hurting no one. In an instant the horse was turned, and
amongst the party by the carriage; but that party was by this time
increased in number, though not fortified by unanimity, for the person
who had been seen running up, was by this time engaged in fierce
struggle with one of the original possessors of the ground, while the
other kept a tight grasp upon the lady who had just been dragged out
of the carriage. With the two combatants our horseman thought it best
not to meddle in the first instance, though he saw that the object of
one of them was to get a pistol at the head of the other, who seemed
neither unwilling nor unable to prevent him from accomplishing that
object, but they were grappling so closely, that it was difficult to
strike one without hitting the other, especially in the twilight; and
therefore, before he interfered in their concerns, he bestowed another
blow, with the full sweep of his arm, upon the head of the man who was
holding the lady, and who seemed to take so deep an interest in what
was going on between the other two, as not to perceive that any one
was coming up behind him. He instantly staggered back, and would have
fallen, had not the wheel of the carriage stopped him, but then
turning fiercely round, he stretched out his arm, and a flash and
report followed, while a ball whistled past the horseman's cheek, went
through his hair, and grazed his hat.

"Missed, on my life," cried the horseman; "take that for your pains,
you clumsy hound." And he again struck him, though, on this occasion
the person's head was defended by his arm.

"H--l and d--n," cried the other, seizing his horse's bridle and
trying to force him back upon his haunches, but another blow, that
made him stagger again, showed him that the combat was not likely to
end in his favour, and darting past, he exclaimed, "Run, Wolf, run.
Harry is off!" And before our friend on the bay horse could strike
another blow at him, he had sprung upon the back of the beast that
stood near, and without waiting to put his feet into the stirrups,
galloped off as hard as he could go. In regard to the other two who
were wrestling, as we have said, in deadly strife, the game they were
playing had just reached a critical point, for the gentleman who had
come up, had contrived to get hold of the barrel of the pistol, and at
the very instant the other galloped away, the respectable person he
called Wolf received a straightforward blow in the face, which made
him stagger back, leaving his weapon in the hand of his opponent.
Finding that his only advantage was gone, he instantly darted round
the back of the carriage to make his escape up the other road.

"Jump down and stop him, post-boy," cried the horseman, pursuing him
at the same time without a moment's pause, but the post-boy's legs,
though cased in leather, seemed to be made of wood, if one might judge
by the stiff slowness with which they moved, and before he had got his
feet to the ground, and his whip deliberately laid over the horse's
back, the fugitive finding that the horseman had cut him off from the
road, caught the stem of a young ash, swung himself up to the top of
the bank, and disappeared amongst the trees.

"Hark, there is a carriage coming," said the horseman, addressing the
stranger, who had followed him as fast as two legs could follow four.
They both paused for an instant and listened, but to their surprise
the sound of rolling wheels, which they both distinctly heard,
diminished instead of increasing, and it became evident that some
vehicle was driving away from a spot at no great distance.

"That's droll," said the horseman, dismounting; "but we had better see
after the ladies, for I dare say they are frightened."

"No doubt they are," replied the other, in a mild and musical voice,
leading the way round the carriage again. "Do you know who they are?"

"Not I," answered the horseman, "don't you?"

"No, I am a stranger here," answered the other, approaching the side
of the carriage, to which the lady who had been dragged out had now
returned.

She was seated with her hands over her eyes, as if either crying with
agitation or in deep thought; but the moment the gentleman who had
come up on foot addressed her, expressing a hope that she had not been
much alarmed, she replied, "Oh, yes, I could not help it, but my
mother has fainted. We must go back, I fear."

"It is not far, I think, to the village, Madam," said our friend the
horseman, "and we will easily bring the lady to herself again; but it
is a pity she fainted too. These things will happen, and if they have
not got your money there is no great harm done."

"I am better, Mary," said a voice from the other side of the carriage,
faint and low, yet sweet and harmonious. "Are they gone--are you quite
sure they are gone?"

"Oh, dear, yes, Madam," replied the horseman, while the lady next him
laid her hand tenderly upon her mother's. "One of the worthies
scampered off on horseback after he had fired at me, and the other was
too quick for us all, thanks to your stiff-jointed driver. What became
of the other fellow I don't know."

"You are not hurt, Sir, I hope," said the younger of the two ladies,
gazing timidly at him through the half light.

"Not in the least," he replied. "The man missed me, though it wasn't a
bad shot after all, for I felt it go through my hair--but an inch one
side or the other makes a wonderful difference--and now, ladies, what
will you do?"

A. murmured consultation took place between the two tenants of the
carriage, while a whispered conference was held by the gentlemen who
came to their assistance. It is wonderful how often in this world
several parties of the good folks of which it is composed, are all
thinking, ay, and even talking, of the same thing, without any one
group knowing what the other is about.

"I'm doubtful of that post-boy," said the gentleman on foot to the
gentleman who had been on horseback.

"Ay, and so am I," replied the other. "He's in league with them,
depend upon it. All post-boys are so. Their conscience is like the inn
leather breeches, wide enough to fit any thing. I wonder how far these
two ladies are going?"

"I cannot tell," answered the other, "but it will be hardly safe for
them to go alone."

"Can I speak to you, Sir, for a moment," said the voice of the younger
lady from the carriage, and the horseman advancing a step, leaned
against the doorway, and put his head partly in, bending down his ear,
as if he were perfectly certain that he was going to hear a secret.

"My mother thinks, and so do I," continued the younger lady, "that the
man who drives us must have been bribed by those people who attacked
us, for he drove very slowly as soon as ever he came near this spot.
He stopped, too, the moment they called to him."

"Perhaps not bribed, my dear Madam," replied the gentleman, "all these
post-boys, as they are called, favour your honest highwaymen, either
in hopes of a part of the booty, or merely out of fellow feeling. They
are every one of them amateurs, and some of them connoisseurs of the
arts of the road. You must have some protection, that's certain, and I
think it would be better for you to turn back and get some people from
the village to accompany the carriage."

"I'm afraid that can hardly be," said the elder lady. "We are already
very late, and this has delayed us. My brother may be dead ere we
arrive, for I'm going on a sad errand, Sir, he having been suddenly
seized with gout in the stomach, and sent to call me to him in his
last moments; however, it is not very far, and I trust that nothing
more will happen."

"No, no, Madam, you must not go without protection," replied the
gentleman in a good-humoured tone. "I will ride with you and see you
safe--how far is it?"

"About five miles, I am afraid," answered the lady.

"Oh, that's nothing, that's nothing," cried their companion. "It will
but make me an hour later at supper." And turning to the other
gentleman, he continued, "I wish, Sir, if you pass the inn called the
White Hart--"

"I lodge there myself," returned the stranger.

"Then pray tell the people there to have me a chicken ready in an
hour. It will be roasting while I am riding, so that will be one way
of killing time, and not losing patience."

Thus saying, with a gay laugh, he sprang upon his horse's back, and
addressing the post-boy, exclaimed, while the other gentleman shut the
door, and bade the ladies adieu, "Now, boy, into the saddle, and
remember, if these ladies are interrupted again, the first head that
is broken shall be yours."

The man made no reply, but got up with more alacrity than he had got
down, and was soon trotting along the road at a rapid rate.

The horseman kept close to the carriage all the way, and after a ride
of about five-and-thirty minutes, through pleasant lanes and fields,
they came to what seemed the gates of a park, but the porter's lodge
was dim and unlighted, and the post-boy gave the horseman a
significant hint that he had better get down and open the gates, as
there was nobody there to do it for him. The gentleman, however,
managed the feat dexterously without dismounting, and the carriage
rolled through and entered a long avenue of magnificent chesnuts.
Between the boughs of the trees, every here and there, were to be seen
glimpses of soft green slopes, studded with wild hawthorns, and masses
of dark wood beyond, and at the end of about three quarters of a mile
more, appeared a fine old stone house, with a somewhat flat but
imposing-looking face, like that of an old country gentleman, with a
great idea of his own importance.

As the horseman looked up to the house, however, which was raised upon
a little terrace, and approached by a gentle rise, he could not help
thinking, "That does not look very much like the dwelling of a man
dying of gout in the stomach; it looks more like that of one getting
up a good fit;" for three windows on the ground floor, having very
much of a dining-room aspect about them, were thrown up to admit the
air, and in addition to a blaze of light, there came forth the sounds
of merry laughter, and several persons talking.

The post-boy drove up to the great door, however, and the horseman,
springing to the ground, rang the bell, after which, returning to the
side of the carriage, he leaned against it, saying,

"I trust your relation is better, Madam, for the house does not seem
to be one of mourning."

The lady did not reply directly to his words, but she said, "I hope if
you remain in this part of the country, Sir, you will give me an
opportunity of thanking you, either here, or at my own house, for the
great service you have rendered me. The people of the inn will direct
you, for it is only ten miles on the other side of Tarningham."

"I shall certainly have the honour of waiting on you to inquire how
you do," replied the horseman, and then adding, "these people do not
seem inclined to come," he returned to the bell, and rang it
vigorously.

The next moment the door was opened, and a capacious butler appeared,
and the stranger, without more ado, assisted the ladies to alight,
remarking as he did so, that the younger of the two was a very pretty
girl, some nineteen or twenty years of age.

"How is my brother now?" demanded the elder lady, who wore a widow's
dress.

"Quite well, Ma'am, thank you," answered the butler, in the most
commonplace tone possible, and before she had time to make any more
inquiries, the stranger who had come to her rescue, wished her and her
daughter good night, and mounting his horse, rode down the avenue
again.



CHAPTER II.
The Supper at the White Hart.


The White Hart of Tarningham was a neat little country inn, such as
was commonly found in most of the small towns of England at the period
of my tale. They are rapidly being brushed off the face of the earth
by the great broom of the steam-engine, and very soon the "pleasures
of an inn" will be no longer known but by the records of history,
while men run through the world at the rate of a hundred miles an
hour, finding nothing on their way but stations and "hotels." I hate
the very name hotel. It is unEnglish, uncomfortable, unsatisfactory, a
combination, I suppose, of host and hell, the one the recipient of
perturbed spirits, and the other their tormentor. But the word inn,
how comfortable it is in all its significations. We have only retained
the double _n_ in it that we may "wear our rue with a difference," and
whether we think of being _in_ place, or _in_ power, or _in_ the
hearts of those we love, or _in_ the house during a storm, how
pleasant is the feeling it produces. It has a home-like and British
sound, and I do with all my heart wish that my fellow-countrymen would
neither change their words nor their manners for worse things of
foreign parentage. An inn, in the days I speak of, was a place famous
for white linen, broiled ham, and fresh eggs. I cannot say that the
beefsteaks were always tender, or the veal cutlets always done to a
turn, or the beds always the softest in the world, but then think of
the white dimity curtains, and the casements that rattled just enough
to let you know that it was blowing hard without, and the rosy
apple-faced chambermaid, and the host himself, round as his own butts,
ay, and as full of beer. An innkeeper of those days would have been
ashamed to show himself under nineteen stone. He was a part of his own
sign, the recommendation of his own ale. His very paunch seemed to say
"Look what it has done for me." It entered into his fat, it flowed
through his veins, it puffed out his cheeks, it ran out at his eyes,
and malt and hops was heard in every accent of his tongue. You had no
lean, wizen-faced, black-silk-stockinged innkeepers in those days, and
the very aspiring waiters imitated their landlords, and hourly grew
fat under the eye, that they might be in a fit condition to marry the
widow and take the business when the poor dear gentleman was swallowed
up in beer.

Such an inn was the White Hart at Tarningham, and such a host was the
landlord, but he was a wise man, and loved not to look upon his
successors, for which cause, as well as on account of the trade not
being very brisk in that quarter, he maintained no regular waiter; he
had a tapster it is true, but the cloth in the neat little parlour on
the left hand was laid by a white-capped, black-eyed, blooming
maid-servant, and the landlord himself prepared to carry in the first
dish, and then leave his expected guest to the tendance of the same
fair damsel.

The room was already occupied by one gentleman, the same who in taking
his evening walk had joined with our friend the horseman in the rescue
of the two ladies, and to say truth, it was owing to his courtesy that
the cloth was laid there at all, for he had prior possession, and on
communicating to the landlord the fact that a guest would soon arrive
who proposed to sup upon roast chicken, the worthy host had exclaimed
in a voice of consternation, "Good gracious me, what shall I do? I
must turn those fellows out of the tap-room and serve it there, for
there is old Mrs. Grover, the lawyer's widow, in the other parlour,
and ne'er a sitting-room else in the house!"

"You can make use of this, landlord," replied the stranger; "this
gentleman seems a very good-humoured person, and I do not think
will be inclined to find fault, although he may not have a whole
sitting-room to himself."

"I'd bet a quart," cried the landlord, as if a sudden thought struck
him, "I'd bet a quart that it's the gentleman whose portmanteau and a
whole bundle of fishing-rods came down this morning. I'll run and see
what's the name."

Whatever he felt, the gentleman already in possession expressed no
curiosity, but in two minutes the host rolled back again--for to run,
as he threatened, was impossible, and informed his guest that the
things were addressed to "Edward Hayward, Esq., to be left at the
White Hart, Tarningham."

"Very well," said the guest, and without more ado, he took up a book
which had been lying on the mantelpiece since the morning, and putting
his feet upon another chair, began to read. The landlord bustled about
the room, and put the things in order. One of his fat sides knocked
his guest's chair, and he begged pardon, but the gentleman read on. He
took up the hat, which had been knocked off in the struggle with the
chaise, wiped off the red sand which it had gathered, and exclaimed,
"Lord bless me, Sir, your hat's all beaten about;" but his companion
merely gave a nod, and read on.

At length, when the table was laid, and mustard, pepper, salt,
vinegar, and bread had been brought in severally, when the maid had
re-arranged what the landlord had arranged before, smoothed what he
had smoothed, and brushed what he had brushed, a horse's feet trotting
past the window, were heard, and the minute after a voice exclaimed at
the door of the inn, "Here, ostler, take my horse, loose the girths,
but don't take off the saddle yet, sponge his mouth, and walk him up
and down for five minutes. Has his clothing come?"

"Oh, dear, yes, Sir, come this morning," answered the landlord. "This
way, Sir, if you please. Sorry you did not let me know before, for
positively there is not a whole sitting-room in the house."

"Well, then, I will do with half of one," answered the stranger. "Why,
my friend, if you grow any more you must have the doors widened. You
are the man for defending a pass; for, upon my life, in default of
harder materials, you would block up Thermopylæ. Ale, ale, ale, it's
all ale, landlord, and if you don't mind, it will set you ailing. Have
my fishing-rods come down?--all safe I hope;" and by the time he had
run through these questions and observations, he was in the doorway of
the little parlour on the left-hand. He stared for a minute at the
previous tenant of the room, who rose to receive him with a smile, and
whose face he did not seem to have observed very accurately in the
semi-darkness of the road. But the height and general appearance of
the stranger soon showed him that they had met before, and with an
easy, good-humoured, dashing air, he went up and shook him by the
hand.

"A strange means of making acquaintance, my dear Sir," he said, "but
I'm very happy to see you again, and safe and well, too, for I thought
at one time you were likely to get knocked on the head, and I scarcely
dared to interfere, lest I should do it for you myself in trying to
hit the other fellow. I hope you did not get any wounds or bruises in
the affray?"

"Oh, no," replied the stranger; "I was nearly strangled that is
certain, and shall not easily forget the grasp of that man's fingers
on my throat; but in regard to this way of making an acquaintance, no
two men, I should think, could desire a better than to be both
engaged, even accidentally, in rescuing two ladies from wrong."

"Quite chivalrous!" exclaimed the horseman, laughing; "but two Don
Quixotes would never do in the world, so I'll acknowledge, at once,
that I've not the least spark of chivalry in my nature. If I see a
strong thing hurting a weak thing, I knock the strong thing down of
course. I can't bear to see a big dog worry a little one, and don't
much like to see a terrier catch a rat. But it's all impulse, my dear
Sir, all impulse. Thank Heaven I am totally destitute of any sort of
enthusiasm. I like every thing in the world well enough, but do not
wish to like any thing too much, except, indeed, a particularly good
bottle of claret--there, there, I am afraid I am weak. As to helping
two ladies, it is always a very pleasant thing, especially if one of
them be a particularly pretty girl, as is the case in this instance, I
can tell you--but we really should do something to have these fellows
caught, for they might have the decency to wait till it is quite dark,
and not begin their lawless avocations before the sun has been down an
hour."

"I went immediately to a magistrate," answered the stranger; "but as
in very many country places, I did not find the ornament of the bench
very highly enlightened. Because I was not the party actually
attacked, he demurred to taking any steps whatever, and though I shook
his resolution on that point, and he seemed inclined to accede to my
demand, yet as soon as he found that I could not even give him the
names of the two ladies, he went all the way back again, and would not
even take my deposition. Perhaps after supper we had better go to him
again together, for I dare say you can supply my deficiency by this
time, and tell him the name of your pretty lady and her mother."

"No; 'pon my life I can't," rejoined his companion, "I quite forgot to
ask--a very beautiful girl, though, and I wonder I didn't inquire, for
I always like to ticket pretty faces. What is the name of your Midas,
we'll soon bring him to reason, I doubt not. A country magistrate not
take a deposition against a highwayman! By Heaven, he will make the
people think he goes shares in the booty."

"A highwayman!" exclaimed the landlord, who had been going in and out,
and listening to all that was said, whether he had roast chicken, or
boiled potatoes, or a jug of fresh drawn beer in his hand. "Why, Lord,
Mr. Beauchamp, you never told me!"

"No, my good friend," answered the other, "I did not, because to
spread such a tale through an inn, is the very best way I know of
insuring the highwayman's escape."

"Well, I dare say, my good round friend," exclaimed the horseman, whom
we shall hereafter call Hayward, or as almost all who knew him, had
it, Ned Hayward, "I dare say you can help us to the names of these two
ladies. Who was it one of your post-boys drove to-night, out there to
the westward, to a house in a park?"

"What, to Sir John Slingsby's?" exclaimed the host; but before he
could proceed to answer the more immediate question, Ned Hayward gave
himself a knock on the forehead, exclaiming,

"Sir John Slingsby's! why that's the very house I'm going to, and I
never thought to ask the name--what a fool I am! Well might they call
me, when I was in the 40th, thoughtless Ned Hayward. But come, 'mine
host of the garter'--"

"Of the White Hart, your honour," replied the landlord, with as low a
bow as his stomach would permit.

"Ay, of the White Hart be it then," said Ned Hayward, "let us hear who
are these beautiful ladies whom your post-boy drove so slowly, and
stopped with so soon, at the bidding of three gentlemen of the road,
with pistols in their hands?"

"Lord a mercy!" cried the host, "and was it Mrs. Clifford and her
daughter that they stopped? Well, I shouldn't wonder--but mum's the
word--it's no affair of mine, and the least said is soonest mended."

The host's countenance had assumed a mysterious look. His whole aspect
had an air of mystery. He laid his finger upon the side of his nose,
as men do for a practical exemplification of the process which is
taking place in their mind when they are putting "that and that"
together. He half closed one eye also, as if to give an indication to
the beholders that whatever might be the mental light in his own
brain, it should not escape for the illumination of those without.
There is a perversity in human nature which makes all men--saving the
exceptions that prove the general rule--anxious to discover any thing
that is hidden, and consequently both Mr. Hayward and Mr. Beauchamp
attacked the worthy landlord, _totis viribus_, and attempted to wrench
from him his secret. He held it fast, however, with both hands,
exclaiming,

"No, no, gentlemen, I'll not say a word--it's no business of
mine--I've nothing to do with it--it's all guess work, and a man who
beers and horses all the neighbourhood, must keep a good tongue in his
head. But one thing I will say, just to give you two gentlemen a hint,
that perhaps you had better not meddle in this matter, or you may make
a mess of it. Sally, is not that chicken ready?" And he called from
the door of the room to the bar.

"I certainly shall meddle with it, my good friend," said Ned Hayward,
in a determined tone, "and that very soon. I'm not the least afraid of
making a mess, as you call it, certain that none of it will fall upon
myself. So, as soon as we have got supper, which seems a devilish long
time coming, we will set off, Mr. Beauchamp, if you please, for this
good magistrate's and try--"

He was interrupted in the midst of his speech, though it had by this
time nearly come to a conclusion, by a voice in the passage,
exclaiming, "Groomber, Mr. Groomber," and the host instantly
vociferated, "Coming, Sir, coming," and rushed out of the room.

The voice was heard to demand, as soon as the landlord appeared
blocking up the way, "Have you a person by the name of Beauchamp
here?"

"Yes, your worship," replied the host, and after a few more words, in
a lower tone, the door of the room was thrown open, and Mr. Wittingham
was announced, just as Mr. Beauchamp was observing to his new-found
friend, Ned Hayward, that the voice was very like that of the worthy
magistrate to whom he had applied.

Mr. Wittingham was a tall and very respectable-looking gentleman,
somewhat past the middle age, and verging towards that decline of life
which is marked by protuberance of the stomach, and thinness of the
legs. But, nevertheless, Mr. Wittingham carried it off very well, for
his height diminished the appearance of that which is usually called a
corporation, and his legs were skilfully concealed in his top-boots.
He was exceedingly neat in his apparel, tolerably rosy in the gills,
and having a certain dogmatical peremptory expression, especially
about the thick eyebrows and hooknose, which he found wonderfully
efficacious in the decision of cases at petty sessions.

The moment he entered the room, he fixed his eyes somewhat sternly
upon Mr. Beauchamp (whom we have forgotten to describe as a very
gentlemanlike--even distinguished--looking person of about thirty
years of age), and addressing him in a rough, and rather uncivil tone,
said, "Your name, I think you told me, is Beauchamp, Sir, and you came
to lay an information before me against certain persons for stopping a
chaise upon the king's highway."

"I am, as you say, Sir, called Beauchamp," replied the other
gentleman, "and I waited upon you, as the nearest magistrate, to give
information of a crime which had been committed in your neighbourhood
which you refused to receive. Do me the honour of taking a seat."

"And pray, Sir, if I may be so bold as to ask, who and what are you?"
inquired the magistrate, suffering himself to drop heavily into a
chair.

"I should conceive that had very little to do with the matter,"
interposed Ned Hayward, before Mr. Beauchamp could answer. "The simple
question is, whether an attempt at highway robbery, or perhaps a worse
offence, has or has not been made this night, upon Mrs. and Miss
Clifford, as they were going over to my friend Sir John Slingsby's;
and allow me to say that any magistrate who refuses to take a
deposition on such a subject, and to employ the best means at his
command to apprehend the offenders, grossly neglects his duty."

The host brought in the roast fowl, and stared at the dashing tone of
Ned Hayward's speech towards one of the magnates of the neighbourhood.
Some words in the commencement of that speech had caused Mr.
Wittingham's countenance to fall, but the attack upon himself in the
conclusion, roused him to indignant resistance, so that his reply was
an angry demand of "Who the devil are you, Sir?"

"I am the devil of nobody, Mr. Wittington," answered Ned Hayward. "I
am my own devil, if any body's, and my name is Edward Hayward,
commonly called Captain Hayward, late of the 40th regiment, and now
unattached. But as my supper is ready, I will beg leave to eat my
chicken hot. Beauchamp, won't you join? Mr. Wittington, shall I give
you a wing? Odd name, Wittington. Descendant of the renowned Lord
Mayor of London, I presume?"

"No, Sir, no," answered the magistrate, while Beauchamp could scarcely
refrain from laughing. "What I want to know is, what you have to do
with this affair?"

"Every thing in the world," answered Ned Hayward, carving the chicken,
"as I and my friend Beauchamp here had equal shares in saving the
ladies from the clutches of these vagabonds. He came back here to give
information, while I rode on with the ladies to protect them. Bring me
a bottle of your best sherry, landlord. Now, I'll tell you what, Mr.
Wittington--haven't you got any ham that you could broil? I hate
chicken without ham, it's as insipid as a country magistrate.--I'll
tell you what, Mr. Wittington, this matter shall be investigated to
the bottom, whether you like it or not, and I have taken care to leave
such marks upon two of the vagabonds, that they'll be easily known for
the next month to come. One of them is devilish like you, by the way,
but younger. I hit him just over the eye, and down about the nose, so
that I'll answer for it I have lettered him in black and blue as well
as any sheep in your fields, and we'll catch him before we've done,
though we must insist upon having the assistance of the justices."

"I think, Sir, you intend to insult me," said the magistrate, rising
with a very angry air, and a blank and embarrassed countenance.

"Not a whit, my dear Sir," answered Ned Hayward. "Pray sit down and
take a glass of wine."

"I wont, Sir," exclaimed Mr. Wittingham, "and I shall leave the room.
If you have any thing to say to me, it must come before me in a formal
manner, and at a proper hour. To-morrow I shall be at the justice-room
till eleven, and I hope you will be then prepared to treat the bench
with respect."

"The most profound, Sir," said Ned Hayward, rising and bowing till his
face almost touched the table before him, and then as Mr. Wittingham
walked away with an indignant toss of the head, and closed the door
behind him, our gay friend turned to his companion, saying, "There's
something under this, Beauchamp. We must find out what it is."



CHAPTER III.
The Father and the Son.


I Will have nothing to do with antecedents. The reader must find them
out if he can, as the book must explain what precedes the book.

The past is a tomb. There let events, as well as men, sleep in peace.
Fate befal him who disturbs them; and indeed were there not even a
sort of profanation in raking up things done as well as in troubling
the ashes of the dead, what does man obtain by breaking into the grave
of the past? Nothing but dry bones, denuded of all that made the
living act interesting. History is but a great museum of osteology,
where the skeletons of great deeds are preserved without the
muscles--here a tall fact and there a short one; some sadly
dismembered, and all crumbling with age, and covered with dust and
cobwebs. Take up a skull, chapfallen as Yorick's. See how it grins at
you with its lank jaws and gumless teeth. See how the vacant sockets
of the eyes glare meaningless, and the brow, where high intelligence
sat throned, commanding veneration, looks little wiser than a dried
pumpkin. And thus--even thus, as insignificant of the living deeds
that have been, are the dry bones of history, needing the inductive
imagination of a Cuvier to clothe them again with the forms that once
they wore.

No, no, I will have nothing to do with antecedents. They were past
before the Tale began, and let them rest.

Nevertheless, it is always well worth while, in order to avoid any
long journeys back, to keep every part of the story going at once, and
manfully to resist both our own inclination and the reader's, to
follow any particular character, or class of characters, or series of
events. Rather let us, going from scene to scene, and person to
person, as often as it may be necessary, bring them up from the rear.
It is likewise well worth while to pursue the career of such new
character that may be introduced, till those who are newly made
acquainted with him, have discovered a sufficient portion of his
peculiarities.

I shall therefore beg leave to follow Mr. Wittingham on his way
homeward; but first I will ask the reader to remark him as he pauses
for a moment at the inn-door, with worthy Mr. Groomber a step behind.
See how the excellent magistrate rubs the little vacant spot between
the ear and the wig with the fore-finger of the right-hand, as if he
were a man amazingly puzzled, and then turns his head over his
shoulder to inquire of the landlord if he knows who the two guests
are, without obtaining any further information than that one of them
had been for some weeks in the house--which Mr. Wittingham well knew
before, he having the organ of Observation strongly developed--and
that the other had just arrived; a fact which was also within the
worthy magistrate's previous cognizance.

Mr. Wittingham rubs the organ above the ear again, gets the finger up
to Ideality, and rubs that, then round to Cautiousness, and having
slightly excited it with the extreme point of the index of the
right-hand, pauses there, as if afraid of stimulating it too strongly,
and unmanning his greater purposes. But it is a ticklish organ, soon
called into action, in some men, and see how easily Mr. Wittingham has
brought its functions into operation. He buttons his coat up to the
chin as if it were winter, and yet it is as mild an evening as one
could wish to take a walk in by the side of a clear stream, with the
fair moon for a companion, or something fairer still. It is evident
that Cautiousness is at work at a terrible rate, otherwise he would
never think of buttoning up his coat on such a night as that; and now
without another word to the landlord, he crosses the street, and bends
his steps homeward with a slow, thoughtful, vacillating step,
murmuring to himself two or three words which our friend Ned Hayward
had pronounced, as if they contained some spell which forced his
tongue to their repetition.

"Very like me," he said, "very like me? Hang the fellow! Very like me!
Why, what the devil--he can't mean to accuse me of robbing the
carriage. Very like me! Then, as the mischief must have it, that it
should be Mrs. Clifford too! I shall have roystering Sir John upon my
back--'pon my life, I do not know what to do. Perhaps it would be
better to be civil to these two young fellows, and ask them to dinner;
though I do not half like that Beauchamp--I always thought there was
something suspicious about him with his grave look, and his long
solitary walks, nobody knowing him, and he knowing nobody. Yet this
Captain Hayward seems a great friend of his, and he is a friend of Sir
John's--so he must be somebody--I wonder who the devil he is?
Beauchamp?--Beauchamp? I shouldn't wonder if he were some man
rusticated from Oxford. I'll write and ask Henry. He can most likely
tell."

The distance which Mr. Wittingham had to go was by no means great, for
the little town contained only three streets--one long one, and two
others leading out of it. In one of the latter, or rather at the end
of one of the latter, for it verged upon the open country beyond the
town, was a large house, his own particular dwelling, built upon the
rise of the hill, with large gardens and pleasure-grounds surrounding
it, a new, well-constructed, neatly pointed, brick wall, two green
gates, and sundry conservatories. It had altogether an air of
freshness and comfort about it which was certainly pleasant to look
upon; but it had nothing venerable. It spoke of fortunes lately made,
and riches fully enjoyed, because they had not always been possessed.
It was too neat to be picturesque, too smart to be in good taste. I
was a bit of Clapham or Tooting transported a hundred or two miles
into the country--very suburban indeed!

And yet it is possible that Mr. Wittingham had never seen Clapham in
his life, or Tooting either; for he had been born in the town where he
now lived, had accumulated wealth, as a merchant on a small scale, in
a sea-port town about fifty miles distant; had improved considerably,
by perseverance, a very limited stock of abilities; and, having done
all this in a short time, had returned at the age of fifty, to enact
the country gentleman in his native place. With the ordinary ambition
of low minds, however, he wished much that his origin, and the means
of his rise should be forgotten by those who knew them, concealed from
those who did not; and therefore he dressed like a country gentleman,
spoke like a country gentleman, hunted with toe fox-hounds, and added
"J. P." to his "Esquire."

Nevertheless, do what he would, there was something of his former
calling that still remained about him. It is a dirty world this we
live in, and every thing has its stain. A door is never painted five
minutes, but some indelible finger-mark is printed on it; a table is
never polished half an hour, but some drop of water falls and spots
it. Give either precisely the same colour again, if you can! Each
trade, each profession, from the shopkeeper to the prime minister,
marks its man more or less for life, and I am not quite sure that the
stamp of one is much fouler than that of another. There is great
vulgarity in all pride, and most of all in official pride, and the
difference between that vulgarity, and the vulgarity of inferior
education is not in favour of the former; for it affects the mind,
while the other principally affects the manner.

Heaven and earth, what a ramble I have taken! but I will go back again
gently by a path across the fields. Something of the merchant, the
small merchant, still hung about Mr. Wittingham. It was not alone that
he kept all his books by double entry, and even in his magisterial
capacity, when dealing with rogues and vagabonds, had a sort of debtor
and creditor account with them, very curious in its items; neither was
it altogether that he had a vast idea of the importance of wealth, and
looked upon a good banker's book, with heavy balance in favour, as the
chief of the cardinal virtues; but there were various peculiarities of
manner and small traits of character, which displayed the habit of
mind to inquiring eyes very remarkably. His figures of speech,
whenever he forgot himself for a moment were all of the
counting-house: when on the bench he did not know what to do with his
legs for want of a high stool; but the trait with which we have most
to do was a certain propensity to inquire into the solidity and
monetary respectability of all men, whether they came into
relationship with himself or not. He looked upon them all as "Firms,"
with whom at some time he might have to transact business; and I much
doubt whether he did not mentally put "and Co.," to the name of every
one of his acquaintances. Now Beauchamp and Co. puzzled him; he
doubted that the house was firm; he could make nothing out of their
affairs; he had not, since Mr. Beauchamp first appeared in the place,
been able even to get a glimpse of their transactions; and though it
was but a short distance, as I have said, from the inn to his own
dwelling, before he had reached the latter, he had asked himself at
least twenty times, "Who and what Mr. Beauchamp could be?"

"I should like to look at his ledger," said Mr. Wittingham to himself
at length, as he opened his gate and went in; but there was a book
open for Mr. Wittingham in his own house, which was not likely to show
a very favourable account.

Although the door of Mr. Wittingham's house, which was a glass door,
stood confidingly unlocked as long as the sun was above the horizon,
yet Mr. Wittingham had always a pass-key in his pocket, and when the
first marble step leading from the gravel walk up to the entrance was
found, the worthy magistrate's hand was always applied to an aperture
in his upper garment just upon the haunch, from which the key was sure
to issue forth, whether the door was open or not.

The door, however, was now shut, and the pass-key proved serviceable;
but no sooner did Mr. Wittingham stand in the passage of his own
mansion than he stopped short in breathless and powerless
astonishment; for there before him stood two figures in close
confabulation, which he certainly did not expect to see in that place,
at that time, in such near proximity.

The one was that of a woman, perhaps fifty-five years of age, but who
looked still older from the fact of being dressed in the mode of
thirty years before. Her garments might be those of an upper servant,
and indeed they were so; for the personage was neither more nor less
than the housekeeper; but to all appearance she was a resuscitated
housekeeper of a former age; for the gown padded in a long roll just
under the blade-bones, the straight cut bodice, the tall but
flat-crowned and wide-spreading cap, were not of the day in which she
lived, and her face too was as dry as the outer shell of a cocoa-nut.
The other figure had the back turned to the door, and was evidently
speaking earnestly to Mrs. Billiter; but it was that of a man, tall,
and though stiffly made, yet sinewy and strong.

Mr. Wittingham's breath came thick and short, but the noise of his
suddenly opening the door, and his step in the hall, made the
housekeeper utter a low cry of surprise, and her male companion turn
quickly round. Then Mr. Wittingham's worst apprehensions were
realised, for the face he saw before him was that of his own son,
though somewhat disfigured by an eye swollen and discoloured, and a
deep long cut just over it on the brow.

The young man seemed surprised and confounded by the unexpected
apparition of his father, but it was too late to shirk the encounter,
though he well knew it would not be a pleasant one. He was accustomed,
too, to scenes of altercation with his parent, for Mr. Wittingham had
not proceeded wisely with his son, who was a mere boy when he himself
retired from business. He had not only alternately indulged him and
thwarted him; encouraged him to spend money largely, and to dazzle the
eyes of the neighbours by expense, at the same time limiting his means
and exacting a rigid account of his payments; but as the young man had
grown up he had continued sometimes to treat him as a boy, sometimes
as a man; and while he more than connived at his emulating the great
in those pleasures which approach vices, he denied him the sums by
which such a course could alone be carried out.

Thus a disposition, naturally vehement and passionate, had been
rendered irritable and reckless, and a character self-willed and
perverse had become obstinate and disobedient. Dispute after dispute
arose between father and son after the spoilt boy became the daring
and violent youth, till at length Mr. Wittingham, for the threefold
purpose of putting him under some sort of discipline, of removing him
from bad associates, and giving him the tone of a gentleman, had sent
him to Oxford. One year had passed over well enough, but at the
commencement of the second year, Mr. Wittingham found that his
notions of proper economy were very different from his son's, and that
Oxford was not likely to reconcile the difference. He heard of him
horse-racing, driving stagecoaches, betting on pugilists, gambling,
drinking, getting deeper and deeper in debt; and his letters of
remonstrance were either not answered at all, or answered with
contempt.

A time had come, however, when the absolute necessity of recruiting
his finances from his father's purse had reduced the youth to promises
of amendment and a feigned repentance; and just at the time our tale
opens, the worthy magistrate was rocking himself in the cradle of
delusive expectations, and laying out many a plan for the future life
of his reformed son, when suddenly as we have seen, he found him
standing talking to the housekeeper in his own hall with the marks of
a recent scuffle very visible on his face.

The consternation of Mr. Wittingham was terrible; for though by no
means a man of ready combinations in any other matter than pounds,
shillings and pence, his fancy was not so slow a beast as to fail in
joining together the description which Ned Hayward had given of the
marks he had set upon one of the worthy gentlemen who had been found
attacking Mrs. Clifford's carriage, and the cuts and bruises upon the
fair face of his gentle offspring. He had also various private reasons
of his own for supposing that such an enterprise as that which had
been interrupted in Tarningham-lane, as the place was called, might
very well come within the sphere of his son's energies, and for a
moment he gave himself up to a sort of apathetic despair, seeing all
his fond hopes of rustic rule and provincial importance dashed to the
ground by the conduct of his own child.

It was reserved for that child to rouse him from his stupor, however;
for, though undoubtedly the apparition of his father was any thing but
pleasant to Henry Wittingham, at that particular moment, when he was
arranging with the housekeeper (who had aided to spoil him with all
her energies) that he was to have secret board and lodging in the
house for a couple of days, without his parent's knowledge, yet his
was a bold spirit, not easily cowed, and much accustomed to outface
circumstances however disagreeable they might be. Marching straight up
to his father then, without a blush, as soon as he had recovered from
the first surprise, he said, "So, you see I have comeback, Sir, for a
day or two to worship my household gods, as we say at Oxford, and to
get a little more money; for you did not send me enough. However, it
may be as well, for various reasons, not to let people know that I am
here. Our old dons do not like us to be absent without leave, and may
think that I ought to have notified to them my intention of giving you
such an agreeable surprise."

Such overpowering impudence was too much for Mr. Wittingham's
patience, the stock of which was somewhat restricted; and he first
swore a loud and very unmagisterial oath; then, however, recollecting
himself, without abating one particle of his wrath, he said in a stern
tone, and with a frowning brow, "Be so good as to walk into that room
for five minutes, Sir."

"Lord, Sir, don't be angry," exclaimed the housekeeper, who did not at
all like the look of her master's face, "it is only a frolic, Sir."

"Hold your tongue, Billiter! you are a fool," thundered Mr.
Wittingham. "Walk in there, Sir, and you shall soon hear my mind as to
your frolics."

"Oh, certainly, I will walk in," replied his son, not appearing in the
least alarmed, though there was something in the expression of his
father's countenance that did frighten him a little, because he had
never seen that something before--something difficult to describe--a
struggle as it were with himself, which showed the anger he felt to be
more profound than he thought it right to show all at once. "I
certainly will walk in and take a cup of tea if you will give me one,"
and as he spoke he passed the door into the library.

"You will neither eat nor drink in this house more, till your conduct
is wholly changed, Sir," said Mr. Wittingham, shutting the door behind
him, "the books are closed, Sir--there is a large balance against you,
and that must be liquidated before they can be opened again. What
brought you here?"

"What I have said," answered the young man, beginning to feel that his
situation was not a very good one, but still keeping up his affected
composure, "the yearnings of filial affection and a lack of
pocket-money."

"So, you can lie too, to your father," said Mr. Wittingham, bitterly.
"You will find that I can tell the truth however, and to begin, I will
inform you of what brought you hither--but no, it would take too much
time to do that; for the sooner you are gone the better for yourself
and all concerned--you must go, Sir, I tell you--you must go
directly."

A hesitation had come upon Mr. Wittingham while he spoke; his voice
shook, his lip quivered, his tall frame was terribly agitated; and his
son attributed all these external signs of emotion to a very different
cause from the real one. He thought he saw in them the symptoms of a
relenting parent, or at least of an irresolute one, and he prepared to
act accordingly; while his father thought of nothing but the danger of
having him found in his house, after the commission of such an outrage
as that which he had perpetrated that night; but the very thought made
him tremble in every limb--not so much for his son indeed, as for
himself.

"I beg pardon, my dear Sir," replied the young man, recovering all his
own impudence at the sight of his father's agitation; "but it would
not be quite convenient for me to go to-night. It is late, I am tired;
my purse is very empty."

"Pray how did you get that cut upon your head?" demanded the
magistrate, abruptly.

"Oh, a little accident," replied his son; "it is a mere
scratch--nothing at all."

"It looks very much like a blow from the butt-end of a heavy
horsewhip," said his father, sternly; "just such as a man who had
stopped two ladies in a carriage, might receive from a strong arm come
to their rescue. You do not propose to go then? Well, if that be the
case, I must send for the constable and give you into his hands, for
there is an information laid against you for felony, and witnesses
ready to swear to your person. Shall I ring the bell, or do you go?"

The young man's face had turned deadly pale, and he crushed the two
sides of his hat together between his hands. He uttered but one word,
however, and that was, "Money."

"Not a penny," answered Mr. Wittingham, turning his shoulder, "not one
penny, you have had too much already--you would make me bankrupt and
yourself too." The next moment, however, he continued, "Stay; on one
condition, I will give you twenty pounds."

"What is it?" asked the son, eagerly, but somewhat fiercely too, for
he suspected that the condition would be hard.

"It is that you instantly go back to Oxford, and swear by all you hold
sacred--if you hold any thing sacred at all--not to quit it for twelve
months, or till Mary Clifford is married."

"You ask what I cannot do," said the son, in a tone of deep and bitter
despondency, contrasting strangely with that which he had previously
used; "I cannot go back to Oxford. You must know all in time, and may
as well know it now--I am expelled from Oxford; and you had your share
in it, for had you sent me what I asked, I should not have been driven
to do what I have done. I cannot go back; and as to abandoning my
pursuit of Mary Clifford, I will not do that either. I love her, and
she shall be mine, sooner or later, let who will say no."

"Expelled from Oxford!" cried Mr. Wittingham, with his eyes almost
starting from their sockets. "Get out of my sight, and out of my
house; go where you will---do what you will--you are no son of mine
any more. Away with you, or I will myself give you into custody, and
sign the warrant for your committal. Not a word more, Sir, begone; you
may take your clothes, if you will, but let me see no more of you. I
cast you off; begone, I say."

"I go," answered his son, "but one day you will repent of this, and
wish me back, when perhaps you will not be able to find me."

"No fear of that," answered Mr. Wittingham, "if you do not return till
I seek you, the house will be long free from your presence. Away with
you at once, and no more words."

Without reply, Henry Wittingham quitted the room, and hurried up to
the bed-chamber, which he inhabited when he was at home, opened
several drawers, and took out various articles of dress, and some
valuable trinkets--a gold chain, a diamond brooch, two or three
jewelled pins and rings. He lingered a little, perhaps fancying that
his father might relent, perhaps calculating what his own conduct
should be when he was summoned back to the library. But when he had
been about five minutes in his chamber, there was a tap at the door;
and the housekeeper came in.

"It is no use, Billiter," said the young man, "I am going. My father
has treated me shamefully."

"It is no use indeed, Master Harry," replied the good woman, "he is as
hard as stone. I have said every thing he would let me say, but he
drove me out of the room like a wild beast. But don't give it up,
Master Harry. Go away for a day or two to Burton's inn, by
Chandleigh--he'll come round in time, and you can very well spend a
week or so there, and be very comfortable."

"But money, Billiter, money!" exclaimed the young man, whose heart had
sunk again to find that all his expectations of his father's
resolution giving way were vain. "What shall I do for money?"

"Stay a bit, stay a bit," said the good woman; "what I have got you
may have, Master Harry, as welcome as the flowers in May. I've ten
pounds here in this little purse;" and she dived into one of the large
pockets that hung outside of her capacious petticoat, producing a very
dirty, old knitted purse with a steel clasp, and adding, as she put it
in her young master's hand, "It is a pity now that Mr. Wittingham
wheedled me into putting all the rest of my earnings into the
Tarningham bank, where he has a share---but that will do for the
present, if you are careful, Master Harry--but don't go to drink
claret and such expensive nasty stuff, there's a good boy."

"That I won't, Billiter," answered Henry Wittingham, pocketing the
money without remorse of conscience, "and I will repay you when I
can--some day or another I shall certainly be able, for the houses at
Exmouth are settled upon me;" and packing up all that he thought fit
to take in a large silk-handkerchief, he opened the door again, and
began to descend the stairs. A chilly sensation crept over him ere he
reached the bottom, as memory brought back happy days, and he thought
that he was going forth from the home of his youth, perhaps for ever,
that he was an exile from his father's dwelling, from his love, an
outcast, a wanderer, with nothing but his own wayward spirit for his
guide--nought but his own pride for his support. He was not yet
sufficiently hardened to bear the shadow of his exile lightly, to look
upon it as a relief from restraint, a mere joyous adventure which
would have its interest during its progress, and would soon be over.
But, nevertheless, his pride was strong, and as yet unchecked; and
when the thought of going back to his father, asking his forgiveness,
and promising all that he required, crossed his mind, he cast it from
him with disdain, saying, "Never! never! He shall ask me humbly
first." And, with this very lowly determination, he walked out of the
house.

"I shall be able to hear of you at Burton's, by Chandleigh," said the
housekeeper, as he stood on the top step.

"Yes, yes, you will hear of me there," he replied, and descending the
steps, he was soon wandering in darkness amongst parterres, every step
of the way being as familiar to him as his father's library.



CHAPTER IV.
The Post-boy and the Pot-boy.


After a few words of common observation upon Mr. Wittingham and his
proceedings when that excellent gentleman had left the room at the
little inn of Tarningham, Ned Hayward fell into a very unusual fit of
thought.

I do not mean in the least to say that it was unusual for Ned Hayward
to think, for probably he thought as much as other men, but there are
various ways of thinking. There are pondering, meditating, brown
studying, day dreaming, revolving, considering, contemplating, and
though many of these terms may at first sight seem synonymous, yet
upon close examination it will be found that there are shades of
difference between the meanings. Besides these ways or modes of
thinking, there are various other mental processes, such as
investigating, examining, disentangling, inquiring, but with these I
will not meddle, as my business is merely with the various operations
of the mind which require various degrees of rapidity. Now though Ned
Hayward, as I have said, probably thought as much as other men, his
sort of thought was generally of a very quick and active habit. He was
not fond of meditating, his mind's slowest pace was a canter, and when
he found an obstacle of any kind, hedge, gate, fence, or stone wall,
he took up his stirrups and went over it. Now, however, for once in
his life, he paused and pondered for full five minutes, and then
thinking perhaps it might seem a little rude if he treated his
new-found friend to nothing but meditation, he began to talk of other
things, still meditating over the former subject of his contemplations
all the while.

It must not be supposed, however, that he did not think of what he was
saying. Such a supposition might indeed be founded upon the old axiom
that men cannot do two things at once. But the axiom is false: there
never was a falser. We are always doing many things at once. There
would be very little use of our having hands and feet, tongues and
eyes, ears and nose, unless each of our organs with a little practice
could go on quite quietly in its little workshop, without disturbing
the others. Indeed it is very serviceable sometimes to give our more
volatile members something light to do, when we are employing others
upon more serious business, just to keep them out of the way, as we do
with noisy children. So also is it with the mind and its faculties,
and it is not only quite possible, depend upon it, dear reader, to
think of two subjects at once, but very common also.

Totally unacquainted with Mr. Beauchamp's habits and character, or
what topics he could converse upon, and what not, Ned Hayward
naturally chose one which seemed perfectly indifferent and perfectly
easy; but it led them soon to deeper considerations, as a very small
key will often open a very large door. It led to some political
discussions too; but let it be remarked, this is not a political
novel, that most wearisome and useless of all the illegitimate
offsprings of literature, and therefore if I give a few sentences of
their conversation, it is not to insinuate sneakingly my own opinions,
but merely to display my characters more fully.

"This seems a very pretty little town," said Ned Hayward, choosing the
first free subject at hand; "quite rural, and with all the
tranquillity of the country about it."

"It is indeed," answered Mr. Beauchamp; "but I should almost have
supposed that a gayer place would have pleased you more. Were you
never here before?"

"Never in my life," replied his companion; "but you are quite mistaken
about my tastes. London, indeed, is a very pleasant place for three
months or so; but one soon gets tired of it. It gets slow, devilish
slow after a while. One cannot go to the theatre every night. There is
little use of going to balls and parties, and risking falling in love
if one has not got money enough to marry. One gets weary of the faces
and the houses in St. James's-street. Morning visits are the greatest
bores in the world. Epsom and Ascot are good enough things in their
way, but they are soon over for one who does not bet and runs no
horses. The newspapers tire me to death--romances I abominate; and
though a good opera comes in twice a-week to lighten the load a
little, it gets desperate heavy on one's shoulders before the first of
July. Antiquaries, connoisseurs, lawyers, physicians, fiddlers, and
portrait-painters, with merchants, and all the bees of the hive, may
find London a very pleasant and profitable place. I am nothing but a
drone, and so I fly away in the country. Of all towns after the second
month, I hate London the most--except a manufacturing town indeed, and
that is always horrible, even to change horses in."

"And yet perhaps," answered Beauchamp, "a manufacturing town
offers subjects of deeper interest than any other spot of the
earth--especially at the present moment."

"Not in themselves, surely," said Ned Hayward; "the abstract idea of
broad cloth is to me very flat, cotton-spinning not particularly
exciting, iron ware is far too hard for me to handle, and as for the
production of soda and pearlash, I have no genius that way. But I
suppose," he continued, "you mean that the manufacturing towns are
interesting from their bearing upon the prosperity of the country; but
in that case it is your speculations regarding them that interest you,
not the places themselves."

"So it is with everything," answered Mr. Beauchamp; "no single image
or impression gives us great pleasure. It is in their combination that
our engagement dwells. Single ideas are but straight lines, blank
plains, monotonous patches of colour. Associate them with other shapes
and hues, and you produce beauty and pleasure. Thus with the
manufacturing towns; if I only went to see a steam-engine work, a
shuttle play, or a spindle turn, I should soon be tired enough; but
when in all that I see there, I perceive a new development of man's
mind, a fresh course opened for his energies when old ones are
exhausted, when I behold the commencement of a great social change,
which shall convert the pursuits of tribes and nations from
agricultural to manufacturing--we rather shall throw the great mass of
human industry, for which its former sphere was too small, into
another and almost interminable channel, I feel that I am a spectator
of a great social phenomenon, as awful and as grand as the lightning
that rends the pine, or the earthquake that overthrows the mountain.
It is magnificent, yet terrible; beautiful, but still sad."

"Why sad?" demanded Ned Hayward. "I have considered the matter in the
same light a little, and have talked with various grave manufacturers
about it; but they all seem to see nothing in it but what is very fine
and pleasant. They have no apprehension for the result, or doubts
about its doing a great deal of good to every body in the end."

"The end!" said Beauchamp, "where is the end? What will the end be?
They see nothing but good; they augur nothing but good, because they
are actively employed in that one particular course, and buoyed up
with those sanguine expectations which active exertion always
produces. Neither do I doubt that the end will be good; but still ere
that end be reached, how much misery, how much strife, how much evil,
must be encountered. One needs but to set one's foot in a factory, ay,
or in a manufacturing town, to see that the evil not only will be, but
is; that we are wading into a dark stream which we must pass over, and
are already knee deep. I speak not of the evils inseparable from the
working of any great change in the relations of society or in its
objects. As we can never climb a hill without some fatigue, so we can
never reach a higher point in social advance without some suffering,
but that inevitable evil I look upon as light, compared with many
other things before us. I doubt not that in God's good providence new
resources will be ever opened before mankind for the employment of
human industry; but when I see even a temporary superfluity of labour,
I tremble to think of what vast power of grinding and oppressing that
very circumstance places in the hands of the employer. Combine that
power with the state of men's minds at present, and all the tendencies
of the age; remember that to accumulate wealth, to rival others in
luxury and display, to acquire at any price and by any means, is a
part not of the manufacturer's spirit, but of the spirit of the age,
and especially of this country, and then see to what purposes must and
will be applied that vast authority or command, which the existing
superabundance of labour, brought about by mechanical inventions and
the natural increase of population entrusts to those who have already
the power of wealth. Were it not for this spirit acting through this
power, should we see in our manufactories such squalid misery, such
enfeebled frames, such overtasked exertions, such want of moral and
religious culture, such recklessness, such vice, such infamy, such
famine?"

"Perhaps not," answered Ned Hayward, "but yet something is to be said
for the manufacturers too. You see, my good Sir, they have to compete
with all Europe. They are, as it were, running a race, and they must
win it, even if they break their horses' wind."

"If they do that, they will lose it," replied Beauchamp; "but yet I do
not blame them. I believe the spirit of the times we live in. They
only share it with other men; many of them are humane, kind, generous,
just, who do as much good and as little evil as the iron band of
circumstances will permit; and were all to strive in the same manner,
and to the same degree, that iron band would be broken, and all would
be wiser, happier, better--ay, even wealthier than they are; but,
alas! the example of the good have little influence on the rest on the
same level with themselves, and the example of the bad, immense
influence on every grade beneath them. The cupidity of the great
mill-owner is imitated and exceeded by those below him. He robs the
poor artizan of his labour, by allowing him as little out of the
wealth his exertions earn as the superfluity of industry compels the
artizan to take, and justifies himself with the cold axiom, that he is
not bound to pay more than other men; those below him rob the same
defenceless being of a great part of those poor wages themselves by a
more direct kind of plunder, and have their axiom too. One of the
great problems of the day is this: what proportion of the profits
accruing from the joint-operation of capital and labour is to be
assigned to each of those two elements? And the day will come ere
long, depend upon it, when that great problem must be solved--I
trust not in bloody characters. At present, there is no check to
secure a fair division; and so long as there is none, wealth will
always take advantage of poverty, and the competition for mere food
will induce necessity to submit to avarice, till the burden becomes
intolerable--and then--"

"What then?" asked Ned Hayward.

"Nay, God forbid," answered Beauchamp, "that the fears which will
sometimes arise should ever be verified. A thousand unforeseen events
may occur to waft away the dangers that seem to menace us; but I
cannot help thinking that in the meantime there are many duties
neglected by those who have the power to interfere; for surely, if any
foresight be wisdom, any human providence a virtue, they are the
foresight that perceives the future magnitude of evils yet in the bud,
and the providence that applies a remedy in time."

"Very true," answered Ned Hayward; "things do look rather badly; but I
dare say all will get right at last. I have not thought of such things
very deeply--not half so deeply as you have done, I know; but still I
have been sorry to see, in many of our great towns, the people so
wretched-looking; and sometimes I have thought that if better care
were taken of them--I mean both in mind and body--our judges at the
assizes would not have so much to do. Just as fevers spread through
whole countries from a great congregation of sickly people, so crimes
extend through a land from great congregations of vicious people. For
my part, if, like our good friend Abon Hassan, I could but be caliph
for a short time, I'd open out all the narrow streets, and drain all
the foul lands, and cultivate all ignorant minds, and try to purify
all the corrupt hearts by the only thing that can purify them. But I
am not caliph; and if I were, the task is above me I fancy: but still,
if it could be accomplished, even in part, I am quite sure that
jurymen would dine earlier, lawyers have less to do, courts would rise
at three o'clock, and the lord mayor and sheriffs eat their turtle
more in peace. But talking of that, do you know I have been thinking
all this while how we could get some insight into this affair of the
highway robbery; for I am determined I will not let the matter sleep.
Highway robberies are going quite out of fashion. I have not heard of
one for these four months. Hounslow Heath is almost as safe as
Berkeley-square, and Bagshot no more to be feared than Windsor Castle.
It is a pity to let such things revive; and there is something about
that old fellow Wittingham which strikes me as odd. Another thing too
was funny enough. Why should they pull the young lady out of the
chaise? She could just as well have handed her purse and her trinkets
out of the window!"

"That seemed strange to me also," answered Beauchamp. "But how do you
propose to proceed?"

"Why, I think the best way will be to frighten the post-boy," replied
Ned Hayward. "He's in league with the rogues, whoever they are, depend
upon it; and if he thinks his neck's in a noose, he'll peach."

"That is not improbable," said his companion; "but we had better
proceed cautiously, for if we frighten him into denying all knowledge
of the parties, he will adhere to his story for mere consistency's
sake."

"Oh, I'll manage him, I will manage him," answered Ned Hayward,
who had carried so many points in his life by his dashing
straightforwardness, that he had very little doubt of his own powers.
"Come along, and we will see. Let us saunter out into the yard, in a
quiet careless way, as if we were sentimental and loved moonlight. We
shall find him somewhere rubbing down his horses, or drinking a pint
on the bench."

The two gentlemen accordingly took their hats and issued forth, Ned
Hayward leading the way first out into the street through a
glass-door, and then round into the yard by an archway. This
man[oe]uvre was intended to elude the vigilant eyes of Mr. Groomber,
and was so far successful that the landlord, being one of that small
class of men who can take a hint, did not come out after them to offer
his services, though he saw the whole proceeding, and while he was
uncorking sherry, or portioning out tea, or making up a bill, kept one
eye--generally the right--turned towards a window that looked in the
direction of the stables. Before those stables the bright moon was
laying out her silver carpeting, though, truth to say, she might have
found a cleaner floor to spread it on; and there too paraded up and
down our friends, Ned Hayward and Mr. Beauchamp, looking for the
post-boy who had driven Mrs. Clifford and her daughter, but not
perceiving him in any direction. Ned Hayward began to suspect he had
reckoned without his host. The man was not rubbing down his horses, he
was not drinking a pint on the bench, he was not smoking a pipe at the
inn door.

"Well," he said at length, "I will look into all the stables to see
after my horse. It is but right I should attend to his supper now I
have had my own, and perhaps we may find what we are looking for on
the road. Let us wait awhile, however, till that one-eyed ostler is
passed, or he will tell us where the horse is, and spoil our
man[oe]uvre." And, walking on, he pointed out to Beauchamp a peculiar
spot upon the moon's surface, and commented upon it with face upturned
till the inconvenient ostler had gone by.

At that moment, however, another figure appeared in the yard, which at
once brought light into Ned Hayward's mind. It was not a pretty
figure, nor had it a pretty face belonging to it. The back was bowed
and contorted in such a manner as to puzzle the tailor exceedingly to
fit it with a fustian jacket when it required a new one, which luckily
was not often; the legs were thin, and more like a bird's than a human
being's, and though the skull was large and not badly shaped, the
features that appeared below the tall forehead seemed all to be
squeezed together, so as to acquire a rat-like expression, not
uncommon in the deformed. The head, which was bare, was thatched with
thin yellow hair, but the eyes were black and clear, and the teeth
large and white, the garments which this poor creature wore, were
those of an inferior servant of an inn; and his peculiar function
seemed to be denoted by a tankard of beer, which he carried in his
hand from the door of the tap towards the stables.

"He is carrying our friend his drink," said Ned Hayward, in a whisper
to Beauchamp, "let us watch where the little pot-boy goes in, and I'll
take seven to one we find the man we want."

The pot-boy gave a shrewd glance at the two gentlemen as he passed
them, but hurried on towards one of the doors far down the yard, which
when it was opened displayed a light within; and as soon as he had
deposited his tankard and returned, those who had watched him followed
his course and threw back the same door without ceremony. There before
them, seated on a bench at a deal-table, was the post-boy of whom they
were in search. They had both marked him well by the evening light,
and there could be no doubt of his identity, though by this time he
had got his hat and jacket off, and was sitting with a mane-comb on
one hand and a curry-comb on the other, and the tankard of beer
between them. He was a dull, unpleasant, black-bearded sort of fellow
of fifty-five or six, with a peculiarly cunning gray eye, and a
peculiarly resolute slow mouth, and as soon as Ned Hayward beheld the
expression by the light of a tallow-candle in a high state of
perspiration, he muttered "We shall not make much of this specimen."

Nevertheless, he went on in his usual careless tone addressing the
lord of the posting-saddle, and saying, "Good night, my man; I want
you to tell me where I can find a gentleman I wish to see here
abouts."

The post-boy had risen, and pulled the lock of short black and white
hair upon his forehead, but without looking a bit more communicative
than at first, and he merely answered, "If I knows where he lives,
Sir. What's his name?"

"Why that's another matter," replied Ned Hayward; "perhaps he may not
much like his name mentioned; but I can tell you what people call him
sometimes. He goes by the name of Wolf occasionally."

The slightest possible twinkle of intelligence came into the man's
eyes for a moment, and then went out again, just as when clouds are
driving over the sky at night we sometimes see something sparkle for
an instant, and then disappear from the heavens, so faint while it is
present, and so soon gone, that we cannot tell whether it be a star or
not.

"Can't say I ever heard of such a gemman here, Sir," replied the
post-boy. "There's Jimmy Lamb, Sir, the mutton-pieman, but that's the
nearest name to Wolf we have in these parts."

"Why, my good friend, you saw him this very night," said Mr.
Beauchamp, "when the chaise was stopped that you were driving. He was
one of the principals in that affair."

"Likely, Sir," answered the other, "but they were all strangers to
me--never set eyes on one 'on 'em afore. But if you knows 'em, you'll
soon catch 'em; and that will be a good job, for it is very unpleasant
to be kept a waiting so. It's as bad as a 'pike."

"I've a notion," said Ned Hayward, "that you can find out my man for
me if you like; and if you do, you may earn a crown; but if you do not
you may get into trouble, for concealing felons renders you what is
called an accessory, and that is a capital crime. You know the law,
Sir," he continued, turning to Beauchamp, and speaking in an
authoritative tone, "and if I am not mistaken, this comes under the
statute of limitations as a clear case of misprision, which under the
old law was merely burning in the hand and transportation for life,
but is now hanging matter. You had better think over the business, my
man, and let me have an immediate answer with due deliberation, for
you are not a person I should think to put your head in a halter, and
if you were, I should not advise you to do so in this case."

"Thank you, Sir," said the post-boy, "I won't; but I don't know the
gemmen as showed themselves such rum customers, nor him either as you
are a axing arter."

"It is in vain, I fear," said Beauchamp to his companion in a very low
voice, as their respondent made this very definite answer, "the
magistrates may perhaps obtain some further information from him when
he finds that the matter is serious, but we shall not."

The post-boy caught a few of the words apparently, and perhaps it was
intended that he should do so, but they were without effect; and when
at length they walked away baffled, he twisted the eyelids into a sort
of wreath round his left eye, observing with his tongue in his cheek,
"Ay, ay, my covies, no go!"

Ned Hayward opened the door somewhat suddenly, and as he went out, he
almost tumbled over the little humpbacked pot-boy. Now whether the
young gentleman--his years might be nineteen or twenty, though his
stature was that of a child of eight--came thither to replenish the
tankard he had previously brought, or whether he affected the
moonlight, or was fond of conversation in which he did not take a
part, Ned Hayward could not at the moment divine; but before he and
Beauchamp had taken a dozen steps up the yard, Hayward felt a gentle
pull at his coat-tail.

"What is it, my lad?" he said, looking down upon the pot-boy, and at
the same time stooping his head as if with a full impression that his
ears at their actual height could hear nothing that proceeded from a
point so much below as the deformed youth's mouth.

Instantly a small high-pitched but very musical voice replied, "I'll
come for your boots early to-morrow, Sir, and tell you all about it."

"Can't you tell me now?" asked the young gentleman, "I am going into
the stable to see my horse, and you can say your say there, my man."

"I daren't," answered the pot-boy, "there's Tim the Ostler, and Jack
Millman's groom, and Long Billy, the Taunton post-boy, all about.
I'll come to-morrow and fetch your boots."

At the same moment the landlord's voice exclaiming in sharp tones,
"Dicky! Dicky Lamb!--what the devil are you so long about?" was heard,
and the pot-boy ran off as fast as his long thin legs would carry him.

"Well this affair promises some amusement," said Ned Hayward, when
they had again reached the little parlour, which in his good-humoured
easy way he now looked upon as common to them both. "Upon my word I am
obliged to these highwaymen, or whatever the scoundrels may be, for
giving me something fresh to think of. Although at good Sir John
Slingsby's I shall have fishing enough, I dare say, yet one cannot
fish all day and every day, and sometimes one gets desperately bored
in an old country-house, unless fate strikes out something not quite
in the common way to occupy one."

"Did you ever try falling in love?" asked Beauchamp, with a quiet
smile, as he glanced his eyes over the fine form and handsome features
of his companion, "it is an excellent pastime, I am told."

"No!" answered Ned Hayward quickly and straightforwardly; "I never
did, and never shall. I am too poor, Mr. Beauchamp, to marry in my own
class of society, and maintain my wife in the state which that class
implies. I am too honest to make love without intending to marry; too
wise I trust to fall in love where nothing could be the result but
unhappiness to myself if not to another also." He spake these few
sentences very seriously; but then, resuming at once his gay rattling
manner, he went on: "Oh, I have drilled myself capitally, I assure
you. At twenty I was like a raw recruit, bungling at every step; found
myself saying all manner of sweet things to every pretty face I met;
felt my heart beating whenever, under the pretty face, I thought I
discovered something that would last longer. But I saw so much of love
in a cottage and its results, that, after calculating well what a
woman brought up in good society would have to sacrifice who married a
man with 600_l_. a-year, I voted it unfair to ask her, and made up my
mind to my conduct. As soon as ever I find that I wish to dance with
any dear girl twice in a night, and fall into reveries when I think of
her, and feel a sort of warm blood at my fingers' ends when my hand
touches hers, I am off like a hair-trigger, for if a man is bound to
act with honour to other men, who can make him if he does not
willingly, he is ten times more strongly bound to do so towards women,
who can neither defend nor avenge themselves."

With a sudden impulse Beauchamp held out his hand to him, and shook
his heartily, and that grasp seemed to say, "I know you now to the
heart. We are friends."

Ned Hayward was a little surprised at this enthusiastic burst of Mr.
Beauchamp for he had set him down for what is generally called a very
gentlemanlike person, which means, in the common parlance of the
world, a man who has either used up every thing like warm feeling, or
has never possessed it, and who, not being troubled with any emotions,
suffers polite manners and conventional habits to rule him in and out.
With his usual rapid way of jumping at conclusions--which he often
found very convenient, though to say the truth he sometimes jumped
over the right ones--he said to himself at once, "Well, this is really
a good fellow, I do believe, and a man of some heart and soul."

But though Beauchamp's warm shake of the hand had led him to this
conviction, and he thought he began to understand him, yet Ned Hayward
was a little curious as to a question which his new friend had asked
him some time before. He had answered it, it is true, by telling him
that he took care not to fall in love; but he fancied that Mr.
Beauchamp had inquired in a peculiar tone, and that he must have had
some meaning more than the words implied, taken in their simple and
straightforward application.

"Come now, tell me, Beauchamp," he said, after just five seconds
consideration, "what made you ask if I had ever tried falling in love
by way of amusement? Did you ever hear any story of my being guilty of
such practices? If you have it was no true one--at least for six or
seven years past."

"Oh, no," replied Beauchamp laughing, "I have had no means of learning
your secret history. I only inquired because, if you have never tried
that pleasant amusement, you will soon have a capital opportunity. Sir
John Slingsby's daughter is one of the loveliest girls I ever saw."

"What, old Jack with a daughter!" exclaimed Ned Hayward, and then
added after a moment's thought, "By the way, so he had. I remember her
coming to see him when we were at Winchester. He was separated from
her mother, who was a saint, I recollect. Nobody could accuse old Jack
of that himself, and his daughter used to come and see him at times. A
pretty little girl she was; I think five or six years old. Let me see,
she must be about sixteen or seventeen now; for that is just ten years
ago, when I was an ensign."

"She is more than that," answered Beauchamp, "by two or three years;
and either it must be longer since you saw her, or--"

"Oh, no, it is just ten years ago," cried Mr. Hayward; "ten years next
month, for I was then seventeen myself."

"Well, then, she must have been older than you thought," replied his
companion.

"Very likely," said Mr. Hayward. "I never could tell girls' ages,
especially when they are children. But there is no fear of my falling
in love with her, if she is what you tell me. I never fell in love
with a beautiful woman in my life--I don't like them; they are always
either pert, or conceited, or vain, or haughty, or foolish. Sooner or
later they are sure to find some ass to tell them how beautiful they
are, and then they think that is quite sufficient for all the purposes
of life."

"Perhaps because they are first impressed with a wrong notion of the
purposes of life," answered Beauchamp; "but yet I never heard of a man
before who objected to a woman because she was pretty."

"No, no," answered Ned Hayward, "that is a very different thing. I
did not say pretty. I am very fond of what is pretty. Oh! the very
word is delightful. It gives one such a nice, good-humoured,
comfortable idea: it is full of health, and youth, and good spirits,
and light-heartedness--the word seems to smile and speak content; and
when it is the expression that is spoken of, and not the mere
features, it is very charming indeed. But a beautiful woman is a very
different thing. I would as soon marry the Venus de Medicis, pedestal
and all, as what is usually called a beautiful woman. But now let us
talk of this other affair. I wonder what will come of my mysterious
post-boy."

"Why, I doubt not you will obtain some information regarding the
gentleman calling himself Wolf," replied Beauchamp; "but if you do,
how do you intend to proceed?"

"Hunt him down as I would a wolf," answered Ned Hayward.

"Then pray let me share the sport," rejoined Beauchamp.

"Oh! certainly, certainly," said Ned Hayward; "I'll give the view
halloo as soon as I have found him; and so now, good night, for I am
somewhat sleepy."

"Goodnight, goodnight!" answered Beauchamp; and Ned Hayward rang for a
bed-candle, a boot-jack, a pair of slippers, and sundry other things
that he wanted, which were brought instantly, and with great good
will. Had he asked for a nightcap it would have been provided with
the same alacrity; for those were days in which nightcaps were
furnished by every host to every guest; though now (alas! for the good
old times) no landlord ever thinks that a guest will stay long enough
in his house to make it worth while to attend to his head-gear. But
Ned Hayward needed no nightcap, for he never wore one, and therefore
his demands did not at all overtax his host's stock.



CHAPTER V.
The old Mill.


It was just in the gray of the morning, and the silver light of dawn
was stealing through the deep glens of the wood, brightening the dewy
filaments that busy insects had spun across and across the grass, and
shining in long, glistening lines, upon the broad clear stream. It was
a lovely stream as ever the eye of meditation rested on, or thoughtful
angler walked beside; and from about two miles beyond Slingsby Park to
within half a mile of the small town of Tarningham, it presented an
endless variety of quiet English scenery, such as does the heart of
man good to look upon. In one part it was surrounded by high hills,
not unbroken by jagged rocks and lofty banks, and went on tumbling in
miniature cascades and tiny rapids. At another place it flowed on in
greater tranquillity through green meadows, flanked on either hand by
tall, stately trees, at the distance of eighty or ninety yards from
the banks; not in trim rows, all ranged like rank and file upon
parades, but straggling out as chance or taste had decided, sometimes
grouping into masses, sometimes protruding far towards the stream,
sometimes receding coyly into the opening of a little dell. Then again
the river dashed on at a more hurried rate through a low copse,
brawling as it went over innumerable shelves of rock and masses of
stone, or banks of gravel, which attempted to obstruct its course; and
nearer still to the town it flowed through turfy banks, slowly and
quietly, every now and then diversified by a dashing ripple over a
shallow, and a tumble into a deep pool.

It was in the gray of the morning, then, that a man in a velveteen
jacket was seen walking slowly along by the margin, at a spot where
the river was in a sort of middle state, neither so fierce and restive
as it seemed amongst the hills, nor so tranquil and sluggish as in the
neighbourhood of the little town. There were green fields around; and
numerous trees and copses approaching sometimes very close to the
water, but sometimes breaking away to a considerable distance, and
generally far enough off for the angler to throw a fly without hooking
the branches around. Amongst some elms, and walnuts, and Huntingdon
poplars on the right bank, was an old square tower of very rough
stone, gray and cold-looking, with some ivy up one side, clustering
round the glassless window. It might have been mistaken for the ruin
of some ancient castle of no great extent, had it not been for the
axle-tree and some of the spokes and fellies of a dilapidated
water-wheel projecting over the river, and at once announcing for what
purposes the building had been formerly used, and that they had long
ceased. There was still a little causeway and small stone bridge of a
single arch spanning a rivulet that here joined the stream, and from a
doorway near the wheel still stretched a frail plank to the other
side of the dam, which, being principally constructed of rude layers
of rock, remained entire, and kept up the water so as to form an
artificial cascade. Early as was the hour, some matutinal trout, who,
having risen by times and perhaps taken a long swim before breakfast,
felt hungry and sharpset, were attempting to satisfy their voracious
maws by snapping at a number of fawn-coloured moths which imprudently
trusted themselves too near the surface of the water. The religious
birds were singing their sweet hymns all around, and a large
goatsucker whirled by on his long wings, depriving the trout of many a
delicate fly before it came within reach of the greedy jaws that were
waiting for it below the ripple.

But what was the man doing while fish, flies, and birds were thus
engaged? Marry he was engaged in a very curious and mysterious
occupation. With a slow step and a careful eye fixed upon the glassy
surface beneath him, he walked along the course of the current down
towards the park paling that you see there upon the left. Was he
admiring the speckled tenants of the river? Was he admiring his own
reflected image on the shining mirror of the stream? He might be doing
either, or both; but, nevertheless, he often put his finger and thumb
into the pocket of a striped waistcoat; pulled out some small round
balls, about the size of a pea or a little larger, marvellously like
one of those boluses which doctors are sometimes fain to prescribe,
and chemists right willing to furnish, but which patients find it
somewhat difficult to swallow. These he dropped one by one into the
water, wherever he found a quiet place, and thus proceeded till he had
come within about three hundred yards of the park wall. There he
stopped the administration of these pills; and then, walking a little
further, sat down by the side of the river, in the very midst of a
tall clump of rushes.

In a minute or two something white, about the length of eighteen
inches, floated down; and instantly stretching forth a long hooked
stick, our friend drew dexterously in to the shore a fine large trout
of a pound and a half in weight. The poor fellow was quite dead, or at
least so insensible that he did not seem at all surprised or annoyed
to find himself suddenly out of his element, and into another
gentleman's pocket, though the transition was somewhat marvellous,
from the fresh clear stream to a piece of glazed buckram. Most people
would have disliked the change, but Mister Trout was in that sort of
state that he did not care about any thing. Hardly was he thus
deposited when one of his finny companions--perhaps his own brother,
or some other near relation--was seen coming down the stream with his
stomach upwards, a sort of position which, to a trout, is the same as
standing on the head would be to a human being. This one was nearer
the bank, and first he hit his nose against a stump of tree, then,
whirling quietly round, he tried the current tail foremost; but it was
all of no avail, he found his way likewise into the pocket, and two
more were easily consigned to the same receptacle, all of them showing
the same placid equanimity. At length one very fine fish, which seemed
to weigh two pounds and a half, at the least, followed advice, and
took a middle course. He was out of reach of the stick; the water was
too deep at that spot to wade, and what was our friend of the pocket
to do? He watched the fish carried slowly down the stream towards the
place where the river passed under an archway into Sir John Slingsby's
park. It was fat and fair, and its fins were rosy as if the morning
sun had tinged them. Its belly was of a glossy white, with a kindly
look about its half-expanded gills, that quite won our friend's
affection. Yet he hesitated; and being a natural philosopher, he knew
that by displacing the atoms of water the floating body might be
brought nearer to the shore. He therefore tried a stone: but whether
he threw it too far, or not far enough, I cannot tell; certain it is,
the trout was driven further away than before, and to his
inexpressible disappointment, he saw it carried through the arch. He
was resolved, however, that it should not thus escape him. Difficult
circumstances try, if they do not make, great men; and taking a little
run, he vaulted over the park paling and into the park.

He was just in the act of getting over again, perhaps feeling if he
stayed too long it might be considered an intrusion, and had the fish
in his hand, so that his movements were somewhat embarrassed, when a
little incident occurred which considerably affected his plans and
purposes for the day.

I have mentioned an old mill, and sundry trees and bushes at different
distances from the bank, breaking the soft green meadow turf in a very
picturesque manner. In the present instance, these various objects
proved not only ornamental but useful--at least to a personage who had
been upon the spot nearly as long as our friend in the velveteen
jacket. That personage had been tempted into the mill either by its
curious and ancient aspect, or by the open door, or by surprise, or by
some other circumstance or motive; and once in he thought he might as
well look out of the window. When he did look out of the window, the
first thing his eyes fell upon, was the first-mentioned gentleman
dropping his pills into the water; and there being something curious
and interesting in the whole proceeding, the man in the mill watched
the man by the river for some minutes. He then quietly slipped out,
and as the door was on the opposite side from that on which the
operations I have described were going on, he did so unperceived. It
would seem that the watcher became much affected by what he saw; for
the next minute he glided softly over the turf behind a bush, and
thence to a clump of trees, and then to a single old oak with a good
wide trunk--rather hollow and somewhat shattered about the branches,
but still with two or three of the lower boughs left, having a fair
show of leaves, like a fringe of curly hair round the poll of some
bald Anacreon. From that he went to another, and so on; in fact,
dodging our first friend all the way down, till the four first trout
were pocketed, and the fifth took its course into the park. When the
betrayer of these tender innocents, however, vaulted over the paling
in pursuit, the dodger came out and got behind some bushes--brambles,
and other similar shrubs that have occasionally other uses than
bearing blackberries; and no sooner did he see the successful chaser
of the trout, with his goodly fish in his hand and one leg over the
paling, about to return to the open country, than taking two steps
forward, he laid his hand upon his collar, and courteously helped him
over somewhat faster than he would have come without such assistance.

The man of fishes had his back to his new companion at the moment when
he received such unexpected support; but as soon as his feet touched
the ground on the other side, he struggled most unreasonably to free
his collar from the grasp that still retained it. He did not succeed
in this effort; far from it; for he well-nigh strangled himself in the
attempt to get out of that iron clutch; but, nevertheless, he
contrived, at the risk of suffocation, to bring himself face to face
with his tenacious friend, and beheld, certainly what he did not
expect to see. No form of grim and grisly gamekeeper was before him;
no shooting-jacket and leathern leggings; but a person in the garb of
a gentleman of good station, furnished with arms, legs, and chest of
dimensions and materials which seemed to show that a combat would be
neither a very safe nor pleasant affair.

"Who the devil are you?" asked the lover of trout, in the same terms
which Mr. Wittingham had used the night before to the very same
personage.

"Ha, ha, my friend!" exclaimed Ned Hayward; "so you have been
hocussing the trout have you?" And there they stood for a few minutes
without any answers to either question.



CHAPTER VI.
In which Ned Hayward plays the part of Thief-taker.


Of all the turnings and windings in this crooked life, one of the most
disagreeable is turning back; and yet it is one we are all doomed to
from childhood to old age. We are turned back with the smaller and the
greater lessons of life, and have alas, but too often, in our
obstinacy or our stupidity to learn them over and over again. I with
the rest of my herd must also turn back from time to time; but on the
present occasion it shall not be long, as I am not in a sportive mood
this morning, and could find no pleasure in playing a trout or a
salmon, and should be disgusted at the very sight of a cat with a
mouse.

We have seen our good friend, Ned Hayward, lay his hand stoutly on the
collar of a gentleman who had been taking some unwarrantable liberties
with the finny fair ones of the stream; but the question is, how
happened Ned Hayward to be there at that particular hour of the
morning? Was he so exceedingly matutinal in his habits as to be
usually up, dressed, and out and walking by a piece of water at a
period of the day when most things except birds, fish, and poachers
are in their beds? Had he been roused at that hour by heartach, or
headach, or any other ache? Was he gouty and could not sleep--in love,
and not inclined to sleep? No, reader, no. He was an early man in his
habits it is true, for he was in high health and spirits, and with a
busy and active mind which looked upon slumber as time thrown away;
but then though he rose early he was always careful as to his dress.
He had a stiff beard which required a good deal of shaving, his hair
took him a long time, for he liked it to be exceedingly clean and
glossy. Smooth he could not make it, for that the curls prevented,
curls being obstinate things and resolved to have their own way. Thus
with one thing or another, sometimes reading scraps of a book that lay
upon his dressing-table, sometimes looking out of window, and thinking
more poetically than he had any notion of, sometimes cleaning his
teeth till they looked as white and as straight as the keys of a new
pianoforte, sometimes playing a tune with his fingers on the top of
the table, and musing philosophically the while, it was generally at
least one hour and a half from the time he arose before he issued
forth into the world.

This was not always the case indeed, for on May mornings, when the
trout rise, in August, if he were near the moors, on the first of
September, wherever he might be, for he was never at that season in
London, he usually abridged his toilet, and might be seen in the green
fields, duly equipped for the sport of the season, very shortly after
daybreak.

On the present occasion, and the morning of which I have just spoken,
there cannot be the slightest doubt that he would have laid in bed
somewhat longer than usual, for he had had a long ride the day before,
some excitement, a good supper, and had sat up late; but there was one
little circumstance which roused him and sent him forth. At about a
quarter before five he heard his door open, and a noise made amongst
the boots and shoes. He was in that sleepy state in which the events
of even five or six hours before are vague and indefinite, if
recollected at all, and although he had some confused notion of having
ordered himself to be called early, yet he knew not the why or the
wherefore, and internally concluded that it was one of the servants of
the inn come to take his clothes away for the purpose of brushing
them; he thought, as that was a process with which he had nothing to
do, he might as well turn on his other side and sleep it out. Still,
however, there was a noise in the room, which in the end disturbed
him, and he gave over all the boots, physical or metaphysical, to the
devil. Then raising himself upon his elbow, he looked about, and by
the dim light which was streaming through the dimity curtains--for the
window was unfurnished with shutters--he saw a figure somewhat like
that of a large goose wandering about amidst the fragments of his
apparel.

"What in the mischiefs name are you about?" asked Ned Hayward,
impatiently. "Can't you take the things and get along?"

"It's me, Sir," said the low, sweet-toned voice of the humpbacked
pot-boy, who had not a perfect certainty in his own mind that neuter
verbs are followed by a nominative case, "you were wishing to know
last night about--"

"Ah, hang it, so I was," exclaimed Ned Hayward, "but I had forgotten
all about it--well, my man, what can you tell me about this fellow,
this Wolf? Where does he live, how can one get at him? None of the
people here will own they know any thing about him, but I believe they
are lying, and I am very sure of it. The name's a remarkable one, and
not to be mistaken."

"Ay, Sir," answered the pot-boy, "they knew well enough whom you want,
though you did not mention the name they chose to know him by. If you
had asked for Ste Gimlet, they'd have been obliged to answer, for they
can't deny having heard of him. Wolf's a cant name, you see, which he
got on account of his walking about so much at night, as they say
wolves do, though I never saw one."

"Well, where is he to be found?" asked Ned Hayward, in his usual rapid
manner, and he then added, to smooth down all difficulties, "I don't
want to do the man any harm if I can help it, for I have a notion,
somehow, that he is but a tool in the business; and therefore,
although I could doubtless with the information you have given me of
his real name, find him out, and deal with him as I think fit, yet I
would rather have his address privately, that I may go and talk to him
alone."

"Ah, Sir, he may be a tool," answered the pot-boy, "but he's an
awkward tool to work with; and I should think you had better have two
or three stout hands with you."

"Well, I will think of that, my man," answered the young gentleman;
"but at all events I should like to know where to find him."

"That's not quite so easy, Sir," replied the hunchback, "for he
wanders about a good deal, but he has got a place where he says he
lives on Yaldon Moor, behind the park, and that he's there some time
in every day is certain. I should think the morning as good a time as
any, and you may catch him on the look-out if you go round by the back
of the park, and then up the river by the old mill. There's an overgo
a little higher up, and I shouldn't wonder if he were dabbling about
in the water; for it isn't the time for partridges or hares, and he
must be doing something."

"But what sort of place has he on the moor?" asked Ned Hayward,
beginning to get more and more interested in the pursuit of his
inquiries; "how can I find it, my man?"

"It's not easy," answered his companion, "for it's built down in the
pit. However, when you have crossed by the overgo, you will find a
little path just before you, and if you go along that straight,
without either turning to the right or the left, it will lead you
right up to the moor. Then I'm sure I don't know how to direct you,
for the roads go turning about in all manner of ways."

"Is it east, west, north, or south?" asked Captain Hayward,
impatiently.

"Why east," answered the boy; "and I dare say if you go soon you will
find the sun just peeping out over the moor in that direction. It's a
pretty sight, and I've looked at it often to see the sunshine come
streaming through the morning mist, and making all the green things
that grow about there look like gold and purple, and very often, too,
I've seen the blue smoke coming up out of the pit from Ste's
cottage-chimney, Perhaps it may be so when you go, and then you'll
easily find it."

"And whose park is it you speak of, boy?" said Ned Hayward. "There may
be half-a-dozen about here."

"Why, Sir John Slingsby's," answered the boy, "that's the only one we
call the park about here."

"Oh, then, I know it," rejoined the gentleman, stretching out his hand
at the same time, and taking his purse from a chair that stood by his
bedside; "there's a crown for you; and now carry off the boots and
clothes, and get them brushed as fast as possible."

The boy did as he was told, took the crown with many thanks, gathered
together the various articles of apparel which lay scattered about,
and retired from the room. Ned Hayward, however, without waiting for
his return, jumped out of bed, drew forth from one of his portmanteaus
another complete suit of clothes, plunged his head, hands, and neck in
cold water, and then mentally saying, "I will shave when I come back,"
he dressed himself in haste, and looked out for a moment into the
yard, to see whether many of the members of the household were astir.
There was a man at the very further end of the yard cleaning a horse,
and just under the window, the little deformed pot-boy, whistling a
plaintive air with the most exquisite taste, while he was brushing a
coat and waistcoat. The finest and most beautiful player on the
flageolet, never equalled the tones that were issuing from his little
pale lips, and Ned Hayward could not refrain from pausing a moment to
listen, but then putting on his hat, he hurried down stairs, and
beckoned the boy towards him.

"Do not say that I am out, my man, unless any questions are asked," he
said; "and when you have brushed the clothes, put them on a chair at
the door."

The boy nodded significantly, and our friend, Ned Hayward, took his
way out of the town in the direction that the boy had indicated. Of
all the various bumps in the human head, the bump of locality is the
foremost. This book the reader is well aware is merely a phrenological
essay in a new form. So the bump of locality is the most capricious,
whimsical, irrational, unaccountable, perverse, and unmanageable of
all bumps. To some men it affords a faculty of finding their way about
houses--I wish to Heaven it did so with me, for I am always getting
into wrong rooms and places where I have no business--others it
enables to go through all sorts of tortuous paths and ways almost by
intuition; with others it is strong regarding government offices, and
the places connected therewith; but in Ned Hayward it was powerful in
the country, and it would have been a very vigorous _ignis fatuus_
indeed that would lead him astray either on horseback or on foot.
Three words of direction generally sufficed if they were clear, and he
was as sure of his journey as if he knew every step of the way. There
might be a little calculation in the thing--a sort of latent
argumentation--for no one knew better that if a place lay due north,
the best way to arrive at it was not to go due south, or was more
clearly aware that in ordinary circumstances, the way into the valley
was not to climb the hill; but Ned Hayward was rarely disposed to
analyse any process in his own mind. He had always hated dissected
puzzles even in his boyhood; and as his mind was a very good mind, he
generally let it take its own way, without troubling it with
questions. Thus he walked straight on out of the little town along the
bank of the river, and finding himself interrupted, after about three
miles, by the park-wall, he took a path through the fields to the
left, then struck back again to the right, and soon after had a
glimpse of the river again above its passage through Sir John
Slingsby's park.

All this time Ned Hayward's mind was not unoccupied. He saw every
thing that was passing about him, and meditated upon it without
knowing that he was meditating. The sky was still quite gray when he
set out, but presently the morning began to hang out her banners of
purple and gold to welcome the monarch of day, and Ned Hayward said to
himself, "How wonderfully beautiful all this is, and what a fine
ordination is it that every change in nature should produce some
variety of beauty." Then he remarked upon the trees, and the birds,
and the meadows, and the reflections of the sky in a clear, smooth
part of the river, and with somewhat of a painter's mind, perceived
the beautiful harmony that is produced by the effect that one colour
has upon another by its side. And then he passed a little village
church, with the steeple shrouded in ivy, and it filled his mind full
of quiet and peaceful images, and simple rural life (with a moral to
it all), and his thoughts ran on to a thousand scenes of honest
happiness, till he had the game at skittles and the maypole on the
green up before him as plain as if it were all real; and the ivy and
two old yews carried him away to early times when that ancient church
was new. Heaven knows how far his fancy went galloping!--through the
whole history of England at least. But all these reveries went out of
his head almost as soon as the objects that excited them, and then, as
he went through some neat hedgerows and pleasant corn-fields, which
promised well in their green freshness for an abundant harvest, he
began to think of partridges and an occasional pheasant lying under a
holly-bush, and pointing dogs and tumbling birds, a full game-bag, and
a capital dinner, with a drowsy evening afterwards. Good Heaven! what
a thing it is to be young, and in high health, and in high spirits;
how easy the load of life sits upon one; how insignificant are its
cares to its enjoyments; every moment has its flitting dream; every
hour its becoming enjoyment, if we choose to seek it; every flower, be
it bitter or be it sweet, be it inodorous or be it perfumed, has its
nectarial fall of honeyed drops, ripe for the lip that will vouchsafe
to press it. But years, years, they bring on the autumn of the heart,
when the bright and blooming petals have passed away, when the dreams
have vanished with the light slumbers of early years, and every thing
is in the seed for generations to come; we feel ourselves the husks of
the earth, and find that it is time to fall away, and give place to
the bloom and blossom of another epoch.

Our friend, however, if not in the budding time of life, had nothing
of the sere and yellow leaf about him; he was one of those men who was
calculated to carry on the day-dream of boyhood, even beyond its
legitimate limit; nothing fretted him, nothing wore him, few things
grieved him. It required the diamond point to make a deep impression,
and though he reflected the lights that fell upon him from other
objects, it was but the more powerful rays that penetrated into the
depth, and that not very frequently. Thus on he went upon his way, and
what he had got to after partridges and field-swamps, and matters of
such kind, Heaven only knows. He might be up in the moon for aught I
can tell, or in the Indies, or riding astride upon a comet, or in any
other position the least likely for a man to place himself in, except
when aided by the wings of imagination; and yet, strange to say, Ned
Hayward had not the slightest idea that he had any imagination at all.
He believed himself to be the most simple jog-trot, matter-of-fact
creature in all the world; but to return, he was indulging in all
sorts of fantasies, just when a little path between two high hedges
opened out upon a narrow meadow, by the side of the river at a spot
just opposite the old mill, and not more than forty or fifty yards
distant from the door thereof. He saw the old mill and the stream, but
saw nothing else upon my word, and thinking to himself,

"What a picturesque ruin that is, it looks like some feudal castle
built beside the water, parting two hostile barons' domains. What the
deuce can it have been?"

Doubt with him always led to examination, so without more ado, he
crossed over the open space with his usual quick step, entered the
mill, looked about him, satisfied himself in a minute as to what had
been its destination, and then gazed out of the windows, first up the
stream, and next down. Up the stream he saw some swallows skimming
over the water, the first that summer had brought to our shores; and,
moreover, a sedate heron, with its blue back appearing over some
reeds, one leg in the water, and one raised to its breast. When he
looked down, however, he perceived the gentleman I have described,
dropping some pellets into the water, and he thought "That's a curious
operation, what can he be about?"

The next minute, however, the legitimate wooer of the fishes turned
his face partly towards the mill, and Ned Hayward murmured, "Ah ha,
Master Wolf, _alias_ Ste Gimlet, I have you now, I think." And issuing
forth, he dogged him down the bank as I have before described, till at
length, choosing his moment dexterously, he grasped him by the collar,
in such a manner, that if he had had the strength of Hercules, he
would have found it a more difficult matter to escape, than to kill
forty Hydras, or clean fifty Augean stables.

"Hocussing the fish!" said the prisoner, in answer to one of Captain
Hayward's first intimations of what he thought of his proceedings. "I
don't know what you mean by hocussing the fish--I've got a few dead
'uns out of the river, that's all; and no great harm, I should think,
just to make a fry."

"Ay, my good friend," replied Ned Hayward, "dead enough, I dare say
they were when you got them; but I'm afraid we must have a coroner's
inquest upon them, and I do not think the verdict will be 'Found
drowned.' What I mean, my man, is that you have poisoned them--a
cunning trick, but one that I know as well as your name or my own."

"And what the devil is your name?" asked the captive, trying to twist
himself round, so as at least to get a blow or a kick at his captor.

"Be quiet--be quiet!" answered Ned Hayward, half strangling him in his
collar. "My name is my own property, and I certainly will not give it
to you; but your own you shall have, if you like. You are called Ste
Gimlet or I am mistaken, but better known at night by the name of
Wolf."

The man muttered an angry curse, and Ned Hayward continued,

"You see I know all about you; and, to tell you the truth, I was
looking for you."

"Ah, so he's had some 'un down from London," said Wolf, entirely
mistaking the nature of Captain Hayward's rank and avocation. "Well,
so help me--, if I ever did this on his ground, afore, Sir."

"Well, Master Gimlet," answered Ned Hayward, perfectly understanding
what was passing in the man's mind, and willing to encourage the
mistake, "I have been asked down certainly, and I suppose I must take
you before Sir John Slingsby at once--unless, indeed, you like to make
the matter up one way or another."

"I haven't got a single crown in the world," answered the poacher; "if
you know all, you'd know that I am poor enough."

"Ay, but there are more ways than one of making matters up," rejoined
Ned Hayward, in a menacing tone. "You know a little bit of business
you were about last night."

The man's face turned as white as a sheet, and his limbs trembled as
if he had been in the cold fit of an ague. All his strength was gone
in a moment, and he was as powerless as a baby.

"Why," faltered he at length, "you could not be sent for that affair,
for there's not been time."

"No, certainly," replied the young gentleman; "but having been asked
down here on other matters, I have just taken that up, and may go
through with it or not, just as it suits me. Now you see, Ste," he
continued, endeavouring to assume, as well as he could, somewhat of
the Bow-street officer tone, and doing so quite sufficiently to effect
his object with a country delinquent, "a nod you know is quite as good
as a wink to a blind horse."

"Ay, ay, I understand, Sir," answered Mr. Gimlet.

"Well then," continued Ned Hayward, "I understand, too; and being
quite sure that you are not what we call the principal in this
business, but only an accessory, I am willing to give you a chance."

"Thank'ee, Sir," replied Wolf, in a meditative tone, but he said no
more; and his captor, who wished him to speak voluntarily, was
somewhat disappointed.

"You are mighty dull, Master Wolf," said Ned Hayward, "and therefore I
must ask you just as plain a question as the judge does when he has
got the black cap in his hand ready to put on. Have you any thing to
say why I should not take you at once before Sir John Slingsby?"

"Why, what the devil should I say?" rejoined the man, impatiently. "If
you know me, I dare say you know the others, and if you're so cunning,
you must guess very well that it was not the money that we were after;
so that it can't be no felony after all."

"If it is not a felony, it is not worth my while to meddle with,"
answered Ned Hayward, "but there may be different opinions upon that
subject; and if you like to tell me all about it, I shall be able to
judge. I guessed it was not for money; but there is many a thing as
bad as that. I don't ask you to speak, but you may if you like. If you
don't, come along."

"Well, I'll speak all I know," answered Wolf, "that's to say, if
you'll just let me get breath, for, hang me, if your grip does not
half strangle me. I'll not mention names though, for I won't peach;
but just to show you that there was nothing so very wrong, I'll tell
you what it was all about--that's to say, if you'll let me off about
these devils of fish."

"Agreed as to the fish," replied Ned Hayward, "if you tell the truth.
I don't want to throttle you either, my good friend; but mark me well,
if I let go my hold, and you attempt to bolt, I will knock you down,
and have you before a magistrate in five minutes. Sit down there on
the bank then." And without loosening his grasp, he forced his
prisoner to bend his knees and take up a position before him, from
which it would not have been possible to rise without encountering a
blow from a very powerful fist. When this was accomplished, he let the
man's collar go, and standing directly opposite, bade him proceed.

This seemed not so easy a task as might have been imagined, at least
to our friend Mr. Gimlet, who, not being a practised orator, wanted
the art of saying as much as possible upon every thing unimportant,
and as little as possible upon every thing important. He scratched his
head heartily, however, and that stimulus at length enabled him to
produce the following sentence.

"Well, you see, Sir, it was nothing at all but a bit of lovemaking."

"It did not look like it," answered Ned Hayward.

"Well, it was though," said Mr. Gimlet, in a decided tone. "The young
gentleman, whom I'm talking of, wanted to get the young lady away; for
you see her mother looks very sharp after her, and so he had a chaise
ready, and me and another to help him, and if those two fellows had
not come up just as we were about it, he'd have had her half way to
Scotland by this time."

"And where is the young gentleman, as you call him, now?" asked Ned
Hayward, in that sort of quiet, easy tone, in which people sometimes
put questions, which, if considered seriously, would be the least
likely to receive an answer, just as if a straightforward reply were a
matter of course.

But his companion was upon his guard. "That's neither here nor there,"
he replied.

"It is I can assure you, my good friend Wolf," said the young
gentleman; "for whatever you may think, this was just as much a felony
as if you had taken a purse or cut a throat. Two pistols were fired, I
think--the young lady is an heiress; and forcibly carrying away an
heiress, is as bad as a robbery; it is a sort of picking her pocket of
herself. So, if you have a mind to escape a noose, you'll instantly
tell me where he is."

The man thrust his hands into his pockets, and gazed at his
interrogator with a sullen face, in which fear might be seen
struggling with dogged resolution; but Ned Hayward the moment after,
added as a sort of rider to his bill,

"I dare say he is some low fellow who did it for her money."

"No, that he's not, by--!" cried the other. "He's a gentleman's son,
and a devilish rich un's too."

"Ah ha! Mr. Wittingham's!" cried Ned Hayward, "now I understand you,"
and he laughed with his peculiar clear, merry laugh, which made Mr.
Gimlet, at first angry, and then inclined to join him. "And now, my
good friend," continued Ned Hayward, laying his hand upon his
companion's shoulder, "you may get up and be off. You've made a great
blunder, and mistaken me for a very respectable sort of functionary,
upon whose peculiar province I have no inclination to trespass any
further--I mean a thief-taker. If you will take my advice, however,
neither you nor Mr. Wittingham will play such tricks again, for if you
do you may fare worse; and you may as well leave off hocussing trout,
snaring pheasants and hares, and shooting partridges on the sly, and
take to some more legitimate occupation. You would make a very good
gamekeeper, I dare say, upon the principle of setting a thief to catch
a thief, and some of these days I will come up to your place upon the
moor, and have a chat with you about it; I doubt not you could show me
some sport with otters, or badgers, or things of that kind."

"Upon my soul and body you're a cool hand," cried Ste Gimlet, rising
and looking at Captain Hayward, as if he did not well know whether to
knock him down or not.

"I am," answered our friend Ned, with a calm smile, "quite cool, and
always cool, as you'll find when you know me better. As to what has
passed to-day I shall take no notice of this fish affair, and in
regard to Mr. Wittingham's proceedings last night, I shall deliberate
a little before I act. You'd better tell him so when you next see him,
just to keep him on his good behaviour, and so good morning to you, my
friend."

Thus saying, Ned Hayward turned away, and walked towards the town,
without once looking back to see whether his late prisoner was or was
not about to hit him a blow on the head. Perhaps had he known what was
passing in worthy Mr. Gimlet's mind, he might have taken some
precaution; for certainly that gentleman was considerably moved; but
if the good and the bad spirit had a struggle together in his breast,
the good got the better at length, and he exclaimed, "No, hang it, I
won't," and with a slow and thoughtful step he walked up the stream
again, towards the path which led to the moor.

Upon that path I shall leave him, and begging the reader to get
upon any favourite horse he may have in the stable--hobby or not
hobby--canter gaily back again to take up some friends that we have
left far behind.



CHAPTER VII.
Introduces Miss Slingsby to the Reader.


The reader may remember that we left a lady and her daughter, whom Ned
Hayward afterwards discovered to be a Mrs. and Miss Clifford, standing
at the door of Sir John Slingsby's house, in the heart of what was
called Tarningham Park. All that Ned Hayward (or the reader either)
knew of their history at the moment that he quitted them, after having
assisted them to alight from their carriage, was as follows: that the
elder lady had been sent for to see her elder brother in his last
moments, he having been accused of having gout in the stomach, and
that she and her daughter had been stopped on the king's highway by
three personages, two of whom, at least, had pistols with them, that
they had been rescued by Captain Hayward himself, and another
gentleman, that on arriving at Tarningham House it did not look at all
like the dwelling of a dying man, and that the answer of the butler to
Mrs. Clifford's inquiries regarding her brother's health was, "Quite
well, thank you Ma'am," delivered in the most commonplace tone in the
world.

At the precise point of time when this reply was made, Ned Hayward
took his leave, remounted his horse, and rode back to Tarningham, and
after he was gone Mrs. Clifford remained for at least thirty seconds
somewhat bewildered with what seemed to her a very strange
announcement. When she had done being bewildered, and seemed to have
got a slight glimpse of the real state of the case, she turned an
anxious glance to her daughter, to which Miss Clifford, who fully
understood what it meant, replied at once, without requiring to have
it put into words, "You had better go in, dear mamma," she said, "it
will grieve poor Isabella if you do not, and besides, it might be
risking a great deal to go back at night with nobody to protect us."

Mrs. Clifford still hesitated a little, but in the meantime some
by-play had been going on which decided the question. The butler had
called a footman, the footman had taken a portmanteau and some smaller
packages from the boot of the carriage. The name of Mrs. Clifford had
been mentioned once or twice, a lady's-maid crossing the hall had seen
the two ladies' faces by the light of a great lamp, and in a moment
after, from a door on the opposite side of the vestibule, came forth a
fair and graceful figure, looking like Hebe dressed for dinner.

"Oh, my dear aunt!" she exclaimed, running across to Mrs. Clifford and
kissing her, "and you, too, my dear Mary! This is indeed an unexpected
pleasure; but come in, come into the drawing-room; they will bring in
all the things--there is no one there," she continued, seeing her aunt
hesitated a little, "I am quite alone, and shall be for the next two
hours, I dare say."

Mrs. Clifford suffered herself to be led on into a fine large
old-fashioned drawing-room, and then began the explanations.

"And so, Isabella, you did not expect me to-night," said the elder
lady, addressing Hebe. "Either for jest or for mischief some one has
played us a trick. Have you got the letter, Mary?"

It was in Miss Clifford's writing-desk, however, as letters always are
in some place where they cannot be found when they are wanted; but the
fact was soon explained that Mrs. Clifford that very day about four
o'clock had received a letter purporting to come from the housekeeper
at Turningham House, informing her that her brother, Sir John
Slingsby, had been suddenly seized with gout in the stomach, and was
not expected to live from hour to hour, that Miss Slingsby was too
much agitated to write, but that Sir John expressed an eager desire to
see his sister before he died.

"Good gracious!" exclaimed the fair Isabella, "who could have done
such a thing as that?" and then she laughed quietly, adding, "Well, at
all events I am very much obliged to them; but it was a shameful
trick, notwithstanding."

"You haven't heard the whole yet, Isabella," replied Mrs. Clifford,
"for we have been stopped between this and Tarningham, and should have
been robbed--perhaps murdered--if two gentlemen had not come up to our
rescue--good Heaven, it makes me feel quite faint to think of it." And
she sat down in one of the large arm-chairs, and put her hand to her
head, while her check turned somewhat pale.

"Take a little wine, my dear aunt," cried Isabella, and before Mrs.
Clifford could stop her she had darted out of the room.

As soon as she was alone with her daughter, the widow lady gazed round
the chamber in which she sat with a thoughtful and melancholy look.
She was in the house where her early days of girlhood had passed--she
was in the very room where she had gone in all the agitation of happy
love as a bride to the altar. She peopled the place with forms that
could no longer be seen, she called up the loved and the dead, the
parents who had cherished and instructed her, the fair sister who had
bloomed and withered by her side. How many happy, how many a painful
scene rose to the eye of memory on that stage where they had been
enacted. All the material objects were the same, the pictures, the
furniture, the old oak paneling with its carved wreaths; but where
were they who moved so lately beside her in that chamber--where was
all that had there been done? The grave and the past--man's tomb, and
the tomb of man's actions had received them, and in the short space of
twenty years all had gone, fading away and dissolving into air like a
smoke rising up unto heaven, and spreading out thinner and thinner,
till naught remains. Herself and a brother, from whom many
circumstances had detached her, were all that were left of the crowd
of happy faces that remembrance called back as she sat there and gazed
around. Some tears rose to her eyes, and Mary who had been standing by
gazing at her face, and reading in it with the quick appreciation of
affection all the emotions which brought such shadows over the loved
mother's brow, knelt down beside her, and taking her hand in hers said
earnestly, "Mamma, dear mamma, I know this is painful, but pray for my
sake and Isabella's let the shameful deceit that has been played upon
us produce a good and happy result. You are here in my uncle's house;
be reconciled to him fully, I beseech you. You know that he is
good-humoured notwithstanding all his faults, and I cannot but think
that if those who might have led him to better things had not
withdrawn from him so completely, he might now have been a different
man."

Mrs. Clifford shook her head mournfully.

"My dear child," she said, "you know that it is not resentment; it was
your good father who did not feel it consistent with his character and
station to countenance all that takes place here."

"But for Isabella's sake," said Miss Clifford, earnestly, and before
her mother could answer, the young lady of whom she spoke re-entered
the room with a servant carrying some refreshments.

"Oh dear aunt," she said, while the wine and water and biscuits were
placed upon a small table at Mrs. Clifford's elbow, "it makes me so
glad to see you, and I have ordered the blue room at the south side to
be got ready for you directly, and then there is the corner one for
Mary, because it has a window both ways, and when she is in a gay mood
she can look out over the meadows and the stream, and when she is in
her high pensiveness she can gaze over the deep woods and hills. Then
she is next to me too, so that she may have merry nonsense on one
side, and grave sense on the other; for I am sure you will stay a long
while with us now you are here, and papa will be so glad."

"I fear it cannot be very long, my love," replied Mrs. Clifford. "In
the first place I have come it seems uninvited, and in the next place
you know, Isabella, that I am sometimes out of spirits, and perhaps
fastidious, so that all guests do not at all times please me. Who have
you here now? There seemed a large party in the dining-room."

"Oh, there are several very foolish men," answered Sir John Slingsby's
daughter, laughing, "and one wise one. There is Mr. Dabbleworth, who
was trying to prove to me all dinner-time that I am an electrical
machine; and in the end I told him that I could easily believe he was
one, for he certainly gave me a shock, and Sir James Vestage who
joined in and insisted that instead of electrical machines men were
merely improved monkeys. I told him that I perfectly agreed with him,
and that I saw fresh proofs of it every day. Then up by papa was
sitting old Mr. Harrington, the fox-hunter; what he was saying I do
not know, for I never listen to any thing he says, as it is sure
either to be stupid or offensive. Then there was Charles Harrington,
who lisped a good deal, and thought himself exceedingly pretty, and
Mr. Wharton, the lawyer, who thought deeply and drank deeply, and said
nothing but once."

"But who was your wise man, dear Isabella?" asked Mary, very willing
to encourage her fair cousin in her light cheerfulness, hoping that it
might win Mrs. Clifford gently from sadder thoughts.

"Oh, who but good Dr. Miles," answered Miss Slingsby, "who grumbled
sadly at every body, and even papa did not escape, I can assure you.
But all these people will be gone in an hour or two, and in the
meantime I shall have you all alone."

"Then there is no one staying in the house, Isabella?" said Mrs.
Clifford. "I heard at Tarningham that your father expected some people
from London."

"Only one, I believe," answered the fair daughter of the house, "but
he has not arrived yet, and perhaps may not. He is a Captain Hayward,
who was ensign in papa's regiment long ago. I never saw him, but
people say 'he's the best fellow in the world.' You know what that
means, Mary: a man that will drink, or hunt, or shoot, or fish with
any body, or every body, and when none of these are to be done, will
go to sleep upon the sofa. Pray, pray do stay, dear aunt, till he is
gone, for I know not what I should do with him in the house by myself.
I positively must get papa to ask somebody else, or get the good
doctor to come up and flirt with him to my heart's content, just as a
diversion from the pleasures of this Captain Hayward's society."

"A very disagreeable person, I dare say," replied Mary Clifford; "it
is very odd how names are perverted, so that 'a good creature' means a
fool in the world's parlance; 'a very respectable man' is sure to be a
very dull one; and 'the best fellow in the world' is invariably--"

But her moralising fit was suddenly brought to an end by the door of
the drawing-room being thrown open, and Sir John Slingsby rushing in.

Stay a moment, reader, and observe him before he advances. Honest Jack
Slingsby! Roystering Sir John! Jolly old Jack! Glorious Johnny! By all
these names was he known, or had been known by persons in different
degrees of acquaintanceship with him. That round and portly form, now
extending the white waistcoat and black-silk breeches, had once been
slim and graceful: that face glowing with the grape in all its
different hues, from the _[oe]il de perdrix_ upon the temples and
forehead to the deep purple of old port in the nose, had once been
smooth and fair. That nose itself, raising itself now into mighty
dominion over the rest of the face, and spreading out, Heaven knows
where, over the map of his countenance, like the kingdom of Russia in
the share of Europe, was once fine and chiselled like Apollo's own.
That thin white hair flaring up into a cockatoo on the top of his head
to cover the well-confirmed baldness, was once a mass of dark curls
that would not have disgraced the brow of Jove. You may see the
remains of former dandyism in the smart shoe, the tight silk-stocking,
the well cut blue-coat; and you may imagine how much activity those
limbs once possessed by the quick and buoyant step with which the
capacious stomach is carried into the room. There is a jauntiness,
too, in the step which would seem to imply that the portion of
youthful vigour and activity, which is undoubtedly gone, has been
parted from with regret, and that he would fain persuade himself and
others that he still retains it in his full elasticity; but yet there
is nothing affected about it either, and perhaps after all it is
merely an effort of the mind to overcome the approach of corporeal
infirmity, and to carry on the war as well as may be. Look at the
good-humoured smile, too, the buoyant, boisterous, overflowing
satisfaction that is radiating from every point of that rosy
countenance. Who on earth could be angry with him? One might be
provoked, but angry one couldn't be. It is evidently the face
of one who takes the world lightly--who esteems nothing as very
heavy--retains no impressions very long--enjoys the hour and its
pleasures to the very utmost, and has no great consciousness of sin or
shame in any thing that he does. He is, in fact, a fat butterfly, who,
though he may have some difficulty in fluttering from flower to
flower, does his best to sip the sweets of all he finds, and not very
unsuccessfully.

With that same jaunty light step, with that same good-humoured,
well-satisfied smile, Sir John Slingsby advanced straight to his
sister, took her in his arms, gave her a hearty kiss, and shook both
her hands, exclaiming in around, full, juicy voice, almost as fat as
himself,

"Well, my dear Harriet, I'm very happy to see you; this _is_ kind,
this is very kind indeed; I could hardly believe my ears when the
servants told me you were here, but I left the fellows immediately to
fuddle their noses at leisure, and came to assure myself that it was a
fact. And my dear Mary, too, my little saint, how are you, my dear
girl?"

"We were brought here, John," replied Mrs. Clifford, "by a very
shameful trick." And she proceeded to explain to him the trick which
had been practised upon her.

"Gout!" exclaimed Sir John, "gout in the stomach! It would be a
devilish large gout to take up his abode in my stomach, or else he'd
find the house too big for him;" and he laid his hand upon his large
paunch with an air of pride and satisfaction. "Gout! that does not
look like gout I think," and he stuck out his neat foot, and trim
well-shaped ankle; "never had but one threatening of a fit in my life,
and then I cured it in an afternoon--with three bottles of Champagne
and a glass of brandy," he added, in a sort of loud aside to Mary, as
if she would enter into the joke better than her mother. "And so
really, Harriet, you would not have come if you had not thought me
dying. Come, come now, forget and forgive; let bygones be bygones; I
know I am a d--d fool, and do a great many very silly things; but 'pon
my soul I'm very sorry for it, I am indeed; you can't think how I
abominate myself sometimes, and wonder what the devil possesses me.
I'll repent and reform, upon my life I will, Harriet, if you'll just
stay and help me--it's being left all alone to struggle with
temptation that makes me fail so often, but every ten minutes I'm
saying to myself, 'What an old fool you are, Jack Slingsby!' so now
you'll stay like a dear good girl, as you always were, and help to
make my house a little respectable. Forget and forgive, forget and
forgive."

"My dear John, I have nothing to forgive," answered Mrs. Clifford.
"You know very well that I would do any thing in the world to promote
your welfare, and always wished it, but---"

"Ay, ay, it was your husband," answered Sir John, bringing an instant
cloud over his sister's face. "Well, he was a good man--an excellent
man--ay, and a kind man too, and he was devilish right after all; I
can't help saying it, though I suffer. In his station what could he
do? An archdeacon and then a dean, it was not to be expected that he
should countenance rioting, and roaring, and drinking, and all that,
as we used to do here; but 'pon my life, Harriet, I'll put an end to
it. Now you shall see, I won't drink another glass to-night, and I'll
send all those fellows away within half an hour, by Jove! I'll just go
back and order coffee in the dining-room, and that'll be a broad hint,
you know. Bella will take care of you in the meantime, and I'll be
back in half an hour--high time I should reform indeed--even that
monkey begins to lecture me. I've got a capital fellow coming down to
stay with me--the best fellow in the world--as gay as a lark, and as
active as a squirrel; yet somehow or other he always kept himself
right, and never played at cards, the dog, nor got drunk either that I
ever saw; yet he must have got drunk too, every man must sometimes,
but he kept it devilish snug if he did--by the by, make yourselves
comfortable." And without waiting to hear his sister's further
adventures on the road, Sir John Slingsby tripped out of the room
again, and notwithstanding all his good resolutions, finished
two-thirds of a bottle of claret while the servants were bringing in
the coffee.

"Rather a more favourable account of your expected guest, Isabella,
than might have been supposed," said Mrs. Clifford, as soon as Sir
John Slingsby was gone. "A young man who did not drink or play in your
father's regiment, must have been a rare exception; for I am sorry to
say that it had a bad name in those respects long before he got it,
and I believe that it did him a great deal of harm."

"Papa is so good-humoured," replied Miss Slingsby, "that he lets
people do just what they like with him. I am sure he wishes to do all
that is right."

Mrs. Clifford was silent for a moment or two, and then turned the
conversation; but in the house of her brother she was rather like a
traveller who, riding through a country, finds himself suddenly and
unexpectedly in the midst of what they call in Scotland a shaking
moss; whichever path she took, the ground seemed to be giving way
under her. She spoke of the old park and the fine trees, and to her
dismay, she heard that Sir John had ordered three hundred magnificent
oaks to be cut down and sold. She spoke of a sort of model farm which
had been her father's pride, and after a moment or two of silence,
Isabella thought it better, to prevent her coming upon the same
subject with her father, by telling her that Sir John, not being fond
of farming, had disposed of it some three months before to Mr.
Wharton, the solicitor.

"He could not find a tenant easily for it," she continued, "and it
annoyed him to have it unoccupied, so he was persuaded to sell it,
intending to invest the money in land adjoining the rest of the
property."

"I hope Mr. Wharton gave him a fair price for it?" said Mrs. Clifford.

"I really don't know," answered her niece; "I dislike that man very
much."

"And so do I," said Mary Clifford.

"And so do I," added her mother, thoughtfully.

Mr. Wharton had evidently not established himself in the favour of the
ladies, and as ladies are always right, he must have been a very bad
man indeed.

To vary the pleasures of such a conversation, Miss Slingsby soon after
ordered tea, trusting that her father would return before it was over.
Sir John Slingsby's half hour, however, extended itself to an hour and
a half, but then an immense deal of loud laughing and talking, moving
feet, seeking for hats and coats, and ultimately rolling of wheels,
and trotting of horses, was heard in the drawing-room, and the baronet
himself again appeared, as full of fun and good-humour as ever. He
tried, indeed, somewhat to lower the tone of his gaiety, to suit his
sister's more rigid notions; but although he was not in the least
tipsy--and indeed it was a question which might have puzzled Babbage's
calculating machine to resolve what quantity of any given kind of wine
would have affected his brain to the point of inebriety--yet the
potations in which he had indulged had certainly spread a genial
warmth through his bosom, which kept his spirits at a pitch
considerably higher than harmonised very well with Mrs. Clifford's
feelings.

After about half an hour's conversation, then, she complained of
fatigue, and retired to bed, and was followed by her niece and her
daughter, after the former, at her father's desire, had sung him a
song to make him sleep comfortably. Sir John then stretched his legs
upon a chair to meditate for a minute or two over the unexpected event
of his sister's arrival. But the process of meditation was not one
that he was at all accustomed to, and consequently he did not perform
it with great ease and dexterity. After he had tried it for about
thirty seconds, his head nodded, and then looking up, he said, "Ah!"
and then attempted it again. Fifteen seconds were enough this time;
but his head, finding that it had disturbed itself by its rapid
declension on the former occasion, now sank gradually on his shoulder,
and thence found its way slowly round to his breast. Deep breathing
succeeded for about a quarter of an hour, and then an awful snore,
loud enough to rouse the worthy baronet by his own trumpet. Up he
started, and getting unsteadily upon his legs, rubbed his eyes, and
muttered to himself, "Time to go to bed." Such was the conclusion of
his meditation, and the logical result of the process in which he had
been engaged.

The next morning, however, at the hour of half-past nine, found Sir
John in the breakfast-room, as fresh, as rosy, and as gay as ever. If
wine had no effect upon his intellect at night, it had none upon his
health and comfort in the morning; the blushing banner that he bore in
his countenance was the only indication of the deeds that he achieved;
and kissing the ladies all round, he sat down to the breakfast-table,
and spent an hour with them in very agreeable chat. He was by no means
ill-informed, not without natural taste, a very fair theoretical
judgment, which was lamentably seldom brought into practice, and he
could discourse of many things, when he liked it, in as gentlemanlike
and reasonable a manner as any man living; while his cheerful
good-humour shed a sunshine around that, in its sparkling warmth, made
men forget his faults and over-estimate his good qualities. He had a
particular tact, too, of palliating errors that he had committed,
sometimes by acknowledging them frankly, and lamenting the infatuation
that produced them, sometimes by finding out excellent good reasons
for doing things which had a great deal better been left undone. Mary
and Isabella had been walking in the park before breakfast, talking of
all those things which young ladies find to converse about when they
have not met for some time; and Sir John, at once aware that his
niece's eye must have marked the destruction going on among the old
trees, asked her in the most deliberate tone in the world, if she had
seen the improvements he was making.

Mary Clifford replied "No," and looked at her cousin as if for
explanation, and then Sir John exclaimed,

"God bless my soul, did you not see the alley I am cutting? It will
make the most beautiful vista in the world. First you will go round
from the house by the back of the wood, slowly mounting the hill, by
what we call the Broad Walk, and then when you have reached the top,
you will have a clear view down through a sort of glade, with the old
trees on your right and left hand, over the clumps of young firs in
the bottom, catching the stream here and there, and having the
park-wall quite concealed, till the eye passing over the meadows, just
rests upon Tarningham church, and then running on, gets a view of your
own place Steenham, looking like a white speck on the side of the
hill, and the prospect is closed by the high grounds beyond. My dear
Mary, it is the greatest improvement that ever was made--we will go
and see it."

Now the real truth was, that Sir John Slingsby, some four or five
months before, had very much wanted three thousand pounds, and he had
determined to convert a certain number of his trees into bank-notes;
but being a man of very good taste, as I have said, he had arranged
the cutting so as to damage his park scenery as little as possible.
Nevertheless, in all he said to Mary Clifford, strange as the
assertion may seem, he was perfectly sincere; for he was one of those
men who always begin by deceiving themselves, and having done that,
can hardly be said to deceive others. It is a sort of infectious
disease they have, that is all, and they communicate it, after having
got it themselves. Before he had cut a single tree, he had perfectly
persuaded himself that to do so would effect the greatest improvement
in the world, and he was quite proud of having beautified his park,
and at the same time obtained three thousand pounds of ready money.

Doubtless, had the conversation turned that way, he would have found
as good an excuse, as valid a reason, as legitimate a motive, for
selling the model farm; but that not being the case, they went on
talking of different subjects, till suddenly the door opened, the
butler, who was nearly as fat as his master, advanced three steps in a
solemn manner, and announced, "Captain Hayward."

Sir John instantly started up, and the three ladies raised their eyes
simultaneously, partly with that peculiar sort of curiosity which
people feel when they look into the den of some rare wild beast, and
partly with that degree of interest which we all take in the outward
form and configuration of one of our own species, upon whom depends a
certain portion of the pleasure or pain, amusement or dulness, of the
next few hours. The next moment our friend Ned Hayward was in the
room. He was well-dressed and well-looking, as I have already
described him in his riding costume. Gentleman was in every line and
every movement, and his frank, pleasant smile, his clear, open
countenance were very engaging even at the first sight. Sir John shook
him warmly by the hand, and although the baronet's countenance had so
burgeoned and blossomed since he last saw him, that the young
gentleman had some difficulty in recognising him, his former colonel,
yet Ned Hayward returned his grasp with equal cordiality, and then
looked round, as his host led him up towards Miss Slingsby, and
introduced them to each other. Great was the surprise of both the
baronet and his daughter, to see Mrs. Clifford rise, and with a warm
smile extend her hand to their new guest, and even Mary Clifford
follow her mother's example, and welcome, as if he were an old friend,
the very person with whose name they had seemed unacquainted the night
before.

"Ah ha, Ned!" cried Sir John; "how is this, boy? Have you been
poaching upon my preserves without my knowing it? 'Pon my life,
Harriet, you have kept your acquaintance with my little ensign quite
snug and secret."

"It is an acquaintance of a very short date, John," replied Mrs.
Clifford; "but one which has been of inestimable service to me
already."

And she proceeded in a very few words to explain to her brother the
debt of gratitude she owed to Captain Hayward for his interference the
night before, and for the courtesy he had shown in escorting and
protecting her to the doors of that very house.

Sir John immediately seized his guest by the two lapels of the coat,
exclaiming,

"And why the devil didn't you come in, you dog? What, Ned Hayward at
my gates, an expected guest, and not come in! I can tell you we should
have given you a warm reception, fined you a couple of bottles for
being late at dinner, and sent you to bed roaring drunk."

Ned Hayward gave a gay glance round at the ladies, as if inquiring
whether they thought these were great inducements; he answered,
however,

"Strange to say, I did not know it was your house, Sir John."

And now having placed our friend Ned Hayward comfortably between two
excessively pretty girls of very different styles of beauty, and very
different kinds of mind, I shall leave Fate to settle his destiny, and
turn to another scene which had preceded his arrival at Tarningham
House.



CHAPTER VIII.
Ned Hayward and Beauchamp pay a visit to Mr. Wittingham.


Man never sees above half of anything, never knows above half of any
thing, never understands above half of any thing; and upon this half
sight, half knowledge, and half understanding, he acts, supplying the
deficiency of his information by a guess at the rest, in which there
is more than an equal chance that he is wrong instead of right. That
is the moral of this chapter.

After Ned Hayward's interview with Stephen Gimlet, alias Wolf, our
friend turned his steps back towards Tarningham, and arrived at the
White Hart by eight o'clock. About three quarters of an hour had
shaved him, dressed him, and brushed his hair, and down he went to the
little parlour in which he had passed the preceding evening just in
time to find Mr. Beauchamp beginning his breakfast. Although the
latter gentleman shook his companion cordially by the hand, and seemed
to look upon his presence in the parlour as a matter of course, Ned
Hayward thought fit to apologise for his intrusion, adding, "I shall
not maroon myself upon you very long, for soon after breakfast I shall
decamp to Sir John Slingsby's."

"I am sorry, I assure you, to lose the pleasure of your society so
soon," replied Beauchamp, and then added, addressing the maid, who had
just brought in some broiled ham, "you had better bring some more cups
and saucers, my good girl."

"And some more ham, and also a cold fowl," added Ned Hayward. "I have
the appetite of an ogre, and if you do not make haste, I must have a
bit out of your rosy cheek, my dear, just to stay my stomach."

"La, Sir!" cried the maid, with a coquettish little titter; but she
ran away to get what was wanted, as if she were really afraid of the
consequences of Ned Hayward's appetite, and as soon as she was gone,
he said,

"I have got news for you, Beauchamp; but I will wait till the room is
clear before I give it. I have been up and out, over the hills and
faraway this morning; so I have well earned my breakfast."

"Indeed!" exclaimed his companion with a look of surprise, "really you
are an active general, but you should have given your fellow-soldiers
information of your movements, and we might have combined operations."

"There was no time to be lost," answered Hayward.

But at that moment the maid returned with the cold fowl; the ham was
still in the rear, and it was not till breakfast was half over that
the young officer could tell his tale. When he had got as far with it
as the first explanations of Mr. Gimlet, Beauchamp exclaimed eagerly,
"And what did it turn out to be?"

"Nothing after all but a love affair," answered Ned. "Now, my dear
Beauchamp, I have as much compassion for all lovers as an old
match-making dowager, and therefore I think it will be better to let
this matter drop quietly."

"Oh, certainly," answered his new friend, "I am quite as
tender-hearted in such matters as yourself; but are you quite sure of
the fact? for this seems to me to have been a very odd way of making
love."

"It was so assuredly," replied Hayward, "but nevertheless the
tale is true. The fact is the young lady is an heiress, the mother
strict--most likely the latter looks for some high match for her
daughter, and will not hear of the youth's addresses. He falls into
despair, and with a Roman courage resolves to carry off a bride.
Unfortunately for his purpose, we come up, and the rape of the Sabines
is prevented; but 'pon my honour, I admire the fellow for his spirit.
There is something chivalrous, nay more, feudal about it. He must
fancy himself some old baron who had a right prescriptive to run away
with every man's daughter that suited him; and, on my life, my dear
Beauchamp, I can go on no further in attempting to punish him for a
deed whose hot and proof spirit shames this milk-and-water age. Oh,
the times of carrying off heiresses, of robbing in cocked hats, and
full-bottomed wigs, of pinking one's adversary under the fifth rib in
Leicester Fields, with gentlemen in high shoes and gold lace for
seconds, and chairmen for spectators, when will they come again? Gone,
gone for ever, my dear Beauchamp, into the same box as our
grandmother's brocade-gown, and with them the last spark of the spirit
of chivalry has expired."

"Very true," answered Beauchamp, smiling at his companion's tirade,
"there was certainly an adventurous turn about those days which saved
them from dulness; but yet there was a primness about them which was
curious, a formality mingling with their wildest excesses, a prudery
with their licentiousness, which can only be attributed to the cut of
their clothes. There is some mysterious link between them, depend upon
it, Hayward, and whether it be that the clothes affect the man, or the
man the clothes, it is not for me to say; but the grand internal
harmony of nature will not be violated, and the spirit of the age is
represented in the coats, waistcoats, and breeches of the people of
the period much better than in all the stupid books written from time
to time to display it."

This was the first sentence that Ned Hayward had ever heard his
companion speak in a jocular tone, but Beauchamp immediately went on
in a graver manner to say, "Yet, after all, I do not see how we can
drop this matter entirely. Far be it from me, of all men on earth, to
persecute another, but yet, having already given information of this
attempt at robbery, as it seemed to us, and tendered our evidence on
oath, we cannot well draw back. A gross offence has indubitably been
committed, not only in the attack upon these two ladies, but also in
the very violent and murderous resistance which was made when we
arrived to their rescue; and this young gentleman should have a
warning at least."

"To be sure, to be sure," answered Ned Hayward, "I have got the pistol
ball singing in my ear now, and I am quite willing to give him a
fright, and old Wittingham too. The latter I will, please Heaven,
torment out of the remnant of seven senses that he has left, for a
more pompous, vulgar old blockhead I never saw; and therefore I should
propose at once--that is to say, as soon as I have done this cup of
coffee--you have finished I see--to go to good Mr. Wittingham's and
belabour him with our small wits till he is nearly like the man who
was scourged to death with rushes."

"Nay, nothing quite so sanguinary as that, I trust," said Beauchamp,
"but I will accompany you willingly and see fair play between you and
the magistrate."

According to this arrangement, as soon as breakfast was over, and Ned
Hayward had given some directions with regard to preparing his horse,
his baggage, and a conveyance for the latter, the two gentlemen
sallied forth to the magistrate's room in the town, where they found
Mr. Wittingham seated with a clerk, the inferior attorney of the
place. The latter was a man well fitted to prompt an ignorant and
self-conceited magistrate in a matter of difficulty, if its importance
were not very great, and he knew all the particulars. He was a little
fat compact man, in form, feature, and expression very like a Chinese
pig. His nose had the peculiar turn-up of the snout of that animal,
his small eyes the same sagacious twinkle, his retreating under-jaw
the same voracious and ever-ready look, and when at all puzzled he
would lift his head and give a peculiar snort, so exceedingly porcine
in its tone, that one could scarcely divest one's self of the idea
that he was one of the mud-loving herd.

On the present occasion, indeed, he was ignorant of the facts of the
case about to be brought before Mr. Wittingham. The latter gentleman
having considered with great solicitude whether he should make him
acquainted with all that had occurred and seek his advice and
co-operation. But Mr. Wittingham was cautious, exceedingly cautious,
as I have already shown, when no strong passion caused him to act in a
decided manner upon the spur of the moment. His natural impulse might
indeed be vehement, and he frequently had to repeat to himself that
sage adage, "The least said is soonest mended," before he could get
himself to refrain from saying a word to the clerk, Mr. Bacon, except
that two men had come to him the night before with a cock-and-a-bull
story about a highway robbery of which he did not believe a word, and
they were to come again that morning, when he should sift them
thoroughly.

Now it is wonderful how the very least bits of art will frequently
betray the artist. Mr. Wittingham merely said, "Two men," which led
his clerk, Mr. Bacon, to suppose that he had never seen either of the
two men before; but when Mr. Beauchamp appeared, in company with Ned
Hayward, and the clerk recollected that the magistrate had very
frequently wondered in his presence, who Mr. Beauchamp could be, and
had directed him to make every sort of inquiry, he naturally said to
himself, "Ha, ha, Wittingham has got something that he wishes to
conceal; if not, why didn't he say at once that Beauchamp was one of
the two. There's a screw loose somewhere, that's clear."

On Ned Hayward the clerk's small eyes fixed with a keen, inquisitive,
and marvelling glance, as with his gay dashing air, half military,
half sporting, firm and yet light, measured and yet easy, he advanced
into the room and approached the table. It was a sort of animal that
Mr. Bacon had never seen in his life before, and he looked just like a
young pig when it sees a stagecoach dash by, standing firm for a
minute, but ready in an instant to toss up its snout, curl up its
tail, and caper off with a squeak as fast as it can go.

"Well, Mr. Witherington," said Ned Hayward, perfectly aware that
nothing so much provokes a pompous man as mistaking his name, "here we
are according to appointment, and doubtless you are ready to take our
depositions, Mr. Witherington."

"Wittingham, Sir," said the magistrate, impressively, laying a strong
emphasis on each syllable, "I beg you'll give me my own name, and
nobody else's."

"Ay, ay, Whittington," said Ned Hayward, with the utmost composure, "I
forgot; I knew it was some absurd name in an old ballad or story, and
confounded you somehow or other with the man in 'Chevy Chase' who


               When his legs were smitten off,
                 He fought upon his stumps.


But I remember now, you're the son of the Lord Mayor of London, the
cat-man."

"No, Sir, no," exclaimed Mr. Wittingham, whose face had turned purple
with rage, "I am not his son, and you must be a fool to think so, for
he died two hundred years ago."

"Oh, I know nothing of history," said Ned Hayward, laughing, "and
besides, I dare say it's all a fable."

"This gentleman's name is Wittingham, Sir," said the clerk, "W-I-T-wit,
T-I-N-G-ting, H-A-M ham, Wittingham."

"Oh, thank you, thank you, Sir," said the young gentleman, "I shan't
forget it now, '_Littera scripta manet_,' Mr. What's-your-name?"

"My name is Bacon, Sir," said the clerk, with a grunt.

"Ah, very well, very well," replied Ned Hayward, "now to business.
Wittingham, Bacon, and Co., I shan't forget that; an excellent good
firm, especially when the junior partner is cut into rashers and well
roasted. We are here, Sir, to tender information upon oath, when it
can no longer be of any avail, which we tendered last night, when it
might have been of avail, in regard to an attempt at highway robbery
committed yesterday evening upon the persons of two ladies in this
neighbourhood, namely, Mrs. Clifford and her daughter."

"Tendered last night, Sir!" exclaimed the clerk, in spite of a
tremendous nudge from Mr. Wittingham, "pray whom did you tender it
to?"

"To the right reverend gentleman on the bench," said Ned Hayward, with
a profound bow to the worthy magistrate; and then looking at him full
in the face with a significant smile, the young gentleman added, "he
refused to take our depositions on secret motives, or information of
his own, which as it was kept in the profound depth of his mind, I
will not pretend to penetrate."

Mr. Wittingham was in a state of most distressing perplexity. His
fears were a powder magazine, Ned Hayward's smile was a spark, and
there was a terrible explosion in his chest, which had nearly blown
the window out.

"I--I--you see, Bacon," he whispered to the clerk, "I thought it was
all nonsense, I was sure it was all nonense--you may see by the
fellow's manner that it is so--Who'd attend to such stuff?"

"I don't know, Sir," said the clerk, "magistrates are bound to take
informations of felonies tendered on oath; but we shall soon see who
he is; we'll swear him," and taking up a paper from the table he began
to write, lifting up his head after a moment and inquiring, "What is
your name and profession?"

"My name is Edward Hayward," answered our friend, "late captain in His
Majesty's 40th regiment, now unattached."

Mr. Wittingham's face grew blanker and blanker. Yamen's own could not
have looked a more russetty brown. He did not know how to interfere
with the clerk, or how to proceed himself; but at length, after sundry
hums and haws, he said, "I think we had better hear the whole story
first, and then take down the deposition if we should find it
necessary. If Mrs. Clifford was robbed, or attempted to be robbed, why
the devil doesn't Mrs. Clifford come to give me information herself? I
see no reason why we should suffer such accounts to be gone into by
deputy. The offence was against Mrs. Clifford, and we shall always be
ready to balance."

"The offence was against the law of the land, Sir," said Mr.
Beauchamp, stepping forward, "and we who witnessed the offence, and
prevented it from being carried further, now come forward to demand
that interference of justice which cannot be refused, without great
danger to those who deny it."

"Well, well," said Mr. Wittingham, "I am not going to deny it; let us
hear your story, and as you are one of the informers, be so good as to
favour us with your name, profession, &c."

"My name, Sir, is Beauchamp," replied the gentleman he addressed,
"profession, I am sorry to say, I have none."

"Ah," said the magistrate drily, but the clerk whispered sharply in
his ear: "He has two thousand pounds in the bank, paid in the day
before yesterday. Jenkins told me last night at the Free and Easy, so
it's all a mistake about his being--you know what."

The clerk had a reverence for gentlemen who had two thousand pounds at
one time in a country bank--much greater reverence than for captains
of infantry unattached; and consequently he proceeded to take Mr.
Beauchamp's deposition first, with all due respect, notwithstanding
every thing Mr. Wittingham could do to embarrass his course of
operations. Then came Ned Hayward's turn, but our good friend thought
fit to be more serious when an oath had been administered, and
delivered his evidence with gravity and propriety. As soon, however,
as Mr. Wittingham began to meddle with the matter again, and to treat
the affair as one of little consequence, and not deserving much
consideration, the spirit of malicious fun seized upon Ned once more,
and he said with a mysterious air, "Sir, I beg you will give this your
most serious attention, for you cannot yet tell what parties may be
implicated. In giving our testimony of course we speak to facts alone.
I have strictly confined myself to what I saw, and have not even
mentioned one circumstance of which I have even a shade of doubt; but
without interfering with your business, Mr. Skittington--for I never
take another man's trade upon me--yet I shall certainly feel myself
called upon to investigate quietly, and by all lawful means, the whole
particulars of this business. That a felony has been committed there
can be no doubt; two pistols were fired at me with intent to take my
life, or do me some grievous bodily harm; one ball went through my
hair, and the matter is a very grave one, which may probably bring
some respectable persons into a noose under a gallows. Look to it,
look to it, Mr. Whittington, for I shall certainly look to it myself."

"Well, Sir, well, do any thing you please," said the magistrate, "I
will do my duty without being tutored by you. I consider your conduct
very disrespectful and--"

But ere he could finish the sentence the door of the justice-room
opened, and a young man entered dressed in the garb of a gentleman.
Mr. Wittingham's face turned as pale as death, and Ned Hayward fixed
his eyes for an instant--a single instant--upon the countenance of the
new comer. It was by no means a prepossessing one, and the expression
was not improved by a black handkerchief being tied over one eye, and
hiding part of the nose and cheek. The young officer instantly
withdrew his eyes, and fixed them sternly on the ground. "This is too
impudent," he thought, and there was a momentary hesitation in his
mind as to whether he should not at once point out the intruder as the
chief offender in the acts lately under discussion. Good-nature,
however prevailed, and while Henry Wittingham advanced straight to his
father's side, and with a look of bold fierceness whispered a word in
his ear, Ned Hayward turned to the door, saying, "Come, Beauchamp, our
business here is over, and I must go up to Sir John Slingsby's."

Beauchamp followed him, after giving a sharp glance at Henry
Wittingham, and at the door of the house they saw a horse standing
which seemed to have been ridden hard.



CHAPTER IX.
In which a very young Actor makes an unexpected Appearance on the
Scene.


Mr. Beauchamp was sitting alone in the little room of the inn about
five hours after Ned Hayward had left him. The day had been very warm
for the season of the year, and though he had taken his walk as usual
in the most shady and pensive places he could discover, he had found
it oppressive, and had returned sooner than he ordinarily did. Mr.
Groomber, worthy Mr. Groomber, the landlord of the White Hart, had
perceived his return through the glass-doors of the bar, and had
rolled in to tell him, as a piece of news, that the post-boy who had
driven Mrs. and Miss Clifford had been, as he termed it, "had up"
before Mr. Wittingham and examined, but had been speedily dismissed,
he having sworn most valorously that he could not identify any of the
persons concerned in stopping the chaise on the preceding night.

Mr. Beauchamp merely replied, "I thought so," and taking up a book,
gave quiet intimation that he wished to be alone. As soon as the host
had retired, however, he suffered the open volume to drop upon his
knee, and gave himself up to thought, apparently of not the most
cheerful kind, for the broad open brow became somewhat contracted, the
fine dark eyes fixed upon one particular spot on the floor, the lip
assumed a melancholy, even a cynical expression, and without moving
limb or feature, he remained for at least a quarter of an hour in
meditation most profound.

For my own part I do not see what business men have to think at all.
If it be of the past, can they recall it? If it be of the future, can
they govern it? No, no, and the present is for action, not for
meditation. It was very foolish of Mr. Beauchamp to think, but yet he
did so, and profoundly. But of what were his thoughts? I cannot tell.
Some I know, some I do not know; or rather like an intercepted letter,
the actual course of his meditation was plain enough, written in clear
and forcible lines, but the wide world of circumstances to which it
referred, its relations with his fate, with his past history, with his
present condition, with his future prospects, were all in darkness.

"It is in vain," he said to himself, "all in vain! Peace, happiness,
tranquillity--where do they dwell? Are they the mere phantasms of
man's ever-building imaginations? creations of fancy to satisfy the
craving need of the soul? And yet some men can obtain them. This very
Captain Hayward, he seems at least as well contented, as well
satisfied with himself, the world, and all the world gives, as it is
possible to conceive. But it is not so--it cannot be so. There is a
black spot somewhere, I am sure--some bitter memory, some disappointed
hope, some aspiration ever desired. He owned he dared not venture to
love--is not that to be in a continued chain, to bear a fetter about
one? and yet he seemed contented with such a fate. It is the
regulation of our desires that makes us happy, the bounding them to
our means--ay, with those who have no already existing cause for
sorrow, but the cup of our fate is ever open for each passing hand to
drop a poison into it, and once there, it pervades the whole--the
whole? by every drop down to the very dregs, turning the sweetness and
the spirit of the wine of life to bitterness and death. What is it
that I want that can make existence pleasant? Wealth, health, a mind
carefully trained and furnished with the keys to every door of mental
enjoyment--with love for my fellow-creatures, good will to all men, I
have all--surely all; but, alas! I have memory too, and like the
pillar of the cloud, it sometimes follows me, darkening the past,
sometimes goes before me, obscuring the future. Yet this is
very weak. An effort of the mind--the mind I have vainly thought so
strong--should surely suffice to cast off the load. I have tried
occupation, calm enjoyments, fair scenes, tranquil pleasures, peaceful
amusements. Perhaps in a more fiery and eager course, in active,
energetic pursuits in passions that absorb all the feelings, and wrap
the soul in their own mantle, I may find forgetfulness. In all that I
have hitherto done--there have been long intervals--open gates for
bitter memory to enter, and the very nature of my chosen objects has
invited her. Oh, yes, there must be such a thing as happiness: that
girl's fair joyous face, her smile teeming with radiance, told me so.
But I will not think of her. She is too bright, and fair, and happy to
be made a partner in so hazardous a speculation as mine. I will go
away from this place: it has given my mind some little repose, and I
could have made a friend of that light, good-humoured Hayward if he
would have let me--but he has left me too--all things leave me, I
think. Well, he is gone, and I will go too--'tis not worth while
lingering longer."

At this point of his meditations some horses passed the window, and
shadows darkened the room; but Beauchamp took no notice, till he heard
a voice which had become somewhat familiar to him during the last
eighteen hours, exclaiming, "Ostler, ostler!" and in a moment after
Ned Hayward was in the room again, but not alone. He was followed by
the portly figure of Sir John Slingsby, dressed in riding costume, and
though somewhat dusty, and certainly very round and heavy, yet bearing
that undefinable and almost ineffaceable look of a gentleman which not
even oddities and excesses had been able to wipe out.

Ned Hayward's words were few and soon spoken: "Mr. Beauchamp, Sir John
Slingsby; Sir John, Mr. Beauchamp," were all he said, but the old
baronet soon took up the conversation, shaking his new acquaintance
warmly by the hand.

"Glad to see you, Mr. Beauchamp, very glad to see you. I find my
family are under a great obligation to you--that is to say, my sister
Harriet, Mrs. Clifford. Devilish impudent thing, by Jove, for those
fellows to attack a carriage at that time of the evening, and very
lucky you happened to be there, for my friend Ned Hayward here--though
he has a notion of tactics, haven't you, Ned?--and is a stout
fellow--could hardly have managed three of them."

"I look upon myself as very fortunate, Sir John," replied Mr.
Beauchamp, "in having taken my evening walk in that direction; but at
the same time, it is but fair to acknowledge that my share in the
rescue of your sister and her daughter was but small. I only kept one
man in play, while Captain Hayward had to contend with two."

"All the same! all the same, my dear Sir," said the baronet; "the
reserve shares all the glory of a battle even if it does not pull a
trigger. The ladies, however, are exceedingly obliged to you--very
good girls both of them--not that they have commissioned me to express
their thanks, far from it, for they are particularly anxious to do so
themselves if you will give them the opportunity; and therefore they
have begged me to ask if you would favour us by your company at dinner
to-day, and to say that they will be devilish sorry if any previous
engagement should prevent you, though they calculate upon to-morrow,
if not to-day."

"I am quite an anchorite here, Sir John," answered Mr. Beauchamp, with
a grave smile; but before he could finish his sentence, the old
baronet, thinking it was the commencement of an excuse, hastened to
stop it, saying,

"Quite a quiet dinner, I assure you--all as grave and proper as
possible; no drinking, no laughing, no fun--all upon our good
behaviour. There will be nobody but you, Ned Hayward, I, and the
doctor there; Harriet, Mary, and my girl--who, by the way, says she
knows you--has seen you twice at the good doctor's--Doctor Miles's."

"I have had the pleasure of meeting Miss Slingsby," said Beauchamp. "I
was only about to answer you just now, Sir John, that I am quite an
anchorite here, and therefore not likely to have many invitations to
dinner. As I have not much cultivated the people of the place, they
have not much cultivated me; and I believe they look upon me as a
somewhat suspicious character, especially our friend Mr. Wittingham,
who I find has been very curious in his inquiries as to whether I pay
my bills, and where I go to when I walk out."

"Wittingham's an old fool!" exclaimed Sir John Slingsby, "and like all
other old fools, he thinks himself the wisest man in the world. I
wonder what the lord-lieutenant could be dreaming of when he put him
in the commission of the peace--a man no more fit for it than my
horsewhip. I'll pay him for it all--I'll pay him--ask him to
dinner--make him beastly drunk, and lodge him for the night in a
horse-trough."

"I hope not this evening, Sir John," said Beauchamp, with a smile.

"Oh dear no," replied the baronet, with a look of rueful fear, "all
very prim to-night--all as grave as judges--quite proper and discreet
while my sister Harriet is with us--an archdeacon's widow, you know--a
dean's, after all--though he was only dean for a couple of months--a
very good man indeed, but exceedingly proper, terribly proper: the
very sound of a cork frightened him out of his wits. I do believe he
fancied that port and Madeira are sent over in decanters, and claret
in jugs with handles. However, you'll come, that's settled: half-past
five, old-fashioned hours, gives plenty of time after dinner. But now
that's no use," added the baronet, with a sigh, "we might as well dine
at seven now--no use of a long evening. However, the girls will give
us a song, or music of some kind, and perhaps we can make up a rubber
at long whist, which will make us sleep as sound as dormice. No sin in
that--no, Ned."

"None in the world, Sir John," answered Ned Hayward, "but a great deal
of dulness. I never could make out in my life how men, with their wits
about them, could spend hours throwing bits of painted pasteboard in a
particular order for shillings and sixpences."

"Just as reasonable as standing up for hours to be showed for
shillings and sixpences," answered Sir John Slingsby, "and both you
and I have played at that, you dog. Every thing is folly if you take
it in the abstract--love, war, wine, ambition; and depend upon it,
Ned, the lightest follies are the best--isn't it so, Mr. Beauchamp?"

"There is indeed some truth in what you say, Sir John," replied
Beauchamp, with a thoughtful smile; "and I believe amusing follies are
better than serious ones--at least I begin to think so now."

"To be sure, to be sure," answered Sir John Slingsby; "man was made
for fun and not for sadness. It's a very nice world if people would
let it be so. Oh, we'll show you some sport, Mr. Beauchamp, before we
have done with you; but to-day you know we'll all be very proper--very
good boys indeed--and then when the cat's away the mice will play. Ha!
ha! ha! At half-past five, you know, and in the meantime, Ned and I
will ride off and abuse old Wittingham. I'll give him a pretty
lecture."

Good Sir John was disappointed however; his horses, his groom, and his
bulky person had all been seen from the windows of Mr. Wittingham's
house as he rode into the town with Ned Hayward, and as a matter of
course, Mr. Wittingham was over the hills and far away before the
visit to Mr. Beauchamp was concluded.

When Sir John and Ned Hayward left him, Beauchamp remained for some
minutes with a smile upon his countenance--a meditative--nay, a
melancholy smile.

"So fleet our resolutions," he said to himself, "so fade away our
schemes and purposes. Who can say in this life what he will do and
what he will not do the next day--nay, the next minute? Which is the
happiest after all, the man who struggles with fate and circumstance,
and strives to perform the impracticable task of ruling them, or he
who, like a light thing upon the waters, suffers himself to be carried
easily down the current, whirling round with every eddy, resting
quietly in the still pool, or dashing gaily down the rapids? Heaven
knows, but at all events, fate has shown herself so resolute to take
my affairs into her own hands, that I will not try to resist her. I
will indulge every whim, and leave fortune to settle the result. I may
as well purchase that property: it is as good an investment as any
other, I dare say, and if not, it does not much signify. I will write
to my agent to transmit the money to-day."

With this resolution he sat down, and had soon despatched a few lines,
which he carried to the post himself; then strolled out of the town
for an hour, and then returned to dress, ordering a post-chaise for
Tarningham House.

How different are the sensations with which one goes out to dinner at
different times--ay, even when it is to the house of a new
acquaintance, where we have little means of judging previously whether
our day will be pleasant or unpleasant, joyous or sad. As there must
be more than one party to each compact, and as the age and its object
act and react upon each other, so the qualities of each have their
share in the effect upon either, and the mood of the visitor has at
least as much to do with the impression that he receives as the mood
of the host. Wonderfully trite, is it not, reader? It has been said a
thousand times before, but it will not do you the least harm to have
it repeated, especially as I wish you clearly to understand the mood
in which Mr. Beauchamp went, for the first time, to the house of Sir
John Slingsby. It was then in that of an indifferent mood of which I
have shown some indications, by describing what was passing in his
mind after the baronet and Ned Hayward left him. There are, however,
various sorts of indifferent moods; there is the gay indifferent,
which is very commonly called, devil-me-carish-ness; then there is the
impertinent indifference, with a dash of persiflage in it, just to
take off the chili--as men put brandy into soda-water--which very
empty and conceited men assume to give them an air of that superiority
to which they are entitled by no mental quality. Then there is the
indifference of despair, and the indifference of satiety. But none of
these was the exact sort of indifference which Mr. Beauchamp felt, or
thought he felt. It was a grave indifference, springing from a sort of
morbid conviction that the happiness or unhappiness of man is not at
all in his own hands, or that if it be at all so, it is only at his
outset in life, and that the very first step so affects the whole
course of after events, as to place the control over them totally
beyond his own power. It is a bad philosophy, a very unsafe, untrue,
unwise philosophy, and a great author has made it the philosophy of
the devil:


                             Thus we
          In our first choice are ever free;
          Choose, and the right of choice is o'er,
          We who were free, are free no more.


So says Göthe, according to Auster's beautiful translation, and I
think it much better to give that translation which every body can
understand, than the original which one half of my readers cannot, and
which would not be a bit better if they could.

Now Mr. Beauchamp was not the devil, or any thing the least like it,
but yet this philosophy had been driven into him by his own previous
history, and though he often resisted its influence, and strove to
struggle with it, and by new acts to shape a new fate, yet he had been
so often disappointed in the attempt, he had found every course,
indeed, so constantly lead to the same result, that the philosophy
returned as soon as the effort was over, and he looked upon almost
every event with indifference, as destined to end in one manner, and
that not a pleasant one.

Nevertheless, he could enjoy for the time: there was no man by nature
better fitted for enjoyment. He had a fondness for every thing that
was great and beautiful; for every thing that was good and noble; he
loved flowers, and birds, and music, and the fair face of nature. His
breast was full of harmonies, but unfortunately the tones were never
prolonged; to borrow a simile from the musical instrument, there was a
damper that fell almost as soon as the chord was struck, and the
sound, sweet as it might be, ceased before the music was complete.

In driving along, however, the post-boy went somewhat slowly, and with
a peculiarly irritating jog in the saddle, which would have sadly
disturbed a person of a less indifferent mind--there was plenty of
room for pleasant observation if not reflection. The road ran through
wooded groves, and often turned along the bank of the stream. At times
it mounted over a hill-side, and showed beyond a rich and leafy
foreground, the wide extended landscape, undulating away towards the
horizon, with the lines of wood and slope beautifully marked in the
aerial perspective, and filling the mind with vague imaginations of
things that the eye could not define. It dipped down into a valley
too, and passed through a quiet, peaceful little village, with a group
of tall silver poplars before the church, and a congregation of fine
old beech trees around the rectory. The whole aspect of the place was
home tranquillity; that of a purely English village under the most
favourable circumstances. Cleanliness, neatness, rustic ornament, an
air of comfort, a cheerful openness, a look of healthfulness. How
different from the villages one sometimes sees, alas! in every
country; but less in England than anywhere else in the wide world, the
abodes of fever, dirt, penury, wretchedness.

As he passed the rectory, with its smooth, well-mown lawn, and green
gates, Beauchamp put his head to the carriage-window and looked out.
He expected to see, perhaps, a neat one-horse chaise at the door, and
a sleek, well-fed beast to draw it; but there was nothing of the kind
there, and he remarked the traces of a pair of wheels from the gates
on the road before him. Half a mile further were the gates of Sir John
Slingsby's park. It cannot be said that they were in very good order,
the iron-work wanted painting sadly, one or two of the bars had got a
sad twist, the columns of stone-work to which they were fixed needed
pointing, if not more solid repairs. The lodge had all the shutters
up, and the post-boy had to get down and open the gates.

Beauchamp sighed, not because he took any great interest in the place
or the people it contained, but because the aspect of desolation--of
the decay of man's works--especially from neglect, is well worth a
sigh. The drive through the park, however, was delightful. Old trees
were all around, glorious old trees, those ever-growing monuments of
the past, those silent leafy chroniclers of ages gone. Who planted
them, who nourished, who protected them? what times have they seen,
what deeds have they witnessed, what storms have passed over them,
what sunshine have they drunk, what sorrows, and what joys have
visited the generations of man, since first they sprang up from the
small seed till now, when they stretch out their giant arms to shelter
the remote posterity of those whom they have seen flourish and pass
away? Who can wander among old trees, and not ask such questions, ay,
and a thousand more.

The sight was pleasant to Mr. Beauchamp, it had a serious yet pleasing
effect upon his mind, and when the chaise drew up at the door of
Tarningham House, he felt more disposed than before to enjoy the
society within, whatever it might be.

The outer door was open, the fat butler threw open pompously the two
glass doors within, a couple of round footmen, whose lineaments were
full of ale, flanked the hall on either side, and thus Mr. Beauchamp
was marshalled to the drawing-room, which he entered with his calm and
dignified air, not in the slightest degree agitated, although he was
well aware that two very pretty faces were most likely looking for his
arrival.

Sir John Slingsby in the blue coat, the white waistcoat, the black
breeches and stockings, with the rubicund countenance and white hair,
advanced at once to receive him, and presented him to Mrs. Clifford
and her daughter.

"This young lady you already know, Mr. Beauchamp," he said, pointing
to his daughter, "so I shan't introduce you here."

But that gentleman shook hands with Miss Slingsby first, proving that
their acquaintance, however short, had made some steps towards
friendship.

Isabella was a little fluttered in her manner, why, she scarcely knew
herself, and the colour grew a little deeper in her cheek, and her
smile wavered, as if she would fain have seemed not too well pleased.
All this, however, did not at all take from her beauty, for as a fair
scene is never lovelier than when the shadows of drifting clouds are
passing over it, so a pretty face is never prettier than under the
influence of slight emotions.

Miss Slingsby and Mary Clifford were standing both together, so that
Beauchamp had both those sweet faces before him at once. Isabella was
as fair as a lily with eyes of a deep blue, and warm brown hair,
neither light nor dark, clustering richly round her brow and cheek in
wilful curls that would have their own way. Mary Clifford was darker
in complexion, with the hair braided on her brow, there was deep but
gentle thought in her dark eyes, and though the short chiselled upper
lip could at times bear a joyous smile enough, yet the general
expression was grave though not melancholy.

Beauchamp was a serious man, of a calm, quiet temper, somewhat
saddened by various events which had befallen him, but which of those
two faces, reader, think you he admired the most? The gay one, to be
sure, the one the least like himself. So it is wisely ordained by
nature, and it is the force of circumstances alone that ever makes us
choose a being precisely similar to ourselves to be our companion
through existence. Two tones, exactly the same, even upon different
instruments produce unison not harmony, and so it is throughout all
nature.

After a few words to Isabella, Mr. Beauchamp turned again to Mrs.
Clifford, who at once spoke of their adventure of the night before,
and thanked him for his kind assistance. Beauchamp said all that
courtesy required, and said it gracefully and well. He expressed the
pleasure that he felt to see that neither of the ladies had suffered
from the fear or agitation they had undergone, and expressed great
satisfaction at having been near the spot at the moment the attack was
made.

While they were speaking, Sir John Slingsby had twice taken out his
watch--it was a large one, hanging by a thick gold chain, and Mr.
Beauchamp, thinking that he divined the cause of his disquiet,
observed with a smile,

"Dr. Miles must be here, I think, for judging by small signs, such as
the traces of wheels and an open gate, I imagine that he had left home
before I passed."

"Oh yes, he is here," answered Sir John Slingsby, "he has been here
ten minutes, but the old boy, who is as neat in his person as in his
ideas, had got a little dust upon his black coat, and is gone to brush
it off and wash his hands. That open chaise of his costs him more time
in washing and brushing, than writing his sermons; but I can't think
what has become of that fellow, Ned Hayward. The dog went out two
hours ago for a walk through the park up to the moor, and I suppose
'thoughtless Ned,' as we used to call him, has forgotten that we dine
at half-past five. Well, we won't wait for him; as soon as the doctor
comes we will order dinner, and fine him a bumper for being late."

While he was speaking, Dr. Miles, the clergyman of the village through
which Beauchamp had passed, entered the room, and shook him warmly by
the hand. He was a tall, spare man, with a look of florid health in
his countenance, and snow-white hair; his face was certainly not
handsome, and there was a grave and somewhat stern expression in it,
but yet it was pleasing, especially when he smiled, which, to say the
truth, was not often. It may seem a contradiction in terms to say that
he laughed oftener than he smiled, yet so it was, for his laugh was
not always good-humoured, especially in the house of Sir John
Slingsby. There was from time to time, something bitter and cynical in
it, and generally found vent when any thing was said, the folly of
which he thought exceeded the wickedness. He was one of the few men of
perfect respectability who was a constant visitor at Tarningham House;
but the truth was, that he was the rector of Sir John Slingsby's
parish. Now no consideration of tithes, perquisites, good dinners,
comforts, and conveniences, would have induced Dr. Miles to do any
thing that he thought wrong, but he argued in this manner:--

"Sir John Slingsby is an old fool, and one who is likely to get worse
instead of better, if nobody of more rational views, higher feelings,
and more reasonable pursuits takes any notice of him. Now I, from my
position, am bound to do the best I can to bring him to a better state
of mind. I may effect something in this way, by seeing him frequently
at all events, I can do much to prevent his becoming worse; my
presence is some check upon these people, and even if it does little
good to the father, there is that sweet, dear, amiable girl, who needs
some support and comfort in her unpleasant situation."

Such were some of the considerations upon which Dr. Miles acted. There
were many more indeed, but these are enough for my purpose. He shook
Beauchamp warmly by the hand, as we have seen, and seemed to be more
intimate with him than any body in the room, taking him aside, and
speaking to him for a moment or two in private, while Sir John
Slingsby rang the bell, and ordered dinner without waiting for Captain
Hayward.

"William Slack, Sir John, has seen him," said the butler, "coming down
the long avenue with something in his arms--he thinks it's a fawn."

"Well then, he'll be here soon," said the master of the mansion,
"serve dinner, serve dinner, by Jove, I won't wait. Devil take the
fellow, the ensign shouldn't keep his colonel waiting. It's not
respectful. I'll fine him two bumpers if the soup's off before he
makes his appearance."

In the meantime the first words of Dr. Miles to Mr. Beauchamp were, "I
have made the inquiries, my dear Sir, according to your request, and
it is well worth the money. It will return they say four per cent.
clear, which in these times is well enough."

"I have already determined upon it," said Beauchamp, "and have written
to London about it."

"Ay, ay," said the worthy doctor, "just like all the rest of the
world, my young friend, asking for advice, and acting without it."

"Not exactly," answered Beauchamp, "you told me before what you
thought upon the subject, and I knew you were not one to express an
opinion except upon good grounds. The only question is now what lawyer
I can employ here to arrange minor matters. The more important must,
of course, be referred to my solicitors in London."

"We have no great choice," replied Dr. Miles, "there are but two in
Tarningham, thank God. The one is a Mr. Wharton, the other a Mr.
Bacon, neither of them particularly excellent specimens of humanity;
but in the one the body is better than the mind, in the other the mind
better than the body."

"Probably I should like the latter best," answered Beauchamp, "but
pray, my dear doctor, give me a somewhat clearer knowledge of these
two gentlemen for my guidance."

"Well then though I do not love in general to say aught in
disparagement of my neighbours behind their backs," Dr. Miles replied,
"I must, I suppose, be more definite. Mr. Wharton is a quiet, silent
man, gentlemanlike in appearance and in manners, cautious, plausible,
and affecting friendship for his clients. I have never known him set
the poor by the ears for the sake of small gains, or promote
dissensions amongst farmers in order to make by a law-suit. On the
contrary, I have heard him dissuade from legal proceedings, and say
that quarrels are very foolish things."

"A good sort of person," said Beauchamp.

"Hear the other side, my dear Sir," rejoined the doctor, "such game as
I have been speaking of is too small for him. He was once poor; he is
now very rich. I have rarely heard of his having a client who somehow
did not ruin himself; and although I do not by any means intend to say
that I have been able to trace Mr. Wharton's hand in their
destruction, certain it is that the bulk of the property--at least a
large share of what they squandered or lost has found its way into his
possession. I have seen him always ready to smooth men's way to
destruction, to lend money, to encourage extravagance, to lull
apprehension, to embarrass efforts at retrenchment, and then when the
beast was in the toils, to despatch it and take his share. No mercy
then when ruin is inevitable; the lawyer must be paid, and must be
paid first."

"And now for Mr. Bac on?" said Beauchamp.

"Why he is simply a vulgar little man," answered the clergyman,
"coarse in manners and in person: cunning and stolid, but with a
competent knowledge of law; keen at finding out faults and flaws. His
practice is in an inferior line to the other's, but he is at all
events safer, and I believe more honest."

"How do you mean, cunning and stolid?" asked Beauchamp, "those two
qualities would seem to me incompatible."

"Oh dear no," replied Dr. Miles; but before he could explain, the
butler announced dinner, and as Sir John gave his arm to Mrs.
Clifford, Beauchamp advanced towards Isabella. The doors were thrown
wide open, and the party were issuing forth to cross the vestibule to
the dining-room, when suddenly Sir John and his sister halted,
encountered by an apparition which certainly was unexpected in the
form that it assumed. In fact they had not taken two steps out of the
drawing-room ere the glass doors were flung open, and Ned Hayward
stood before them as unlike the Ned Hayward I first presented to the
reader as possible. His coat was covered with a dull whitish gray
powder, his linen soiled, and apparently singed, his hands and face as
black as soot, his glossy brown hair rugged and burnt, no hat upon his
head, and in his arms a very pretty boy of about two years old, or a
little more perhaps, on whose face were evident marks of recent tears,
though he seemed now pacified, and was staring about with large eyes
at the various objects in the large house to which he was just
introduced.

"Why Ned, Ned, Ned, what in the mischief's name has happened to you?"
exclaimed Sir John Slingsby, "have you all at once become a poor young
man with a small family of young children?"

"No, my dear Sir," answered Ned Hayward in a hurried tone, "but if you
have any women in the house I will give this little fellow into their
care and tell you all about it in a few minutes. Hush, my little man,
hush. We are all friends: we will take care of you. Now don't cry
again: no harm shall happen."

"Women! to be sure!" cried Sir John, "call the housekeeper, one of you
rascals. Women! Hang it, Ned, do you think I could live in a house
without women? A bottle of claret is not more necessary to my
existence than the sight of a cap and a petticoat flying about the
house--in the distance, Ned, in the distance! No brooms and dust-pans
too near me; but in a discreet position, far enough off yet visible;
woman is the sunshine of a house."

"Give him to me, Captain Hayward," said Miss Clifford, holding out her
arms for the boy. "He will be quiet with me, I am sure. Won't you, my
poor little fellow?"

The child gazed at her strangely as she took him, letting go Dr.
Miles's arm to do so; but meeting the sweet smile that lighted up her
beautiful face, he put his little arms round her neck the next moment,
and hid his large blue eyes upon her shoulder. She held him kindly
there, speaking a few gentle words to him, while Ned Hayward looking
round the party addressed himself to the worthy clergyman, inquiring,
"You are the rector of this parish, Sir, I think?"

Dr. Miles made a stiff bow, not prepossessed in favour of any of Sir
John Slingsby's old friends, and answered as briefly as possible, "I
am, Sir."

"Then can you tell me," asked the young gentleman, eagerly, "if there
was any woman up at the cottage on the moor?"

Dr. Miles started, and replied with a look of much greater interest,
"No, Sir, no. What has happened? Why do you ask? What cottage do you
mean? There are three."

"I mean the cottage of a man called Gimlet," answered Ned Hayward. "I
saw some women's clothes--gowns and things; and I thought there might
be a woman there, that's all. There was none then?"

"There was one six months ago," replied the clergyman, in a very grave
tone, "as lovely a creature as ever was seen, but she lies in my
churchyard, poor thing. She is at peace."

"Thank God," said Ned Hayward, in a tone of relief. "Ah, here comes
somebody for the child. My good lady, will you have the kindness to
take good care of this little fellow. See that he is not burnt or
hurt, and let him have some bread-and-milk, or things that children
eat--I don't know very well what they are, but I dare say you do."

"Oh, by Jove that she does!" exclaimed Sir John Slingsby, "she feeds
half the children in the parish. You take good care of him, Mrs.
Hope--and now, Ned," he continued, turning from the housekeeper to his
guest, "what the devil's the meaning of all this?"

"I will tell you by and by, Sir John," answered Captain Hayward. "Pray
go to dinner and I will be down directly. Many apologies for being
late; but it was not to be helped. I will not be ten minutes; but do
not let me detain you--"

"But what is it all about? What has happened? Who the deuce is the
child?" exclaimed Sir John. "Do you think either men or women can eat
soup or digest fish with their stomachs full of curiosity?"

"By and by, Sir John, by and by," said Ned Hayward, making towards the
stairs. "You shall have the whole story for dessert. At present I am
dirty, and the dinner's waiting. It will get cold, and your curiosity
keep hot."

Thus saying he left them, and the rest of the party proceeded to
dinner.



CHAPTER X.
The Poacher's Cottage.


If you quit the high-road from Tarningham on the right-hand side by
that little sandy path, just a hundred yards on the other side of the
stone pump, equidistant from it and the mile-stone which marks on the
hither side, five miles and a half from Tarningham, and walk straight
on, it leads you over the moor, and through the midst of scenery very
common in England, not much loved by ordinary ramblers, but which for
me and a few others has a peculiar and almost indescribable charm. The
ground is broken, undulated, full of deep sand-pits and holes,
frequently covered with gorge and heath, spotted occasionally with
self-sown shrubs, a stunted hawthorn here and there, two or three
melancholy firs, gathered together on the top of a mound, like a party
of weary watchers trying to console each other by close companionship,
while from time to time a few light birches, with their quivering
leaves, and thin, graceful arms, and ragged coats of silver and brown,
are seen hanging over the edge of a bank, or decorating the side of a
hollow. If you dip down into one of the low dells, a sensation of
hermit-like solitude comes upon you. You believe that there at least
you may be,


          The world forgetting, by the world forgot;


and you feel an irresistible desire to sit down at the foot of this
shrub, or that, where the roots, like a well-governed state, serve to
keep together in close union, the light and incoherent materials that
sustain them, and there to commune with your own thoughts in the
silent presence of Nature. If you mount one of the little hills, the
scene and the sensation is very different, The solitude is as deep as
striking; no living thing is to be seen, unless it be a wild curlew,
with its thin arched wings, whirling away with a shrill cry in the
enjoyment of its own loneliness; but there is an expansion, a
grandeur, a strange sublimity in the extent of waste, with the long
lines waving off in different hues like the billows of the ocean,
first yellow sand, and green short turf, then a brown mass, where the
sight loses its distinctness, then perhaps a gleam of water, then a
blue line, deep as indigo, where the azure air and the black shade
mingle together under some threatening cloud; then long undulations of
purple, fainter and fainter, till who shall say where earth ends and
sky begins. The bleakness, the stillness, the solitariness, the varied
colouring, the vast extent, the very monotony of the forms mingle
together in a whole that has not less grandeur in it than the highest
mountain that ever raised its proud brow above its brother giants.

I have said you would have to go straight on, but what I said was
quite untrue, and it is wonderful how many little falsehoods slip
out of the innocent and unconscious pen, either in the haste of
writing--which is very pardonable--or for the sake of a little
graceful turn, a neat expression, or a pretty figure, which is not so
small a fault. I do not believe there were ever ten sentences written
by poet, historian, or romance-writer, in ancient or modern times,
that had not some lie in them, direct or implied. I stand
self-convicted. It is not true that you would have to go
straightforward, for if you did you would walk into a pond, and
moreover, might never chance to get out again; for what between rushes
and reeds, and weeds and water-lilies, to say nothing of sundry deep
holes at the bottom, there is every risk that you would get your feet
entangled, and plunge headforemost into a place where you could
neither swim or disengage yourself. No, the path does not go
straightforward. Of all man's circuitous ways, and every one who
knows the human heart, is well aware that it is too fond of crooked
paths ever to pursue a straightforward course in any thing--of all
man's circuitous ways, I say, there never was one more serpentine or
meandering than that which leads from the high-road upon the moor.
First it turns round that pond I have mentioned, then it glides about
the base of a little hill, then it forces its way in a slanting
direction, through a bank of sand, then it turns aside from a deep
pit, then it respectfully passes at a little distance from a tumulus,
where sleep the ashes of the forgotten brave; and even when it gets
upon the flat green turf, it twists about like a great snake, giving
sad indications of man's vagabond fancies that lead him hither and
thither, without rhyme or reason, wherever he may be going, and
whatever may be the object before him.

But after all, why should he not be thus led? why should be not follow
these fancies? Life's but a walk over a moor, and the wild-flowers
that grow upon our path are too few not to gather them when they come
within sight, even though it cost us a step or two aside. It's all in
the day's journey, and we shall get home at last.

Yet it is curious to consider all these various bends and turnings in
any little foot-way such as that we are now following. There is very
often a reason for that which seems to us to be the effects of mere
caprice. Now why did the fellow who first beat this road with his
wandering foot, turn away here to the right, when it is as evident as
the sun at noonday (that's to say in fine weather), that his object
was to pass straight between those two little hillocks before us? Oh,
I see, the grass is very green there; there is either some little
spring, or else the ground is soft and marshy in wet weather, and so
he went round to avoid it. But if he did so, why did he not keep to
the right of the hillock, that one with the hawthorn upon it, that is
now in flower, scenting the solitary air with a perfume that no art
could ever extract? Could it be to take a look at that wide view over
the tall, magnificent trees of the park, with the wide-spread country
beyond, and the little tower of Tarningham church, rising up between
those tall silver poplars? Perhaps it might be so; for there is an
inherent sense of the picturesque in the breast of most men, which,
unlike any acquired taste, grows and refines, and becomes stronger and
more overpowering the more it is indulged, and the more opportunities
of indulgence that it has. It is perhaps the only thing of which it
can be truly said that "increase of appetite grows by that it feeds
on." And it is a beautiful scene, too, which might well temper a
little out of the way. As to the rest it is clear enough, that when he
had got there--the first wanderer over the moor I mean--he was obliged
to turn away to the right, in order to come into the proper direction
again, so that here are four of his deviations completely accounted
for, and indeed, dear reader, I cannot help thinking, that if we were
once or twice in life to examine curiously the motives of our own
actions, or even of others, taking care to be impartial in both cases,
we should find cause to cast away our critical spirit, and to believe
that there are very often good and rational reasons for a turn to the
right or a turn to the left, which we have been inclined to blame,
simply because we did not perceive what those reasons were. Oh,
charity, charity, rightly understood in thy largest and holiest sense,
what a beautiful thing thou art; and did men but practise thee, how
often should we be spared the crime and folly of condemning unwisely
and unjustly.

But to return to my path: upon my life, after having regained the
direction, the fellow has followed it straight on for more than a
quarter of a mile. It is wonderful, it is marvellous! I never saw such
a thing before! But, nevertheless, it is true that there was nothing
either to attract or drive him to one side or the other; and then, as
if to make up for lost time, what zig-zags he takes afterwards! Round
that clump of firs, under that bank, through between the birch-trees,
here and there over the wildest part of the moor, till he passes close
by the edge of that deep sand-pit, which must have rested a long time
since it contributed any of its crumbling particles to strew the floor
of the public-house, or sprinkle the passage of the cottage; for the
bushes are growing thick down the slope, and there seems as if there
had been a little kitchen-garden in the bottom, and a human
habitation.

In the reign of that King George, under whose paternal sceptre
flourished the English nation in the times whereof I am writing, there
was a cottage in that sand-pit, a small lonely house, built of timber,
laths, and mud, and containing two or three rooms. The materials, as I
have shown, were poor, ease and comfort seemed far from it, yet there
was something altogether not unpleasant in the idea of dwelling in
that sheltered nook, with the dry sand and the green bushes round, and
feeling, that let the wind rave as it would over the hill, let it bend
down the birch-trees, and make the pines rustle and crack, and strike
their branches against each other, the fury of the tempest could not
reach one there--that let the rain pour down in ever such heavy
torrents, as if the windows of Heaven were open, the thirsty ground
would drink up the streams as they fell, as if its draught were
insatiable. There were signs of taste, too, about the building, of a
humble and natural kind. Over the door had been formed with some
labour a little sort of trellised portico, of rough wood-work, like an
arbour, and over this had been trained several plants of the wild-hop
and wild-clematis, with one solitary creeping garden-rose. Sticks had
been placed across the house, too, to afford a stay for these shrubs
to spread themselves over the face of the cottage, if they had any
strength to spare, when they had covered the little portico, and two
or three wandering shoots, like truant children, were already sporting
along the fragile path thus afforded them.

The interior of the house was less prepossessing than the outside; the
mud-floor, hard beaten down and very equally flattened, was dry
enough, for the sand below it carried off all moisture; but in the
walls of the rooms there was, alas! many a flaw through which sun or
moon might shine, or the night-wind enter, and to say the truth, the
inhabitants of the cottage were as much indebted to the banks of the
pit for protection against such a cold visitant, as to the
construction of their dwelling. The furniture was scanty and rude,
seeming to have been made by a hand not altogether unaccustomed to the
use of a carpenter's tools, but hastily and carelessly, so that in
gazing round the sleeping-chamber, one was inclined to imagine that
the common tent-bed that stood in one corner was the only article that
had ever tenanted a shop. The great chest, the table, the two or three
chairs, all spoke plainly the same artificer, and had that been all
that the room contained, it would have looked very miserable indeed;
but hanging from nails driven into the wall, were a number of very
peculiar ornaments. There was a fox's head and a fox's brush, dried,
and in good preservation; there was the gray skin of a badger, and the
brown skin of an otter; birds of prey of various sizes and
descriptions, the butcher-bird, the sparrow-hawk, and the buzzard, as
well as several owls. Besides these zoological specimens, were hung up
in the same manner a number of curious implements, the properties and
applications of some of which were easy to divine, while others
remained mysterious. There were two or three muzzles for dogs, which
could be distinguished at once, but then by their side was a
curious-looking contrivance, which appeared to be a Lilliputian
wire-mousetrap, sewn on to some straps of leather. Then came a large
coil of wire, a dog's collar, and a pair of greyhound-slips. Next
appeared something difficult to describe, having two saw-like jaws of
iron like a rat-trap, supported on semi-circular bars which were fixed
into a wooden handle, having a spring on the outside, and a revolving
plate within. It was evident that the jaws could be opened and kept
open in case of need, and had I been a hare, a rabbit, or any other
delicate-footed animal, I should not have liked to trust my ankle
within their gripe. I could describe several other instruments both of
leather and iron, which were similarly suspended from the wall; but as
I really cannot tell the reader what was the use of any one of them,
it would be but labour thrown away. However, there were other things,
the intent and purport of which were quite self-evident. Two or three
small cages, a landing-net, fishing-rods, a gun, powder-flasks,
shot-belts, a casting-net, and a clap-net, and by the side of the
window hung four small cages, containing singing-birds.

But who was he in the midst of all this strange assortment? Was he the
owner of this wild, lonely dwelling? Oh no, it was a young man dressed
as none could be dressed who frequented not very different scenes from
those that lay around him. His clothes were not only those of a
gentleman, but those of a gentleman who thought much of his own
personal appearance--too much indeed to be perfectly gentlemanly. All
that the tailor, the boot-maker, the hat-maker could do had been done
to render the costume correct according to the fashion of the day; but
there was a certain something which may be called a too-smartness
about it all; the colours were too bright, the cut too decidedly
fashionable, to be quite in good taste. Neither was the arrangement
of the hues altogether harmonious. There are the same colours in a
China-aster and a rose, but yet what a difference in the appearance of
the two flowers; and the same sort of difference, though not to the
same extent, existed between the dress of the person before us, and
that of the truly well-dressed man even of his own time. In most other
respects his appearance was good; he was tall, rather slightly formed
than otherwise, and had none of that stiffness and rigidity which
might have been anticipated from his apparel. Demeanour is almost
always tinged more or less by character, and a wild, rash, vehement
disposition will, as in his case, give a freedom to the movements
which no drilling can altogether do away with. His features in
themselves were not bad. There was a good high forehead, somewhat
narrow indeed, a rather fine pair of eyes (if one could have seen them
both), a little close together, a well-formed nose, and a mouth and
chin not badly cut, though there was a good deal of animal in the one,
and the other was somewhat too prominent. The whole countenance,
however, was disfigured by a black silk shade which covered the right
eye, and a fresh scar all the way down the same side of the nose,
while from underneath the shade, which was not large enough for its
purpose, peeped out sundry rainbow rings of blue and yellow, invading
both the cheek and the temple.

By these marks the reader has already perceived that this gentleman
has been presented to him before, but in a very different garb, which
he had thought fit to assume for his own particular purposes on the
preceding night, and now he sat in the cottage of Stephen Gimlet the
poacher, judging it expedient to keep himself at a distance from the
peopled haunts of man, during the bright and bustling day at least. At
night he proposed to betake himself to the inn which had been
mentioned in his conversation with the housekeeper; but after his
pleasant and hopeful conversation with his father, he had ridden
straight to the dwelling of his companion, Wolf, where on the
preceding day his portmantles had been left after they had arranged
their plans; and having stabled his horse in a shed at the back of the
building, had passed the heavy hours of darkness partly in bitter
meditations, and partly in conversation with his comrade. Sleep could
hardly be said to have visited his eyelids, for though after he cast
himself down to rest he had dozed from time to time, yet agitating
thoughts continually returned and deprived him of all real repose.

At an early hour of the morning, and while it was still dark, Ste
Gimlet had gone out, as was his wont, and rising with the first rays
of the sun, Henry Wittingham employed himself in dressing with
scrupulous care, and then filled up about half an hour more in making
a black patch to hide his disfigured eye, out of an old silk
handkerchief. When this was accomplished, wanting something or another
to tie this covering in its right place, he looked round the room, but
in vain. Leather straps, dog-collars, rat-traps, brass wire, would
none of them do, and although near the nets there was lying a ball of
whip-cord, he thought that such a decoration as a string made with
that material would but ill accord with the rest of his habiliments.
He therefore walked across the little passage to the next room, and
lifted the coarse wooden latch of the door. He found the door locked,
however, and muttering to himself, "D--n the fellow, did he think I
would steal any thing?" he was turning away, when a small sweet voice
from within exclaimed, "I'm ready, daddy, I've got my stockings on."

"Oh, he's locked the child in, that's it," said Henry Wittingham to
himself, and then raising his voice, he said, "Your daddy's not come
back, Charley, so lie still and be quiet."

Then returning to the next room, the brilliant thought struck him of
cutting off the hem of the old silk handkerchief to make a string for
the black patch, which task being accomplished, and all complete, he
sat down and thought.

Oh, how many sorts of misery there are in the world! In giving to man
his fine organisation, in raising him above the brute by delicate
structure, by intellect, by imagination, and by infinitely extended
hope and long persisting memory, nature, indeed, did afford him
infinite sources of enjoyment, but at the same time laid him open on
every side to the attack of evils. In perfect innocence, indeed, man
and his whole race might find nearly perfect happiness. The Garden of
Eden is but a type of the moral Paradise of a perfectly virtuous
state; but the moment that Sin entered, the thorns and briars grew up
to tear all feet; and the very capabilities of refined happiness
became the defenceless points for pain and wretchedness to assail us.
Infinite, indeed, are their attacks, and innumerable the forms that
they assume; but of all the shapes of misery, what is to be more
dreaded, what is more terrible than thought to a vicious mind? And
there he sat in thought, with the morning sunshine streaming around
him, calm, and pure, and tranquil. The light that gave deeper depth to
the shadows of his own heart. What did he think of? Where did his
meditations rest? On the happiness that was passed away, on the gay
hours of childhood, on the sports of his boyish days, on the times
when the world was young for him, and every thing was full of
freshness and enjoyment? Or did he think of the blessing cast away, of
wealth, and comfort, and ease, with no reasonable wish ungratified, no
virtuous pleasure denied? Or did he look forward to the future with
fear and anguish, and to the past with remorse and grief? Heaven only
knows, but there he sat, with his head bent forward, his brow
contracted, his teeth tight shut, his right arm fallen listlessly by
his side, his left hand contracting and expanding involuntarily upon
some fragments of silk on the table. He gazed forward through the
window, from under his bent brows. He saw not the sunshine, but he
felt it and loved it not; and ever and anon the dark shadows of strong
emotion crossed his countenance like misty clouds swept over the face
of the mountain. He sat long, and was at heart impatient for his
companion's return; but so strong was the hold that thought had got
upon him, he knew not how time went. He heard not even the child cry
in the neighbouring room, when, wearied with waiting, it got terrified
at the unusual length of his father's absence.

At length, however, the stout form of the poacher was seen descending
the small steep path which led from the moor into the sand-pit. His
step was slow and heavy, his air dull and discontented; but Harry
Wittingham as soon as he beheld him started up and opened him the door
of the cottage, exclaiming, "Well, Wolf, what news?"

"Neither the best in the world nor the worst," answered the man
somewhat sullenly.

"And what have you got for breakfast?" inquired the young gentleman,
"I am as hungry as the devil!"

"You must wait a bit though," answered Wolf, descending, "I must look
after the boy first. Poor little man, I dare say he has cried his eyes
out, I've been so long--but if you're in a great hurry, you'd better
light the fire, Master Harry, you'll find some wood in the corner
there, and you can strike a light with the pistol flint."

Harry Wittingham did not look well pleased, and turning into the house
again walked to the window, and affected to hum a tune, without
undertaking the menial office that the other had assigned him. In the
meanwhile, Wolf walked straight to the other door, unlocked it, and
catching up the beautiful boy, who was sitting half dressed on a stool
crying, he pressed him eagerly to his breast, and kissed him once or
twice. There were strange and salutary thoughts passed through his
brain at that moment. He asked himself what would have become of that
child if he had been detained and taken to prison, as indeed had been
very likely. Who would have let the boy out of that solitary room--who
would have given him food--who would have nursed and tended him? And
once or twice while he was finishing what the child's tiny hands had
left undone, in attempting to dress himself, the father rubbed his
brow, and thought heavily. Say what man will of the natural
affections, they are the best ties to good conduct.

When he had done, he took the boy by the hand and led him into the
other room, gave a glance to the fireplace, and then to Harry
Wittingham as he stood at the window, and his brow gathered into a
frown. He said nothing, however, lighted the fire himself, and taking
the fish from his pocket proceeded to broil them. Then from the great
chest he drew out a knife or two, a cut loaf of coarse bread, and two
or three glasses, which he placed upon the table, and giving his child
a large hunch of the bread, told him in a whisper, as if it were a
mighty secret, that he should have a nice trout in a minute. To Harry
Wittingham he said not a word, till at length the other turning round
exclaimed, "Well, Wolf, you have not told me what news you bring."

"And you have not lighted the fire," said Ste Gimlet. "If you think,
Master Wittingham, that you can live in a place like this and keep
your hands clean, you are mistaken. You must shape your manners to
your company, or give it up."

Harry Wittingham felt inclined to make an angry answer; but
recollecting how much he was in his companion's power, prudence came
to his aid, and he only replied, "Pooh, pooh, Wolf, I am not
accustomed to lighting fires, and I do not know how to set about it."

"Faith you may have to learn some day," answered his comrade. "When I
built all this house and made all these chairs and tables with my own
hands, I knew as little about a trade I never thought to practise, as
you about this."

"Ay, you have practised many a trade in your day," said Harry
Wittingham, "and I never but one."

"Nor that a very good one," murmured Wolf to himself; but the storm
thus passed away for the time, and the trout were broiled and put in a
plate, from which the two men and the little boy made each a hearty
meal.

The magistrate's son suffered their breakfast to pass over without
making any further inquiry respecting the tidings which his companion
had obtained in his morning's expedition; but after Ste Gimlet had
produced a bottle of very fine white brandy, which certainly had not
turned pale at the sight of a custom-house officer, and each had taken
a glass mixed with some of the cold water which formed the purer
beverage of the child, the poacher vouchsafed the information unasked,
relating to Harry Wittingham a great part of what had taken place
between himself and Ned Hayward. What he did not relate he probably
thought of no consequence, though men's opinions might perhaps differ
upon that subject; but at all events Harry Wittingham gathered that he
had been met and narrowly escaped being apprehended by a man, who had
questioned him closely about the adventures of the night before and
who was acquainted with his name, and the share he had had in a
somewhat perilous and disgraceful enterprise.

Such tidings cast him into another fit of dark and gloomy thought, in
which he remained for about five minutes without uttering a word; but
then he gave a start, and looked up with a gleam of satisfaction on
his face, as if some new and pleasant conclusion had suddenly
presented itself to his mind.

"I'll tell you what, Ste," he said, "I've just thought of something.
You must go down to Tarningham for me, and gather all the news you can
about this fellow--find out who he is, and whether he is a London beak
or not; and then when you have done all that--"

"I shall do none of it, Master Harry," answered the poacher, "I won't
stir another step in this business--I don't like it, Sir; it's not in
my way. I undertook it just to please you for old companionship's
sake, and because you told the the young lady would have no objection;
and then when I was in it, I went through with it, though I saw well
enough that she liked the thought of going as much as I should like to
dance on a rope. But I will have no more to do with it now; it has
done me enough harm already, and now I shall be watched ten times
closer than ever, and lose my living--so go, I do not."

"Come, come, Wolf, there's a good fellow--this is all nonsense," said
Harry Wittingham, in a coaxing tone.

But the man cut him short, repeating sternly that he would not go.

"Then, by--, I will go myself," exclaimed the young gentleman, with a
blasphemous oath, "if you are afraid, I am not."

And starting up, he walked out of the cottage, took his way round to
the shed at the back, trampling upon several of the flowers, which the
poacher loved to cultivate, as he went; and in about a quarter of an
hour he was seen riding up the little path towards the moor.

After he was gone, Ste Gimlet remained for some time in very
thoughtful mood: now gazing idly at vacancy, now playing with the
child's hair, or answering its infantine questions with an abstracted
air. At length he muttered, "What's to be done now?" and then added
aloud, "well, something must be done. Go out and play in the garden,
Charley."

The child toddled out right gladly, and the poacher set himself down
to mend his bird-net; but ever and anon he laid down the cunning
meshes on his knee, and let his thoughts entangle themselves in links
not less intricate.

"I'll try the other thing," he said, after a time, "this does not do.
I should not care for myself, but it's the poor baby. Poor dear Mary,
that always rested on her heart, what I should do with the boy when
she was gone. Well, I'll try and do better. Perhaps she is looking
down on us--who knows?"

And then he fell to his work again with a sigh. He employed himself
with several things for two or three hours. He finished the net; he
made a wicker-basket--it was the first he had ever attempted, but he
did it better than might have been expected, and then he called the
boy in to his dinner, giving him a trout he had saved when he broiled
the others; for his own part he contented himself with a lump of the
bread. When that was done, he went and caught some small birds on the
moor, just above the edge of the pit, where he could see the child
playing below. When he had thus provided their light supper--for the
luxury of tea was unknown in Ste Gimlet's cottage, he came back and
sat down by the boy, and played with him fondly for several minutes,
gazing at him from time to time with a melancholy earnestness, which
mingled even with the smile of joy and pride that lighted his eyes, as
some movement of childish grace called forth the beauties of his
child. Nevertheless, from time to time, there was a sort of absent
look, and twice he went up to the bank above and gazed out over the
moor towards Tarningham. At length he went away far enough to climb to
the top of the neighbouring barrow or tumulus, after having told the
boy not to venture up the path. From the position in which he then
stood, he had a fair view of the scene I have already described, and
caught the windings of the high road down the hill more distinctly
than from below.

"I shouldn't wonder if they had caught him," said Wolf to himself with
a frown, and an anxious expression of countenance, "and then he will
say it was my fault, and that I was afraid to go, and all that--Hang
it! why should I care what he says or what he thinks!" And with this
reflection he turned round and went back homeward. He found the boy at
the top of the bank, however, and gave him a gentle shake, scolding
him till the big drops began to gather in his large blue eyes.

Stephen Gimlet was not satisfied with himself, and scolding the child
he found did not act as a diversion to his own self-reproaches. After
he had set his son playing again, he walked about moodily for near a
quarter of an hour, and then burst forth impetuously, saying,

"I can't stand this, I must go and see what's become of him--they'll
know at the turnpike if he's passed, and the old woman won't blab.
Here, Charley, boy, you must go and play in the house now--it's
growing late, and I'm going away--I shan't be long, and you shall have
the bird-cages to play with."

The boy seemed to be well accustomed to it, and trotted away to the
house before his father, without any signs of reluctance. He was
placed in the same room where he had been in the morning, some empty
bird-cages and two or three other things were given him for his
amusement, and locking the door of the chamber, the poacher walked
away, saying with a sigh, "There can no harm happen this time, for I
am going to do no wrong to any one."

Vain, however, are all such calculations. The faults and virtues of
others as well as our own faults and virtues, enter into the strange
composition of our fate, and affect us darkly and mysteriously in a
manner which we can never foresee. If we reflected on the eve of
action on the number of beings throughout all time, and throughout our
whole race, who may be affected, nay, who must be affected by any deed
that we are about to perform, how many men would never act at all from
hesitation, how many would still act rashly and heedlessly as they do
now, from the impossibility of seeing the results. Happy is he who
acts deliberately, wisely, and honestly, leaving the consequences with
a clear conscience to Him who governs all aright.

The poacher had left his own door about a quarter of an hour, when two
men took their way down into the sand-pit, the one on horseback, the
other on foot. Harry Wittingham fastened his horse's bridle to the
latch of the door, and going in with his companion looked round for
Wolf, then crossing over to the other chamber, and finding it locked,
he said,

"Stephen isn't here; there, take that up, and be off with it," and he
pointed to his portmanteau in the corner where it lay.

The other man, who seemed a common farm-servant, or one of the
inferior stable-men of an inn, got the portmanteau on his shoulder,
and walked away with it, and Harry Wittingham remained for a minute or
two with his hands behind his back looking out of the window. At the
end of that time he said aloud: "Well, it's no use waiting for him, we
should only have a row, I dare say, so I'll be off too."

Before he went, however, he looked round the place for a moment, with
an expression of mockery and contempt. What was in his bosom, it would
be difficult to say, for the heart of man is full of strange things.
Perhaps he felt it unpleasant to be under an obligation to the owner
of that poor tenement, even for a night's shelter, and strove to salve
the wound of pride by reducing the obligation to the lowest point in
his own estimation. He might think that the misery he saw around did
not make it a very desirable resting-place, and that he had little to
be thankful for in having been permitted to share a beggar's hut. His
eyes, as he looked around, fell upon some embers of smouldering wood
on the hearth, and that called to mind one of the many bad habits
which he had lately acquired, and in which he had not yet indulged
through the whole of that day. He accordingly put his hand in his
pocket, and pulled out some cigars, then not very common in England.
Next taking up with the tongs, a piece of the charred and still
burning wood, he lighted one of the rolls of weed, cast down the
ember, and threw the tongs back upon the hearth; after which, mounting
his horse, he cantered away as blithely as if his heart had been
innocent as a child's.

The embers fell upon the earthen floor, where, under ordinary
circumstances they could do no harm; but it so happened that Stephen
Gimlet, when he had done mending the net, had cast down the hank of
twine close by the table. A long end of the string had fallen toward
the fireplace, and a moment or two after Henry Wittingham had quitted
the cottage, the piece of charred wood itself became black, but a
small spot of fire was seen close to it, and a thin filing curl of
smoke arose. It went on smouldering for about five minutes, creeping
forwards inch by inch, and then a gust of wind through the door, which
he had left open, fanned it, and a flame broke out. Then it ran
rapidly along, caught the hank of twine, which was in a blaze in a
moment. It spared the netting-needle, which was of hard box-wood, and
for an instant seemed to promise to go out of itself; but then the
flame leaped up, and the meshes of the net which had been left partly
on the table, partly on a chair, showed a spark here and there,
flashed with the flame, and then, oh, how eagerly the greedy element
commenced devouring all that it could meet with! Wherever there was a
piece of wood-work it seized upon it; the table, the chair, the poles
of the net, the upright posts of the wall, the beams of the roof, the
thatch itself, and then instantly a cloud of dull black smoke, mixed
with sparks, rose up upon the moor, from the sand-pit. The heat became
intense, the smoke penetrated into the other chamber, the sparks began
to fall before the window, a red light spread around, and then the
terrified screams of a child were heard.

About a quarter of an hour before, a gentleman had appeared upon the
moor, from the side of Sir John Slingsby's park. He had come up the
hill as if he were walking for a wager, for there was something in the
resistance of the acclivity to his progress, which made the vigorous
spirit of youth and health resolute to conquer it triumphantly. When
the feat was done, however, and the hill passed as if it had been a
piece of level ground, Ned Hayward slackened his pace and looked about
him, enjoyed to the full all that the wide expanse had of grand and
fine, breathed freer in the high air, and let the spirit of solitary
grandeur sink into his heart. He had none of the affected love of the
picturesque and the sublime, which make the folks who assume the
poetical so ridiculous. He was rather inclined to check what people
call fine feelings than not; he was inclined to fancy himself, and to
make other people fancy him a very commonplace sort of person, and he
would not have gone into an ecstasy for the world, even at the very
finest thing that the world ever produced; but he could not help, for
the life of him, feeling every thing that was beautiful and great,
more than he altogether liked, so that, when in society, he passed it
off with a touch of persiflage, putting that sort of shield over what
he felt to be a vulnerable point. Now, however, when he happened to be
alone, he let Nature have her way, and holding his riding-whip by both
ends, walked here and walked there, gazing at the prospect where he
could get a sight of it, and looking to the right and the left as if
not to let any point of loveliness escape him. His eyes soon fell upon
the little tumulus already mentioned, with the sentinel fir-trees
keeping guard upon the top, and thinking that there must be a good
look-out from that high position, he walked slowly up and gazed over
the park towards Tarningham. Suddenly, however, his eyes were
withdrawn, as a cloud of white smoke came rolling up out of the
sand-pit.

"Ha, ha!" he said, "my friend Master Wolf lighting his fire I
suppose."

But the smoke increased. Ned Hayward thought he saw some sparks rising
over the bushes. A sudden sensation of apprehension crossed his mind,
and he walked rapidly down the side of the hillock, and crossed the
intervening space with a step quick in reality, though intended to
appear leisurely; but in a moment a cloud of deeper-coloured smoke,
tinged with flame, burst up into the evening air, and he sprang
forward at full speed. A few bounds brought him to the side of the
pit, and as he reached it a scream met his ear. It was the easily
recognised voice of childhood, in terror or in pain, and Ned Hayward
hesitated not an instant. There was a path down a couple of hundred
yards away to the left, but the scene before his eyes counselled no
delay. There was the cottage, with the farther part of the thatch all
in a blaze, the window of the room beneath it fallen in, and the flame
rushing forth, a cloud of smoke issuing from the door, and scream
after scream proceeding from the nearer end of the building. His
riding-whip was cast down at once, and grasping the stem of the
birch-tree rooted in the very edge, he swung himself over, thinking to
drop upon a sloping part of the bank about ten feet below. The filmy
roots of the shrub, however, had not sufficient room hold upon the
sandy soil to sustain his weight; the tree bent, gave way, and came
down over him with a part of the bank, so that he and his frail
support rolled together to the bottom of the pit. He was up in an
instant, however he might be hurt or he might not, he knew nothing
about it, but the shrill cry of the child rang in his ear, and he
darted forward to the cottage-door. It was full of fire, and dark with
suffocating vapour, but in he rushed, scorching his hair, hands, his
face, and his clothes, found the other door blackened, and in some
places alight with the encroaching fire, tried to open it but failed,
and then shouted aloud, "Keep back, keep back, and I will burst it
open," and then, setting his foot against it, he cast it with a
vigorous effort into the room. A momentary glance around showed him
the child, who had crept as near to the window as possible, and,
darting forward, Ned Hayward caught the boy up in his arms, and rushed
out with him, covering his head with his arm, that none of the beams,
which were beginning to fall, might strike him as they passed, then
setting him down on the green turf when they were at a little
distance, he asked eagerly, "Are there any more?"

The child, however, stupified with terror, gazed in his face and cried
bitterly, but answered not. Seeing he could obtain no reply, Ned
Hayward ran back to the cottage and tried to go in again, but it was
now impossible; the whole way was blocked up with burning rafters, and
large detached masses of the thatch, which had fallen in, and were now
sending up vast showers of sparks, as the wind stirred them. He
hurried to the window and looked in, and though the small panes were
cracking with the heat, he forced it open, and shouted at the extreme
pitch of his voice, to drown the rushing sound of the fire, "Is there
any one within?"

There was no answer, and the moment after, the dry beams being burnt
away, and the support at the other end gone, the whole thatch above
gave way, and fell into the room, the flame above carried up into a
spire as it descended.

The heat was now intolerable, and forced a retreat to a distance.
Captain Hayward took the boy up in his arms and strove to soothe him,
and gain some information from him. It was all in vain, however, and
after a moment's thought, the gentleman said to himself, "I will carry
him away to Tarningham House. Jack Slingsby will never refuse him food
and shelter, I am sure, and in case there should be any one else in
the place it is vain to hope that one could save them now. We can send
up people to look for the bodies. But let us see what's at the back of
the house." He accordingly walked round, still carrying the boy in his
arms, but found nothing there, except a low detached shed, which
seemed in security, as the wind blew the other way. A long trough and
spout, indeed, between the shed and the cottage, seemed in a somewhat
perilous position, and as it was likely that they might lead the fire
to the building yet uninjured, Ned Hayward thought fit to remove them
before he left the ground. This cost him some trouble, as they were
rooted in the sand; but when it was once accomplished he took up the
boy again, sought his hat, and crossing the moor, entered the western
gates of Sir John Slingsby's park without meeting any one from whom he
could obtain information, or to whom he could communicate the event
which had just occurred.



CHAPTER XI.
A Chapter on Ghosts, and a Ghost-story.


The events detailed in the last chapter, or at least that portion of
them in which he himself had borne a share, were related by Ned
Hayward to the party at Sir John Slingsby's after he had rejoined them
at the dinner table, having done his best to remove the traces of his
adventure from his personal appearance. The smoke and sand were washed
away, the burnt and singed garments had been changed for others, and
Ned Hayward still appeared a very good-looking fellow, not the less
interesting perhaps in the eyes of the ladies there present for all
that he had done and suffered. Nevertheless, the fine wavy curls of
his brown hair, which had been burnt off, were not to be recovered in
so short a time, and both his hands showed evident signs of having
been injured by the fire. He was in high spirits, however, for the
assurance that there could be nobody else in the cottage but the boy,
unless it were Gimlet the poacher himself, of which there was no
probability, had relieved the young gentleman's mind of a heavy
weight, and he jested gaily with Sir John Slingsby, who vowed that
with those hands of his he would not be able to throw a line for a
fortnight, replied that he would undertake to catch the finest trout
in the whole water before noon the next day.

"And now, my dear Sir," he continued, turning to the clergyman, "as
you seem to know something of this good gentleman, Gimlet, and his
affairs, I wish you'd give me a little insight into his history."

"It is a sad and not uncommon one," answered Dr. Miles, gravely, "and
I will tell it you some other time. My poor parishioners have a
superstitious feeling about that pit, and that cottage, for a man was
murdered there some years ago. You will find multitudes of people who
will vouch for his ghost having been seen sitting on the bank above,
and under a solitary birch-tree."

"It won't sit there any more," answered Ned Hayward, laughing, "for
the birch-tree and I rolled down into the pit together, as I tried to
drop down by its help, thinking it was quite strong enough to support
me."

"Then I am afraid the ghost is gone altogether for the future," said
Dr. Miles, in a tone of some regret.

"Afraid! my dear doctor," exclaimed Miss Slingsby, "surely you do not
want ghosts among your parishioners?"

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Sir John Slingsby, with a merry, fat,
overflowing chuckle, "Isabella means, my dear doctor, that you may
make your flock as spiritual as you please, but not reduce them quite
to spectres."

"No, papa, you are a wrong interpreter," rejoined his daughter, "I
meant to say that of all men on earth, I should have thought Dr. Miles
was the last to patronise a ghost."

"I don't know, my dear," replied the worthy clergyman, "a ghost is
sometimes very serviceable in a parish. We are but children of a
bigger growth, and a bugbear is as necessary sometimes for great
babies as small ones, not that I ever used it or should use it; but
the people's own imagination did that for me. I have heard, Sir John,
that some men when they were lying out to shoot your deer, were scared
away by one of them fancying he saw the ghost, and you saved two good
haunches of venison, to say nothing of the pasty."

"By Jove, that was a jolly ghost indeed," answered Sir John Slingsby,
"and I'll give him a crown the first time I meet him. Doctor, a glass
of wine."

"If ghosts have such effects upon poachers," said Beauchamp, who had
been speaking in a low tone to Miss Slingsby, "how happens it that
this man, the father of the boy whom Captain Hayward brought hither,
fixed his abode in the spirit's immediate neighbourhood?"

"Oh he is a sad unbelieving dog," said Dr. Miles; but then suddenly
checking himself he added, "and yet I believe in that I do him
injustice; there is some good in the man, and a great deal of
imagination. Half his faults proceed from an ill-disciplined fancy;
but the truth is, being a very fearless fellow, and of this
imaginative disposition, I believe he would just as soon have a ghost
for a next door neighbour as not. Therefore, I do not suppose that it
was from any doubt of the reality of the apparition, but rather in
defiance of it, that he setup his abode there; and perhaps he thought,
too, that it might serve as a sort of safeguard to him, a protection
against the intrusion of persons less bold than himself, at those
hours when ghosts and he himself are wont to wander. He knew well that
none of the country people would come near him then, for all the
ignorant believe in apparitions more or less."

"Now, dear Dr. Miles, do tell me," cried Isabella Slingsby with a gay
laugh, "whether some of the learned do not believe in them too. If it
were put as a serious question to the Rev. Dr. Miles himself, whether
he had not a little quiet belief at the bottom of his heart in the
appearance of ghosts, what would he answer?"

"That he had never seen one, my dear," replied the clergyman, with a
good-humoured smile, "but at the same time I must say that a belief in
the occasional appearance of the spirits of the dead for particular
purposes, is a part of our religion. I have no idea of a man calling
himself a Christian and taking what parts of the Bible he likes, and
rejecting or explaining away the rest. The fact of the re-appearance
of dead people on this earth is more than once mentioned in Scripture,
and therefore I believe that it has taken place. The purposes for
which it was permitted in all the instances there noticed, were great
and momentous, and it may very possibly be that since the Advent of
Our Saviour, no such deviations from usual laws have been requisite.
Of that, however, I can be no judge; but at all events my own reason
tells me, that it is not probable a spirit should be allowed to
revisit the glimpses of the moon for the purpose of making an old
woman say her prayers, or frightening a village girl into fits."

"You are speaking alone of the apparition of the spirits of the dead,"
said Beauchamp, "did you ever hear of the appearance of the spirits of
the living?"

"Not without their bodies, surely!" said Miss Clifford.

"Oh yes, my dear Mary," answered Dr. Miles, "such things are recorded,
I can assure you, ay, and upon testimony so strong that is impossible
to doubt that the witnesses believed what they related, whether the
apparition was a delusion of their own fancy or not--indeed it is
scarcely possible to suppose that it was a delusion, for in several
instances the thing, whatever it was, made itself visible to several
persons at once, and they all precisely agreed in the description of
it."

"One of the most curious occurrences of the kind that ever I heard
of," said Beauchamp, "was told me by a German gentleman to whom it
happened. It was the case of a man seeing his own spirit, and although
we are continually told we ought to know ourselves, few men have ever
had such an opportunity of doing so as this gentleman."

"Oh do tell us the whole story, Mr. Beauchamp," cried Isabella,
eagerly, "I must beg and entreat that you would not tantalise us with
a mere glimpse of such a delightful vision, and then let fall the
curtain again."

"My dear Bella, you are tantalising him," exclaimed her father. "Don't
you see that you are preventing him from eating his dinner; at all
events, we will have a glass of wine first; shall it be Hermitage, Mr.
Beauchamp? I have some of 1808, the year before that rascal, Napoleon,
mixed all the vintages together."

The wine was drunk, but immediately this was accomplished, Isabella
renewed her attack, calling upon Mr. Beauchamp for the story, and in
her eagerness laying one round taper finger upon his arm as he sat
beside her, to impress more fully her commands upon him, as she said,
"I must and will have the story, Mr. Beauchamp."

"Assuredly," he replied, in his usual quiet tone, "but first of all, I
must premise one or two things, that you may give it all the weight it
deserves. The gentleman who told it to me was, at the time of my
acquaintance with him, a man of about seventy years of age, very
simple in his manners, and, however excitable his fancy might have
been in youth, he was at the time I speak of, as unimaginative a
person as it is possible to conceive. He assured me most solemnly, as
an old man upon the verge of eternity, that every word he spoke was
truth, and now I will tell it as nearly in his own language as I can,
and my memory is a very retentive one. You must remember, however,
that it is he who is speaking, and not I; and fancy us sitting
together, the old man and the young one, warming ourselves by a stove
on a winter's night, in the fine old town of Nuremberg."



BEAUCHAMP'S STORY.

"I am of an Italian family," said my friend, "but my father and my
grandfather were both born in Germany; exceedingly good people in
their way, but by no means very wealthy. My elder brother was being
educated for a physician, and had just finished his course of study,
when my father, having given me as good an education as he could in
Nuremberg, thought fit to send me to Hamburg, that I might pursue my
studies there, and take advantage of any opportunity that might occur
for advancing myself in life. My stock of all kinds was exceedingly
small when I set out; my purse contained the closely-estimated
expenses of my journey, and the allowance made for my maintenance
during six months, which did not admit the slightest idea of luxury of
any kind. I was grateful, however, for what was given, for I knew that
my father could afford no more, and I had no hope of another 'heller'
till my half year was out. I had my ordinary travelling dress, and my
mother gave me six new shirts, which she had spun with her own hands;
besides these, my portmanteau contained one complete black suit, two
pair of shoes, and a pair of silver buckles, which my father took off
his own feet and bestowed them upon me with his benediction. My elder
brother always loved me, and was kind to me; and when my going was
first talked of, he regretted deeply that he had nothing to give me;
but my little preparations occupied a fortnight, and during that time
good luck befriended him and me, and he treated and killed his first
patient. Thus he obtained the means of making me a sumptuous present
for my journey, which consisted of a straight-cut blue mantle, with a
square collar. Let me dwell upon the mantle, for it is important. It
was in the Nuremberg fashion, which had gone out of vogue over all
Germany for at last thirty years, and when I first put it on, I felt
very proud of it, thinking that I looked like one of the cavaliers in
the great picture in the town-hall. However, there was not another
mantle like it in all Germany, except in Nuremberg--sky-blue, falling
three inches below the knee, with a square-cut collar. I will pass
over my journey to Hamburg, till my arrival in a little common inn, in
the old part of the town. Not having a pfennig to spare, I set out
early the next morning to look out for a lodging, and saw several that
would have suited myself very well, but which did not suit my
finances. At length, seeing the wife of a grocer standing at the door,
with a good-humoured countenance, in a narrow and dark street,
containing some large, fine houses, which had seen the splendours of
former times, I walked up to her and asked if she could recommend a
lodging to a young man who was not over rich. After thinking for a
moment, she pointed over the way, to a house with a decorated front,
which had become as black as ink with age. The lower story was
entirely occupied by an iron-warehouse; but she said that up above on
the first floor I should find Widow Gentner, who let one room, and who
had, she believed, no lodger at the time. I thanked her many times for
her civility, and walking across the street to the point she
indicated, I looked up at the cornices and other ornaments which were
displayed upon the facade. Dirty they were beyond all doubt. A pair of
stone ladies with baskets in their hands, which had probably been once
as white as snow, now displayed long dripping lines of black upon
their garments; their noses had disappeared, but the balls of the eyes
were of the deepest brown, though above the centre appeared a white
spot, which seemed to show the presence of cataract. The fruit in the
baskets, however, consisted apparently of black cherries, and a dingy
cornucopia, which stood by the side of each, vomited forth swarthy
fruit and flowers of a very uninviting quality. I gazed in surprise
and admiration, and asked myself if it ever would be my fate to live
in so fine a mansion. Taking courage, however, I inquired at the
ironmonger's which was the door of Widow Gentner, and of the three
which opened into the lower part of the house, I was directed to the
second. On the first floor I found a tidy little maid, who introduced
me to the presence of her mistress, a quiet, dry old lady, who was
seated in a room which had apparently formed part of a magnificent
saloon--I say formed part, for it was evident that the size of the
chamber had been much curtailed. On the ceiling, which was of the most
magnificent stucco work I ever saw, appeared various groups of angels
and cherubs in high relief, as large as life, and seated amidst clouds
and bunches of flowers as big as feather-beds. But that ceiling
betrayed the dismemberment of the room; for all along the side where
ran the wall behind the good lady were seen angels' legs without the
heads and bodies, baskets of flowers cut in two, and cherubs with not
above one-half of the members even, which sculptors have left them.
This was soon explained: the widow informed me that she had divided
her chamber into three, of which she reserved one for herself, another
for her little maid, and let the third, which had a staircase to
itself opening from the street. She had done so with a good wall, she
said, to support the plafond, so that if I wanted to see the room she
had to let, I must go down again with her and mount the other stairs,
as there was no door of communication. I admired her prudence, and
accompanied her at once to a small room, arrived at by a small
staircase with its own street-door; and there I found on the ceiling
above my head the lost legs and wings of the angels on the other side,
besides a very solid pair of cherubims of my own. It contained a
little narrow bed, a table, a scanty proportion of chairs and other
things necessary for the existence of a student; and though an
unpleasant feeling of solitude crept over me as I thought of
inhabiting an apartment so entirely cut off from all human proximity,
yet as the widow's rent was small, I closed the bargain at once, and
soon was installed in my new abode. The good lady was very kind and
attentive, and did all she could to make me comfortable, inquiring,
amongst other things, what letters of introduction I had in Hamburg. I
had but one which I considered of any value, which was addressed,
with many of those flourishes which you know are common amongst us, to
Mr. S., a famous man in his day, both as a philosopher and literary
man, and who was also a man of sense of the world, and what is more
than ali, of a kind and benevolent heart. I went to deliver it that
very day, and met with a most kind and friendly reception from a
good-looking old gentleman, of perhaps sixty-three or four, who at
once made me feel myself at home with him, treating me with that
parental air which inspired both respect and confidence. He asked
several questions about my journey, where I lodged, how I intended to
employ my time, and last, what was the state of my finances. I told
him all exactly as it was, and when I rose to depart, he laid his hand
on my arm with the most benevolent air in the world, saying, 'You will
dine with me to-morrow at twelve o'clock, and I shall expect to see
you at dinner three days in the week as long as you stay. From eight
to ten at night I am always at home, and whenever you have nothing
else to do, come in and spend those hours with us.' I will not pretend
to say I was not quite well aware that the place thus granted me at
his dinner-table was offered from a knowledge of the limited state of
my finances; but pride in my case was out of the question, and I was
exceedingly grateful for the act of kindness, which saved me a
considerable sum in my housekeeping, and enabled me to indulge in a
few little luxuries which I could not otherwise have commanded.

"It was the autumn of the year when I arrived at Hamburg, but the time
passed very pleasantly. All the day I was engaged in my studies; at
twelve o'clock I dined, either at my own chamber or at worthy Mr.
S.'s, and almost every evening was spent at his house, where he failed
not to regale me, either with a cup of fine coffee, or sometimes as a
great treat, with a cup of tea, according to your English mode. In
short, I became his nightly guest, and as the evenings grew dark and
sometimes foggy, I bought a little lantern to light myself through the
long and lonely streets which I had to pass from his house to my own.
On these occasions, too, as the weather grew intensely cold, my blue
cloak with the square collar proved a most serviceable friend, and
every night at ten o'clock I might be seen in precisely the same
attire, with my black suit, in great part covered by the azure mantle,
and the small lantern in my hand, finding my way homeward to my
solitary abode. Mr. S. lived in the fine new part of the town, where
he had a handsome house, with two maid-servants and his coachman, but
the latter slept at the stables. I lived, as I have before said, in
the old part of the town, well-nigh a mile distant; thus, in coming
and going, I got exercise at night, if I did not in the day, and I
mark it particularly, that I used to enjoy my walk to his house and
back, and used to look forward to it with pleasure during my hours of
study, in order that you may see, that on the occasion of which I am
about to speak, I was affected by no fantastical melancholy.

"At length, one night in the winter of 17--, after passing the evening
at the house of Mr. S., where I had taken nothing but a cup of coffee
and a slice of brown bread-and-butter, I took leave of my friend, put
on my blue mantle with a square collar, lighted my lantern at the
housemaid's candle, and having safely shut the glass, set out on my
walk home. It was about a quarter-past ten, and the night was clear
and very dark; the sky, indeed, was full of stars, which looked
peculiarly bright as I gazed up at them, between the tall houses, as
if from the bottom of a well, and I felt a sort of exhilarating
freshness in the air that raised my spirits rather than otherwise. I
walked along to the end of the first street with a light step, turned
into the second, and was just entering the third, when I saw a figure
some thirty or forty paces before me, standing in a corner as if
waiting for some one. Although the streets, in the good old days of
Hamburg, were generally by that time of night quite deserted, yet
there was nothing extraordinary in my meeting one or two persons as I
went home, so that I took little or no notice of this figure, till I
had advanced to within about twenty paces, when it turned itself full
towards me, and at the same time the light of my lantern fell direct
upon it. Guess my surprise when I saw a being, so exactly like myself,
that I could have imagined I was looking in a glass. There were the
black legs, the shoes and silver buckles, the blue mantle with the
square-cut collar, and the little lantern with the handle at the back,
held just as I held mine. I stopped suddenly, and rubbed my eyes with
my left hand; but the figure immediately turned round and walked away
before me. At the same time my heart beat violently, and a sort of
strange dreamy sensation of horror came over me, like that which takes
possession of one sometimes when labouring under the nightmare. An
instant's reflection made me ashamed of what I felt, and saying to
myself, 'I'll look a little closer at this gentleman,' I walked on,
hurrying my pace. The figure, however, quickened its steps in the same
proportion. I did not like to run, but I was always a quick walker,
and I hastened as fast as ever I could; but it had no effect; the
figure, without the least apparent effort, kept always at the same
distance, and every moment I felt the sort of superstitious dread
which had taken possession of me increasing, and struggling against
the efforts of resolution. Resolution conquered, however, and
determined to see who this was that was so like me, without showing
him too plainly that I was chasing him, I stopped at a corner where a
street wound round, and entered again the one that I was pursuing at
some distance, and then taking to my heels, I ran as hard as I could
to get before my friend in the blue mantle. When I entered the other
street again, though I must have gained two or three minutes at least,
instead of seeing the figure coming from the side where I had left it,
there it was, walking on deliberately in the direction I usually
followed towards my own house. We were now within three streets of
Widow Gentner's, and though they were all of them narrow enough, I
generally took those which were most open. There was a lane, however,
to the left, which, passing by the grocer's I have mentioned, cut off
at least a quarter of the way, and as I was now overpowered by
feelings I cannot describe, I resolved to take the shortest path, and
run as hard as I could, in order to get home, and shut myself in
before the figure in the blue mantle reached the spot. Off I set then
down the narrow lane like lightning, but when I came to the grocer's
corner, my horror was complete, on beholding the same figure walking
along past the closed windows of the iron-shop, and I stopped with my
heart beating as if it would have burst through my ribs. With eyes
almost starting from my head, and the light of the lantern turned
full upon it, I gazed at its proceedings, when behold, it walked
quietly up to my door, stopped, turned round towards the house, put
the right-hand in its pocket, and seemed feeling for my key. The key
was produced, and stooping down, just as I should have done, after a
little searching for the keyhole, the door was opened, the figure went
in, and instantly the door closed again.

"If you had given me the empire of a world, I could not have made up
my mind to go in after it, and setting off more like a madman than any
thing else, I returned to the house of Mr. S., with the intention of
telling him what had occurred. The bell was answered quickly enough by
the housemaid, who gazed at my wild and scared appearance with some
surprise. She told me, however, that the old gentleman had gone to
bed, and that she could not think of waking him on any account; and
resolved not to go home, and yet not liking to walk the streets of
Hamburg all night, I persuaded her with some difficulty to let me sit
in the saloon till I could speak with Mr. S. in the morning. I will
not detain you by describing how I passed the night; but when my
friend came down the next day, I related to him all that occurred,
with many excuses for the liberty I had taken. He listened gravely,
and his first question naturally was, if I were quite sure I had gone
straight homeward, without entering any of those places where strong
drinks were sold. I assured him most solemnly that the only thing that
had entered my lips that night was the cup of coffee which I had taken
at his house.

"'The maid can tell you,' I said, 'that I had not been absent more
than three quarters of an hour when I returned.'

"'Well, my young friend,' he replied, 'I believe you fully; very
strange things occasionally happen to us in life, and this seems one.
However, we will have some breakfast, and then go and inquire into
it.'

"After breakfast we set out and walked to my house, I pointing out by
the way, all the different spots connected with my tale. When we
reached the gloomy old mansion, with its decorated front, I was going
direct to my own door, but Mr. S. said, 'Stay, we will first talk to
your landlady for a minute.' And we accordingly walked up to the rooms
of Widow Gentner by the other door and the other staircase. The widow
was very proud of the visit of so distinguished a person in the town
as Mr. S., and answered his questions with due respect. The first was
a very common one in that part of Germany, namely, whether she had
slept well that night. She assured him she had, perfectly well; and he
then proceeded with a somewhat impressive air, to inquire if nothing
had occurred to disturb her. She then suddenly seemed to recollect
herself, and answered, 'Now you mention it, I recollect I was awoke
about eleven o'clock, I think, by a noise on the other side of the
wall; but thinking that Mr. Z. had thrown over his table, or something
of that kind, I turned on the other side, and went to sleep again.'

"No further information being to be obtained, we descended to the
street, and taking out my keys, I opened the door, and we went in. My
heart beat a little as we mounted the stairs, but resolving not to
show any want of courage, I boldly unlocked the room-door and threw it
open. The sight that presented itself made me pause on the threshold,
for there on my bed, where I should have been lying at the very moment
of its fall, was the whole ceiling of that part of the room, angels'
legs, and cherubims' wings, flower-baskets, and every thing, and so
great was the weight and the force with which it had come down, that
it had broken the solid bedstead underneath it. As I do not suppose my
head is formed of much more strong materials, it is probable that it
would have been cracked as well as the bed, and I heartily thank God
for my preservation. All my good old friend ventured to say, however,
was, 'A most fortunate escape! Had you slept here last night, you
would have been killed to a certainty.' Though a doctor of philosophy,
he did not risk any speculations upon the strange apparition which I
had beheld the night before; but invited me to take up my abode in his
house till my room could be put in order, never afterwards mentioning
the appearance of my double; and I have only to add that from that
time to this, now between fifty and sixty years, I have never seen
myself again except in a looking-glass."


"Such," continued Beauchamp, "is the story of my German friend,
exactly as he told it to me. I must leave you to judge of it as you
will, for unless you could see the old man, and know his perfect
simplicity of character, and quiet matter-of-fact temper of mind, you
could not take the same view of his history that I do."

"In short, Mr. Beauchamp, you are a believer in ghosts," said Sir John
Slingsby, laughing; "well, for my part, I never saw any better spirit
than a bottle of brandy, and hope never to see a worse."

"Take care you don't find yourself mistaken, Sir John," answered Dr.
Miles, "for although it is rather difficult to meet with good spirits,
the bad ones are much more easily conjured up."

"I am not afraid, doctor," answered Sir John, "and mind, I've only had
three or four glasses of wine, so mine is not Dutch courage now; but
let us talk of something else than ghosts and such things, or we shall
all have the blue devils before we've done--a capital story,
nevertheless, Beauchamp; but this is a good story too, doctor, about
my sister being stopped on the king's highway. Has she told you about
it?"

Dr. Miles merely nodded his head, and Sir John went on,

"I can't make out the game of that old rascal Wittingham, who
seems devilish unwilling to catch the thieves, and had taken himself
out of the way when Ned Hayward and I called this morning. The old
linen-drapering scamp shall find that he can't treat Jack Slingsby in
this way."

"Indeed, my dear brother, I wish you would let the matter rest," said
Mrs. Clifford; "no harm was done, except frightening me very
foolishly, and to pursue it further may, perhaps, lead to disagreeable
consequences. The letter written beforehand, to bring me over by a
report of your illness, shows that this was no ordinary affair."

"A fig for the consequences," cried Sir John Slingsby, "if it were to
set half the town on fire, I would go on with it. Why, my dear
Harriet, am not I a magistrate, one of his majesty's justices of the
peace for the county of ----? Such a conscientious woman as you are,
would never have me neglect my solemn duties." And Sir John chuckled
with a low merry laugh, at the new view he chose to take of his
responsibilities.

In such conversation the evening went on to its close, the subjects
changing rapidly, for the worthy baronet was not one to adhere
tenaciously to any particular line of thought, and Mrs. Clifford,
but more particularly still her daughter, being anxious to quit the
topic just started as soon as possible. Miss Clifford, indeed, seemed
so much agitated and embarrassed, whilst the adventures of the
preceding night were under discussion, that Ned Hayward, who was the
kindest-hearted man alive, and not without tact, especially where
women were concerned, came zealously to her relief, and engaged her in
low and earnest conversation.

It was one of those cases in which two people without well knowing
what they are about, go on puzzling each other, though both may be as
frank as day. They talked of every simple subject which all the world
might have heard discussed--music, painting, poetry; but yet the whole
was carried on in so low a tone that to any one who did not know them
it would have appeared that they were making love. Miss Clifford was
puzzled, perplexed, to make out her companion's character, for she
certainly expected nothing from a man familiarly called Ned Hayward,
and more especially from a particular friend of her uncle's, but a
gay, rattling, good-humoured scapegrace at the best; yet in order to
gain her full attention, and withdraw her thoughts from a subject
which he saw annoyed her, Captain Hayward put off for the time his
usual careless, rapid manner, and spoke with so much feeling and good
taste, and what is more, good sense also, upon all the many topics
upon which their conversation ran--he showed her that he had read so
much, and thought so much, and felt so much, that she became convinced
before he had done, of the complete fallacy of all her preconceived
notions of his disposition. Such a change of opinion is always very
favourable to a man with a woman; for they are such generous
creatures, those women, that if they find they have done one
injustice, they are sure to go to the opposite extreme, and give us
credit for more than is our due.

Ned Hayward's puzzle was of a different kind, but it proceeded from
the same source, namely, an erroneous preconception. He saw that Mary
Clifford was embarrassed, whenever the subject of the attack upon
their carriage was mentioned, that she changed colour, not from red to
white as would have been the case, had terror had aught to do with it,
but from white to red, which is generally a change produced by other
emotions. He therefore set it down as a certain fact, that the fair
lady's heart was a little engaged in the transaction; and yet, as they
went on talking in that same low voice, she twice returned to the
subject herself, not without some degree of embarrassment it is true,
but still as if she wished to say more, and Ned Hayward thought with
some degree of pique, "Well, my pretty friend, I am not quite old
enough to be made a confidant of yet."

At length, just as the dessert was being put upon the table, tiresome
Sir John Slingsby harped back upon the subject, asking Mr. Beauchamp
if he thought he could swear to any of the persons concerned; and
taking advantage of a quick and somewhat loud conversation which went
on between those two gentlemen and Dr. Miles, Miss Clifford suddenly
broke through what she was talking of with her companion on the right,
and said earnestly, but still almost in a whisper, "Captain Hayward,
you rendered me a very great service last night, for which I shall
ever feel grateful, and it will add immensely to the favour, if you
can prevent my uncle from pursuing the matter in the manner he seems
inclined to do. Particular circumstances, which I may some time have
an opportunity of explaining, would render it most painful to me to
have the scandalous outrage which was committed upon us last night
dragged into a court of justice; indeed, I think it would half kill
me, especially if I had to give evidence, as I suppose would be the
case."

"I will do my best," answered Ned Hayward, "but you must not be angry
or surprised, at any means I may take for that purpose. I could act
better, indeed, if I knew the circumstances."

"All I can say at present," answered the young lady, in a low tone,
"is, that this was not a case of robbery, as you all seem to suppose."

The colour mounted into her cheek as she spoke, and she added quickly,
"I cannot reproach myself with any thing in the affair, Captain
Hayward, although I have scrutinised my own conscience severely; but
yet at the same time, even to have my name talked of in connexion with
such a proceeding, and with such--such a person, would distress me
more than I can describe. I will say more another time."

"In the meanwhile, I will do my best," replied the other, and even
while he was speaking, the roll of wheels was heard driving up to the
door, and a minute or two after, one of the servants entered,
announcing that Mr. Wittingham was in the library.

"Let him stay, let him stay," said Sir John Slingsby, "he'll have an
opportunity there of improving his mind. What, what do you say?" he
continued, as the man whispered something over his shoulder, "we've
neither secrets of state nor high treason here,--speak out."

"Please you, Sir John, two of Mr. Wittingham's men have brought up
Stephen Gimlet, whom they call Wolf, with irons upon him. I have kept
him in the hall."

"Hang it!" cried Ned Hayward, "my little boy's father. I hope he has
not been doing any serious mischief!"

"I don't think it, I don't think it," said Dr. Miles, eagerly, "the
man has a heart and a conscience, a little warped, it is true; but
still sound--sound, I think--I will go and speak to him."

"Hang him, he steals my pheasants!" exclaimed Sir John Slingsby.

"Then why don't you put him to keep them, colonel?" asked Ned Hayward.
"He would make a capital keeper, I am sure. Set a thief to catch a
thief, Sir John."

"Not a bad idea, Ned," answered the baronet. "Stay, stay, doctor, he's
not condemned yet, and so does not want the parson. We had better talk
to old Wittingham first. We'll have him in and fuddle him. Give my
compliments to Mr. Wittingham, Matthews, and beg him to walk in. You
need not go, Harriet. He's quite a lady's man."

But Mrs. Clifford rose, not at all anxious to witness the process of
fuddling a magistrate, and withdrew with her daughter and her niece.



CHAPTER XII.
In which the Magistrate is fuddled by the Baronet.


"Ah! Wittingham! Wittingham!" cried the baronet, stretching forth his
hand without rising, as the servant introduced the worthy magistrate,
"is that you, my old buck? If you haven't come in pudding-time,
you have come in wine-time, and will get what so few men get in
life,--your dessert. Sit down and pledge me, old fellow. What shall it
be in? Here's port that was bottled when I came of age, so you may
judge that it is good old stuff! Madeira that has made more voyages
than Cook, Comet Claret of 1811, and a bottle of Burgundy that smells
under my nose like oil of violets."

"Why, Sir John," replied Mr. Wittingham, taking the seat just left
vacant by Mrs. Clifford, and very well pleased with so familiar a
reception, when he expected quite the reverse; for to say the truth,
although some circumstances had happened to make him resolve upon
taking the bull by the horns, and visiting the old lion of Tarningham
Park in his den, it was nevertheless with great pain and difficulty
that he had screwed his courage to the sticking-point, "why, Sir John,
I come upon business, and it is better to transact affairs of
importance with a clear head."

"Pooh, nonsense!" exclaimed the baronet; "no man ever did business
well without being half drunk. Look at my old friend Pitt, poor
fellow! and Charley Fox, too, Sir William Scott, and Dundas, and all
of them, not a set of jollier topers in the world than they were, and
are still--what are left of them. Well, here's health to the living
and peace to the dead--Burgundy, eh?" and he filled a glass for Mr.
Wittingham to the brim.

The worthy magistrate took it, and drinking Sir John Slingsby's toast
was about to proceed to business, when the baronet again interrupted
him, saying, "Let me introduce you to my friends, Wittingham; there's
no fun in drinking with men you don't know. Dr. Miles you are
acquainted, this is my friend Mr. Beauchamp, and this my friend,
Captain Hayward. Gentlemen both, know, esteem, and admire Henry
Wittingham, Esq., one of the ornaments of the bench of the county
of ----, one of the trustees of the turnpike roads, a very active
magistrate, and a very honest man. Sink the shop, Witty," he
continued, in a friendly whisper to his companion, for Sir John seldom
if ever allowed Mr. Wittingham to escape without some allusion to his
previous occupations, which naturally made that gentleman hate him
mortally. "But before we have another glass, my good friend, I must
make you acquainted with these gentlemen's high qualities," proceeded
the baronet. "Here's Ned Hayward, the most deadly shot in Europe,
whether with pistol, rifle, or fowling-piece, nothing escapes him,
from the human form divine down to a cock-sparrow. The best angler in
England, too; would throw a fly into a tea-spoon at fifty yards
distance. He has come down for an interminable number of months to
catch my trout, kill my game, and drink my Claret. Then there is my
friend Mr. Beauchamp, more sentimentally given, a very learned man and
profound, loves poetry and solitary walks, and is somewhat for musing
melancholy made; but is a good hand at a trigger, too, I can tell
you--a light finger and a steady aim; ha! Beauchamp," and the baronet
winked his eye and laughed.

Beauchamp smiled good-humouredly, and in order to change the course of
the conversation, which was not exactly what suited him, he said that
he had the pleasure of a slight acquaintance with Mr. Wittingham.

Ned Hayward however, somewhat to Beauchamp's surprise, seemed
determined to encourage their host in his light and rattling talk, and
taking the latter up where Sir John had left it, he said, "Oh dear
yes, I dare say we shall have capital sport down here. The old work of
the 51st, Sir John; clearing all the fences, galloping over all the
turnips, riding down the young wheat, forgetting the limits of the
manor, letting the beasts out of the pound, making a collection of
knockers and bell-pulls, fighting the young men, and making love to
the young women--Mr. Wittingham, the wine stands with you."

Mr. Wittingham filled his glass and drank, saying with a grave and
somewhat alarmed air, "I don't think that would exactly do in this
county, Sir; the magistrates are rather strict here."

"The devil they are," said Ned Hayward, with a good deal of emphasis,
the meaning of which Mr. Wittingham could not well help understanding;
but the next moment the young gentleman went on: "but who cares a pin
for magistrates, Mr. Wittingham? They're nothing but a parcel of old
women."

"Halo, halo, Ned," cried Sir John, "you forget in whose presence you
are speaking; reverence the bench, young man, reverence the bench;
and if you can't do that, reverence the colonel."

"Oh, you're a great exception to the general rule," replied Captain
Hayward, "but what I say is very true, nevertheless: and as I like to
define my positions, I will give you a lexicographical description of
the magistrates. They should be called in any dictionary, a body
of men selected from the most ignorant of the people, for the
mal-administration of good laws."

"Bravo, bravo," shouted Sir John Slingsby, roaring with laughter, and
even Dr. Miles nodded his head with a grave smile, saying, "Too just a
definition indeed."

Mr. Wittingham looked confounded, but Sir John passed him the bottle,
and for relief he again fell to his glass and emptied it. Now to men
not quite sure of their position, there is nothing so completely
overpowering as jest and merriment with a dash of sarcasm. In grave
argument, where they have their own vanity for their backer, they will
always venture to meet men both of superior abilities and superior
station, whether in so doing they expose themselves or not; for in
that case their notions are generally formed beforehand, and they are
fully convinced that those notions are just; but in a combat of the
wit, it requires to be a very ready man, and also to have all those
habits of society which enable one to make the reply tart enough, with
every semblance of courtesy. On the bench and in the justice-room Mr.
Wittingham would often venture to spar with Sir John Slingsby, and
sometimes with a good deal of success; for although the baronet had
much greater natural abilities and information, yet he had so many
foibles and failings, and occasionally such a degree of perversity,
that from time to time his adversary would get hold of a weak point,
and drive him into a corner. It always ended, however, by Sir John
coming off triumphant; for when he found that argument failed him he
had recourse to ridicule, and in two minutes would utterly confound
his antagonist, and overwhelm him amidst peals of laughter.

In the present instance Mr. Wittingham found that Sir John was in one
of his jocular moods, and scarcely dared to say a word lest he should
bring some of his hard jests upon his head, especially when he had the
strong support which Ned Hayward seemed capable of giving. He was
therefore anxious to proceed to the business that brought him as
speedily as possible; and giving up the defence of the magistracy
after a momentary pause, he said, "Really, Sir John, as I must get
home soon--"

"Not till you have finished your bottle, man," cried Sir John
Slingsby, pushing the Burgundy to him; "whoever comes to see me after
dinner, must fight me or drink a bottle with me; so here's to your
health, Witty--a bumper, a bumper, and no heel-taps."

Now the glasses at Sir John Slingsby's table might well be called
wine-glasses, for they seldom had any other liquor in them; but at the
same time, in size they were not much less than those vessels which
are named tumblers, I suppose from their being less given to tumbling
than any other sort of glass. Mr. Wittingham had drank three already,
besides the moderate portion which he had taken at his own dinner; but
in order to get rid of the subject, he swallowed another of strong
Burgundy, and then commenced again, saying, "Really, Sir John, we must
go to business. We can sip your good wine while we are talking the
affair over."

"Sip it!" exclaimed his host, "whoever heard of a man sipping such
stuff as this? Nobody ever sips his wine but some lackadaisical,
lovelorn swain, with a piece of Cheshire cheese before him, making
verses all the time upon pouting lips and rounded hips, and sparkling
eyes and fragrant sighs, and pearly teeth and balmy breath, and
slender nose and cheek that glows, and all the O's! and all the I's!
that ever were twisted into bad metre and had sense; or else the
reformed toper, who is afraid of exceeding the stint that his doctors
have allowed him, and lingers out every drop with the memory of many a
past carouse before his eyes. No, no, such wine as this is made to be
swallowed at a mouthful, washing the lips with a flood of enjoyment,
stimulating the tongue, spreading a glow over the palate, and cooling
the tonsils and the throat only to inflame them again with fresh
appetite for the following glass--sip it! why hang it, Wittingham, it
is to insult a good bottle of wine, and I trust that you may be shot
dead by a Champagne cork to teach you better manners."

"Well, then," cried Mr. Wittingham, stimulated to _répartee_ by
impatience, "I will say, Sir John, that we can swill your wine while
we are talking of business."

"Ay, that's something like," cried Sir John Slingsby, not at all
discomposed, "you shall swill the wine, and I will drink it, that'll
suit us both. Beauchamp we will let off, because he's puny, and Doctor
Miles because he's reverend; Ned Hayward will do us justice, glass for
glass, I'll answer for it. So another bumper, and then to business;
but first we'll have lights, your worship, for it's growing dusky,"
and Sir John rose to ring the bell.

Scarcely, however, had he quitted his seat, when there was heard a
loud report. One of the panes of glass in the window flew in shining
splinters into the room, and a ball whistling through, passed close to
the head of Mr. Wittingham, knocked off his wig, and lodged in the eye
of a Cupid who was playing with his mother in a large picture on the
other side of the room.

"Zounds!" cried Sir John Slingsby.



CHAPTER XIII.
In which better days seem to dawn upon the Poacher.


A high-sounding oath from Sir John Slingsby passed unnoticed, for
though every one had heard the shot, each person's attention was
suddenly called to an object of his own. Ned Hayward sprang to the
window and looked out, Dr. Miles started up and turned towards Mr.
Wittingham; and Beauchamp, who was sitting next to that gentleman,
suddenly stretched out his hand, and caught him by the arm and
shoulder, so as to break his fall to the ground, though not to stop
it; for the worthy magistrate, with a low exclamation of horror, which
reached no ear but one, pressed his hand upon his heart, and fell
fainting to the ground, just as if the ball, which had entered the
window, had found out the precise spot in his skin, which had not been
dipped in Styx. Nevertheless, when Sir John and Mr. Beauchamp, and Dr.
Miles, lifted him up off the floor, and seated him on his chair again,
though they undoubtedly expected to find one of those small holes
which I should call a life-door, were it not that they never let life
in, if they often let life out, yet no wound of any kind was to be
perceived, except in the wig. Lights were brought, servants hurried in
and out, cold water was sprinkled on the old gentleman's face, the
butler recommended sal volatile, Sir John Slingsby tried brandy; and
at length Mr. Wittingham was brought to himself. Every one was busy
about him but Ned Hayward; and as Ned was a very charitable and
benevolent man, it may be necessary to say why he bestowed no care nor
attention on Mr. Wittingham. The fact was, that he did not know any
thing was the matter with him; for Ned Hayward was no longer in the
room; the window was open, indeed, and Ned Hayward had jumped out.

To return to Mr. Wittingham, however, no sooner did he recover breath
enough to articulate, than he declared, in a low voice, he must go
home.

"Why, my dear fellow!" exclaimed Sir John Slingsby, "you're not hurt,
only frightened, devilish frightened, that's all, and you're still
white about the gills, and fishy in the eyes. Come, come, finish your
bottle, and get rid of that haddock-look before you go, or you may
faint again in the carriage."

"I must go home," repeated Mr. Wittingham, in a dismal tone.

"Then what's to become of the business you came about?" inquired the
baronet.

"I must leave it in your hands, Sir John," replied Mr. Wittingham,
rising feebly; "l have no head for it to-night. It was about that
notorious poacher, Gimlet, I came; the constables will tell you how I
happen to have him apprehended; but I must go, I must go, I have no
head for it."

"Though the bullet kept out, plenty of lead has got in, somehow or
other," muttered Sir John Slingsby, as his fellow-magistrate tottered
towards the door; but the baronet was not a bad-hearted man, and,
taking compassion on Mr. Wittingham's state, he followed him with a
large glass of Madeira, insisted upon his drinking it, and supported
him under the right arm to the hall-door, where he delivered him over
to the hands of the butler to put him safely into his carriage. While
this was being effected, Sir John turned round and gazed upon the
figure of Stephen Gimlet, and the two officers who had him in charge;
and if his look was not peculiarly encouraging to the poacher, it
certainly was much less so towards the constables. To say the truth, a
constable was an animal, towards which, for some reason or another,
Sir John Slingsby entertained a great dislike. It is not impossible
that his old roving propensities, and sundry encounters with the
particular kind of officer which was now under his thumb, had
impressed him with a distaste for the whole species; but, assuredly,
had he been called upon to give a Linæan description of the creature,
it would have been: "A two-legged beast of the species hound, made to
be beaten by blackguards and bullied by magistrates."

Waving his hand, therefore, with an air of dignity, over his extended
white waistcoat, he said,--

"Bring him in," and leading the way back to the dining-room, he seated
himself in his great chair, supported on either side by decanters; and
while the constables were entering, and taking up a position before
him, he pushed a bottle either way, to Dr. Miles and Mr. Beauchamp,
saying, in as solemn a tone as if he were delivering sentence of
death, "A bumper, gentlemen, for a toast--now Master Leathersides, why
do you bring this man before me?"

"Why, please your worship's honour," replied the constable, "we
apprehended him for poaching in the streets of Tarningham, and--"

"Halloah!" cried Sir John, "poaching in the streets of Tarningham,
that's a queer place to set springes. Leathersides, you're drunk."

"No please your honour's worship, I arn't," whimpered the constable,
who would at any time rather have been sent for a week to prison, than
be brought up before Sir John Slingsby; "I said, as how we apprehended
him in the streets of Tarningham, not as he was a-poaching there."

"Then where was he poaching when you apprehended him?" demanded Sir
John, half in fun, half in malice, and with a full determination of
puzzling the constable.

"Can't say he was poaching anywhere just then," replied Mr.
Leathersides.

"Then you'd no business to apprehend him," replied the baronet,
"discharge the prisoner, and evacuate the room. Gentlemen, are you
charged? The king, God bless him!" and he swallowed down his glass of
wine, winking his eye to Beauchamp, at what he thought his good joke
against the constables.

Mr. Leathersides, however, was impressed with a notion, that he must
do his duty, and that that duty was to remonstrate with Sir John
Slingsby; therefore, after a portentous effort, he brought forth the
following words:--

"But, Sir John, when we'd a got 'un, Mr. Wittingham said we were to
keep un'."

"Where's your warrant?" thundered Sir John.

"Can't say we've got one," said the other constable, for Mr.
Leathersides was exhausted.

"If you apprehended him illegally," said Sir John Slingsby,
magisterially, "you detained him still more illegally. Leathersides,
you're a fool. Mr. What's-your-name, you're an ass. You've both
violated the law, and I've a great mind to fine you both--a bumper--so
I will, by Jove. Come here and drink the king's health;" and Sir John
laughed heartily while inflicting this very pleasant penalty, as they
thought it, upon the two constables; but resolved to carry the joke
out, the baronet, as soon as the men had swallowed the wine,
exclaimed, in a pompous tone: "Stephen Gimlet, you are charged with
poaching in the streets of Tarningham, and convicted on the sufficient
testimony of two constables. Appear before the court to receive
sentence. Prisoner, your sentence is this; that you be brought up to
this table, and there to gulp down, at a single and uninterrupted
draught, one glass of either of those two liquors called Port or
Madeira, at the discretion of the court, to the health of our
sovereign lord the king; and that, having so done, you shall be
considered to have made full and ample satisfaction for the said
offence."

"With all my heart, Sir," said Ste Gimlet, taking the glass of wine
which Sir John Slingsby offered him. "Here's to the king, God bless
him! and may he give us many such magistrates as Sir John Slingsby."

"Sir, I've a great mind to fine you another bumper for adding to my
toast," exclaimed the baronet; and then, waving his hand to the
constables, he continued: "Be off, the prisoner is discharged; you've
nothing more to do with him--stay here, Master Gimlet, I've something
to say to you;" and when the door was shut, he continued, with a very
remarkable change of voice and manner: "Now, my good friend, I wish to
give you a little bit of warning. As I am Lord of the Manor for many
miles round the place where you live, the game you have taken must be
mine, and, therefore, I have thought myself justified in treating the
matter lightly, and making a joke of it. You may judge, however, from
this, that I speak disinterestedly, and as your friend, when I point
out to you, that if you follow the course you are now pursuing, it
will inevitably lead you on to greater offences. It will deprave your
mind, teach you to think wrong right, to resist by violence the
assertion of the law, and, perhaps, in the end, bring you to the awful
crime of murder, which, whether it be punished in this world or not,
is sure to meet its retribution hereafter."

"Upon my life and soul, Sir John," said Ste Gimlet, earnestly, "I will
never touch a head of game of yours again."

"Nor any one else's, I hope," answered Sir John Slingsby, "you are an
ingenious fellow I have heard, and can gain your bread by better
means."

"How?" inquired the man, emphatically; but the moment after he added,
"I will try at all events. This very morning, I was thinking I would
make a change, and endeavour to live like other people; but then I
fancied it would be of no use. First, people would not employ me, and
I feared to try them. Next, I feared myself; for I have led a wild
rambling kind of life, and have got to love it better than any other.
If there were a chance of men treating me kindly and giving me
encouragement, it might answer; but if I found all faces looking cold
on me, and all hearts turned away from me, though perhaps I have
deserved it, I am afraid I should just fall back into my old ways
again. However, I will try--I will try for the child's sake, though it
will be a hard struggle at first, I am sure."

Sir John Slingsby laid his finger upon his temple and thought for a
moment. He had been serious for a long while--fully five minutes--and
he had some difficulty in keeping up his grave demeanour; but that was
not all: some words which Ned Hayward had let fall almost at random,
suggested a plan to his mind which he hesitated whether he should
adopt or not. Perhaps--though he was a kind-hearted man, as we have
seen and said before--he might have rejected it, had it not been for
its oddity; but it was an odd plan, and one that jumped with his
peculiar humour. He was fond of doing all sorts of things that other
men would not do, just because they would not--of trying experiments
that they dared not try--of setting at defiance every thing which had
only custom and convention for its basis; and, therefore, after an
instant's meditation, given to the consideration of whether people
would suppose he was actuated by benevolence or eccentricity (he would
not have had them think he did an odd thing from benevolence for the
world), he went on as the whim prompted to reply to Stephen Gimlet's
last words, mingling a high degree of delicacy of feeling with his
vagaries, in the strangest manner possible, as the reader will see.

"Well Ste," he said, "perhaps we may make it less of a struggle than
you think. I'll tell you what, my fine fellow, you're very fond of
game--a little too fond perhaps. Now, my friend, Ned Hayward--that's
to say, Captain Hayward. Where the deuce he has gone to?--I don't
known--ran after the clumsy fellow, I suppose, who fired through the
window and missed the deer too, I'll be bound. It must have been
Conolly, the underkeeper; nobody but Conolly would have thought of
firing right towards the window--but as I was saying, my friend, Ned
Hayward, said just now that you'd make a capital keeper. What do you
think of it, Gimlet? Wouldn't it do?"

"Not under Mr. Hearne, Sir," answered Ste Gimlet. "We've had too many
squabbles together;" and he shook his head.

"No, no, that would never do," replied Sir John, laughing; "you'd soon
have your charges in each other's gizzards. But you know Denman died a
week ago, over at the Trottington Hall manor, on t'other side of the
common--you know it, you dog--you know it well enough, I can see by
the twinkling of your eye. I dare say you have looked into every nest
on the manor, since the poor fellow was bagged by the grim archer.
Well, but as I was saying, there's the cottage empty and eighteen
shillings a week, and you and Hearne can run against each other, and
see which will give us the best day's sport at the end of the year.
What do you say, Gimlet? you can go and take possession of the cottage
this very night; I don't want it to stand empty an hour longer."

"Thank you a thousand times, Sir John," said the man heartily; "you
are a kind gentleman indeed, but I must go up to my own place first.
There's my little boy, you know. Poor little man, I dare say he has
cried his heart out."

"Pooh, nonsense, not a bit," said the baronet, "I'll take care of all
that. I'll send up and have him fetched."

The man smiled and shook his bread, saying, "He would not come with a
stranger."

"What will you bet?" cried Sir John Slingsby, laughing. "I'll bet you
a guinea against your last ferret, that he'll come directly. Here,
Matthew--Moore--Harrison," he continued, first ringing the bell, and
then opening the door to call, "some of you d--d fellows run up and
bring Ste Gimlet's little boy. Tell him, his daddy's here," and Sir
John Slingsby sat down and laughed prodigiously, adding every now and
then, "I'll take any man five guineas of it that he comes."

There is an exceedingly good old English expression, which smart
people have of late years banished from polite prose, but which I
shall beg leave to make use of here. Sir John Slingsby then was known
to be a _comical fellow_. Stephen Gimlet was well aware that such was
the case; and though he thought the joke was a somewhat extravagant
one, to send a man-servant up to the moor at that hour of the evening,
to fetch down his little boy, yet still he thought it a joke. His only
anxiety, however, was to prevent its being carried too far, and,
therefore, after twirling his hat about for a minute in silence, he
said--

"Well, Sir John, perhaps if he's told I am here, he may come; but now
I recollect, I locked the door; and besides, there are all my things
to be fetched down; so if you will be kind enough to give me till
to-morrow, Sir, I will accept your bounty with a grateful heart, and
do my best to deserve it--and I am sure I am most grateful to the
gentleman who first spoke of such a thing. I am, indeed," he added,
with some degree of hesitation, and cheek rather reddened; for while
Sir John was still laughing heartily, he saw that Mr. Beauchamp's fine
lustrous eyes were fixed upon him with a look of deep interest, and
that Doctor Miles was blowing his nose violently, while his eyelids
grew rather red.

"I don't doubt it in the least, Ste," said Sir John; "Ned Hayward is a
very good fellow--a capital fellow--you owe him a great deal, I can
tell you. There! there!" he continued, as the door opened to give
admission to the servant, "I told you he would come--didn't I tell
you? There he is, you see!"

Stephen Gimlet gazed for an instant in silent astonishment when he
beheld the boy in the butler's arms, wrapped warmly up in the
housekeeper's shawl; for at Sir John's indisputable commands, they had
taken him from his bed. He was confounded: he was one thunderstruck;
but the moment after, the child, recovering from the first dazzling
effect of the light, held out his little hands to his father with a
cry of delight, exclaiming, "There's my daddy, there's my daddy!" and
the poacher sprang forward and caught him to his heart.

Sir John Slingsby was himself overset by what he had done: the tears
started in his eyes; but still he laughed louder than ever;
out-trumpeted Doctor Miles with blowing his nose, wiped away the tears
with the back of his hand, put on his spectacles to hide them, and
then looked over the spectacles to see Ste Gimlet and his boy.

The child was nestling on his father's breast and prattling to him;
but in a moment the man started and turned pale, exclaiming,
"Fire!--the place burnt! What in Heaven's name does he mean?"

"There, there!" cried Doctor Miles, coming forward and making the man
sit down, seeing that he looked as ghastly as the dead, with strong
emotion. "Don't be alarmed, Stephen. Don't be agitated. Lift up the
voice of praise and thanksgiving to God, for a great mercy shown you
this day, not alone in having saved your child from a terrible death,
but in having sent you a warning with a most lenient hand, which will
assuredly make you a better man for all your future days. Lift up the
voice of praise, I say, from the bottom of your heart."

"I do indeed!" cried the poacher, "I do indeed!" and bending down his
head upon the boy's neck, he wept. "But how did it happen?--how could
it happen?" he continued, after a while, "and how, how was he saved?"

"Why, Ned Hayward saved him, to be sure," cried the baronet. "Gallant
Ned Hayward--who but he? He saw the place burning from the top of the
barrow, man, rushed in, burnt himself, and brought out the boy."

"God bless him! God bless him!" cried the father. "But the fire," he
added, "how could the place take fire?"

"That nasty cross man set it on fire, daddy, I'm sure," said the boy;
"the man that was there this morning. He came when you were away, and
he wouldn't answer when I called, and I saw him go away, through the
peep-hole, with a lighted stick in his mouth. I didn't do it indeed,
daddy."

A glimpse of the truth presented itself to Stephen Gimlet's mind; and
though he said nothing, he clenched one hand tight, so tight that the
print of the nails remained in the palm; but then his thoughts turned
to other things, and rising up out of the chair in which Doctor Miles
had placed him, he turned to Sir John Slingsby, and said, "Oh, Sir, I
wish I could say how much I thank you!"

"There, there, Stephen," replied the baronet, waving his hand kindly,
"no more about it. You have lost one house and you have got another;
you have given up one trade and taken a better. Your boy is safe and
well; so as the good doctor says, praise God for all. Take another
glass of wine, and when you have talked a minute with the little man,
give him back to the housekeeper. He shall be well taken care of till
you are settled, and in the meantime you can go down to the Marquis of
Granby in the village, and make yourself comfortable till to-morrow.
Hang me if I drink any more wine to-night. All this is as good as a
bottle;" and Sir John rose to join the ladies.

The other two gentlemen very willingly followed his example; but
before they went, Beauchamp, who had had his pocket-book in his hand
for a minute or two, took a very thin piece of paper out of it, and
went round to Stephen Gimlet.

"You have lost all your furniture, I am afraid," he said, in a low
voice; "there is something to supply its place with more."

"Lord bless you, Sir, what was my furniture worth?" said the poacher,
looking at the note in his hand, with a melancholy smile; but by that
time Beauchamp was gone.



CHAPTER XIV.
The Pursuit.


"I wonder where the deuce Ned Hayward can be gone," was the
exclamation of Sir John Slingsby about ten o'clock at night when
he found that his young guest did not reappear; and so do I wonder,
and perhaps so does the reader too. It will therefore be expedient,
in order to satisfy all parties, to leave the good people at
Tarningham-park and pursue our friend at once, for we have no time to
spare if we would catch him. He is a desperate hard rider when there
is any object in view, and he certainly left the park on horseback.

When last we saw him, the hour was about half-past seven or a quarter
to eight, night was beginning to fall, and without doing any thing
figurative in regard to the evening--without comparing the retiring
rays of light to the retreat of a defeated army, or the changing
colour of the sky to the contents of a London milkmaid's pail under
the influence of the pump--we may be permitted to say that the heavens
were getting very gray; the rose and the purple had waned, and night,
heavy night, was pouring like a deluge through the air. Nevertheless,
the night was fine, a star or two shone out, and the moment Ned
Hayward sprang to the window through which the ball had come, he saw a
figure hurrying away through the trees at the distance of about three
hundred yards. They were fine old trees with no underwood--English
park trees, wide apart, far-spreading, gigantic; and Ned Hayward
paused an instant to gaze after he had jumped out of the window, and
then took to his heels and ran on as fast as a pair of long, strong,
well-practised legs would carry him. There was turf below him and his
feet fell lightly, but he had not gained more than fifty yards upon
the figure when he saw through the bolls another figure not human but
equine. For a short distance the person he pursued did not seem aware
that he had a follower, but before the time arrived when the horse
became apparent some indications seemed to reach his ear, and, if Ned
Hayward ran quick, the other seemed to run nearly as fast. When the
young gentleman was within about a hundred yards of him, however, the
man was upon the horse's back and galloping away.

Ned Hayward stopped and followed him with his eyes, marking the course
he took as far as the light would permit. He then listened, and heard
the noise of the horse's feet distinctly beating the ground in one
direction. The next moment the sounds became confused with others, as
if another horse were near, and turning round to the road which led
from the gate on the side of Tarningham, the young officer saw a
mounted man coming slowly up towards the house.

"By Jove, this is lucky!" said Ned Hayward, as he recollected having
heard Sir John Slingsby tell a groom to carry a note to Mr. Wharton,
the lawyer: and running down to the road as fast as possible, he
stopped the servant, and bade him dismount and let him have the horse
immediately.

The groom recognised his master's guest; but he had some hesitation,
and began his reply with a "Please, Sir--" But Ned cut him short at
once, in a very authoritative tone; and in two minutes he was in the
saddle. He paused not an instant to think, for calculation was a very
rapid process with him, and, during his morning's rambles, he had
marked, with a soldier's eye, all the bearings and capabilities of the
park and the ground round about it. The result of his combinations was
thus expressed upon the mental tablet, or nearly thus:--

"The fellow cannot get out by the way he has taken; for there is no
gate, and the park paling is planted at the top of the high bank, so
that no man in England dare leap it. He must take to the right or
left. On the left he will be checked by the river and the thick copse
which would bring him round close to the house again. He will,
therefore, take to the right, and pass the gates on the top of the
hill. He must come down half way to the other gates, however, before
he can get out of the lane; and I shall not be much behind him."

He rode straight, therefore, to the gates on the Tarningham side,
passed them, turned sharp to the left, galloped up the sandy lane
under the park wall, and blessed his stars as he saw the edge of the
moon beginning to show itself in the east.

"Hang me if I give up the chase till I have run him down," said Ned
Hayward; but when a man sets out hunting a fox with such a
determination, he never knows how far the fox or the determination may
lead him. Away he went, however, like a shot. The horse was a strong,
well-built cob, of about fourteen hands three, which had been
accustomed to bear the great bulk and heavy riding of Sir John
Slingsby to cover; and it sprang out under the lighter weight and
better balance of the younger man, as if it had a feather on its back.
Up this hill they went, all gathered together like a woolpack: an easy
hand, an easy seat, and an exact poise, made the rider feel to the
beast not half his real weight; and, in two minutes, Ned Hayward's
quick ear caught the sound of other hoofs besides those underneath
him. "I shall have him now!" he said; but suddenly the sounds became
fainter. Three springs more and he had the horseman before him; but at
a hundred and fifty yards' distance, going over the moor. There was a
fence and ditch on the right hand; and Ned Hayward pushed his horse at
them. The good little beast rose gallantly by the moonlight; but there
was a ditch on the other side also, which neither saw. He cleared it
with his fore-feet, but his hind went in, and over he came sprawling.
Neither rider nor beast were hurt; and Ned Hayward picked him up in a
minute, and away again.

The fugitive had gained ground, nevertheless, and was shooting off
like a falling star; but the moonlight was now bright, lying in long
misty lines upon the moor. A few rapid steps brought them to the sandy
road, and on--on they dashed as if for life. On, however, dashed the
other horseman likewise. He knew the ground well, his horse was good,
he really rode for life. It was as even a race as ever was seen. The
wide moor extended for miles, every tree and bush was visible, and
even the distant belts of planting where the common ended on the right
could be seen lying black and heavy against the moonlight sky; but yet
there was a darkness over the ground which showed that it was not day;
and still, as he urged the willing beast forward, Ned Hayward kept a
ready hand upon the bridle in case of need. Soon he thought he gained
upon the other, but then he saw him turn from the sandy road and take
over the turf to the left. Ned Hayward ran across, and pressed hard
the beast's sides. On, on they went; but the next instant the ground
seemed darker before him, and the pursuer checked up his horse
suddenly upon the very edge of a deep pit, while the other rode on
unobstructed on the further side.

Not more than a moment was lost or gained, however, for turning
quickly round the edge of the pit, though keeping a sharper eye upon
the ground than before, Ned Hayward still followed a diagonal course,
which saved him as much of the distance between him and the fugitive
as he had lost by the temporary check. When he, too, had got to the
other side of the pit, the space between them was about the same that
it had been at first, but the ground sloped gently downward, and then
spread out in a perfect flat with neither trees nor bushes, although
some thick rushy spots assumed here and there the appearance of
bunches of bramble, or bilberry, but afforded no interruption to the
horses' speed, and on they went, helter skelter, over the moor, as if
the great enemy were behind them.

In a few minutes a light was visible on the right, and Ned Hayward
said to himself, "He is making for some house;" but the next instant
the light moved, flitting along from spot to spot, with a blue,
wavering, uncertain flame, and with a low laugh, the young gentleman
muttered, "A will-o'-the-wisp, that shan't lead me astray this time at
least."

On he dashed keeping the horseman before him; but ere he had passed
the meteor a hundred yards, he felt the pace of his horse uneasy, the
ground seemed to quiver and shake under his rapid footfalls, and a
plashy sound was heard, as if the hoofs sank into a wet and marshy
soil.

"A shaking bog, upon my life," said Ned Hayward, "but as he has gone
over it, so can I."

With his horse's head held lightly up, his heels into its sides, the
bridle shaken every minute to give him courage, and a loud "Tally ho!"
as if he were in sight of a fox, on went Ned Hayward with the water
splashing up around him till the hoofs fell upon firmer ground, and a
slight slope upwards caught the moonlight, and showed the fugitive
scampering away with a turn to the right.

"Hoiks, hoiks! haloo!" cried Ned Hayward, applying the flat of his
hand to the horse's flank, and, as if inspired by the ardour of the
chase, the brave little beast redoubled its efforts, and strained up
the hill after the larger horse, gaining perceptibly upon it.

Clear and full in the moonlight the dark figure came out from the sky
as he cleared the edge of the hill, and in two seconds, or not much
more, Ned Hayward gained the same point.

The figure was no longer visible. It had disappeared as if by magic;
horse and rider were gone together, and all that could be seen was the
gentle slope downward that lay at the horse's feet, a darkish spot
beyond, which the moon's rays did not reach, and then the moor
extending for about a couple of miles further, marked in its
undulations by strong light and shade.

"Why, what the devil is this?" exclaimed Ned Hayward; but though he
sometimes indulged in an exclamation, he never let astonishment stop
him, and seeing that if the figure had taken a course to the right or
left he must have caught sight of it, he rode straight at the dark
spot in front, and found that it consisted of one of the large pits,
with which the moor was spotted, filled to the very top of the banks
with low stunted oaks, ashes, and birch trees.

"Earthed him! earthed him!" said Ned Hayward, as he looked round, but
he made no further observation, and soon perceived the sandy cart-road
which the man must have taken to descend into the pit.

The young gentleman was now a little puzzled; the natural pertinacity
and impetuosity of his disposition would have led him to plunge in
after the object of his chase, like a terrier dog after a badger, but
then he saw that by so doing, the man, who knew the ground apparently
much better than he did, would have the opportunity of doubling upon
him and escaping his pursuit, while he was losing himself among the
trees and paths. Rapid in all his calculations, and seeing that the
extent of the hollow was not very great, so that by the aid of the
moonlight, any figure which issued forth would become visible to him
as long as he remained above, Ned Hayward trotted round the edge of
the pit to make himself perfectly sure that there was no small path or
break in the banks, by which the object he had lodged in the bushes
beneath him, might effect its flight without his perceiving it. Having
ascertained this fact, he took up his position on the highest ground
near, that he might command the whole scene round, and then
dismounting, led his horse up and down to cool it gradually, saying to
himself, "I will stop here all night rather than lose him. Some
persons must come by in the morning who will help mc to beat the
bushes."

Ned Hayward concluded his reflections, however, with a sentence which
seemed to have very little connexion with them.

"She's an exceedingly pretty girl," he said, "and seems to be as
amiable as she is pretty, but I can't let that stop me."

I do not at all understand what he meant, but perhaps the reader may
find some sense in it. But while he was reflecting on pretty girls,
and combining them in the honestest way possible with his hunt after a
man who had fired a shot into the window of Tarningham House, an
obtrusive recollection crossed his mind that moons will go down, and
that then wide open moors with many a shaking bog and pitfall were not
the most lustrous and well-lighted places upon earth, which
remembrance or reflection puzzled him most exceedingly. Though we have
never set up Ned Hayward for a conjuror, he was an exceedingly clever,
dashing, and amiable person; but he was far from being either a
magician or an astronomer, and not having an almanack in his pocket,
nor able to read it if he had, he was not at all aware of the hour at
which the moon went down. He saw, indeed, that she had already passed
her prime, and was verging towards decline, and it was with a very
unpleasant sensation that he thought, "Hang her old untidy horns, she
will be gone before the day breaks, and a pleasant dark place it will
be when she no longer gives me light. I will stop and watch, however,
but I must change my tactics, and hide under the hill. Perhaps he may
think I am gone, and come out with fresh courage. The young
blackguard! it would be a good turn to all the world to hang him, if
it is but to prevent him marrying such a nice girl as that, who is a
great deal too good for him. He won't thank me, however, for my
pains."

This thought, somehow or other, was not pleasant to our friend Ned
Hayward, and, indeed, like most of us, in many even of the ordinary
circumstances of life, he was affected by very different emotions. Why
it was, or wherefore, he could not tell, but he had been seized with a
strong inclination to hang, or otherwise dispose of any gentleman whom
he could suspect of being a favoured lover of Mary Clifford's; and,
yet on the other hand he had every disposition in the world to oblige
Mary Clifford himself. These two objects seemed incompatible, but
there is a fashion in the world which has a strange knack of trying to
overcome impossibilities, and sometimes succeeds too--at least in
overcoming those things which fathers and mothers, relations,
guardians and friends, have pronounced to be insurmountable. At all
events Ned Hayward made up his mind that it was his duty not to
abandon his pursuit so long as there was a chance of its being
successful, and, consequently, he drew his horse a little further from
the edge of the pit, as soon as he had considered the peculiar
circumstances of Mistress Moon, and endeavoured to keep out of sight
as far as possible, while he himself watched eagerly, with nothing but
his head as far as the eyes above the edge of the acclivity.

Fancy is a wonderful thing, and it has been accounted for some people
as good as physic. I should say it was better for most men, but yet,
taken in too large doses it is dangerous, very dangerous. Now Ned
Hayward had, that night, taken too large a dose, and the effect was
this: he imagined he was perfectly well acquainted with the figure,
person, and appearance of the horseman whom he had hunted from under
the walls of Tarningham-park to the spot where he then stood, with his
horse's bridle over his arm. He could have sworn to him!--very lucky
it was that nobody called upon him to do so, as he found out within a
quarter of an hour afterwards. Fancy painted his face and his figure,
and a tremendous black eye, and a bruised cut down the side of his
nose. Now as the man lay there quietly ensconced in the pit, his face
was very different, his figure not at all the same, and no black eye,
no bruised cut, gave evidence of the scuffle which took place two
nights before. It was, in fact, quite a different person, and all the
young gentleman's calculations were wrong together. It is a very happy
thing indeed for a man in the wrong, when he acts in the same manner
as he would if he were right. His doing so, it is true, sometimes
proceeds from good sense, sometimes from good feeling, sometimes from
fortunate circumstances, but, at all events, such was Ned Hayward's
case in the present instance, for he had made up his mind to remain
upon the watch, and he would have watched as zealously and only a
little more pleasantly, if he had known perfectly well who the man
was, instead of mistaking him for another. When he had remained about
seven minutes and a half, however--I cannot speak to a few seconds
more or less, and a slight mistake will make no great difference, as
the first heat was over, and our friends were only taking breathing
time; but when he had remained for about seven minutes and a half, his
horse shied at something behind him, and when the young gentleman
turned round, he perceived a long shadow cross the space of moonlight
on the common, showing that some living object was moving in a
slanting direction between him and the south-western side of the sky.
The first question he asked himself was naturally, who he could be,
and the first answer that suggested itself was, "Perhaps one of this
fellow's comrades."

Two to one, however, were not odds that at all daunted our young
friend; and turning quite round, for an instant he looked at the
figure as it came down, and then directed his eyes towards the edge of
the pit again. He kept a sharp look upon the approaching party,
however, nor, though the step upon the soft turf made no great sound,
his eyes were suddenly brought round upon the visitor of his solitary
watch, when about ten yards still remained between them. The moon now
served our good friend as well as if he had been a lover, showing him
distinctly the face, features, and figure of the person before him,
and he instantly exclaimed,--

"Ah, Stephen, this is lucky! What brought you here?"

"Why, Sir," answered the man, "this is part of my beat, and as soon as
I had got some supper down at the village, as it is not fair to take a
gentleman's money without doing something for it, and as I am rather
accustomed to a walk on a moonlight night, I might as well just come
out to see that all is safe. I can guess what brought you here, for
Ned, the groom, told me you had taken his horse and were off like a
shot."

"Hush," said Ned Hayward, "don't speak so loud, my good fellow; I have
earthed him amongst those trees in the pit there, but I could not dig
him out, for I was afraid he would escape one way while I was hunting
him the other."

"Ah! ah! you have got him, then?" said Gimlet, "then, that's a piece
of luck. If he swings it will be no bad job; a bloody-minded
scoundrel!"

Ned Hayward was somewhat surprised to hear his friend Wolf qualify by
so unsavoury an epithet a gentleman, whose friend and companion he had
very lately been; the young officer, however, knew a good deal of the
world and the world's ways, and he was not at all inclined to honour
the ci-devant poacher for so sudden a change of opinion. His first
thought was, this man must be a scoundrel at heart, after all, to
abuse a man whom he has been consorting with in this manner, without
any motive for so doing, except the simple fact of a change in his own
avocations. If he thought young Wittingham a very respectable person
two or three hours ago, when he himself was only Wolf the poacher, I
do not understand why he should judge him a bloody-minded villain, now
that he himself has become Stephen Gimlet, second keeper to Sir John
Slingsby. This does not look like honesty.

A second thought, however, upon all he had seen of the man's
character, the frankness, the hardihood, even the dogged determination
he had shown induced Captain Hayward to say to himself, "The fellow
can't know who it is;" and as thought is a very rapid thing, he
replied with a perceptible pause, "Yes, I have got him, safe and sure,
and if you'll help he cannot get away. You guess who he is, I dare
say, Stephen?"

"O, to be sure, Sir," answered Gimlet; "it is that young scoundrel,
Harry Wittingham. Bad's the crow and bad's the egg," he continued,
without knowing he was using a Greek proverb, "I suppose it can be no
one else; for I heard from the old housekeeper down in the town, that
he swore like fury that he would have vengeance on his father if he
laid the information against him before Sir John."

"Humph!" said Ned Hayward; "but then," he thought, "l am rather hard
upon the man too. The idea of any one in cold blood firing a shot at
his own father is certainly enough to rouse the indignation and
disgust even of men who would wink at, or take part in, lesser crimes
to which they are more accustomed. Come, Stephen," he continued aloud,
"now you are here, we may do better than I could alone. Let us see
what is to be done."

"O, we'll soon manage it, Sir," answered Wolf, "I know every bit of
the pit well enough; there is but one place he can go to with his
horse, and but one road up the bank. He can round the inside of the
pit two ways, sure enough, but what we had best do is, to go in till
we can see what he is about, and then have a rush upon him together or
separate, or out him off either way."

Captain Hayward agreed in this view of the case, and after a few more
words of consultation, the horse was fastened to a scraggy hawthorn
tree, and stooping down as low as possible to conceal their approach,
Captain Hayward and his companion advanced along the cart-road down
into the pit. The moment after they began to descend, the bank on the
right cast a shadow over them, which favoured their operations, and
Gimlet, taking the lead, crept silently along a path which had once
served for the waggons that carried the sand out of the pit, but was
now overgrown with grass and hemmed in with bushes, shrubs, and trees
of forty or fifty years growth. No moonlight penetrated there, and all
was dark, gloomy, and intricate. Now the path turned to the right, now
to the left, then proceeded straight forward again, and then began to
mount a little elevation in the surface, or floor, as the miners would
call it, of the pit itself, still thickly surrounded by green shrubs,
through which, however, the slanting beams of the moon were shining
over the edge of the pit. Stephen Gimlet's steps became even still
more quiet and cautious, and he whispered to Ned Hayward to walk
lightly for fear the fugitive should catch a sound of their approach,
and make his escape. Each step occupied several seconds, so carefully
was it planted; the slight rustling of the leaves, catching upon their
clothes, and each falling back upon a branch, which, pushed aside as
they passed, was dashed back upon those behind, made them pause and
listen, thinking that the object of their eager pursuit must have
caught the sound as well as their own nearer ears. At length Stephen
Gimlet stopped, and putting back his hand, helped his companion aloof
for an instant, while he leaned forward and brought his eyes close to
a small hole between the branches. Then, drawing Ned Hayward forward,
he pointed in the same direction in which he had been looking, with
his right finger, and immediately laid it upon his lips as a token to
be silent. Ned Hayward bent his head and gazed through the aperture as
his companion had done. The scene before him was a very peculiar one.
In broken beams, filtered, as we may call it, by the green leaves and
higher branches, the moonlight was streaming upon a small open space,
where the ground rose into a swelling knoll, covered with green turf
and moss. There was one small birch-tree in the midst, and a hawthorn
by its side, but all the rest was clear, and on the right hand could
be seen, marked out by the yellow sand, the cart-road which led to the
moor above. Standing close to the two little trees was a horse, a
fine, strong, powerful bay, with a good deal of bone and sinew, long
in the reach, but what is unusual in horses of that build, with a
chine and shoulder like those of a wild boar. Close to the horse, with
the bridle thrown over his arm, and apparently exceedingly busy upon
something he was doing, stood a tall, powerful man, whose face, from
the position in which he had placed himself, could not be seen; his
back, in short, was towards Ned Hayward and his companion, but from
under his left arm protruded part of the stock of a gun, which a
moonbeam that fell upon it, showed as plainly as the daylight could
have done. From the position in which he held the firelock it seemed
to Ned Hayward as if he were attending to the priming, and the moment
afterwards the click of the pan showed that the supposition was
correct.

At the same time this sound met his ear the young gentleman was drawn
gently back by the hand of his companion, and the latter whispered,
"That's Harry Wittingham's horse, I'd swear to him amongst a thousand,
but that's not Henry Wittingham himself, of that I'm quite sure."

"I cannot see his face," answered Ned Hayward, in the same low tone,
"but the figure seems to me very much the same."

"Hush! he's moving," said the man; "better let us go round and cut him
off by either road, you to the right and I to the left--straight
through that little path there--we shall have a shot for it, but we
must not mind that--see he is looking at his girths."

The man whom they spoke of had seemed perfectly unconscious of the
presence of any such unwelcome visitors near him. His motions were all
slow and indifferent, till the last words had passed Stephen Gimlet's
lips; then, however, he turned suddenly round, displaying a face that
Captain Hayward did not at all recollect, and gazing direct to the
spot where they stood, he raised his gun, already cocked, to his
shoulder, and fired.

Fortunately, it so happened that Ned Hayward had taken one step in the
direction which his companion had pointed out, otherwise the ball,
with which the piece was charged, would have passed right through his
breast. As it was, it grazed his left arm, leaving a slight flesh
wound, and, seeing that they were discovered, both he and Stephen
Gimlet dashed straight through the trees towards the object of their
pursuit. He, in the meantime, had put his foot in the stirrup, and
sprung upon his horse's back. One rushed at him on either side, but
perchance, at all hazards and at all events, without a moment's
consideration, the man dashed at the poacher, brandishing the gun
which he held in his hand like a club. As he came up without giving
ground an inch, Stephen clutched at his bridle, receiving a tremendous
blow with the stock of his gun, and attempting to parry it with his
left hand. The man raised his rein, however, at the same moment he
struck the blow, and Stephen missed the bridle. He struck at him, with
his right, however, in hope of bringing him from his horse, and with
such force and truth did he deliver his reply to the application of
the gun-stock, that the man bent down to the horse's mane, but at the
same time he struck his spurs deep into the beast's flanks, passed his
opponent with a spring, and galloped up to the moor.

"I am away after him," cried Ned Hayward, and darting along the road
like lightning, he gained the common, unhooked his own horse from the
tree, and recommenced the pursuit with the same figure still flying
before him.

The steep rise of the pit had somewhat blown the fugitive's horse, and
for the first hundred yards or so Captain Hayward gained upon him, but
he soon brought all his knowledge of the country to bear, every pond,
every bank, every quagmire, gave him some advantage, and when, at the
end of about ten minutes, they neared the plantations at the end of
the moor, he was considerably further from his pursuers than when
their headlong race began. At length he disappeared where the road led
in amongst trees and hedgerows, and any further chase seemed to
promise little. Ned Hayward's was a sadly persevering disposition,
however; he had an exceedingly great dislike to be frustrated in any
thing, and on he therefore rode without drawing a rein, thinking, "in
this more populous part of the country I shall surely meet with some
whom he has passed, and who will give me information."

It was a wonderfully solitary, a thinly peopled district, however,
which lay on the other side of the moor from Tarningham. They went
early to bed, too, in that part of the world, and not a living soul
did Ned Hayward meet for a full mile up the long lane. At the end of
that distance, the road branched into three, and in the true spirit of
knight-errantry, the young gentleman threw down his rein on the
horse's neck, leaving it to carry him on in search of adventures,
according to its own sagacity. The moor was about four miles and a
half across; but in the various turnings and windings they had taken,
now here now there upon its surface, horse and man had contrived to
treble that distance, or perhaps something more. There had been a trot
to the town before and back again, a hand-canter through the park, and
then a tearing burst across the moor. The horse therefore thought,
with some reason, that there had been enough of riding and being
ridden for one night, and as soon as Ned Hayward laid down the reins
it fell from a gallop to a canter, from a canter to a trot, and was
beginning to show an inclination to a walk, if not to stand still,
when Ned Hayward requested it civilly with his heels to go on a little
faster. It had now selected its path, however, remembering Ovid's
axiom, that the middle of the road is the safest. This was all that
Ned Hayward could have desired at its hands, if it had had any; but of
its hoofs he required that they should accelerate their motions, and
on he went again at a rapid pace, till, suddenly turning into a high
road, he saw nearly before him on the left hand, six large elms in a
row, with a horse-trough under the two nearest; an enormous sign
swinging between the two central trees, and an inn, with four steps up
to the door, standing a little back from the road.

There was a good light streaming from some of the windows; the moon
was shining clear, but the dusty old elms were thick with foliage,
which effectually screened the modest figures on the sign from the
garish beams of either the domestic or the celestial luminary.

Ned Hayward drew in his rein as soon as he beheld the inn and its
accompaniments; then approached softly, paused to consider, and
ultimately rode into the court-yard, without troubling the people of
the house with any notification of his arrival. He found two men in
the yard in stable dresses, who immediately approached with somewhat
officious civility, saying, "Take your horse, Sir?"

And Ned Hayward, dismounting slowly, like a man very much tired, gave
his beast into their hands, and affected to saunter quietly back to
the inn, while they led his quiet little cob into the stables. Then
suddenly turning, after he had taken twenty steps, he followed at a
brisk pace, he passed the stable-door, walking deliberately down the
whole row of horses in the stalls, till he stopped opposite one--a
bright bay, with a long back, and thick, high crest, which was still
covered with lather, and had evidently been ridden furiously not many
minutes before.

Turning suddenly to the ostler and his help, who had evidently viewed
his proceedings with more consternation than was quite natural, he
placed himself between them and the door and demanded with a bent brow
and a stern tone, "Where is the master of this horse?"

The help, who was nearest, gasped in his face like a caught trout, but
the ostler pushed him aside, and replied instantly, "He is in-doors,
Sir, in number eleven."

And turning on his heel, Ned Hayward immediately entered the inn.



CHAPTER XV.
The Letter.


We left Sir John Slingsby with an exclamation in his mouth. An
expression of wonder it was, at what could have become of his friend
Ned Hayward, and the reader may recollect that it was then about ten
o'clock at night. Quitting the worthy baronet in somewhat abrupt and
unceremonious haste, we hurried after the young officer ourselves, in
order to ascertain his fate and fortune with our own eyes; and now,
having done that, we must return once more to Tarningham-park, and
make an apology to Sir John, for our rude dereliction of his house and
company. He is a good-natured man, not easily put out of temper, so
that our excuses will be taken in good part; nor was he inclined to
make himself peculiarly anxious or apprehensive about any man on the
face of the earth; so that, even in the case of his dear friend Ned
Hayward, he let things take their chance, as was his custom, trusting
to fortune to bring about a good result, and philosophically
convinced, that if the blind goddess did not choose to do so, it was
not in his power to make her. During the evening he had once or twice
shown some slight symptoms of uneasiness when he looked round and
remarked his guest's absence; he had scolded his daughter a little,
too, for not singing as well as usual; and, to say the truth, she had
deserved it; for, whether it was the story told by the gentlemen on
their return from the dining-room had frightened her--it not being
customary at Tarningham-house to have shots fired through the
windows--or whether it was that she was uneasy at Captain Hayward's
prolonged absence, she certainly did not do her best at the piano.
Sing as ill as she would, however, Mary Clifford, who sang with her,
kept her in countenance. Now Mary was a very finished musician, with
an exceedingly rich, sweet-toned voice, flexible, and cultivated in a
high degree, with which she could do any thing she chose; so that it
was very evident that she either did not choose to sing well, or else
that she was thinking of something else.

But to return to Sir John. Perhaps, if we could look into all the dark
little corners of his heart--those curious little pigeonholes that are
in the breast of every man, containing all the odd crotchets and
strange feelings and sensations, the unaccountable perversities, the
whimsical desires and emotions, that we so studiously conceal from the
common eye--it is not at all improbable that we should find a certain
degree of satisfaction, a comfort, a relief, derived by the worthy
baronet, from the unusual events which had chequered and enlivened
that evening; he had looked forward to the passing of the next six or
seven hours with some degree of apprehension; he had thought it would
be monstrous dull, with all the proprieties and decorums which he felt
called upon to maintain before his sister; and the excitement of the
interview with Mr. Wittingham, the examination of Stephen Gimlet, and
the unaccountable disappearance of Ned Hayward, supplied the vacancy
occasioned by the absence of the bottle and jest. Soon after the
gentlemen had entered the drawing-room, Sir John placed his niece and
his daughter at the piano, and engaged Dr. Miles, his sister, and even
Mr. Beauchamp in a rubber at whist; and though from time to time he
turned round his head to scold Isabella for singing negligently, yet
he contrived to extract amusement from the game,--laughing, talking,
telling anecdotes, commenting upon the play of his partner and his
opponents, and turning every thing into jest and merriment. Thus
passed the evening to the hour I have mentioned, when Mrs. Clifford
rose and retired to bed; and the first exclamation of Sir John, after
she was gone, was that which I have recorded.

"It is strange, indeed," said Beauchamp, in reply; "but you know his
habits better than I do, and can better judge what has become of him."

"Indeed, my dear uncle," said Miss Clifford, with an earnest air, "I
think you ought to make some inquiries. I do not think Captain Hayward
would have gone away in so strange a manner, without some
extraordinary motive, and after the alarming circumstance that has
happened to-night, one cannot well be without apprehension."

"A harum-scarum fellow!" answered Sir John; "nobody ever knew what he
would do next. Some wild-goose scheme of his or another; I saw him
once jump off the mole at Gibraltar, when he was a mere boy, to save
the life of a fellow who had better have been drowned, a sneaking
Spanish thief, a half-smuggler and half-spy."

"And did he save him?" exclaimed Miss Clifford, eagerly.

"Oh, to be sure," answered Sir John; "he swims like a Newfoundland
dog, that fellow."

"Your carriage, Sir," said a servant, entering and addressing Mr.
Beauchamp.

"Here, Jones," cried Sir John Slingsby; "do you know what has become
of Captain Hayward? we have not seen him all night."

"Why, Sir John," answered the man, "Ralph, the under-groom, told me he
had met the captain in the park, as he was returning from taking your
note to Mr. Wharton, and that Captain Hayward made him get down,
jumped upon the cob, and rode away out at the gates as hard as he
could go."

"There, I told you so," said Sir John Slingsby, "Heaven only knows
what he is about, and there is no use trying to find it out; but this
is too bad of you, Mr. Beauchamp, ordering your carriage at this hour;
the days of curfew are passed, and we can keep the fire in a little
after sun-down."

"You should stay and see what has become of your friend, Mr.
Beauchamp," said Isabella Slingsby; "I don't think that is like a true
companion-in-arms, to go away and leave him, just when you know he is
engaged in some perilous adventure."

Beauchamp was not proof against such persuasions; but we are all
merchants in this world, trafficking for this or that, and sometimes
bartering things that are of very little value to us in reality for
others that we value more highly. Beauchamp made it a condition of his
stay, that Isabella should go on singing; and Mary Clifford engaged
her uncle in a _tête-à-tête_, while Beauchamp leaned over her cousin
at the piano. The first song was scarcely concluded, however, when the
butler again made his appearance, saying,--

"You were asking, Sir John, what had become of Captain Hayward, and
Stephen Gimlet has just come in to say that he had seen him about an
hour ago."

"Well, well," said Sir John, impatiently, "what, the devil, has become
of him? what bat-fowling exhibition has he gone upon now? By Jove!
that fellow will get his head broken some of these days, and then we
shall discover whether there are any brains in it or not. Sometimes I
think there is a great deal, sometimes that there is none at all; but,
at all events, he is as kind, good-hearted a fellow as ever lived,
that's certain."

"Stephen Gimlet says, Sir John," replied the butler, with his usual
solemnity, "that the captain went out on horseback to hunt down the
man who fired through the window."

"Whew!" whistled Sir John Slingsby, "was it not one of those cursed
fools of game-keepers, shooting a deer?"

"No, Sir John," answered the man, "it was some one who came in on
horseback by the upper gates. Captain Hayward got upon the cob and
hunted him across the moor, till he lodged him in one of the pits on
the other side, and was watching him there by the moonlight when
Stephen Gimlet came up; for he was afraid, if he went in one way, that
he might get out the other."

"Well, have they got him? have they got him?" cried Sir John; "by
Jove! this is too bad, one must have his plate made bomb-proof, if
this is to go on."

"They have not got him, please you, Sir John," replied the butler,
"for when Stephen came up, he and the captain went in, and both got
close up to the fellow, it seems, but he had time to charge his gun,
and he fired straight at them. Wolf--that is, Mr. Gimlet--says he is
sure Captain Hayward is wounded, for the man rode away as hard as he
could go before they could stop him, and the captain jumped upon the
cob and went after him again at the full gallop."

"Where did they go? which way did they take?" exclaimed the baronet,
brustling up warmly; "by Jove! this is too bad, it must be put down!
Tell Matthews and Harrison, and two or three more, to get out horses
as fast as possible--which way did they take?--can't you answer?--have
you got no ears?"

"Stephen said, Sir, that they seemed to go towards Buxton's inn,"
replied the butler, "but he could not well see, for they got amongst
the woods."

"By Jove I'll soon settle this matter," cried Sir John; "I'll just get
on a pair of boots and be off--Mr. Beauchamp, you must stay till I
come back, so come, be friendly, send away your carriage, and take a
bed."

"Upon one condition, Sir John," replied Beauchamp, "that you allow me
to be the companion of your ride."

"No, no," cried Sir John, rubbing his hands, "my dear fellow, you must
stay and protect the ladies."

"Oh, we shall do very well, papa," cried Isabella, "only order all the
doors and windows to be shut, and I will command in camp till your
return."

"There's a hero," cried Sir John Slingsby, "agreed! Jones, Jones, you
dog, tell the boy to take away his horses, and not to come for Mr.
Beauchamp till this time to-morrow night--nay, I insist, Beauchamp--no
refusal, no refusal--capital haunch of venison just ready for the
spit--bottle of Burgundy, and all very proper--every thing as prim as
my grandmother's maiden aunt--but come along, I'll equip you for your
ride--ha, ha, ha, capital fun, by Jove! Ned Hayward's a famous fellow
to give us such a hunt extempore; as good as a bagged fox, and a devil
a deal better than a drag."

Thus saying, Sir John Slingsby rolled out of the room, followed by Mr.
Beauchamp, to prepare themselves for their expedition from a vast
store of very miscellaneous articles, which Sir John Slingby's
dressing-room contained. He was, Heaven knows, any thing but a miser,
and yet in that dressing-room were to be found old suits of clothes
and equipments of different kinds, which he had had at every different
period, from twenty to hard upon the verge of sixty; jack-boots, dress
pumps, hobnailed shoes, Hessians, and pen-dragons, great coats, small
coats, suits of regimentals, wrap-rascals, the complete costume of a
harlequin, which now scarcely would have held one of his thighs, and a
mask and domino. But with each of these pieces of apparel was
connected some little incident, or tale, or jest, which clung
lingering to the old gentleman's memory, associating with events
sweet, or joyous, or comic, sometimes even with sad events, but always
with something that touched one or other of the soft points in his
heart; and he never could make up his mind to part with them. From
these he would have fain furnished his guest with a wardrobe, but
unfortunately the baronet's and Mr. Beauchamp's were of very different
sizes, and he laughingly put away the pair of boots that were offered,
saying, "No, no, Sir John, my shoes will do very well; I have ridden
in every sort of foot-covering under the sun, I believe, from wooden
boots to morocco leather slipper; but I will take this large cloak
that is hanging here, in case we should have to bivouac."

"Ha, ha, ha!" cried Sir John again; "a capital notion; I should not
mind it at all:--light a great fire on the top of the moor, turn our
toes in, and put a bundle of heath under our heads:--we have got
capital heath here. Were you ever in Scotland, Mr. Beauchamp?"

"I was, Sir, once," answered Beauchamp, in a tone so stern and grave,
that Sir John Slingsby suddenly looked up and saw the countenance of
his guest clouded and gloomy, as if something exceedingly offensive or
painful had just been said to him. It cleared up in a moment, however,
and as soon as the baronet was ready they issued forth again and
descended into the hall.

In the meanwhile, Isabella and her cousin had remained sitting near
the piano, both rather thoughtful in mood. For a minute or two each
was silent, busied, apparently, with separate trains of thought. At
length Mary looked up, inquiring, "What do you intend to do,
Isabella?"

"What do you mean, Mary, love?" replied her cousin; "if you mean to
ask whether I intend to marry Ned Hayward, as I have a slight notion
papa intends I should, I say no, at once;" and she laughed gaily.

"Oh, no," answered Miss Clifford; "my question was not half so serious
a one, Isabella; though I do not see why you should not, either. I
only wished to ask whether you intended to sit up or go to bed."

"Why I should not," exclaimed Isabella, gaily, "I can give you twenty
good reasons in a minute. We are both so thoughtless; we should ruin
ourselves in a couple of years; we are both so merry, we should laugh
ourselves to death in a fortnight; we are both so harum-scarum, as
papa calls it, that it would not be safe for one to trust the other
out of his sight; for a thousand to one we should never meet again; he
would go to the East Indies, and I to the West seeking him; and then
each would go to meet the other, and we should pass each other by the
way."

Mary Clifford smiled thoughtfully; and after pausing in meditation for
a moment or two, she answered, "After all, Isabella, I have some
doubts as to whether either of you is as thoughtless as you take a
pleasure in seeming."

"Oh, you do me injustice--you do me injustice, Mary," cried Miss
Slingsby; "I seem nothing but what I am. As to Captain Hayward," she
added, with a sly smile, "you know best, Mary dear. He is your _preux
chevalier_, you know; delivered you from lions and tigers, and giants
and ravishers, and, as in duty bound, has talked to nobody but you all
day."

Mary coloured a little, but replied straightforwardly, "Oh yes, we
have talked a good deal, enough to make me think that he is not so
thoughtless as my uncle says; and I know you are not so thoughtless as
you say you are yourself. But what do you intend to do while they are
gone?"

"O, I shall sit up, of course," answered Isabella; "I always do, till
papa goes to bed. When he has a large party, and I hear an eruption of
the Goths and Vandals making its way hither--which I can always
discover by the creaking of the glass-door--I retreat into that little
room and fortify myself with lock and key, for I have no taste for
mankind in a state of drunkenness; and then when they have roared and
bellowed, and laughed, and quarrelled, and drank their coffee and gone
away, I come out and talk to papa for half an hour, till he is ready
to go to bed."

"But is he always in a very talking condition himself?" asked Mary
Clifford.

"Oh, fie! now, Mary," exclaimed her cousin; "how can you suffer your
mind to be prejudiced by people's reports. My father likes to see
every one happy, and even jovial under his roof--perhaps a little too
much--but if you mean to say he gets tipsy, it is not the case; I
never saw him the least so in all my life; in fact I don't think he
could if he would; for I have seen him drink as much wine as would
make me tipsy twenty times over, without its having any effect upon
him at all--a little gay, indeed; but he is always gay after dinner."

Mary Clifford listened with a quiet smile, but replied not to
Isabella's discourse upon her father's sobriety, merely saying, "Well,
if you sit up, my dear cousin, I shall sit up too, to keep you
company;" but scarcely had the words passed her sweet lips, when in
came Sir John Slingsby and Mr. Beauchamp, the baronet holding a note
open in his hand.

"Ha, ha, ha," he cried, "news of the deserter, news of the deserter,
we had just got to the hall door, horses ready, cloaks on our backs,
servants mounted, plans arranged, a gallop of five or six miles and a
bivouac on the moor before us, when up walks one of the boys from
Buxton's inn with this note from the runaway; let us see what he
says," and approaching the lamp he read by its light several
detached sentences from Ned Hayward's letter, somewhat to the
following effect: "Dear Sir John, for fear you should wonder what has
become of me--so I did, by Jove--I write this to tell you--ah, I knew
all that before--cantered him across the common--earthed him in old
sand-pit--rascal fired at me--not much harm done--chased him along
the road, but lost him at the three turnings--came on here--very
tired--comfortable quarters--particular reason for staying where I
am--over with you early in the morning--Ned Hayward."

"Ah, very well, very well," continued Sir John, "that's all right; so
now Beauchamp, if you are for a game at piquet I am your man; if not,
some wine and water and then to bed. I'll put you under the tutelage
of my man Galveston, who knows what's required by every sort of men in
the world, from the Grand Turk down to the Methodist parson, and he
will provide you with all that is necessary."

Mr. Beauchamp, however, declined both piquet and wine-and-water; and,
in about half-an-hour, the whole party had retired to their rooms; and
gradually Tarningham Hall sank into silence and repose.

One of the last persons who retired to rest was Sir John Slingsby
himself; for, before he sought his own room, he visited the library,
and there, lying on the table where his letters were usually placed,
he found a note, neatly folded and sealed, and directed in a stiff,
clear, clerk-like hand. He took it up and looked at it; laid it down
again: took it up once more; held it, for at least three minutes, in
his hand, as if irresolute whether he should open it or not; and at
length tore open the seal, exclaiming,

"No, hang me if I go to bed with such a morsel on my stomach."

Then, putting it on the other side of the candle, and his glass to his
eye, he read the contents. They did not seem to be palateable; for the
first sentence made him exclaim,

"Pish! I know you my buck!"

After this he read on again; and, though he made no further
exclamation, his brow became cloudy, and his eye anxious. When he had
done, he threw it down, put his hands behind his back, and walked two
or three times up and down the room, stopping every now and then to
gaze at the Turkey carpet.

"Hang him!" he cried at length. "By Jove! this is a pretty affair."

And then he walked up and down again.

"Well, devil take it!" he cried, at length, tearing the note to
pieces, and then throwing the fragments into the basket under
the table, "it will come, some how or other, I dare say. There is
always something turns up--if not, the trees must go--can't be
helped--improve the prospect--landscape gardening--ha! ha! ha!"

And laughing heartily, he rolled off to bed.



CHAPTER XVI.
The Chance-Meeting in the Park.


The morning sky was very gray. There was a thin film of vapour over
the greater part of the heavens, retarding, as it were, the advance of
dawn, as a mother keeps back her wayward child struggling forward too
fast upon all the varied ways of life. Yet towards the east there was
a bright streak of gold, which told that the star of light, and
warmth, and genial influences, was coming up rapidly from below the
round edge of the rolling ball. It was a line, defined and clear,
marked out from the vapour, which ended there by an edge of lighter
yellow; and as the strong golden tints became more, and more intense,
the filmy cloud split and divided into fragments of strange shapes,
while the beams streamed through, and, passing across the wide extent
of air, tinted with purple the vapours above. Towards that glowing
streak all things seemed to turn; the sunflower inclined her head
thither; the lark bent his flight in that direction; towards it all
the songsters of the wood seemed to pour the voices of their choir. It
is a strange thing, the east; full of curious associations with all
the marvellous history of man. Every good thing and almost every
bright thing, has come from the east; religion, salvation's hope;
daylight and the seeming movement of the stars and moon; summer and
sunshine and Christianity have sprung thence, as if there were the
fountain of all the best gifts to man. There have all nations risen,
and still the progress is from the East towards the West; as if there
were some law, by which all things on the earth followed the course of
the great light-giver. Nevertheless, how have these blessings been
mingled with many evils! The cutting winds of spring and winter,
pestilence and destruction, earthquakes and wars, have there arisen,
to sweep over the world, and blacken it with grief and mourning. It is
a strange place, the east; and I can never look towards it and see the
rising sun, without a strange feeling of awe and mystery, from the
various associations which exist between it and the wonders of the
past.

The scene from the windows of Tarningham-hall was not a very extensive
one, but it was fine in its peculiar character: the sweeps of the
park; the dewy lawns; the large old trees; the broad and feathery
fern; the stately deer, walking along with unconfirmed steps and
half-awakened deliberation; the matutinal hares, scudding about in the
gray twilight; and the squirrels, rushing from tree to tree; were all
pleasant to the eye that looked upon them, though that eye could only
at one small point, where the break in the wood gave a wider view,
catch any thing beyond the domain, and all that even there was gained,
consisted of a narrow portion of that same streak of yellow light,
which broke the monotonous curtain of the cloud towards the east.

Nevertheless, for several minutes, Mary Clifford gazed upon the whole
with pleasure and interest. She was early in her habits: a familiar
child of the morning; and the dew on the leaves was a delight to her;
the soft gray of the early day, a sort of invitation to contemplation
and enjoyment. After marking the deer, and smiling at the sportive
gambols of the hares, who, as it was forbidden to shoot near the
house, played fearless on the lawns, she turned her eyes towards the
spot where the dawning morning-light was visible, and recollecting
that not far from the house and what was called the terrace, there was
a point whence the whole scene over the country was visible, and where
she could watch, with uninterrupted pleasure, all the effects of the
breaking day upon that beautiful landscape, she sallied forth to enjoy
a peculiar sort of pleasure, which requires a very pure and unsullied
mind, and a heart naturally elevated and devout, to understand it
fully.

The hour was a very early one; for, at that season of the year, Dan
Ph[oe]bus, as the ancient poets call him, shaking off the lazy habits
of the winter, gets up betimes; and, as the servants of good Sir John
Slingsby were not subjected to very severe discipline, not a single
soul in the house was up to give our sweet friend exit. There is
always a curious sensation in walking alone through a house, all the
other tenants of which are still sleeping; there is a deathly feeling
about it; a severing of the ties, which so lately existed between us
and those who are now insensible; but that sensation is most strongly
felt, when the morning sunshine is on the world; when nature has
revived, or is reviving from the trance of night; and other things are
busy in restless activity, though the gay companions of a few hours
gone by are silent and still, as if death had struck them.

Down the broad oak stairs, with its narrow strip of carpet, along the
old marble hall with its tessellated floor, Mary Clifford went slowly
and quietly, lighted alone by a skylight overhead, and a large window
over the great doors; but she could hear the gay birds singing
without; the thrush upon the tree top; the woodlark in the shade; the
linnet, with its small, sweet song, and the chaffinch in his spring
dress and his spring notes amongst the bushes. She opened the door of
the library and went in, leaving it unclosed behind her, then unbarred
and unlocked the glass-door, went out and gazed about her. Some deer
that were near the house started and withdrew a few steps, and then
paused to stare at her; but whether it was that they had never seen
any of their companions slaughtered by a being in a woman's dress, or
that they thought she looked, as she really did, sweet and gentle as
the morning, they did not take fright, trotting a few steps farther,
after a long look, and then stopping with their heads to converse over
the matter.

After closing the door, Mary walked on towards the terrace, which was
at the distance of about a couple of hundred yards, climbed the steps
and proceeded towards the end, where the finest view was to be
obtained, at a spot sheltered by six rugged yews, underneath which
there was a seat: and there she paused, for at least ten minutes,
drinking in the beauty of the scene, as if changed to a thousand hues
under the influence of the rising sun. All was still and tranquil; but
at length she heard some voices speaking, and looked in the direction
in which they came.

Some of the grooms, she thought, as her eyes rested on the stables at
some little distance in the rear of the house; and although it was not
at all probable that they would disturb her reveries, yet she prepared
to go back, for one half of the pleasure which she derived from her
early walk lay in its solitude. She was wishing that the grooms had
thought fit to lie in bed for half an hour longer, when she heard
proceeding from the lower ground under the bank of the terrace, the
light and rapid footfalls of some one apparently walking from the
stables to the mansion; and, not at all wishing to meet anyone, she
turned back again towards the yews. At the end of the terrace,
however, the footsteps stopped; there was a momentary pause, and then
they mounted the steps and came along the gravel towards her. Mary
walked on to the end, and then turned, when straight before her
appeared Captain Hayward, coming on with his usual light and cheerful
air, though the sleeve of his coat was cut open, and it was evident
that he had bandages round his arm.

"Good morning, good morning, Miss Clifford," he said, advancing
frankly and taking her hand; "what a magnificent morning! I see you
are as early in your habits as myself. But did you ever see such a
rich dove-colour as has come upon those clouds? I love some of these
calm gray mornings, with a promise of a bright day they give, better
far than those skies all purple and gold, such as are described by
that rhodomontade fellow, Marmontel, in his 'Incas,' which are always
sure to end in clouds and rain. I have always thought those very
bright mornings like a dashing woman of fashion, tricked out in her
best smiles and her brightest colours, promising all sorts of things
with her eyes, which she does not intend to perform, and cold or
frowning before half an hour is over."

"And the gray morning, Captain Hayward," asked Mary, with a smile,
"what is that like?"

"Oh, I don't know," answered Captain Hayward, laughing, "you must not
drive my imagination too hard, dear lady, lest it stumble--perhaps the
gray morning is like a calm, quiet, well brought up country girl, with
a kind heart under the tranquil look that will give a long day of
sunshine after its first coolness is passed."

Mary Clifford cast down her eyes, and did not answer; but, as she was
walking on towards the house, Ned Hayward continued in his usual
straightforward way; "You must not go in yet, my dear Miss Clifford; I
want you to take a turn or two with me upon this delightful terrace.
You must, indeed, for I have got a thousand things to say and I know I
shall find nobody else to say them to for the next two or three
hours."

His fair companion did not think fit to refuse, though some prudish
people might have thought it a little improper to take a walk at five
o'clock in the morning with a young captain of infantry unattached;
but Mary Clifford had only known Captain Hayward six-and-thirty hours,
and therefore she saw nothing in the least improper in it in the
world. Young ladies, who guard so very scrupulously against being made
love to, forget that they show what they expect. She turned,
therefore, with him at once, and replied, "You must, indeed, have a
long series of adventures to tell us; I am delighted to forestall the
rest of the family and to have the news myself three hours before any
one. We were all in great alarm about you last night. My uncle and Mr.
Beauchamp, and half-a-dozen servants were setting out to seek you,
upon the report of Stephen Gimlet, as they call him, the father of the
little boy you saved; but your note just arrived in time to stop
them."

"Oh, then, Master Gimlet, I suppose, has told my story for me?" said
Ned Hayward.

"Only very briefly," answered the young lady; "he said you had chased
some man over the common, who had fired at you, and he was afraid had
wounded you; and I fear, from what I see, he was right."

"Oh, it was nothing, nothing at all," replied Ned Hayward; "but I'll
tell you all about it as circumstantially as a newspaper;" and he went
on in a gay and lively tone to give an account of his adventures of
the preceding night, till his arrival at Buxton's inn. Sometimes he
made Mary Clifford laugh, sometimes look grave and apprehensive, but
he always interested her deeply in his tale; and she showed that she
had marked one part particularly by asking, "Then did you know the man
when you saw his face so distinctly in the pit?"

"Up to that moment I thought I did," replied her companion, "but then
I saw I was utterly mistaken. I will acknowledge to you, my dear Miss
Clifford, that, till he turned round I fancied he was one I had seen
before--the same height, the same make--and, under existing
circumstances, I felt that nothing would justify me in giving up the
pursuit, although it was most painful to me, I assure you, to follow,
with the purpose of punishing a young gentleman, in whom, from what
you said yesterday at dinner, I conceive you take a considerable
interest."

"Who? Mr. Wittingham?" exclaimed Mary Clifford, her face turning as
red as scarlet, "Oh, Captain Hayward, you are mistaken, I take no
interest in him, I abhor him; or, at least---at least I dislike him
very much."

Ned Hayward looked puzzled; and he really was so in a considerable
degree. His own prepossessions had done something to mislead him; and
a man never conceives a wrong opinion but a thousand small
circumstances are sure to arise to confirm it. A man may long for
green figs, but in any country but England he will not get them in the
month of March; he may desire grapes but he cannot find them in May;
but if he have a suspicion of any kind, he will meet with, whenever he
likes, all sorts of little traits and occurrences to strengthen it,
for the only fruit that is ripe in all seasons is corroborative
evidence; and, amongst the multitude of events that are ever in the
market of life, it must be a hard case if he do not find enough of it.
After a moment given to consideration, he replied more cautiously than
might have been expected, "I have some how mistaken you, my dear
lady," he said at length, "and such mistakes may be dangerous. I have
no right to force myself into your confidence; but really the whole of
this affair is becoming serious. When first I had the pleasure of
seeing you, I found you subjected to what was certainly a great
outrage. I call it so; for I am perfectly certain that you yourself
must have considered it as such; and there could not even be a
palliation for it except--" he paused an instant, and then added,
gravely, "except love on both sides, disappointed by objections
arising in the prejudices of others."

Mary Clifford coloured deeply, but suffered him to proceed. "I need
not tell you, after, what I have said," he continued, "that I have
recognised and identified the principal person concerned in this
business. At dinner you expressed a very strong desire that the
offender should not be punished; but the former offence was followed
by a very serious crime. A shot was fired last night into your uncle's
dining-room amidst a party of gentlemen quietly drinking their wine,
which very nearly struck the father of the very man who had already
rendered himself amenable to the laws of his country by his attack
upon you. I had suspicions that he was the perpetrator of this crime,
and although he certainly was not the person I pursued across the
moor, yet I have some very strong reasons to think that he was a
participator in the offence. These are all very serious circumstances,
my dear young lady; but I am ignorant of those which have preceded
these events, and if without pain to yourself you could give me any
explanations which might guide my mind to the causes of all that has
occurred, it might be very serviceable in many respects. I am sure you
will answer me frankly, if it be possible, and believe me I am not one
to act harshly, or to abuse your confidence--nay, more, thoughtless as
I may seem, and as I am called, be assured I will do nought without
consideration and forethought."

"I am sure you will not, Captain Hayward," answered Mary Clifford,
warmly, "quite sure; and I have no hesitation in giving you my
confidence--though, indeed, I have very little to tell. These things
are always unpleasant to speak about, and that is the only motive I
could have for remaining silent; but this gentleman's conduct has been
so very public, that I am saved from all scruples on his account.
About two years ago, I met Mr. Henry Wittingham at the county ball,
danced with him there, and observed nothing in his behaviour which
should make me treat him differently from other new acquaintances. I
did not think him agreeable, but he was not offensive. He asked me to
dance again the same night, and I refused, but, shortly after, he was
formally introduced at our house; my father asked him to dinner, and
was, indeed, very kind, both to him and to Mr. Wittingham, his father,
because he thought that they were unjustly looked down upon and
treated coldly by the county gentry on account of their family. I soon
began to find that--that--I really do not well know how to go on--but
that this young gentleman's visits were more frequent than was
pleasant, and that he always contrived to be near me, especially when
we met in public. His conversation, his manners, as I knew more of
him, became insupportably disagreeable; I tried as much as I could to
avoid him, to check his advances, at first quietly, but decidedly
without speaking to any one else, for I did not wish to produce any
breach between my father and Mr. Wittingham; but, at last, I found
that he made a parade and a boast of his intimacy, and then I thought
it best to speak both to mamma, and my dear father. What was done I
really do not know; but certainly something took place which very much
enraged both father and son, and the latter was forbidden to visit at
our house. The result was any thing but deliverance from his
persecution. From that moment he chose to assume, that the objection
was on the side of my parents, and I cannot tell you how I have been
annoyed. I have not ventured to walk out alone, for although once when
I met him in the village, I told him plainly my sentiments towards
him, he still persisted in the most unpleasant manner, that I spoke
alone from mamma's dictation, and for months he used to hang about the
place, till I really grew nervous at the sight of every human being
whom I did not instantly recognise. This last outrage has been worse
than all; and I will admit that it deserves punishment; but I am
afraid, from various circumstances which accompanied it, that the law,
if carried into effect, would punish it too severely. My uncle
declared he would hang the man if he could catch him; and oh, think,
Captain Hayward, what a horrible reflection that would ever be to me
through life, to think that I had been even the innocent cause of
bringing a fellow-creature to a disgraceful death."

"Painful, indeed, I do not doubt;" answered Ned Hayward, "but yet--"

"Nay, nay," cried Mary, "do not say _but yet_, Captain Hayward. I
could never make up my mind to give evidence against him; and, to
speak selfishly, the very fact of having to appear in a court of
justice, and of having my name in public newspapers, would render the
punishment nearly as great to me as to him. These were my sole
motives, I can assure you, in what I said yesterday, and not the
slightest personal interest in one who has, I am afraid, in all
situations disgraced himself."

For some reason or another, Ned Hayward was glad to hear Mary Clifford
defend herself, and so warmly too, from the imputation of any feeling
of regard for Harry Wittingham; but he took care not to show, to its
full extent, all the pleasure that he felt.

"I thought it strange, indeed," he said, "that you should entertain
any great feeling of esteem for a person who certainly seemed to me
not worthy of it; but there are often circumstances, my dear Miss
Clifford, unseen by the general eye, which endear two people to each
other, who seem the most dissimilar--youthful companionship, services
rendered, old associations--a thousand things build up this between
persons the least likely to assimilate which are stronger than all
opposing principles. I thought that such might be the case with you;
but as it is not, let me tell you what was the end of my adventure
last night; and then you will see what cause I have for suspicion. I
must inform you, in the first instance, that I marked the person of
Mr. Henry Wittingham well on the evening of the attack,
notwithstanding the twilight, and that I saw him yesterday in
Tarningham. His father's unwillingness to enter into the charge, when
made against some unknown person, excited suspicion; but I found
afterwards, from other sources, that Mr. Wittingham and his son had
quarrelled, and were completely at variance; and, in the justice-room,
the young man whispered something to the old one, of which I heard
only two or three words, but they were of a threatening nature. I have
told you that I thought I recognised the figure of the man who fired
the shot, and Stephen Gimlet declared he could swear the horse he rode
was Henry Wittingham's; but I found, as I have said, that the man in
the pit was a stranger. When, after pursuing him as long as I had any
trace, I at length arrived at a place called, I find, Buxton's Inn, I
saw the very horse in the stable in a state which left no doubt that
it had been ridden hard for several hours, and had not been in five
minutes. I inquired for the master, and was told the number of the
room where he was to be found. I walked straight in and found Mr.
Henry Wittingham sitting quietly at supper. Some conversation ensued,
in the course of which I told him the cause of my intrusion; and his
whole manner was confused and agitated. He swore violently at the idea
of any body having ridden his horse, and affected not to believe it;
but I made him come down to the stable, when, of course, his mouth was
closed."

"But who did ride it then?" exclaimed Miss Clifford.

"Nay, that I cannot tell," answered Ned Hayward; "but I resolved to
wait at the inn and see if I could discover anything. I was shown into
a very neat little sitting-room, and wrote a note to your uncle, Sir
John, while they were getting my coffee. It was now nearly ten
o'clock, and there was a room apparently similar to my own on each
side of me, with a door of communication with either. I suppose they
were locked so as to prevent the passage of any thing very fat or
corporeal from one room into the other, but certainly were not so
well closed as to exclude all sound. It may seem a strange thing for
me, my dear Miss Clifford, to give you an account of the sitting-rooms
of an inn; but so much depends in this world upon what is called
juxta-position, that very important events have depended upon the
keyhole of a door. You must not suppose, however, that I made use of
either of the keyholes in my room for the laudable and honourable
purpose of eavesdropping; on the contrary, I spoke loud enough to the
waiter to give sufficient notice to my neighbours, if I had any, that
voices were distinguishable from one room to the other; and it would
seem that Mr. Henry Wittingham, who was on the left-hand side, was
determined to impress me not only with the same fact, but also with a
notion that he was in a towering passion on account of the usage his
horse had met with; for he cursed and swore very severely, to which
the waiter, or whosoever he spoke to, did not reply. There seemed to
be nobody on the other side, for about half an hour, when, as I was
sitting at my coffee, after having despatched my note, I heard steps
come up from below, a door open, and the voice of the waiter say most
respectfully, 'I will tell the captain you are here, Mr. Wharton.'"

"It is Mr. Wharton, the lawyer, then?" exclaimed Mary, with some
degree of eagerness.

"I really cannot tell," answered Ned Hayward; "but I suspect it was,
from what passed afterwards. All was silent for about three minutes,
except when I heard a step walking up and down the room. As your uncle
had mentioned Mr. Wharton's name more than once in the course of
yesterday, I fancied he might have come upon business to some one,
which there was no necessity for my hearing; and, therefore, I rattled
the cups and saucers, moved about the chair, tumbled over a footstool,
and left them to take their own course."

"Mr. Wharton is a very shrewd man," said Mary Clifford, "and one I
should think a hint would not be thrown away upon."

"He did not choose to take mine, however," replied Ned Hayward; "for,
at the end of a few minutes, some one seemed to join him, saying in a
loud and familiar tone, 'Ha! how do you do, Wharton?--Very glad to see
you again! I hope you have brought me some money.'"

"Was it Mr. Wittingham's voice?" asked Miss Clifford.

"Oh, dear no," replied Captain Hayward; "one quite of a different
tone; a good deal of the same swaggering insolence in it, but, to my
fancy, there was more bold and dogged determination. Every now and
then there was a small pause, too, before a word was pronounced, which
one generally finds in the speech of a cunning man; but yet there was
a sort of sneering persiflage in the words, that I have more generally
met with in the empty-headed coxcombs of fashion, who have nothing to
recommend them but impertinence and a certain position in society.
However, it could not be Mr. Wittingham, for him this lawyer must have
known very well, and his reply was,--'Indeed, Captain Moreton, I have
not; but I thought it better to come over and answer your note in
person, to see what could be done for you.'"

"Captain Moreton!" cried Mary; "I know who it is very well--not that I
ever saw him, as far as I can remember; for he quitted this part of
the country ten or twelve years ago, when I was quite a child; but I
have often heard my father say that he was a bad, reckless man, and
had become quite an adventurer, after having broken his mother's
heart, ruined his other parent, and abridged poor old Mr. Moreton's
days also. He died quite in poverty, three years ago, after having
sold his estate, or mortgaged it, or something of the kind, to this
very Mr. Wharton, the attorney."

"Indeed!" said Ned Hayward, "that explains a great deal, my dear young
lady. Where did this property lie?"

"Just beyond my uncle's, a little way on the other side of the moor,"
replied Miss Clifford.

Ned Hayward fell into a fit of thought, and did not reply for some
moments; at length he said, with a laugh, "Well, I do not know that
their conversation would interest you very much, though, in spite of
all I could do I heard a great part of it, and as for the rest, I must
manage the best way I can myself."

"You are very tantalising, Captain Hayward," said his fair companion,
"and you seem to imply that I could aid in something. If I can, I
think you are bound to tell me. Confidence for confidence, you know,"
and when she had done she coloured slightly, as if feeling that her
words implied more than she meant.

"Assuredly," replied Ned Hayward; "but I only fear I might distress
you."

"If what you say has reference to Mr. Wittingham," the young lady
answered, raising her eyes to his face with a look of ingenuous
frankness, "let me assure you, once for all, that nothing you can say
will distress me if it do not imply that I feel something more than
the coldest indifference."

"Nay, it does not refer to him at all," replied Ned Hayward, "but to
one you love better."

"Indeed!" exclaimed his companion, her lip trembling with eagerness,
"tell me--tell me, Captain Hayward! After what you have said, I must
beg and entreat that you would."

"I will, then," answered Ned Hayward, gazing upon her with a look of
admiration blended with sorrow at the pain he was about to inflict. "I
believe, Miss Clifford I am about to commit an indiscretion in
mentioning this subject to you at all; for I do not know that you can
assist materially; and yet it is something to have one to consult
with--one, in whose generosity, in whose kindness, sympathy, ay, and
good sense too, I can fully trust. Besides, you know, I dare say, all
the people in the neighbourhood, and may give me some serviceable
hints."

"But speak--speak," said Miss Clifford, pausing in their walk up and
down the terrace, as she saw that he fought round the subject which he
thought would distress her, with a timid unwillingness to do so; "what
is it you have to tell me?"

"Why, I very much fear, my dear young lady," answered Captain Hayward,
"that your uncle is very much embarrassed--nay--why should I disguise
the matter?--absolutely ruined."

Mary Clifford clasped her hands together, and was about to answer with
an exclamation of sorrow and surprise; but I do believe that no person
on earth was ever permitted to give an explanation uninterrupted. The
Fates are against it: at least they were so in this instance; for just
as Ned Hayward had uttered the last very serious words, they heard a
light step tripping up behind them, and both turning suddenly round,
beheld Miss Slingsby's French maid.

"Ah, Ma'amselle," she said as soon as she reached them, "I saw you out
in this early morning without any thing on, and so have brought you a
shawl."

"Thank you, thank you, Minette," replied Mary, and as she was well
accustomed to early walks, was about to decline the shawl; but,
judging the quickest mode of getting rid of the maid would be to take
it, she added, "Very well--give it to me," and cast it carelessly
round her shoulders.

The maid would not be satisfied with that arrangement, however,
adjusted it herself, showed how the ladies of Paris shawled
themselves, and occupied full ten minutes, during which her poor
victim remained in all the tortures of suspense.



CHAPTER XVII.
Miss Clifford is made acquainted with her uncle's embarrassments by
Captain Hayward.


As soon as the maid had taken herself away, Ned Hayward said in a kind
and feeling tone, "I fear I have distressed you much, Miss Clifford;
let us walk quite to the other end and talk over this matter; for I
have only been hurried into revealing this painful fact by my anxiety
to consult with some one as to the possibility, if not of remedying
the existing evil, at least of preventing it from going further."

Mary walked on by his side in silence, with her hands clasped and
her eyes cast down with a look of deep thought; but at length she
looked up, saying in a tone of one communing with himself--"Is it
possible? what, with this fine property? But how can it be, Captain
Hayward?--here he is, with an estate of at least eight thousand a year
in his own possession, to do with it what he chooses."

"To explain all, I had better tell you what I have heard," said her
companion. "The tale may be false; I trust part of it is so; but a
great part must be true; and the man spoke as if from authority. The
first part of their conversation was in a light tone; for a time the
lawyer seemed to avoid grappling with the subject, and asked his
companion after madam, in not the most respectful manner. The captain
replied, she was very well, and in the other room; but pressed the
lawyer to the point. He turned away again, and inquired whether
Captain Moreton had been successful at the card-table lately. He
answered, 'Tolerably; he had won a thousand pounds just before he came
from London;' but then added, 'Come, come, Wharton, no bush-fighting;
you know you owe me five hundred pounds, and I must have it.' To this
the lawyer answered: 'No, indeed, Captain Moreton, you are mistaken; I
have told you so twice: the property was sold to a client of mine; and
if I had chosen to send in my whole bill, your father would have been
greatly my debtor instead of I being yours. The sum given was
fifty-four thousand pounds; forty thousand went to pay off the
mortgage and your debts; twelve thousand your father had; and my bill,
together with that of the solicitor's of the opposite party, amounted
in fact and reality to two thousand four hundred and seventy-two
pounds. You recollect, I had not been paid for six years.'

"The next thing I heard," continued Ned Hayward, "was a loud laugh;
and then Captain Moreton exclaimed, 'Your client! Wharton! very good,
very good, indeed; you must think me exceedingly green: I know as well
as possible who bought the property for two-thirds of its value;
employed other solicitors for a fictitious client; pocketed one-half
of their bill, and added thereto a bill of his own, which was more
than the double of what he was entitled to--come, come, Sir; don't
affect to sham a passion, for we have business to talk upon, and that
of a serious kind. You are just going to sell the property again for
the full value; and, before you do so, you shall disgorge a little.'
The lawyer attempted to bluster, but unsuccessfully; for when he asked
how Captain Moreton would stop him from selling the property, even if
all he said were true, that worthy gentleman reminded him that his
signature had been necessary to one of the papers, and then when he
asserted it had been given, informed him with a laugh, that the
signature he had obtained was that of a marker at a billiard-table;
the lawyer's clerk sent after him to Paris, having been unacquainted
with his person. Mr. Wharton attempted to show that it was of no
consequence; but the matter so far ended by his giving a check for
five hundred pounds, on Captain Moreton's signing another paper, which
I suppose was drawn up in the room, for a silence succeeded for some
minutes. A part of what took place then was not distinct; and I
certainly made no effort to hear it."

"But my uncle," said Miss Clifford, "how does this affect my uncle?"

"He came upon the carpet next," replied Ned Hayward; "Captain Moreton
asked who was going to buy the property; and when the lawyer made a
mystery of it, saying that he really did not know the true parties,
but that Doctor Miles had meddled in the business, the other named Sir
John as the probable purchaser. There at Mr. Wharton laughed heartily,
and said, 'I'll tell you what, Captain, Sir John Slingsby is at this
moment next thing to a beggar.'"

Mary put her hands before her eyes and turned very pale.

"Forgive me, my dear Miss Clifford," continued Ned Hayward, "for
repeating such unpleasant words; but it is better you should hear all.
I will hasten, however: Captain Moreton affected not to believe the
tale; and then the lawyer went on to mention the facts. He stated that
your uncle's property was mortgaged to the utmost extent, that the
interest of two half years would be due in four or five days; that
notice of fore-closure had been given, and the time would expire
before six weeks are over, that there are considerable personal debts,
and that Sir John had written to him this very day to get a further
advance of ten thousand pounds, which are absolutely necessary to
stave off utter ruin even for a short time. Now I happen to know that
Sir John did actually write to this man; and as Mr. Wharton could have
no object in deceiving the person he was speaking to, I fear the tale
is too true."

"Good heavens! what is to be done?" exclaimed Mary Clifford; "Oh,
Captain Hayward, how terrible it is to know this, and not to be able
to assist!"

Captain Hayward paused a single instant and then replied with a look
of deep feeling and interest, "Perhaps I ought not to have told you
this, Miss Clifford," he said; "but I am a very thoughtless person, I
am afraid, and yet I did not do this without thought, either; you know
that I have a deep regard for your uncle, he was a very kind friend to
me in days gone by, but having observed him well and with that
accuracy which, strange as it may seem to say, is only to be found in
extreme youth; I know that it is perfectly in vain to talk with him on
the subject of his embarrassments, unless at the very moments when
they are the most pressing and severe. To talk with him then may be
too late. He is one of those--and there are many of them--who, with a
hopeful disposition, many resources in their own minds, and a happy
faculty of banishing unpleasant thoughts, go on from one difficulty to
another, finding means through a great part of life of putting off the
evil day, and who, thinking the chapter of accidents inexhaustible,
come suddenly to a full stop in the end, with all their resources
exhausted and no possible means of disentangling themselves from their
embarrassments. It has been his constant axiom for twenty years, to my
certain knowledge, that something would turn up, and when such is the
case, it is perfectly in vain to attempt to consult with a person so
circumstanced as to the means of extricating him from difficulties, of
which he always expects to be delivered by a lucky chance. Having
found Fortune his best friend, he goes on trusting to her, till the
fickle dame deserts him, and then looks around in bewilderment for
assistance which cannot arrive."

"Too true a picture, too true a picture," replied Miss Clifford, in a
sorrowful tone; "I have seen it myself, Captain Hayward, and have been
grieved to see it."

"Well, do not let us grieve, but act, my dear lady," said Ned Hayward;
"let us consult together, and see what can be done, good Sir John must
be saved at any cost."

"But what can I do, Captain Hayward?" she inquired. "Perhaps you do
not know that the whole of my fortune is tied up by my father's will
so strictly, that I can dispose of nothing till I have reached
one-and-twenty years of age; and though I would willingly, most
willingly, sacrifice any thing to relieve my uncle, I am as powerless
in this business as a child."

"This is unfortunate, indeed," said Ned Hayward, in reply, "very
unfortunate, I had hoped that you had command of your own property, or
that you might be able to point out one, who would be able and willing
to take this mortgage and relieve your uncle."

"I know of no one, no one on the earth," she answered; "my mother's is
but a jointure; I am not of age for nine or ten months, and before
that time it will be all over."

"The security is perfectly good," continued Ned Hayward in a musing
tone, as if he had not heard her, "and I feel very sure that the
property is worth a great deal more than this man has advanced,
or any of his clients, as he calls them. Otherwise it would not have
been done. We should easily find some one, I think, to take the
mortgage, if we could but pay this cursed interest and stop the
fore-closure--perhaps at a less per centage, too--that man is a rogue,
I am sure, and we may very likely cut down a great many of the
charges; for I feel very certain he has been purposely entangling good
Sir John, till at length, when he thinks there is no possibility of
escape, he pounces upon him to devour him."

"But what is to be done? what is to be done?" reiterated Miss
Clifford.

"Well, it does not matter," said Captain Hayward, in the same
thoughtful tone; "I'll tell you what we must do: I have a sum sixteen
thousand pounds in the funds. Ten thousand, it seems, will be wanted
for the most pressing matters--we will call it twelve thousand; for no
man in your uncle's position reckons very closely what is needed, and
his calculation is always below instead of above the mark. I will go
up to town and sell out; that will put off matters for six weeks or
two months; and, in the meantime, we must set all our wits to work for
the purpose of finding some one who will take the mortgage at
reasonable terms, and of putting your uncle's affairs altogether into
order."

"Oh! how can I thank you, Captain Hayward?" said Mary Clifford,
putting her hand upon his arm; "indeed, indeed, I am very grateful."

"Without the slightest occasion," replied Ned Hayward. "I wish to
Heaven I had the means of taking the mortgage myself; but the fact is,
my poor father--as good a man as ever lived--was too kind and too easy
a one. He put me very early into what is called a crack-regiment,
which in plain English means, I suppose, a regiment likely soon to be
broken, or, at all events, likely to break those that enter it. I had
my expensive habits, like the rest, and never fancied that I should
not find five or six thousand a-year, when I returned from Gibraltar
at my father's death. Instead of that, I found the unentailed property
totally gone; the entailed property was mine, as I was the last of my
race; but there were debts to the amount of forty thousand pounds; but
if I did not pay them, who would? The men would have had to go without
their money; so I sold the property, paid the debts, put the little
that remained, between fifteen and sixteen thousand pounds, in the
funds, and have lived within my income ever since. Thus, you see, I
have not the means of taking the mortgage."

Mary Clifford cast down her eyes, and was silent for a minute or two;
for there were very strong emotions at her heart--sincere respect and
admiration; more powerful, far, than they would have been had she
conceived a high opinion Ned Hayward's character at first, or if he
had made a parade of his feelings and his actions. He treated it also
lightly, however, so much as a matter of course, both what he had done
and what he was about to do, that many an ordinarily minded person
would have taken it on his own showing, and thought it a matter of
course too. But Mary Clifford was not an ordinarily minded person, and
she felt deeply.

"But what will you do yourself, Captain Hayward?" she said, at length;
"my uncle will be long before he is able to repay you, and the want of
this sum may be a serious inconvenience to you, I fear."

"Oh! dear, no," replied Ned Hayward, with the easiest air in the
world, "I shall have four thousand pounds left, which will enable me
to get upon full pay again, and, though this is a sad peaceful time we
are in, may have some opportunity afforded me. I had held this sum,
which I put by, quite sacred, and would never touch a farthing of it,
though I was very much tempted once or twice to buy a fine horse or a
fine picture; but cut off as I am, my dear Miss Clifford, by my want
of fortune, from forming those ties which are the comfort and
happiness of latter years to most men, I may as well go and serve my
country as well as I can to the best of my power, as linger out my
days in hunting, and shooting, and fishing, reading poetry, and
looking at pictures. Sir John will pay me when he can, I know; for he
will look upon it as a debt of honour; and, if he never can, why, it
can't be helped; at all events, I do not wrong my heirs, for I have
got none;" and he laughed right cheerfully.

Mary Clifford looked in his face with a smile; it was a sort of
philosophy so new to her, so good, so generous, so self-devoted, and
yet so cheerful, that she felt strongly infected by it. She had been
bred up amongst people and by people equally good, equally generous in
all great things; but somewhat rigid in smaller ones; severe, if not
stern; grave, if not harsh; and they had committed the sorrowful
mistake of thinking, and of trying to teach her to think, that true
piety is not cheerful. Her father had been the person from whose
breast this spring of chilling waters had been welled forth; and
Mary's mother, though originally of a gay and happy disposition, had
been very much altered by the petrifying influence of the stream. The
contrast, too, in Mrs. Clifford's case, between her brother and her
husband; the one of whom she might love, but could not respect; the
other whom she loved and respected, nay, somewhat feared, tended to
clench her mistake, which the dean had striven to implant; and to make
her believe that cheerfulness and folly, if not vice, were companions
rarely separate. Mary Clifford saw the mistake now, though her own
heart had told her long before that an error existed somewhere. But
she felt, at the same time, that she also had a part to play towards
one who sacrificed so much for the nearest relation she had except her
mother; and with a beaming smile upon her lips, she said:

"Captain Hayward, I shall never forget your conduct this day; but, at
the same time, you must not run any risk, or be any loser. If I had
any power over my own fortune, I would do what you are now kind enough
to do; but, at all events, I give you my word, that, the moment I am
of age, I will repay you."

"Oh, I dare say Sir John will do that," answered Ned Hayward, "but, at
all events, my dear young lady, pray say nothing to him on this
subject till the last moment. We must let the matter press him very
hard before he will hear reason; then, when he sees no means of escape
whatever, he will consent that others shall find one for him. You had
better talk to his daughter, but enjoin her to secrecy. If I have an
opportunity, I will sound Beauchamp; I have a notion that he is rich;
I feel very sure he is liberal and kind, and may take the mortgage
if he finds it a reasonable security. That it is so, I am quite
certain--nay, more, I am convinced, that if Sir John would let me
manage all his affairs for him for one year, I would remove all his
difficulties, and leave him a better income, in reality, than he has
had for a long while. But now I must run away and leave you, for I see
the people are getting up about the place, and I have two important
pieces of business to do before noon."

"Indeed," said Mary, struck by something peculiar and indefinable in
his manner; "I hope nothing unpleasant?"

"I will tell you what they are," said Ned Hayward, in a gay tone; "and
then you shall judge for yourself. I have, first, to catch the largest
trout in the river; I made a bet last night with your uncle that I
would do so, and I always keep my engagements; and then I have to make
ready for London to sell out this money."

"But need you go yourself?" said Miss Clifford, with a look of
interest; "can you not send?"

"True, I can," said Ned Hayward, "I never thought of that--but yet I
had better go myself.--Good bye, good bye!" and he turned away; then
pausing for a moment, something which he struggled against, got the
better of him, and, coming back, he took Mary Clifford's hand in his,
and pressed it gently, saying, "Farewell! There are some people, Miss
Clifford, whose society is so pleasant, that it may become dangerous
to one, who must not hope to enjoy it long or often."



CHAPTER XVIII.
Ned Hayward's missive to the younger Wittingham.


"What hour does the coach start at for London?"

"Half-past four, Sir."

"Arrives in town at twelve to-morrow, I think?"

"No, Sir; last time I went up, we got there by eleven."

"Then down again at half-past four?"

"Yes, Sir--gets to the White Hart at half-past eleven--longer coming
down than going up."

"That will do very well." And Ned Hayward, who had held the above
conversation with one of Sir John Slingsby's servants, hurried
upstairs. His room was all in the most exact order. His fishing
tackle, two fowling-pieces in their cases, shot-pouches, game-bags,
powder-flasks, &c., were in array on the top of the drawers. His
clothes were all in their separate places, his boots arranged under
the dressing-glass, his writing-desk upon the table, flanked on either
side by half-a-dozen volumes. Every thing could be found in a moment,
so that if called upon suddenly to march, the baggage would require no
time to pack. It was to the writing-desk he first went however; he
opened it, unscrewed the top of the inkstand, took out a sheet of
notepaper and a memorandum-book, and then sat down deliberately in
the chair. The memorandum-book was first called into service, and in
the column of accounts he put down what he had paid at the inn that
morning, and then, on another page, wrote down the following list,
which I will not attempt to explain,

   "Catch trout.
   "Write to H. W.
   "See Ste Gim.
   "Make inquiries.
   "Provide for boy.
   "Pack car. bag.
   "Coach to London.
   "Sell out 12,000_l_.
   "Alter will.
   "Pistols.
   "Friend--qy. Beauchamp.
   "Talk to him of No. 2 and No. 8."

When this was done, he put the memorandum-book in the pocket of a
frock-coat, sat down again, drew the sheet of notepaper towards him,
and on it wrote as follows, with a bold, free, rapid hand.

"Captain Hayward presents his compliments to Mr. Henry Wittingham, and
begs to inform him that since he had the honour of seeing him last
night, some business has occurred which compels him to go to London
for a short time. He goes by the coach this day at half-past four,
returns by the coach which leaves London at the same hour to-morrow,
and expects to arrive at the White Hart by half-past eleven or twelve.
If by that time Mr. Wittingham has found some gentleman of honour to
use as his friend, Captain Hayward will have much pleasure in seeing
that gentleman at the White Hart any time between the arrival of the
coach and one o'clock. If not, he will be found for about a fortnight
at Tarningham-park."

The note was then addressed and sealed, and as soon as that was done,
without a moment's pause, Ned Hayward threw off the dress-coat in
which he was still habited, put on a sporting costume, looked through
his book of flies, and taking fishing-rod and basket in one hand, and
the note in the other, descended the stairs.

The house was now in the bustle of morning preparation; housemaids
were sweeping, men-servants were taking away lamps and candlesticks,
and to one of the latter the note was delivered, with a half-crown,
and directions to send some lad immediately to Buxton's inn. That
being done, Ned Hayward strolled out into the park, taking his way
towards the stream, where we will join him by-and-by.

We must now return to Mary Clifford, however, who stood where Ned
Hayward had left her in deep thought for several minutes. Had she been
the least of an actress, she would not have done so, for she might
have fancied that it would betray to her companion, as he walked away,
what was passing in her mind; but Mary was not the least of an
actress. Graceful by nature, ladylike and polished by heart and
education, it had never been necessary for her to picture to her own
imagination what others would think of any of her movements or words.
She was unaccustomed to do so. She never did it. She did not feel
herself upon a stage; she was never acting a part. How few there are
of whom we can say the same! But there she stood, silent, grave, and
thoughtful, with Hayward's words still ringing in her ear, his manner
still before her eyes; and both had been somewhat marked and peculiar.
But three minutes were all that she would give to such thoughts. They
came upon her in confused crowds, so numerous, so busy, so tumultuous,
that they frightened her; and, not being very brave by nature, she ran
away from them, to take refuge with the calmer but sterner meditations
regarding her uncle's situation. What was to be done, and how it was
to be done, were very puzzling questions, which she asked herself over
and over again, without receiving any satisfactory reply from her own
mind. Under the pressure of difficulties and dangers, whether
affecting ourselves, or those near and dear to us, there comes upon us
a necessity for action, a _cacoethes agenda_, which we can scarcely
restrain. We cannot sit down quietly and wait for time and
circumstances to present favourable opportunities, as we should do,
when the affairs in our hands were but matters of indifference to
ourselves; calm, business-like transactions, in which we have no
personal feeling. The heart comes in at every turn, and perplexes all
the fine plans of the head; and we must be up and doing, whether the
moment be favourable, or not. Mary Clifford felt all this, and was, in
some degree, aware of the unreasonableness of precipitancy. She
thought it might be better to wait and see, and yet anxiety,
eagerness, affection, urged her to do something, or something, at
least, for her uncle, as soon as possible. She could not rest under
the load; she felt as if activity would be almost a crime; and thought
she could see no light whichever way she turned, yet she resolved to
attempt something, not feeling very sure, whether she should do injury
or not.

Such was the course of her meditations, for nearly half an hour, after
Ned Hayward left her; and yet it must be confessed that, though these
meditations were upon painful subjects, they were not altogether
painful. Did you ever listen attentively, dear reader, to one of those
fine and masterly pieces of Beethoven's writings, where the great
composer seems to take a delight in puzzling and perplexing the hearer
drowning him, as it were, under a flood of harmony, where discords are
as frequently introduced as any thing else? But still, through them
all runs a strain of melody, which links them all together.

Such was very much the case of Mary Clifford. For, although the
general train of her thoughts was sombre, and there was much cause for
sadness in all she had heard, there was something very sweet--she
herself knew not what--that mingled with the old current of
reflection, and harmonised it beautifully. It was something
hopeful--expectant--trustful--a belief that by the agency of some one
all would go right.--Was it love? Was it the first dawn of that which,
to the young mind, is like the dawn of the morning, that softens and
beautifies every thing? I cannot tell; but, at all events, it was so
far undeveloped, that, like the strain of melody which pours through
the whole of a fine composition, giving a tone of richness and
sweetness to every part, it was undistinguishable from the rest, felt
and known to be there as a thing separate and alone, and yet
inseparable.

Whenever she tried to distinguish it, fear seized upon her, and she
flew away again. Why was she happy, when all that she had heard was
the most likely to render her otherwise? She did not know, she would
not know; but still she gave way to the feeling, although she would
not give way to the thought; and while she shrunk from clothing her
own sensations in distinctness, longed to render them distinct, that
she might enjoy them more fully.

"I will go and seek Isabella," she said, at length, "she must know of
this; and then we can all consult together, perhaps, if one can but
teach her light gay heart to be prudent and discreet--and yet," she
continued, thoughtfully, "she has, perhaps, more worldly wisdom than
myself, more knowledge of life and all life's things. Those who are
accustomed to commune much with their own thoughts, gain, I am afraid,
a conceit in their own opinion, which makes them undervalue those
which are formed upon a practical knowledge of the world. Isabella is
full of resources, and, perhaps, may devise many means that would
never strike me."

These thoughts passed through her mind as she was approaching the
house, and very soon after she stood in her cousin's dressing-room,
finding her, even at that early hour, up and partly dressed.

"Why, dearest Mary," exclaimed Isabella, "where have you got all those
roses? The morning air must be very good for the health, as every one
says, to change your cheek, which was yesterday as pale as twilight,
into the very aspect of the dawn."

"I have been out walking on the terrace, more than an hour," replied
Mary, "and I was pale yesterday, I suppose, from the fright of the
night before. I have had a companion, too, Isabella," she continued
gaily, though her voice trembled a little; "Captain Hayward came up
and joined me, and told me all his adventures of the night before."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Miss Slingsby, "his adventures must be very wild
and singular, I suppose; for his is just the spirit to seek them and
to make the most of them when he has got them. But what has happened
since, Mary?--We had all the details, you know, up to the period at
which, like Don Quixote, he arrived at an inn."

"I do not think there is anything in the least like Don Quixote about
him, Isabella," replied Mary Clifford, gravely; "if he seeks
adventures, it is for the advantage of others."

"So did Don Quixote," replied her cousin, giving her a sly smile; "but
what did he say, dear cousin?"

"Oh, there was a great deal besides what you heard last night,"
replied Miss Clifford, "you only had the sketch, the picture is still
to be filled up, and he had better do it for himself. However, I have
other things to talk to you about, Isabella, of more importance;" and
she glanced at the maid that was arranging her mistress's hair.

"I shall be ready in a minute," answered Miss Slingsby; "make haste,
Minette, I think you have been longer than usual this morning."

The maid, however, had a thousand reasons to give for being longer,
all perfectly valid in her own estimation; and, whether out of spite,
or in the hope that the two young ladies would grow tired of waiting
and say plainly all they had to say, I cannot tell, but she contrived
to occupy a full quarter of an hour more in dressing her mistress's
hair. Those who calculate upon the difficulty of carrying a secret are
rarely mistaken; but in this case Mademoiselle Minette did not arrive
at her end. Mary said nothing more; and, at length, the girl was
dismissed, and the two cousins were left alone together.

"In the name of fortune!" exclaimed Miss Slingsby, as soon as the maid
was gone; "what solemn thing have you got to tell? Has he proposed
already? On my word, it is a very speedy declaration!"

Mary coloured like a rose, but answered gravely, "Dear Isabella, how
can you be so light? If you speak of Captain Hayward, our conversation
has been upon very different subjects, and was a very serious one. I
am afraid I shall have to distress you, Isabella, as much or more,
than his information distressed me."

"I hope not," replied Isabella. "I did not know at all that he was a
distressing person. I always thought him a very pleasant fellow, and
imagined you thought so too, dear cousin; but how has he contrived to
distress you?"

"Why, by some news of no very pleasant character," answered Mary
Clifford, "he overheard, accidentally it seems, some conversation
relating to your father, from which he learned some particulars, that
grieve me greatly to hear."

"Indeed!" cried Miss Slingsby, with a start; "they are not going to
shoot at him, I hope?"

"Oh, dear no," replied Mary, "nothing of that kind; but about his
affairs generally."

"Well, speak out boldly, Mary, dear," answered her cousin, "I see you
are going round the matter, love, for fear of vexing me; tell it at
once, whatever it may be. You know I have a bold heart, not easily put
down; and, though you judge me light and thoughtless, I know, believe
me, Mary, it is more a necessity of my situation than any thing else.
If I were to think by the hour together over all the things that are
unpleasant to me, as you or my dear aunt would do, I should only kill
myself without altering them. Papa has his own ways, which were formed
before I was born; and, coming so late in the day, I don't think I
have any right to meddle with them. I get out of the way of all that
is disagreeable to me as much as I can; and, when I can't, like a good
dutiful daughter, I submit. You know that he is, to use our good old
gardener's expression, 'as kind as the flowers in May;' and I should
be very ungrateful if I teazed him by constantly opposing habits which
I cannot change, and which are my elder brothers and sisters. My
philosophy may be a bad one, but pray leave it to me, Mary, for I
could not be happy with any other."

Mary Clifford took her cousin's hand and pressed it kindly in her own;
"I would not take it from you for the world," she said, "for I know
and understand all you feel, and am quite well aware that you are
performing the first of duties in endeavouring to make your father's
house as happy for him as you can, while you don't suffer your own
mind and manners to be tainted by customs you do not approve. You have
had a hard part to play, dear cousin, and you have played it well; but
it is not upon these subjects I come to speak to you, but upon one,
which though perhaps of less vital importance, unfortunately affects
the happiness of this life more. Your father's means and fortune,
which I am sorry to say, from all I hear, are very much embarrassed."

"Good heavens! what do you mean?" exclaimed Isabella, gazing anxiously
in her face, and Mary went on as delicately as she could to tell her
all that Ned Hayward had communicated. At first, the poor girl seemed
overwhelmed, exclaiming, "A week before they call for such a large
sum! six weeks before the whole is finally gone from us! Good heavens,
Mary, what is to be done?"

In a moment, however, she rallied: "Well," she exclaimed, "I have been
very blind--as blind as a great politician, Mary. A thousand things
should have prepared me for this that I now recollect, letters, and
messages and intimations of various kinds. That sleek knave, Wharton,
is at the bottom of it all; but he shall not crush me; and I dare say
we shall do very well with what is left. I have jewels and trinkets of
my own, and poor mamma's, to keep house for a longtime; and there must
be something left out of the wreck."

"But the thing is, if possible, to prevent the ship from being wrecked
at all," answered Mary Clifford; and she then went on to tell all that
Captain Hayward proposed to do, in order to prevent any immediate
catastrophe, not trusting her voice to comment upon his conduct for a
moment.

But Isabella did it for her, "O, dear, kind, generous fellow," she
cried, "how I love him! Don't you, Mary? Although papa may have many
bad and foolish friends, you see there are some noble and wise
ones--but I'll tell you what, Mary, we'll go down and talk to him
after breakfast, and we'll all consult and see what is to be done;
we'll have a plot to serve papa, whether he will or not; and I declare
Mr. Beauchamp shall be one of the conspirators."

"Just what I should propose," answered Mary Clifford; "for, although
you have known Mr. Beauchamp but a very short time--"

"A good deal longer than you have known Ned Hayward," answered Miss
Slingsby, with a smile.

"Nay, nay, pray do be serious, Isabella," answered her cousin; "I was
going to say, though we have known Mr. Beauchamp but a very short
time, I do believe from various traits I have seen, I do think he is
an amiable and kind-hearted man, though perhaps somewhat cold and
stately."

"Oh, he may be warm enough, for aught we know," replied Miss Slingsby,
"but there is the breakfast bell; papa will be down and want his
coffee."



CHAPTER XIX.
The Struggle near the River.


Nobody could perceive at the breakfast-table that Sir John Slingsby
had suffered from the strong emotions by which we have seen him
influenced on the preceding night. No one could have conceived that
his state and fortune were in the tottering condition which Ned
Hayward had represented. He was as gay, as happy, as full of jest and
merriment as a schoolboy of seventeen. And as his sister was
peculiarly cheerful, it seemed to excite in him even a more merry and
jocund liveliness. To say the truth, Mrs. Clifford felt that her bond
was broken; that her visit to her brother's house, and her stay with
him, had unlinked one of the chains of cold and formal proprieties
which had been wound round her for so many years. Heaven knows, she
never wished to see, hear, or do, think, or countenance anything that
was evil; but yet her heart felt freer and lighter--it had more room
to expand. In fact the sunshine of early days seemed to be reflected
upon it, and it opened out to the light like a flower. She was gayer
than her daughter, though silent and still, except when called into
conversation by some lively sally; but she smiled, was good-humoured,
and answered even merrily, when a jest passed round, and seemed to
wonder at the more than wonted gravity of her Mary. Isabella was
almost too gay; as gay as the habits of the world and her own sense of
propriety permitted; but, to an observing eye this cheerfulness was
rather assumed than real; and to any one who, like Mary, had the
secret of her heart, it was very evidently affected to cover a deeper
and a graver current beneath.

"Well, what's the news this morning?" said Sir John, as Isabella
poured out the tea and coffee; "a quarter to nine and no tidings
stirring? This seems to promise a dull day. Nobody's mill been burnt
down? Nobody's cat killed? Nobody's wife eloped? Nobody's daughter
gone to Gretna-green? Nobody's house been broken open, game stolen,
hen-roosts been plundered, pocket been picked, or nose been
pulled?--Faith we shall never get through the four-and-twenty hours
without something to enliven us. All the objects of country life
are gone. It seems to me that the world has turned as dead as a
horse-pond, and men and women nothing but the weed at the top, waiting
coolly in green indifference for the ducks to come and gobble them up.
Lack-a-day! lack-a-day! if we had but Ned Hayward here to cheer us up!
What can have become of him?"

"Oh, he has come back, my dear uncle," replied Mary; "I saw him upon
the terrace as I was taking my morning's walk."

"Then why is he not here?" exclaimed Sir John Slingsby, "why is he
absent from his post? What business has he at Tarningham-park, unless
it be like a ray of the summer sunshine to make every thing gay around
him?"

"He told me that he was going down to catch a trout," replied Miss
Clifford; "he has some bet with you, my dear uncle, it seems?"

"The boy is mad! irretrievably gone! Bedlam or Saint Luke's, or some
of those places they call a _private asylum_, is the only place for
him now," exclaimed Sir John Slingsby; "what, gone down to catch a
trout, without pausing to take either rest or breakfast, with his
hands burnt and a shot in his arm--so that fellow Gimlet said, they
tell me."

"He seemed very well," answered Miss Clifford; "and he said he had his
breakfast before he left the inn."

"I don't believe a word of it," answered her uncle; "that's just one
of his old tricks, Mary; if there was any thing to be done, he used
never to mind breakfast, or dinner, or supper, or any thing else; the
matter was always done first, and then he did not mind a good dinner
and a bottle of claret, or even two, as the case might be. I never saw
such a fellow! We used to call him 'thoughtless Ned Hayward;' but the
fact is, he used to think more in five minutes than the rest of us
altogether in four-and-twenty hours, and then he was free for the
whole day--but here come the letters, and papers; we shall have some
news now, and we shall have something to laugh at, with, or because
of."

Thus saying, Sir John took the bag which was brought to him by the
butler, opened it with a key attached to his watch-chain, and drew
forth the articles it contained one by one. First came a newspaper in
its cover--it was, I suppose, the Times, by its bulk--then another and
another. All these were laid down beside him; and next came the small
packet of letters, and then, oh! how eager all were to devour the
contents. Strange and mysterious mixture of old rags and size, what a
world of emotions have you conveyed about this earth! Not the most
terrible stage that has ever represented to the eyes of admiring
thousands the works of the poet, or displayed the skill of the actor,
has produced such deep tragedy as you. How often has the sight of the
thin folded sheet, with its strange, crooked black hieroglyphics,
overwhelmed the lightest and the gayest heart with heaviness and
mourning! how often changed the smile into the tear! how often swept
away the gay pageants of imagination, and memory, and hope, and left
the past all darkness, and the future all despair! But, on the
contrary, how often have ye been the unexpected messengers of
happiness and joy! how often have ye brought sunshine and light into
the benighted breast! how often dispelled in a moment the dark
thunder-clouds of the world's blackest storms,--aye, and sometimes,
too, have closed as with a lightning-flash, the black tempestuous day
of a long sorrowful life, with a gleam of ecstasy, too intense and
potent to survive!

All eyes turned eagerly to Sir John Slingsby, while he looked over the
letters. The first was in a stiff and clerk-like hand, which he put
down beside him with a low chuckle, which probably indicated an
intention of not reading it at all. The next displayed a scrawl,
written as if with a butcher's skewer, thin, straggling, and
irregular, like the scratching of a hen in the last agony. That met
the fate of the former one. Then came an address in a good, bold,
dashing hand, with a name written in the corner.

"Ah, ah!" cried he, "from Tom South, about the borough of
Twistandskin. Before I stand, I'll see him--Lord bless me, what
was I going to say?" and putting his hand to his mouth, he looked to
his sister with a low laugh; but that letter was put at a little
distance from the two others. "Ah! Mr. Beauchamp, here is one for
you," continued the baronet, "sent up with the postmaster's
compliments!--damn his compliments! who wants his compliments?" and he
gave the letter over to Beauchamp, who was sitting at the opposite
side of the table next his daughter. "My dear Harriet, do try that
pasty, it is excellent; or take something, in the name of
Heliogabalus; this is not a fast-day, is it? There's the best ham that
ever came out of Yorkshire, on the side-board. There, Isabella,
there's an epistle for you, from one of your sweet, maudlin, blond and
satin friends in London, as soft and insipid as a glass of orgeate,
I'll answer for it; full of loves, and dears, and sweet friends, and
languishing for your darling society, and wondering what you can be
doing in the country, spending your beauty on the desert air. Don't
let me hear a word of it; I hate them all; and, if I had my will,
would smother them all to death under eiderdown quilts. Pray read your
letter, Mr. Beauchamp. Every body in this world is anxious to read
their letters but me; and as yours may very likely require an answer,
you had better look at it at once; for one post here goes out at
eleven."

Now, Sir John Slingsby, in the latter part of his speech, showed
himself considerate; for Mr. Beauchamp, during the first part of
breakfast, had borne a very grave and business-like air. He had given
himself up, it is true, to a more cheerful spirit on the day before;
he had been calmly cheerful at dinner; gay in the evening; especially
when he was near Miss Slingsby. But who is not gay in the evening
hours, when the whole nervous fluid seems to have accumulated about
the brain and the heart, when the anticipated, or actual labours of
the day are over, the apportioned task of care and anxiety are done?
The load of the four-and-twenty hours is thrown off, and we snatch at
the brief portion that remains between labour and repose for
enjoyment. Who is not gay, when beauty and cheerfulness pour their
mingled rays upon us, flooding our feelings and our thoughts with a
bright, happy, and congenial stream? Take a glass of iced-water, dear
reader--as cold as you will, so that it be not actually frozen--and
pour into it a merry glass of warm champagne; see how it will sparkle
and dance up to the brim; and, unless the heart of man is a mass of
ice indeed, such will be the effect upon it of mere association with
youth, beauty, and innocent gaiety.

But since then, Beauchamp had slept upon the matter. The night before
he had gone on with the current; and now time had been afforded him to
ask himself how far that current had carried him. He was doubtful
whether he had not been borne too far; there were doubts, hesitations,
apprehensions in his mind; and he was grave--very grave indeed. He had
wished Miss Slingsby good-morning, he had expressed a hope she had
rested well, he had been most gracefully courteous--too courteous; for
very polished surfaces are generally cold; and Isabella, who had come
down with the intention of speaking to him frankly and freely upon
matters that interested her deeply, had shrunk into herself more than
was her wont.

Beauchamp opened the letter, however, with rather a languid and
unexpectant air, but the first words seemed to rivet his attention.
The eye of Isabella, without her will, or rather against it, fixed
upon him. She saw his cheek turn pale, then glow again warmly, and
then a glad and well-satisfied smile curled his lip. He ended the
letter, and, looking towards the ceiling, his lips moved for an
instant, and, folding up the paper, he put it in his pocket, giving
way for a few seconds to thought, which did not seem unsatisfactory.

Isabella Slingsby was the most straightforward girl in the world, by
nature; and she had but one class of experimental teaching in regard
to concealing her feelings. She could hide, occasionally, how much she
disliked some of her father's guests; she could conceal from him how
painful to her was much that she saw under his own roof. In every
thing else, however, she was as frank as the day; and, seeing Mr.
Beauchamp receive a letter, and look not discontented with it, she
said, somewhat inconsiderately:

"You seem to have had pleasant intelligence, Mr. Beauchamp?"

That gentleman turned his eyes suddenly upon her, and very fine and
lustrous eyes they were, and he gazed at her for an instant with a
smile so blended with many emotions, that Isabella, she knew not why,
cast down her eyes, and coloured. After a brief pause, he replied:

"Not unpleasant, Miss Slingsby; for so strange a thing is the heart of
man, or, rather I should say, so strange a thing is his fate, that, in
the course of years and with the change of circumstances, there will
be pleasure even in the total ending of what were once bright hopes.
The things we coveted and obtained, in the world's variation become
burdensome to us; as, at the end of a long day's journey, we lay down
with relief the weight which, at the outset, we carried with joy or
pride."

"That is because men are so fickle, I suppose," answered Isabella.
"The only constant beings on earth are women and Newfoundland dogs,
Mr. Beauchamp--it is so, I assure you, whatever you may think of it. I
know the wicked world takes a different view of the subject; but the
world is man's; and women might very well say a different picture
would be produced, 'if we lions were painters!'"

"Nay," answered Beauchamp, laughing, "I am not one of those evil
speakers and slanderers. I have had time to observe in the world where
I have been these many years as a mere spectator, watching the
characters of men and women; and I can justly say, that there are, at
least, ten good women for one good man. Circumstances may have
something to do with it; education, opportunity for good or evil; but
still there must be a fine and pure spirit at the heart, teaching to
avoid evil and to seek good."

"I believe, in truth, there is," answered Mrs. Clifford, joining in
the conversation; "and that the bent of almost every woman's mind is
towards that which is right. But if you are the creatures of
circumstances, Mr. Beauchamp, we are, in many, respects, the creatures
of your hands; you give the bent and the direction of somewhat more
than half our thoughts, I am afraid, and are--"

"To be blamed, if you go wrong," exclaimed Sir John Slingsby, with a
loud laugh; "to be sure, to be sure; that is a woman's philosophy, my
dear Harriet; all that she does good is her own, all that she does
wrong is man's; but let me tell you, my dear sister, that there is no
little doubt, in the minds of the best informed, which has the most
influence; man over woman, or woman over man. I am of the last
opinion; and I see it every day in my case and that of others; here
this girl, Isabella, rules me with a rod of iron--does any thing she
likes with me; but, by my faith, for this day I shall abstract myself
from her authority; for I have some business to settle during the
morning; and she must entertain her guests as she can. Mr. Beauchamp,
if you leave my house during the next four-and-twenty hours, it will
be a clear proof that Miss Slingsby does not entertain you properly;
and I shall be very angry with her inhospitality, if I do not find you
at lunch and dinner, tea and supper, and breakfast to-morrow morning;
for I shall be quite sure she has not made my house agreeable."

"An imputation that I should be the last to bring upon Miss Slingsby,"
said Mr. Beauchamp; and in truth he seemed to feel what he said; for
when they rose from the breakfast-table, and the party sauntered to
the window, in that pleasant indolence which generally succeeds the
first meal of the day--that five minutes that succeeds to breakfast,
in short, before we put on the armour of active exertion--he attached
himself closely to Miss Slingsby's side, engaged her in conversation
so light and cheerful, that the whole character of the man seemed
changed. Not that what he said was without thought; for there was a
deep undercurrent of reflection running all the time, which gave it
quite a different tone from what is called small-talk. It was
sparkling, brilliant, even playful; but its principal effect on the
minds of those who heard was to set them thinking. There was a marked
attention in his manner towards Isabella Slingsby, which flattered her
a little. She might have perceived before that he was struck with her
beauty, that he admired her, that he liked her society, when he had
twice or thrice met her at Dr. Miles's. She had thought him
exceedingly agreeable, and had fancied that he thought her so too; but
there had been nothing said or done--not one word, one look, one
gesture, that could set imagination flying any further; and she had
rested satisfied with letting things take their course, without any
other feeling than a slight degree of regret that her father had not
made the acquaintance of one so superior in manners and in mind to the
generality of those around. During the preceding evening, Beauchamp
had appeared in no other character than that of the calm, dignified,
quiet, and well-informed gentleman. But after breakfast his attentions
were more pointed; and Isabella felt a little agitated, and doubtful
of what all this would come to. She was not fond of any thing that
agitated her: and therefore, somewhat more abruptly than was
necessary, she broke through the conversation that was going on
saying:

"Mr. Beauchamp, Mary and I have entered into a compact to go down and
see Captain Hayward win his bet."

"What bet?" asked Beauchamp, who had forgotten all about it.

"To catch the largest trout in the river before twelve o'clock,"
replied Isabella; "will you escort us? My dear aunt, won't you come
too?"

"No, my dear," answered Mrs. Clifford; "I have letters to write, too,
like your father."

"I have no letters to write," exclaimed Sir John Slingsby, somewhat
petulantly; "I wish I had nothing less pleasant to do; but I have to
see the steward and a damned lawyer about business--the greatest bores
on earth. I wish to Heaven Peter the Great had been but autocrat of
England for a bare month. Heaven and earth! how he would have thinned
the roll of attorneys!--or if we could but bring them under the
cutting and maiming act, what hanging and transporting we should have.
I am sure they cut up our time and our comforts, maim our property,
and cripple our resources. But the devil never abandons his own; and
so they slip out of every noose that is made to catch them. There's
that fellow, Stephen Gimlet, can make, they say, springes that will
catch woodcocks and snipes, hares, pheasants, partridges, ruffs, and
rees; hang me, if I don't ask him if he has not got any trap that will
strangle an attorney."

"If he fails, ask Ned Hayward," said Isabella, half jokingly, half
earnestly; "I have no doubt he would furnish you with what you want."

"Perhaps he would, perhaps he would," answered Sir John; "not a bad
thought, Bella; but hang it, I must go and see the steward before that
fellow Wharton comes. So good bye, good bye, for the present. Mind the
luncheon time; and if Ned loses and does not bring me home a trout of
at least three pounds, we'll drink his health in a bottle of the old
hermitage--get your shawls and bonnets, get your shawls and bonnets;
and now, Harriet, if you want to send over to your place, be quick
with your letters, for I have got a man going to Tarningham at
twelve."

Mrs. Clifford left the room with her brother, and was followed
immediately by her daughter and niece. Beauchamp walked out into the
hall, and got his hat, gave some directions to one of the servants in
regard to sending up some of his clothes from the inn at Tarningham,
when any body was sent down to the town; and then returned to the
window of the breakfast-room. There he paused and looked out,
revolving various things in his mind, and coming to the half-muttered
conclusion, at length: "It must be so, it is quite clear--it is
certain." But when any one determines that a thing is quite clear, is
certain, before we agree with him in opinion, we should know what
other trains of thought are going on in his mind at the moment,
jostling this idea and that out of their right places, leaving others
far behind, and stimulating others again to run at lightning speed,
the Lord knows whither, to win their race. It is not at all
impossible, that if you or I, dear reader, could see into Mr.
Beauchamp's mind at this moment, we might come to a very different
conclusion on the premises, and think that the proposition was any
thing but, _quite_ clear, the result not at all _certain_.

However that might be, there he stood with his hat in his hand, in
very good spirits, when Miss Slingsby and her cousin appeared.

Isabella was rather fluttered, as we have said, about something or
another; she felt a timidity that was not usual with her, and she got
her cousin between herself and Mr. Beauchamp before they reached the
door, as if she intended that he should offer Mary Clifford his arm.
Beauchamp man[oe]uvred so skilfully, however, that before they were
through the door and down the steps, he was by Isabella's side again,
and, as she had two sides, one of which was certain to be unprotected,
while that side was almost certain to be the point of attack to a
dexterous enemy, she gave up the battle at once, and let things take
their course.

The walk, as Isabella managed it, was an exceedingly pleasant one. In
the first place, there were the beauties of nature. To what heart,
under what circumstances, do the beauties of nature fail to bring
sweet feelings? There is something in the universe, of which we have
no definite conception; perhaps, it is too universal, too wide, too
vast, to submit itself to any thing like demonstration. We all feel
it, we all know it, we all enjoy it. The ancients and some of the
moderns have deified it and called it Pan. It is, in fact, the
universal adaptation of one thing to another: the harmony of all God's
works; the infinite music of an infinite variety. It is figured in
music--faintly figured; for music is only the image of the whole by a
part; the sequence of bright things is the melody of creation; their
synchronous existence, the harmony of God's Almighty will. But in
this, as in all else, woe be unto those who have worshipped the
creature of the Creator, and who have mistaken this grand harmony in
the infinity of created things, for the Godhead itself. It is but one
of the expressions of Almighty love, and those expressions are as
infinite as the love from which they emanate. It is our finite, our
contracted, our exceedingly minute view of all things, that constantly
keeps us down from the contemplation and the conception of the
immeasurable to that which is within the ken of our own microscopic
vision. If creation itself is infinite, the infinite harmony thereof
is but a part of creation, and is in itself a proof of that
intelligent Providence, which man denies, because he does not see.

The walk was an exceedingly pleasant one, coming in varied scenes upon
the mind, each contrasted with the other, yet each harmonising
beautifully. After about a hundred and fifty or two hundred yards of
short turf they entered a glade, where tall trees, backed by deep
shrubs, cut off the sunbeams, except where here and there they
struggled through an open spot. Tall beeches, more than a century old,
crossed their arms above to give shade to the ground below, and though
the walk, nearly fifty feet in breadth from bole to bole of the old
trees, was mown along its whole extent, yet a little to one side and
the other the wild flowers appeared gemming the earth like stars upon
a firmament of green. There was the purple columbine and the blue
periwinkle, and the yellow primrose, and the pale bending anemone; the
hyacinth and the violet; and if art had had any share therein, the
arrangement of the flowers was so skilfully managed, that all seemed
owing but to nature's hand. The deep branches of the beech, and the
green shade that they cast through the air, gave a solemn and
elevating tone to the whole. The flowers and the occasional bursts of
sunshine, the rich colours of the moss, yellow and brown, and green,
enlivened the scene, and made the solemn stillness of the long avenue
seem like a thoughtful countenance brightened by a smile. Then
suddenly, when they had walked on for about a quarter of a mile, they
turned to the left through a wide break in the alley, and all was
wonderfully changed. Shade and melancholy was gone; and they stood
upon the edge of a round sloping descent of some three or four hundred
feet covered with green short turf, and marked out, at short
distances, by chumps of birches and hawthorns. On the right was the
woody crest of the hill, concealing in its bosom the continuation of
the avenue, which they had just quitted; but on the left, wide over
the tree tops and waving ground beyond, stretched out an extensive
prospect in the sunshine, all light and loveliness. It was one of the
bright days of early summer. Scarcely a cloud was in the sky, and yet
there was a softening effect in the atmosphere, which mellowed the
lights and shades into each other, and suffered the sight to pass
softly and gently from each line of the distance to that which
succeeded with a sort of dreamy pleasure, vague and indefinite, but
very sweet, like the sounds that sometimes come upon our sleeping ears
in the visions of the morning.

Skirting along the hill with a gradual descent, the broad gravel-walk
plunged into the valley, and there all was altered once more. A wide
and uncultivated wood swept round, a small sparkling rivulet dashing
on towards the broader stream amidst bushes and shrubs and water
plants; a willow here and there bending down its long pliant branches
over the glittering stream, and a patch of tall bulrushes raising
their long green stems, where any occasional interruption occasioned
the water to spread out. The trees were far apart, though the ground
was broken and uneven, and the flapping wing of a heron, with his gray
shadowy form rising up at some fifty or sixty yards' distance, added
to the saddening and sombering effect. It was like a discord in a fine
piece of music: just protracted long enough to make what had gone
before and what followed after more delightful, and the next minute
they issued forth upon the warm green meadows, gilded with buttercups,
that lay by the side of the wider river.

Heaven only knows what Isabella meant in bringing Beauchamp by that
path, if she did not intend him to make love to her. She could have
taken him round by the other side of the house, and the straight
horse-road to the bridge, or down over the turf through the open parts
of the park, amongst the deer and fern to the farther end of the
river, where it issued out of the grounds. But no, whether from
something that was going on in her own bosom, which made her
instinctively choose the scenes that most assimilated with her
feelings, or from accident, caprice, or design, she led him through a
path, full of the sense of love. There was one too many for a
declaration, it is true; and she knew she was so far guarded; but yet
it was a very dangerous walk for any two people, whose hearts had no
better security than the simple presence of another, to stray along
upon such a day as that.

The letter, which Beauchamp had received at breakfast, had evidently
either pleased, or entertained, or relieved him; but the effect was,
that he was infinitely gayer when he set out than he had ever been
since we have first met with him. He crossed the open ground by
Isabella's side with a firmer and more elastic step, with his head
high and his shoulders back, he gazed over the wide-spread park
scenery around, and seemed to snuff the air like a horse about to
start upon a race. He commented upon the loveliness of such views,
remarked how very English they were--how very seldom one ever saw any
thing similar in any other land--and seemed to enjoy the whole so
highly, as to leave an impression that the pleasure of the walk was
heightened by the society in which it was taken. When he came under
the shade of the tall trees his tone was somewhat changed, it became
softer, more serious, more earnest; and so he went on, his thoughts
seeming to receive a colouring from the scenery through which he
passed, without losing their general character, or particular train at
the moment. It was evident through all that he was thinking of
Isabella Slingsby; and though, with finished courtesy, he divided his
conversation very equally--not quite--between her and her cousin, yet
even when he was speaking to Mary Clifford, it was very evident that
his words, or at all events, his thoughts, were addressed to Isabella.

Mary said little, except just to keep up the conversation and deprive
it of any thing like awkwardness; but she felt, and indeed nobody
could help feeling, that Mr. Beauchamp's manner towards her cousin was
too marked and particular to be mistaken. Isabella, on her part, gave
way to all the gaiety of her heart, sometimes with bright and laughing
sallies playing round Beauchamp's more earnest and deep-toned
thoughts, sometimes yielding to the impulse which she imparted, and
venturing into the deep waters of feeling and reflection, whither he
led her, till startled at herself she took fright and retreated. She
was very happy, too; secure in Mary's presence from any thing that
might agitate or alarm, she felt that she could give way to the
pleasure of the moment; and even the knowledge of her father's
situation and of the dangers and difficulties that beset him acted but
as a softening and subduing power, which brought down her spirits from
their habitual gaiety, and rendered her heart more susceptible of
tenderer and deeper impressions.

Beauchamp felt that he was listened to, that he pleased, that he might
be beloved. He had seen nothing coquettish about Isabella; he had
heard a high character of her; he had been told by one, who had known
her from childhood, that she seemed lighter than she really was; that
if there was any thing assumed, it was the gaiety; that all the more
profound things, that occasionally appeared in her character, might be
trusted and relied upon; and that the seemingly high spirits were but
as the breeze, that ruffles the tree tops without touching the depth
of the forest. He felt sure, therefore, that she would not sport with
him, if she believed he was in earnest, and he took care, that upon
that subject she should have little doubt.

Thus passed away their walk; and though Mary Clifford would have given
a great deal, had she dared to venture, to make Mr. Beauchamp a sharer
in the secret of Sir John Slingsby's affairs, and asked the advice and
assistance of one who had evidently gained much experience of the
world, without being spoiled by the world, yet she knew not how to
begin; a feeling of timidity came over her that stopped her; and the
course of the conversation--its sparkling rapidity at some times, its
deep and intense feelings at others--gave no opportunity of
introducing a subject entirely discordant, without forcing it in a
manner both harsh and discourteous. She determined, therefore, as they
approached the river, to leave the matter to Captain Hayward, whose
frank straightforwardness, she thought, would soon either find or make
an opportunity.

When they reached the bank, however, Captain Hayward was not to be
seen; but Isabella pointed to an elbow of the wood, which concealed a
turn in the stream, saying that he was most likely higher up, and
accordingly they walked on. As they were passing through the little
path that cut through an angle of the woodland, they heard suddenly a
loud exclamation, then a very ungentlemanly oath, and the next moment,
as they issued forth, they saw Ned Hayward grappling with a tall,
powerful man, in what may be called a semi-military dress. The two
were, apparently, well matched, though few, either in strength,
activity, or skill, could match our friend. But the stranger, whoever
he was, practised a trick, which he thought likely to free himself
from his adversary, even at the risk of his own life. He struggled
hard, and in the struggle drew towards the brink. Ned Hayward made a
violent effort to resist the impulse, and most likely would have been
successful; for, if any thing, he was the stronger man of the two. But
a part of the green turf gave way, undermined by the course of the
current, and both plunged in together into a deep pool, and
disappeared for an instant in the water.



CHAPTER XX.


A map is a very useful thing: I wonder what people did without it
before it was invented. Yet there were great travellers in those days,
too, both by land and water. Adam began the first, and Noah the
second, and they managed very well without either chart or compass, so
that it is evident those instruments are nothing but luxuries, and
ought to be done away with. Nevertheless, I feel that I should be much
better off, and so would the reader too, if I could give here, on this
page, a map of the county of ----, just to show him the relative
position of the place called Buxton's Inn and the little village of
Coldington-cum-Snowblast, which lay nearly north-west of Buxton's Inn,
and at the distance, by the road, of about six miles. The innkeepers
charge seven miles' posting, because it was the seventeenth part of a
furlong beyond the six miles. However, a dreary little village it was,
situated on one of the two roads to London, which was indeed somewhat
shorter than the other, but so hilly, so tiresome, so bleak, and so
stiff, as the post-boys termed it, that man and beast alike preferred
the other road, and generally went to and from Tarningham by Buxton's
Inn. Nevertheless, it was absolutely necessary that a pair or two of
posters should be kept at Coldington, as that was the only direct road
to several considerable towns; and though it was only an eight-mile
stage, yet the cattle, when they had got over the hills, had no
inclination to go further. The post-horses had engendered a
public-house, which was designated by courtesy an inn, but it was a
very solitary one, with very few visitors but those who took a glass
of beer or spirits at the bar, and a chance mercantile traveller, who
came to supply the two shops that ornamented the village, and slept
there for the night.

At a very early hour of the morning, however, on the day of which we
have just been speaking, a post-chaise drew up to the door with horses
from Buxton's Inn, and a fresh relay was immediately ordered to carry
the travellers on towards Bristol. A tall, powerful, showily-dressed
man got out with a lady closely veiled, whose costume spoke of
Parisian manufacture; and while the portmanteaux and other articles of
baggage were being taken into the doorway till they could be placed
upon the new chaise, the gentleman paid the post-boy, and then asked
if he was going back directly.

"In about an hour, Sir," replied the man, touching his hat, with the
look of one well satisfied with his fee.

But at this reply the traveller looked blank, and said, "Well, it does
not matter. I must get some lad to run over across the moor with this
note to Mr. Wittingham. Just see for some one, my good fellow. He
shall have half-a-crown for his pains."

But the post-boy was not such a goose as to let the half-crown slip by
him, and, with the most respectful air in the world, he assured the
gentleman that he was quite ready to go that minute, and that he had
only proposed to stay an hour because he did not know--how should
he?--that the other wanted to send back.

The note and the half-crown were immediately given, the post-boy got
into his saddle again, resisted the soft entreaties of the ostler to
take a glass of something, and trotted away. No sooner was he gone,
however, in the full persuasion that ere a quarter of an hour was over
his two travellers would be on their way to Bristol, than the
gentleman he left behind seemed to have suddenly changed his mind. The
horses were countermanded, a room upstairs looked at, some breakfast
ordered, and there he and his fair companion seemed disposed to pass
the day. After a short but hearty breakfast, which was crowned by a
glass of brandy, upon the strength of such an early drive, the
gentleman himself sallied forth, saying to the lady, "I must see that
fellow Stephen, and find out if he has peached. If he has, we had
better get over the water for a while, at all events; though they can
prove nothing, I am sure."

"You will take your rash, wild ways, love," answered the lady, in a
languid tone; "and then you are sure to get into a scrape." But the
gentleman did not wait for the end of the admonition, leaving the room
and shutting the door behind him.

We will stay with the lady, however, and a very pretty woman she was,
though, indeed, there had been a time when she was prettier. She was
certainly not less than three or four-and-thirty, with good, small
features, and a complexion which had once been exceedingly fine. It
had become somewhat coarse now, however, and looked as if the process
of deterioration had been assisted by a good deal of wine, or some
other stimulant perhaps still more potent. Her eyes were fine dark
eyes, but they had grown somewhat watery, and there was an occasional
vacancy in them, a wandering uncertainty that bespoke either some
intense preoccupation with other subjects than those immediately in
question, or some failure of the intellect, either from temporary or
permanent causes. Her figure was tall and fine, and her dress very
handsome in materials and make; but yet there was a something about it
too smart. There was too much lace and ribbon, too many bright and
gaudy colours, too much flutter and contrast, to be perfectly
ladylike. There was also a negligence in the way of putting it
on--almost a slovenliness, if one may go that length, which made
things nearly new look old and dirty.

Her air and manner, too, were careless and languid; and as she set
herself down on one chair, then moved to another, and rested her feet
upon a third, it seemed as if something was continually weighing upon
her mind, which yet wanted vigour and solidity enough to make an
effort to cast it off.

It was not that she seemed to mope at being left alone by her male
companion, or that she felt or cared for his absence very much,
although she evidently deemed his plans and purposes imprudent and
perilous. Far from it: she was as gay, or perhaps gayer, when he was
gone than before; sang a little bit of an Italian song, took a small
note-book out of her bag and wrote in it some lines, which seemed, by
their regular length, to be verses; and then, getting up again, she
opened a portmanteau, brought out a book, and began to read. She had
not continued long, however, when she seemed to become tired of that
also, and putting back the book again, gave herself up to thought,
during the course of which her face was chequered with slight smiles
and slight frowns, neither of which had the most pleasant expression
in the world. There was a littleness in it all, indeed, a sort of
careless indolence, which perhaps bespoke a disposition hackneyed and
spoiled by the pleasures, if not the pains of life. And there she sat,
casting away from her everything but thought, as if there were nothing
in the world valuable or important, except the little accidents, that
might disturb or promote her own individual comfort. The maid who
carried away the breakfast things informed the landlady that "the
woman upstairs was a taking on it easy, a sitting with her feet on one
of the best chears." And although the good dame did not think fit to
object to this proceeding, she mentally commented on it thus: "Them
quality-folks is always giving themselves airs; but if she spiles my
new kivers, I'll take it out in the bill, anyhow."

After this state of things had continued for somewhat more than an
hour and a half, the gentleman came back, apparently in great haste,
dripping like a Newfoundland dog, and, calling to the ostler before he
ran upstairs, directed him to put-to the horses as soon as possible.
Then, running up, he entered the room where he had left the lady,
exclaiming, "Quick, Charlotte, we must be off like the devil!"

"Why, what's the matter, Moreton?" she said, without moving an inch.
"You are all dripping wet; you have met with some adventure."

"And something else, too," answered the gentleman. "I have met with
that devil of a fellow again, and he recognised me and tried to stop
me, but I pulled him into the river, and left him there, getting to
the other bank Heaven knows how. All I am sure of is, that I kept his
head under water for two or three minutes; for he fell undermost. But
I have not time to talk more now, for we must go as if Satan drove us,
and I will tell you more as we go along."

"I hope he's drowned," said the lady, with the sweetest possible
smile; "it is an easy death, they say. I think I shall drown myself
one day or other."

"Pooh!" said the gentleman. "But come along, come along! I have
something to tell you of Charles; so make haste."

"Of Charles!" exclaimed the lady, starting up as if suddenly roused
from a sort of stupor, while a look of intense and fiery malignity
came into her face. "What of him? Have you seen him? Did he see you?"

"I don't know," answered her companion. "But come along;" and taking
up one of the portmanteaus as the chaise drove up to the door, he
hurried down, and sent up for the other. The lady followed with a
quick step, drawing her veil over her face; for she now seemed to be
all life and eagerness; and while the gentleman was paying the bill,
she got into the chaise and beat the bottom of the vehicle with her
small foot, as if impatient for his coming.

Before he could reach the door, after having paid the bill, however, a
man on horseback galloped quickly up, and, springing to the ground,
caught the gentleman by the arm, exclaiming, "Why, hang it, Moreton,
you have played me a scurvy trick, to go off and leave me before it
was daylight."

"I could not help it, my dear Wittingham," replied the other: "I was
obliged to be off; there is a d--d cousin of mine down here whom I
would not have see me for the world. You must not stop me now, by
Jove; for they have found out where I am, and I expect him to pay his
respects very soon."

"Devil take it! that's unfortunate," cried Wittingham, "I wanted you
to go and call out that meddling scoundrel, Hayward, whom I told you
of. He bolted into my room last night, and he told me he had
horsewhipped me once, and would horsewhip me again whenever he met me,
if I could not get some gentleman of honour to arrange a meeting with
him."

"Upon my life, I can't stay," cried the other, "though I should like
to see you shoot him, too, if he is alive, which I have some doubts
of--but stay," he continued, after a moment's thought, "I will find a
man for you, and I will send him down without loss of time--Major
Woolstapler; he has been lately in foreign service, but that's all the
same, and he's a capital hand at these things; and, if you follow his
advice, you will shoot your man to a certainty--he shall be down
before three days are over; I am off for Bristol, and so up the Cath
road to London. We shall get there to-night; and he will be down
to-morrow or the next day early. He'll hear of you at Buxton's, I
suppose. Good-by, good-by." And he jumped into the chaise.

A moment after, as soon as the door was shut, he seemed to recollect
something, and putting his head out of the window he beckoned up young
Wittingham, saying, in a low voice, "You'll need the bull-dogs, so
I'll send you down mine. Tell Woolstapler to contrive that you have
number one. It will do his business, if tolerably well handled--and I
say, Wittingham, don't mention to any one that you have seen me either
here or at Oxford. My cousin fancies I am in India still." Then
turning to the postillion, he said, "Go on and brush along fast.
Sixpence a mile for good going."

Never was such an intimation given to a postillion without the horses
suffering for it. I actually once made a Bavarian go seven miles and a
half an hour between Ulm and Augsburg by the same process. I record it
as amongst the memorable events of my life, proudly satisfied that no
man upon earth ever did the same, either before or since. On the
present occasion, the postillion, without fear, struck his spurs into
the horse's side, laid the whip over the back of the other with that
peculiar kind of gentle application which intimated that if the
brown-coated gentleman did not get on as hard as his four legs would
carry him, the instrument of propulsion would fall more heavily the
next time; and away they went, at a pace which was a canter up hill, a
trot down, and a gallop over the flat. Captain Moreton leaned back in
the chaise and murmured, "We've cut them, by Jove!"

"But what is to be the end of all this?" asked the lady, who seemed to
be now thoroughly roused: "if that man is to go on for ever having his
own way I do not see any thing that is to be gained. We cannot keep
this up much longer, Moreton; and so you thought two days ago. I shall
be compelled to come forward and claim the arrears of the annuity by
actual want of money. You told me, when we were at the inn there, that
you had but ten pounds left, and now you seem to take a different view
of the subject. You men are certainly the most vacillating creatures
in the world."

"Nay," answered Moreton, bowing his head with an air of persiflage,
"ladies, it must be owned, are superior to us in that, as in
everything else. Two or three months ago you seemed enchanted with
your plan, and declared, though it had not answered yet, it would
answer in the end. I only thought it would not answer for want of
means, otherwise I was as well disposed towards it as you could be.
Now, on the contrary, you are eager to abandon it, while I wish to
pursue it, for this simple reason: that I have got the means of
carrying it on for some time at least, and see the greatest
probability of success. You must recollect, my dear Charlotte, that
this is not a matter where a few hundreds or a few thousand pounds are
at stake, but many thousands a-year."

As usually happens--for nobody ever hears or attends to more, at the
utmost, than the twentieth part of what is said to them, the lady's
mind fixed upon one particular sentence, without listening to anything
more, and she repeated, as if contemplating and doubting, "You have
got the means! You have the means!"

"Ay, indeed, I have," answered Captain Moreton, with a smile; "I have
got the means; for, while you were thinking I was doing nothing, I was
shrewdly laying out my own plans, by which I have contrived to screw
full five hundred pounds out of that terrible miser, Wharton. Was not
that somewhat like a _coup?_ With that we can live for some five or
six months in Paris--economically, you know, my love--we must not have
champagne and oysters every day; but we can do well enough; and before
the time is out, the very event we wished to bring about will have
happened; otherwise my name is not Moreton. I can see very well how
matters are going. He is caught: for the first time in his life really
and truly captivated; and, if we but take care to play our game well,
he will be married and completely in our power within a few weeks. I
know he will never be able to stand that; and there will but be one
choice before him, either to buy you off at the highest possible
price, or--"

"Buy me!" cried the lady; "if he had the diamond mines of Golconda, he
could not buy me! If he could coin every drop of blood in his heart
into a gold piece, I would see him mind them all to the very last, and
then refuse them all with scorn and contempt. No, no, I will bring him
to public shame and trial; I will make him a spectacle, have him
condemned as a malefactor, break his proud spirit and his hard heart,
and then leave him to his misery, as he has left me. For this I have
toiled and longed; for this I have saved and scraped, like the veriest
miser that ever worshipped Mammon in his lowest shape; for this I
saved every sixpence, and lived in self-inflicted poverty and neglect,
till I met you, Moreton, in order to hoard enough to keep me, till
this revenge could be accomplished; and often, very often since, I
have been tempted to curse you for having, by the extravagance you
taught and practised, squandered away the very means of obtaining all
that I have longed and pined for."

"You speak in a very meek and Christian spirit," cried Captain
Moreton, with a laugh; "but, nevertheless, I will not quarrel with it,
Charlotte; for your revenge would serve my purposes too. If we could
but get him to commit himself beyond recall, I am his next heir, you
know, my dear; and, therefore, the sooner he goes to heaven or Botany
Bay, the better for me--don't you think that we could contrive to get
up a very well authenticated report of your death in some of the
newspapers, with confirmations of all kinds, so as to leave no doubts
in his mind?"

"Moreton, upon my life I believe you are a fool," cried the lady,
bitterly; "would he not plead that as his excuse?--no, no, if I could
so manage it, and, Heaven or the devil send me wit, I care not which,
to do it, I would contrive to make him fancy my death certain by small
indications, such as none but himself could apply, and which, to the
minds of others would seem but frivolous pretexts if brought forward
in his own justification. If you can help me to such a plan, I will
thank you; if not, we must trust to fortune."

"Good faith! I see no means to accomplish that," cried Moreton.

"Now then, let us talk no more about it," answered the lady; and
sinking back into the chaise, she relapsed into that state of seeming
apathy, from which nothing but passion had the power to rouse her.

"By the way," said Captain Moreton, after about a quarter of an hour's
consideration, while the chaise rolled rapidly along, "all those
things that you had in Paris, clocks and chimney ornaments, and such
like things, what has become of them?"

"Oh, they are of little value, Moreton," said the lady; "a thousand
franks would buy them all; the worth would not last you ten minutes at
roulette."

"No," answered Captain Moreton, taking no notice whatever of the
bitterness with which she spoke; "but I was thinking that they might
be more serviceable at hazard."

"What do you mean?" she asked, abruptly, fixing her eyes upon him.

"I want to know where they are," answered Captain Moreton, in a cool
tone.

"Why you know very well," she answered, sharply, "when I left Paris
two years ago with you, I told the girl, Jeanette, to take care of
them till I came back. I dare say she has pawned or sold them long
ago."

"That is the very thing," cried Moreton, rubbing his hands. "We will
away to Paris with all speed; you will keep quite close; I will find
out Mamselle Jeanette, and give her intimation that she may sell the
things to pay her own arrears of wages; for that her poor dear lady
will never come back to claim them."

"I see the plan," replied the lady, "but I fear it will not answer,
Moreton; I had been living, as you know, in seclusion for a year
before, and the very means that I took to make him think me dead, will
now frustrate your scheme for that purpose."

"I don't know that, Charlotte," answered her companion. "He has been
making inquiries in Paris, I know; you were traced thither distinctly,
and whether all clue was there lost of your proceedings, neither I nor
you can tell. But I'll tell you a story. When I was living at my
father's place, he had a particularly fine breed of pheasants, which
regularly every year disappeared about the 8th or 9th of October,
without the possibility of proving that any one had been into the
copses. One day, however, when I was out early in the morning, I saw a
fine old cock, with his green and gold neck, walking along straight
through a field towards the ground of a neighbouring farmer. Every two
or three seconds down went the pheasant's head, and on he walked
again. I watched him for a few minutes over a hedge, then made my way
through, put up the bird, and examined the spot where he had been.
There I found a regular pheasant's footpath, and nicely strewed along
it a line of barleycorns, leading straight on to the farmer's ground,
in the first hedge of which I found another portly bird fast by the
neck in a springe. Now, my dear Charlotte, we'll strew some
barleycorns, and perhaps we may catch your bird in the springe; I
mean, we'll throw out such pieces of information as will lead to the
certainty that you were in the Rue St. Jaques two years ago; we will
get Jeanette to sell things to pay her own wages, with the best reason
to believe you are dead; and if what I have heard is true, all that
you have so long aimed at will be accomplished before two months are
over."

"I see, I see," answered the lady, and the chaise stopped to change
horses.



CHAPTER XXI.


The quiet little town of Tarningham was more quiet than ever about the
hour of twelve each day; for, according to good old primeval habits,
noon was the period for feeding. Men ate, beasts ate, and birds ate,
and we all know that eating is a silent process. It is the greatest
mistake in the world for doctors to tell you to talk while you are
eating, or else it is the bitterest sarcasm. They must either mean
that your digestion should be spoiled, or else that you are in the
habit of talking without thinking. But we, will make a sort of
corollary of it. "Man should not think when he is eating, man should
not talk without thinking; _ergo_, man should not talk at his dinner."
Therefore the people of Tarningham were wise; for never was there such
a silent town at the hour of twelve o'clock, when they were eating.
Doctor Miles could hear his own footfall with the most perfect
distinctness, as he walked along the High-street; and a good broad
foot it was, with a square-toed shoe and a buckle in it.

But Doctor Miles did not attend to the sound of his footfall; he was,
indeed, busily thinking of something else, with his eyes bent
down--but not his head--he rarely bent his head--holding it upright
and straight, and a little stiff, by the natural effect of mind on
body. His meditations were very deep, so much so, that it required an
extraordinary apparition to rouse him from his reverie. The sight,
however, of a human being in the streets of Tarningham a little after
twelve, was quite enough to produce that effect; and at the distance
of about two hundred yards from the door of the White Hart, he was
startled by beholding the diminutive form and somewhat contorted
person, of the poor little pot-boy, Billy Lamb, coming towards him
with an empty jug in his hand. Nobody attended to Billy's meals. He
got them how he could, where he could, and when he could. When all the
rest were eating, he was sent with a jug of beer here, or a pint of
gin there, and came back to feed upon the cold remnants of what the
rest had eaten warm, if, indeed, they left him anything; but yet the
fat landlord, ostlers, stable-boys, and barmaids, all thought that
Billy was very well off. The landlord thought so, because he declared
he had taken the boy in from charity; and the ostlers, and the
post-boys, and the barmaids believed it. O, charity! charity! thou
perverted and misused term. Since the first words that were uttered by
Adam in his garden, down to the moment when one of the world's great
men declared that language was intended to conceal men's thoughts, no
word in the whole dictionary has ever been applied to cover so
many sins as thou hast. Thou art the robe of vanity every day;
tricking it out in subscription lists, almshouses, hospitals; thou
art the cloak of pride and haughtiness, the pretext of every petty
tyrant who seeks a slave, the excuse of avarice, and greed, and
narrow-mindedness--ever, ever coupled with a lie! In what human heart
art thou ever found pure and unadulterated? The foul-mouthed slanderer
of a neighbour's fame, who gives a sixpence to a beggar or a pound to
an infirmary, is a charitable person. The scoffing sneerer at virtue
he cannot imitate, who flings away money profusely for the sole
gratification of a loose habit, is called charitable. The hard-hearted
man who denies others their rights, or he who cheats his followers of
their due reward, or he who grinds the faces of his workmen with
excessive toil, or he who is harsh and stern in his own household,
fierce and censorious to others, a despot with his wife, a tyrant with
his children, dies, and, in a pompous will, bequeaths a portion of his
ill-gotten wealth to build an asylum, and perpetuate his name, and is
praised and honoured as a charitable man.

That boy, forced to labour day and night, without consideration,
without comfort, without a kind word, fed upon refuse, palleted on
straw, yet doing more than the whole household altogether, was taken
in from charity! Believe it, reader, if you can. For my part, I don't
believe a word of it. I am quite sure that worthy Mr. Groomber wanted
somebody particularly, of an active and willing disposition, to carry
out the beer, and to attend to all those little matters which Mr.
Groomber could not do himself, and which his servants did not choose
to do, and that in taking in Billy Lamb for his own convenience, he
persuaded himself, and tried to persuade the public too, that he was
doing an act of charity. It is an extraordinary thing to consider how
often in the great tragic farce of the world we are our own
spectators; or, in other words, how continually, when we act a part,
we consider ourselves one of the audience, and strive to deceive that
individual the very first.

However that might be, there was Billy Lamb, the pot-boy, just before
Doctor Miles, with an empty tankard in his hand; and the good doctor
no sooner beheld him, than he stopped, and, in a kindly tone, asked
him how the world went with him. Now Doctor Miles was a great man in
the neighbourhood; he had property of his own of not very great
extent, but which rendered the living that he held but an accessory to
his principal means of subsistence. He did not live by the altar, but
for the altar; and there are no such keen drawers of distinctions as
the lower classes. Of this thing all clergymen may be sure, that he
who makes a trade of his profession, who exacts the uttermost penny
which he has a right to, and something more, who increases burial
fees, and makes broad the borders of all his dues, will always be held
in contempt. Of the butcher, the baker, and the grocer, the lower
orders expect such things. The exaction of a farthing on half-a-pound,
more than is really just, they know is a part of the privileges of the
knife, the oven, and the scales and weights. But with the ministers of
a pure and holy religion, whose grand and fundamental principle is
charity and abnegation of self, they expect a higher and a wider sense
of benevolence, a more large and disinterested view of the relations
of a pastor and flock. Thick must be the veil that covers from the
eyes of the humble and the needy that greedy and grasping spirit which
too frequently, like the ghoul of Eastern fable, preys among the
sepulchres of the dead, and takes advantage of the moment of
overwhelming distress and agony of mind, to urge the coarse claims of
priestly avarice; claims, but too frequently, untenable in law and
always barbarous, even when not illegal--dues which should be swept
away for ever, which should no longer exist as a constant source of
heart-burning and complaint between pastor and people, making the one
derive a portion of his living by laying a tax most onerous and hard
to be borne, either upon the joys or the sorrows of his parishioners,
and the others to look upon their teacher as one who sets at defiance
the first principles of the Gospel that he preaches, following
"avarice which is idolatry," and forgetting charity, "which covers a
multitude of sins."

Luckily, both by position and inclination, Doctor Miles was exempt
from all such reproaches. His necessities did not force him into
meannesses, and his natural disposition would never have suffered him
to fall into them, whatever his circumstances might have been. One
heard nothing in his parish of enormous charges for a brick grave,
swollen surplice-fees, that would make a cholera, a plague, or a
pestilence so rich a harvest, that the minister who would pray in his
desk against plague, pestilence, and famine, would be the grossest of
hypocrites. He did not look upon his churchyard as the most valuable
and productive part of his glebe, to be manured by the corpses of
his parishioners, and bear a cent-per-cent crop in monuments and
grave-stones. The consecration of the bishop he did not look upon as
fertilising the land for his own enrichment, but contented himself
with the bare amount of the moderate fee awarded by the law, and
neither asked nor received a penny more. Many of the neighbouring
clergy called him a weak and prejudiced man, and exclaimed loudly
against him for neglecting the interests, or, as they called them,
"the rights of the church." But, somehow, his parishioners loved him,
though he was rather an austere man, too, and never spared invective
or exhortation in case of error and misconduct. The secret, perhaps,
was, that they were convinced of his disinterestedness. He took from
no man more than was his due; he required of no man more than he had
the warrant of Scripture for requiring. His private fortune gave him
the means of charity, and to that object all his private fortune was
devoted. Every one in the neighbourhood knew that Doctor Miles could
have a finer house, could keep a better table, could maintain a
smarter equipage; but, at the same time, they were aware of two
things, first, that his income was not as large as it might have been
had he chosen to exact the uttermost farthing; and, secondly, that it
was not for the purpose of hoarding his money that he did not spend it
upon himself.

Thus Doctor Miles, as well may be conceived, was very much reverenced
in the neighbourhood; his rebukes were listened to, and sometimes
taken to heart; his advice was sought, and sometimes followed; his
opinions were always respected, if his injunctions were not always
obeyed; and his severity of manner was very well understood not to
imply any real harshness of heart.

The cap was off Billy Lamb's head in a moment, when he approached Dr.
Miles; but he did not venture to speak to him till the doctor, after
gazing at him for a moment in a fit of absence, exclaimed, "Ah,
William, how goes it with you? and how is your poor mother?"

"Oh, quite well," replied the youth, in his peculiarly sweet, low
voice; "mother's better than she was, though she has never been so
well since poor Mary's death."

"How should she? how should she?" exclaimed Doctor Miles; "these
things, my man, affect young people but little, old people but little;
for young people are full of their own life, and with them that
consideration supersedes all thoughts connected with death; and old
people are so full of the conviction of life's brevity, that the
matter of a few years more or less is to them insignificant. It is to
the middle-aged that the death of the young is terrible; it clouds the
past with regrets, and the future with apprehensions. But I want to
speak to your mother, Bill; she must forgive Stephen Gimlet, and try
and help him, and be a comfort to him."

"I wish she would," said the boy, looking down; "I am sure Stephen is
not so bad as people call him, and never would have taken poor Mary
away, if mother had not been so strict."

"I must talk to her," answered Doctor Miles; "but you may tell her, if
you see her before I do, that Stephen is a changed man, and Sir John
Slingsby has taken him for a gamekeeper.--Tell her, will you," he
continued, after a moment's thought, "that the cottage on the moor has
been burned down, and the poor little boy, Charley, would have been
burnt in it, because there was no mother, nor other relation of any
kind to help him, had it not been for a gentleman who is staying up at
the hall coming by at the time and rescuing the boy from the flames."

"Ah, I am sure that was the gentleman that was down here," exclaimed
the pot-boy; "Captain Hayward they called him; for he was a kind, good
gentleman as ever lived, and gave me enough for mother to put
something by against the winter."

"That is no reason why he should be walking on the moor," said Doctor
Miles, quickly. "However, I must talk to her, for the boy must not be
left alone any more; and we must see what can be done. But now tell
me, Bill, what wages do you get?"

"A shilling a week and my victuals," replied the boy, in an unrepining
tone; "it is very kind of Mr. Groomber, I am sure; and I do what I can
but that's not much."

"Humph!" said Doctor Miles, with not the most affirmative tone in the
world; "well, I'll come by and by, and see your mother; can you go
down and tell her that I am coming?"

"Oh yes, Sir," replied the boy; "they give me a quarter of an hour to
eat my dinner, so I can go very well; but I must go first to Mr.
Slattery's, the doctor; for Mrs. Billiter told me to bid him come up
quietly to Mr. Wittingham, as if just for a call; for the old
gentleman came home ill last night, and has taken to his bed."

"Mr. Slattery is out," replied Doctor Miles. "I met him on the road;
but leave the message, Bill, leave the message, and I will go up and
see Mr. Wittingham myself."

Thus saying, he bade the boy adieu, and walked on to the smart white
gates of Mr. Wittingham's highly-cultivated place, and, passing
through the garden, rang the bell at the door, which was opened to him
by a servant in a straight-cut blue coat, black and yellow striped
waistcoat, and black plush breeches, with drab gaiters.

In answer to Doctor Miles's inquiry, the servant informed him that Mr.
Wittingham was in bed, and could see no one; but the worthy clergyman
pressed for admission, saying that his business was of importance. A
consultation then took place between the man-servant and the
housekeeper, and, after some hesitation, Mrs. Billiter went up to her
master to inform him of Doctor Miles's visit, with a particular
injunction to impress upon the mind of the sick man that the
clergyman's business was of moment. She came down the next minute and
begged the visitor to walk up, with as low a curtsey as her long stiff
stays would permit her to make; and, she leading the way, Doctor Miles
followed with a slow and meditative step.

The room-door was gently unclosed, and the clergyman, entering, fixed
his eyes upon the figure of Mr. Wittingham as he lay in the bed, and a
sad sight it was. Terrible was the effect that one night of sickness
had wrought upon him. The long, thin, bony limbs were plainly visible
through the bed-clothes, and so far, Mr. Wittingham well, or Mr.
Wittingham ill, showed no difference; but there was the face upon the
pillow, and there were to be seen traces enough, more of suffering
than sickness. The features had suddenly grown sharp, and the cheeks
hollow; the eye was bright and wandering, the brow furrowed, and the
hue of the complexion, partly from the light-brown moreen curtain of
the bed--the most detestable curtains in the world--partly from a
sleepless, anxious, suffering night, had grown yellow, if not
cadaverous. Patches of short-cut gray hair, usually concealed by the
wig, were now suffered, by the nightcap, to show themselves upon the
temples. The large front teeth, the high nose and the protuberant
chin, were all more prominent than usual; and certainly Mr.
Wittingham, in cotton nightcap and clean linen sheets, was not the
most prepossessing person that ever the eye rested upon.

Doctor Miles, however, advanced quietly to his bedside, and, sitting
down in a chair, opened the conversation in a kindly tone.

"I am sorry to find you ill, my good friend," he said; "you seemed
well enough last night."

"Ay, ay, that's another thing, doctor," replied the invalid; "but I
got a terrible fright after that, and that has given me quite a turn."

"As to the way you will direct that turn," answered the clergyman,
"you will need some good advice, Mr. Wittingham."

"Ay, ay," said the magistrate, somewhat impatiently. "Billiter there
has been boring me for an hour to send for that fellow Slattery; but I
don't think he could do me any good. He is a humbug, as well as the
most of those doctors."

"But not more than most," answered Doctor Miles, "which is a great
thing in this part of the country. You may go, Mrs. Billiter; I wish
to be alone with Mr. Wittingham."

Mrs. Billiter, who had remained upon the best, the oldest, and most
invariable excuse, that of putting the room in order, for the purpose
of gaining an insight into all that took place, dropped a curtsey, and
withdrew unwillingly.

Mr. Wittingham eyed Doctor Miles with a shrewd, inquiring, but timid
glance. It was evident that he would have dispensed, with the doctor's
coming, that he did not half like it, that he wished to know what he
could want, why he came, what was his business, what could be his
object, and why his manner was so grave and cautious. Heaven knows
that Mr. Wittingham was not an imaginative man; that he was not
subject to the sports of fancy, and seldom or ever presented to his
mind any image of things, past or future, unless it were in a large
parchment-covered volume, in which was inscribed in large letters,
upon the last page: "Balance, in favour of Mr. Wittingham, sixty-nine
thousand odd hundred pounds." Nevertheless, on this occasion the
worthy gentleman's imagination ran restive; for, as a weedy old horse,
when people endeavour to whip it into any thing; more than its
ordinary pace, turns up its heels, and flings them, into the face of
its driver; so did Mr. Wittingham's fancy at once assert its
predominance over reason, by presenting to him for his choice every
possible sort of business upon which Doctor Miles might, could, would,
should, or ought, have come to Tarningham Lodge. He, therefore, sat in
his bed with his nightcap on his head, grinning at him, like Yorick's
skull, with a ghastly smile. Courtesy has its agonies, as well as
other things; and the politeness of Mr. Wittingham was agonising.
Speak he could not, that was out of the question; but, with a grim
contortion of countenance, he motioned the worthy doctor to a chair,
and the other took it with provoking deliberation, concealing, under
an air of imperturbable coolness, a certain degree of embarrassment,
and a considerable degree of feeling.

To tell the truth, he much desired that Mr. Wittingham would begin
first; but he soon saw that there was no hope of such being the case,
and his profession had accustomed him to the initiative. Wherefore,
after three preliminary hums, he went on to say, "My dear Sir, I
thought it better to come down to you to-day, to speak to you on a
somewhat painful subject, but one which had better be grappled with at
once; and that rather in conversation with me, a minister of peace and
goodwill towards men, than with others, who, though equally bound by
the injunctions of the religion which I unworthily teach and they
believe, have what they consider duties apart, which might interfere
with an unlimited exercise of Christian charity."

Excellent, Doctor Miles; you are keeping the poor man in a state of
torture. Why will you preach, when you are not in the pulpit. But
Doctor Miles was not a prosy man by nature; he was short, brief, and
terse in his general conversation, and only preached when he was in
embarrassment. That such was evidently the case at present greatly
increased the evils of Mr. Wittingham's position; and when the doctor
was talking of Christian charity, the sick magistrate was mentally
sending him to a place where very little charity of any kind is
supposed to be practised--not that we know any thing of the matter;
for even in the present day, with steamboats, railroads, and all the
appliances of human ingenuity to boot, tourists and travellers have
not pushed their researches quite as far as the place alluded to; or,
at all events, have not favoured the world with an account of their
discoveries.

After the above proem, Dr. Miles stumbled for a moment or two, and
then recovering himself, continued thus:

"The unfortunate affair which took place last night must doubtless
give rise to legal inquiries, which will, depend upon it, be pursued
with great energy and determination; for Captain Hayward, I find,
followed the unhappy young man at once; and, if I judge rightly, he is
not one to abandon his object when it is but half-attained."

"Oh, that Captain Hayward, that Captain Hayward!" cried Wittingham,
angrily, "he is always meddling with other people's affairs."

"Nay, my dear Sir," answered Dr. Miles; "this was his affair, and the
affair of every body in the room. The ball passed within an inch of
his friend Mr. Beauchamp's head, and might have been intended for
him--at least, so Captain Hayward might have supposed, had not your
own exclamation at the moment--"

"My exclamation!" cried Mr. Wittingham, with a look of horror, "what
did I exclaim?"

Doctor Miles did not answer him directly at first, replying merely,
"you said enough, Mr. Wittingham, to show who it was, in your opinion,
that had fired the shot."

Mr. Wittingham clasped his hands together in an agony of despair and
sunk with his head upon the pillow, as if he would fain have hid his
face in the bed-clothes, but Dr. Miles went on kindly to say,

"Moreover, my dear Sir, your exclamation was sufficient to make me
feel for you deeply--to feel for you with sincere compassion, and to
desire anxiously to serve and assist you."

Now Mr. Wittingham was not accustomed to be compassionated; he did not
like the thing and he did not like the word; he was a vain man and a
proud man, and compassion was a humiliation which he did not like to
undergo; but still anxiety and trouble were the strongest, and he
repeated two or three times in a quick, sharp voice,

"What did I say? What did I say?"

"You said that it was your son," answered the clergyman, "and various
corroborative circumstances have transpired which--"

But by this time Mr. Wittingham was in such a state of agitation that
it was evident he would hear nothing further that was said to him at
the moment, and therefore the good doctor stopped short. The
magistrate covered his eyes; he wrung his hands hard together; he
gazed forth at the sky; he even wept.

"Then it is all over, all over," he cried, at length, "it is all
over," by which he meant that all his dreams of importance, his plans
of rural grandeur and justice-of-the-peaceism, his "reverence" on the
bench and at the quarter-sessions, his elevation as a country
gentleman, and his oblivion as a small trader, were all frustrated,
gone, lost, smothered and destroyed by his son's violent conduct and
his own indiscreet babbling in the moment of fear and grief.

"Ah, Doctor Miles," he said, "it's a sad business, a sad business. As
you know it all, there is no use of my holding my tongue. Harry did do
it; and, indeed, he told me before that he would do it, or something
like it; for he came here--here, down into Tarningham, and told me on
the very bench, that if I pushed that business about Mrs. Clifford's
carriage any further it should go worse with me. It was a threat, my
dear doctor, and I was not to be deterred from doing my duty by a
threat, and so I told him, and immediately took up the man they call
Wolf, on suspicion--for Sir John had been down here, swearing at my
door, and what could I do, you know."

Now Doctor Miles had seen a great deal of the world, and, though a
good and benevolent man, and one not at all inclined to think the
worst of one of his fellow-creatures, yet he could not help seeing
that there was a great deal of weakness and eagerness to shuffle any
burden from himself in Mr. Wittingham's reply. There are certain sorts
of knowledge which force themselves upon our understanding, whether we
will or not, and amongst these is discrimination of human character.
People, long accustomed to the world, find great difficulty even in
believing a practised liar, however much they may wish to do so on
certain points. They see through, in spite of themselves, all the
little petty artifices with which self hides itself from self, and
still more clearly through the mean policy by which the mean man
strives to conceal his meanness from the eyes of his fellow-creatures.
Whether it be the pitiful man, in any of the common walks of life,
exacting more than his due, and striving to hide his greed under the
veil of liberality and disinterestedness, whether it be the candidate,
on the canvass or on the hustings, escaping from the explanation of
his intentions upon the plea of independence and free judgment, or
whether it be the minister of the crown evading the fulfilment of
obligations, or shrinking from the recognition of support by all the
thousand subterfuges in the vast dictionary of political dishonesty,
the man learned in the world's ways, however willing to be duped,
cannot believe and confide, cannot admire and respect. The case with
Mr. Wittingham was a very simple one. Doctor Miles saw and understood
the whole process of his mind in a moment; but he was sorry for the
man; he felt what agony it must be to have such a son, and he hastened
as far as possible to relieve him.

"I think, my dear Sir," he said, "that you have made some mistakes in
this matter; I do not presume to interfere with any man's domestic
arrangements, but I will candidly acknowledge that I have thought, in
watching the progress of your son's education, that it was not likely
to result in good to his character--nay, hear me out, for I am only
making this observation as a sort of excuse, not so much for him, as
for the advice I am going to give you, which can only be justified by
a belief that the young man is not so depraved by nature as by
circumstances."

They were hard words, very hard words, that Doctor Miles uttered, but
there was a stern impressiveness in his manner which overawed Mr.
Wittingham, kept down his vanity from revolting against the implied
accusation, and prevented him from even writhing openly at the plain
terms in which his son's conduct was stigmatised.

"Under these circumstances," continued Doctor Miles, "I think it much
better that you send your son out of the country as fast as possible,
afford him such means as will enable him to live in respectability,
without indulging in vice; warn him seriously of the end to which his
present courses will lead him, and give him to understand that if he
abandons them, and shows an inclination to become a good and useful
member of society, the faults of his youth may be forgotten, and their
punishment be remitted. On the latter point, I think I may say that,
should he at once quit the country, no further steps against him will
be taken. You know very well that Sir John Slingsby, though hot and
irascible, is a kind and good-natured man at heart."

"Sir John Slingsby! Sir John Slingsby!" exclaimed Mr. Wittingham,
bustling up with an air of relief, as if something had suddenly turned
a screw or opened a safety-valve, and delivered him from the high
pressure of Doctor Miles's grave and weighty manner, "Sir John
Slingsby, Sir, dare do nothing against me or mine; for there is a
balance against him. He may talk, and he may bully and crack his
jokes.--I have submitted to all that a great deal too long, without
requiring a settlement of the account; and there's five thousand
pounds against him I can tell you, which he will find it a difficult
matter to pay, I have a notion--ah, ah, Doctor Miles, I know what I am
about. Five thousand pounds are five thousand pounds, Doctor Miles,
and I know all the situation of Sir John's affairs, too; so he had
better not meddle with me, he had better not enrage me; for he will
risk less in letting all this foolish business pass off quietly
without inquiry, than producing inquiry into his own affairs in the
county. A good jolly gentleman I don't mean to say he is not; but I
can tell you he is tottering on the verge of ruin, and I don't want to
force him over unless he drives me: and so he had better not, that's
all."

Doctor Miles had gazed at him as he spoke with a keen, subacid look,
and in some degree even of amusement, and this calm, supercilious look
greatly annoyed and embarrassed Mr. Wittingham towards the end of his
tirade. It was evident that Doctor Miles was not in the least taken
unprepared, that the intimation of Sir John Slingsby's position in
worldly affairs neither surprised nor disappointed him in the least;
and when Mr. Wittingham at length stopped in some embarrassment, his
reply tended still further to puzzle and confound the worthy
magistrate for he merely said,

"Perhaps so, Mr. Wittingham, but I do not think Sir John Slingsby's
pecuniary circumstances will at all prevent him from performing his
public duties. If he has reason to believe that your son is in the
road to amendment, he is very likely to look over his present
offences, as they are, in some degree, personal to himself and his
family. If he imagines that he will go on from one crime to another,
depend upon it he will think it only right to cut his career short at
once. The only fear is, that if this debt which you speak of ever
crosses his mind, it will only serve as a bar to his lenity; for no
man is so likely to be seized with a sudden determination to punish
with the utmost rigour, if he were to suspect for one moment that his
debt to you, whatever might be the amount, might be assigned as the
motive by any one for his forbearance. I would not advise you to urge
such a plea, Mr. Wittingham; but, depend upon it, if this debt is
considered at all, it will be considered to your disadvantage. Besides
all this, you must recollect that other persons were present;
therefore Sir John has not the whole matter in his own hands. However,
I have given you the best advice in my power; you can take it, if you
like; if not, the consequences be upon your own head; and you must not
blame any one for any thing that may occur in the due course of law."

And rising from the bedside, he was about to depart, when Mr.
Wittingham stopped him.

"Stay, stay, my dear Sir," said the magistrate, eagerly; "let us
discuss this question a little further; I wish no harm to Sir John
Slingsby, and I trust he wishes none to me. But are you sure there
were other persons who heard the words I spoke? Very unfortunate, very
unfortunate, indeed."

Now the truth was, that Mr. Wittingham was in a state of high
irritation. The comments which Doctor Miles had made, or rather the
hints which he had thrown out in regard to the education of his son,
had greatly exasperated him. He never liked it to be even hinted that
he was wrong; it was a sort of accusation which he never could bear;
and the worthy doctor would have been permitted in patience to proceed
with any other of Mr. Wittingham's friends or enemies without the
least interruption; but it was natural that he should take fire in
regard to his son. Why natural? it may be asked. For this reason, that
the education of his son was associated intimately with Mr.
Wittingham's own vanity; and the idea of his faults being owing to
education, was a direct reflection upon Mr. Wittingham himself.

Doctor Miles, however, regarded none of these things; and though the
worthy magistrate desired him to stay, he declared he had no time,
saying,

"Further discussion is out of the question. I have given you advice
that I know to be kind, that I believe to be good. Take it, if you
judge so; leave it, if you judge otherwise. Pursue what course you
think best in regard to Sir John Slingsby; but, at all events, do not
attempt to influence him, by pecuniary considerations; for be assured
that, although he may, by imprudence, have embarrassed his property,
he has not arrived at that pitch of degradation which is only brought
on step by step from the pressure of narrow circumstances, and which
induces men to forget, great principles in order to escape from small
difficulties. Good morning, Mr. Wittingham;" and, without further
pause, Doctor Miles quitted the room, and walked down stairs. In the
hall he met Mr. Wharton, the attorney, going up, with a somewhat sour
and discontented face; but all that passed between the two gentlemen
was a cold bow, and the clergyman left the house in possession of the
lawyer.



CHAPTER XXII.


It is a very unpleasant position indeed to be above your neck in the
water, with another man holding fast by your collar, especially if it
be by both hands. It may be a friend who has so got you, it may be an
enemy; but the operation comes to pretty nearly the same thing in both
cases; and that the result is not at all an agreeable one, I say it
boldly and without fear of contradiction; for, although drowning is
said to be accompanied by no real pain, and I have heard many
half-drowned persons declare that it is rather pleasant than
otherwise, yet that is only a part of the process, not the result;
then again Sir Peter Laurie can witness, that there are multitudes of
persons, who, after having taken one suffocating dip in Mother Thames,
repeat the attempt perseveringly, as if they found it very delightful
indeed; but still I contend that they have not come to the end of the
thing, and, therefore, can give no real opinion. "To lie in cold
obstruction and to rot," to become the prey of the lean, abhorred
monster death, to separate from the warm tenement in which our abode
on earth has been made, to part with the companionship of all the
senses and sensations, the thrills and feelings, which have been our
friends, our guides, our monitors, our servants, our officers in the
course of mortal existence--this is the result of that tight pressure
upon the cravat or coat-collar which we shrink from, when, with our
head under the water, we feel the fingers of friend or enemy
approaching too near the organs of respiration. If the gentleman
grasps our legs we can kick him off; if he seizes our hands we can
often shake him away; but the deadly pressure upon the chest and neck;
the clinging, grasping energy of those small digits on the throat,
when we find that, half a second more and life is gone, is perhaps as
unpleasant a thing as often falls to the lot of mortal man to feel.

Now Ned Hayward, I have endeavoured to impress upon the reader's mind,
was a brave, bold, determined fellow as ever lived. There was no
danger he would not have fronted, no fate he would not have risked for
a good and worthy object. He was a good swimmer, too; but when after a
headlong plunge into the water he felt himself undermost in the fall,
out of his depth, his feet entangled in a weed, and the fingers and
thumbs of Captain Moreton tight upon his throat, he was seized with an
irresistible propensity to knock him off by any means, even at the
risk of losing his prisoner. The first method that suggested itself
was a straightforward blow at his adversary, and that taking effect
upon his chest was successful with a man half-drowned himself. His
antagonist let go his hold, rose as fast as he could, dashed at the
other bank, gained the ground and was off. Poor Ned Hayward, however,
soon found that if he had freed himself from one enemy, he was still
in the power of another. It is a terrible thing that a strong,
powerful man, instinct with every energy and quality of high animal
life, and, moreover, having an immortal soul, to be kept or parted
with, should every now and then be completely at the mercy of a thin,
pitiful, pulpy weed, which, to all appearances, might be broken or
smashed in a moment. But moments are very important things, and the
_vis inertiæ_ a tremendous power. The weed made no attempt to hold the
young gentleman, it neither grasped his legs, nor clasped his knees,
but it was carried by the current around the ankles of Ned Hayward,
and there, somehow or other, it stuck fast, preventing him from
moving; in fact, it was like many a great politician (in the world's
opinion), who operate many great changes upon their neighbours by mere
_vis inertiæ_, waiting till the tide of circumstances brings them to
action, and then holding fast to a particular point till all
opposition is drowned.

Such had well-nigh been the case with Ned Hayward; for what little
strength he had left was nearly expended in the blow he gave to
Captain Moreton; and when he found that his feet were entangled in the
weed which would not have snapped a single gut-line with a May-fly at
the end of it, his powers did not suffice to tear himself away. This
history, as far as he was concerned, seemed likely to come to a hasty
conclusion, when suddenly he found a strong hand grasp his arm just
below the shoulder, and give his whole frame a vehement impulse
towards the surface of the water. The next instant he saw, heard,
breathed, once more; and before he had time to do either of these
things above a second, he found his right elbow leaning on the bank,
and Mr. Beauchamp, who was not very well aware whether he was dead,
alive, or half-drowned, endeavouring to draw him up on the bank. To
use the words of the poet, in a very indecent episode of a very chaste
and beautiful poem--


               One stupid moment motionless he stood;


but the next puff of the right element which went into his lungs
recalled all his activity, and up he jumped on the bank with a spring
which astonished Beauchamp, made Isabella Slingsby draw back, and
brought a faint colour into Mary Clifford's cheek. The glow was
accompanied by a smile, however, which showed that this proof of Ned
Hayward's still active powers was not unpleasant to her.

The first thing the young officer did, however, was to shake Mr.
Beauchamp warmly by the hand, exclaiming,

"Upon my life you were just in time--it was nearly over with me--I
could not have stood it half a minute longer. Every thing was turning
green, and I know that's a bad sign."

The next thing was to pick up his fishing-rod and tackle, crying, as
he raised them from the ground,

"He has frightened away that big old trout; I should have had him in
another second; I may have to walk half an hour more before I find
such another; I could see him eyeing the fly all ready for a rise."

"But who was the gentleman?"

"What was the quarrel about?"

"Why did you seize him?" demanded Isabella, Mary, and Beauchamp, all
together.

Let the reader remark, that each framed his question differently.

"That is the man who fired the shot into the window last night,"
replied Ned Hayward, looking curiously at the fly upon his hook; and
two of his companions instantly turned their eyes in the direction
which Captain Moreton had taken, with a look of alarm, as if they
feared he would fire another shot from the bushes amongst which he had
disappeared. Beauchamp, for his part, cast down his eyes and said
nothing--not a word! Nay more; he shut his teeth close and drew his
lips over them, as if he were afraid he should say something; and
then, after a moment's pause, he turned to Ned Hayward, saying,

"Had you not better give up this fishing, come up to the house and
change your clothes?"

"Oh dear no," cried Ned Hayward, "on no account whatever; I'll catch
my fish before twelve o'clock yet; and very likely have the very
fellow that our plunge scared away from here. Do you know, Beauchamp,
it is sometimes not a bad plan to frighten a cunning old speckled
gentleman like this, if you find that he is suspicious and won't bite.
I have tried it often, and found it succeed very well. He gets into a
fuss, dashes up or down, does not know well where to stop, and then,
out of mere irritation, bites at the first thing that is thrown in his
way. Come along and we shall see. He went down, I think, for I had an
eye upon him till he darted off."

"But you are very wet, too, Mr. Beauchamp," said Isabella. "If Captain
Hayward is too much of an old campaigner to change his clothes, I do
not see why you should neglect to do so."

"For the best reason in the world, my dear Miss Slingsby," replied
Beauchamp, "because I have no clothes here with which to change these
I have on."

"But there are plenty at the house," replied Isabella, eagerly.

"But I am afraid, they would not fit," replied Beauchamp, laughing; "I
am in no fear, however; for I am as old a campaigner as Captain
Hayward."

"Let us move about, at all events," said Mary Clifford; and following
Ned Hayward down the stream, they watched his progress, as he, intent
apparently upon nothing but his sport, went flogging the water, to see
what he could obtain. Three or four very large trout, skilfully
hooked, artistically played, and successfully landed, soon repaid his
labour; but Ned Hayward was not yet satisfied, but, at length, he
paused abruptly, and held up his finger to the others as a sign not to
approach too near. He was within about twenty yards of a spot where
the stream, taking a slight bend, entered into sort of pass between
two low copses, one on either hand, composed of thin and feathery
trees, the leaves of which, slightly agitated by the wind, cast a
varying and uncertain light and shade upon the water. The river, where
he stood, was quite smooth; but ten steps further it fell over two or
three small plates of rock, which scattered and disturbed it, as it
ran, leaving a bubbling rapid beyond, and then a deep, but rippling
pool, with two or three sharp whirls in it, just where the shadows of
the leaves were dancing on the waters. Ned Hayward deliberately took
the fly off the line and put on another, fixing his eye, from time to
time, on a particular spot in the pool beyond. He then threw his line
on the side of the rapid next to him, let the fly float down with a
tremulous motion, kept it playing up and down on the surface of the
foam, with a smile upon his lips, then suffered it to be carried
rapidly on into the bubbling pool, as if carried away by the force of
the water, and held it for a moment quivering there; the next moment
he drew it sharply towards him, but not far. There was an instant rush
in the stream, and a sharp snap, which you might almost hear. The
slightest possible stroke of the rod was given, and then the wheel ran
rapidly off, while the patriarch of the stream dashed away with the
hook in his jaws. The instant he paused, he was wound up and drawn
gently along, and then he dashed away again, floundered and splashed,
and struck the shallow waters with his tail, till, at length,
exhausted and half-drowned, he was drawn gradually up to the rocks;
and Ned Hayward, wading in, landed him safely on the shore.

"This is the game of life, Miss Clifford," he said, as he put the
trout of more than three pounds' weight into the basket. "Rendered
cautious and prudent by some sad experiences, we shrink from every
thing that seems too easy of attainment, then, when we find something
that Fate's cunning hand plays before our eyes as if to be withdrawn
in a moment, we watch it with suspicious but greedy eagerness, till we
think a moment more will lose it for ever, then dart at it blindly,
and feel the hook in our jaws."

Mary Clifford smiled, and then looked grave; and Isabella laughed,
exclaiming,

"The moral of fly-fishing! And a good lesson, I suppose, you mean for
all over-cautious mammas--or did you mean it was a part of your own
history? Captain Hayward, retrospective and prophetic, or was it a
general disquisition upon man?"

"I am afraid man is the trout," said Beauchamp; "and not in one
particular pursuit, but all: love, interest, ambition, every one
alike. His course and end are generally the same."

"That speech of yours, fair lady, was so like a woman," said Ned
Hayward, turning to Miss Slingsby; "if it were not that my hands were
wet, I would presume upon knowing you as a child, and give you a good
shake. I thought you had been brought up enough with men, to know that
they are not always thinking of love and matrimony. You women have but
one paramount idea, as to this life's concerns I mean, and you never
hear any thing without referring it to that. However, after all,
perhaps, it is natural:


    "Man's love is of man's life a thing apart.
     'Tis woman's whole existence."


"Too sad a truth," replied Mary Clifford, thoughtfully; "perhaps it is
of too little importance in man's eyes; of too much in woman's."

"And yet how terribly she sometimes trifles with it," said Beauchamp,
in a still gloomier tone.

"Perhaps, you think, she trifles with every thing, Mr. Beauchamp,"
rejoined Isabella; "but men know so little of women, and see so little
of women as they really are, that they judge the many from the few:
and we must forgive them; nevertheless, even if it be true that they
do trifle with it, it is not the least proof that they do not feel it.
All beings are fond of sporting with what is bright and dangerous: the
moth round the candle, the child with the penknife, and man with
ambition."

"All mankind," said Ned Hayward, "men and women alike, get merrily
familiar with that which is frequently presented to their thoughts.
Look at the undertaker, or the sexton, how he jests with his fat
corpse, and only screws his face into a grim look when he has the
world's eye upon him; then jumps upon the hearse and canters back, to
get drunk and joyous at the next public-house."

"Hush! hush! Captain Hayward," cried Isabella, "I declare your figures
of speech are too horrible; we will have no more of such sad
conversation; can we not talk of something more pleasant as we go
back?"

"I don't know," said Ned Hayward, "I am in a moralising mood this
morning."

And as Isabella and Mr. Beauchamp walked on a little in advance to
pass the narrow path, which only admitted two abreast, he continued in
a somewhat lower tone, saying to Mary Clifford,

"I cannot get my spirits up this morning. The dangerous circumstances
of my good old friend, Sir John, vex me much. Have you spoken to your
cousin about them? She seems wonderfully gay."

"I have," answered Miss Clifford; "but it would need a heavy weight,
Captain Hayward, to sink her light heart. She promised to mention the
matter to Mr. Beauchamp, too; but I rather imagine from what has
occurred, that she had not done it."

"Oh, she has done it, depend upon it," replied the young officer; "and
that is what makes her so gay. But I must speak with Beauchamp myself,
and make the matter sure."

In the meantime, Beauchamp had walked on with Isabella; and there
could be little or no doubt, in the minds of any one who came behind
them, that he was making love. Not that they heard a word that was
said, no, not a single syllable, but there is a peculiar gesture
associated with the making of love, by a gentleman at least, which
distinguishes it from every other process. Beauchamp, as we have
described him, was above the middle height; but Isabella was not below
it; and there was not the slightest occasion for him to bend down his
head, in order that she might hear him distinctly, unless he had
something to say which he did not wish others to hear likewise. He did
bend down his head, however, and said what he had to say in a very low
tone; and, although he did not stare her rudely in the face, yet from
time to time he looked into her eyes, as if he thought them the
crystal windows of the heart. Isabella, on her side, did not bend her
head; she held it a little on one side, indeed, so as in the least
perceptible degree to turn the fine small ear to the words that were
poured into it; generally, however, she looked down, with the long
fringes veiling the violet of her eyes, though from time to time she
raised them at something that he said; and when her look met his, they
fell again. They had to cross over a little brook, and Beauchamp took
her hand to help her over. He drew it through his arm when he had
done, and there it rested for the remainder of the walk.

Involuntarily, and almost unconsciously as they marked this, Mary
Clifford and Captain Hayward turned to each other with a smile. The
impulse with each was to see if the other had remarked it--a very
simple impulse--but when their looks met, it made a more compound
phrase; and the anagram of the heart might read thus:

"May we not as well make love too?"

It was a sore temptation; but the next instant Ned Hayward's
countenance became exceedingly grave, and the warm healthy glow in his
cheek grew a shade paler.

If there was a struggle in his breast, it was brought to an end in
about five minutes; for, just as they were climbing the side of the
hill again, they were met by joyous old Sir John Slingsby, whose whole
face and air generally bore with it an emanation of cheerful content,
which is usually supposed, but, alas! mistakenly to be the peculiar
portion of the good and wise. Thoughtlessness, temperament, habit,
often possess that which is the coveted possession of wisdom and
virtue; and often in this world the sunshine of the heart spreads over
the pathway of him who neither sees his own misfortunes lying before
him, nor thinks of the sorrows of others scattered around.

"Ah, boys and girls, boys and girls!" cried the baronet, laughing,
"whither have you wandered so long? I have done a world of business
since you have been gone, thank Heaven; and, thank Heaven, have left a
world undone; so I shall never, like Alexander, that maudling,
drunken, rattle-pate of antiquity, have to weep for new worlds to
conquer. Ned Hayward, Ned Hayward, I have a quarrel with you. Absent
from evening drill and morning parade without leave! We will have you
tried by a court-martial, boy; but what news have you brought? did you
overtake the enemy? or was he too much for you? whither is he
retreated? and last, though not least, who and what is he?"

"On my life, Sir John, I do not know who he is," answered Ned Hayward.
"We have had two engagements, in which, I am fain to confess, he has
had the advantage, and has retreated in good order both times. I shall
catch him yet, however; but at present I have not time to give full
information; for--"

"Not time, not time!" cried the baronet; "what the devil have you done
with all your time, not to have half an hour to spare to your old
colonel?"

"In the first place, my dear Sir, I am wet," replied the young
officer, "for I have been in the water, and must change my clothes;
but I have won my bet, however; I promised to catch the best trout in
the river before noon; and there he is; match him if you can."

"Before noon," exclaimed Sir John Slingsby, taking out his watch;
"twenty minutes past twelve, by Jove!"

"Ay, but he has been caught twenty minutes," said Ned Hayward, "I will
appeal to all persons present."

"Well, granted, granted," exclaimed the baronet, "the bet's won, the
bet's won. You shall change your clothes, make yourself look like a
gentleman, and then tell the reverend company your story."

"Impossible," answered Ned Hayward, shaking his head; "I have forty
things to do."

"Forty things!" cried Sir John; "why I have finished two hundred and
fifty, upon a moderate computation, within an hour and ten minutes."

"Ah, my dear Sir," said the young gentleman, "but I have got to change
my clothes, write a letter, speak two words to Beauchamp, talk for a
quarter of an hour to Ste. Gimlet about his boy's education, pack up
some clothes, and be down at Tarningham in time for the coach to
London, as well as to induce your butler to give me some luncheon and
a glass of the best old sherry in your cellar."

"Pack up some clothes!--coach to London!" cried Sir John Slingsby, in
a more serious tone than he had yet used; "the boy is mad; his head is
turned! Ned Hayward, Ned Hayward, what the devil do you mean, Ned
Hayward?"

"Simply, my dear Sir John, that some business of importance calls me
to London immediately," rejoined his young friend; "but I shall be
down again to-morrow, or the next day at the furthest; and, in the
meantime, I leave you horse and gun, fishing-tackle and appurtenances,
which I give you free leave and licence to confiscate if I do not keep
my word."

"Well, well!" exclaimed the baronet, "go along, change your clothes,
and come and get some luncheon. I always thought you a great donkey,
Ned, and now I think so more than ever, when I see you quit
comfortable quarters for a dull stagecoach. Go along, I say, go
along; there's the door, which is always better said on the outside of
a house than in the in."

"Thank you, Sir John; but I must just speak a word with Beauchamp
first," replied Captain Hayward; and taking his new friend's arm, he
drew him a little on one side, while the baronet and the two ladies
entered the house.

"I have got a favour to ask you, Beauchamp," said Captain Hayward:
"matters have got into a complication between myself and this young
Wittingham, which may require a pistol-shot to unravel it. The fellow,
who fired through the window last night, certainly rode his horse; I
walked straight into his room, thinking I might find the man there. I
told him the occasion of my coming; he was insolent; and I informed
him civilly what I thought of him; he demanded satisfaction; and I
replied, that if there was a gentleman in the county that could be
found to act as his friend, I would do him the honour of meeting him.
Business, which one of the two ladies will give you a hint of, if they
have not done so already, calls me immediately to London. I have
written to tell him so, but that I shall be down the day after
to-morrow. In the meantime, I shall tell the people at the White Hart,
if any one comes from him, to refer them to you. Arrange the affair,
therefore, for me, should such be the case, and, remember, the
earliest possible time and the quietest possible manner--I'll bring my
pistols--but we must break off, here comes Sir John Slingsby again;
not a word to him on any account, there's a good fellow; and now let
us talk of something else."



CHAPTER XXIII.


If you fix your eyes upon a distant hill in the month of April, in
some countries, or May in others, there are a thousand chances to one,
unless the goddess of the spring be very much out of humour, that you
see first a golden gleam warm, as the looks of love, and next a deep
blue shadow, calm and grand as the thoughts of high intellect when
passion has passed away with youth. Perhaps the case may be reversed;
the shadow come first and the gleam succeed just as you happen to time
your look; but at all events, you will require no one to tell you--you
will not even need to raise your face to the sky to perceive at once
that the cause of this beautiful variation of hues is the alternate
sunshine and cloud of the spring heavens.

Over the mind and over the face of man, however, what clouds, what
sunshine, what gleams, what shadows, will not come without any eye but
an all-seeing one being able to trace the causes of the change. Thrice
in one morning was the whole demeanour of Mr. Beauchamp totally
altered. He descended to breakfast grave and thoughtful; an hour after
he was gayer than he had been for years. By the side of Isabella
Slingsby he remained cheerful; but before luncheon was over he had
plunged again into a fit of deep and gloomy thought, and as soon as
Ned Hayward, having taken some food and wine started up to mount his
horse which was at the door, Beauchamp rose also, saying, "I want one
word with you, Hayward, before you go."

"Directly, directly," answered Ned Hayward. "Goodbye, Sir John, good
bye, Miss Slingsby."

"Mind--day after to-morrow at the latest, Ned," cried the baronet.

"Upon my honour," replied Hayward. "Farewell, Mrs. Clifford, I trust I
shall find you here on my return."

"I fear not, Captain Hayward," replied the lady, "but you have
promised, you know, to come over and--"

"Nay, dear mamma, I think you will be here," said Mary Clifford, "I
think for once I shall attempt to coax you."

Mrs. Clifford seemed somewhat surprised at her daughter's eagerness to
stay; but Sir John exclaimed joyously, "There's a good girl--there's a
capital girl, Mary; you are the best little girl in the world; she'll
stay, she'll stay. We'll get up a conspiracy against her. There, be
off, Ned. No long leave-takings. You'll find us all here when you come
back, just as you left us: me, as solemn and severe as usual, my
sister as gay and jovial, Isabella as pensorous, and Mary as merry and
madcap as ever."

Ned Hayward, however, did not fail to bid Miss Clifford adieu before
he went, and be it remarked, he did it in a somewhat lower tone than
usual, and added a few words more than he had spoken to the rest.
Beauchamp accompanied him to the door, and then pausing near the
horse, inquired in a low tone, "Are you quite certain the man with
whom you had the struggle this morning is the same who fired the shot
last night?"

"Perfectly," answered Ned Hayward, "for I saw his face quite well in
the sand-pit; and I never forget a face. I wish to Heaven you could
catch him."

"Have you any idea of his name?" asked Beauchamp.

"None in the world," replied Ned Hayward; "but there are two people
here who must know, I think. One is young Wittingham, and the other is
Ste Gimlet, otherwise Wolf. I have a strong notion this fellow was one
of those attacking the carriage the other night. But that puts me in
mind, Beauchamp, that I intended to go up and talk to Gimlet, but I
have not time now. I wish you would; and just tell him from me, I will
pay his boy's schooling if he will send him to learn something better
than making bird-traps. You can perhaps find out at the same time who
this fellow is, so it may be worth a walk."

"I will, I will," answered Beauchamp, "but you said the young ladies
here had something to tell me. What is it?"

"I thought they had done it," replied Ned Hayward, "that is stupid!
But I have not time now, you must ask them; good bye;" and touching
his horse lightly with his heel, he was soon on his way to Tarningham.

Beauchamp paused for a moment on the steps in deep meditation, and
then turned into the house, saying to himself, "This must be inquired
into instantly." He found Sir John Slingsby in the luncheon-room,
reading the newspaper, but nobody else, for the ladies had returned to
the drawing-room, and two of them, at least, where looking somewhat
anxiously for his coming. It very rarely happens that any one who is
looked anxiously for ever does come; and of course, in the present
instance, Beauchamp took the natural course and disappointed the two
ladies.

"I have a message to deliver from Captain Hayward to your new keeper,
Sir John," he said, "and therefore I will walk over to his cottage,
and see him. An hour I dare say will accomplish it."

"It depends upon legs, my dear Sir," answered the baronet, looking up.
"It would cost my two an hour and a half to go and come; so if I might
advise, you would take four. You will find plenty of hoofs in the
stables, and a groom to show you the way. Thus you will be back the
sooner, and the women will have something to talk to; for I must be
busy--very busy--devilish busy, indeed. I have not done any business
for ten years, the lawyer tells me, so I must work hard to-day. I'll
read the papers, first, however, if Wharton himself stood at the door;
and he is a great deal worse than Satan. I like to hear all the lies
that are going about in the world; and as newspapers were certainly
invented for the propagation of falsehood, one is sure to find all
there. Take a horse, take a horse, Beauchamp. Life is too short to
walk three miles and back to speak with a gamekeeper."

"Well, Sir John, I will, with many thanks," answered his guest, and in
about a quarter of an hour he was trotting away towards the new
cottage of Stephen Gimlet, with a groom to show him the way. That way
was a very picturesque one, cutting off an angle of the moor and then
winding through wild lanes rich with all sorts of flowers and shrubs,
till at length a small old gray church appeared in view at the side of
a little green. The stone, where the thick ivy hid it not, was
incrusted in many places with yellow, white, and brown lichens, giving
that peculiar rich hue with which nature is so fond of investing old
buildings. There was but one other edifice of any kind in the
neighbourhood, and that was a small cottage of two stories, built
close against one side of the church. Probably it had originally been
the abode of the sexton, and the ivy spreading from the neighbouring
buttress twined round the chimneys, meeting several lower shoots of
the same creeping plant, and enveloped one whole side in a green
mantle. The sunshine was streaming from behind the church, between it
and the cottage, and that ray made the whole scene look cheerful
enough; but yet Beauchamp could not help thinking, "This place, with
its solitary house and lonely church, its little green, and small
fields behind, with their close hedgerows, must look somewhat
desolate in dull weather. Still the house seems a comfortable one, and
there has been care bestowed upon the garden, with its flowers and
herbs. I hope this is Gimlet's cottage; for the very fact of finding
such things in preparation may waken in him different states from
those to which he has been habituated."

"Here's the place, Sir," said the groom, riding up and touching his
hat, and at the same moment the sound of the horses' feet brought the
rosy, curly-headed urchin of the _ci-devant_ poacher trotting to the
door.

Beauchamp dismounted and went in; and instantly a loud, yelping bark
was heard from the other side of the front room, where a terrier dog
was tied to the post of a sort of dresser. By the side of the dog was
the figure of the newly-constructed gamekeeper himself, stooping down
and arranging sundry boxes and cages on the ground.

Now the learned critic has paused on the words "newly-constructed
gamekeeper"--let him not deny it--and has cavilled thereat and
declared them incorrect. But I will defend them: they are neither
there by, and on account of, careless writing or careless printing;
but, well-considered, just, and appropriate, there they stand on the
author's responsibility. I contend he was a newly-constructed
gamekeeper, and out of very curious materials was he constructed, too.

As soon as he heard Beauchamp's step, Ste Gimlet, raised himself, and
recognising his visitor at once, a well-pleased smile spread over his
face, which the gentleman thought gave great promise for the future.
It is something, as this world goes, to be glad to see one from whom
we have received a benefit. The opposite emotion is more general
unless we expect new favours; a fact of which Beauchamp had been made
aware by some sad experience, and as the man's pleased look was
instantaneous, without a touch of affectation in it, he augured well
for some of the feelings of his heart.

"Well, Gimlet," said the visitor, "I am happy to see that some of your
stock has been saved, even if all your furniture has perished."

"Thank you, Sir," replied the other, "my furniture was not worth a
groat. I made most of it myself; but I lost a good many things it
won't be easy to get again. All the dogs that were in the house, but
this one, were burned or choked. He broke his cord and got away. All
my ferrets too, went, but three that were in the shed; and the tame
badger, poor fellow, I found a bit of his skin this morning. I thank
you very much, Sir, for what you gave me, and if you wait five minutes
you'll see what I've done with it. I think it will give you pleasure,
Sir; for I've contrived to get quite enough to set the place out
comfortably, and have something over in case any thing is forgotten."

Beauchamp liked the man's way of expressing his gratitude by showing
that he appreciated the feelings in which the benefit was conferred.
It was worth a thousand hyperboles.

"I shall stay some little time, Gimlet," he said, "for I have one or
two things to talk to you about, if you can spare a minute."

"Certainly, Sir," answered the man in a respectful tone, "but I can't
ask you to sit down, because you see there is no chair."

"Never mind that," replied Beauchamp, "but what I wished principally
to say is this: my friend, Captain Hayward, takes a good deal of
interest in you and in your boy; and, as he was going to London to-day
he asked me to see you and tell you, that if you like to let the poor
little fellow attend any good school in the neighbourhood he will pay
the expenses. He wished me to point out to you what an advantage it
will be to him to have a good education, and also how much better and
more safe it is for him to be at school while you are absent on your
duty than shut up alone in your house."

"Whatever that gentleman wishes, Sir, I will do," Gimlet replied, "I
never knew one like him before--I wish I had--but, however, I am bound
to do what he tells me; and even if I did not see and know that what
he says in this matter is good and right, I would do it all the same.
But as for paying, Sir, I hope he won't ask me to let him do that, for
I have now got quite enough and to spare; and although I feel it a
pleasure to be grateful to such a gentleman, yet he can do good
elsewhere with the money."

"You can settle that with him afterwards, Gimlet," replied Mr.
Beauchamp, "for he is coming back in a day or two; but I now want to
ask you a question which you must answer or not as you think fit. You
were with Captain Hayward, it seems, when he came up with the man who
fired into the window of the hall, and you saw his face, I think?"

Gimlet nodded his head, saying, "I did Sir."

"Do you know the man?" asked Beauchamp, fixing his eyes upon him.

"Yes, Sir," replied the other at once, with the colour coming up into
his face, "but before you go on, just let me say a word. That person
and I were in some sort companions together once, in a matter we had
better have let alone, and I should not like to 'peach."

"In regard to the attack upon the carriage--to which I know you
allude--I am not about to inquire," replied Beauchamp, "but I will ask
you only one other question, and I promise you, upon my honour, not to
use any thing you tell me against the person. Was his name Moreton?"

"I won't tell you a lie, Sir," answered Gimlet. "It was, though how
you have found it out I can't guess, for he has been away from this
part of the country for many a year."

"It matters not," answered Beauchamp, "how I found it out; I know he
has been absent many a year. Can you tell me how long he has
returned?"

"That I can't say, I'm sure, Sir," replied the man; "but I did hear
that he and the lady have been lodging at Buxton's inn for a day or
two, but not more. It's a great pity to see how he has gone on, and to
sell that fine old place that has been theirs for so many hundred
years! I should think, that if one had any thing worth having that had
been one's father's, one's grandfather's, and one's great
grandfather's, for such a long while, it would keep one straight. It's
mostly when a man has nothing to pride himself upon that he goes
wrong."

"Not always," answered Beauchamp, "unbridled passion, my good friend,
youth, inexperience, sometimes accident, lead a man to commit a false
step, and that is very difficult to retrieve in his life."

"Aye, aye, I know that, I know that, Sir," answered Gimlet, "but I
hope not impossible;" and he looked up in Beauchamp's face, with an
expression of doubt and inquiry.

"By no means impossible," replied the gentleman, "and the man who has
the courage and strength of mind to retrieve a false step, gives a
better assurance to society for his future conduct than perhaps a man
who has never committed one can do."

Gimlet looked down and meditated for one minute or two, and, though he
did not distinctly express the subject of his contemplation, his
reverie ended with the words, "Well I will try." The next moment he
added, "I don't think, however, that this Captain Moreton will ever
make much of it; for he has been going on now a long while in the same
way, from a boy to a lad, and from a lad to a man. He broke his
father's heart, they say, after having ruined him to pay his debts;
but the worst of it all is, he was always trying to make others as bad
as himself. He did me no good; for when I was a boy and used to go out
and carry his game-bag, he put me up to all manner of things, and that
was the beginning of my liking to what people call poaching. Then,
too, he had a great hand in ruining this young Harry Wittingham. He
taught him to gamble and drink, and a great deal more, when he was a
mere child, I may say."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Beauchamp, "then the young man is to be pitied
more than blamed."

"I don't know, Sir, I don't know," answered the gamekeeper; "he's a
bad-hearted fellow. He set fire to my cottage, that's clear enough,
and he knew the boy was in it too; but this business of firing in at
the window I can't make out at all; I should have thought it had been
an accident if he had not afterwards taken a shot at Captain Hayward."

"I wish to Heaven I could think it was an accident," answered
Beauchamp; "but that is out of the question. They say there are
thoughts of pulling down the old house, if the place is not sold again
very soon. How far is it?"

"Oh, not three-quarters of a mile from this," replied the gamekeeper.
"Have you never seen it, Sir? It is a fine old place."

"Yes, I have seen it in former years," said Beauchamp. "Is it in this
parish, then?"

"Oh yes, Sir, this is the parish church here. They all lie buried in a
vault here, and their monuments are in the aisle; would you like to
see them? The key is always left in this cottage. There they lie, more
than twenty of them--the Moretons, I mean--for you know the man's
father was not a Moreton; he was a brother of the Lord Viscount
Lenham; but, when he married the heiress he took the name of Moreton,
according to her father's will. His tomb is in there, and I think it
runs, 'The Honourable Henry John St. Leger Moreton.' It is a plain
enough tomb for such a fine gentleman as he was; but those of the
Moretons are very handsome, with great figures cut in stone as big as
life."

"I should like to see them," said Beauchamp, rousing himself from a
reverie.

"That's easily done," answered the gamekeeper, taking a large key from
a nail driven into the wall, and leading the way to a small side-door
of the church.

"You tell me he was down here with the lady," said Beauchamp, as the
man was opening the door. "Do you know if he is married?"

"That I can't say, Sir," answered the man. "He had a lady with him,
and a strange-looking lady, too, with all manner of colours in
her clothes. I saw her three days ago. She must have been a
handsome-looking woman, too, when she was young; but she looks, I
don't know how now."

Beauchamp tried to make him explain himself; but the man could give no
better description; and, walking on into the church, they passed along
from monument to monument, pausing to read the different inscriptions,
the greater part of which were more intelligible to Beauchamp than his
companion, as many were written in Latin. At length they came to a
small and very plain tablet of modern erection, which bore the name of
the last possessor of the Moreton property; and Beauchamp paused and
gazed at it long, with a very sad and gloomy air.

There is always something melancholy in contemplating the final
resting-place of the last of a long line. The mind naturally sums up
the hopes gone by, the cherished expectations frustrated, the grandeur
and the brightness passed away; the picture of many generations in
infancy, manhood, decrepitude, with a long train of sports and joys,
and pangs and sufferings, rises like a moving pageant to the eye of
imagination; and the heart draws its own homily from the fate and
history of others. But there seemed something more than this in the
young gentleman's breast. His countenance was stern, as well as sad;
it expressed a bitter gloom, rather than melancholy; and, folding his
arms upon his chest, with a knitted brow, and teeth hard set together,
he gazed upon the tablet in deep silence, till a step in the aisle
behind him startled him; and, turning round, he beheld good Doctor
Miles slowly pacing up the aisle towards him.

Stephen Gimlet bowed low to the rector, and took a step back; but
Beauchamp did not change his place, though he welcomed his reverend
friend with a smile.

"I want to speak with you, Stephen," said Doctor Miles, as he
approached; and then, turning towards Beauchamp, he added, "How are
you, my dear Sir? There are some fine monuments here."

Beauchamp laid his hand upon the clergyman's arm, and, pointing to the
tablet before him, murmured in a low voice; "I have something to say
to you about that, my good friend; I will walk back with you; for I
have long intended to talk to you on several subjects which had better
not be delayed any longer;--I will leave you to speak with this good
man here, if you will join me before the cottage."

"Oh, you need not go, you need not go," said Doctor Miles, "I have
nothing to say you may not hear.--I wanted to tell you, Stephen," he
continued, turning to the _ci-devant_ poacher, "that I have been down
to-day to Tarningham, and have seen old Mrs. Lamb and her son
William."

"He's a dear good boy, Sir," said Stephen Gimlet, gazing in the
rector's face, "and he was kind to me, and used to come up and see his
poor sister Mary when nobody else would come near her. That poor
little fellow, all crooked and deformed as he is, has more heart and
soul in him than the whole town of Tarningham."

"There are more good people in Tarningham and in the world, Stephen,
than you know," answered Doctor Miles, with a sharp look; "you have to
learn, my good friend, that there are natural consequences attached to
every particular line of conduct; and, as you turn a key in a door,
one way to open it, and another way to shut it; so, if your conduct be
good, you open men's hearts towards you; if your conduct be bad, you
close them."

Stephen Gimlet rubbed his finger on his temple, and answered in a
somewhat bitter, but by no means insolent tone: "It's a very hard
lock, Sir, that of men's hearts; and when once it's shut, the bolt
gets mighty rusty--at least, so I've found it."

"Stephen! Stephen!"--exclaimed the worthy clergyman, raising
his finger with a monitory and reproachful gesture, "can you say
so.--especially to-day?"

"No, Sir; no, Sir;" cried Stephen Gimlet, eagerly, "I am wrong; I am
very wrong; butj ust then there came across me the recollection of all
the hard usage I have had for twelve long years, and how it had driven
me from bad to worse--ay! and killed my poor Mary, too; for her father
was very hard; and though he said her marrying me broke his heart, I
am sure he broke hers."

"You must not brood upon such things, Gimlet," said Doctor Miles. "It
is better, wiser, and more christian, for every man to think of the
share which his own faults have had in shaping his own fate; and, if
he do so coolly and dispassionately, he will find much less blame to
be attributed to others than he is inclined to believe. But do not let
us waste time upon such considerations. I went down to talk to Mrs.
Lamb about you and your boy; I told her what Sir John had done for
you; and the imminent peril of death which the poor child had fallen
into, from being left totally alone, when you are absent. The good old
woman--and pray remark, Stephen, I don't call people good, as the
world generally does, without thinking them so,--was very much
affected and wept a good deal, and in the end she said she was quite
ready to come up and keep house for you, and take care of the child
while you are away."

The man seemed troubled; for the offer was one which, in many
respects, was pleasant and convenient to him; but there was a bitter
remnant of resentment at the opposition which his unfortunate wife's
parents had shown to her marriage with himself, and at the obstinacy
with which her father had refused all reconciliation, that struggled
against better feelings, and checked any reply upon his lips. Doctor
Miles, however, was an experienced reader of the human heart; and,
when he saw such ulcerations, he generally knew the remedy, and how to
apply it. In this instance he put all evil spirits to flight in a
moment by awakening a better one, in whose presence they could not
stand.

"The only difficulty with poor Mrs. Lamb seemed to be," he said, after
watching the man's countenance during a momentary pause, "that she is
so poor. She said that you would have enough to do with your money,
and that the little she has, which does not amount to four shillings a
week, would not pay her part of your housekeeping.

"Oh, if that's all, doctor," cried Stephen Gimlet, "don't let that
stand in the way. My poor Mary's mother shall never want a meal when I
can work for it. I'd find her one any how, if I had to go without
myself. Besides, you know, I am rich now, and I'll take care to keep
all straight, so as not to get poor again. There could not be a
greater pleasure to me, I can assure you, Sir, than to share whatever
I've got with poor Mary's mother, and that dear good boy Bill. Thanks
to this kind gentleman, I've got together a nice little lot of
furniture; and, if the old woman will but bring her bed, we shall do
very well, I'll warrant; and the boy will be taken care of, and go to
the school; and we'll all lead a different sort of life and be quite
happy, I dare say--No, not quite happy! I can never be quite happy any
more, since my poor girl left me; but she is happy, I am sure; and
that's one comfort."

"The greatest," said Doctor Miles, whose spirit of philanthropy in a
peculiar way was very easily roused, "the greatest, Stephen; and, as
it is by no means impossible, nor, I will say, improbable, both from
the light of natural reason and many passages of Scripture, that the
spirits of the dead are permitted to see the conduct and actions of
those they loved on earth, after the long separation has occurred,
think what a satisfaction it will be to your poor wife, if she can
behold you acting as a son to her mother,--mind, I don't say that such
a thing is by any means certain; I only hint that it is not
impossible, nor altogether improbable, that such a power may exist in
disembodied spirits."

"I am quite sure it does," said Stephen Gimlet, with calm earnestness;
"I have seen her many a time sitting by the side of the water
under the willow trees, and watching me when I was putting in my
night-lines."

"I think you are mistaken, Stephen," said Doctor Miles, shaking his
head; "but, at all events, if such a thing be possible, she will now
watch you with more satisfaction, when you are supplying her place in
affection to her mother."

"I will do my best, Sir," said Stephen Gimlet, "if it be only on that
account."

"I am sure you will, Stephen," answered the worthy clergyman; "and so,
the first spare moment you have, you had better go down and talk with
Mrs. Lamb.--Now, Mr. Beauchamp, I am ready."



CHAPTER XXIV.


"Well, well, sit down and cheer yourself, Goody Lamb," said Stephen
Gimlet, after an interval of thirty hours--for I must pass over for
the present those other events affecting more important characters in
this tale, which filled up the intervening time in the neighbourhood
of Tarningham--"let bygones be bygones, as they say in the country
where you have lived so much. Here you are, in as comfortable a
cottage as any in the country. I have plenty, and to spare; and,
forgetting all that's past and done, I will try to be a son to you and
a brother to poor Bill."

"Thank you, Stephen, thank you," said the old woman, to whom he
spoke--a quiet, resigned-looking person, with fine features, and large
dark eyes, undimmed by time, though the hair was as white as snow, the
skin exceedingly wrinkled, and the frame, apparently, enfeebled and
bowed down with sickness, cares, or years; "I am sure you will do what
you can, my poor lad; but still I cannot help feeling a little odd at
having to move again at my time of life. I thought, when I and my poor
husband, Davie Lamb, came up here to Tarningham, out of Scotland, it
was the last time I should have to change. But we can never tell what
may happen to us. I fancied, when I went to Scotland with stiff old
Miss Moreton, that I was to be settled there for life. There I married
Lamb, and thought it less likely than ever that I should change, when,
suddenly, he takes it into his head to come up here to the place where
I was born and brought up, and never told me why or wherefore."

"Ay, he was a close, hard man," said Stephen Gimlet; "he was not
likely to give reasons to any one; he never did to me, but just said
two or three words, and flung away."

"He was a kind husband and a kind father," said the widow, "though he
said less than most men, I will acknowledge."

"He was not kind to his poor, dear girl," muttered Stephen Gimlet, in
a tone which rendered his words scarcely audible; but yet the widow
caught, or divined their sense clearly enough; and she answered:

"Well, Stephen, don't let us talk about it. There are some things that
you and I cannot well agree upon; and it is better not to speak of
them. Poor Davie's temper was soured by a great many things. People
did not behave to him as well as they ought; and, although I have a
notion they persuaded him to come here, they did not do for him all
they promised."

"That's likely," answered the _ci-devant_ poacher; "though I have no
occasion to say so, either; for people have done much more for me than
they ever promised, and more than I ever expected. See what good Sir
John Slingsby has done, after I have been taking his game for this
many a year; and Mr. Beauchamp, too--why, it was a twenty-pound note
he gave me, just because he heard that my cottage had been burnt down,
and all the things in it destroyed--but it was all owing to Captain
Hayward, who began it by saving the dear boy's life, that lies
sleeping there in t'other room, and spoke well of me--which nobody
ever took the trouble to do before--and said I was not so bad as I
seemed; and, please God, I'll not give his promises the lie, anyhow."

"God bless him for a good man," said Widow Lamb: "he is one of the
few, Stephen, whose heart and soul are in doing good."

"Ay, that he is," answered the gamekeeper; "but I did not know you
knew him, goody."

"No, I do not know much of him," answered the old lady, "but I know he
has been very kind to my boy Bill; and before he went off for London
t'other day, had a long talk to him, which is better, to my thinking
than the money he gave him--but who is is this Mr. Beauchamp, you say
is such a kind man, too? I've heard Bill talk of him, and he tells me
the same; but I can't well make out about him."

"Why, he is a friend of Captain Hayward's," rejoined the gamekeeper;
"he has been staying a long while at the White Hart, and just the same
sort of man as the other, though a sadder-looking man, and not so
frank and free."

"But what looking man is he?" asked the old woman. "You can tell one
what a dog's like, or what a ferret's like, Stephen, well enough; and
I should like to hear about him; for I have a curiosity, somehow."

"Why, he is a tall man and a strong man," answered Stephen Gimlet,
"with a good deal of darkish hair, not what one would say curling, but
yet not straight, either; and large eyes, in which you can see little
or no white; very bright and sparkling, too. Then he's somewhat pale
and sunburnt; and very plain in his dress, always in dark clothes; but
yet, when one looks at him, one would not like to say a saucy thing to
him; for there is something, I don't know what, in his way and his
look, that, though he is as kind as possible when he speaks, seems to
tell every body, 'I am not an ordinary sort of person.' He never wears
any gloves, that I saw; but, for all that, his hands are as clean as
if they had been washed the minute before, and the wristbands of his
shirt are as white as snow."

Goody Lamb paused, thoughtfully, and rubbed her forehead once or
twice, under the gray hair:

"I have seen him, then," she said at length, in a very peculiar tone;
"he has passed my little window more than once--and his name is
Beauchamp is it?"

"So they say," answered Stephen Gimlet, in some surprise; "why should
it not?"

"Oh! I don't know," answered the widow; and there she ceased.

"Well, you are very droll to-night, goody," said Stephen Gimlet; "but
I should like a cup of tea before I go out upon my rounds; so I'll
just get some sticks to make the fire burn; for that kettle does
nothing but simmer."

Thus saying, he went into the little passage, and out into a small
yard, whence he brought a faggot or two. He then laid them on the hot
embers, blew up a flame, made the kettle boil; and, all this time, not
a word passed between him and Goody Lamb; for both seemed very busy
with thoughts of their own. At length, when a teapot and some cups had
been produced, and a small packet of tea wrapped up in a brown paper,
the old lady sat down to prepare the beverage for her son-in-law, as
the first act of kindly service she rendered him since she had
undertaken to keep his house. To say the truth, it was more for
herself than for him that the tea was made; for Stephen Gimlet did not
like the infusion, and was not accustomed to it; but he knew the good
dame's tastes, and was anxious to make her as comfortable as he could.

While she was making the tea after her own peculiar fashion--and
almost every one has a mode of his own--Gimlet stood on the other side
of the little deal table and watched her proceedings. At length he
said, somewhat suddenly, "Yes, Mr. Beauchamp was up here, yesterday,
just when Doctor Miles was talking to me, and he asked me a great many
questions about--" and here he paused, thinking he might be violating
some confidence if he mentioned the subject of his visitor's
inquiries. The next instant he concluded his sentence in a different
way from that which he first intended, saying--"about a good many
things; and then he went into the church with me and looked at all the
tombs of the Moretons, and especially that of the last gentleman."

"Ay, well he might," answered Goody Lamb.

"Indeed!" exclaimed Stephen Gimlet, with a slight laugh; "then you
seem to know more of him than I do."

Goody Lamb nodded her head; and her son-in-law proceeded with some
warmth: "Then I am sure you know no harm of him."

"No, Stephen, no," she said, "I do not! I saw him as a young lad, and
I have not seen him since; but I have not forgotten him; for he came
down to my house--what is called the Grieves-house in Scotland--on the
morning of a day that turned out the heaviest day of his life; and he
was a gay young lad then; and he saw my poor boy, who was then a
little fellow of four years old, that all the folks there used to gibe
at on account of his misfortunes; but this gentleman took him on his
knee and patted his head and was kind to him, and said he was a clever
boy, and gave him a couple of shillings to buy himself a little flute,
because the poor fellow was fond of music even then, and used to
whistle so sweetly, it was enough to break one's heart to hear such
sounds come from such a poor body. The gentleman has never thought of
me or mine since then, I'll warrant, but I have thought of him often
enough; and I'll ask him a question or two someday, please God."

"The heaviest day in his life," repeated Stephen Gimlet, who had
marked every word she uttered with strong attention; "how was that,
Goody?"

"Ay," answered Widow Lamb, shaking her head, "as they say in that
country, it is no good talking of all that; so ask me no more
questions, Stephen; but sit down and take your tea, my man, and then
go about your work."

Stephen Gimlet sat down and, with not the greatest pleasure in the
world, took a cup of the beverage she had prepared; but still he was
very thoughtful; for there was something in Mr. Beauchamp, even in the
grave sadness of his ordinary manner, which created a kind of interest
in a man of a peculiarly imaginative character; and he would have
given a good deal to know all that Widow Lamb could tell, but would
not. He did not choose to question her, however; and, after having
finished a large slice of brown bread, he rose and unfastened the only
dog he had remaining, in order to go out upon his night's round.

Just at that moment, however, some one tried the latch of the cottage,
and then knocked for admission; and the dog, springing forward,
growled, barked, and snarled furiously.

The gamekeeper chid him back, and then opened the door, when, to his
surprise, he saw the figure of young Harry Wittingham before him. The
dog sprang forward again, as if he would have torn the visitor to
pieces; and, to say the truth, Stephen Gimlet felt a great inclination
to let the beast have his way; but, after a moment's thought, he drove
it back again, saying, with a bitter laugh,

"The beast knows the danger of letting you in. What do you want with
me, Sir?"

"I want you to do me a great service, Ste," said Harry Wittingham,
with a familiar and friendly air; "and I am sure you will, if--"

"No, I won't," answered Stephen Gimlet, "if it were to save you from
hanging, I would not put my foot over that doorstep. It is no use
talking, Mr. Wittingham; I will have nothing more to do with any of
your tricks. I don't wish ever to see you again; I am in a new way of
life, and it won't do, I can tell you."

"Oh, I have heard all about that," answered the young man, in a light
tone; "and, moreover, that you have taken a silly fancy into your
head, that I set fire to your cottage. It is all nonsense, upon my
word. Your boy must have done it, playing with the fire that was on
the hearth."

Stephen Gimlet's face turned somewhat pale with the effort to keep
down the anger that was in his heart; but he replied shortly and
quickly, for fear it should burst forth:

"The boy had no fire to play with--you knew well he was locked up in
the bedroom, and there he was found, when you burned the place down."

"Well, if I had any hand in it," said young Wittingham, "it must have
been a mere accident."

"Ay, when you knew there was a poor helpless child in the house," said
Stephen Gimlet, bitterly, "it was a sort of accident which well-nigh
deserved hanging."

"Nonsense, nonsense, my good fellow," said the young man, "you are
angry about nothing; and though you have got a good place, I dare say
you are not a man to refuse a couple of guineas when they are offered
to you."

"If you offer them," cried Stephen Gimlet, furiously, "I'll throw them
in your face--an accident, indeed! to burn my cottage, and nearly my
poor child! I suppose it was by accident that you stopped the carriage
in the lane? And by accident that you set a man to fire at your own
father through the window?"

"Hush, hush, Stephen," cried Widow Lamb, catching hold of his coat and
attempting to keep him back, as he took a step towards Harry
Wittingham, who turned very pale.

The young man recovered his audacity the next moment, however, and
exclaimed:

"Pooh! let him alone, good woman; if he thinks to bully me, he is
mistaken."

"Get out of this house," cried Stephen Gimlet, advancing close to him.
"Get out of this house, without another word, or I'll break your
neck!"

"You are a fool," answered young Wittingham; "and, if you don't mind,
I'll send you to Botany Bay."

The words were scarcely out of his mouth, when Stephen Gimlet aimed a
straight blow at him with his right hand, which was immediately
parried; for the young vagabond was not unskilful in the science of
defence; but, the next instant, the gamekeeper's left told with
stunning effect in the midst of his face, and he fell prostrate, with
his head out of the doorway and his feet within. Stephen Gimlet looked
at him for a moment, then, stooping down, lifted him in his strong
arms, pitched him headlong out, and shut the door.

"There!" said Gimlet;--"now I'll sit down for a minute and get cool."



CHAPTER XXV.


We will go back, if it pleases the reader; for fortunately, it
happens, that, in a work of this character, one can go back. Oh, how
often in human life is it to be wished, that we could do the same!
What deeds, done amiss, would then be rectified! What mistakes in
thought, in conduct, in language, would then be corrected! What evils
for the future avoided! What false steps would be turned back! What
moral bonds shackling our whole being, would not then be broken! I do
believe, that, if any man would take any hour out of any period of his
life, and look at it with a calm, impartial, unprejudiced eye, he
would feel a longing to turn back and change something therein: he
would wish to say more, than he had said--or less--to say it in a
different tone--with a different look--or he would have acted
differently--he would have yielded--or resisted--or listened--or
refused to listen--he would wish to have exerted himself
energetically--or to have remained passive--or to have meditated ere
he acted--or considered something he had forgotten--or attended to the
small, still voice in his heart, when he had shut his ears. Something,
something, he ever would have altered in the past! But, alas! the past
is the only reality of life, unchangeable, irretrievable,
indestructible; we can neither mould it, nor recall it, nor wipe it
out. There it stands for ever: the rock of adamant, up whose steep
side we can hew no backward path.

We will turn back to where we left Doctor Miles and Beauchamp. Issuing
forth from the church, and, passing round Stephen Gimlet's cottage,
they found the worthy clergyman's little phaeton standing by the two
horses which Beauchamp had brought from Tarningham Park. Orders were
given for the four-wheeled and four-footed things to follow slowly;
and the two gentlemen walked forward on foot, the younger putting his
hand lightly through the arm of the elder, as a man does, when he
wishes to bespeak attention to what he is going to say.

"I have been looking at those monuments with some interest, my dear
doctor," said Beauchamp, after they had taken about twenty steps in
advance; "and now I am going to make you, in some degree, what, I dare
say, as a good Protestant divine, you never expected to become--my
father-confessor. There are several things, upon which I much wish to
consult you, as I have great need of a good and fair opinion and
advice."

"The best that it is in my power to give, you shall have, my young
friend," answered Doctor Miles; "not that I expect you to take my
advice, either; for I never yet, in the course of a long life, knew
above two men, who did take advice, when it was given. But that is not
always the fault of the giver; and, therefore, mine is ever ready,
when it is asked. What is it you have to say?"

"More, I fear, than can be well said in one conversation," answered
Beauchamp; "but I had better begin and tell a part, premising, that it
is under the seal of confession, and therefore----"

"Shall be as much your own secret, as if it had not been given to me,"
said Doctor Miles; "go on."

"Well, then, for one part of the story," said Beauchamp, with a smile
at his old companion's abruptness; "in the first place, my dear
doctor, I am, in some sort, an impostor; and our mutual friend,
Stanhope, has aided the cheat."

Doctor Miles turned round sharply, and looked in his face for a
moment; then nodded his head, as he saw there was no appearance of
shame in the expression, and gazed straightforward again, without
saying a word.

"To make the matter short, my good friend," continued his companion,
"my name is not Beauchamp at all, nor any thing the least like it."

"_Nom de guerre_," said Doctor Miles; "pray, what may the war be
about?"

"Of that hereafter," said Beauchamp--"for I shall still continue to
call him by the name which he repudiated. You have seen, that I have
been somewhat anxious to purchase this Moreton Hall property, and am
still anxious to do so, though I have received a little bit of news on
that subject to-day, which may make me very cautious about the
examination of titles, &c. This intelligence is, that the ostensible
proprietor is not the real one; your acquaintance, Mr. Wharton, having
become virtually possessed of the property, perhaps, by not the
fairest means."

"Humph!" said Doctor Miles; but he added nothing further, and
Beauchamp went on.

"Poor Mr. St. Leger Moreton," he said, "was by no means a man of
business, an easy, kind-hearted, somewhat too sensitive person."

"I know, I know," answered Doctor Miles, "I was well acquainted with
him; and if ever man died of a broken heart, which is by no means so
unusual an occurrence as people suppose, he did so."

"I believe it," answered Beauchamp; "but, at all events, he was not a
man, as you must know, to ascertain, that he was dealt fairly by. His
son, I am sorry to say, was willing to do any thing for ready money--I
say any thing, for I do not know that act to which he would not have
recourse for any object that he sought to gain."

"You seem to know them all thoroughly," said Doctor Miles, drily; and
he then added in a warmer tone, "I will tell you what, my dear Sir,
this Captain Moreton is one of those men who make us ashamed of human
nature. Born to a fine estate, the son of an excellent woman and
amiable man, though a weak one, he went on corrupting himself and
every one else, from boyhood to youth, and from youth to manhood. He
is the only man I have ever known without one principle of any kind,
or one redeeming point. There is but one thing to be said in his
excuse, namely, that his great aunt, old Miss Moreton, who went to
Scotland, and left him a small property there of about a thousand a
year, which he dissipated totally in eleven weeks after he got it,
spoiled him from his infancy, pampered, indulged, encouraged him in
the most frightful manner. Even his vices became virtues in her eyes;
so that there is not much marvel that he became a gambler, a
_débauchée_, a duellist, and a scoundrel. People may consider that his
courage and his talents were redeeming qualities, but I look upon them
as none. They were only energies, which carried him on to deeper
wickedness and infamy. He is now, I believe, a common sharper and
swindler."

"I have let you go on, doctor," said Beauchamp, "because you have not
said one word that is not just; but yet I must tell you, that this
gentleman is my first cousin, and, unfortunately, heir to my estates
and name."

Doctor Miles halted suddenly, and looked at his companion with some
surprise.

"This takes me unprepared," he said; "I never heard of his having more
than one cousin, namely, the present Lord Lenham; and he, I
understood, was travelling in India for pleasure--a curious place to
go for pleasure--but all men have their whims."

"It was not exactly a whim that led me thither, my dear doctor," said
Beauchamp; "from the time I was twenty-one years of age up to the
present hour, I have been a wanderer over the face of the earth,
expiating in bitterness of heart one early error. I have not time now,
and, I may say also, I have not spirits at the present moment to enter
into the long detail of my past history. Let it suffice for the
present to say, that a species of persecution, very difficult to avoid
or bear, made me for many years a stranger to my native country. I
visited every part of Europe and America, and then thought I would
travel in the East, visiting scenes full of interest both from their
novelty, in some respects, and from the vast antiquity to which their
history and many of their monuments go back. As I found that all my
movements were watched for the purpose of subjecting me to annoyance,
I thought my residence in India a favourable opportunity for dropping
my title and assuming another name, and have ever since gone by that
of Beauchamp. During these wanderings my income has far exceeded my
expenditure; a large sum of money has accumulated, and, on my return
to England, I was advised to invest it in land. My attention was first
directed to this estate, which I am desirous of purchasing, by finding
a letter at my agents from my cousin Captain Moreton, expressing great
penitence for all that has passed, professing a desire to retrieve his
errors, lamenting the loss of the family property, and asking for a
loan of five thousand pounds.

"I hope you did not give it him," cried Doctor Miles. "His penitence
is all feigned; his reformation false; the money would go at the
gambling-table in a week. I am not uncharitable in saying so, for I
have had the opportunity of ascertaining within this month, that the
man is the same as ever."

"So I found on making inquiries," rejoined Beauchamp, "and
consequently I refused decidedly. This refusal brought a most insolent
and abusive letter, of which I took no notice; but having received
intimation that the man is married, I made up my mind to the following
course: to purchase this property, and, if he have any children, to
make it the condition of my giving him pecuniary assistance, that he
shall give up one of them to be educated entirely by myself. Having
insured that all shall be done to make that child a worthy member of
society, I would settle the Moreton estate upon it, and thus, at all
events, leave one of my name in a situation to do honour to it."

"A kind plan, and a good one," said Doctor Miles; "but yet people will
call it a whimsical one, and wonder that you do not marry yourself and
transmit your property and name to children of your own."

A bright and cheerful smile came upon Beauchamp's face.

"Hitherto, my dear doctor," he said, "that has been impossible. The
obstacles, however, are now removed--at least, I believe so; and,
perhaps, some day I may follow the course you suggest, but that will
make no difference in regard to my intention. If I have children of my
own, they will have more than enough for happiness, and having
conceived a scheme of this kind, I never like to abandon it. I will
therefore purchase this property, if it can be ascertained that Mr.
Wharton's title is perfectly clear; but perhaps you, as the clergyman
of two parishes here, can obtain proofs for me, that all the
collateral heirs to the estate, under the entail made by Sir Charles
Moreton, are extinct beyond all doubt. Under those circumstances, the
sale by my uncle and his son would be valid."

"Wharton would not have bought it without he was sure," said Doctor
Miles.

"The sum actually paid was very small," replied Beauchamp, in a
peculiar tone, "all the rest went to cover a debt, real or pretended,
of Mr. Wharton's own, but here we are at the gates of the park, and so
I must bring our conference to an end. To-morrow or the next day I
will tell you more of my personal history, for there are other
subjects on which I must consult you. Do you know who this is riding
up so fast?"

"A fool," said Doctor Miles; and almost as he spoke, a young,
fresh-coloured man, dressed in a green coat and leather breeches, and
mounted on a splendid horse, with a servant behind him, cantered up,
and sprang to the ground.

"I don't know--ah--whether I have the honour of speaking to Mr.
Beauchamp--ah," he said, in a self-sufficient tone.

Beauchamp bowed his head, saying, "The same, Sir."

"Then, Sir--ah--my name is Granty--ah--and you see--ah--I have
been referred to you--ah--as the friend of a certain Captain
Hayward--ah--in reference to a little affair--ah--between him and my
friend Harry Wittingham--ah--whom he threatened to horsewhip--ah."

"If he threatened," answered Beauchamp, in a calm tone, "he is a very
likely man to fulfil his words--but I think, Sir, we had better speak
upon this subject alone, as Captain Hayward has put me in possession
of his views. This is my friend, Doctor Miles, a clergyman."

"Oh, yes, I know Doctor Miles--ah," said Mr. Granty, "a very good
fellow, aren't you, Miles--ah?"

"No, Sir, I am not," answered Doctor Miles; "but now, Mr. Beauchamp, I
will leave you, as you seem to have some pleasant conversation before
you;" and shaking Mr. Beauchamp by the hand without any further
apparent notice of what he had heard, Doctor Miles walked to the side
of his carriage and got in, honouring Mr. Granty with the sort of
cold, stiff bow that a poker might be supposed to make if it were
taught to dance a minuet. But Doctor Miles had noticed all that had
passed, and did not forget it.

And now, dear reader, we will put our horses into a quicker pace, leap
over all the further conversation between Mr. Beauchamp and Mr.
Granty, and also an intervening space of two days, merely premising
that, during that period, from a great number of knots on the tangled
string of events, neither Mary Clifford nor Isabella Slingsby had any
opportunity of speaking to Mr. Beauchamp for more than two minutes in
private. Those two minutes were employed by Miss Clifford, to whose
lot they fell, in telling him, with a hesitating and varying colour,
that she very much wished for a short conversation with him. Beauchamp
was surprised, but he answered with courtesy and kindness, and wished
her to proceed at once. Sir John Slingsby was upon them the next
moment, however, and the matter was deferred.

Thus went the two days I have mentioned, but on the morning of the
third, just about half-past five, when every body but skylarks are
supposed to be asleep, Mr. Beauchamp and our friend Ned Hayward
entered the small meadow just under the trees by the palings of
Tarningham Park, on the side next to Tarningham, near the spot where
the river issued forth into the fields on its onward progress. They
were followed by a man, carrying a mahogany case, bound with brass,
and a gentleman in a black coat, with a surgical air about him; for
strange human nature seldom goes out to make a hole in another piece
of human nature, without taking precautions for mending it as soon as
made.

Beauchamp took out his watch and satisfied himself that they were to
their time, spoke a few words to the surgeon, unlocked the mahogany
box, looked at some of the things it contained, and then walked up and
down the field with Ned Hayward for a quarter of an hour.

"This is too bad, Hayward," he said, at length; "I think we might very
well now retire."

"No, no," said Hayward, "give him law enough, one can never tell what
may stop a man. He shall have another quarter of an hour. Then if he
does not come, he shall have the horsewhipping."

Ten minutes more passed, and then two other gentlemen entered the
field, with a follower, coming up at a quick pace, and with heated
brows.

"Beg pardon, gentlemen--ah," said Mr. Granty, advancing; "but we have
had the devil's own work--ah--to get the tools--ah. My friend
Wittingham was knocked down by a fellow--ah--that he was sending for
cash, so that I had to furnish--ah--"

"Never mind all this," said Beauchamp, "you are now here, though you
have kept my friend waiting. We had better proceed to business at
once, as I have had a hint that from a slight indiscretion on your
part, Sir, in mentioning this matter before a clergyman, inquiries
have been made which may produce inconvenient results."

Mr. Granty was somewhat nettled; but neither Beauchamp nor Hayward
attended to any of his 'ahs;' the ground was measured, the pistols
loaded, the two gentlemen placed on their ground, and then came the
unpleasant "one--two--three." Both fired instantly, and the next
moment Harry Wittingham reeled and dropped. Beauchamp thought he saw
Ned Hayward waver slightly, more as if the pistol had recoiled
violently in his hand than any thing else; but, as soon as his
antagonist fell, the young officer ran up to him, stooped and raised
his head.

The surgeon came up directly and opened the wounded man's coat and
waistcoat as he lay with his face as pale as ashes. At the same
moment, however, there was a cry of "Hie, hie," and turning round,
Beauchamp saw the poor little pot-boy, Billy Lamb, scampering across
the field as hard as he could go.

"Run, run," cried the boy; "there are the magistrates and the
constables all coming up--run over by the style there; I brought the
chaise to the end of the lane.

"I can't go," said Ned Hayward, "till I hear what is to come of this."

"You had better go," said the surgeon, looking up; "it does not seem to
me to be dangerous, but you may get into prison if you stay. No, it
has shattered the rib, but passed round. He will do well, I think.
Run, run; I can see the people coming."

Beauchamp took Ned Hayward's arm and drew him away. In two minutes
they had reached the chaise and were rolling on; but then Ned Hayward
leaned back somewhat languidly, and said,

"I wish, Beauchamp, you would just tie your handkerchief tight round
my shoulder here, for it is bleeding more than I thought, and I feel
sickish."

"Good Heavens! are you hurt?" exclaimed Beauchamp, and opening his
waistcoat, he saw that the whole right side of his shirt was steeped
in blood.



CHAPTER XXVI.


I do believe, from my very heart and soul, that there is not the
slightest possible good in attempting to write a book regularly. I say
with prime ministers and maid-servants, with philosophers and fools,
"I've tried it, and surely I ought to know." It may be objected that
the result entirely depends upon the way in which a thing is tried,
and that a very simple experiment would fail or might fail in the
hands of a fool or a maid-servant, which would succeed in those of a
prime minister or a philosopher. Nevertheless, it is true that critics
make rules which life will not conform to. Art says one thing, nature
another; and, in such a case, a fig for art! Art may teach us how to
embellish nature, or show us what to portray.

"Do not be continually changing the scene," says the critic, "do not
run from character to character; introduce no personage who does not
tend to bring about some result;" but in the course of human events
the scene is always shifting; the characters which pass before our
eyes, cross and return at every instant, and innumerable personages
flit before us like shadows over a glass, leaving no trace of their
having been. Others, indeed, appear for an instant not only on the
limited stage of domestic life, but often on the great scene of the
world, act their appointed part, produce some particular effect, and
then like those strange visitants of our system, the comets, rush back
into the depths from which they emerged but for an hour.

All this has been written to prove that it is perfectly right and
judicious that I should introduce my beloved reader into the study of
Mr. Wharton, or rather Abraham Wharton, Esq., solicitor, and
attorney-at-law. Mr. Wharton was a small, spare, narrow man, of a
tolerably gentlemanlike figure; and, to look at his back, one of those
prepossessions which lead us all by the nose, made one believe that
his face must be a thin, sharp, foxlike face, probably with a dark
black beard, closely shaved, making the muzzle look blue.

On getting round in front, however, the surprise of the new
acquaintance was great to see a red and blotchy countenance, with
sharp black eyes, and very little beard at all. There was generally a
secret simper upon his lips intended to be courteous, but that simper,
like an exchequer bill, was very easily convertible, and a poor
client, an inferior solicitor on the opposite side, or an unready
debtor, soon found that it would be changed into heavy frowns or
sarcastic grins.

Mr. Wharton was very proper and accurate in his dress. His coat was
always black,--even when he went out to hunt, which was not a rare
occurrence, he never sported the red jacket. In riding, he would
occasionally indulge in leather, elsewhere than from the knee
downwards; but the habiliment of the lower man was, upon all ordinary
occasions, a pair of dark gray pantaloons. He was now so habited in
his study, as he called the room behind that where seven clerks were
seated, for the business he was engaged in was one in the ordinary
course, though of extraordinary interest to Mr. Wharton. It was, in
short, the consummation of plucking a poor bird which had been
entrapped long before. Now it was not intended to leave him a feather,
and yet Mr. Wharton was inclined to do the thing as decorously as
possible. By decorously I do not mean tenderly--such an unnecessary
delicacy never entered into Mr. Wharton's head. The decorum that he
thought of was merely _the seeming in the world's eyes_, as a great
deal of other decorum is, both male and female. He was about to be as
hard, as relentless, as iron-hearted as a cannon-ball, but all with
infinite professions of kindness and good feeling, and sorrow for the
painful necessity, &c. &c. &c., for Mr. Wharton followed Dr.
Kitchener's barbarous recipe for devouring oysters, and "tickled his
little favourites before he ate them."

The lawyer was standing at a table with some papers before him--not
too many--for he was not like those bankrupt attorneys of the capital
who fill their rooms with brown tin cases, marked in large white
letters "House of Lords," he preferred as little show of business as
possible. His object now-a-days was not to get practice, but to make
money. Practice enough he had; too much for the common weal.

A clerk--a sort of private secretary indeed--was sitting at the other
end of the table, and the two had discussed one or two less important
affairs, affecting a few hundred pounds, when Mr. Wharton at length
observed, "I think to-morrow is the last day with Sir John Slingsby,
Mr. Pilkington, is it not?"

He knew quite well that it was; but, it would seem, he wished to hear
his clerk's opinion upon the subject.

"Yes, Sir," answered Mr. Pilkington, "I don't see a chance for him."

"Nor I either," answered Mr. Wharton; "I am afraid he is quite run
out, poor man. The six months' notice of fore-closure was all right,
and the interest now amounts to a large sum."

"A very large sum indeed, Sir, with the costs," answered Mr.
Pilkington; "you don't think, Sir, he'll attempt to revise the costs
or haggle about the interest."

"He can't, Mr. Pilkington," replied Mr. Wharton, drily, "the costs are
all secured by bond and accounts passed, and it was a client of mine
who advanced him the money at seven-and-a-half to pay the interest
every six months on my mortgage. I had nothing to do with the
transaction."

Mr. Pilkington smiled, and Mr. Wharton proceeded.

"Why you know quite well, Pilkington, that it was Dyer who advanced
the money, and his bankruptcy brought the bonds into my hands."

"I thought there was only one bond, Sir," answered Mr. Pilkington;
"you told me to have a fresh bond every six months for the running
interest and the arrears, and the interest upon former advances, to
guard against loss."

Mr. Wharton now smiled and nodded his head, saying, for he was vain of
his shrewdness, and vanity is a weak passion, "True, true, Pilkington,
but last half-year I saw that things were coming to a close, and
therefore thought it better to have two bonds. It looks more regular,
though the other is the most convenient mode."

"And besides it secures the interest on the last half-year's
interest," said Pilkington; but to this observation Mr. Wharton made
no reply, turning to another part of the same subject.

"Just bid Raymond to step down to Mr. Wittingham's," said the lawyer,
"and tell him with my compliments I should be glad to speak with him
for a minute. I must give him a hint of what is going on."

"Why, Sir," said Mr. Pilkington, hesitating "you know he has a bond
too, out on the same day, and he'll be sure to go before you, having
also a bill of sale."

"I know, I know," answered Mr. Wharton, "but I should like him to be
the first, Pilkington."

"Will there be enough to cover all?" asked the clerk, doubtfully.

"Ample," answered his great man; "besides, the whole sum coming
thundering down at once will ensure that no one will be fool enough to
help. I have heard, indeed, something about a friend who would advance
money to pay Wittingham's bond. Let him!--all the better, that cannot
supersede my debt. Wittingham will get his money, and Sir John won't
easily find much more on any security he has to offer. Besides, when
some one begins, it gives the very best reason for others going on,
and Wittingham won't be slow, depend upon it. Tell Mr. Raymond to
fetch him."

The clerk retired, not venturing to urge any more objections; but when
he returned again, Mr. Wharton himself continued the conversation
thus,

"Wittingham is a curious person to deal with; one does not always know
what can be his objects."

Mr. Wharton had always an object himself, and, therefore, he fancied
that no man could act without one. He never took the impulse of
passion, or the misdirection of folly, or the pigheadedness of
obstinacy into account. However, with Mr. Wittingham he was in some
degree right, as to his generally having an object; but he was in some
degree wrong also, for all the other causes of human wrong-going,
passion, folly, and pigheadedness, had their share in the modes,
methods, and contrivances by which the worthy magistrate sought his
ends.

"Now, what can be the meaning," continued Mr. Wharton, "of his
opposing so strongly all steps against this Mr. Beauchamp and that
Captain Hayward, who were engaged in the duel with his son?"

"They say he had quarrelled with Harry Wittingham and disinherited
him," replied the clerk; "and old Mrs. Billiter, the housekeeper, is
quite furious about it. She declares that it is all old Wittingham's
fault; that if it had not been for him, nothing of the kind would have
happened; and that he murdered the young man. I do not know what it
all means; but they say she will nurse Harry Wittingham through it
after all."

Mr. Wharton mused for a minute or two, and then said,

"You do not mean, he is out of danger?"

"Oh dear, no, Sir," answered Mr. Pilkington, who perceived a slightly
dissatisfied twang in his superior's question; "Mr. Slattery, the
surgeon, said he might sink at anytime for the next ten days."

"Humph," said Mr. Wharton, "that is all right. It will keep the others
out of the way for some time to come; and a very good thing, too, for
Mr. Beauchamp himself. He it is who is treating for the Moreton Hall
estate; there is a little hitch in the business, which will be soon
removed; but he seems to me just the sort of man who would take Sir
John Slingsby's mortgage as an investment, as soon as the other. At
all events, he might create difficulties in a business which had
better be settled as soon as possible for all parties, and might burn
his own fingers, poor man, into the bargain. You had the bills posted
up, Pilkington?"

"Oh, yes, Sir," replied the clerk, "for twenty miles round, offering a
reward. There is no fear, Sir. They are safe enough--most likely in
France by this time."

Mr. Wharton seemed satisfied; and, after a few minutes, worthy Mr.
Wittingham entered the office, and was thence ushered into the study;
but, alas! it was no longer the Mr. Wittingham of former days. The
somewhat fresh complexion; the stiff, consequential carriage; the
vulgar swagger, were all gone; and Mr. Wittingham looked a very sick
old gentleman, indeed; weak in the knees, bent in the back, and sallow
in the face. The wig was ill-adjusted, the Melton coat a world too
wide; you could have put a finger between the knee-bands of the
breeches and the stockings; and the top-boots slipped down almost to
the ancles. It was marvellous how one who had been so tall and thin
before, could have become, to the eye, so much taller and thinner. The
great Prince of Parma, wrote despatches, reviewed troops, and
conducted a negotiation, within one hour before a long and lingering
malady terminated in death. He knew he was dying, and yet went through
all his ordinary business, as if he had only to dress and go out to a
party instead of into his grave. This was a wonderful instance of the
persistence of character under bodily infirmity, or rather of its
triumph over corporeal decay. But that of Mr. Wittingham was more
remarkable. The external Wittingham was wofully changed: his oldest
friend would not have known him; but the internal Wittingham was still
the same; there was not a tittle of difference. He was not in the
least softened, he was not in the least brightened: his was one of
those granite natures, hard to cut, and impossible to polish. Although
he had very little of the diamond in him, yet, as the diamond can only
be shaped by the powder of the diamond, nothing but Wittingham could
touch Wittingham. His own selfishness was the only means by which he
was accessible.

"Ah, Mr. Wharton," he said, "you sent for me; what is in the wind now?
Not about these two young men any more, I trust. That account is
closed. I will have nothing to do with it. Henry Wittingham called out
this Captain Hayward; Captain Hayward was fool enough to go out with
Henry Wittingham. They each had a shot, and the balance struck was a
pistol-ball against Henry Wittingham. Perhaps, if all the items had
been reckoned, the account might have been heavier, but I am not going
to open the books again, I should not find any thing to the credit of
my son, depend upon it."

"Oh, no, my good friend," said Mr. Wharton, in the most amiable tone
possible; "I knew the subject was disagreeable to you, and therefore
never returned to the business again. The other magistrates did what
they thought their duty required, in offering a reward, &c., but as
you had a delicacy in meddling where your son was concerned, the
matter was not pressed upon you."

"Delicacy! fiddlesticks' ends!" retorted Mr. Wittingham. "I never had
a delicacy in my life!--I did not choose! That is the proper word. But
if it was not about this, why did you send for me?"

"Why, my dear Sir," said Mr. Wharton, "I thought it due in honour to
give you a hint--as I know you are a large creditor of Sir John
Slingsby--that matters are not going altogether well there."

"I have known that these six years," answered the magistrate; "honour,
indeed! You have a great deal to do with honour, and delicacy, and all
that; but I am a man of business, and look to things as matters of
business. Speak more plainly, Wharton, what is there going worse than
usual at the Park? Does he want to borrow more money?

"He did a fortnight ago, and could not get it," replied Mr. Wharton,
drily; for the most impudent rogue in the world does not like to feel
himself thoroughly understood. "But the short and the long of the
matter is this, my good Sir:--Sir John can go on no longer. Six
months' notice of fore-closure is out tomorrow; other steps must be
taken immediately; large arrears of interest are due; two or three
bonds with judgment are hanging over our poor friend; and you had
better look after yourself."

"Well, well, there is time enough yet," said Mr. Wittingham, in a much
less business-like tone than Mr. Wharton expected; "the preliminaries
of the law are somewhat lengthy, Mr. Wharton? _fi-fas_ and _ca-sas_
take some time; and I will think of the matter."

"As you please, my good friend," answered Wharton; "only just let me
hint, that all the preliminaries have been already gone through. An
execution will be put in early to-morrow; there are a good many
creditors, and there may be a sort of scramble, as the school-boys
have it, where the quickest runner gets the biggest nut. I thought it
but kind and fair to tell you, as a neighbour and a friend, especially
as your debt is no trifle, I think."

"An execution early to-morrow!" exclaimed Mr. Wittingham; "won't the
estate pay all?"

"About two-thirds, I imagine," said Wharton, telling, as was his wont,
a great lie with the coolest face possible.

"And what will Sir John do?" said the magistrate, "and poor Miss
Slingsby?"

"I am afraid we must touch Sir John's person," replied the lawyer,
with a sneer; "and as to poor Miss Slingsby, I see nothing for it, but
that she should go out as a governess. But do not let us talk
nonsense, Wittingham. You are a man of sense and of business. I have
given you a caution, and you will act upon it. That is all I have to
do with the matter."

To Mr. Wharton's surprise, however, he did not find Mr. Wittingham so
ready to act in the way he hinted as had been anticipated. The old
gentleman hesitated, and doubted, and seemed so uneasy that the
solicitor began to fear he had mistaken his character totally, to
apprehend that, after all, he might be a kind-hearted, benevolent old
gentleman. The reader, however, who has duly remarked the conversation
between the magistrate on his sick-bed, and worthy Dr. Miles, may,
perhaps, perceive other causes for Mr. Wittingham's hesitation. He had
found that Sir John Slingsby possessed a secret which might hang his
son. Now, although I do not mean at all to say that Mr. Wittingham
wished his son to die, in any way, or that he would not have been
somewhat sorry for his death, by any means, yet he would have much
preferred that the means were not those of strangulation. To have his
son hanged, would be to have his own consideration hanged. In short,
he did not at all wish to be the father of a man who had been hanged;
and consequently he was somewhat afraid of driving Sir John Slingsby
into a corner. But each man, as Pope well knew, has some ruling
passion, which is strong even in death. Sir John Slingsby owed Mr.
Wittingham five thousand pounds; and Mr. Wittingham could not forget
that fact. As he thought of it, it increased, swelled out, grew heavy,
like a nightmare. To lose five thousand pounds at one blow! What was
any other consideration to that? What was the whole Newgate-calendar,
arranged as a genealogical tree and appended to his name either as
ancestry or posterity? Nothing, nothing! Dust in the balance! A
feather in an air-pump! Mr. Wittingham grew exceedingly civil to his
kind friend, Mr. Wharton; he compassionated poor Sir John Slingsby
very much; he was sorry for Miss Slingsby; but he did not in the least
see why, when other people were about to help themselves, he should
not have his just right. He chatted over the matter with Mr. Wharton,
and obtained an opinion from him, without a fee, as to the best mode
of proceeding--and Mr. Wharton's opinions on such points were very
sound; but in this case particularly careful. Then Mr. Wittingham went
home, sent for his worthy solicitor, Mr. Bacon, whom he had employed
for many years, as cheaper and safer than Mr. Wharton, and gave him
instructions, which set the poor little attorney's hair on end.

Mr. Bacon knew Mr. Wittingham, however; he had been accustomed to
manage him at petty sessions; and he was well aware that it was
necessary to set Mr. Wittingham in opposition to Mr. Wittingham,
before he could hope that any one's opinion would be listened to. When
those two respectable persons had a dispute together, there was some
chance of a third being attended to who stepped in as an umpire.

But, in the present case, Mr. Bacon was mistaken. He did not say one
word of the pity, and the shame, and the disgrace of taking Sir John
Slingsby quite by surprise; but he started various legal difficulties,
and, indeed, some formidable obstacles to the very summary proceedings
which Mr. Wittingham contemplated. But that gentleman was as a gun
loaded with excellent powder and well-crammed down shot, by Mr.
Wharton; and the priming was dry and fresh. Mr. Bacon's difficulties
were swept away in a moment; his obstacles leaped over; and the
solicitor was astonished at the amount of technical knowledge which
his client had obtained in a few hours.

There was nothing to be done but obey. Mr. Wittingham was too good a
card to throw out: Sir John Slingsby was evidently ruined beyond
redemption; and with a sorrowful heart--for Mr. Bacon was, at bottom,
a kind and well-disposed man--he took his way to his office with
his eyes roaming from one side of the street to the other, as if he
were looking for some means of escaping from a disagreeable task.
As they thus roamed, they fell upon Billy Lamb, the little deformed
pot-boy. The lawyer eyed him for a minute or so as he walked along,
compared him in imagination with one of his own clerks, a tall,
handsome-looking fellow, with a simpering face; thought that Billy
would do best, though he was much more like a wet capon, than a human
being, and beckoning the boy into his office, retired with him into an
inner room, where Mr. Bacon proceeded so cautiously and diffidently,
that, had not Billy Lamb's wits been as sharp as his face, he would
have been puzzled to know what the solicitor wanted him to do.



CHAPTER XXVII

It was a dark, cold, cheerless night, though the season was summer,
and the preceding week had been very warm--one of those nights when a
cold cutting north-east wind has suddenly broken through the sweet
dream of bright days, and checked the blood in the trees and plants,
withering them with the presage of winter. From noon till eventide
that wind had blown; and although it had died away towards night, it
had left the sky dark and the air chilly. Not a star was to be seen in
the expanse above; and, though the moon was up, yet the light she gave
only served to show that heavy clouds were floating over the heavens,
the rounded edges of the vapours becoming every now and then of a dim
white, without the face of the bright orb ever being visible for a
moment. A dull, damp moist hung about the ground, and there was a
faint smell, not altogether unpleasant, but sickly and oppressive,
rose up, resembling that which is given forth by some kinds of
water-plants, and burdened the cold air.

In the little churchyard, at the back of Stephen Gimlet's
cottage, there was a light burning, though ten o'clock had struck
some quarter of an hour before; and an elderly man, dressed,
notwithstanding the chilliness of the night, merely in a waistcoat
with striped sleeves, might have been seen by that light, which was
nested in a horse-lantern, and perched upon a fresh-turned heap of
earth. His head and shoulders were above the ground, and part of
his rounded back, with ever and anon the rise and fall of a heavy
pickaxe, appeared amongst the nettles and long hemlocks which overrun
the churchyard. His legs and feet were buried in a pit which he was
digging, and busily the sexton laboured away to hollow out the grave,
muttering to himself from time to time, and sometimes even singing at
his gloomy work. He was an old man, but he had no one to help him, and
in truth he needed it not, for he was hale and hearty, and he put such
a good will to his task, that it went on rapidly. The digging of a
grave was to him a sort of festival. He held brotherhood with the
worm, and gladly prepared the board for his kindred's banquet.

The grave-digger had gone on for some time when, about the hour I have
mentioned, some one paused at the side of the low mossy wall, about a
hundred yards from the cottage of the new gamekeeper, and looked over
towards the lantern. Whoever the visitor was, he seemed either to
hesitate or to consider, for he remained with his arms leaning on the
coping for full five minutes before he opened the little wooden-gate
close by, and walking in, went up to the side of the grave. The sexton
heard him well enough, but I never saw a sexton who was not a
humorist, and he took not the least notice, working away as before.

"Why, what are you about, old gentleman?" said a man's voice, at
length.

"Don't you see?" rejoined the sexton, looking up, "practising the
oldest trade in the world but one--digging to be sure--aye, and
grave-digging, too, which is a very ancient profession likewise,
though when first it began men lived so long, the sextons must have
been but poor craftsmen for want of practice."

"And whose grave is it you are digging?" asked the visitor. "I have
been here some days, and have not heard of any deaths."

"One would think you were a doctor," answered the sexton, "for
you seem to fancy that you must have a hand in every death in the
parish--but you want to know whose grave it is--well, I can't tell
you, for I don't know myself."

"But who ordered you to dig it then?" demanded the stranger.

"No one," said the sexton; "it will fit somebody, I warrant, and I
shall get paid for it; and why should not I keep a ready made grave as
a town cobbler keeps ready-made shoes? I am digging it out of my own
fancy. There will be death somewhere before the week is out, I am
sure; for I dreamed last night that I saw a wedding come to this
church, and the bride and the bridegroom stepped on each of the grave
hillocks as they walked--so there will be a death, that's certain, and
may be two."

"And so you are digging the grave on speculation, old fellow?"
exclaimed the other, "but I dare say you have a shrewd guess whom it
is for. There is some poor fellow ill in the neighbourhood--or some
woman in a bad way, ha?"

"It may be for the young man lying wounded up at Buxton's inn,"
answered the sexton; "they say he is better; but I should not wonder
if it served his turn after all. But I don't know, there is never any
telling who may go next. I've seen funny things in my day. Those who
thought they had a long lease, find it was a short one: those who were
wishing for other people's death, that they might get their money, die
first themselves."

The sexton paused, and the stranger did not make any answer, looking
gloomily down into the pit as if he did not much like the last
reflections that rose up from the bottom of the grave.

"Aye, funny things enough I have seen," continued the sexton, after
giving a stroke or two with his pickaxe; "but the funniest of all is,
to see how folks take on at first for those who are gone, and how soon
they get over it. Lord, what a lot of tears I have seen shed on this
little bit of ground! and how soon they were dried up, like a shower
in the sunshine. I recollect now there was a young lady sent down here
for change of air by the London doctors, after they had poisoned her
with their stuff, I dare say. A pretty creature she was as ever I set
eyes on, and did not seem ill, only a bit of a cough. Her mother came
with her, and then her lover, who was to be married to her when she
got well. But at six months' end she died--there she lies, close on
your left--and her lover, wasn't he terrible downcast? and he said to
me when we had put her comfortably in the ground, 'I shan't be long
after her, sexton; keep me that place beside her--there's a guinea for
you.' He did not come back, however, for five years, and then I saw
him one day go along the road in a chaise and four, with a fine lady
by his side, as gay as a lark."

"Well, you would not have the man go on whimpering all his life?" said
the other; "how old are you, sexton?"

"Sixty and eight last January," answered the other, "and I have dug
these graves forty years come St. John."

"Have you many old men in the parish?" asked the stranger.

"The oldest is eighty-two," replied the sexton, "and she is a woman."

"Six from eighty-two," said the stranger in a contemplative tone,
"that leaves seventy-six. That will do very well."

"Will it?" said the sexton, "well, you know best; but I should like to
see a bit more of your face," and as he spoke, the old man suddenly
raised his lantern towards the stranger, and then burst out into a
laugh, "ay, I thought I knew the voice!" he said, "and so you've come
back again, captain? Well now, this is droll enough! That bone you've
got your foot upon belongs to your old wet-nurse, Sally Loames, if I
know this ground; and she had as great a hand in damaging you as any
of the rest. She was a bad one! But what has brought you down now that
all the money's gone and the property too?"

"Why, I'll tell you," answered Captain Moreton, "I'll tell you, my
good old Grindley. I want to see into the vault where the coffins are,
and just to have a look at the register. Can't you help me? you used
always to have the keys."

"No, no, captain," rejoined the sexton, shaking his head, "no tricks!
no tricks! I'm not going to put my head into a noose for nothing."

"Nobody wants you to put your head in a noose, Grindley," answered the
other, "all I want is just to take a look at the coffins for a minute,
and another at the register, for I have had a hint that I have been
terribly cheated, and that people have put my great-grandfather's
death six years too early, which makes all the difference to me; for
if my mother was born while he was living she could not break the
entail, do you see?"

"Well, then," said the sexton, "you can come to-morrow, captain; and
I'll tell the doctor any hour you like."

"That won't do, Grindley," replied Moreton, "the parson is with the
enemy; and, besides, I must not let any body know that I have seen the
register and the coffins till I have every thing prepared to upset
their roguery. You would not have me lose my own, would you, old boy?
Then as to your doing it for nothing, if you will swear not to tell
that I have seen the things at all, till I am ready and give you
leave, you shall have a ten-pound note."

It is a strange and terrible thing, that the value of that which has
no value except as it affects us in this world and this life,
increases enormously in our eyes as we are leaving it. The sexton had
always been more or less a covetous man, as Captain Moreton well knew;
but the passion had increased upon him with years, and the bait of the
ten-pound note was not to be resisted. He took up the lantern, he
got out of the grave, and looked carefully round. It was late at
night--all was quiet--nothing seemed stirring; and approaching close
to Moreton's side, he said in a whisper,

"No one knows that you were coming here, eh, captain?"

"Nobody in the world," replied the other, "I called at your house an
hour ago, and the girl told me you were down here, but I said I would
call on you again to-morrow."

"And you only want to look at the coffins and the book?" continued the
sexton.

"Nothing else in the world," said Moreton, in an easy tone; "perhaps I
may take a memorandum in my pocket-book, that's all."

"Well, then, give us the note and come along," replied the sexton,
"there can be no harm in that."

Moreton slipped something into his hand, and they moved towards a
little door in the side of the church, opposite to that on which stood
the cottage of Stephen Gimlet. Here the sexton drew a large bunch of
keys out of his pocket and opened the door, holding up the lantern to
let his companion see the way in.

Moreton whistled a bit of an opera air, but the old man put his hand
on his arm, saying in a low tone, "Hush! hush! what's the use of such
noise?" and leading the way to the opposite comer, he chose one of the
smallest of the keys on his bunch, and stooped down, kneeling on one
knee by the side of a large stone in the pavement, marked with a cross
and a star, and having a keyhole in it covered with a brass plate made
to play in the stone. The old man put in the key and turned it, but
when he attempted to lift the slab it resisted.

"There, you must get it up for yourself," he said, rising, "I can't;
take hold of the key, and with your young arm you'll soon get it up, I
dare say."

Moreton did as the other directed, and raised the slab without
difficulty. When he had done, he quietly put the keys in his pocket,
saying, "Give me the lantern!"

But Mr. Grindley did not like the keys being in Captain Moreton's
pocket, and though he did not think it worth while to make a piece of
work about it, yet he kept the lantern and went down first. A damp,
close smell met them on the flight of narrow stone steps, which the
old lords of the manor had built down into their place of long repose;
and the air was so dark that it seemed as if the blackness of all the
many long nights which had passed since the vault was last opened had
accumulated and thickened there.

For some moments, the faint light of the lantern had no effect upon
the solid gloom; but, as soon as it began to melt, the old man walked
on, saying, "This way, captain. I think it used to stand hereabouts,
upon the tressles to the right. That is your father's to the left, and
then there's your mother's; and next there's your little sister, who
died when she was a baby, all lying snug together. The Moretons, that
is the old Moretons, are over here. Here's your grandfather--a jolly
old dog, I recollect him well, with his large stomach and his purple
face--and then his lady--I did not know her--and then two or three
youngsters. You see, young and old, they all come here one time or
another. This should be your great grandfather," and he held up the
lantern to the top of one of the coffins. "No," he said, after a brief
examination, "that is the colonel who was killed in '45. Why they put
him here I don't know, for he died long before your great grandfather.
But here the old gentleman is. He lived to a great age, I know."

"Let me see," said Captain Moreton; and approaching the side of the
coffin he made the old man hold the lantern close to the plate upon
the top. The greater part of the light was shed upon the coffin lid,
though some rays stole upwards and cast a sickly glare upon the two
faces that hung over the last resting-place of the old baronet.
Captain Moreton put his hand in his pocket, at the same time pointing
with the other to a brass plate, gilt, which bore a short inscription
upon it, somewhat obscure from dust and verdigris.

"There! it is quite plain," he said, "1766!"

The old sexton had been fumbling for a pair of spectacles, and now he
mounted them on his nose and looked closer, saying, "No, captain,
1760."

"Nonsense!" said the other, sharply, "it is the dust covers the tail
of the six. I'll show you in a minute;" and as quick as light he drew
the other hand from his pocket, armed with a sharp steel instrument of
a very peculiar shape. It was like a stamp for cutting pastry, only
much smaller, with the sharp edge formed like a broken sickle. Before
the old man could see what he was about to do, he pressed his hand,
and the instrument it contained, tight upon the plate, gave it a
slight turn and withdrew it.

"Lord 'a mercy! what have you done?" exclaimed the sexton.

"Nothing, but taken off the dust," answered Moreton with a laugh;
"look at it now! Is it not 66 plain enough?"

"Ay, that it is," said Grindley. "But this won't do, captain, this
won't do."

"By ---- it shall do," replied the other, fiercely; "and if you say
one word, you will not only lose the money but get hanged into the
bargain; for the moment I hear you've 'peached I'll make a full
confession, and say you put me up to the trick. So now my old boy you
are in for it, and had better go through with it like a man. If we
both hold our tongues nothing can happen. We slip out together and no
one knows a syllable; but, if we are fools, and chatter, and don't
help each other, we shall both get into an infernal scrape. You will
suffer most, however, I'll take care of that. Then, on the contrary,
if I get back what they have cheated me and my father out of, you
shall have 100_l_. for your pains."

At first the sexton was inclined to exclaim and protest, but Captain
Moreton went on so long that he had time to reflect--and, being a man
of quick perceptions, to make up his mind. At first, too, he looked
angrily in his companion's face through his spectacles, holding up the
lantern to see him well; but gradually be dropped the light and his
eyes together to the coffin-lid, examined it thoughtfully, and in the
end said, in alow, quiet, significant voice, "I think, captain, the
tail of that six looks somewhat bright and sharp considering how old
it is."

The compact was signed and sealed by those words; and Moreton replied,
"I've thought of all that, old gentleman. It shall be as green as the
rest by to-morrow morning."

Thus saying, he took out a small vial of a white liquid, dropped a few
drops on the plate, and rubbed them into the deep mark he had made.
Then, turning gaily to his companion, he exclaimed "Now for the
register."

Grindley made no reply; and they walked up into the church again, put
down the slab of stone, locked it, and advanced towards the vestry.
There, however, the old man paused at the door, saying, in a low,
shaking voice, "I can't, captain! I can't! It is forgery, nothing
else. I'll stay here, you go and do what you like, you've the keys."

"Where are the books kept?" asked the other, speaking low.

"In the great chest," said the sexton, "it must be the second book
from the top."

"Can I find pen and ink?" inquired Moreton.

"On the table, on the table," answered Grindley. "Mathew Lomax had a
child christened two days ago. But it wont never look like the old
ink."

"Never you fear," said the other worthy, "I am provided;" and taking
the lantern, he opened the vestry-door and went in.

Captain Moreton set down the lantern on a little table covered with
green cloth, and proceeded about his work quietly and deliberately. He
was no new offender, though this was a new offence. He had none of the
young timidity of incipient crime about him. He had done a great many
unpleasant things on great inducements, pigeoned confiding friends,
made friendships for the sake of pigeoning, robbed Begums, as was the
custom in those days, shot two or three intimate acquaintances who did
not like being wronged, and was, moreover, a man of a hardy
constitution, so that his nerves were strong and unshaken. He tried
two or three keys before he found the one which fitted the lock of the
chest. He took out two volumes of registers, and examined the
contents, soon found the passage he was looking for, and then searched
for the pen and ink, which, after all, were not upon the table. Then
he tried the pen upon his thumb-nail, and took out his little bottle
again, for it would seem that within that vial was some fluid which
had a double operation, namely, that of corroding brass and rendering
ink pallid. The register was laid open before him, a stool drawn to
the table, his hand pressed tight upon the important page, and the pen
between his fingers and thumb to keep all steady in the process of
converting 1760 into 1766, when an unfortunate fact struck him,
namely, that there were a great many insertions between the two
periods. He paused to consider how this was to be overcome, when
suddenly he heard an exclamation from without, and the sound of
running steps in the church, as if some one was scampering away
in great haste. He had forgotten--it was the only thing he had
forgotten--to turn his face to the door, and he was in the act of
attempting to remedy this piece of neglect, by twisting his head over
his shoulder, when he received a blow upon the cheek which knocked him
off his stool, and stretched him on the pavement of the vestry. He
started up instantly, but before he could see any thing or any body,
the lantern was knocked over, and the door of the vestry shut and
bolted, leaving him a prisoner in the dark.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


Tarningham Park was exceedingly quiet; for Sir John Slingsby was out
at dinner some five miles off, and his merry activity being removed,
every living thing seemed to think itself entitled to take some
repose. Mrs. Clifford, who had been far from well for several days,
and had not quitted her room during the whole morning, had gone to
bed, Mary and Isabella were conversing quietly--perhaps sadly--in the
drawing-room, the butler snored in the pantry, the ladies' maids and
footmen were enjoying a temporary calm in their several spheres, and
cook, scullions, and housemaids were all taxing their energies to do
nothing with the most meritorious perseverance. Even the hares hopped
more deliberately upon the lawns, and the cock-pheasants strutted with
more tranquil grandeur. Every one seemed to know that Sir John
Slingsby was absent, and that there was no need to laugh, or talk, or
dance, or sing, or eat, or drink, more than was agreeable. The very
air seemed to participate in the general feeling, for, whereas it had
been somewhat boisterous and keen during the day, it sunk into a calm,
heavy, chilly sleep towards night, and the leaves rested motionless
upon the trees, as if weary of battling with the wind.

"We will have a fire, Mary," said Isabella; "though it be summer in
the calendar, it is winter in the field, and I do not see why we
should regulate our comfort by the almanac. Papa will not be home till
twelve, and though he will be warm enough, I dare say, that will do
nothing for us."

As she spoke she rose to ring the bell; but at the same moment another
bell rang, being that of the chief entrance, and both Miss Slingsby
and her cousin looked aghast at the idea of a visitor. Some time
elapsed before their apprehensions were either confirmed or removed;
for there was a good deal of talking at the glass-door; but at first
the servant did not choose to come in with any explanation. At length,
however, a footman appeared in very white stockings and laced
knee-bands, saying, with a grin, "If you please, Ma'am, there is little
Billy Lamb at the door wishes to see you. He asked for Sir John first.
I told him he couldn't, for you were engaged; but he said he was sure
you would, and teased me just to tell you he was here."

"Billy Lamb!" said Isabella. "Who is that?--Oh, I remember: is not
that the poor boy at the White Hart?"

"Yes, Ma'am," replied the footman, "the little humpback that you gave
half-a-crown to one day when he was whistling so beautiful."

"Oh, I will see him, of course," said Isabella, much to the footman's
amazement, who could not see the 'of course;' "I will come out and
speak with him."

"Have him brought in here, Bella," said Mary, "I know the poor boy
well, and his mother, too. The daughter is dead; she married badly, I
believe, and died two or three years ago."

"Bring him in," said Miss Slingsby to the servant, and the man retired
to fulfil her commands. As Billy Lamb entered the room the two fair
girls, both so beautiful yet so unlike each other, advanced towards
the door to meet him; and stood before the poor deformed boy leaning
slightly towards each other, with their arms linked together. The boy
remained near the entrance, and the footman held the door open behind
him till Miss Slingsby nodded her head as an intimation that his
presence was not required.

"Well, William," said Isabella, as the man departed, "how are you, and
what is it you want?"

"And your poor mother, William," said Mary Clifford, "I have not seen
her a long while, how is she?"

"She is much better, thank you, Ma'am," replied the boy. "She is
reconciled with Stephen, now, and has gone to be with him up in the
cottage, and take care of his little boy, my poor sister's orphan, and
so she is much better." Then turning to Isabella, he went on--"I am
quite well, thank you, Miss; but somehow my heart is very down just
now, for I came up to tell Sir John something very terrible and very
bad."

"Is it magistrate's business, William? or can I give you any help?"
asked Isabella.

"Oh dear no, Miss Slingsby," replied the boy, "it is not about myself
at all, but about Sir John;" and he looked up in her face with his
clear, bright, intelligent eyes, as if beseeching her to understand
him without forcing him to further explanations.

But Isabella did not understand him at all; and she inquired--"What do
you mean, my good lad? I am sure my father will be glad to do any
thing he can for you; and I do not think that you would yourself do
any thing very terrible and very bad, such as you speak of."

"Hush, Isabella," said her cousin, whose heart was a more apprehensive
one than her cousin's, and who had some glimmering of dangers or
sorrows hidden under the boy's obscure words: "Let him explain
himself. Tell us, William, exactly what you mean. If wrong has been
done you, we will try to make it right; but you spoke of my uncle: has
any thing happened to Sir John?"

"No, Miss Mary," replied Billy Lamb, "but I fear evil may happen to
him if something is not done to stop it."

"But of what kind?" asked Isabella, anxiously: "tell us all about it.
What is it you fear? Where did you get your information?"

"From Mr. Bacon," answered the boy, simply, "the little lawyer at
Tarningham, Ma'am. He's not a bad man, nor an unkind man either, like
Mr. Wharton; and, though he did not just bid me come up and tell Sir
John, yet he said he very much wished he knew what was going to
happen. Then he said he could not write about it, for it was no
business of his, as he was but acting for others, and he did not like
to send a message because--"

"But what is it?" exclaimed Mary Clifford and Isabella together. "In
pity's name, my good boy, do not keep us in suspense."

"Why, Ma'am, he said," continued the boy, in a sad tone, and casting
down his eyes, "that to-morrow there would be an execution put in
here--that means that they will seize every thing. I know that, for
they did so six months after my father died. Then he said that very
likely Sir John would be arrested, unless he could pay five thousand
pounds down at once."

Isabella sunk down in a chair overwhelmed, exclaiming, "Good Heaven!"

"This is what Captain Hayward told us of!" said Mary Clifford, putting
her hand to her brow, and speaking rather to herself than to her
cousin. "How unfortunate that he should be absent now. This duel,
depend upon it, has prevented him from taking the means he proposed
for averting this blow. I feel sure he could and would have done so as
he promised."

"Oh, whatever Ned Hayward promised he was able to perform," answered
Isabella, "nothing but some unfortunate circumstance, such as this
duel, has prevented him. He is as true and open as the day, Mary. What
would I not give for but five minutes' conversation with him now."

"Would you? Would you?" said the musical voice of the poor boy. "I
think if you want them, you can have them very soon."

"Oh, you dear good boy!" cried Isabella, starting up, "send him here
directly, if you know where he is. Tell him that my father's safety
depends entirely upon him: tell him we are ruined if he does not
come."

"I do not think I can send him," said the boy in a disappointed tone.
"I don't think he can come: but if you like to go and see him, I will
venture to take you where he is; for I am sure you would not do him a
great injury, and say any thing of where he is hid."

"Go to him?" exclaimed Isabella; "why, it is growing quite dark, my
good William. How can I go? But this is folly and weakness," she
exclaimed the next moment, "when my father's liberty and character are
at stake, shall I hesitate to go any where. I will go, William. Where
is it? Is it far?"

"Stay, dear Isabella," said her cousin, "if needful, I will go with
you. This is a case which I think may justify what would be otherwise
improper. But let me ask one or two questions. You say Mr. Bacon told
you this, William. If he wished my uncle to know the facts, why did he
not send one of his clerks?"

"Why he said, Miss Mary, that he had no right," answered the boy, "he
seemed in a great flurry, and as if he did not well know what to do;
but he asked if I had seen Sir John in town; for he generally comes to
the White Hart, you know; and told me to let him know if I chanced to
meet with him in town, because he wanted to speak with him
exceedingly. And then he went on that he did not know that he ought to
tell him either; for he had got an execution to take to-morrow, here,
and to have a writ against him the first thing to-morrow, and a great
deal more that I forget. But he said he was very sorry, and would
almost give one of his hands not to have it to do. At last he said I
was not to tell any body in the town what he had said, but that I
might tell Sir John if I saw him, so I came away here, Miss, as soon
as I could."

"But where is Captain Hayward to be found, then?" asked Miss Clifford.
"You must tell us that before we can make up our minds, William."

"I may as well tell you as take you," replied the boy, "but I must go
on before to say you are coming. He is at Ste Gimlet's, with him and
my mother, and has been there ever since he shot Mr. Wittingham."

"Oh, I shall not mind going there," cried Isabella, "it will not call
for observation from the servants, but if he had been at an inn, it
would have been terrible."

Mary Clifford smiled; for she was one of those who valued proprieties
_nearly_ at their right worth, if not quite. She never violated them
rashly; for no pleasure, or amusement, or mere personal gratification
would she transgress rules which society had framed, even though she
might think them foolish; but with a great object, a good purpose, and
a clear heart, she was ready to set them at nought. "I will go very
willingly with you, dear Bella," she said. "Captain Hayward went to
London, I know, for the express purpose of providing the means of
averting this calamity; but, from some words which he let drop, I
fancy he believed that it was not likely to fall upon us so soon.
There is no way that I see of aiding your father but by seeing and
consulting with this old friend. You said all this would happen early
tomorrow, William?" she continued, turning again to the boy.

"As soon as it was light, Miss Mary," replied poor Billy Lamb.

"Oh, Heaven, I will order the carriage directly," said Isabella, "run
on, there's a good lad, and let Captain Hayward know I am coming. You
can tell him why, and all about it."

The boy retired, and sped away by the shortest paths towards his
brother-in-law's cottage. In the mean while the carriage was ordered;
but Sir John had got the chariot with him; the barouche had not
been out for some time; and the coachman thought fit to dust it.
Three-quarters of an hour passed ere the lamps were lighted and all
was ready, and then a footman with gold-laced hat in hand stood by the
side of the vehicle, to hand the ladies in and accompany them.
Isabella, however, told him that he would not be wanted, and gave the
order to drive to Stephen Gimlet's cottage.

"Ay!" said the footman, as he turned into the house again, "Billy
Lamb's mother is there. Now they'll do the young ladies out of a
guinea or two, I'll warrant. What fools women are, to be sure!"

While he thus moralised, the carriage rolled slowly on in the dark
night, drawn by two tall pursey horses and driven by a coachman of the
same qualities, neither of whom at all approved of being unexpectedly
taken out at that hour of the night; for dinner parties were rare in
the neighbourhood of Tarningham Park, balls were rarer still, and Sir
John Slingsby was much fonder of seeing what he called a set of jolly
fellows at his own house than of going out to find them, so that none
of his horses were at all accustomed to trot by candlelight. Nearly
half an hour more elapsed before the carriage entered the quiet lane
unaccustomed to the sound of any wheels but those of a waggon, or a
taxed-cart, and at length the reins were drawn in at the door of the
cottage. The house looked unpromising; not a light was to be seen,
for, strange to say, window-shutters had been put up to every casement
of Stephen Gimlet's dwelling, though one would not have supposed him a
man addicted to such luxuries. The coachman felt his dignity hurt at
having to descend from the box and open the carriage-door, the
respectability of the whole family seemed to suffer in his eyes; but,
nevertheless, he did it, and as he did so the horses moved on two or
three yards, of which Isabella was glad, for she reflected that if the
coachman saw into the cottage, he might see the inmates also. Ere she
went in, she told him to drive back to the style some two hundred
yards down the lane, and if the boy Billy Lamb came over--it was his
way from Tarningham Park--to keep him with the carriage. Then, with
two hearts which it must be confessed fluttered sadly, Isabella and
Mary knocked at the cottage-door, and scarcely waiting for reply
opened it in haste and went in. Mary's heart fluttered at the thought
of seeing Ned Hayward, as well as at the feeling of taking a somewhat
unusual step; but Isabella's flutter was solely on the latter account
till the door was open, and then it became worse than ever on another
score.

The first object she saw straight before her was Mr. Beauchamp, who
was standing in the midst of the little parlour of the cottage,
talking to the poor boy, Billy Lamb, while Mrs. Lamb and Stephen
Gimlet were placed near the wide cottage hearth.

The moment that Miss Slingsby's face appeared, Beauchamp turned from
the boy, saying,

"Here are the ladies themselves. Now go home, my good boy; and if your
master is angry at your absence, tell him I will explain all to him.
My dear Miss Slingsby, I am delighted to see you and your fair cousin.
The boy says you wish to speak with Captain Hayward. He is in the room
above. I will tell him immediately;" and, after shaking hands with
both of the ladies, he turned away and went upstairs.

Mary whispered eagerly with Isabella; and Stephen Gimlet touched his
mother-in-law's arm, as he saw that there was evidently a good deal of
agitation in their fair visitors' manner, saying,

"Come, Goody, it wont give you cold, I dare say, to walk out for a bit
with me. They'll want to talk together," he added, in a low voice,
"and if it's cold we'll go into the little vestry of the church."

The old woman looked towards the back-room, where the child was
sleeping; but Stephen answered her, ere she spoke, whispering,

"No, no, we should hear it all there."

Goody Lamb put her shawl over her head, while he took down the key of
the church; and Mary's eye catching their movements, she said,

"Only for a few minutes, Mrs. Lamb. I should like to speak with you
when we have said a few words to Captain Hayward."

Mrs. Lamb dropped a courtesy, and went out with her son-in-law; and
the next moment, a slow step was heard coming down the stairs.

"Good Heaven, you are ill, Captain Hayward," cried Isabella, as her
father's friend presented himself, followed by Beauchamp. Mary
Clifford said nothing, but she felt more.

"Oh, I shall soon be well again, my dear Miss Slingsby," answered Ned
Hayward; "the ball is out, and I am recovering quite fast--only a
little weak."

"Hayward tells me I shall not be one too many," said Beauchamp; "but
if I am, Miss Slingsby, send me away, remembering, however, that you
may command me in any other way as well as that."

What a difference there is between enterprise and execution! How the
difficulties grow upon us at every step of the mountain path, and how
faint the heart feels at the early obstacles which we had altogether
overlooked, Isabella Slingsby had thought it would be the easiest
thing in the world to enter upon the state of her father's affairs
with Ned Hayward. He was so old a friend; he had known her father
since he was himself sixteen years of age; he had himself given the
first warning, had opened the way. It had seemed to her, indeed, that
there would not be the slightest difficulty, that there could not be
any obstacle; but now, when she had to speak of all, her heart sank,
her courage failed her; and she strove to turn the conversation to any
other subject--only for a moment, till she recovered thought and
breath.

"Oh, no! Do not go, Mr. Beauchamp," she said. "But how ill Captain
Hayward looks. We had no idea he had been wounded. They said that Mr.
Wittingham was the only sufferer."

"I can assure you, it is nothing," replied Ned Hayward; "but you must
sit down, my dear young lady;" and with his left arm he put a seat for
Miss Slingsby, while Beauchamp did the same good office for Mary
Clifford. "I am sure that you have something important to say, and I
guess what it is," the young officer continued; "Miss Clifford, you
told your cousin a very painful communication I made to you ten or
twelve days ago. Is it not so? and she has come to speak upon that
subject?"

"I did, Captain Hayward," answered Mary Clifford; "I told her all you
had said--and your generous and noble offer to assist Sir John in the
most pressing emergency. Her own knowledge confirmed in a great degree
the fact of great danger; but we feared that this unfortunate duel
might have interfered with your plans, and knew not where to find you,
or communicate with you."

"I did not forget what I had undertaken," answered Ned Hayward; "but
like a thoughtless fool, as I am, I forgot I might be wounded, Miss
Clifford, or that I might be forced to run for it. Well may the good
people call me thoughtless Ned Hayward; for I remembered that I might
be killed, and provided against it; but I did not recollect any thing
else, and ordered the money to be remitted to the bank here at
Tarningham. The ball went into my shoulder, however, and I have been
unable to write ever since; otherwise I would have sent the cheque
long ago, to be used whenever it was needed. I hope to be able to
write as well as ever in a few days; so put your mind quite at ease
upon that score. As for the mortgage, which is, I suppose, in train
for immediate fore-closure, we must think what can be done some other
way; for I am a poor man, as you know, and have not the means of
lending the amount;" and, as he spoke, he turned his eyes towards
Beauchamp.

Ned Hayward calculated that there would be plenty of time to make all
his arrangements; but such fancies were dissipated in a moment by
Isabella's reply:--

"Did not the boy tell you," she asked, "that every thing you feared,
is to take place to-morrow? He came up to warn us. That good little
man, Bacon, the attorney, sent him."

"No, Isabella," said Mary Clifford, "he did not exactly send him; but
he told him the facts, evidently that they might reach my uncle's
ears; and the boy came up to tell us. I was sure, Captain Hayward,"
she added, with a glowing cheek, "that you would do what you could to
aid, and that, if you could not aid, you would advise us how to act.
We therefore came on here, without hesitation; for no time is to be
lost, and Sir John is unfortunately out at dinner."

"Very luckily, rather," said Ned Hayward. "No time, indeed, is to be
lost, if such be the state of things. I must write the cheque at once,
some way or another. There is a pen and ink in my little room, I will
go and get it."

"But can you write?" asked Mary, anxiously; "can you, without injury
to yourself?"

"Nay, stay, Hayward, stay," said Beauchamp; "you mentioned the subject
of the mortgage to me the other day. What is the amount, can you
tell?"

"About fifty thousand pounds, and the devil himself knows how much
interest," answered Ned Hayward; "for I do not think Sir John has any
idea."

"Nay, then I fear you must write the cheque," said Beauchamp, gravely;
"for I must not diminish the amount in the bank; but I will get the
pen and ink. We are a sort of prisoners here, Miss Slingsby, and dare
not show ourselves till Mr. Wittingham's state is better ascertained,
or we should long ago have endeavoured to put your mind at rest upon
these subjects. However, we hear the young man is better, and
therefore I trust we shall not be obliged to play at hide and seek
much longer."

Thus saying, he went up the stairs again, but was several minutes ere
he returned, during which time, though occasionally falling into fits
of grave thought, Ned Hayward laughed and talked gaily; from time to
time stealing a quiet look at the fair face of Mary Clifford, as she
leaned her arm upon the table, and gazed somewhat sadly at the embers
of the gamekeeper's fire.

At length Mr. Beauchamp made his appearance once more, and sitting
down to the table with a cheque-book before him, Ned Hayward, with a
laugh, took the pen in his hand, saying,

"I must dash it off in haste, or it will be pronounced a forgery. So
here is for it," and with a rapid stroke or two he filled up the
cheque for the sum of twelve thousand pounds, and signed his name. His
cheek turned pale as he wrote; and Mary Clifford saw it, but that was
the only sign of pain that he suffered to appear. Then, throwing down
the pen, he took the paper with his left hand, and gave it to Miss
Slingsby.

"There," he said, "I have had you on my knee twelve years ago, and
called you dear little Bella; but I never thought you would give me so
much pleasure as you do now."

"Well, Ned Hayward," exclaimed Isabella, with her eyes running over,
"you are certainly the best and noblest creature in the world."

Mary Clifford's lips murmured something very like "He is."

Beauchamp looked on with an expression of grave pleasure; but scarcely
was the check signed and given, when the door of the cottage opened
suddenly, and Stephen Gimlet took a step over the threshold, saying,

"I have caught him, gentlemen, I have caught him like a rat in a
trap."

"Whom have you caught?" asked Beauchamp, turning quickly towards him.

"Why, the fellow who fired the shot in at the window," answered
Stephen Gimlet.

"That is glorious!" exclaimed Ned Hayward. "Where is he? What have you
done with him?"

"I should not have meddled with him, perhaps," said the gamekeeper,
"if I had not found him meddling with the registers in the church,
which I know he has no right to do. I and Goody Lamb went out for a
bit into the churchyard, and, as she found the wind cold, we opened
the little door at this side of the church and went in; I had not been
in a minute, when I heard some one talking plain enough, but I could
not see any body for the life of me. I told Goody Lamb to stand behind
the pillar by the pulpit, while I went to see; but before I could take
a step, up out of the Moreton vault came two men with a lantern. One
of them was this fellow; and the other was the old sexton; and they
walked straight across towards the vestry; but, just a little way from
the door, the old sexton stopped and said, 'I can't, captain, it is
nothing better than forgery;' or something like that; and the other
fellow took the lantern and went on into the vestry. So I said to
Goody Lamb, in a whisper: 'Those rascals are up to no good;' and she
answered: 'One of them never was all his life.' So, then I said: 'You
get forward and scare the old sexton; I'll be close behind you.' The
old woman did it in a minute, walking on without any noise, till she
was right between him and the light, coming out of the vestry-door.
However, he had heard us whisper, I fancy; for he was staring about
him, as if he was looking for a ghost; and, as soon as he saw
something stand there, off he set, as if the devil were behind him;
and I jumped into the vestry, where the other fellow was sitting with
one of the great books open before him, and a pen in his hand. I did
not give him much time to think, but knocked him over, upset the
lantern, and locked the door. So there he is in a cage, just like one
of my ferrets."

"That's capital," cried Ned Hayward; but Beauchamp looked very grave,
and, turning to Gimlet, he said,

"We'll consider what is to be done with him by and by. You can bring
your good mother-in-law back now, Stephen; for our business is nearly
over, and then you can see these two ladies safe to the carriage. Miss
Slingsby," he continued, as soon as the gamekeeper was gone, "I wish
to speak two words with you regarding this little note," and he held
one up before her. "I took advantage of the pen and ink before I
brought it down, and so kept you waiting, I'm afraid; but it was not
without a purpose."

Isabella hesitated for a moment; but Beauchamp added, laughing,

"Nay, surely, you will trust yourself with me as far as the door."

"Oh, yes," replied Isabella, with a gay toss of her head; "I am doing
all kinds of odd things to-night, and see no reason for stopping in
mid course."

Thus saying, she walked towards the door, with Beauchamp following;
and they went out into the little garden, where Beauchamp put the note
in her hand, saying,

"This is addressed to Dr. Miles, my dear young lady. We are not very
well aware of what has taken place regarding this mortgage, which
Hayward has mentioned to me; but I fear there is some foul play going
on. Should any sudden inconvenience arise regarding it, or the
interest upon it, send that note instantly to Dr. Miles, and, at the
same time, take means to let me know."

"But how, my kind friend?" asked Isabella, "how can I let you know,
without discovering your place of concealment to others? You are
doubtless, aware, that there are placards all over the place offering
a reward for the apprehension of yourself and Captain Hayward."

"We must not mind that," answered Beauchamp; "but, at all events, it
may be as well to send a note to me, enclosed to good old Widow Lamb;
and I must take my measures afterwards, as I find best. In the mean
time, Dr. Miles will insure that your father is put to no
inconvenience; for it so luckily happens, that I have a large sum
unemployed at the present moment, which could not be better applied,
than by saving you from distress and annoyance."

"Oh, Mr. Beauchamp," cried Isabella, greatly moved, "what right have I
to so much kindness and generosity?"

"Every right, that a fine and noble heart can give," answered
Beauchamp; "and, oh, let me add, every right, that can be bestowed by
the most sincere affection, that ever woman inspired in man--but I
will not agitate you more to-night. This is not a moment, when I can
press such a topic upon you. There is only one thing you must promise,
that you will suffer no consideration whatever to prevent you from
availing yourself of the means of freeing your father from his
difficulties--no, not even the rash words I have just spoken."

Isabella was silent for a moment; but then she replied, in a low
voice,

"Those words would have quite the contrary effect. They would give me
confidence and hope;" and she put her hand in his.

Beauchamp raised it to his lips warmly, fully understanding all that
her reply implied.

The devil is in a country apothecary. There is an awkward fatality
about them which always brings them on the ground at the wrong moment.

"Good night, good night, Mr. Beauchamp," said Mr. Slattery of
Tarningham, slowly walking his horse down the sandy lane. "I thought I
would just step in to see Captain Hayward, and tell you that Harry
Wittingham is much better to-night," and Mr. Slattery, was dismounting
from his horse, not in the slightest degree with the intention of
seeing whose hand Mr. Beauchamp had been kissing, but merely in the
exercise of his professional avocations. As misfortune would have it,
Beauchamp had left the cottage-door open behind him, so that the
surgeon had a fair view of the act by which that gentleman had sealed
his tacit contract with Isabella, by the light which streamed forth
from within. But that which was unfortunate on one side, was fortunate
on another; for no sooner was the first monosyllable out of Mr.
Slattery's mouth, than Isabella darted in and closed the door, so that
the surgeon, though he thought the figure strangely like Sir John's
daughter, could not swear to the fact.

Beauchamp at the same time hastened to prevent his obtaining any more
precise knowledge, saying. "Thank you for your information, Mr.
Slattery. Hayward is better, and cannot see you to-night, being
particularly engaged at present. Good night;" and he also retired into
the house and shut the door.

"Ho, ho!" said Mr. Slattery, "so they do not choose me to see! Well,
let them take the consequences. When people trust me, I can be as
silent as the grave; but if they show a want of confidence, I know how
to match them. Did I whisper one word to any one of where the two
gentlemen were? No, not a word! and now they think to blind me. Well,
well, we shall see."

And Mr. Slattery did see, for while this soliloquy had been going on,
he had been going on too, and when it came to a conclusion, he came
upon the lamps of the large comfortable barouche of Sir John Slingsby.

"Good evening, Jenkins," said Mr. Slattery to the tall fat coachman,
"is Sir John in this part, that you are out so late?"

"No, Sir," replied Jenkins, "he's got the charitt over at Meadowfield.
I brought over my young lady to see Widow Lamb, at Gimlet's, the new
keeper's.

"Ho, ho," said Mr. Slattery again, but he had not time to make
reflections, for at the very moment, he heard a pair of human feet
running hard, and the next instant a figure shot across the glare of
the carriage-lamps. Mr. Slattery had a quick eye, and he instantly
called after the runner, "Hie! hie! captain, I want to speak with
you."

But the person whom he addressed ran on; and as Mr. Slattery did not
choose to be so evaded, he struck his plated spurs into his horse's
side, and overtook him at the distance of a quarter of a mile; for
once past the style where the carriage stood, there was no possible
means of getting out of the high-banked lane.

"Hie, captain! Captain Moreton!" cried Mr. Slattery, as he came near;
and Moreton not at all liking to have his name shouted all over the
country, slackened his pace.

"What the devil do you want, Slattery?" he asked, "do you not see I'm
in a hurry?"

"There's my little account, you know, captain," said Mr. Slattery,
"four years' standing, and you'd really oblige me very much if--"

"Devil fly away with your account," said the worthy captain,
"do you think I'm going to pay for all the physic you drugged the
maid-servants with at the hall?"

"Have you heard the news, captain?" exclaimed Mr. Slattery, coming
abruptly to the real point, as he perceived the other was going to run
again.

"No, what news?" asked Moreton, pausing.

"Why that Miss Slingsby is going to be married immediately to Mr.
Beauchamp, who has been staying down here so long," answered Mr.
Slattery; and then added, "as soon as young Wittingham's out of all
danger, they say."

"Is she, by G--d!" exclaimed the captain. "Well, doctor, I shall take
the short cut through that gate--good night; and do not say to any one
you saw me here. I know you can be trusted with a secret."

"To be sure!" said Mr. Slattery; and while Captain Moreton vaulted
over the gate, the surgeon pursued his way towards Tarningham.



CHAPTER XXIX.


Sir John Slingsby returned to Tarningham Park at about the hour of
"dark midnight;" but he found both daughter and niece still up to
receive him. That Sir John Slingsby had imbibed a portion of wine more
abundant than most men could carry discreetly was evident from the
increased depth of the rose in his complexion, and from a certain
watery lustre in his eyes; but it must not thence be inferred that the
baronet was even in the least degree drank. How many he had left drunk
behind him matters not to this history; but he himself, though gay as
usual, was perfectly sober, quite gentlemanly and at his ease; for he
had not even arrived at that pitch where a consciousness of wine makes
one careful of not showing its effects.

"Well, young ladies," he said, seating himself in his armchair for a
moment, and sticking his thumb into his white waistcoat, "you have
passed a dull night, I dare say, with the old gentleman out, and the
two young gentlemen Lord knows where. Well, how are we to wear away
to-morrow?"

"I shall wear away the morning, my dear uncle," said Mary Clifford,
who had held long councils with her cousin, "in going to Tarningham;
and I will ask you to lend me the carriage for an hour at eight
o'clock."

"Certainly, dear Mary," said the baronet; "but Tarningham? what takes
your pretty little self to Tarningham?"

"Why the truth is I want some money," answered Miss Clifford, "I think
the bank opens at half-past eight."

"Money in the bank!" cried Sir John Slingsby, "was there ever such a
girl? She has money in the bank! Well! take the carriage, Mary, when
you like, and be back to breakfast at half-past nine, otherwise you
shall have cold tea, and not a bit of pasty. Now to bed, to bed; for
if people have to go to Tarningham early in the morning, they must go
to bed at night."

The breakfast-table was laid, as usual, by nine o'clock in the
morning; but before that hour Isabella Slingsby had been down and had
wandered about in the drawing-room and in the library with a nervous
sort of unsettledness in her manner, which struck even the servants,
who happened to pass. She looked out of almost every window in the
house which was accessible to her; she gazed down every road that
wound through the park; she scanned every moving figure, that was
within the range of sight; and she felt every moment a terror of what
the next would bring, which she had never experienced in life before.
She wished that Mary had not left her, that they had sent some one for
the money; and she conjured up difficulties and distresses, obstacles
that she would not know how to meet, questions of law and form of
which she was unaware, to trouble herself and agitate her mind still
more. At length, with a bold resolution, she rang the bell, and
ordered the servant, who appeared, to go down to Doctor Miles's, with
her compliments, and say she would be glad to see him. The moment
after her father entered the room as gay, as bustling, as jovial as
ever; his face resplendent with small red veins; his eyes sparkling
like the wine of the night before; his ample stomach rolling
unrepressed under an easy waistcoat; and his stout legs and neat foot
carrying him about with the light step of one-and-twenty. To have
looked at him one would have thought that there was not such a thing
as care or sorrow in the while world, much less in his own house.

"Ah, Bella!" he cried, kissing her, "how have you slept, my
love?--Where's Mary?--not come back? How's your aunt?--pining,
pining, eh?--see what comes of a melancholy constitution, too much
bile and twenty years' trial of a puritanical husband! Well, what's
o'clock?--five-and-twenty minutes after nine--come along, we'll have
breakfast. Mary shall have a fresh jot of tea when she comes," and in
went Sir John Slingsby to the breakfast-room, ringing the bell as if
he would have pulled it down the moment he got it.

"Breakfast," he exclaimed, when the butler appeared; "has not the
postbag come?"

"No, Sir John," replied the man.

"Very late," said the baronet; and, marching to the window, he looked
out upon the sunshiny park, with his hands behind him, for want of
better occupation.

To poor Isabella Slingsby her father's lively unconsciousness was
terrible; and it was with trembling hands that she made the tea and
poured out the coffee, giving a sharp look round every time the door
opened, as if in expectation of some grim bailiff's face appearing.
Such, indeed, would have been the case, had it not been, that good Mr.
Bacon had contrived to delay what he could not prevent; and at length,
much to the joy and satisfaction of Isabella, the grating sound of
carriage-wheels was heard from the park. That sound was still distant
and indistinct, however, when the butler came in with a very peculiar
and significant expression of countenance, saying, "Please, Sir John,
there's a man wants to speak with you."

"Well, he must wait," said Sir John Slingsby. "Tell him I am at
breakfast--has not the postbag come yet?"

"Please, Sir John, the man says he must speak with you directly."

"Tell him to go to the devil," said Sir John Slingsby, "and speak with
him;" but the words were scarcely out of his mouth, when the door
opened behind the butler, and not one man, but two appeared.

Isabella's face had been very pale from the first announcement made by
the servant; but Sir John had remained perfectly unconscious till he
saw those two strange faces. They were any thing but pleasant faces
in the abstract, for though well washed and shaved there was a
ruffianly dirt of expression, which no soap could get rid of. There
are certain professions which stamp themselves upon the outer man in
indelible lines. The bailiff--the man who makes his bread or his
fortune by inflicting the most poignant misery the law knows upon his
fellow-creature--the step in society still lower than the hangman--is
never to be mistaken; and Sir John Slingsby recognised at once tie
errand of his intrusive visitors in their aspect. His face became very
pale, the red veins turned blue; and he sat at the table without
uttering a word. He well knew that these men's appearance, though
bad enough in itself, was but the commencement of evils: that the
long-delayed hour was come: that the thin worn line which upheld his
whole fortunes had snapped, and that he was now to fall into the gulf
of ruin which had so long yawned beneath him. Arrested and carried
from his house, every creditor would pour in with his claims, every
debt be swelled by law expenses, till nought would be left for him and
for his child, but a prison and a life of labour.

His careless heart sank with the weight suddenly cast upon it; and his
brain was overpowered with the multitude of thoughts it had resisted
too long.

But Isabella stepped in like an angel of comfort; her heart rose as
his fell. The moment of terror passed away, and as the foremost of the
two men laid his hand lightly upon Sir John's shoulder, she whispered
in his ear, "Do not alarm yourself, my dear father. Mary has gone to
Tarningham for the money. We heard of all this last night, and are
quite prepared. She will be here in a moment--I hear the carriage
coming up now."

"At whose suit and for what amount?" demanded Sir John Slingsby,
turning to the bailiff. He could say no more, for some moments were
required to collect his thoughts.

"At Mr. Wittingham's, Sir John," replied the man, "for five thousand
three hundred and forty-two pounds seven and fourpence."

"Then you may tell Mr. Wittingham for me," said Sir John Slingsby,
"that he is a d--d shabby, sneaking scoundrel, to do such a thing as
this without giving me some notice."

"Come, come, Sir John," rejoined the bailiff, "you know it is no use
talking--you must come along, you know."

"You are somewhat too quick, Sir," said Isabella, interposing, "if you
mean to say the debt must be paid, that is very well. It shall be
paid."

"Ay, Miss; but it must be paid immediately or Sir John must march,"
answered the man, screwing his eye at his follower, "gammon is gammon,
you know."

"I do not understand what you mean," said Isabella, haughtily, "pray,
papa, do not touch him (for Sir John had risen with fury in his
countenance). The debt shall be paid immediately, as you say."

"And you shall be ducked in the horse-pond for your insolence," added
the baronet, continuing to the butler, "call in all the men."

"Nay, nay--do not, my dear father!" cried Isabella. "Five thousand
three hundred and forty pounds, you said?" she continued, addressing
the bailiff, "I will bring the money this moment."

"Forty-two, seven, and four," said the man, sullenly, "but there may
be detainers, and as the caption is made, I fancy I cannot--"

"Oh, I'll soon settle that," said Sir John Slingsby, "you see, my good
fellow, there are several windows to this room as well as doors--I do
not resist the law--wouldn't resist the law for the world! but as soon
as the money is paid, you go out of either windows or doors as you
please; but speedily in either case. Get the money, Bella--call the
men here," he added, speaking sharply to the butler, "I see we shall
want them."

Isabella hastened out of the room; for the carriage had just drawn up,
and as she entered the vestibule she saw Mary stepping lightly out of
it with a calm smile. "Have you got it?" cried Isabella, in eager
haste, "they are here already."

"Indeed!" said Mary, sadly, "I am sorry for that; but there was some
difficulty; for at the bank, as the sum was so large, they wanted
proof of Captain Hayward's signature, which they did not well know. I
could not tell what to do, and therefore went to Mr. Bacon's who soon
settled the matter."

"Why the writ was taken out by him," cried Isabella.

"Yes, I know," answered her cousin, "but he told me how sorry he was
to be forced by Mr. Wittingham to do it; and explained that it would
be much better to pay the money at once in Tarningham, when he would
give me a receipt in full, and an order, or something, to these men,
so as to stop any thing unpleasant at once; for he thought I should
get back before they arrived. He said there would be a great object
gained in paying the money at once, so that the receipt might be dated
before what he called the _caption_."

"And did you do it?" asked Isabella, eagerly; "did you do it, dearest
Mary?"

"Yes," answered her cousin, half alarmed; "I really believe he is a
very honest little man, and he seemed truly distressed al Mr.
Wittingham's conduct. He gave me the receipt and the order too, and
took great pains to date them half-past eight, though it was nearly
nine. I hope I have not done wrong, Isabella?"

"Oh, dear, no. I dare say it is all quite right," cried Isabella,
joyfully; "give them to me, Mary, and let me run back; for I am afraid
of what my father calls 'an affair of posts,' between him and these
bailiffs. I left him marvellously pugnacious."

Mary Clifford put into her hand the two papers which she had received
in Tarningham; and at the same time drew forth a small bundle of
bank-notes, saying, "There is the rest of the twelve thousand
pounds--for Heaven's sake, take care of it, Isabella."

Her cousin gazed at the little packet with a gay smile, and then
tossing her head with the joy of a light heart relieved from a heavy
load, she ran back into the breakfast-room, while Mary went upstairs
to lay aside her shawl and bonnet.

At the door of the room where she had left her father, Isabella
resumed a calm and composed air; and entering with a stately step,
found five or six men-servants arranged across the end of the chamber,
while the two bailiffs stood looking somewhat crest-fallen and
apprehensive near Sir John, who, for his part, sat beating a tune on
the breakfast-table with his fingers, and endeavouring to appear
unconcerned. A sharp anxious glance at his daughter's face, however,
told that all fear was not at an end; but her confident look
re-assured him, and he exclaimed, "Well, Bella, have you brought the
money?"

"Yes," replied Miss Slingsby, and approaching the table, she laid down
the roll of bank-notes, spread them out and began to count--"One
thousand, two thousand, three, four, five, six thousand;" she said
aloud, much to the astonishment and admiration of the servants.

"That is more than enough, Madam," said the bailiff, approaching with
humbled air and smooth tone.

"I know it is," replied Isabella: "be so good as to keep your hands
away, Sir; for you are not going to have one penny of that sum. I was
only counting to see that the sum was right. That paper, I think, will
be quite enough for you; and that, my dear father, is the receipt for
the whole sum and costs to Mr. Wittingham."

"Well, Ma'am, well, I've nothing to say," exclaimed the bailiff, "it
is all in order. Howsomever, I have only done my duty; and am very
glad the matter is so settled."

"Done your duty, you vagabond," cried Sir John Slingsby, "done
only your duty, when you ventured to use the word gammon to my
daughter--but it does not matter--it does not matter! Get out of my
sight as fast as possible, and tell that fellow Wittingham to keep far
off me, for, as sure as I am alive, I will horsewhip him the first
time I see him--take care of them, my men, and see them safe off the
grounds."

The words certainly did not seem to imply any very formidable menace;
but as such the bailiff and his follower seemed to understand them,
and made speed towards the door, while the men-servants answered "That
we will, Sir John;" but made way for the two unwelcome visitors to
effect their exit easily. Isabella remonstrated earnestly with her
father; but the jovial baronet only exclaimed, "Pooh! nonsense, Bella;
no harm can happen, I must see what goes on; for, with a fair start
and a good run, it would be capital fun. Come into the library--come
into the library, we shall have the best view there; and after that we
will breakfast."

Isabella Slingsby, however, remained alone in the breakfast-room,
gazing down upon the notes spread out on the table. The eagerness, the
excitement of the moment was gone. The anxious fear for her father's
liberty was over. Something smote her heart--even the little display
of the money before the eyes of the servants and the bailiffs, she was
sorry for. Considerations presented themselves which she had never
thought of before; and when her cousin Mary entered the room a few
minutes after, Isabella cast her arm round her neck, and bending her
head upon her shoulder, said, with a blush on her cheek and tears in
her eyes, "Poor Ned Hayward, Mary, I have thought too little of him,
and he is not rich, I know."

"Do not be afraid, Isabella," said Mary, in a low tone.

"But I am afraid, Mary," rejoined Isabella, "I know my father is
terribly embarrassed--I fear he will never be able to repay this sum."

"Then I will," said Mary Clifford.



CHAPTER XXX.


We must go back to Stephen Gimlet's cottage and the preceding night.
Beauchamp and Captain Hayward stood together by the table, when their
two fair visitors had left them, waiting for the return of the
gamekeeper, and they both remained silent for several minutes. There
are times, when great things just accomplished, of whatever kind, or
character, seem to oppress the spirit and keep it down, as it were,
under a heavy weight. Nor is it altogether uninteresting to inquire
what is the cause of this oppression--the remote, often unseen, even
indistinct cause. It is not sorrow, it is not regret; for the weight
of thought seems cast upon us as often by a joyful as a sorrowful
event; and I speak not at all of the effect of misfortune, but simply
of that which is produced upon the mind by a great deed done--great,
at least, to the person who has performed it. I am inclined to think,
that the sort of load which I speak of, may be traced to the
consciousness of all the vast multitude of consequences of which every
act is the source. Not the slightest thing we do that does not send a
thrill vibrating along the endless chains of cause and effect to the
utmost limit of time through the whole grand machine of future
existence. Man dies, but not one of his acts ever dies, each
perpetuated and prolonged for ever by interminable results, affecting
some beings in every age to come--ay, even the slightest. But that
which is to follow only becomes a question with man when the deed is
to his own cognizance important as affecting himself and those around
him. The eye of God sees all; but it is merely when the consequences
are visible to our own limited ken, that we feel the strange
involution of our destiny with that of others, and, when what we have
just done is in its immediate results likely to affect us and those we
love profoundly, that we pause to consider all the wide extent of the
future which that act implies. Then we feel as if we had plunged
headlong into an ocean of endless waves, and the weight of the waters
oppresses the heart and spirit. We ask, what next? and then, what will
follow? And in the game of chess that we are playing against Fate,
look for the next move of our great adversary, and all the
consequences of that which we have ourselves just made.

Both Beauchamp and Hayward had done an important thing that night. The
latter had stripped himself for a friend's benefit of the treasured
resource of after-life. Never rich, he had left himself but a scanty
pittance which was not likely to be increased by any means but his own
personal exertions. From that moment, he felt that his course of life
must be changed, that his views, his feelings, his habits, must
undergo a severe scrutiny, and be subjected to a hard discipline; that
the careless ease, the light-hearted indifference to the morrow was at
an end; that the small cares he had never yet known, the looking to
shillings and to pence, and all the sordid minutia; of difficult
economy were to be his companions for life, as inseparable from his
footsteps as his shadow. Honest poverty may be a very fine thing in
contemplation, but let its admirers understand that it is a difficult
thing in practice; for honesty and poverty are like Adam and the devil
in the garden, ill-suited tenants of one house, the latter of whom is
always laying out snares to reduce his companion to his own level. If
such be the case where the circumstances of birth have made the evils
of poverty habitual, and given its temptations no factitious
advantages, how much more is it so, when a knowledge of, a taste for,
and a long education in ease and comfort, have both engendered a habit
of expense, and rendered the restraints of poverty privations. It is
then that honesty has to struggle with a host of foes, and too often a
murder and suicide are committed: honesty killing itself after an
attempt to get rid of its comrade.

But Ned Hayward was a very honest man, and his first thought was how
to bear his poverty rightly. He gave not one thought to the money he
had just given away--for so he believed it to be--he would have
performed the same act over and over again a dozen times if he had had
the means and the motives to do so; and would each time have done it
willingly; but that did not prevent his feeling the painful situation
in which he had left himself; and he contemplated with deep thought
and stern resolution all that was to issue from the deed he had done.

With Beauchamp, the feelings might be different, but the sources from
which they sprang were the same. He, too, had taken a step, which was
to influence the whole of his future life. He had said words to
Isabella Slingsby, of which he felt all the import at the moment they
were spoken--which he spoke purposely, that there might be no doubt or
hesitation on her mind in regard to his sensations or purposes, and
yet which, as soon as they were uttered, filled him with a vague
feeling of apprehension. Yet Beauchamp was a resolute man in
character; and had performed acts of persisting resolution, which few
men would have had the determination to carry through. He loved
Isabella too dearly; and had the whole world been subject to his
choice would have selected her. He was anxious, likewise, to call her
his own, for he was not without the fire of passion, and was very
different from those idle triflers, in whom love is a vanity lighted
up by the cold _ignis fatuus_ of a volatile and fugitive desire. But
his previous history furnished materials for doubt and alarm; and when
he paused to contemplate all the innumerable consequences of the few
words he had spoken, there was a mist over one part of that sea of
many waves, and he asked himself, with awe, "What is beneath?" The
thought, however, that he was loved in return, was consolation and
courage; and though, for his part, Ned Hayward did not venture to
indulge in any such sweet dream, yet the image of Mary Clifford, like
that of the Virgin in the old legend, shed a light which dispelled the
darkness along one bright path, through the obscure future, for him
also.

The contemplations of both gentlemen, however, were speedily broken
through by the return of Ste Gimlet, who, turning to Mr. Beauchamp,
inquired,

"Please, Sir, what shall we do with the man locked up in the vestry?"

"Oh, have him out," cried Ned Hayward, "and hand him over to a
constable."

Beauchamp did not reply so quickly; but at length he said, "There may
be difficulty, Hayward, in finding a constable at this time of night;
and not only difficulty, but also danger to ourselves, if we take any
part in the business. Is the place where the man is confined secure?"
he continued, addressing the gamekeeper.

"Pretty well, Sir, I think," answered Gimlet; "there are bars to the
windows, and the door is locked tight enough. Then we can lock the
church-door too."

"I locked it, Stephen," said Mrs. Lamb; "there hangs the key."

"Then let him stay there the night," rejoined Beauchamp, "I will
not interfere to screen him; and Gimlet can get a constable early
to-morrow morning, without our taking any part in the affair."

This proposal was agreed to by Ned Hayward, though the expression
which his friend used, in regard to screening the offender, struck him
as somewhat strange. It is wonderful, however, how often in life we do
what is vulgarly termed, reckon without our host. The two gentlemen
retired to rest in the rooms above, which had been prepared and
furnished for them in haste, since the duel with young Wittingham; and
Stephen Gimlet and Widow Lamb also sought repose. Early the next
morning, however, the gamekeeper rose to seek a constable; but first
he thought it expedient to look at the temporary prison in which he
had confined Captain Moreton. The doors, both of church and vestry,
were still closed and locked; but passing round, towards his own
cottage again, by a little grass-grown path, that ran under the church
walls Ste Gimlet was surprised and confounded to perceive that three
of the bars covering the window of the vestry, had been forced out of
the old mortar in which they had been socketed; and, jumping up on a
tombstone to look in, he soon saw that the bird, as he expected, had
taken wing from its cage.

Stephen Gimlet, notwithstanding this discovery, did not return to his
cottage at once, to communicate the intelligence to those within. He
paused and thought; but, to say truth, it was not of the event which
he had just ascertained that he meditated. That was done and over: the
man was gone, and might never be caught again; but the words which
Beauchamp had spoken the night before had made a deeper impression
upon his mind than they had upon Ned Hayward's, and naturally, for the
young officer had never remarked or heard any thing before, which
could lead his fancy to perceive any connexion between his friend and
Captain Moreton. Stephen Gimlet, on the contrary, had observed much
that excited his imagination, and it was one of a very active
character. He remembered the interest which Beauchamp had displayed in
the monuments of the Moreton family; he remembered all the inquiries
he had made regarding their former property; and he did not forget
either his mother-in-law's ancient connexion with one of the members
of that house, or the somewhat mysterious expressions she had used in
regard to Beauchamp himself. It was a tangled skein, difficult to
unravel, but yet he resolved to unravel it; not exactly from
curiosity, though curiosity might have some share therein, but rather
because, in his wild fancy, he dreamed that the knowledge which Goody
Lamb possessed of his guest's previous history, might afford him some
means of serving a man he looked upon as his benefactor. He was
peculiarly susceptible of kindness or unkindness, of gratitude or its
reverse, resentment, and he thought that it would be a happy day for
him if he could ever return to Mr. Beauchamp, even in a small degree,
the kindness he had received. He pondered upon these things for full
five minutes, and then returned to his cottage, where he found the old
lady in the inner room, making the little boy repeat a short prayer at
his bedside, after having washed and dressed him. It was a sweet and
wholesome sight to the father. He contrasted it with former days, and
he felt the balmy influence of honest peace pour over his heart. One
of the first rewards of a return to virtue from any of man's many
deviations, is an appreciation of its excellence. He stood and gazed,
and listened, well satisfied, while the words of holy prayer rose up
from the sweet tongue of his own child; and if the boy had prayed for
his father's confirmation in his return to right, the petition could
not have been more fully granted.

When it was done, Ste Gimlet kissed the child and sent him out to play
in the little garden. Then, shaking hands with Widow Lamb, he said,

"I wanted to ask you a question or two, goody. Do you know who the man
is that I locked into the vestry last night?"

"To be sure I do," answered the widow; "do you think, Stephen, I could
forget one I have seen in such times and known in such acts as that
man? No, no; I shall remember him to my dying day."

"Well, then," replied her son-in-law, "I want you to tell me, goody,
what there is between him and Mr. Beauchamp; for the man has got out
and is off, and I have great doubts that he is Mr. Beauchamp's
friend."

"I had better hold my tongue, Stephen," said the old woman; "I had
better hold my tongue, at least till I see and understand more. One
thing at least I may say, and say truly, that the bitterest enemy ever
Mr. Beauchamp had was that Captain Moreton."

"Do you think, Widow Lamb," asked the gamekeeper, in a low, stern
tone, "that he has any cause to wish Mr. Beauchamp dead?"

The old woman started, and gazed at him, demanding,

"What makes you ask that?"

"I'll tell you, widow," replied the man. "Have you not heard of a shot
fired into Sir John Slingsby's dining-room? Well, that shot went
within a few inches of Mr. Beauchamp's head, and that is the man who
fired it."

The old woman sank down on the stool by the bedside, and clasped her
hands together, exclaiming,

"Is it come to that! Ay, I thought it would, sooner or later. He could
not stop--no, no, he could not stop!"

She paused for a moment, and rocked herself backwards and forwards
upon the seat, with a pained and bewildered look.

"I see how it is, goody," said Gimlet; "and now I'll tell you. That
fellow shan't get off. I'll never give it up till I've caught him.
I'll track him, like a hare, to his form, and he shall be punished.
Mr. Beauchamp has been kind to me--one of the first that ever were;
and I'll not forget kindness, though I'll try to forget unkindness."

"Take care what you are about, Stephen," answered his mother-in-law,
"or you may do harm instead of good. Watch him, if you will, to
prevent mischief; and above all, let me know every thing that you see
and hear. I will talk with Mr. Beauchamp, as you call him, this very
day. I wonder if the woman is living!"

"There was one woman with him, at all events," answered Stephen
Gimlet, "when he was down here last."

"Ah! what was she like?" inquired Widow Lamb, eagerly; "what was she
like?"

"I only saw her for a minute," replied the gamekeeper, "but she seemed
a fine handsome lady as one could wish to see--somewhat reddish in the
face; but with fine, dark eyes, and mighty gaily dressed. She was
tall, too, for a woman."

"Yes, her eyes were dark enough," said Widow Lamb, "and she was always
fond of fine clothes--that was her ruin; but red in the face!--that is
strange; she had the finest and the fairest skin I ever saw."

"Well, the redness might come from drink," said Ste Gimlet, "for she
seemed to me half drunk then. He called her Charlotte, I recollect."

"Ay, that's her name," exclaimed the widow; "and so they have come
together again? It is for no good, I will answer; for two bolder or
worse spirits never met to plot mischief."

"You had better tell me all about it, goody," said Stephen Gimlet; "do
something to that fellow I will, and it's bad to work in the dark."

"Not till I have spoken to the gentleman upstairs," said the old
woman. "Watch the man, Stephen: find out where he is, what he is
doing, all about him, and about her too; but do not meddle with him
yet. Hark! they are coming down. You go away, and I will talk with him
this very day."

"I must tell them he has got out, before I go," answered the
gamekeeper, going into the other room, and bolting the outer door, to
guard against intrusion while the two lodgers were below.

No one, however, appeared but Beauchamp, whose first words were,

"I wish, Stephen, you would send some one down to Tarningham, to tell
Mr. Slattery to come up. Captain Hayward is not so well this morning,
and says he has not slept all night."

"I will go myself, Sir," said Gimlet; "but I just wanted to tell you
that Captain Moreton has got out during the night. He has wrenched out
three of the bars of the window, and is off."

Beauchamp mused.

"Well, it does not much matter," he said, at length; "but you had
better inform Doctor Miles of what you saw in the church, and let him
take whatever steps he may think necessary to insure that no fraud has
been committed. I can have nothing to do with the affair. Bring up Mr.
Slattery as soon as you can, for I am somewhat anxious about Captain
Hayward's state this morning."

Gimlet did not reply. He uttered no expression of sorrow or of
sympathy; but yet he felt as much grieved and alarmed as if Ned
Hayward had been his brother; and his countenance showed it though his
words did not.

As soon as he was gone, Mr. Beauchamp was turning to go upstairs
again; but Widow Lamb at the moment came out of the inner room, and
stopped him, saying,

"I wish to speak a word or two to you, Sir."

"Well, my good lady," answered Beauchamp, with a smile; "can I do any
thing to serve you?"

"No, Sir," replied the old woman, "it is not that. But I see you do
not recollect me--and, indeed, how should you! It is a long time since
we first met."

Beauchamp gazed at her for a moment in silence, and then said,

"I think I do remember having seen you somewhere before I met you
here. Your face struck me as familiar to my recollection when first I
saw you; but I cannot remember where I saw it long ago. Were you ever
in India?"

"Oh! no, my lord, it was not there," answered Widow Lamb; "when first
I saw you, you were quite a young gentleman; the Honourable Charles
St. Leger, they called you; and you had come down with Captain
Moreton, your cousin, to shoot on the grounds of his great-aunt, Miss
Moreton."

Beauchamp's face turned somewhat pale, and his fine broad brow
contracted; but he did not speak, and the old woman continued,

"Do you not recollect, my lord, Davie Lamb the grieve, as they called
him, and your coming down with a gay party to the grieve's house, one
day? It was the eleventh of August, twelve years ago this summer; and
the lady was with you, Miss Charlotte Hay, as they called her--"

"Hush! hush!" cried Beauchamp, almost fiercely; "do not mention her
name in my hearing. You do not know--you do not know, good woman--"

"Oh yes, my lord, I do," answered Widow Lamb; "I know more than you
think--more than you know, perhaps, yourself. I can tell you many
things about her."

"Tell me nothing," said Beauchamp, sternly; "you can say nothing of
her conduct, infamous and bad, that I do not know or do not guess. I
wish never to hear her name again;" and he turned once more towards
the stairs.

"Well, I beg your pardon, my lord," said Widow Lamb, with a
disappointed look, "I did not mean to vex you, but if ever you should
wish to hear more, I can tell you better than any one; for there is
nobody now living knows so much as I do, and I think--"

The conclusion of her sentence was wanting, for some one opened the
cottage door, which had not been bolted since Stephen Gimlet had gone
out. The next moment, the head of Mr. Slattery appeared, and entering
with an insinuating smile, the worthy surgeon saluted Beauchamp
reverentially, saying,

"I met my good friend Wolf, Mr. Beauchamp, and was sorry to hear that
Captain Hayward is not so well. But I have got good news for him, and
you too. No more need of playing at bo-peep. I found Mr. Wittingham so
much better this morning, that I have ventured publicly to pronounce
him out of danger."

"Thank God for that!" said Beauchamp; "but we had better go up and see
Hayward, who seems to me somewhat feverish."

"I am afraid there is a bit of the wadding, or the coat, or something
still in the wound," said Mr. Slattery, following upstairs, "but there
is no cause for alarm. It may produce inconvenience and some
inflammation; but nature, my dear Sir, by the very same process which
produces pain and irritation to the patient, often expels any
extraneous substance, which, if it remained, might cause more serious
results."

Mr. Slattery remained at least an hour and a half; and to say the
truth, during that time he put our good friend Ned Hayward to some
torture, but in the end, he succeeded in extracting from the wound
which that gentleman had received, a portion of his waistcoat, which
had been carried in by the ball in its passage. Some hemorrhage
followed, which was stopped with difficulty; but at length the good
surgeon took his leave, and descended with Beauchamp to the lower
room.

Widow Lamb, however, met them at the foot of the stairs, saying, in a
low tone,

"There is a servant on horseback, from the Park, Sir, just now before
the door. He has got a note, which he will give to no one but you; and
I did not know what to do."

"There is no necessity for any further concealment," said Beauchamp,
advancing to the door; "you have got a note for me," he continued,
speaking to the servant, who touched his hat, and delivered a small
billet.

Beauchamp tore it open, and read, while good Mr. Slattery paused
beside him, in the hope of hearing some news; for, as we have shown,
he was not without a laudable portion of curiosity.

"I must go over directly," said Beauchamp, for that note placed before
his eyes a very unpleasant state of affairs at Tarningham Park--a
mortgage foreclosed, an execution placed in the house, and Sir John
Slingsby himself arrested on a heavy bond debt, for long arrears of
interest, and interest upon interest, and lawyers' costs. Isabella
wrote in a tone of despair; and yet there was a something shining
through all her gloomy words--a trust, a confidence in him to whom
those words were written, which were very pleasing to him.

"Can I drive you over in my gig, Mr. Beauchamp?" said Mr. Slattery.

"No, I thank you," replied the other; "I dare say, my good fellow, you
will not object to let me mount your horse?" he continued, addressing
the servant, "I must get over to the Park as speedily as possible."

Under ordinary circumstances, perhaps, the man might have objected;
but the events which had just happened at his master's house, were, by
the time he set out, known from the housekeeper's room to the pigsty,
and had excited amongst the servants too strong a feeling of dismay
and distress, for him to hesitate when there was a chance of affording
aid, or even consolation, to Sir John Slingsby and his daughter. He
instantly acceded, then, and lengthened the stirrups. Beauchamp only
stayed to get his hat and speak a few words to Ned Hayward, then
sprang into the saddle, and the next moment was going straight across
the country towards Tarningham Park.



CHAPTER XXXI.


All was dismay and confusion in the house of Sir John Slingsby, when,
after having galloped across the park, without heeding bridle-paths or
carriage-roads, Beauchamp drew hit rein at the door. No servant came
to take the horse, for all were busy within, though, busy with what,
would have been difficult to say. The only thing they had to be busy
with was their own consternation; for there was no packing up for
departure, no inventories, no arrangements in progress; and yet not an
attendant appeared, except through the double glass-doors, where a
knot was to be seen assembled in the inner vestibule, who never turned
a look towards the terrace before the house. One excuse, perhaps,
might be that there were so many people arriving, that a new comer
could attract no attention. It seemed as if a general call had been
made upon Tarningham, to attend and witness the disgrace and
discomfort of the family. A number of tradesmen were gathered before
the doors, conversing together in low tones, and with gloomy faces;
and there was a post-chaise, besides a gig, a saddle-horse, and a
tax-cart or two. Beauchamp thought the spectacle somewhat odd; for it
seemed to him, notwithstanding all he knew of the gossiping
propensities of small places, that the news of Sir John Slingsby's
misfortunes must have spread with marvellous rapidity. But he knew not
Mr. Wharton, nor could conceive the policy which should induce a man,
who had chosen his moment for consummating a long prepared scheme for
stripping another of all his worldly wealth, to complicate his
difficulties by every means, so as to render the bonds he had cast
round him indissoluble.

"Here, take my horse," he said, addressing the sullen-looking
postillion who stood behind the chaise; and when the man obeyed,
civilly enough, Beauchamp approached a hale-looking man, like a
grazier, and inquired, "What is all this?"

"Why, Sir," replied the man, who had often seen his interrogator in
Tarningham, "Mr. Wharton's clerk told me that there was an execution
going to be put in, so I came up to see if I could get my bill. But
the lawyer was beforehand with us; and the matter is not so much, only
forty pound or so, and I did not think it worth while, when I found
how matters are going, to trouble the hearty old gentleman, who has
spent a deal o' money with us all in his day."

"You seem a very respectable man," said Beauchamp, calmly, but still
somewhat moved, "and you shall not lose by your conduct. You, Sir,"
and he turned to another, "I think you are the stationer at
Tarningham--is yours the same errand, and on the same information?"

"Yes, Sir," answered the person he addressed, "one of Mr. Wharton's
young men came down and told me; but I think, with my neighbour
Groves, that we should behave handsome."

"I see the whole matter," said Beauchamp, speaking rather to himself
than those around. "You can wait a little, gentlemen? I think Sir John
can pay you all without inconvenience, though he is a careless man,
and his affairs may not be quite in order."

"They say Mr. Wharton has arrested him, Sir," said a little man, with
a thin, small voice.

"I will go in and see," replied Beauchamp, with a smile. "If any of
you could contrive to go or send down to Tarningham, and say to Mr.
Bacon, the attorney, that Lord Lenham would be glad to see him here
immediately, you would oblige me. Tell him to lose not a moment."

"I'll go, in a jiffey," cried the stout man, jumping into a tax-cart.
"Who did you say, my lord?"

"Lord Lenham," answered Beauchamp; "he will know who you mean;" and
turning round, he walked into the house.

The servants grouped themselves differently at his appearance, and
bowed low, the butler venturing to say,

"I am glad you have come, Sir."

"Where is your master?" asked Beauchamp.

"In the library, Sir," replied the man, "with a number of them. It is
a sad time, Sir, 'specially for my poor young lady."

The man walked on before, and opened the library door; Beauchamp
followed quickly; and certainly the sight which that room presented
was a painful one. Mrs. Clifford sat near one of the windows, the
picture of despair; Isabella was seated near the table, with her eyes
buried in her hands, and the rich curls of her beautiful hair falling
over her face. Mary was bending down to speak to her; grief in her
lovely face, but yet as calm and composed as usual. Old Sir John was a
little in advance, with two bailiffs standing near--not the same who
had been there earlier in the morning--and his valet behind him,
helping him to put on his great coat, while Mr. Wharton stood at the
other side of the large library-table, with a smile upon his lip, a
frown upon his brow, a sparkling black eye, and a double degree of red
in one of the cheeks, though the other looked somewhat pale. Two or
three men, whose business there and ordinary functions were not
apparent at the moment, made up the rest of the company.

Sir John Slingsby had one arm in the sleeve of his great coat, and was
thrusting angrily and ineffectually at the garment, to get the other
in also, speaking all the time in a furious tone, with his face turned
to Mr. Wharton.

"I tell you, Wharton, you are a d--d scoundrel," he said, "an
ungentlemanlike blackguard. You have swindled me out of thousands, and
you know it; and now, without giving me a hint, you come upon me in
this way."

"You are angry, Sir John, you are angry," said Mr. Wharton, in a sweet
tone. "It is as unpleasant to me as to you, I can assure you; but when
I heard that Mr. Wittingham had issued process, I was compelled,
however unwillingly, to take care of myself and my clients. You know I
told you a month ago it could not go on any longer; so you cannot say
you had not notice."

The old baronet was about to pour upon him a new volley of
objurgations, thrusting manfully at the sleeve of his coat all the
time, when suddenly his eye rested upon Beauchamp and he stopped,
turning a little pale, for the presence of that gentleman at such a
moment both surprised and pained him. Mary whispered a word to her
cousin, however, and Isabella starting up with the tears in her eyes,
and a glow upon her cheeks, held out her hand to him exclaiming, "Oh,
thank you, thank you! Dr. Miles was not to be found," she added, in a
whisper, "or I would not have sent."

Beauchamp smiled and shook his head half reproachfully, and Sir John
recovering himself took his hand saying, "Ah, Beauchamp, you have come
at an awkward time. Can't ask you to dinner to-day, my dear Sir, for
the house is in the hands of the myrmidons of the law, and I must
away, they tell me. It's a bad job, I am afraid."

"Nevertheless I intend to dine with you here, Sir John," answered
Beauchamp, laughing and shaking the baronet's hand warmly, "so you had
better take off your great coat."

"I beg your pardon, Sir," said Mr. Wharton, taking a step forward,
"but I am afraid Sir John Slingsby cannot remain with you at present.
Business has been too long delayed already by the folly of the officer
who thought fit--"

"To act like a man of some consideration and feeling I suppose, Sir,"
said Beauchamp, eyeing him from head to foot with a calm, cold,
withering look. "You are Mr. Wharton the attorney I imagine, of whom I
have heard so much in regard to several transactions soon to be
inquired into."

"My name is Wharton, Sir; yes, my name is Wharton," answered the
solicitor in a sharp, fierce tone, "and I insist that you do not
interrupt the operation of the law."

"The operation of the law I shall not interrupt," replied Beauchamp,
"but the operations of the lawyer I certainly shall."

"He's a nabob," said Sir John Slingsby to his niece in a low, laughing
voice, "yes, you are quite right, Beauchamp, this is Mr. Wharton, the
attorney, calling himself esquire, and a greater scoundrel does not
live between the four seas. He has cheated me through thick and thin,
and now wants by coming upon me all in a moment to get possession of
my property as he has done with others before now."

"If such are his intentions he will find himself mistaken," answered
Beauchamp; "but now, Sir John, take off your coat again, and we will
to business. I think the ladies may as well leave us, however.--Be
satisfied, my dear Madam," he continued, speaking to Mrs. Clifford,
who had risen and come a little forward, "be satisfied, Miss
Slingsby--all this matter will be easily arranged, and Sir John and I
will join you in the drawing-room in an hour."

While Beauchamp had been speaking these few words, Mr. Wharton had
been conversing with rapid utterance, but in a low voice, with one of
the men present, who seemed to be the superior sheriff's officer, and
as soon as the gentleman ceased he exclaimed. "Well, Sir, as you think
the whole matter can be so easily arranged I shall leave you to
arrange it."

"Excuse me, Mr. Wharton," said Beauchamp, coolly, "you will be good
enough to stay. We shall want you for certain receipts, and, perhaps,"
he added with a smile, "for some good legal advice till my own
solicitor comes, whom I expect in about half an hour."

"My receipts can be soon given," said Mr. Wharton, a good deal
staggered and alarmed by Mr. Beauchamp's calm tone, and his allusion
to his solicitor; "but I can tell you that if you think that is all
you will have to do you are mistaken. The house is filled with
creditors."

"Gathered together by Mr. Wharton, the attorney, for the purpose of
overwhelming a gentleman whom he sought to ruin," answered Beauchamp.
"I am aware of all that, Sir. Your proceedings have been watched, and
I am informed of almost every step you have taken for the last month.
I dare say, however, we shall find means of satisfying all who have
any just claims."

Isabella had lingered at the door after her aunt and cousin had passed
out, and now hastily turning back, she placed a little packet she had
held tight in her hand, in that of Beauchamp, saying, in a low voice,
"Here is more than six thousand pounds, left from what kind, good, Ned
Hayward gave last night. The other debts are not large, but this man's
claim is frightful."

She spoke in a tone of alarm, but Beauchamp hastened to relieve her,
replying, "Never fear, never fear! The claim must be investigated, but
all that is just shall be paid. Leave us, and make your mind easy,
dear Miss Slingsby."

"I really cannot waste my time here," said Mr. Wharton, as the young
lady left the room, "I have important business to attend to and the
magistrates to meet at eleven, Mr. What's-your-name."

"My name, Sir, is Charles Beauchamp St. Leger, Viscount Lenham,"
answered Beauchamp, "and I am afraid the magistrates must dispense
with your company to-day, Mr. Wharton. You cannot carry this business
through, Sir, in the same manner that you did that of my poor uncle,
Mr. St. Leger Moreton. So now make up your mind at once, Sir, to
remain here till the whole of this unpleasant business which you have
stirred up against Sir John Slingsby be brought to a conclusion, for
depend upon it I will not let you go till such is the case."

Mr. Wharton's face had turned paler and paler, till the carbuncles, of
which it did not possess a few, remained alone in their glory; but he
was an irritable and fiery man up to a certain point, and he replied
in a bold tone, "Oh ho, my lord! Do you think because you happen to be
a peer who has been skulking about the country under an alias, that
you can come down and brow-beat us country gentlemen at your
pleasure?"

"I never attempt to brow-beat a gentleman," replied Beauchamp, laying
a particular emphasis on the last word, which called up a very
unpleasant grin upon the faces of two or three of the men present,
"nor do I brow-beat you, Mr. Wharton; but I simply insist upon your
staying till the business which brought you here is concluded. You
have no right to put Sir John Slingby in an unpleasant position, and
then leave him there when your presence is wanted to relieve him from
it."

"He has a ducking in the horse-pond, too, to go through," cried Sir
John Slingsby, "such as we gave the other bailiff he sent up this
morning. He must wait, he must wait for all the honours," and turning
round with a laugh the worthy baronet whispered a word or two to his
valet, who remained in the room.

"I will take care, Sir John," said the man, and was moving towards the
door; but Beauchamp interposed, saying,

"No, no, we must have no violence. Only order the servants not to let
this man pass out till I have done with him;--and now to business. Sir
John, if you will take the end of the table I will sit here. Mr.
Wharton will place himself there, and the matter will soon be
arranged. Ring that bell, Sir."

The bailiff to whom he spoke obeyed in an instant; Sir John Slingsby
took a chair at the head of the table, and Mr. Wharton seeing no help
for it, seated himself where Beauchamp had pointed, turning his face
to the window with an indifferent air, as if the business about to
take place was no concern of his.

"Now, Sir, what is it you want here?" asked Beauchamp, addressing one
of the officers.

"I hold a writ against Sir John Slingsby for twenty-two thousand three
hundred pounds," said the man, "at the suit of Joseph Wharton, Esq."

"Well, Sir, stand back," said Beauchamp, "we will deal with you
presently.--And you, Sir?" he continued, speaking to another stout
broad-set, black-faced man.

This proved to be an officer put in execution upon a second bond for a
sum of seven thousand pounds at the suit of the same person. He also
was directed to stand back, Beauchamp saying, "Upon these actions we
will give bail, as they must be tried.--You, Sir, there at the end of
the table, what do you want?"

"Why, please you my lord, it's only my bill for a hundred and
seventeen pounds or thereabouts, for repairs to the stables and
offices. If it had not been Mr. Wharton told me I should not get my
money if I did not apply at once, I should never have thought of
troubling Sir John."

Beauchamp's eye fixed sternly upon the attorney, who exclaimed with a
quivering lip, "Did you not consult me, Sir? Was I not bound to give
you a just opinion?"

"I never said a word to nobody," replied the man, "till I met you in
the street, and you told me Mr. Wittingham was going to arrest Sir
John."

"Really, my lord, this is trifling," said Mr. Wharton. "I ask is Sir
John Slingsby ready to discharge his heavy debt to me? If he is, let
him do it and I go. If not he must, I fear, go to prison."

"He is quite ready, Sir, to discharge every just debt this instant,"
replied Beauchamp, "but we doubt that your's is just, Sir, and
therefore we will deal first with those that are certainly honest. Sir
John," he continued pointing to a servant who had come in, "will you
order Dr. Miles to be sent for.--Now, my good man, you shall have a
cheque for your money," and taking out his cheque-book he wrote an
order for the amount, taking the builder's name and statement from his
own lips.

Another man was then called forward, and the same course pursued,
Beauchamp proceeding quietly, although he saw Mr. Wharton rise and
enter into eager consultation with the bailiffs.

He was not allowed to go on long without interruption, for after what
seemed some urgent remonstrances on the part of Mr. Wharton, and a
good deal of resistance on the part of the sheriff's officer, the
latter stepped forward, saying, "I really, my lord, cannot wait any
longer, and I do not see any good of it; for Sir John being in my
custody, and not knowing what detainers may be lodged against him, a
bail bond cannot be drawn till we see."

The man spoke civilly, and with an evident respect for rank, and
Beauchamp answered calmly, "Your observation is a very just one, my
good friend. I have only to answer however that I am ready to give
bail to any amount which you may think necessary to secure the
sheriff, in which Dr. Miles will join me I am sure as soon as he
arrives."

"It is a heavy sum, Sir," said the bailiff, doubtfully.

"True," answered Beauchamp, "and moreover you do not know, except from
my own word, who I am, nor that I am in a position to give an
available bond. It is for that very reason that I wish you to delay
till my solicitor and Dr. Miles arrive, when I assure you, upon my
word of honour, that you shall have every satisfaction. The sum
required would be more than met by money of mine in the Tarningham
bank, as you will see by that receipt, if I thought fit to pay the
debt claimed by Mr. Wharton at once, which I do not. The bond on which
the writ has been taken out is, you tell me, for twenty-two thousand
three hundred pounds. Here you see are sixty-five thousand pounds paid
on my account into the Tarningham bank."

"But there is another bond for seven thousand five hundred pounds on
which execution has issued," said Mr. Wharton.

"Exactly so," said Beauchamp, whose thoughts were very rapid, "and the
way I intend to deal with that matter is as follows: We will pay the
amount of that bond under protest as a matter of account, reserving
this other claim for twenty-three thousand pounds to try the questions
that may arise, such as consideration, usury, &c."

Mr. Wharton bit his lip. He saw that he had made one mistake. He
feared that he might have made more; for knowing that Sir John
Slingsby had little acquaintance with law, and an invincible objection
to lawyers, excepting when he wanted to borrow money, he had gone on
with somewhat rash confidence in his own powers of over-reaching.
However he put a bold face upon the matter, saying, "That won't do,
Sir, that won't do, my Lord. You seem to have a smattering of the law,
but you will find that all accounts have been examined and passed. No
court in Christendom will open that question again."

"We will see," replied Beauchamp, quietly.

"Then there is the mortgage," said Mr. Wharton.

"That will be dealt with as we shall be advised," rejoined the young
nobleman; "the matter of the mortgage has nothing to do with the
business before us; and moreover, Mr. Wharton, I will beg you not to
interfere here till you are called upon. Though a lawyer you are
exactly in the same position as any other creditor, and in taking out
this writ, you have given all power into other hands. If I satisfy the
sheriff that he has sufficient security according to law, for the
appearance of Sir John Slingsby, that is all that is necessary; and I
will tell you, Sir, that sooner than see a course, which is certainly
unhandsome, and which I suspect to be villanous, successful against my
friend, even so far as to remove him from his own house for an hour, I
would pay the amount of all claims upon him to the sheriff under
protest. I have the means of doing so at command this moment, and
therefore be very sure that your arts will avail you nothing--Sir, I
understand you," he added sternly, "the property upon which you have
advanced a pitiful sum of fifty thousand pounds, and by accumulating
interest upon interest, and costs upon costs, have raised the debt to
nearly eighty thousand, is worth, at least, two hundred. The bait was
tempting, Sir; but beware that in snapping at it too eagerly, you have
not got the hook in your jaws. There is such a thing, Sir, as striking
fraudulent attorneys off the roll, and, at all events be sure, that
however pleasant it might be to possess this estate, you will never
have it."

"I do not want it, Sir," cried Mr. Wharton, half mad with rage and
vexation, "I would not have it if you would give it to me."

Beauchamp laughed, and Sir John Slingsby shouted; while all the other
persons in the room, not excepting bailiffs, tittered, without
disguise, to the lawyer's sad discomfort.

"Ah! here comes Miles," exclaimed Sir John, "and Mr. Undersheriff too,
by Jove. That is lucky; the matter will soon be settled now.--How are
you doctor, how are you Mr. Sheriff? you are the very man we wanted."

"I am very sorry for all this business, Sir John," said a tall
gentlemanlike person, whom he had addressed; "but having business at
Tarningham, and hearing of the unfortunate occurrence by the way, I
thought it better to come up myself, as I felt sure the action could
be bailed."

"And so it can," cried Sir John Slingsby, "here stands bail ready in
the person of my friend, Lord Lenham; but that pitiful little
snivelling rogue, Wharton, objects."

"Ah! good day, Wharton," said the sheriff, drily, "why do you object?"

"No, I do not object," replied the attorney, "the men here, Bulstrode
and the rest, thought there might be detainers, and the process
having--"

"No, no!" cried the officer, "we thought nothing about it, till you
told us to refuse the bail till we had searched the office. I've a
shrewd guess, Mr. Wharton, that you have got up all the creditors here
who could lodge detainers and his lordship offers to pay all honest
debts at once, and to put in bail against yours."

"What do you mean by that?" exclaimed Wharton, furiously; but the
sheriff interfered, and at the same time Doctor Miles and Beauchamp,
who had been speaking together, turned round, and the clergyman
introduced his young friend to the officer of the county by the title
of Viscount Lenham.

"This matter, I think, can be settled with you, Sir, in a few words,"
said Beauchamp, "I do not choose to see my friend, Sir John Slingsby,
wronged. It so happens, that intending to buy an estate in this
neighbourhood, I have had a considerable sum paid lately into
Tarningham Bank. I am ready to give a bail bond for any sum you may
think necessary to your own security, that Sir John appears to the
action of Mr. Wharton, or anyone else; or to pay into your hands any
sum claimed, under protest. I think, in these circumstances, there can
be no need of removing Sir John from his own house."

"Not in the least," said the sheriff, "bail will be quite sufficient,
and can be given here quite as well as ten miles hence."

"But, my dear Sir," exclaimed Mr. Wharton, "there may be detainers for
aught you know, and to a large amount."

"I will take my chance of that, Wharton," replied the undersheriff,
"there were none when I came away, for I had occasion to examine the
books. It is not usual to lodge detainers till caption has been
actually effected, I think, my good friend."

"I think your proceeding very rash and irregular, Sir," replied the
lawyer, nettled, "and I should certainly object, if--"

"Pooh, pooh!" cried the sheriff, "I am the best judge of my own
affairs; and you are meddling with what does not concern you, Mr.
Wharton. If I take a sufficient bail for Sir John's appearance to your
action, that is all yon have to do with, and perhaps more; so let us
have no more of this; for I will not be meddled with in the discharge
of my duties. You tried this once before, Sir, and did not find it
succeed."

"Well, Sir, take your own way, take your own way!" cried Mr. Wharton,
in a sharp tone; "the sum is large; if the bail be not good, you are
responsible. A gentleman who goes about the country under one false
name, may very well take another. I do not mean to say that it is so;
but this gentleman who calls himself Lord Lenham now, and called
himself Mr. Beauchamp a few days ago, may be the greatest swindler in
England for aught any of us know."

"Swindlers do not usually have large sums at the bankers," said Dr.
Miles, drily; "that is to say, Mr. Wharton, not those swindlers whom
the law is willing to take hold of, though I have known many rich men
who swindled a good deal within the law, especially in your
profession. But to set all that at rest, I will join in the bond, if
necessary, and I possess means, I trust, sufficient to insure Mr.
Under-Sheriff against all risk.--There comes Bacon, trotting up on his
little fat horse. Bacon is a very excellent man, considering the
temptations of profession and example."

"Well, as my opinion is of no value, my presence can be of no
use," said Mr. Wharton; "and I shall therefore go. Good morning,
gentlemen--Sir John Slingsby, good morning."

The baronet took a step forward, looking at the lawyer somewhat
ominously, while the good stout calf of his leg might be seen to
tremble a little, as if agitated by the simultaneous action of
antagonist muscles--but then he stopped, saying aloud,

"No, I won't kick him--no, I won't kick any body any more."

"A very prudent resolution, Sir John," said Dr. Miles, "pray adhere to
it; and if you include the horsewhip in your renunciations, you will
do well."

Mr. Wharton was suffered to retreat, unkicked; the matter of the
bail-bond was easily arranged; all the rest of the business passed
quietly; the bailiffs and their satellites were withdrawn from the
house; the creditors who remained, paid; and the under-sheriff took
his leave. Somewhat more time had been expended, indeed, than
Beauchamp had expected that the affair would occupy, ere he, Sir John
Slingsby, and Doctor Miles, were once more left alone in the library;
but then the baronet seized his friend's hand, with an unwonted dew in
his eyes, saying,

"How can I ever thank you for your noble conduct. I cannot show my
gratitude--but you must be secured. You shall have a mortgage for the
whole sum: the estate can well bear it, I am sure, notwithstanding all
that fellow Wharton says."

"I am quite convinced it can, Sir John," answered Beauchamp, "and I
will accept your offer, because, for reasons of my own, I am
exceedingly anxious that you should be under no possible obligation to
me; and now let us join the ladies, for they will think we are never
coming."

Dr. Miles smiled; for though he had never played at the games of love
and matrimony, he had been a looker-on all his life, and understood
them well. Sir John Slingsby was totally unconscious, and led the way
to the drawing-room, marvelling a little, perhaps--for he was not a
vain man--at the fact of his having so completely won Beauchamp's
regard, and created such an interest in his bosom, but never
attributing to his daughter any share therein. With parents it is ever
the story of the philosopher and his cat; and though they can solve
very difficult problems regarding things at a distance, yet they do
not always readily see that a kitten can go through the same hole in a
door which its mother can pass.

"Here, Isabel," cried the old gentleman, as they entered the room
where the three ladies were seated, watching the door as if their fate
hung upon its hinges, "shake this gentleman by the hand, as the best
friend your father ever had."

"I do thank him, from my heart," said Isabella, giving Beauchamp her
hand, with tears in her eyes; "but yet, my dear father," she added,
frankly, "Mr. Beauchamp would think me ungenerous, if I did not tell
you that you have another friend, who has acted in as kind and noble a
manner as himself. I mean Captain--no, I will call him by his old
name, Ned Hayward; for to him we owed the means of discharging the
debt to that man Wittingham."

"The obligation is infinitely greater to him than to me, my dear Miss
Slingsby," said Beauchamp; "for I know that Hayward's income is not
very large, while, in my case, there is really no obligation at all.
This money was lying idle, and it might just as well be invested in
one way as another."

"But every one is not so ready to invest money in a friend's relief,"
said Sir John, "and I shall never forget it. Hang me, my dear girl, if
I can tell what he found out in me to like or respect; I never could
discover anything of the kind myself."

Isabella coloured to the eyes, but answered at once,

"Mr. Beauchamp consulted only his own noble heart."

"Mr. Beauchamp!" cried Sir John Slingsby, with one of his merry
laughs; "Mr. Beauchamp had nothing to do with it, Bella. I am not in
the least indebted to Mr. Beauchamp."

Isabella, Mrs. Clifford, and Mary, were all alarmed; for they might
well fear that the events of that morning had somewhat affected Sir
John Slingsby's brain. But he soon relieved them.

"No, Isabella," he continued, "it is to this gentleman I am
indebted--let me introduce him to you. Isabella, Lord Lenham! Lord
Lenham, my daughter."

Isabella cast her eyes to the ground, and a shade of deep, and, it
seemed to Beauchamp, anxious thought, came over her face; but the next
moment she looked up, all bright and sparkling again, and exclaimed,

"So, Lord Lenham has thought fit to come upon us in masquerade! That
was hardly fair, my lord."

"Some day when Miss Slingsby will let me tell a long story she shall
hear the reasons why," answered Beauchamp, "and may then judge whether
it was fair or not. If she decides the cause in my favour, she may
tell the pleadings to the whole party, if she thinks I have greatly
erred she shall forgive the offender and conceal his crime under the
seal of confession."

Again Isabella blushed deeply; and Sir John Slingsby made the matter
worse by exclaiming, "Ho, ho! it is to be a private conference, is it?
We are all to be kept in the dark, as indeed I have been lately; for
all I know is that I have been placed in a very unpleasant and
unexpected situation this morning, and as suddenly relieved from it by
the affection of two dear girls, and the generosity of our noble
friend. I have not thanked you yet, my dear Mary; but pray let me hear
how all this has been brought about that I may do so discreetly."

"In the meantime," said Beauchamp, "I, who know the whole, will walk
back again to my poor friend Hayward, and tell him how all things have
gone."

"You promised to dine, you promised to dine!" cried Sir John Slingsby,
"no breach of promise or I will have my action against you."

"I will keep mine to the letter," replied Beauchamp, "and be back in a
couple of hours."

"And bring Ned Hayward with you," said the baronet.

Beauchamp explained that such a thing was impossible, saying that his
friend had become somewhat worse in health since the preceding night,
but without giving any cause for alarm. His eyes turned towards Mary
Clifford as he spoke with a momentary glance, which sufficed, by the
paleness that spread over her face, to confirm suspicions which he had
entertained since the night before. He was too much a gentleman in
heart to keep his eyes there more than that one moment for he felt
that it would not only be a rudeness but an unkindness.

"I will walk with you, my good lord," said Doctor Miles, "I long to
see Captain Hayward. He has particularly interested me."

"And you will walk back with Lord Lenham to dinner, doctor," said Sir
John as gaily as ever, "we will have one jolly evening after all this
_fracas_ at all events."

"I will come to dinner," replied Dr. Miles, "expressly to keep it from
being too jolly, you incorrigible old gentleman."

But Sir John only laughed, and the peer and the priest walked away
together.



CHAPTER XXXII.


"You said just now, doctor," observed Beauchamp as they strolled
through the park, "that Ned Hayward particularly interested you. I am
glad of it, for he did so with me from the first, without my well
knowing why; and we are always glad to find a prepossession which
savours perhaps a little of weakness, kept in countenance by others
for whom we have a respect."

"You mistake altogether, young gentleman," replied the doctor, with
the dry spirit upon him. "In my case it is no prepossession; neither
did he interest me from the first. I generally can give a reason for
what I feel. I am no being of impulses. Indeed," he continued, more
discursively, "I was any thing but prepossessed in Captain Hayward's
favour. I knew he had been brought up in the army, under the judicious
auspices of Sir John Slingsby. That dear girl, Isabella, told me that,
from what she could remember of him, he was a gay, lively, rattling
fellow. Sir John called him the best fellow that ever lived, and I
know tolerably well what that means. The reason, then, why he
interested me very soon, was because he disappointed me. For half an
hour after I first saw him, I thought he was just what I expected--a
man constitutionally lively, gay from want of thought, good-humoured
from want of feeling; having some talents, but no judgment; acting
right occasionally by impulse, but not by principle."

"You did him great injustice," said Beauchamp, warmly.

"I know I did," replied the clergyman, "but not long. A thousand
little traits showed me that, under the shining and rippling surface
of the lake, there were deep, still waters. The singular delicacy and
judgment with which he treated that business of the scandalous attack
upon Mrs. Clifford's carriage; the kindly skill with which he led Sir
John away from the subject, when he found that it distressed poor
Mary; his conduct towards the poacher and his boy; his moderation and
his gentleness in some cases, and his vigour and resolution in others,
soon set all preconceived opinions to rights. He has one fault,
however, which is both a very great and a very common one--he conceals
his good qualities from the eyes of others. This is a great wrong to
society. If all good and honest men would but show themselves as they
really are, they would stare vice out of countenance; and if even
those who are not altogether what we wish, would show the good that is
in them, and conceal the bad, they would put vice and folly out of
fashion; for I do believe that there are far more good men, and even a
greater amount of good qualities amongst those who are partly bad,
than the world knows any thing about. So you see I am not a
misanthrope."

"I never suspected you of being so, my dear doctor," said Beauchamp;
"if I had I should not have attempted to create an interest for myself
in you."

"Ay! then, you had an interested motive in coming up every other day
to my little rectory, just at the time that Isabella Slingsby visited
her poor and her schools!" cried Dr. Miles, laughing; "but I
understand it--I understand it all, my noble lord--there is not such a
thing as a purely disinterested man upon earth: the difference is
simply the sort of interest men seek to serve--some are filthy
interests, such as avarice, ambition, ostentation, even gluttony--how
I have seen men fawn upon the givers of good dinners! Then there are
maudlin interests, such as love and its et ceteras; and then, again,
there are the generous interests; but I am afraid I must class those
you sought to serve in such friendly visitations amongst the maudlin
ones--is it not so?"

"Not exactly," answered Beauchamp; "for if you remember, my good
friend, you will find that I came up to your house at the same hour,
and as often, before I saw Miss Slingsby there, as afterwards.
Moreover, during the whole time I did so come before I was introduced
to her father, I never had a thought of offering her my hand, how much
soever I might admire and esteem her."

Dr. Miles turned round, and looked at his companion, steadily, for a
moment or two.

"I do not know what to make of you," he said, at length.

"I will tell you," replied Beauchamp, with a sad smile, "for I do not
believe any one could divine the causes which have led me to act a
somewhat unusual, if not eccentric, part, without knowing events which
took place many years ago. I told you once that I wished to make you
my father confessor. I had not time then to finish all I had to say;
but my intention has been still the same, and it is now necessary, for
Miss Slingsby's sake, that I should execute it: we shall have time in
going over, and I will make my story short. You are probably aware
that I was an only son, my father having never married after my
mother's death, my mother having survived my birth only a few hours.
My father was a man of very keen sensibilities, proud of his name, his
station, and his family--proud of their having been all honourable,
and not one spot of reproach having ever rested on his lineage. He was
too partially fond of me, too, as the only pledge of love left him by
one for whom he sorrowed with a grief that unnerved his mind, and
impaired his corporeal health. I was brought up at home, under a
careful tutor, for my father had great objections, partly just, partly
I believe unjust, towards schools. At home I was a good deal spoiled,
and had too frequently my own way, till I was sent to college, where I
first learned something of the world, but, alas! not much, and I have
had harder lessons since. The first of these was the most severe. My
cousin, Captain Moreton, was ten years older than myself; but he had
not yet shown his character fully. My father and myself knew nothing
of it; for though he paid us an annual visit for a week or two, the
greater part of his time was spent either here or in Scotland, where
he had a grand-aunt who doted upon him. One year, when I was just
twenty, while he was on a shooting-party at our house in October, he
asked me to go down with him in the following summer, to shoot grouse
at old Miss Moreton's. I acceded readily; and my father as willingly
gave his consent. We set out on the twenty-fifth of July, and I was
received with all sorts of Scotch hospitality at Miss Moreton's house.
There were many persons there at dinner, and amongst the rest a Miss
Charlotte Hay--"

"Why do you stop?" asked Dr. Miles.

"A Miss Charlotte Hay," continued Beauchamp, with an evident effort,
"a very beautiful person, and highly accomplished. She was some four
or five years older than myself, I believe, affecting a romantic style
of thought, feeling, and language. She was beautiful, I have said; but
hers was not the style of beauty I admired, and at first I took but
little notice of her. She sang well, however, and before the first
evening was over, we had talked a good deal--the more, perhaps, as I
found that most of the ladies present, though of no very high station,
nor particularly refined manners, did not seem to love her
conversation. It appeared to me that she was superior to them; and
when I found that, though of good family, her fortune was extremely
limited, and that she had resided with old Miss Moreton for some time,
as something between a friend and a companion, I fancied I understood
the coldness I observed on the part of more wealthy people. Many days
passed over, during which she certainly endeavoured to attract and
captivate me. I was in general somewhat on my guard; but I was then
young, inexperienced, vain, romantic; and though I never dreamed of
making her my wife, yet I trifled away many an hour by her side,
feeling passion growing upon me--mark, I say passion, not love; for
there was much that prevented me from respecting her enough to love
her--a display of her person, a carelessness of proprieties, an
occasional gleam of perverted principle, that no art could hide. Once
or twice, too, I caught a smile passing between her and my cousin
Moreton, which I did not like, and whenever that occurred it recalled
me to myself; but, with weak facility, I fell back again till the day
of my departure approached. Two or three days before the time
appointed--on the eleventh of August, which was my twenty-first
birth-day--Miss Moreton declared she would have a party of her
neighbours to celebrate the event. None of the higher and more
respectable gentry were invited, or, if they were, they did not come.
There were a good many deep-drinking lairds, and some of their wives
and daughters, somewhat stiff in their graver, and hoydenish in their
merrier, moments. It is one of those days that the heart longs for
years to blot out for ever. I gave way to the high spirits which were
then habitual to me. I drank deep--deeper than I had ever before done.
I suffered my brain to be troubled--I know not that there were not
unfair means used to effect it--but at all events, I was not myself. I
recollect personally little that passed; but I have since heard that I
was called upon to choose a wife for the afternoon. I was told it was
the custom of the country, on such occasions, so to do in sport; and
that I fixed, at once, upon this artful girl--in the presence of many
witnesses, I called her wife and she called me husband. The evening
passed over; I drank more wine at supper, and the next morning I found
myself married--for the infamous fraud they called a marriage. In
horror and dismay, I burst away from the wretched woman who had lent
herself to such a base transaction. I sent off my servant at once for
horses to my carriage--I cast Moreton from me, who attempted to stop
and reason with me, as he called it, representing that what had taken
place was a full and sufficient marriage, according to the code of
Scotland, for that public consent was all that was required by their
law."

"Or by the law of God either," replied Dr. Miles, "but it must be free
and intelligent consent."

"I travelled night and day," continued Beauchamp, rapidly, "till I had
reached my father's house and thrown myself at his feet. I told him
all--I extenuated, concealed nothing; and I shall never forget either
his kindness or his distress of mind. Instant steps were taken to
ascertain the exact position in which I stood; and the result was
fatal to my hopes of happiness and peace; for not only did he find
that I was entangled past recall, but that the character of the woman
herself was such as might be expected from her having been a party to
so disgraceful a scheme. She had been blighted by scandal before she
took up her residence in the house where I found her. Miss Moreton in
her dotage, yielded herself blindly to my cousin's guidance; and there
was more than a suspicion that he had made his aunt's protection a
veil to screen his own paramour."

"What did you do? what did you do?" asked Dr. Miles, with more
eagerness than he usually displayed; "it was a hard case, indeed."

"I went abroad immediately," replied Beauchamp, "for my father exacted
from me a solemn promise, never to live with or to see if it could be
avoided, the woman who had thus become my wife. He used strong and
bitter, but just terms in speaking of her. 'He could not survive the
thought,' he said, 'that the children of a prostitute should succeed
to the title of a family without stain.' My promise was given
willingly, for I will confess that hate and indignation and disgust
rendered her very idea odious to me. My father remained in England for
some months, promising to make such arrangements regarding money--the
base object of the whole conspiracy--that I should never be troubled
any more. He added tenderly, and sadly, though gravely and firmly,
that farther he could do nothing; for that I must bear the
consequences of one great error in a solitary and companionless life.
In consideration of a promise on the woman's part never to molest me,
nor to take my name, he settled upon her the sum of a thousand per
annum. During my father's life I heard no more of her; but when he
himself joined me in Italy, I could see but too plainly how grief and
bitter disappointment had undermined a constitution already shaken. He
did not long survive, and all that I have myself undergone has been
little, compared with the thought, that the consequences of my own
folly served to shorten the days of my kind good parent."

"But what became of the woman?" demanded Dr. Miles. "You surely have
had tidings of her since."

"Within a month after my father's death," replied Beauchamp, "I
received from her one of the most artful letters that woman ever
wrote, claiming to be received as my wife. But I will not trouble you
with the details. Threats succeeded to blandishments, and I treated
these with contempt as I had the others with coldness. Then commenced
a new system of persecution; she followed me, attempted to fix herself
upon me. Once she arrived at an inn in the Tyrol as I was getting into
my carriage, and declared before the people round that she was my
abandoned wife. I answered not a word, but ordered the door to be
closed, and the postillions to drive on. Then came applications for an
increased annuity, but I would not yield one step, knowing that it
would but lead to others, and in the end to free myself from every day
annoyance I took the name of Beauchamp, hurried on to the East,
directed my agent to conceal my address from every one, and for
several years wandered far and wide. At length the tidings reached me
that the annuity which had at first been punctually demanded, had not
been applied for. A report, too, reached my lawyer's ears that she had
died in Paris. Still I would not return to claim my rank lest there
should be some deep scheme at work, and I continued in India and Syria
for two years longer. The annuity remained unclaimed. I knew that she
had expensive habits and no means, and I ventured back. I passed a few
months in London without resuming my own name; but the noise and
bustle of the great city wearied me, and I came hither. Inquiries in
the mean time had been made, somewhat languidly, perhaps, to ascertain
the fate of this unhappy woman; but here I saw Isabella Slingsby, and
those inquiries have been since pursued rapidly and strictly. Every
answer tended to one result, and four days ago I received a letter
from my solicitor, informing me that there can be no doubt of her
demise. I will show it to you hereafter, but therein he says that her
effects in Paris had been publicly sold, as those of a person
deceased, to pay the claims of her maid, who had brought forward
sufficient proofs to satisfy the police that her mistress had died in
Italy. The girl herself could not be found, but the lawyers consider
this fact, coupled with the total cessation of claims for the annuity,
as proving the death of Charlotte Hay, and removing all doubt that
this bitter bond is cancelled for ever."

"That is clear, that is clear," said Dr. Miles, who at this moment was
pausing with his companion at a stile, "and now, I suppose, it is hand
and heart for Isabella Slingsby."

"Assuredly," said Beauchamp, "but she must be informed of all this;
and it is not a tale for me to tell."

"Will you have the kindness, Sir," said a voice from the other side of
the hedge, as Beauchamp put his foot upon the first step of the stile,
"to keep on that side and go out by the gate at the corner."

"Oh, is that you in the ditch, Stephen?" said Beauchamp, "very well,
my good man; one way is as good as the other."

"I am watching something here, Sir," said the gamekeeper, In a low
voice, "and if you come over, you'll disturb the thing."

Beauchamp nodded, and went on in the way he directed; and Doctor
Miles, who had been meditating, replied to what he had said just
before the interruption of the gamekeeper.

"But who else can do it? Sir John is unfit. Me, you would have? Humph!
It is not a pleasant story for even an old gentleman to tell to a
young lady."

"Yet she must know it," answered Beauchamp; "I will--I can have no
concealment from her."

"Assuredly, there you are right," replied Doctor Miles, "and I am sure
the dear girl will value your sincerity properly."

"She can but say that I committed a great error," answered Beauchamp,
"and for that error I have been punished by long years of bitterness."

"Well, well, I will do my best," answered the rector; "but make your
proposal first, and refer her to me for the story of your life. I will
deal in generals--I will not go into details. That you can do
hereafter if you like."

Thus conversing they walked on, and soon after reached the cottage of
Stephen Gimlet, where they found Ned Hayward beginning to feel relief
from the operation which the surgeon had performed in the morning.
Beauchamp returned to him the sum which he had received from Miss
Slingsby in the morning, saying, that he had found no necessity for
using it, and Doctor Miles sat down by him, and talked with cheerful
kindness for about a quarter of an hour. Was it tact and a clear
perception of people's hearts that led the worthy clergyman to select
Mary Clifford for one of the subjects of his discourse, and to enlarge
upon her high qualities? At all events he succeeded in raising Captain
Hayward's spirits ere he set out again upon his way homeward.

When he descended he found Gimlet, the gamekeeper, seated with Widow
Lamb, and the man, as he opened the door, apologised for having
stopped the rector and Mr. Beauchamp at the stile, but did not state
in what he had been so busily engaged. As soon, however, as Doctor
Miles was gone, Ste Gimlet resumed his conversation with Mrs. Lamb,
and it was a low-toned and eager one. From time to time the old lady
bowed her head, saying, "Yes;" but she added nothing to the
monosyllable for some time. At length, however, in answer to something
that her son-in-law said, she exclaimed,

"No, Stephen, do not speak with him about it. I tried it this morning,
and it had a terrible effect upon him. It seemed to change him
altogether, and made him, so kind and gentle as he is, quite fierce
and sharp. Speak with his friend, Captain Hayward; for neither you nor
I can know what all this may mean. But above all, watch well, for it
is clear they are about no good, and tell me always what you hear and
see, for I cannot help thinking that I know more of these matters than
the young lord does himself--a bitter bond, did he call it? Well, it
may be a bond for the annuity you heard him talk of; but then why does
she not claim it? There must be some object, Stephen."

The good old lady's consideration of the subject was prevented at that
moment from proceeding further by the entrance of her son Billy Lamb,
who came up and kissed her affectionately. The lad was somewhat pale,
and there was an air of fatigue in his small pinched, but intelligent
countenance, which made his mother hold him to her heart with a
feeling of painful anxiety. Oh! how the affections of a parent twine
themselves round a suffering child! Every care, every labour, every
painful apprehension that he causes us seems but a new bond to bind
our love the more strongly to him. The attachment that is dewed with
tears and hardened with the cold air of sorrow and fear, is ever the
more hardy plant.

"Sit down, Bill," said Stephen Gimlet, kindly, "you look tired, my
lad. I will get you a draught of beer."

"I cannot wait, Ste," answered the pot-boy, "for I must be back as
quick as I can; but I can look in to see mother for a minute every day
now. The gentleman who has got the little lone cottage on the edge of
Chandliegh Heath, gives me half-a-crown a week to bring up his letters
and newspapers, and I take the time when all the folks are at dinner
in our house."

"And get no dinner yourself, poor Bill," said Stephen Gimlet; "cut him
a slice of the cold bacon, mother, and a hunch of bread. He can eat it
as he goes. I'll run and draw him a draught of beer. It won't keep you
a minute, Bill, and help you on too."

He waited for no reply, but ran with a jug in his hand to the outhouse
where his beer-barrel stood. When he came back the boy drank eagerly,
kissed the old lady again, and then set out with the bread and bacon
in his hand; but Stephen Gimlet walked out with him, and after they
had taken a few steps, he asked,

"Who is it, Bill, has got the cottage?"

"I don't know," answered the lad. "A tall, strong man he is, with
large whiskers all the way under his chin, a little grayish. He met me
last night when I took up a parcel from Mr. ---- to Burton's inn, and
asked if I came that way every day. I said I did not, but could come
if he wanted any thing."

"But you must know his name if you get his letters, Bill?" said
Gimlet.

"No, I do not, but I soon can," answered the deformed youth. "He took
me into the cottage, and made the lady give him some paper and a pen
and ink, and wrote a note to the postmaster, and gave me a half-crown,
and said I should have the same every week. The postmaster wrapped up
the letters and things in a bit of paper, and I did not think to look
in; but I can soon find out if you want to know."

"No," answered Stephen Gimlet, drily, "I know already. Well, Bill,
good bye, I must go about my work," and so they parted.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


I beg Captain Moreton's pardon, I left him running across a field in
not the brightest possible night that ever shone. I should, at least,
have taken him safely home before now wherever that home might be,
which would be indeed difficult to say, for the home of Captain
Moreton was what people who pore over long lines of figures call a
_variable quantity_. However, there was once, at least there is
reported to have been once, for I do not take upon myself to answer
for the fact, a certain young person called Galanthis. She was a maid
of-all-work in a very reputable Greek family, and was called as a
witness in the famous crim. con. case of Amphitryon _versus_ Jupiter.
She proved herself very skilful in puzzling an examining counsel, and
there is an old nonsensical story of her having been changed into a
weasel to commemorate the various turnings and windings of her
prevarications. Nevertheless, not this convenient Abigail, nor any of
her pliant race, ever took more turnings and windings than did Captain
Moreton on the night after his escape from his prison in the vestry.
Every step of the country round he knew well, and up one narrow lane,
through this small field, along that wood path, by another short cut,
he went, sometimes walking and sometimes running, till at length he
came to a common of no very great extent, lying half-way, or nearly
so, between the town of Tarningham and the house called Burton's Inn.
The common was called Chandleigh Heath; and on the side next to the
inn was the village of Chandleigh, while between the heath and
Tarningham lay about two miles of well-cultivated but not very
populous fields and meadows. At an angle of the common a retired
hosier of Chandleigh had built himself a cottage--a cottage suited to
himself and his state--consisting of six rooms, all of minute size,
and he had, moreover, planted himself a garden, in which roses strove
with apple-trees and cherries. The hosier--as retired hosiers will
very often do--died one day, and left the cottage to his nephew, a
minor. The guardians strove to let the cottage furnished, but for
upwards of a year they strove in vain; its extremely retired situation
was against it, till one day it was suddenly tenanted, and right glad
were they to get a guinea a week and ask no questions. It was to this
retired cottage, then of the retired hosier, that Captain Moreton's
steps were ultimately bent, and as it had windows down to the ground
on the garden side, he chose that side, and went in at the window,
where, I forgot to remark, there were lights shining.

At a table in the room, with her foot upon a footstool, and a pillow
behind her back, sat a lady whom we have before described; and
certainly, to look at her face, handsome as it was, no one would have
fancied there was a fierce and fiery spirit beneath, so weak and, I
mar venture to call it, lackadaisical was the expression.

"Heaven, Moreton, how you startled me!" cried the lady: "where have
you been such a long time? You know I want society at night. It is
only at night I am half alive."

"Well," said Captain Moreton, with a laugh, "I have been half dead and
half buried; for I have been down into a vault and shut up in a vestry
as a close prisoner. I only got out by wrenching off the bars. Nobody
could see my face, however, so that is lucky; for they can but say I
was looking at a register by candlelight, and the old sexton will not
peach for his own sake."

"Still at those rash tricks, Moreton," said the lady, "it will end in
your getting hanged, depend upon it. I have been writing a poem called
'The Rash Man,' and I was just hanging him when you came in and
startled me."

"My rash tricks, as you call them, got you a thousand a year once,"
answered Moreton, sharply, "so, in pity, leave your stupid poetry,
Charlotte, and listen to what I have to say."

"Stupid poetry!" exclaimed the lady, angrily. "There was a time when
you did not call it so; and as for the thousand a year, it was more to
save yourself than to serve me that you fancied that scheme. You know
that I hated the pedantic boy, as virtuous as a young kid, and as
pious as his grandmother's prayer-book. Nothing would have induced me
to marry him if you had not represented--"

"Well, never mind all that," answered Captain Moreton, interrupting
her. "We have something else to think of now, Charlotte. I don't know
that it would not be better for me to be off, after all."

"Well, I am ready to go whenever you like," replied the lady. "I am
sure it is not very pleasant to stay in this place, seeing nobody and
hearing nothing; without opera, or concert, or coffee-house, or any
thing. I shall be very glad to go."

"Aye, aye, but that is a different matter," said Captain Moreton,
considerately. "I said it would be perhaps better for me to be off;
but I am quite sure it would be better for you to stay."

The lady looked at him for a moment or two with the eyes of a tiger.
If she had had a striped or spotted skin upon her back one would have
expected her to spring at his throat the next minute, but she had
acquired a habit of commanding her passions to a certain point, beyond
which, they indeed became totally ungovernable, but which was not yet
attained; and she contented herself with giving Captain Moreton one of
those _coups de patte_ with which she sometimes treated him. "So,
Moreton," she said, "you think that you can go away and leave me to
take care of myself, as you did some time ago; but you are mistaken,
my good friend. I have become wiser now, and I certainly shall not
suffer you."

"How will you stop me?" asked her companion, turning sharply upon her.

"As to stopping you," she replied, with a sneer, "I do not know that I
can. You are a strong man and I am a weak woman, and in a tussle you
would get the better; but I could bring you back, Moreton, you know,
if I did not stop you."

"How?" demanded he again, looking fiercely at her.

"By a magistrate's warrant, and half a dozen constables," answered the
lady. "You do not think I have had so much experience of your amiable
ways for nothing, or that I have not taken care to have proofs of a
good many little things that would make you very secure in any country
but America--that dear land of liberty, where fraud and felony find
refuge and protection."

"Do you mean to say that you would destroy me, woman?" exclaimed
Captain Moreton.

"Not exactly destroy you," replied his fair companion, "though you
would make a fine criminal under the beam. I have not seen an
execution for I do not know how long, and it is a fine sight, after
all--better than all the tragedies that ever were written. It is no
fun seeing men kill each other in jest: one knows that they come to
life again as soon as the curtain falls; but once hanging over the
drop, or lying on the guillotine, there's no coming to life any more.
I should like to see you hanged, Moreton, when you are hanged. You
would hang very well, I dare say."

She spoke in the quietest, most sugary tone possible, with a slight
smile upon her lip, and amused herself while she did so in sketching
with the pen and ink a man under a beam with a noose round his neck.
Captain Moreton gazed at her meanwhile with his teeth hard shut, and
not the most placable countenance in the world, as she brought vividly
up before his imagination all those things which crime is too much
accustomed and too willing to forget.

"And you, Charlotte, you would do this!" he exclaimed, at length: "but
it is all nonsense; and how you ever can talk of such things I cannot
imagine, when I merely spoke of going myself and leaving you for a
short time, for your own good."

"For my own good! Oh, yes; I have heard all that before, more than
twelve years ago," replied the lady. "I yielded to your notions of my
own good, then, and much good has come of it, to me, at least. So do
not talk of ever separating your fate from mine again, Moreton; for
were you to attempt it, I would do as I have said, depend upon it."

"It was your own good I thought about," replied Captain Moreton,
bitterly, "and that you will soon see when you hear the whole. Do you
not think if Lenham were to find out that you are living here with me,
there would soon be suits in the ecclesiastical courts for divorce and
all the rest?"

"Oh, you know, we talked about all that before," replied the lady,
"and took our precautions. You are here as my earliest friend,
assisting me to regain my rights, nothing more. All that was settled
long ago, and I see no reason for beginning it all over again."

"But there is a reason," answered Captain Moreton, "as you would have
heard before now if you would have let me speak; but you are so
diabolically hasty and violent. I brought you the best news you could
have, if you would but listen."

"Indeed!" said the lady, looking up from the pleasant sketch she was
finishing with an expression of greater interest, "what may that be?"

"Why, simply, that Lenham has proposed to Miss Slingsby," replied
Captain Moreton, "and they are to be married directly--as soon as that
fellow, Wittingham, is out of all danger."

Her eyes flashed at the intelligence, and her lip curled with a
triumphant smile as she inquired, "Where did you hear it? Who told
you? Are you sure?"

"Quite," answered Moreton, "I had it from old Slattery, the
apothecary, who knows the secrets of all the houses round. He told it
to me as a thing quite certain."

"Then I have him! Then I have him!" exclaimed his companion, joyfully;
"Oh, I will make him drink the very dregs of a bitterer cup than ever
he has held to my lips."

"But you must be very careful," said Captain Moreton, "not the
slightest indiscretion--not the slightest hint, remember, or all is
lost."

"I will be careful," she replied, "but yet all cannot be lost even if
he were to discover that I am alive. He has made the proposal to one
woman when he is already married. That would be disgrace enough to
blast and wither him like a leaf in the winter. I know him well enough
for that. For the first time he has given me the power of torturing
him, and I will work that engine till his cold heart cracks, let him
do what he will."

"Well, this was the reason I thought it would be better for me to be
off for a short time," said Captain Moreton, "though you must remain
here."

"I don't see that," cried the lady, "I won't have it."

Her companion had fallen into a fit of thought, however, as soon as
she had uttered the last words, and he did not seem to attend to her.
His thoughts, indeed, were busy with a former part of their
conversation. He felt that he was, as she said, in her power, and he
saw very well how sweetly and delicately she was inclined to use power
when she did possess it. He therefore asked himself if it might not be
as well to put some check upon her violence before it hurried her into
any thing that could not be repaired; for although Captain Moreton was
fond of a little vengeance himself, yet he loved security better, and
thought it would be poor consolation for being hanged that he had
spoiled all her fine schemes. He was still debating this point in his
own mind, when finding that he did not answer, she said,

"Do you hear? I say I will not have it, and you had better not talk of
it any more, for if I take it into my head that you are trying to get
off and leave me here, I will take very good care that your first walk
shall be into gaol."

"In which case," said Captain Moreton, coldly, "I would, by one word,
break the bond between you and Lenham, and send you to prison too. You
think that I am totally in your power, Madam; but let me tell you that
you are in mine also. Our confidence, it is true, has not been mutual,
but our secrets are so."

"What do you mean?" exclaimed the lady, turning deadly pale.

"I will tell you," replied her companion, "what I mean may be soon
hinted so that you can understand. When I first became acquainted with
you, my fair friend, you were twenty years of age. There were events
which happened when you were eighteen that you have always thought
comfortably hidden in your own bosom and that of one other. Let me now
tell you that they have never been concealed from me. You understand
me I see by your face, so no more of this. I shall not go because you
do not wish it, and I proposed it only for your good; but now let us
have some brandy-and-water, for the night is wonderfully cold for the
season."

The lady made no reply, but sat looking down at the table with
her cheek still white, and Moreton got up and rang the bell. A
woman-servant appeared, received his orders, and then went away, and
then turning to his companion, he pulled her cheek familiarly, saying,

"Come, Charlotte, let us have no more of all this; we had better get
on well together. Have any of the servants been into the room to-night
since I left you?"

The lady looked up with a sort of bewildered and absent air, saying,

"No, I think not--let me see. No, no. I have been sitting writing and
sleeping. I fell asleep for an hour, and then I wrote till you came
back. No one has been in, I am sure."

"While you were asleep they might," said Moreton, thoughtfully.

"No, no," she answered, "I should have heard them instantly; I wake in
a moment, you know, with the least sound. Nobody has been in the room
I will swear."

"Then you can swear, too, that I never left it," answered Moreton,
laughing, "I mean that I have been here or hereabouts all night, in
case it should be needed."

The lady did not seem at all shocked at the proposal, for she had no
great opinion of the sanctity of oaths, and when the servant returned
with all that Captain Moreton had demanded, he asked her sharply,

"Where were you, Kitty, when I rang about an hour ago?"

"Lord, Sir," replied the woman, "I had only run across to ask why they
had not sent my beer."

"Well, I wish you would take some other time for going on such
errands," replied Captain Moreton, and there the subject dropped.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


Beauchamp took care to be back at Tarningham Park a full hour and a
half before dinner-time; but schemes and purposes of making love or a
declaration at a certain place and time are never successful.
Continually they are put off, and very often they are forced on by
circumstances, and although there is no event of life perhaps in which
the happy moment is more important, it is seldom met with or chosen.
Such was the case in the present instance: Sir John Slingsby played
third on one occasion, Mrs. Clifford on another, and when Mary, dear
considerate girl, after breaking in for a moment, made a very
reasonable excuse to retire, the dressing-bell rang as she closed the
door, and Beauchamp, knowing that he could not detain Miss Slingsby
more than five minutes, would not attempt to crowd all he had to say
into so short a space. He was resolved to say something, however, and
as Isabella was about to leave him he stopped her, asking if she knew
that her father had invited him to pass the night there.

"Oh, of course," answered his fair companion in a gay tone, "you do
not think he would let you go to pass the hours of darkness amongst
the Goths and Vandals of Tarningham. He would be afraid of your life
being attempted. You do not think of going?"

"I have accepted his invitation," answered her lover, "because I have
several things to talk over with Sir John, and on one subject also
with you, dear lady. Will you give me some time in the course of
to-morrow--a few minutes--nay, perhaps, an hour, alone?"

Isabella coloured and looked away; but she was thankful for a
reprieve from immediate agitation, and she replied in a low tone,
"Certainly--but I must go and dress or my maid will be impatient."

But Beauchamp still detained her for a moment, "You are an early
riser, I think," he said, "will you take a walk before breakfast--down
towards the stream?--Nay, Isabella, why should you hesitate? Remember,
I have a history to give."

"I hope not a sad one," answered Isabella, gaily, "for I think I
should be easily moved to tears just now, and I must not return with
my eyes red--nay, Beauchamp, let me go or I shall cry now."

He released the hand he had taken instantly, and Miss Slingsby took a
step away, but looked round, and returning at once, gave it back
again, saying more gravely, "What is the use of any long history?--and
yet it had better be too. I will take a walk with you when you like,
for I must speak with you too--but not now: there's no time. So
farewell for the present," and she left him.

The dinner passed more quietly than Sir John Slingsby's dinners
usually did. The baronet's spirits, which had risen immensely after
the first pressure was taken off, fell again during the course of the
day; and for the first time in his life, perhaps, he was grave and
thoughtful throughout the evening. Isabella had her store of
meditations, and so had Mary Clifford. The mother of the latter was
calm and sedate as usual; and Doctor Miles dry and sententious; so
that Beauchamp, happy in what he had done, and happy in the confidence
of love, was now the gayest of the party. Thus the evening passed
away, though not sadly, any thing but very merrily; and the whole
party retired early to rest.

The next morning early Beauchamp rose and went down to the
drawing-room, but there was nobody there. One of the housemaids just
passed out as he entered, and he waited for about a quarter of an hour
with some impatience, gazing forth from the windows over the dewy
slopes of the park, and thinking in his heart that Isabella was
somewhat long. Now, to say the truth, she was longer than she might
have been, for Isabella had been up and dressed some time; but there
was a sort of hesitation, a timidity, a weak feeling of alarm,
perhaps, which she had never known before. She shrank from the idea of
going down to meet him, knowing that he was waiting for her. It would
seem like a secret arrangement between them, she thought, and she took
fright at the very idea. Then again, on the other hand, she fancied he
might imagine she was treating him ill not to go, after the sort of
promise she had made; then he had been so kind, so generous, so noble,
that she could not treat him ill, nay not even by the appearance of a
caprice. That settled the matter; and, after about a quarter of an
hour's debating with herself, down she went. Her heart beat terribly;
but Isabella was a girl, who, with all her gaiety and apparent
lightness, had great command over herself; and that command in her
short life had been often tried. She paused then for a moment or two
at the door of the drawing-room, struggled with and overcame her
agitation, and then went in with a face cleared, a light step, and a
cheerful air. Her hand was in Beauchamp's in a moment, and after a few
of the ordinary words of a first morning meeting, he asked, "Will you
take a walk, dear Isabella, or shall we remain here?"

"Do you not see bonnet on my head and shawl over my arm?" she said in
a gay tone; "who would stay in the house on such a bright morning as
this when they have a free hour before them?"

"Come, then," he answered, and in two minutes more they were walking
away together towards the wooded hill through which they had passed
with Mary Clifford and Hayward about three weeks before.

It is strange how silent people are when they have much to say to each
other. For the first quarter of a mile neither Beauchamp nor Isabella
said a word; but at length, when the boughs began to wave over their
heads, he laid his hand gently upon hers, and said,

"I think there can be no misunderstanding, Isabella, as to the words I
spoke the night before last. Nor must you think me possessed of a very
eager vanity if I have construed your reply as favourable to myself. I
know you too well not to feel assured that you would not have so
answered me had you been inclined to decide against my hopes. But yet,
Isabella, I will not and do not consider you as plighted to me by the
words then spoken till--"

"That is just what I was going to say," replied Isabella, much to
Beauchamp's consternation; "I wished much to speak with you for the
very purpose of assuring you that I do not consider you in the least
bound by what you then said."

She spoke with a great effort for calmness, but there was an anxious
trembling of the voice which betrayed her agitation, and in the end
she paused for breath.

"Hear me, hear me," she said, as she saw Beauchamp about to reply;
"since that night every thing has changed. I then thought my father
embarrassed, but I did not know him to be ruined. I looked upon you as
Mr. Beauchamp; I now find you of a rank superior to our own, one who
may well look to rank and fortune in his bride. You, too, were
ignorant of the sad state of my poor father's affairs. It is but fair,
then, it is but right that I should set you entirely free from any
implied engagement made in a moment of generous thoughtlessness; and I
do so entirely, nor will ever for a moment think you do aught amiss if
you consider better, more wisely, I will say, of this matter; and let
all feelings between us subside into kind friendship on your part, and
gratitude and esteem upon mine."

"You set me free!" said Beauchamp, repeating her words with a smile,
"how can you do so? My dear Isabella, this is treacherous of you, to
talk of setting me free even while you are binding me heart and spirit
to you more strongly than ever. Not one word more upon that subject,
my beloved girl. You must not teach me that you think I am so sordid,
so pitiful a being to let a consideration of mere fortune, where I
have more than plenty weigh with me, for one moment--I am yours,
Isabella, if you will take me--yours for ever, loving you deeply,
truly, aye, and understanding you fully, too, which so many do not:
but it is I who must set you free, dear girl; and I will not ask, I
will not receive any promise till you have heard the story of my past
life."

"But you must have it," said Isabella, raising her dewy eyes with a
smile, "these things must ever be mutual, my lord. I am yours or you
are not mine. But Beauchamp, we are coquetting with each other; you
tell me you love me; I, like all foolish girls, believe. Surely there
is no need of any other story but that. Do you suppose, Beauchamp,
that after all I have seen of you, after all you have done, I can
imagine for one moment, that there is any thing in the past which
could make me change my opinion or withhold my hand? No, no, a woman's
confidence, when it is given, is unbounded--at least, mine is so in
you, and I need not hear any tale of past days before I bind myself to
you by that tie which, to every right mind, must seem as strong as a
vow."

"Thanks, dearest girl, thanks!" answered her lover, "but yet you must
hear the story; not from my lips, perhaps, for it will be better
communicated to you by another; and I have commissioned good Dr. Miles
to tell you all, for I would not have it said or thought hereafter, by
your father or by any one, that I have had even the slightest
concealment from you."

"Not to me! not to me!" said Isabella eagerly, and then added,
laughing, "I will not listen to the good doctor; if there is any thing
that must be said let it be told to my father."

Beauchamp smiled and shook his head. "You will think me sadly
obstinate and exciting," he said, "but yet you must grant me as a
favour, Isabella, that which I ask. Listen to our worthy friend the
rector. His tale will not be very long; for many sad things may be
told in a few words, and an account of events which have embittered my
whole existence till within the few last days can be given in five
minutes. I will tell Sir John myself, but the reason why I so
earnestly wish you to hear all too, is, that no man can ever judge
rightly of the finer feelings of a woman's heart. We cannot tell how
things which affect us in one way, may affect her; and as there can be
no perfect love without perfect confidence, you must share all that is
in my bosom, in the past as well as in the future."

"Well," said Isabella, smiling, "as to obey is to be one of my vows,
Beauchamp, I may as well begin my task at once. I will listen to the
good doctor, though I confess it is unwillingly; but still, whatever
he says it will make no difference."

Beauchamp replied not to what she said; but the conversation took
another and a sweeter turn, and as the words they spoke were certainly
not intended to be repeated to the world I will not repeat them. Time
flies swiftly when love's pinions are added to his own, and Isabella
coloured when passing the windows of the breakfast-room on their
return, she saw the whole party assembled and Mary occupying her usual
post. While Beauchamp entered and took the first fire of the enemy,
she ran up to her room to lay aside her walking-dress; but Sir John
was merciless, and the moment she came in assailed her with an
exclamation of "Ha, ha, young lady! Early walks and morning rambles,
making all your friends believe you have eloped! I hope you have had a
pleasant walk, Isabella, with this noble lord. Pray were you talking
politics?"

"Profound!" answered his daughter, with a gay air, though she could
not keep the blood from mounting into her cheek.

"And what conclusion did you come to on the state of affairs in
general?" continued Sir John, looking from Isabella to Beauchamp. "Is
there to be peace or war?"

"First a truce," answered Beauchamp, "and then a lasting peace, the
terms of which are to be settled by plenipotentiaries hereafter."

"Oh!" said Sir John Slingsby, now for the first time comprehending how
far matters had proceeded between his daughter and his guest, and
giving up the jest he remained in thought for some time.

When breakfast was over and the party had risen, Beauchamp at once
took his host's arm, saying, in a low tone, "Before any other
business, I must crave a few moments' conversation, Sir John."

"Certainly, certainly," said Sir John Slingsby aloud; and while Mary
Clifford put her arm through Isabella's, with a heart full of kindly
wishes and hopes for her cousin, the baronet led his friend into the
library, and their conference commenced. As might be expected,
Beauchamp met no coldness on the part of Sir John Slingsby; but after
a hearty shake of the hand, an eulogium well deserved upon his
daughter, and an expression of his entire satisfaction and consent,
the baronet's ear was claimed for the tale of Beauchamp's previous
life. It did not produce the effect he expected; for although he had
some acquaintance with Sir John's character and habits, he certainly
did not anticipate the bursts of laughter with which the old gentleman
listened to events which had rendered him miserable. But there are two
sides to every thing, and Sir John had all his life taken the risible
point of view of all subjects. He laughed then, heartily declared it
an exceedingly good joke, but no marriage at all; and it was only when
he found that counsel learned in the law had pronounced it to be
valid, that he began to look at the matter more seriously. As soon,
however, as he heard the intelligence which Beauchamp had lately
received from Paris, he started up from his chair, exclaiming, "Well,
then, she is dead and that's an end of it. So now I congratulate you,
my dear lord, and say that the sooner the marriage is over the better.
I shall tell Isabella so, and she has no affectations, thank God. But
come, let us go to her. I must kiss her and give her my blessing."

The whole conversation had occupied nearly an hour, and when Sir John
Slingsby and Beauchamp entered the drawing-room they found it only
tenanted by Isabella and good Doctor Miles. Her face was uncommonly
serious, one might say sad, and the worthy clergyman's was not gay.

"What is it, doctor?" cried Sir John Slingsby, "you look as grave as
ten judges. Whose cat is dead?"

"James Thomson's," said Dr. Miles drily, "and thereupon I wish to
speak with you, Sir John, for I suppose you will attend the funeral."

"You are a funny fellow, Doctor Miles," replied the baronet; "I'll
talk to you in a minute, but I must first give my daughter a kiss--the
first she has had this morning, for she played truant, and is going to
do so again." So saying, he pressed his lips upon Isabella's cheek,
and whispered a few words that made her colour vary, and then linking
his arm in that of Dr. Miles, led him from the room, leaving his
daughter and her lover alone together.

Isabella's face looked sadder and graver than Beauchamp had ever seen
it; and to say the truth his heart began to beat somewhat uneasily,
especially as for a moment or two she did not speak, but remained with
her eyes bent down. "Isabella," he said at length, "Isabella, you look
very sad."

"How can I be otherwise, Beauchamp," asked the fair girl, holding out
her hand to him, "when I have just heard a narrative of events which
have embittered all your life? I grieve for you very truly, indeed,
and sympathise with you as much as a woman can do, with one placed in
circumstances in which she could never find herself. But indeed,
Beauchamp, it shall be the pleasant task of my whole life to make you
forget these past sorrows."

His hand clasped more warmly upon hers as she spoke, and in the end he
sat down by her on the sofa; his arm glided round her waist and his
lips were pressed upon hers. She had not the slightest touch of Miss
Biron about her, and though she blushed a little she was not horrified
or shocked in the least.

"Then you do not blame?" he said, "and notwithstanding all this, you
are mine, dearest girl?"

"Why should I blame you?" said Isabella with a smile, "you were not
the person in fault--except, perhaps, in having drunk too much wine
once in your life; and I suppose that is what all young men do, and
old men too, very often; but the punishment has certainly far exceeded
the offence; and as to being yours, Beauchamp, you know that I am--or
at least will be when you wish it."

Beauchamp took her at her word, and that evening there were grand
consultations upon many things. Sir John Slingsby was a hasty man, and
he liked every thing done hastily. Love or murder, strife or
matrimony, he would have it over in a hurry. Isabella, Mrs. Clifford,
Mary, were all overruled, and as Beauchamp submitted to his fate as
determined by Sir John without a murmur, the marriage was appointed
for that day fortnight.



CHAPTER XXXV.


How quietly one sits down to tell events in a tale like this, which
made a vast sensation at the time they happened. One reason, I
believe, why half the romances and almost all the histories in the
world are so exceedingly dull, is, that the people who write them do
not believe that the things they record actually happened--no, not
even in their histories. They have a faint idea that it may have been
so--some notion that such matters did very likely take place; but not
that firm conviction, that deep and life-like impression of the
transactions which they relate, that gives vivid identity to the
narrative. There is always a doubt about history, which hangs round
and fetters the mind of the writer, and is even increased by the
accuracy of his research. There is some link in the evidence wanting,
some apparent partiality in the contemporary chronicler, some
prejudice on the part of the near teller of the tale, which casts a
suspicion over all. We cannot cross-examine men who died a thousand
years ago, and we sit down and ask with Pilate, "What is truth?" The
romance-writer has a great advantage. He has the truth within himself.
All the witnesses are there in his own bosom. Experience supplies the
facts which observation has collected, and imagination arrays and
adorns them. In fact, I believe that philosophically speaking, a
romance is much truer than a history. If it be not it will produce but
little effect upon the mind of the reader. The author, however, must
not sit down to write it coolly, as a mere matter of composition. He
must believe it, he must feel it, he must think of nothing but telling
the truth--aye, reader, the truth of the creatures of his own
imagination. It must be all truth to him, and he must give that truth
to the world. As they act, think, speak, in his own mind, so must they
act, think, and speak to the public; and according to his own powers
of imagining the truth, regarding certain characters, so will he tell
a truthful tale or a mere cold fiction.

All the events which had taken place in Tarningham Park caused less
bustle, though, perhaps, more profound sensations amongst the inmates
of Sir John Slingsby's house than they did in the town and
neighbourhood. How Mrs. Atterbury of the Golden Star--it was a
hosier's shop--did marvel at all that had occurred! and how Miss
Henrietta Julia Thomlinson, the dress-maker, did first shudder at the
thought of Sir John Slingsby's total ruin, and then rejoice with a
glow of joy at the idea of Miss Slingsby's marriage to a peer _of the
realm_. Then, again, there was a little blear-eyed woman with white
cheeks, slightly marked with the small-pox, and a sharp nose of red,
who went about the town with an alarm bell in her mouth, spreading all
manner of stories regarding Sir John Slingsby and the whole of the
family at Tarningham Park. Miss Slingsby was actually sold, she said,
and the money given had gone to clear the baronet of a part of his
incumbrances; but she hinted that there was a heavy load behind and
declared decidedly that she should not like to have money out upon
such security. This lady proved an invaluable ally to Mr. Wharton; for
that gentleman did not stomach his disappointment comfortably. He
looked upon himself as very much ill-treated inasmuch as he had not
been permitted to fleece Sir John Slingsby down to the skin. He made
his own tale good, however, quietly, assured every body that
notwithstanding his own heavy claim, and the great likelihood that
there had existed of his losing many thousands of pounds, he should
never have thought of proceeding against his poor friend if he had not
heard that Mr. Wittingham had determined to arrest him for that heavy
debt. A person calling himself Lord Lenham, he said, had come to Sir
John's assistance, indeed, but he much feared that no assistance would
avail; and perhaps Miss Slingsby, though she was such a cunning
man[oe]uverer, might find herself mistaken, for there was something
suspicious, very suspicious, about some parts of the affair. He did
not wish to say any thing unpleasant, but there was something
suspicious, very suspicious, and people might mark his words if they
liked.

People did mark his words; and all set to work to inquire what the
suspicious circumstances were, so that what between inquiries and
answers, and hints, and inuendoes, and suspicions, and surmises, and
gossiping suggestions, and doubtful anecdotes, and pure lies, the
little town of Tarningham was kept in a state of most exceeding
chatter and bustle for several days and all day long, except at the
feeding time, when the streets returned to their silent tranquillity,
and not a soul was to be seen but poor little deformed Billy Lamb,
first carrying out his tray of foaming tankards, and then plodding up
the hill with a packet of letters and newspapers. As it is a fine day,
and those large heavy floating clouds give frequently a pleasant
shade, I do not see why we should not follow him up to Chandleigh
Heath. How quick the little fellow's long, disproportioned legs carry
his small round turkey-shaped body. But Billy Lamb must be going to
visit his mother after he has fulfilled his errand, or he would not
walk so fast this warm noontide. It is a round of six miles, yet he
will do it in an hour and a quarter. On my life he is already on the
heath. One can hardly keep up with him; and now he is at the cottage
garden-gate. What strange things poetical ideas are! and how unlike
reality! The poetical idea of a cottage, for instance, is rarely very
like truth. We take it and cover it with roses and surround it with
flowering shrubs. That may be all very well, for there are such
cottages; but then we strip it of all coarse attributes of life; we
take away the evils of poverty, and vulgarity, and vice, and leave it
nothing but content, and natural refinement, and calm innocence. It is
neither the scene of struggles against fortune, cold, fireless,
cheerless, often foodless, with want, smoke, and a dozen of children,
nor the prim false rosewood, bad pianoforted abode of retired
slopsellerism, nor the snug-embowered, back lane residence of the kept
mistress. There is no misery and repining there, no bad English and
gin-and-water, no quiet cabriolets and small tigers, black eyes,
ringlets, flutter, finery, and falsehood. It is all love and
roses--quarter of an acre of Paradise with a small house upon it. Such
is the poetical idea of a cottage.

Such, however, was by no means the sort of cottage, the garden-gate of
which was now approached by Billy Lamb. It had been built by a coarse,
vulgar man, was inhabited by an arrant scoundrel; and there the arrant
scoundrel was walking in his small domain with the lady whom we have
more than once mentioned. He looked sharply round when he heard the
garden-gate squeak; but was perfectly composed at the sight of the
little pot-boy. The letters and papers he took, and looked at the
covers, and then, with an indifferent air, asked,

"Well, my lad, what news is stirring in your little town?"

"Not much, Sir," said Billy Lamb; "only about the marriage of the lord
and Miss Slingsby."

The lady's eyes flashed unpleasantly, and her companion inquired,

"Well, what about that?"

"Nothing, Sir, but that it is to be on Monday week, they say," replied
Billy Lamb; "and all the people are as busy as possible about it, some
talking, and others working hard to get all ready; for Miss Isabella
will have every thing she can made in Tarningham."

"D--d badly made they will be," answered the gentleman; "and what is
the lord about?"

"Oh, nothing that I know of, Sir," rejoined the pot-boy, "only all his
people and things are coming down, carriages and horses, and that. The
yard is quite full of them."

"And so it is to be on Monday week, is it?" rejoined Captain Moreton:
"well, the sooner, the better."

"Yes, yes," cried the lady, "and he may have guests at his marriage
that he does not expect."

She spoke with an ungovernable burst of feeling, before her male
companion could stop her; and the boy suddenly raised his clear,
intelligent eyes to her countenance, discovering there legible traces
of all the furious passions that were at work in her bosom.

"Oh, yes," cried Moreton, endeavouring to give another turn to her
indiscreet words, and pressing her arm tight as a hint to hold her
tongue; "doubtless the whole town and neighbourhood will be there to
see."

"Oh, dear, yes, Sir," answered Billy Lamb; "though they say they wish
it to be quite private. Good morning, Sir," and he walked away with a
careless air, closing the garden-gate behind him.

"Ha, ha, ha!" exclaimed the worthy captain, laughing aloud; "this is
capital, Charlotte. You see our trout has bit at the fly."

"And I have got the hook in his jaws," said the lady, bitterly.

"Yes," rejoined Captain Moreton; "and it is now high time that we
should consider, how we may play our fish to be best advantage. First
of all, of course, the marriage must take place, or he will slip off
your hook, my fair lady; but after that comes the game; and I think it
would be much better to make no great noise even afterwards, but to
give him proof positive of your existence; and, by working upon his
apprehensions, and laying him under contribution, we may drain him dry
as hay."

"I will have revenge," cried the lady, fiercely; "I care for nought
else, but I will have revenge; I will make him a public scoff and a
scorn; I will torture him in a court of justice; I will break his
proud heart under the world's contempt--try not to stop me, Moreton,
for I will have revenge. You think of nothing but money; but vengeance
will be sweeter to me, than all the gold of earth."

"There are different sorts of revenge," answered Moreton, quietly;
"and, depend upon it, that which I propose is much more terrible. Once
he is married, and quietly informed that you are still living, think
what pleasant tortures he would undergo, year after year, as long as
you pleased. You would stand behind him like an unseen, but not unfelt
fate, shadowing his whole existence with a dark cloud. Every hour he
would live in terror of discovery, and shame, and punishment. He would
never see a stranger, or receive a letter, without the hasty fears
rising up in his heart. He would picture to himself the breaking up of
all his domestic joys; he would see 'bastard' written on the face of
every child; and his heart would wither and shrivel up, I tell you,
like a fallen leaf in the autumn. Sleep would be banished from his
bed; appetite from his table; cheerfulness from his hearth; peace from
his whole life. Even the sweet cup of love itself would turn to poison
on his lips; and our vengeance would be permanent, perpetual,
undecaying. This is the sort of revenge for me!"

"It does not suit me!" cried the lady; "It does not suit me; I will
have it at once; I will see him crushed and withering; I will feast my
eyes upon his misery. No, no; such slow, silent vengeance for the
cold-blooded and the calm. I tell you, you shall not stop me," she
continued, fiercely, seeing that he listened to her with a degree of
chilling tranquillity, which she did not love. "You may take what
course you will; but I will take mine."

"Excellent!" said Captain Moreton, sneeringly; "excellent, my gentle
Charlotte; but let me just hint, that we must act together. You can do
nothing without me; I can stop it all at a word. Pray, recollect a
little hint I gave you the other night; and now, that the moment is
come for drawing the greatest advantages from that, which we have been
so long labouring to attain, do not drive me to spoil all your plans,
by attempting to spoil mine."

"Ha!" said the lady; "ha!" but she proceeded no further; and, sinking
into herself, walked up and down musingly for several minutes, at the
end of which time she began to hum snatches of an Italian song.
Captain Moreton, who knew well her variable humours, thought that the
mood was changed; but he was mistaken. He had planted that, of which
he was to reap the fruit ere long.

In the meantime, the boy Billy Lamb, having closed, as we have said,
the garden-gate, lingered for a moment, and then took his way across
the common in the direction of Stephen Gimlet's house, which was at
the distance of about a mile and a half. He went at a quick pace, but
two or three times he stopped, and thought deeply. He was an observing
boy, and saw and heard more than people imagined. He was a boy of very
strong feelings also, and he had conceived a strong affection for
Beauchamp, which made any thing that affected that gentleman a matter
of deep interest to him. Thus, the first time he stopped he repeated
to himself the incautious words the lady had uttered, syllable for
syllable. "He may have guests at his marriage he does not expect,"
said the boy, meditating. "She looked mighty fierce too. I wonder what
she meant? No good, I'm sure, by the way her eyes went."

He then walked on again about half a mile further; and this time it
was a narrow lane he halted in. "You see, our trout has bit at the
fly!" repeated Billy Lamb, evidently showing that he had heard a part,
at least, of what had passed after he left the garden; "that trout he
talked of must be Mr. Beauchamp--that's to say, the lord. I can't make
it out. I'll tell Stephen: he seems to know a good deal about them
all; or that good, kind Captain Hayward. He's a great friend of this
lord's, and will let him know; for they mean him harm, or I am
mistaken."

When he reached Stephen Gimlet's cottage, however, and opened the
door, he found the outer room only tenanted by the little boy, who was
standing upon a stool, looking over the pages of a large, old Bible,
illustrated with some grotesque engravings, in which Adam and Eve,
very naked, indeed, the serpent, with a human head in large curls,
very much like that of a Chancery barrister; the same personage, in
the conventional form of a satyr, together with a number of angels;
and Noah's ark with all its beasts figured conspicuously.

In turning his head sharply round to see who it was that came in, the
child let fall the leaves that were in his hand upon those opposite;
and instantly out flew an old time-stained scrip of paper, which made
a gyration in the air before it reached the floor. The boy instantly
darted after it, and picked it up before Billy Lamb could see what it
was. The pot-boy would then have taken it out of his hand; but the
other would not give it up, saying, with a screaming tone,

"No, no, no! it is granny's;" and the same moment the voice of Widow
Lamb was heard from the inner room, demanding,

"Who have you got with you there, child?"

"It is I, mother," answered the deformed boy. "Is Stephen in? I want
to speak with him."

"No, my poor William," answered the old lady, coming forth, and
embracing her son; "he has been out a long while."

"Then, is Captain Hayward upstairs?" asked the youth.

"He is out too," answered the widow. "He was out yesterday for the
first time, and to-day we have had a grand party here, all the ladies
in the carriage, and Mr. Beauchamp walking. Mrs. Clifford came so
kindly to ask after me, and so they persuaded Captain Hayward to go
out with them. That is to say, Captain Hayward and Miss Mary, and Miss
Slingsby with my Lord Lenham. They've gone all up to the hall; Mrs.
Clifford in the carriage, and the rest on foot; and I should not
wonder, Bill, if Captain Hayward did not come back here again?"

"That is unfortunate!" exclaimed Billy Lamb; "I wanted so much to
speak with him, or Stephen."

"Why, what is the matter, my dear boy?" said his mother; "if you will
tell me what it is, I will let Stephen know when he comes back."

"Why, the matter is this, mother," answered the deformed boy, "Stephen
was asking me a great deal the other day about the gentleman who has
got the cottage on Chandleigh Heath, and what his name is. Now, I have
found out his name, and it is Captain Moreton."

"Have nought to do with him, Bill!" cried the widow; "have nought to
do with him! He is a base villain, and has ruined all who have had any
connexion with him."

"Why, I have nought to do with him, mother," answered Billy Lamb, "but
carrying him up his letters and newspapers; but I heard something
there to-day that I thought Stephen might like to know; for I am sure
he and the lady he has with him are plotting things to hurt this lord,
who was so kind to poor Ste."

"Ha! what did you hear?" asked the old lady, "that concerns me more
than Stephen, for I know more about that lady."

"She does not seem a very sweet one," answered the boy; "for when I
told the captain about Lord Lenham going to be married to Sir John's
daughter, she looked as if she had a great inclination to scratch
somebody's eyes out."

"Going to be married to Sir John's daughter!" exclaimed Widow Lamb.
"Bill, are you sure that's true?"

"Quite sure. Haven't you heard of it?" said the boy. "All the people
in Tarningham know it quite well; and a quantity of things are
ordered."

Widow Lamb mused gravely for several minutes; and then, shaking her
head, said in a low voice, as if to herself:

"I begin to understand. Well, what more did you hear, Billy?"

"Why, after a little talk," said the boy, "when they heard that the
marriage was to be on Monday-week, the lady cried out, 'He will have
guests at his wedding that he does not expect!' and her eyes looked
just like two live coals. She did not say much more; for the captain
tried to stop her; but, as soon I had got through the garden-gate, I
heard him laugh quite heartily, and say out loud, 'This is capital,
Charlotte; you see our trout has bit at the fly.'"

"And so, they have been angling for him, have they?" said Widow Lamb;
"what more, my boy?"

"Why, I did not like to stop and listen, mother," said the poor
deformed boy; "but I thought it could not be all right; and,
therefore, I made up my mind that I would tell Stephen, or Captain
Hayward, or somebody; for that Mr. Beauchamp, who has turned out a
lord, was always very kind to me when he was at the inn, and gave me
many a shilling; and I should not like to do them any harm, if I can
stop it; and I could see they were wonderfully bitter against him, by
the way of that lady and her husband."

"He is not her husband," said Widow Lamb, with a scoff; "but that
matters not, Bill; you are a good boy, and have done quite right; and,
perhaps, it may save much mischief; so that will be a comfort to you,
my son. I'll tell Stephen all about it, when he comes back; and we'll
talk the thing over together this very night, and see what can be
done. It is strange, very strange, Billy, how things turn out in this
world. Great people do not always know, when they do a kind action to
poor people and humble people like ourselves, that they may be helping
those, who will have the best means of helping them again. Now, from
what you have told me, Bill, I may have the means of helping this good
lord from getting himself into a terrible scrape. I am sure he does
not know all, my boy; I am sure a great number of things have been
concealed from him; and your telling me may set it all to rights."

"Well, that's pleasant," answered the deformed boy. "It makes one very
lightsome, mother, to feel that one has been able to do any thing to
serve so good a gentleman; and so I shall go home quite gay."

"That you may, Bill," replied his mother; "but bring me up news of any
thing you may hear; for you can't tell what may be of consequence, and
what may not."

The boy promised to obey, and went away whistling one of the peculiar
melodies, of which he was so fond; in which, though the air was gay,
there was ever an occasional tone of sadness, perhaps proceeding from
a profound, though concealed, impression of melancholy regarding his
corporeal infirmities.

It was late in the evening before Stephen Gimlet returned; but then
Widow Lamb entered into instant consultation with him upon what she
had heard; and their conference lasted far on into the night.

The next morning early the gamekeeper got his breakfast, and then
putting on his hat, said,

"Now, I'll go, Goody Lamb. I shall be very awkward about it, I dare
say, but I don't mind; for he will find out in the end, that it is for
his own good I talk to him about such disagreeable things. So, here
goes."

"You had better wait awhile, Stephen," said the widow; "most likely
he is not up yet; for it is not seven o'clock."

"It will be well nigh eight before I am there," answered Stephen
Gimlet, "and I can wait at the house till he is ready."

Thus saying, he walked away, and trudged on over the fields till he
came into Tarningham Park, by the road which leads over the hill just
above the house. He did not follow the carriage-drive, however, but
took the shorter path through the chestnut-trees, and in about ten
minutes, after entering the gates, saw the house. There was a
travelling-carriage standing before the hall-door, which was at the
distance of a quarter of a mile, and hardly had Stephen Gimlet's eyes
rested on it for an instant, when a servant got up behind, and the
post-boy laid his whip light over his horses. The carriage rolled on,
and the gamekeeper followed it with his eyes, with a feeling of
misgiving; but he pursued his way to the house notwithstanding, and
entering by the offices, asked the first servant he met, if he could
speak for a moment with Lord Lenham.

"That you can't, Ste," answered the man, "for he has just gone off to
London. He will not be down for a week either, they say; and then
comes the wedding, my lad, so that you have a poor chance of talking
with him till the honeymoon is over."

Stephen Gimlet looked down perplexed; and then, after a moment's
thought, he said, "Ay, there is to be a wedding, is there? I heard
something about it. He is a kind good gentleman as ever lived, and I
hope he may be very happy."

"I dare say he will now," said the footman, "for our young lady is fit
to be the wife of a king, that she is. But as one marriage made him
very unhappy, for a long time, it is but fit that another should cure
it."

"Then do you mean to say he has been married before?" asked the
gamekeeper.

"Ay, that he has," replied the servant, "none of our people, not even
Sir John's gentleman, nor any one, knew a word about it till I found
it out. I'll tell you how it was, Ste. The day before yesterday
morning the butler says to me, 'I wish, Harrison, you'd just clear
away the breakfast things for I've got the gout in my hand'--he has
always got the gout, you know, by drinking so much ale, besides wine.
Well, when I went into the breakfast-room after they were all gone, I
saw that the door into the library was a little ajar; but I took no
notice, and Dr. Miles and Sir John went on talking there and did not
hear me at all in t'other room. I could not tell all they said; but I
made out that my Lord Lenham had been married a long time ago, but
that the lady had turned out a bad un, and that they had lived apart
for many years, till the other day my lord heard from Paris she was
dead, and then he proposed to Miss Isabella. Dr. Miles said something
about not hurrying the marriage, but the jolly old barrownight said
that was all stuff, that he would have a wedding before a fortnight
was over, and he'd broach two pipes of port and fuddle half the
county."

"And when is it to be then?" asked Stephen Gimlet; but the man's reply
only confirmed what he had heard before, and with by no means a well
satisfied countenance, the gamekeeper took his way across the park
again, murmuring to himself as soon as he got out into the open air,
"Goody Lamb was right! They've cheated him into believing she is dead.
That is clear. There is some devilish foul work going on; and how to
manage I don't know. At all events I'll go back and talk to the old
woman, for she has a mighty clear head of her own."

As he walked on he saw our friend Ned Hayward strolling slowly along
at a distance, and he felt a strong inclination to go up and tell him
all he had been going to tell Beauchamp; but then he reflected that he
had no right to divulge what he knew of the latter gentleman's secrets
to another who might not be fully in his confidence. Besides, Ned
Hayward was not alone. There was the flutter of a lady's garments
beside him, and he seemed in earnest conversation with his fair
companion. They were not indeed walking arm-in-arm together, but they
were very close to one another, and as Stephen Gimlet paused
considering, he saw the lady's head frequently raised for a moment as
if to look in her companion's face, and then bent down again as if
gazing on the ground.

The gamekeeper judged from these indications that they were
particularly engaged, and would not like to be disturbed, and taking
that with other motives for not going near them, he walked back to his
own cottage where he found Widow Lamb with her large Bible open before
her.

Gimlet's story was soon told, and his mother-in-law seemed as puzzled
as he did for a time. He then suggested for her consideration whether
it might not be as well to convey the intelligence they possessed to
Captain Hayward or Sir John Slingsby; but Widow Lamb exclaimed, at
once,

"No, Stephen, no! we might make mischief with the intention of doing
good. We must wait. He will come back before the marriage-day and you
must see him then. I will go up with you and talk to him myself; for I
have much to say that I will only say to himself."

"But suppose we should not be able to see him?" said Stephen Gimlet,
"or if any thing should prevent his coming till the very day?"

"Then, I suppose we must speak to some one else," replied his
step-mother, "but do not be afraid, Stephen. Leave it all to me."

Stephen Gimlet was afraid, however; for he was one of those
unfortunate eager people who when they take the interests of another
to heart are never satisfied till they see those interests perfectly
secure. He had all his life, too, been accustomed to manage every
thing for himself, to rely upon no one, to trust to his own mind and
his own exertions for the accomplishment of every thing he desired. It
is an unlucky habit which makes people very uneasy when once they
contract it, which trebles both their anxieties and their labours; for
there is not above one-third, in ordinary circumstances, of any thing
that a man requires to do which can be done by his own hands, in the
complicated state of society in which we live; but still Stephen
Gimlet had that habit, and like an old coachman, he was not easy when
the reins were in the hands of another.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


And what were Ned Hayward and Mary Clifford talking about? Wait one
minute, and you shall hear all about it; but first let me pause to
make only one remark. I have observed during some acquaintance with
life, and a good deal of examination into all its curious little
byways and narrow alleys, that the conversation which takes place
between two people left alone to talk together, without any witnesses
but green fields and bowery trees, is never, or at least very seldom,
that which any one, even well acquainted with them, would have
anticipated from a previous knowledge of their characters. It was an
extremely right, just, and proper view of the case, that was taken,
when people (I do not know who), decided that three forms a
congregation. We all know it: we all feel it instinctively. Three is a
congregation; and when we speak before a congregation, we speak to a
congregation.

But Mary Clifford and Ned Hayward were alone together; and now a word
or two upon the frame of mind in which they met. Ned Hayward, since
first we introduced him to our readers, had taken a great part in many
things where Mary Clifford was concerned. He had first made her
acquaintance in rescuing her gallantly from the brutal and shameless
attempt to carry her off, of a man whom she detested. He had told her
kindly and frankly of her uncle's embarrassed and dangerous situation.
He had without the slightest ostentation offered the means of
relieving him from the most pressing of his difficulties, and had gone
up to London to accomplish what he offered, with a mixture of delicacy
of feeling and gay open-hearted readiness, which doubled the value of
all he did. He had come down again, fought a duel with the man who had
insulted her, received a severe wound, suffered, and put himself to
great inconvenience; and then had been found prepared at the moment of
need, to redeem his given word in her uncle's behalf, without
hesitation or reluctance, though evidently at a great sacrifice.

Nevertheless, all these things might have gone no further than the
mind, even with a calm, gentle, feeling creature like herself.
Gratitude she could not have avoided entertaining under such
circumstances, respect, very high esteem; but she might have felt
nothing more had that been all. There was a great deal more, however.
Ned Hayward had disappointed all Mary Clifford's preconceived ideas of
his character; and had gone on growing upon her regard every hour. She
had found him thoughtful, where she had believed him to be heedless;
feeling, where she had expected him to be selfish; full of deep
emotions, where she had fancied him light; well-informed and of
cultivated tastes, instead of superficial and careless; and being
imperatively called upon to do him justice in her own heart, she went
on and did perhaps something more. But still this was not all; he had
first excited wonder, curiosity, and pleasure, then admiration and
esteem, then interest and sympathy. Tie all these up in a parcel, with
gratitude for great services rendered, and a great number of musings
regarding him in silence and in solitude, and what will be the result?
Day by day after the duel she had thought of him--perhaps, I might
have said, night after night. Then, when she had seen him again, and
knew him to be ill and suffering, she had thought of him with deeper
feelings still, and even oftener than before; and when at length he
came over with reviving health, and took up his abode in the same
house with herself, she returned to her old manner of thinking of him,
with a number of new sensations blending in her meditations; and she
fancied that she was studying his character all the while. What was it
that she compared it to? She thought it was like a deep beautiful
valley, so full of sunshine, that no eye, but one very near, could see
the fair things that it contained. I do not know what all this was,
readers; but I think it looked very like falling in love.

Nevertheless, though these things might cause Mary Clifford to love
Edward Hayward, the reader may suppose that they afforded no reason
why he should love her--but that is a mistake. Love is like a cast and
a mould, where there is an impression upon both, different, yet
representing the same object. Love at first sight--love which springs
merely from the eye, is a thing apart; but love which proceeds from
acts and words and looks, is generally, though not always,
conscientious. The very deeds, which performed towards another, beget
it in that other, beget it also in ourselves. A woman is cherished and
protected. She loves the being who does cherish and protect her,
because he does; and he loves her because he cherishes and protects.
Ned Hayward had thought Mary exquisitely beautiful from the first; but
that would not have been enough--he was not a doll fancier! But her
conversation pleased him, her gentle sweetness charmed him, her
situation and all that it produced between them interested him,
and ... But he had thoroughly made up his mind not to fall in love;
and that was all that was wanting to make the thing complete. There
was only one difficulty or objection. Mary Clifford had, what was
called in those days, a large fortune. The dean, her father, had been
a wealthy and a prudent man; and he had left her about two thousand a
year, her mother's jointure not included. Now, Ned Hayward had, as the
reader knows, very little from the beginning; that little was now
still less; and he had determined to hate all heiresses. Hate Mary
Clifford! Pooh, pooh, Ned Hayward!

However, a certain undefinable sensation of being very far gone in
love--the perception of feeling she had never experienced before, had
made him very sad and uneasy for the last five or six days. He would
have run away if he could; for he thought there was only safety in
flight. But he could not go. He was not well enough to take a long
journey; and he had promised Beauchamp to stay for his marriage. But
marriage is an infectious disease; and even in its incipient stages,
it is catching. Ned Hayward thought a great deal of marriage during
those five or six days, of what a lucky man Beauchamp was, and of how
happy he would be if he had only a tithe of his wealth--with Mary
Clifford. But Ned Hayward was not a man to find himself in a difficult
and dangerous situation without facing it boldly. He felt, that he had
suffered himself to be entangled in a very tough sort of the tender
passion, and he resolved to break through the net, and, in fact, quit
Tarningham-house as soon as possible. But a few days remained to be
passed ere that appointed for Beauchamp's marriage; and he fancied he
could very well get through that short period without any further
danger or detriment. "He would see as little of Mary Clifford as
possible," he thought; "he would employ himself in reading, in walking,
in riding out with Sir John, as soon as he was strong enough;" and
thus, as usual with all men, he proposed to do a thousand things,
that he never did at all; and consoled himself with resolutions that
could not be executed.

On the day of Beauchamp's departure for London, Ned Hayward rose
early, breakfasted with his friend, saw him off, and then, according
to the plan he had proposed, walked out into the fine sunny morning
air, intending to spend the greater part of the summer day in some of
the cool and more retired parts of the park.

It was, at least, two hours before the usual time of breakfast;
he had not an idea that any of the family was up; and thus pursuing
one of the gravel walks away from the house, he went in among the
chestnut-trees, and strolled on, fancying himself perfectly alone in
the woods, when suddenly, in taking a turn, the path showed him the
fair face and graceful form of Mary Clifford advancing towards him at
the distance of about fifty or sixty paces. To avoid her, of course,
was quite out of the question; but Ned Hayward resolved, that he would
only speak to her for a moment, and then go on. But, Heaven knows how
it happened; in about two minutes he might be seen turning round with
her; and their walk continued for nearly an hour and a half.

"Well, Miss Clifford," he said, with as gay a look as he could
command, "Beauchamp is gone. Have you been taking a long walk?"

"No, not very far," answered Mary, "I saw some strange people crossing
the park; and ever since that adventure which first made us acquainted
with each other, I have become very cowardly. I therefore turned back;
otherwise I should have much enjoyed a ramble for I have a slight
headache."

What could Ned Hayward do under such circumstances? He could not avoid
offering to escort and protect Miss Clifford--he could not even
hesitate to propose it. Mary did not refuse; but her yes, was timidly
spoken; and, instead of turning back with Ned Hayward through the wild
wood walks, she made him turn back with her, and led him to the more
open parts of the park, where the house was generally in sight.

A momentary silence had fallen over both before they issued forth from
under the chestnut-trees; and each felt some awkwardness in breaking
that silence: the surest possible sign of there being very strong
feelings busy at the heart; but Mary felt that the longer the silence
continued, the more awkward would it become, and the more clearly
would it prove that she was thoughtful and embarrassed; and therefore
she spoke at random, saying,

"What a beautiful day it is for Lord Lenham's journey. I envy him the
first twenty miles of his drive."

"I envy him in all things," answered Ned Hayward; "his life may, and,
indeed, seems likely to be made up of beautiful days; and I am very
sure that mine is not."

"Nay, Captain Hayward," said Mary, raising her eyes gently to his
face, and shaking her head with a smile, "you are in low spirits and
unwell, otherwise you would never take so bright a view of your
friend's fate, and so dark a one of your own. Many a fair and
beautiful day may be, and ought to be, in reserve for you. Indeed,
they must be; for your own heart lays up, by the acts it prompts, a
store of sunshine and brightness for the days to come."

"May it not rather lay up, by the feelings it experiences, a store of
bitterness and sorrow, of clouds and darkness?" asked Ned Hayward, in
a tone so different from that he commonly used, that Mary started,
gazed for a moment at him, and then, letting her eyes fall again as
they met his, first coloured slightly, and then turned pale. By the
marks of emotion which she displayed, Ned Hayward was led to believe,
that he had spoken too plainly of what he had never intended to touch
upon at all; and he hastened to repair the error.

"What I mean is simply this, my dear Miss Clifford," he said; "a man
who enjoys himself very much--as I do--feels pain in the same
proportion, or perhaps more keenly. Every source of pleasure is an
inlet to pain, and as we go on continually in this world, losing
something dear to us, day by day, I am occasionally inclined to envy
those cold phlegmatic gentlemen who, with a very tolerable store of
pleasures, have few pains but corporeal ones. I never pretend to be a
very sentimental person, or to have very fine feelings, or any thing
of that sort; but now as an instance of what I was speaking of, I
cannot think of quitting this beautiful spot, and all the friends who
have shown me so much kindness, as I must do on Monday next, without a
sort of sinking at the heart, which is very unpleasant."

"You do not mean to say you are going on Monday!" exclaimed Miss
Clifford, pausing suddenly, with the colour varying in her cheek.

Ned Hayward was surprised and pleased; for there was no attempt to
conceal that his staying or going was a matter of interest to her. He
answered, however, gravely, even sadly,

"I fear I must."

"But you have forgotten your promised visit to us at Hinton," said
Mary, reproachfully, and deadly pale; "you promised to come, you know;
I have counted upon that visit as affording an opportunity of settling
how and where, when I come of age, which will now be in a few months,
the money you so generously lent me, can be repaid.--Indeed," she
added, earnestly, "you must come there for a few days, even if you do
not stay here."

There was a tenderness, a tremulous softness in her tone, a slight yet
sufficiently marked agitation in her manner, which made Ned Hayward's
heart beat.

"Can I be beloved?" he asked himself. "Can she return the feelings she
has inspired? I will soon know!--My dear Miss Clifford," he replied,
"I fear that visit would prove more dangerous to me than this has
been; and, therefore, however unwillingly--however great would have
been the delight, I must decline it."

Mary Clifford looked down without uttering a word; but her cheek
remained pale, her lip quivered as if she would fain have given voice
to some reply; and though her arm was not in his, he could feel that
she trembled. Ned Hayward's heart beat too; but there was, as we have
often seen before, a frankness, a straightforward simplicity in his
habitual course of action, which overleaped many a difficulty that
would have baffled other men.

"Let me explain," he said, but Mary made a slight motion with her
hand, saying,

"Oh, no, no!" in a faint tone, and then she repeated the word
"dangerous!"

"Yes," he said, "more dangerous, dear Miss Clifford! Can you not
conceive how and why?--In a word, then, I cannot and must not stay
with you longer. I must by as speedy a return as possible to other
occupations, make an effort to forget that I have ever seen one, whom
I fear I have already known too long for the peace of my whole life."

He paused for a moment with a sigh, raised his head high the next
instant, and then added, "I have but one favour to ask you, which is
this--not to let what I have just said make any difference in your
demeanor towards me, during the short period of my stay. I had no
intention of troubling your ear with such things at all; but your own
question brought forth what I would willingly have concealed--perhaps
in this I have been wrong; but believe me, I am very well aware that
difference of fortune has placed a barrier between us which cannot be
overleaped. This is the only favour, then, dear lady--do not alter
towards me--let me see you ever the same as I have yet beheld you; and
when I go away for ever, let me carry with me the remembrance of Mary
Clifford as a picture of all that deserves love and admiration upon
earth.--Do not, do not change, notwithstanding my rash confessions."

Mary Clifford looked up in his face, and a varying light played in her
eyes, as if, at one moment, it was about to break forth sportively,
and at another would have drowned itself out in tears.

"I must change, Hayward!" she said at length, with a bright smile upon
her lip, "indeed you ask too much. How can you expect that I should
live in the same house with you, and know that you love me, without
showing in some degree what is passing in my own breast?"

"Mary! Mary!" he exclaimed, laying his hand upon her arm, and gazing
in her face, "you would not--oh, I am sure you would not trifle with
me--"

"Not for the world," she answered. "Edward, I am incapable of trifling
with any man; but with you, to whom I owe so much, it would be base
indeed!"

"But the great disparity of fortune," said her lover, with the shade
again upon his brow. "Oh, Mary, how can it ever be? You, I have heard,
are wealthy--they call you 'the heiress'--and I know myself to be
poor. Are you aware--surely I told you, that all I had saved out of
the wreck of my father's fortune, only amounted at first to--"

"Will you pain me?--Do you wish to grieve me?" asked Mary Clifford,
"if not, do not mention such matters as in any way likely to affect my
feelings or conduct; and yet I do not wish you to consider me as a
romantic girl, for I am not. I have always thought that a competence
must be possessed to render the lives of any two people happy; but
surely it matters not on whose side that competence comes. We shall
have enough, Edward, for happiness, and though I know it would have
been more pleasure to yourself if the greater part of our little
fortune had been brought by you, yet I am very glad that _I_ have it,
as you have not."

"But your mother--your guardian, Mary?" said Ned Hayward, still in a
doubtful tone.

Mary laughed, but with a slight touch of vexation in the tone; and she
exclaimed,

"I do believe he will not have me, even when I have almost offered
myself to him!"

But Ned Hayward would not lie under that imputation, and he cast his
arms round his fair companion, assuring her that if she had the wealth
of the world, the only portion he would value would be herself.

Mary freed herself gently from his embrace; and suffering him to draw
her arm through his, walked on with him till the breakfast hour was
fully come.



CHAPTER XXXVII.


It is strange how we all go grinding the fate of each other in this
world, high and low, rich and poor, the cottage tenant and the lord of
the mansion, all jostling each other, and without knowing it, each
making his fellow take a step this way or that, which very much
influences the onward path. All was cheerfulness and gaiety at
Tarningham Park. Mary Clifford had assured Ned Hayward that her
mother's consent would not only be given, but given cheerfully, that
her guardians, whose period of rule was so nearly at an end, would
raise no objection, and that all who loved her would be glad to see
her the promised bride of one so well worthy of esteem. Nor was her
promise unaccomplished; for good Mrs. Clifford was delighted. Ned
Hayward had ever been a great favourite of hers ever since he had come
to her rescue in Tarningham-lane. The guardians were quite quiescent,
replying to the letter of announcement, that whatever Miss Clifford
judged for her own happiness and received her mother's consent, would
insure their approbation. Sir John was in an ecstasy, and Isabella in
the midst of her own happiness, felt happier still at that of her
cousin. Daily letters were received from Beauchamp all breathing joy
and hope, and though lawyers were troublesome and men of business
dilatory, yet not one word was said, not one thought seemed to be
entertained of any real danger or difficulty.

All then was cheerfulness and gaiety at Tarningham Park, and not one
of its inmates had the slightest idea of the anxiety and alarm which
were felt for them in a cottage not far off. Every morning and every
evening long consultations were held between Widow Lamb and her
son-in-law regarding the fate of Mr. Beauchamp, and just in proportion
to their ignorance of the habits of the world were the difficulties
that presented themselves to their imaginations. Stephen Gimlet was
anxious to act in some direction. Mr. Beauchamp, as he still
frequently called him, being absent, he thought it would be better to
say all that they had to say, to Sir John Slingsby, or at all events
to Captain Hayward; but on the contrary his mother-in-law, with longer
experience, a disposition naturally timid and cautious, and upon the
whole better judgment, insisted that it might be wrong or dangerous to
do so.

"You cannot tell, Stephen," she said, "what this good young lord has
told them and what he has not. We cannot even be sure how this woman
stands with him. He may have divorced her for ought we know. I am sure
her conduct has always been bad enough; and if such should be the case
we might make the poor young lady unhappy when there is no need.
Nobody even can guess at all the mischief that might happen. No, no,
you watch closely for the young lord's coming back, and as soon as
ever he is here, you and I will go up and speak to him. He must be
back in time for that, and I dare say he will come on Saturday night,
so there will be plenty of time."

It was one of Stephen Gimlet's maxims, and a very good one, too, that
there never is plenty of time; but he carried the matter somewhat too
far, for he thought one could never do too much. Now that is a very
great mistake; for in love, politics, and ambition, as in the roasting
of a leg of mutton, you can remedy the _meno_, but you cannot remedy
the _piu_. However, to make up for not doing what his mother-in-law
would not let him do--and in regard to Beauchamp she had the whip hand
of him, for she did not let him into her secrets--he busied himself
every spare moment that he had in watching the proceedings of Captain
Moreton and the fair lady he had with him. His long familiarity with
beasts and birds, greatly affected his views of all things, and he got
to look upon these objects of his contemplation as two wild animals.
He internally named one the fox and the other the kite, and with the
same sort of shrewd speculation in regard to their manners, habits,
and designs, as he employed upon brutes, he watched, and calculated,
and divined with wonderful accuracy. One thing, however, he forgot,
which was, that a human fox has a few more faculties than the mere
brute; and that, although the four-legged fellow with the brush might
require great caution in any examination of his habits and
proceedings, Captain Moreton might require still more. Now that worthy
gentleman very soon found out that there was an observant eye upon
him, and he moreover discovered whose eye that was. There could not
have been a more unpleasant sensation to Captain Moreton than to feel
himself watched, especially by Stephen Gimlet; for he knew him to be
keen, shrewd, active, decided, persevering, one not easily baffled,
and by no means to be frightened; one, who must be met, combated,
overcome in any thing he undertook, or else suffered to have his own
way. Captain Moreton was puzzled how to act. To enter into open war
with Stephen was likely to be a very dangerous affair; for the
proceedings of the worthy captain, as the reader may suppose, did not
court public examination; and yet to suffer any man to become
thoroughly acquainted with all his in-comings and out-goings, was very
disagreeable and might be perilous. To gain time, indeed, was the
great thing; for Moreton's intention was, as soon as he had fairly
seen his cousin married to Isabella Slingsby, to take his departure
for another land, and to leave the consequences of the situation, in
which he had placed Lord Lenham, to operate, as he thoroughly believed
they would operate, in destroying health, vigour, and life. His only
object in remaining at all was so to guide the proceedings of his fair
companion, and to restrain her fiery and unreasoning passions, as to
prevent her overthrowing his whole scheme by her intemperate haste.
But how to gain the necessary time was the question. He first changed
his haunts and his hours, went out on the other side of the heath; but
Stephen Gimlet was there; took his walk in the early morning, instead
of late in the evening; but the figure of Stephen Gimlet was seen in
the gray twilight, whether it was day-dawn or sunset; and Captain
Moreton became seriously uneasy.

Nothing, however, as yet appeared to have resulted from all this
watching, till, on the Saturday morning, somewhat to Captain Moreton's
surprise, the door of the room, where he was sitting alone, was
opened, and in walked his friend and acquaintance, Harry Wittingham.
The young man was exceedingly pale; but still he appeared to move
freely and without pain or difficulty; and a look of real pleasure
came up in Captain Moreton's face, which completely deceived Mr.
Wittingham, junior, as to the sensations of his friend towards him. He
fancied, as Captain Moreton shook him warmly by the hand, and declared
he was delighted to see him well again, that the other was really glad
at his recovery. Now Harry Wittingham might have been wounded, sick,
dying, dead, buried, turned into earth again, without Captain
Moreton's caring one straw about him, simply as Harry Wittingham _per
se_; but as one who might be serviceable in his schemes, who might
help him out of a difficulty, and, by taking part in a load of danger,
might help Captain Moreton to bear the rest, he was an object of great
interest to the captain, who, congratulated him again and again upon
his recovered health, made him sit down, inquired particularly into
all he had suffered, and did and said all those sorts of things which
were most likely to make a man thus convalescent believe that a
friendly heart had been greatly pained by all he had undergone.

Harry Wittingham was soon seated in an armchair, and making himself
quite at home. Contrary to the advice of all doctors, he indulged in a
glass of brandy-and-water at the early hour of half-past ten, and
declared he was a great deal better for it, that old fool Slattery
having kept him without wine, spirits, or porter for the last five
weeks.

"Ay, that might be necessary some time ago," said Moreton, "till your
wound was healed, but it is all stuff now. It must have been a bad
wound that you have got, Harry; and I am devilish sorry I could not be
down myself, for I think then you would have got no wound at all.
However, you gave him as good as you got, and that was some
consolation. No gentleman should ever be without his revenge, whether
it be with cards, or pistols, or what not, he should always give
something for what he gets, and if he does that, he has every reason
to be satisfied."

"I have not got quite enough yet," said Harry Wittingham, with a
significant nod of his head; "and some people shall find that by and
by."

"Ay, that's right, quite," answered Captain Moreton; "but I say, Hal,
how is the old cock, your father? I heard yesterday he was breaking
sadly--got the jaundice, or some devil of a thing like that--as yellow
as one of the guineas he keeps locked up from you--time for him to
take a journey, I should think."

For a minute or two Harry Wittingham made no reply, but then he set
his teeth hard and said,

"I should not wonder if the hard-hearted old flint were to leave it
all away from me."

Captain Moreton gave a long, low whistle, exclaiming, "Upon my life,
you must stop that. Hang me, if I would not pretend to be penitent and
play a good boy for a month or two."

"It is no use in the world," answered Harry Wittingham; "you might as
well try to turn the Thames at Gravesend as to put him out of his
course when once he has taken a thing into head. He must do what he
likes, he can't take it all, that's one comfort; but I say, Moreton,
what the devil is that fellow Wolf hanging about here for? You had
better not have any thing to do with him, I can tell you. He is as
great a scamp as ever lived, and I'll punish him some day or another.
I should have come in yesterday, but I saw him sitting down there upon
the mound upon the heath, looking straight here, and so I went away."

"Did you see him again to-day?" asked Captain Moreton, with very
uneasy feelings.

"Oh, yes," answered Wittingham, "there he was prowling about with his
gun under his arm; but I doubled upon him this time, and went down the
lanes, and in by the back way."

"I will make him pay for this," said Moreton, setting his teeth. "He
has been spying here for a long time, and if it was not that I don't
wish any fuss till the day after to-morrow is over, I would break
every bone in his skin."

"It would be a good thing if you did," answered Harry Wittingham;
"I'll tell you how he served me;" and he forthwith related all the
circumstances of his somewhat unpleasant adventure with Stephen Gimlet
when he visited the gamekeeper's cottage.

The moment he had done, Captain Moreton tapped him on the arm with a
meaning smile, saying,

"I'll tell you what, Harry, though you are not very strong yet, yet if
you are up to giving me ever so little help, we'll punish that fellow
before to-morrow's over. If you can come here to-night and take a bed,
we'll get up early and dodge him as he has been dodging us. He is
always out and about before any body else, so that there will be no
one to help him let him halloo as loud as he will. He is continually
off Sir John's ground with his gun and dog, so that we have every
right to think he is poaching, as he used to do."

"Well, but what will you do with him?" said Harry Wittingham; "he is
devilish strong remember."

"Yes, but so am I," answered Captain Moreton; "and I will take him
unawares, so that he cannot use his gun. Once down, I will keep him
there, while you tie his arms, and then we will bundle him over here,
and lock him up for a day or two."

"Give him a precious good hiding," said young Wittingham, "for he well
deserves it; but I don't see any use of keeping him. If we punish him
well on the spot, that's enough."

"There's nothing that you or I can do," answered Captain Moreton,
"that will punish him half so much as keeping him here till noon on
Monday, for now I'll let you into one thing, Harry: I am looking out
for my revenge upon some other friends of ours, and I have a notion
this fellow is set to watch every thing I do, with promise of devilish
good pay, if he stops me from carrying out my plan. It will all be
over before twelve o'clock on Monday; and if we can keep him shut up
here till then, he will lose his bribe, and I shall have vengeance.
You can give him a good licking, too, if you like, and nobody can say
any thing about it if we catch him off old Sir John's grounds."

"I don't care whether they say any thing about it or not," answered
Harry Wittingham; "they may all go to the devil for that matter, and
I'll lend a hand with all my heart. But remember, I'm devilish weak,
and no match for him now; for this wound has taken every bit of
strength out of me."

"Oh, you'll soon get that up again," answered Captain Moreton; "but
I'll manage all the rough work. But how do you get on about money if
the old fellow gives you none?"

"I should be devilishly badly off, indeed," replied the young man, "if
our old housekeeper did not help me; but she has taken her money out
of the bank, and is selling some things for me; so I must not forget
to let her know that I am here if I come to-night."

"Oh, I'll take care of that," answered Captain Moreton. "There's a boy
brings up my letters and things, a quiet, cunning little humpbacked
devil, who whistles just like a flageolet, and says very little to any
body. I'll tell him to go and tell old mother what's-her-name slyly,
that you are here if she wants you."

The whole scheme seemed palatable to Harry Wittingham, and he entered
into the details with great zest and spirit, proposing several
improvements upon Captain Moreton's plan, some of which suited that
gentleman quite well. Another glass of brandy-and-water was added, and
Harry Wittingham declared that it was better than all the doctor's
stuff he had swallowed since he was wounded, for that he was already
much better than when he came, and felt himself quite strong again.
After an hour's rambling conversation upon all sorts of things not
very gentlemanly either in tone or matter, the two worthy confederates
parted.

As the visitor took his way back to Buxton's Inn, he looked boldly
round for Stephen Gimlet with a pleasant consciousness of coming
vengeance; but the gamekeeper was not to be seen, and meditating the
pleasant pastime laid out for the following day, Mr. Wittingham
reached the inn, and ordered a very good dinner as a preparation. He
felt a little feverish, it is true, but nevertheless he drank the
bottle of stiff port which was placed on the table when dinner was
served; and elated with wine, set out as soon as it was dark to take
part once more in one of those schemes of evil which suited too well
his rash and reckless disposition, little knowing that all the time he
was the mere tool of another.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


"Well doctor, well doctor, what is the matter?" asked Sir John
Slingsby, at the door of his own house, towards two o'clock on that
Saturday afternoon; "you look warm, doctor, and not half as dry as
usual. I declare, you have made that fat pony of yours perspire like
an alderman at the Easter ball. What has put you into the saddle? Has
the chaise broken down?"

"No, Sir John," answered Doctor Miles; "but the horse was sooner
saddled than harnessed, and I wanted to see you in haste--where are
you going now? for you are about to mount, I perceive."

"I am going down to set the fools at Tarningham to rights," answered
Sir John Slingsby. "I hear that that bilious old crow, Wittingham, and
deaf old Mr. Stumpforth, of Stumpington, have been sitting for these
two or three hours at the justice-room getting up all sorts of
vexatious cases with Wharton, to torment the poor people of the
parish, and to put them in a devout frame of mind for their Sunday's
duties; so I am going down to put my finger in the pie and spoil the
dish for them. Come along, doctor, and help, for you are a magistrate
too, and a man who does not like to see his fellow-creatures
maltreated. You can tell me what you want as we jog along."

"We shall be going exactly in the right direction," said Doctor Miles,
"for my business with you referred to your magisterial capacity, Sir
John."

The worthy, who had his foot in the stirrup, raised himself into the
saddle with wonderful agility, considering his size and his age; and,
accompanied by Doctor Miles, was soon on his way towards Tarningham,
listening with all his ears to the communication which the rector had
to make.

"You must know, my good friend," said the doctor, "that some short
time ago your gamekeeper, Stephen Gimlet, found in the little vicarage
church at Moreton some one busily engaged, as it appeared, in the
laudable task of altering the registers in the vestry. He locked him
safely in, but the culprit got out in the night; and Gimlet
communicated the fact to me. I would have spoken to you about it, but
circumstances occurred at that time which might have rendered it
unpleasant for you to deal with that business."

"I understand," said Sir John Slingsby, nodding his head
significantly, "who was the man?"

"Why, Gimlet asserts that it was no other than that worst of all bad
fellows, Captain Moreton," replied Doctor Miles. "I examined the
register, and found that an alteration had certainly been committed;
for the date of one of the insertions was advanced several years
before those that followed, by skilfully changing a nought into a six.
Under the circumstances, I thought it best to consult with Wittingham,
and I proposed that a warrant should be issued against Captain
Moreton; but the worthy gentleman thought fit both to examine and
cross-examine Gimlet in the first instance; asked him nine times over
if he would swear that it was Captain Moreton; and, when he found that
he had not seen the man's face, his back being turned to the door of
the vestry when Gimlet went in, he pooh-poohed the whole matter, and
refused to issue the warrant. I did not choose to do so myself, the
event having occurred in a parish of my own, and with one of my
registers, but this morning, on visiting old Grindley, the sexton, who
is very ill, he made a full confession of his part in the affair:
Moreton had bribed him, it seems, to open for him the family vault and
the door of the vestry. In the one the worthy captain altered the date
on his great grandfather's coffin from 1760 to 1766 by an instrument
he seemed to have had made on purpose; and in the vestry performed the
same operation with plain pen and ink."

"A pretty scoundrel," said Sir John Slingsby; "but I know what he
wants. He wants to prove that his mother could not break the entail,
which would be the case if the old man had lived an hour after she was
born."

"Precisely so," said Doctor Miles; "but I did not choose to deal with
Mr. Wittingham any more upon the subject, at least without your
assistance; and therefore before I either signed a warrant myself, or
spoke with the people of Tarningham about it, I thought it better to
come up to the park and consult with you."

"As the wisest man in the county," said Sir John Slingsby, laughing.
"My dear doctor, I will get a certificate from you and qualify for the
university of Gotham--but I will tell you what we will do, we will
send the groom here for Stephen Gimlet, and his evidence, with
the deposition of old Grindley, will soon put the whole matter
right.--Here, Tom, ride over like the devil to Ste Gimlet's cottage;
tell him to come down as fast as his legs will carry him to the
justice-room at Tarningham. We'll soon bring these gentlemen to the
end of their law, and Wharton to boot--an ill-conditioned brute, a
cross between a fox and a turnspit--do you recollect his mother,
doctor? Her legs were just like the balustrades of a bridge, turned
the wrong side upmost, only they bowed out on each side, which gave
them a sort of ogee."

Thus rattling on, Sir John Slingsby rode forward till they reached the
entrance of the little justice-room, which was conveniently situated
immediately adjoining Mr. Wharton's offices.

The appearance of Sir John Slingsby and Dr. Miles did not seem at all
palateable to the two other magistrates and their clerk, if one might
judge by the superlative courtesy of their reception. A chair was
placed immediately for the reverend gentleman, Mr. Stumpforth vacated
his seat for Sir John as president of the magistrates, and Mr.
Wharton, with malevolent sweetness, expressed his delight at seeing
Sir John amongst them again.

"You did all you could to prevent it," said Sir John, taking the
chair, "but it would not do, Wharton. Now, gentlemen, what are you
about? we will not interrupt business."

"There are a good many cases down," said Mr. Wharton; "some of them
excise-cases, some of them under the poor-law, some of them--"

"Well, let us get through them, let us get through them," cried Sir
John, interrupting him, "for we have business, too, which must be
done.

"We must take things in their order," said Mr. Wittingham, drily.

"Oh, yes, according to the ledger," cried Sir John Slingsby, laughing;
"every thing in the regular way of trade, Wittingham, eh? Who's this?
James Jackson, the publican," he continued, looking at the paper;
"well, Wittingham, how does the debtor and creditor account stand with
him?"

Mr. Wittingham winced, but replied nothing; and the case was regularly
taken up. Some nine or ten others followed; and certainly every thing
was done by the two magistrates who had been found sitting, and their
exceedingly excellent clerk to tire out Sir John Slingsby and Dr.
Miles, by protracting the investigation as long as possible. The poor
persons, however, who had been compelled by the power of paper or
parchment to appear in the awful presence of justice, had reason to
thank their stars and did so most devoutly, that the number of
magistrates was increased to four. A number of cases were dismissed as
frivolous; very lenient penalties were inflicted in other instances;
and, if the real truth were told, the person who suffered the severest
punishment under the proceedings of that day was no other than Mr.
Wittingham, upon whom Sir John Slingsby continued to pour for two long
hours all the stores of sarcasm which had accumulated in his bosom
during the last fortnight. At length the magistrates' paper was over,
and worthy Mr. Wittingham showed an inclination to depart; but Sir
John Slingsby stopped him, exclaiming,

"Stay a bit, Wittingham, stay a bit, my good Sir. The case with which
we have now to deal you have already nibbled at; so you must have your
share of it."

"I am ill, Sir John," said Mr. Wittingham, "I am not fit."

"Not fit I have long known you to be," rejoined Sir John, and then
added in a murmur, "for any thing but a tall stool at the back end of
a slopseller's shop; but as to being ill, Wittingham, you don't
pretend to be ill. Why your complexion is as ruddy as if you had
washed your face with guineas out of your strong box. However it is
this business of Captain Moreton and his falsification of the register
at Moreton church that we have to deal with."

"I have already disposed of that," said Mr. Wittingham, sharply, "and
I am not disposed to go into it again."

But it was now Mr. Wharton's turn to attack Mr. Wittingham.

"You have disposed of it, Sir," he exclaimed, with all the blood in
his body rushing up into his face; "the falsification of the registers
of Moreton church! why, I never heard of this!"

"There was no reason that you should," answered Mr. Wittingham,
tartly; "you are not a magistrate, I think, Mr. Wharton; and besides,
you might in some degree, be considered as a party interested.
Besides, you were absent, and so I sent for Bacon and dealt with the
matter myself."

"Fried his bacon and deviled the attorney," said Sir John Slingsby,
with a roar, "you see he is such an active creature, Wharton, he must
be doing whether right or wrong. I declare he cuts out so much matter
for the bench in reversing all his sage decrees, that the rest of the
magistrates can scarcely manage it."

"I did not come here to be insulted, Sir John Slingsby," said Mr.
Wittingham, the jaundiced yellow of his face gradually becoming of an
olive green, "I did not come here to be insulted, and will not stay
for such a purpose; I expect to be treated like a gentleman, Sir."

"Wonderful are the expectations of man," exclaimed the baronet, "just
as much might a chimney-sweeper expect to be treated like an
archbishop, because he wears black--but let us to business, let us to
business, if we go on complimenting each other in this way we shall
not get through the affair to-night, especially with your lucid
assistance, Wittingham; for if there be a man in England who can so
stir a puddle that the sharpest eyes shall not be able to see a lost
half-crown at the bottom, you are the man."

Up started the worthy magistrate, exclaiming in a weak voice and
bewildered air,

"I will not stay, that man will drive me mad."

"Impossible," shouted Sir John Slingsby, as Mr. Wittingham staggered
towards the door; and he then added in a lower tone, "fools never go
mad, they tell me;" but Doctor Miles, who saw that old Wittingham was
really ill, rose from his seat, and crossing the room, spoke a word or
two to the retreating magistrate, which he was not allowed to finish,
for old Wittingham pushed him rudely aside and darted out of the room.

Before I proceed to give any account of the further inquiries of the
three magistrates who remained, I shall beg leave to follow Mr.
Wittingham to his own house. About two hundred yards' distance from
the justice-room he stopped, and leaned for a minute or two against a
post, and again paused at his own gate as if hardly able to proceed.
He reached his own dwelling, however, and after several attempts, with
a shaking hand, succeeded in thrusting his private key into the lock
and opening the door. The hall was vacant; the whole house still;
there was neither wife nor child to receive and welcome him; no
kindred affection, no friendly greeting to soothe and cheer the sick
old man, whose pursuits, whose hopes, whose tendencies through life
had been totally apart from the kindly sympathies of our nature. But
there are times, steel the heart how we may, when a yearning for those
very kindly sympathies will come over us; when the strong frame
broken, the eager energies quelled, the fierce passions dead and still
within us, the strong desires either disappointed or sated, leave us
alone in our weakness, to feel with bitter regret that there are
better things and more enduring than those which we have pursued; and
when the great moral lessons, taught by decay, are heard and listened
to for the first time, when perhaps it is too late to practise them.
That lonely house, that silent hall, the absence of every trace of
warm life and pleasant social companionship, the dull, dead stillness
that pervaded every thing had their effect upon Mr. Wittingham, and a
sad effect it was. All was so quiet and so still; all was so solemn
and so voiceless; he felt as if he were entering his tomb. The very
sunshine, the bright sunshine that, streaming through the fanlight
over the door, fell in long rays upon the marble-floor, had something
melancholy in it, and he thought "It will soon shine so upon my
grave." What was to him then the satisfaction of the greedy love of
gold, that creeping ivy of the heart, that slowly growing, day by day,
chokes every softer and gentler offspring of that on which it rests?
What was to him the gratification of that vanity, which was all that
the acquisition of wealth had satisfied? Nothing, all nothing. He
stood there friendless, childless, companionless, alone; sick at
heart, disappointed in all those expectations he had formed, having
reaped bitterness from the very success of his labours, and finding no
medicine either for the heart or the body in the gold he had
accumulated or the station he had gained.

He paused there for a moment, whilst a deep and bitter anguish of the
regret of a whole life took possession of him, and then staggering on
into the trim, well-arranged, cold and orderly library, he sunk into
one of the arm-chairs by the side of the fireless hearth and rang the
bell sharply. For two or three minutes no one appeared, and then he
rang again, saying to himself,

"There never were such bad servants as mine; ay, ay, it wants a
mistress of a house," and he rang again furiously.

In about a minute after the door opened, and Mrs. Billiter appeared,
and Mr. Wittingham inquired, angrily, why nobody came at his summons?
The housekeeper replied,

"That she thought the footman had come, but finding the bell ring
again she had hastened up herself."

Mr. Wittingham's rage was then turned upon the footman, and after
denouncing him in very vehement terms and condemning him to expulsion
from his household, his anger either worked itself off, or his
strength became exhausted, and he sat for a moment or two in silence,
till Mrs. Billiter quietly began to move towards the door.

"Stay, Billiter," he cried; "what are you going for? I tell you I am
ill, woman, very ill."

"I was going to send for Mr. Slattery," said Billiter, in a cold tone;
"I saw you were ill, Sir."

"Send for the devil!" exclaimed Mr. Wittingham, "that fellow Slattery
is no good at all. Here have I been taking his soap-pills and his
cordial-boluses for these three weeks, and am no better but rather
worse. I will go to bed, Billiter--get me a cup of hot coffee--I feel
very ill indeed."

"You had better see some one," said Mrs. Billiter, "for you don't look
right at all, and it would take some hours to get another doctor."

"Well, well, send for the man if it must be so," said Mr. Wittingham,
"but he does nothing but cram one with potions and pills just to make
up a long bill. Here, help me upstairs, I will go to bed, and bring
me a cup of strong coffee--I declare I can scarcely stand."

As soon as Mr. Wittingham was safely deposited in his room, Mrs.
Billiter descended to the kitchen, and sent the housemaid at once for
Mr. Slattery, taking care to spend as much time as possible on the
preparation of the coffee, not judging it by any means a good beverage
for her master, in which she was probably, right. The surgeon,
however, was so long ere he appeared, that she was obliged to carry up
the coffee to Mr. Wittingham, whom she found retching violently, and
complaining of violent pains. He nevertheless drank the coffee to the
last drop, in the more haste as Mrs. Billiter expressed an opinion it
would do him harm; after having accomplished which he sank back upon
his pillow exhausted, and closed his eyes. The colour of his skin was
now of a shade of deep green, approaching to black under his eyes, and
the housekeeper, as she stood by his bedside and gazed at him, thought
to herself that it would not last long. It must not be pretended that
she was in any degree greatly affected at the prospect of her master's
speedy demise, though she had lived in his service very many years,
for he was not one to conciliate affection in any one, and her
meditations were more of how she could best serve the graceless lad,
whose disposition she had assisted to ruin, than of his father's
probable fate.

While she thus paused and reflected, the quick, creaky step of Mr.
Slattery was on the stairs, and the moment after he entered the room,
rubbing gently together a pair of hands, the fingers of which were fat
and somewhat red, though very soft and shapeless, presenting the
appearance of four long sausages and a short one. He had always a
cheerful air, Mr. Slattery, for he fancied it comforted his patients,
kept up their spirits, and prevented them from sending for other
advice. Thus he would stand and smile upon a dying man, as if he had a
real and sincere pleasure in his friend's exit from a world of woe;
and very few people could discover from the worthy gentleman's
countenance whether a relation was advancing quietly towards recovery
or the tomb. Thus with a jaunty step he approached Mr. Wittingham's
bedside, sat down, and as the sick man opened his eyes, laughed
benignantly, saying,

"Why, my dear Sir, what is all this? You must have been agitating
yourself," and at the same time he put his fingers on the pulse.

"Agitated myself!" cried Mr. Wittingham, "it is that old bankrupt
brute, Sir John Slingsby, has nearly driven me mad, and I believe
these servants will finish it. Why the devil do you leave my wig
there, Billiter? Put it upon the block; don't you see Mr. Slattery is
sitting upon it?"

"Well, I declare," cried the surgeon, "I thought I felt as if I were
sitting upon a cat or something of that kind. But, my dear Sir, you
must really keep yourself quiet or you will bring yourself into a
feverish state. The pulse is hard and quick now, and your skin is very
hot and dry. We must make a little addition to the soap pill, and I
will send you directly a stomachic cordial-draught, combined with a
little narcotic, to produce comfortable sleep."

He still kept his fingers on the pulse, gazing into the sick man's
eyes, till Mr. Wittingham could have boxed his ears, and at length he
said,

"The draught must be repeated every two hours if you do not sleep, so
that you had better have somebody sit up with you to give it you."

"I will have no such thing," said Mr. Wittingham, "I can't bear to
have people pottering about in my room all night; I can take the
draughts very well myself if they are put down by me."

"But they must be shaken before taken," said Mr. Slattery.

"Well, then, I can shake them," said Mr. Wittingham; and the worthy
surgeon, finding his patient obstinate, gave up the point. He
proceeded to ask a variety of questions, however, to which he received
nothing but gruff and grumbling replies, the worthy gentleman
principally insisting upon receiving something which would relieve the
great pain he felt in his side. Thereupon Mr. Slattery undertook to
explain to him all the various causes which might produce that pain;
but the confused crowd of gall-bladders and gall-stones, and indurated
livers, and kidneys, and ducts, and glands, conveyed very little
tangible information to the mind of his hearer, and only served to
puzzle, alarm, and irritate him. At length, however, the surgeon
promised and vowed that he would send him all manner of remedies for
his evils, and spoke in such a confident tone of his being better on
the next day, or the day after, that he left him more composed. The
housekeeper followed Mr. Slattery out of the room, but did not think
fit to make any observation till they reached the foot of the stairs,
when she touched Mr. Slattery gently on the arm and beckoned him into
the dining-room, "He seems in a bad way, Sir," said the housekeeper.

"A case of jaundice, Mrs. Billiter," replied the surgeon, raising his
eyebrows, "which is never very pleasant."

"But I want to know if there is any danger, Mr. Slattery," continued
Mrs. Billiter, "it is very necessary that people should be aware."

"Why, there is always danger in every disease," answered the surgeon,
who abominated a straightforward answer to such questions; but then,
bethinking himself, and seeing that it might be better to be a little
more explicit, he added, "Jaundice, even the green, or black jaundice,
as it is sometimes called, which your master has, is not in itself by
any means a dangerous disease; but there are accidents, which occur in
the progress of an illness, that may produce very fatal results,
sometimes in a moment. This is by no means uncommon in jaundice. You
see the cause of that yellow, or green tint of the skin and eyes is
this, either in consequence of biliary calculi, or the construction
of the ducts leading from the gall-bladder, or pressure upon the
gall-bladder itself. The bile is prevented from flowing, as it
naturally does, into the intestinal canal."

"Lord 'a mercy," cried Mrs. Billiter, "what do I know of all such
stuff? I never heard of people having canals in their inside before,
or ducks either, except when they had eaten them roasted; and that
I'll swear my master hasn't for the last two months. Gall he has, sure
enough, and bitterness too, as the scripture says."

"Wait a moment, wait a moment, and you will see it all clearly
directly," said the worthy surgeon. "As I have said, the bile being
thus prevented from flowing in its natural course is absorbed into the
vascular system; and, as long as it is deposited merely on the mucous
membrane, showing itself, as we see, in the discolouration of the
cuticle, no harm ensues; but the deposition of the smallest drop of
bile on the membranes of the brain acts as the most virulent poison on
the whole nervous system, and sudden death very frequently follows,
sometimes in five minutes, sometimes in an hour or two. Now this was
the reason why I wished you to sit up with him to-night; but, as he
wont hear of it, it can't be helped; and one thing is certain, that
even if you were there, you could do no good, should such a thing
occur; for I know no remedial means any more than for the bite of a
rattlesnake."

"I wish he would see his son," said Mrs. Billiter, "but you told him
he would be better to-morrow or the next day, and so there is no hope
of it; for, unless he is frightened out of his wits, he would fly into
a fury at the very name of the thing."

"Well, wait till to-morrow, wait till to-morrow," said Mr. Slattery,
"and if I see that it won't hurt him, I will frighten him a bit. I
don't see that there is any danger just at present, if he keeps
himself quiet; and he must not be irritated on any account. However,
if I were you, I would be ready to go to him directly, if he rings his
bell; and in the meantime I'll send him the composing draught."

Notwithstanding Mr. Slattery's composing draughts, Mr. Wittingham
passed a wretched night. He was feverish, heated, full of dark and
horrible fancies, hearing the blood going in his head like a mill, and
thinking of every thing that was miserable within the whole range of a
not very extensive imagination. He bore it obstinately, however, for
some hours, taking the potions by his bedside, within even less than
the prescribed intervals, but finding no relief. At length he began to
wonder, if people would hear him when he rang. He found himself
growing weaker and more weak; and he suffered exceeding pain, till
darkness and the torture of his own thoughts became intolerable; and,
stretching out his hand, he rang the bell about three o'clock in the
morning. The old housekeeper, who had remained dressed close at hand,
was in his room in a moment; and Mr. Wittingham felt as much pleased
and grateful, as it was in his nature to feel. She did her best to
soothe and comfort him; and, just as the light was coming in, the
sedative medicines, which he had taken, began to produce some effect;
and he fell into a heavy sleep. Nevertheless, when Mr. Slattery
visited him, he found no great improvement; but a warm bath produced
some relief. The worthy surgeon began to fancy, however, from all the
symptoms that he saw, that he was likely to lose a patient of some
importance; and he judged that it might be as well to establish a
claim upon that patient's successor. He therefore determined to take
the advocacy of Harry Wittingham's cause upon himself; and, in order
to prepare the way for what he had to say in the evening, he gave the
worthy gentleman under his hands a significant hint, that he was in a
good deal of danger.

Mr. Wittingham heard the announcement in silence, closed his eyes,
compressed his lips, and seemed more terribly affected than the worthy
surgeon had at all expected. He therefore judged it best to throw in a
little consolation before he proceeded further, and he continued in a
soothing and cajoling tone:

"I know you to be a man of strong mind, my dear Sir, and not likely to
be depressed at the thought of a little peril. Therefore, if I had
thought the case hopeless, I should have told you so at once. It is
not so, however, at all; and I only wished to warn you, that there was
some danger, in order to show you the necessity of keeping yourself
quite quiet and taking great care."

Mr. Wittingham answered not a word; and, after a very unpleasant
pause, the surgeon took his leave, promising to come again in the
evening.

When he did return, Mr. Slattery found his patient wonderfully
composed as he thought. Nevertheless, there was an awkward something
about the pulse, a sort of heavy suppressed jar, which did not make
him augur very favourably of his prospects. As he sat by the bedside
with his fingers upon the wrist and his eyes half shut, as if
considering all the slightest indications which might be afforded by
that small agitated current that beat and quivered beneath his touch,
what was Mr. Slattery reflecting upon? Not Mr. Wittingham's state,
except as far as it was to influence his conduct in a non-medical
capacity. He said to himself--or thought, which is the same thing,
"This old gentleman will go. He has not stamina to struggle with such
a disease. As I can do little for the Wittingham present, I way as
well do what I can for the Wittingham to come. If I show myself his
friend, he may show himself mine; and though perhaps the discussion
may make life's feeble tide ebb a little faster, it is not much matter
whether it be low water half an hour sooner or later."

Mrs. Billiter, however, did not happen to be in the room at the
moment, and Mr. Slattery resolved to have a witness to his benevolent
proceedings. He therefore asked numerous questions, and discussed
various important points affecting the sick man's health till the good
housekeeper appeared. He then gradually led the conversation round to
young Harry Wittingham, remarking that he had had a long drive since
the morning, and speaking of Buxton's Inn, as one of the places at
which he had called.

"By the way, I did not see your son, my dear Sir," he added, "he was
out. Indeed he may be considered as quite well now, and only requires
care of himself, kind attention from others, and a mind quiet and at
ease."

Mr. Wittingham said not a word, and Mr. Slattery mistook his silence
entirely. "I now think, my dear Sir," he continued, "that it would be
a great comfort to you if you would have him home. Under present
circumstances it would be advisable, I think, I do indeed."

Then the storm burst, then the smothered rage broke forth with fearful
violence. I will not repeat all Mr. Wittingham said, for a great deal
was unfit for repetition. He cursed, he swore, he gave Mr. Slattery
over to perdition, he declared that he would never let his son darken
his doors again, that he had cast him off, disinherited him, trusted
he might come to beg his bread. He told the surgeon to get out of his
house and never to let him see him again; he vowed that he was glad he
was dying, for then that scoundrel, his son, would soon find out what
it was to offend a father, and would understand that he could not make
his peace whenever he pleased by sending any pitiful little pimping
apothecary to try and frighten him into forgiveness. In vain Mr.
Slattery strove to speak, in vain he endeavoured to excuse himself, in
vain he took a tone of authority, and told his patient he would kill
himself, if he gave way to such frantic rage. Again and again Mr.
Wittingham, sitting bolt upright in bed, with a face black and green
with wrath and jaundice, told him to get out of the house, to quit the
room, to close the books and strike a balance; and at length the
surgeon was fairly driven forth, remonstrating and protesting, unheard
amidst the storm of his patient's words.

Mrs. Billiter did not think fit to follow him, for she knew her master
well, and that his ever ready suspicions would be excited by the least
sign of collusion. Besides, she was not altogether well pleased that
Mr. Slattery had thought fit to take the business out of her hands
without consulting her, and made as she termed it, a fine kettle of
fish of the whole affair. Thus she acted perfectly honestly, when Mr.
Wittingham turned upon her as soon as the surgeon was gone,
exclaiming,

"What do you think of all this, woman? What do you think of his
impertinence?"

And she replied, "I think him a meddling little fool, Sir."

"Ay, that he is, Billiter, that he is!" answered Mr. Wittingham, "and
I believe he has tried to frighten me, just to serve his own purposes.
But he shall find himself mistaken, that he shall.--He has done me
harm enough, though--putting me in such a passion. My head aches as if
it would split," and Mr. Wittingham pressed his hand upon his
forehead, and sunk back upon his pillow.

By this time night was falling fast; and Mrs. Billiter retired to
obtain lights; when she returned, Mr. Wittingham seemed dozing,
exhausted, as she thought, by the fit of passion, to which he had
given way. Sitting down, therefore, at a distance, she took up a book
and began to read. It was one of those strange, mystical compositions,
the product of a fanatical spirit, carried away into wild and daring
theories regarding things wisely hidden from the eyes of man, in
which, sometimes, by one of the strange contrarieties of human nature,
the most selfish, material, and unintellectual persons take great
delight. It was called the "Invisible World Displayed," and it had
been lately bought by Mr. Wittingham, since he had fallen into the
melancholy and desponding state, which usually accompanies the disease
he laboured under. For more than an hour Mrs. Billiter went on reading
of ghosts, and spirits, and phantoms, and devils, till her hair began
to stand erect under a thick cushion-cap. But still there was a sort
of fascination about the book which carried her on. She heard her
master breathing hard close by; and more than once she said to
herself, "He's getting a good sleep now, at all events." At length she
began to think the sleep lasted somewhat long; and, laying down the
book, she went and looked in between the curtains. He had not moved at
all, and was snoring aloud; so, as the clock had struck eleven she
thought she might as well send the other servants to bed, resolving to
sit up in his room and sleep in the great chair. About a quarter of an
hour was occupied in this proceeding, and in getting some refreshment;
and, when she returned, opening the door gently, she heard the same
sonorous breathing; and, seating herself again, she took up the book
once more, thinking: "I dare say he will wake soon; so I had better
not go to sleep, ere I have given him the other draught." Wonderful
were the tales that she there read, of people possessed of miraculous
warnings, and of voices heard, and of apparitions seen in the dead
hour of night. Tarningham clock struck twelve, whilst she was still
poring over the pages; but, though she was a good deal excited by what
she read, fatigue and watching would have their effect; and her eyes
became somewhat heavy. To cast off this drowsiness, she rose and
quietly put the room in order; then sat down again, and had her hand
once more upon the book, when suddenly the heavy breathing stopped for
a minute. "He is going to wake now," said Mrs. Billiter to herself;
but scarcely had the thought passed through her mind, when she heard a
sudden sort of rattling and snorting noise from the bed; and, jumping
up in alarm, she ran forward, and drew back the curtain. The light
fell straight upon the face of the sick man; and a horrible sight it
presented. The features were all in motion; the eyes rolling in the
head; the teeth gnashing together; foam issuing from the mouth; and
the whole limbs agitated, so that the bed-clothes were drawn into a
knot around him. Mr. Wittingham, in short, was in strong convulsions.
Mrs. Billiter was, naturally, greatly alarmed; and her first impulse
was to run to the door to call for help; but suddenly a new view of
the case seemed to strike her: "No, I won't," she said, and, going
back, she got some hartshorn, and applied it to Mr. Wittingham's
nostrils, sprinkled some water on his face, wet his temples, and did
every thing she could think of to put an end to the fit. It continued
violently for several minutes, however; and she thought, "Perhaps he
ought to be bled; I ought to send for Slattery, I do believe;" but at
that moment the spasm seemed relaxed; the contorted limbs fell
languid; a calm expression spread over the features; the eyelids fell
heavily, rose, and fell again; and though the fingers continued to
grasp the bed-clothes, it was with no violence. "He is getting
better," said the housekeeper to herself. The next moment the motions
of the hands ceased; a sharp shudder passed over the whole frame; the
chest heaved and fell; then came a deep sigh; and the eyes opened; the
jaw dropped; all became motionless; there was not a sound. Mrs.
Billiter listened. Not the rustle of the lightest breath could be
heard. She held the candle close to his eyes; the eyelids quivered
not; the pupil did not contract. A cold, damp dew stood upon the
sunken temples; and all was still but the silence of death. She set
down the candle on the chair, and gazed at him for two or three
minutes, almost as motionless as the dead body before her; then,
suddenly starting, she said in a low tone: "There is no time to be
lost; I must think of the poor boy; for he was a hard-hearted old man;
and there is no knowing what he may have done. She pressed her hand
upon her forehead tight for a minute or two, in deep thought; then
putting the candle on the table at a distance from the bed-curtains,
she went out, ran up stairs, and called up the footman, waiting at his
door till he came out.

"Master is very ill, John," said Mrs. Billiter; "I don't think he will
get through the night, so you must run up--"

"And bring down Mr. Slattery," said the footman, interrupting her.

"No," answered the housekeeper, "Slattery said he could do no good;
and master and he had a sad quarrel, but you must go and call Mr.
Harry. Tell him to come down directly, and not to lose a minute."

"I had better take the horse," said the man, "for Buxton's Inn is a
good bit of a way."

"He is not at Buxton's Inn," answered Mrs. Billiter, "but at Morris's
little cottage on Chandleigh-heath. You can take the horse if you
like, but be quick about it for Heaven's sake. It is a clear,
moonlight night, and you can gallop all the way."

"That I will," said the man, and ran down stairs.

Without calling any one else, Mrs. Billiter returned to the chamber of
death, looked into the bed for a moment or two and saw that all was
still. She knew he was dead right well, but yet it seemed strange to
her that he had not moved. There was something awful in it, and she
sat down upon a chair and wept. She had not loved him; she had not
esteemed or respected him; she had known him to be harsh, cruel, and
unkind, but yet there was something in seeing the life of the old man
go out solitary, untended by kindred hands, without a friend, without
a relation near, with bitterness in his spirit and enmity between him
and his only child, that moved the secret sources of deep emotion in
the woman's heart and opened the fountain of tears.

While she yet wept, she heard the horse's feet pass by towards
Chandleigh-heath, and then for about an hour all was silent. Buried in
deep sleep, the inhabitants of the little town knew not, cared not,
thought not of all that was passing in the dwelling of their rich
neighbour. At length a distant sound was heard of hoofs beating fast
the hard road; it came nearer and nearer; and starting up, Mrs.
Billiter ran down stairs with a light in her hand and opened the
hall-door. The next moment she heard the garden-gate opened, and a
figure came forward leading a horse.

Casting the rein over the beast's neck and giving it a cut with the
whip to send it towards the stables, Harry Wittingham sprang forward,
ran up the steps, and entered the house. His face was not pale but
flushed, and his eyes fiery.

"Ah, Master Harry," said Mrs. Billiter, as soon as she saw him, "he is
gone."

"Gone!" exclaimed Harry Wittingham, "do you mean he is dead?"

"Yes," answered the old woman; "but come up, Sir, come up, there is
much to be thought of."

Without a word the young man stood beside her, whilst she closed and
locked the door, and then followed her up stairs to his dead father's
room. She suffered him to gaze into the bed for a minute or two, with
haggard eyes and heavy brow, but then she touched his arm, saying,

"Master Harry, Master Harry, you had better think of other things just
now; he was very hard upon you, and I can't help thinking tried to do
you wrong. Four or five days ago he wrote a great deal one afternoon,
and then told me afterwards 'he had remembered me in his will.' You
had better see what that will is--he kept all the papers he cared most
about in that table-drawer--the key hangs upon his watch-chain."

With shaking hands Harry Wittingham took up the watch, approached the
table and opened the drawer with the key. There were several papers
within and different note-books, but one document lay at the top with
a few words written on the outside, and the young man instantly took
it up, opened and began to read it. Mrs. Billiter gazed at him,
standing at a distance, with a look of anxiety and apprehension. When
he had read about a dozen lines his face assumed a look of terrible
distress he dropped the paper from his hand, and sinking into a chair,
exclaimed,

"Good God, he thought I shot at him!"

"But you didn't? you didn't, Master Harry?"

"I?--I never thought of it!" exclaimed Harry Wittingham.

Mrs. Billiter ran forward, picked up the paper, and put it in his hand
again.

"There's a large fire in the kitchen to keep water hot," she said in a
whisper; "all the maids are in bed, and the man has not come back yet,
but he won't be long--be quick, Master Harry, be quick."

The young man paused, gazed thoughtfully at the paper for a moment or
two, then took up the light and hurried out of the room.



CHAPTER XXXIX.


We must go back to an early hour of that same Sunday morning, and to
the cottage of Stephen Gimlet, near the little church. Both Stephen
himself and his mother-in-law had risen betimes; and the boy was still
sleeping in his bed. The old lady spent three-quarters of an hour in
writing an epistle, with her spectacles on her nose; while her
son-in-law ate his breakfast; and when the act of composition was
over, she folded up in the letter an old piece of paper, partly
printed, partly written, the very same in fact, which had flown out of
her family Bible one morning, when poor Billy Lamb, coming in, had
found the book in the hands of Stephen Gimlet's little boy. She then
added thereto an old, somewhat crumpled, and well-worn letter, first
reading over the address attentively, got a light and a small piece of
red sealing-wax, sealed the letter, and stamped it with the end of her
thimble.

"There, Stephen," she said, giving the letter to her son-in-law, "he
is back now, that's certain; take that up to him, and tell him, that
if he wants to hear any more about it, I can give him information of
the whole. I know all the names, and I believe the minister is alive
still.--I would not go out of the house, if I were you, till I saw
him; and, if by any chance he should not be come down yet, I would
hang about and catch him, when he arrives; for it is only just right
he should know how the whole matter stands, before he goes any
further."

"I won't miss him this time, goody," said Ste Gimlet; "so you and the
boy get your dinner, if I should not come back in time. I am very
uneasy at its not having been done before; for we poor people cannot
tell what may become of such things with great folks, and after all
you tell me, I am very sure, that blackguard fellow Moreton is not
hanging about here for any good."

Thus saying, Stephen Gimlet put the letter carefully up, and went
away, as usual, with his gun in his hand, and his dog following. It
was not yet more than half-past five o'clock; and, recollecting that
the servants of Sir John Slingsby were not very matutinal in their
habits, the gamekeeper thought he might as well go upon one of his
rounds, which led him near to Chandleigh Heath, and see if he could
get any inkling of Captain Moreton's proceedings. He walked slowly
along up the lane from his own house, crossed the high-road from
Tarningham to London, and then taking a path across the fields, soon
came to another lane, which led him to a sandy way, having a high
hedge with elm-trees on the left, and Chandleigh Heath on the right.
It was sunk down some way beneath the rest of the country, so as to
give no prospect over the common; but, a couple of hundred yards
further on, a footpath went up over the bank and divided into two,
something after the fashion of a bird's merrythought, one branch
leading to an old tumulus, topped with firs, and the other, which was
much shorter, running down to the cottage inhabited by Captain
Moreton. About twenty yards before he reached this turning, the dog,
which followed at Stephen Gimlet's heels, began to growl in a somewhat
angry manner; and the gamekeeper turned round to look in what
direction the beast's eyes were bent. Before he could ascertain,
however, a man suddenly sprang over the hedge, and cast himself upon
him, seizing the barrel of his gun with both hands. A fierce struggle
ensued; for Stephen Gimlet at once perceived who his adversary was;
and the gamekeeper, though taken unawares, was decidedly getting the
better, when he suddenly found his arms seized from behind, and a cord
passed quickly round them. The next instant the cord was drawn tight
in spite of all his efforts; but at the same moment he had the
satisfaction of hearing the voice of Harry Wittingham exclaim: "Damn
the dog, he has bit me to the bone;" and, as his legs were free, he
made so strenuous an application of his thick-nailed shoes to the
shins of Captain Moreton, that the respectable gentleman let go his
hold; and, darting away, Stephen Gimlet ran forward, as fast as he
could, in the hope of meeting some one, who would render him
assistance. I have said, that his assailants sprang upon him from
behind; and, consequently, the only paths open for the fugitive were
those which led towards the cottage or to the tumulus on the heath. In
the latter direction he was not likely to find any one to help him;
but down the lane, which passed close by the cottage, were a number of
poor men's houses, the inhabitants of which usually went out to work
about that hour. It is a pity that Stephen Gimlet did not recollect
that it was Sunday; but so it was; and the good labourers were taking
an additional nap to refresh them after the toils of the week. No one
knows how much one limb aids another, even in the peculiar functions
of the latter, till some deprivation has taken place. Now, at the
first consideration, we should say, that a man did not run with his
arms; but yet the arms help a man very much in running; and Stephen
Gimlet soon found to his cost, that he could not run as he was
accustomed to do, without them. He was much swifter of foot than
either of those who followed; but yet, by the time that he had got
three hundred yards down the lane, they had recovered their hold of
him and thrown him down. In fact, it was a great convenience to them,
that he had run; for every step that he had taken was in the direction
which they had intended to carry him; and when they overtook him, he
was not thirty yards from the garden-gate of the cottage. He was
easily dragged along for that distance, brought into the house, and
put into a room, which had been constructed by the retired hosier for
what he called the butler's-pantry, though it is by no means to be
understood that he ever had, or expected to have, such a thing as a
butler, or any thing the least like it. Nevertheless, as the room was
destined to contain a certain amount of silver spoons, tea-pots, and
other little pieces of the precious metal, strong bars had been put up
to the windows; and the butler's-pantry now formed a very convenient
little cage for the bird, which the two gentlemen had caught out upon
the common.

Before they shut the door upon him, Mr. Henry Wittingham made some
proposal to Captain Moreton in a low voice, to which the other
replied:

"No, no; he'll make an outcry and wake the women; and then we shall
have it all over the place. You can lick him well before we let him
out, if you like. Let us attend to the main business first, and,
having got him in, keep him in; nobody knowing any thing about
it.--Good morning, Master Wolf; you shall have some bread-and-water,
if you like, but nothing else for the next four-and-twenty hours."

Stephen Gimlet answered not; and it is to be remarked, that--whether,
because he thought that shouting would be of no use, or that he chose
to imitate the beast, whose name he had acquired, in its taciturn
habits under adversity--not a word had he uttered from the beginning
of the fray until the end. He suffered the door to be shut upon him in
silence; and while he remained revolving what was to be done, or
whether any thing could be done, his two captors retired to the little
drawing-room, where they sat down and laughed for a moment at the
success of their scheme. Their first merriment, however, soon gave way
to some uneasy sensations. Captain Moreton rubbed his shins, which had
suffered considerably from the contact with Stephen Gimlet's shoes.
Harry Wittingham unceremoniously pulled off his boot, and found his
whole stocking stained with blood, and the marks of four large fangs
very apparent in the heel and tendon.

"Come along with me," said Captain Moreton, when he saw his
companion's state; "we'll get a little salt and water; you shall wash
your heel with it, and I will wash my shins, for that d--d fellow has
kicked all the skin off--salt and water is the best thing in the
world."

While they go to perform the part of surgeons upon themselves, I will,
with the reader's leave, return to speak of one of the actors in the
scene of Stephen Gimlet's capture, who has not had as much notice as
he deserves. The dog, who had followed him from his own cottage, after
having paid due attention to the heel of Mr. Wittingham, and received
a severe kick for his pains, gave chase to the pursuers of his master
down the lane, tore Captain Moreton's coat with a spring and a snap;
but then suddenly, as if he saw that his own unassisted efforts could
do little, and judged, that it might be right to seek assistance, he
darted off at a right angle across the common, with his head hanging
down, his tongue out, and some angry foam dropping from his mouth. He
ran straight through a farm-yard on the opposite side of the heath,
bit at a woman who was going to milk the cows, but only tore her
apron, wounded the farmer's dog with a sharp snap, went clear over the
wall and straight on toward Tarningham, biting at every living thing
that came in his way, but never stopping to ascertain whether he had
inflicted much or little evil. This misanthropical spirit soon called
the attention of the people, and excited their indignation. They gave
the poor dog a bad name; and, though no one could be found to
undertake the exact task of hanging him, they followed with
pitchforks, sticks, shovels, stones, and a very miscellaneous
assortment of other weapons, such as pokers, tongs, &c.; and, driving
him into the court-yard of the mayor's house at Tarningham, succeeded
in killing him without doing any other further mischief.

Such is the tragic history of Stephen Gimlet's poor dog; but of none
of the particulars were Captain Moreton and Harry Wittingham made
acquainted at the time; for both those gentlemen thought fit to keep
themselves strictly to the house during the whole morning. Of much and
many things did they talk; they comforted the outward man, as had been
proposed, with salt and water; they comforted the inner man with
toast, coffee, eggs, and broiled ham. The broiled ham left them
thirsty; and at twelve o'clock they tried to assuage such unpleasant
sensations by a glass of cold brandy-and-water; and, finding that not
succeed according to their expectation, they tried another glass hot.
After that, Harry Wittingham declared he felt tired and sleepy with
getting up so early, and retired to lie down for a time; but he
continued sleeping in a broken sort of confused slumber for between
three and four hours, when he was roused by hearing some very high
tones, and apparently sharp words proceeding from the neighbouring
room. Without difficulty he recognised the voices of Captain Moreton
and his fair companion, who had seemed in no very good humour when he
supped with him the night before; but he could not distinguish the
subject of dispute on the present occasion; and, looking at his watch,
he found that it was past four o'clock. Knowing that the dinner-hour
at the cottage was five, he washed his face and hands, arranged his
hair, as best he might, and went down to the drawing-room, still
hearing the strife of tongues raging in the adjoining room.

It was some quarter of an hour before Captain Moreton joined him; and
he was then informed by his worthy friend, that dinner would be half
an hour later that day, as the maid had been sent to Buxton's Inn, for
the purpose of ordering a chaise to be at the door at nightfall.

This announcement startled Harry Wittingham a good deal.

"But where the devil are you going to, Moreton?" he inquired; "you are
not going to leave me alone with this fellow, are you?"

"Only for a short time, Mr. Wittingham," answered Captain Moreton, in
his easy, nonchalant way, "not long enough for him to eat you, or for
you to eat him. You know what obstinate devils these women are; and I
have got to do with the most pigheaded of the whole race. The fact is,
Wittingham, we have got in our hands, if we do but use it properly,
the means of having full revenge upon one or two good friends of ours;
amongst the rest, that fellow, who, as you ought to remember, was
second to Captain Hayward in his duel with you, Mr. Beauchamp, he
calls himself."

"Why, I hear he has turned out a Lord Lenham, and is going to marry
old Sir John's pretty daughter."

"Exactly so," answered Captain Moreton, drily; "but if he doesn't
mind, his wedding tour will be a different one to what he expects;
however, I have the greatest difficulty in preventing my fair friend
Charlotte from spoiling the whole business; for she is in one of her
violent fits, and then she gets as mad as a March hare. She and I must
act together; but I must not appear in the business; for you see there
are two or three little things that the people might bring against me.
I have resolved, therefore, to get over to Winterton, till to-morrow's
work is blown over; for she will be present to witness the marriage,
do what I can to stop her. As the mischief would have it, however, I
threatened to blow the whole matter up, if she would not submit to
management; and so she will not let me out of her sight, threatening
at the same time to cut my throat, or some pretty little thing of that
kind by way of making herself a pleasant companion. However, she must
go with me, that's clear, and come over in a chaise tomorrow to the
wedding. If she does not spoil all, and this man here can be kept in,
we have got them completely in our power."

"Why, what in fortune's name can he have to do with Lord Lenham's
marriage?" asked Harry Wittingham.

"I don't know, exactly," answered Captain Moreton, musing gravely;
"but I have a good many suspicions about him, which it won't do to
mention just yet. All I ask, is to have him kept in here, till after
the marriage is over; and you will have nothing further to do with it,
than to keep the key of the room and prevent any of the girls from
going in. By so doing you will punish him ten times more than if you
licked him for an hour. I know you are not given to be afraid of any
thing; but, if people should make a fuss about it, it is very easy to
say you did it, to punish him for knocking you down the way he did."

Harry Wittingham smiled; and the moment after Captain Moreton
continued: "Here she comes, by Jove; I'll get out of the way for the
present, and cram some meat down that fellow's throat without untying
him. You'll stay, Wittingham, won't you? I shall be back to-morrow
night."

"Why, I must stay, I suppose," said Harry Wittingham; "for good old
Dame Billiter thinks I shall be here till to-morrow night; and I
expect her to send me up some money, if she can get it."

Captain Moreton did not wait for any thing further than this assent,
but disappeared by the right-hand door; and the moment after, the fair
lady, whom I have so often mentioned, entered by the other. Her face
was somewhat redder than usual; but that was the only sign of
agitating passions that could be discovered in her demeanour. Her step
was calm, stealthy, and cat-like; her eyes looked cold and flat, with
a meaningless sort of glassy glare about them, as if purposely covered
by a semi-opaque film to veil what was passing beneath. She looked
slowly round the room, without taking any notice of Mr. Wittingham,
though she had not seen him that day; and, walking round to the
mock-rosewood sofa, she sat down in silence and took some papers out
of the drawer of the table. Harry Wittingham wished her good morning,
and addressed to her some commonplace observation, to which she
replied with a forced smile, and then busied herself with her papers
again. When Captain Moreton re-entered the room about a quarter of an
hour afterwards, a sudden fierce gleam came into her eyes and passed
away again; but she uttered not a word; and, dinner being announced
soon after, she took Mr. Wittingham's arm and walked into the small
dining-room. When the meal was over, and she left the gentlemen to
their wine, she passed by Captain Moreton's chair, and bending down
her head, she said in a low voice, but loud enough for Mr. Wittingham
to hear:

"Remember, Moreton, remember! You know me!"

Captain Moreton only laughed, though the words were said with a
threatening manner; and, as soon as she was gone, he plied Harry
Wittingham with wine, which was followed by brandy-and-water; and in
the pleasant occupation thus provided, the two worthy compeers
continued to exercise themselves, till the sky grew grey, and the roll
of a chaise was heard before the garden.

"There, Wittingham," cried Captain Moreton, starting up, "there's the
key of the little cellar--small enough, but there's sufficient in it
to lay you dead-drunk for a fortnight. There's the key of the cage,
too; keep the bird safe till ten or eleven o'clock to-morrow. I will
try to keep my grey mare in hand; and, if we can manage both,
you will hear some news tomorrow night, that will make you laugh
heartily--Farewell, my good fellow," and going to the door, he shouted
aloud, "Where's the portmanteau?"

"I put it in the shay, Sir," said the girl; and, turning once more to
Harry Wittingham, Captain Moreton told him that he should see him
before ten the following night, and went to seek his fair companion.

In a few minutes more they were gone; but the gentleman they left
behind did not see any reason why he should not finish the bottle of
wine on the table, "just to take the taste of the brandy out of his
mouth." After that he fell asleep in an armchair; and so sound was his
slumber, that the maid came in twice and looked at him; but seeing
that there was no probability of his waking for some hours, she put a
fresh pair of candles on the table, and went to bed.

Harry Wittingham slept and dreamed: He thought he had committed some
horrible act, that the hue and cry was raised, the whole county in
pursuit, and that he could hear the galloping of horses coming close
after him. He struggled to spur his own beast forward, but its legs
would not move; and, looking down with horror and consternation, he
found it was a rocking-horse with little bells at its ears and its
tail. Suddenly a constable seemed to grasp him by the shoulder; and,
starting up in agony, he found the servant-girl shaking him.

"Please, Sir," she said, "Mrs. Billiter has sent up the man to say,
that your father is dying, and you must go down directly."

Without a moment's thought or consideration, Harry Wittingham ran out,
snatched up his hat in the passage; and, telling the man to follow on
foot, mounted the horse and rode away to Tarningham.



CHAPTER XL.


The sun shone bright in Stephen Gimlet's cottage for a couple of hours
after dawn, till about an hour before evening's close. For the first
three or four hours the same sunshine seemed to pervade the interior
house, that glowed without. Widow Lamb seemed contented with what she
had done; her meek face wore as warm a smile as ever now shone upon
it; and she busied herself during the morning in all the little
household arrangements, and in teaching the boy his letters. The boy
himself played about merrily, whilst she was occupied with the
inanimate things of the place, and then came and said his letters,
infamously ill, indeed, but still somewhat better than usual. When the
sun got round to his southern-most point, Widow Lamb, not at all
surprised at her son-in-law's absence, as its probability had been
announced beforehand, gave the boy his dinner, and took a very
moderate portion of food herself; but, when the day had three or four
hours declined from its prime, she wondered that Stephen had not come
back, and, at the end of an hour, grew somewhat uneasy. She consoled
herself, however, by supposing, that Lord Lenham had not yet returned
from London, and that Stephen was waiting for his arrival; but another
hour passed, and another; and at length her son, Billy Lamb, made his
appearance, inquiring somewhat anxiously for his brother-in-law.

Mrs. Lamb simply told him, that Stephen was out, adding that he had
been away all day.

"It is droll I haven't seen him," said the boy, "but I dare say he is
vexed about his dog."

"Why, what has happened to the dog?" asked Widow Lamb. "He took it out
with him this morning early."

"Ay, but the people of Tarningham killed it for a mad dog," said Billy
Lamb, "I dare say the poor beast was not mad at all. I saw it
afterwards and knew it directly; but I have seen nothing of Stephen."

"He is up at Sir John's," said Widow Lamb, "and I dare say is waiting
till the young lord comes down from London."

"No, that can't be, mother," replied her son, "for the gentleman came
down yesterday evening; one of our post-boys drove him."

"That's very odd," said Widow Lamb, "I wonder Stephen has not come
back then. I hope nothing's the matter."

"Oh, dear no," replied the deformed lad; "you know Ste was always fond
of wandering about, and would, at times, be out for a couple of days
together; but I wanted to tell him that I have found out nothing about
that Captain Moreton, except that he is going away from the cottage
somewhere to-night. I did not see him myself, when I took up the
letters to him to-day; but the servant-girl told she had been sent up
to Buxton's Inn to order a chaise, and that it was to be down there
just at nightfall."

"Ay, ill birds fly at night," said Widow Lamb; "but I wish Stephen
would come home, for he has been now gone well-nigh twelve hours."

"Oh, he is safe enough, mother," reiterated her son, "it is not like
if it were night-time, or winter either--but I must get back; for
there will be all the supper-beer to carry out;" and, after a few more
words, he departed.

Hour after hour, however, went by; and Stephen Gimlet did not appear,
till the good old lady's apprehensions increased every minute. She put
the boy to bed and sat up and watched; but eight, nine, ten o'clock
came, and no one approached the cottage-door. A terribly anxious night
was that which followed; and, though about midnight Widow Lamb went to
bed, sleep did not visit her eyes for some hours. She lay and revolved
all, that could have happened. She was anxious for her son-in-law;
anxious for the result of his mission to Beauchamp; and she had
resolved to set off early on the morrow morning for Tarningham Park,
taking the boy with her. At about half-past three, however, weariness
overpowered the old woman, and she slept. Her frame was not very
strong; and, exhausted with both watching and anxiety, the slumber
that fell upon her was profound and long. The first thing that awoke
her was the little boy pulling her by the arm and saying, "Granny,
granny, you are a sluggard now, as you called me the other day. I am
very hungry, I want my breakfast."

Widow Lamb started up, and looking at her old round watch in its
tortoiseshell-case, she saw that it was half-past seven o'clock. Vexed
and angry with herself, she hurried on her clothes, and proceeded to
give the boy some food, urging him to hasten his meal, as she was
going to take him a walk. The temptation was strong, and at about a
quarter past eight they were out of the cottage, and on the way to
Tarningham Park. She heard village-bells ringing merrily, as on a day
of festival; but Widow Lamb's heart was sad. The whole country was
smiling in the morning light; but, though to a fine mind the beauties
of nature never lose their charm, yet to the old there is, at all
times, a melancholy mingled with the pleasure they produce; and to the
spirit cast down with apprehension, or affliction, the very loveliness
becomes a load. The boy lingered, and would fain have played by the
way; but his grandmother hurried him forward as fast as his little
legs could carry him; and they reached the mansion of Sir John
Slingsby a few minutes before nine. There were carriages already at
the door. Servants were seen bustling about; but all were too busy to
take notice of the old widow and the little boy, till, going into the
court-yard, she addressed herself to one of the helpers in the stable,
whom she had seen and known, and told him her apprehensions about her
son-in-law.

The man kindly undertook to make inquiries, and let her know the
result; and leaving her there for some minutes, he came back shortly
after with the butler, who told her, that Stephen Gimlet had certainly
not been there the day before. "I can't stop to talk with you, goody,"
he said, in an important tone; "for you see Miss Slingsby is just
going to set out, to be married to Lord Lenham; but, as soon as they
come back from church, I will tell Sir John; and depend upon it he
will have Stephen sought for."

"If I could speak with Lord Lenham for one minute," said Widow Lamb;
but the man interrupted her, laughing. "You must go down to
Tarningham, then, goody," he said, "for his lordship slept there last
night; or else you can go down to the church of Little Tarningham,
where, I dare say, he is waiting by this time; or, what is better than
all, wait here till they come back; and I'll give Ste Gimlet's little
boy a bit of bride-cake."

As he spoke, he hurried back again into the house; and Widow Lamb
paused and thought, with the tears in her eyes; but at length she said
aloud, "I will go down to the church;" and, taking the little boy by
the hand, who did not at all like the idea of losing the bride-cake,
she hurried out of the gates of the court, and pursued one of the
small footpaths leading towards Little Tarningham. She was within
fifty yards from the park paling, when Sir John Slingsby's carriages
drove past at a quick rate; and Widow Lamb, though little able from
much exertion, hurried her pace, till the boy was forced to run, to
keep up with her. The church, as the reader knows, was at the distance
of somewhat less than half a mile; and, when Widow Lamb reached it,
there stood before the gates of the little churchyard, two or three
handsome carriages and one post-chaise. Passing quickly along the path
through the cemetery, the old woman approached the door, which was
ajar, and heard the full sonorous voice of Dr. Miles reading the
marriage-service. She pushed open the door gently and went in. There
were a great number of people in the church, collected from Tarningham
and the neighbourhood, some in the little gallery, where they could
see best; some in pews in the body of the church; and one or two in
the aisle. The latter, however, did not prevent the old lady from
seeing straight up to the altar, around which was congregated the
bridal party, with Beauchamp and Captain Hayward on the one side, and
Sir John Slingsby with his family on the other. Just as Widow Lamb
entered, Dr. Miles, standing before the altar, was saying aloud, "I
pronounce that they be man and wife together."

It was evident the ceremony was nearly over; the marriage in fact
completed. The benediction was then given, and the psalm said; and,
after all those parts of the service, which are usually read,
Beauchamp drew the arm of Isabella through his own and led her down
the aisle towards the little vestry which stood on the right hand side
of the church. The people in the pews rose up to look over; but, to
the surprise of many, one of the pew-doors opened, before the
newly-married couple had taken two steps; and a lady issued forth,
and, turning her face towards the altar, stood right in the way of the
advancing party. Her eye fixed straight upon Lord Lenham, flashing and
fierce; her lip curled with a smile of contemptuous triumph, while her
brow appeared knit with a heavy frown. At the same moment a voice,
which some persons near recognised as that of Mr. Wharton, the
attorney, exclaimed from the pew which the lady had just left, "Now
she has spoiled it all."

But what was the effect of this apparition upon those in whose
presence it so suddenly appeared? Beauchamp staggered and turned
deadly pale; and Isabella recoiled in alarm from that menacing look
and flashing eye, saying in a low tone, "Good Heaven, who is this?"

"Who am I, girl?" said the lady, aloud, "I will tell you who I am, and
let him deny it if he can. I am this man's lawful wife whom you have
just married--look at his face, pale, dastard conscience is upon it.
He is well aware of the truth that I speak and the crime that he has
committed."

But Beauchamp instantly recovered himself, and while a dead silence
prevailed in the whole church, he put Isabella's hand into her
father's, advanced a step towards the person before him, and fixing
his eyes firmly upon her, he said,

"Charlotte Hay, you have laid once more a dark and horrible scheme to
injure me. By cunning artifices and long concealment you have taught
me to believe you were dead for some years, and have waited for this
moment for your revenge--you know it, you dare not deny it--but you
may yet find yourself deceived. In one point you are already deceived;
for, doubtless, judging from your own heart, you imagine I have
concealed previous events from this lady and her family. Such is not
the case; and now you force upon me that which I have always avoided,
the trial whether there ever was any marriage at all between myself
and you."

"Avoided it, because you knew it could not be questioned," answered
the lady, scornfully. "Your father and yourself took lawyers' opinion
enough, and the reply of every one was that the marriage was perfectly
good and valid."

"Not worth a straw," said a voice behind her, and turning round with
the look of a demon the eyes of Charlotte Hay lighted on Widow Lamb,
who had walked quietly up the aisle at the commencement of this scene.
For a moment or two she gazed at her as if striving to recall her
face, and then gave a short scream, muttering afterwards to herself,

"I know who has done this, I know who has done this!"

"What is this, my good woman?" cried Mr. Wharton, stepping out of the
pew, and putting himself at the side of Charlotte Hay.

Sir John Slingsby was darting forward towards him with wrath in his
countenance, but Doctor Miles held him by the arm, and Widow Lamb
replied boldly,

"What I said, Mr. Wharton, was that this lady's pretended marriage
with Lord Lenham, then Mr. St. Leger, was no marriage at all."

"But why? were you present? what can you know about it? are you one of
the judges of the ecclesiastical court?" asked Mr. Wharton, with
amazing volubility.

"I am no judge, and was not present though I was in the house,"
answered Widow Lamb; "but it was no marriage at all, and I can prove
it, so you need not be terrified, dear young lady, for you are his
lawful wife at this very moment."

Charlotte Hay turned towards Isabella with a look of withering scorn,
and exclaimed,

"You may be his concubine, girl, if you like, but you can never be his
wife as long as I live."

"I say she is his wife," cried Widow Lamb, indignantly, "just as much
as you are the wife of Archibald Graham, the minister of Blackford, my
husband David Lamb's first cousin. You thought all trace of that
marriage was removed; you knew not that there are people living who
witnessed the marriage; you knew not that I had your marriage lines
now in my possession, and a letter from your real husband written long
after Captain Moreton took you away from him, and after your pretended
marriage with this gentleman."

"Produce them, produce them," cried Mr. Wharton, "let us see what
these wonderful documents are. Such papers often turn out mere
moon-shine in a court of law."

"At all events, Sir, this church is not a court of law," said Dr.
Miles, advancing, "such matters must not be argued here, and I must
remark that if this lady had any just cause to oppose this marriage
she was bound to state it when called upon in the solemn manner which
the ritual prescribes. How the fact of her not having done so may
affect the legal questions implicated is not for me to say, but I must
declare that her not having tendered her opposition at the proper
moment was highly wrong, and does not give a favourable impression of
her case."

The lady turned her fierce eyes upon the rector, and then glared over
the rest of the party, but seemed without a reply, for she made none.
Mr. Wharton came to her assistance with a falsehood, however.

"The lady was too much overpowered, Sir, to speak," he said, "and I
was not formally authorised by her to do so. But as to this old woman,
I demand that the documents she mentions be produced, for I have every
reason to believe that this is a mere pretext, in fact a case of fraud
originating in conspiracy, and I shall not scruple to give the good
lady into custody if I can find a constable, unless she instantly
produces the documents." He looked full at Widow Lamb while he spoke,
and then added, "Have you got them? can you produce them?"

"I have not got them here," answered the old woman in a faltering
tone, somewhat alarmed at the threat of a man who had ruined her
husband, "but they are safe enough, I am sure, and they shall be
produced whenever there is a trial."

"Oh, oh!" cried Mr. Wharton, "what time to manufacture them! But I
will take care of you, my good lady. I will see for a constable
directly, and--"

"Nonsense, you rogue!" cried Sir John Slingsby, "you know very well
that such a thing is out of the question. You can manufacture no
charge upon such a ground, whatever others may manufacture."

"Rogue, Sir John," cried Mr. Wharton, furiously, "that man is the
rogue who does not pay his just debts, and you know whether the name
applies best to me or to you."

"To you, lawyer Wharton," said Stephen Gimlet, coming up the aisle,
"there, hold your tongue, for I heard all your talk with Captain
Moreton this morning, and how you settled all your differences upon
his promising you what you called a _post obit bond_, to pay you five
thousand pounds upon the death of Lord Harcourt Lenham. There, Goody
Lamb, there is the letter you gave me yesterday; I'll tell you how it
all happened that I could not deliver it by-and-by."

"Here are the papers, here are the papers!" cried the widow, tearing
open the letter; "here are the marriage lines, as the people call them
in Scotland, between Charlotte Hay and Archibald Graham, and here is
poor Archy's letter to my husband written long after."

"You had better get into the chaise and go," whispered Mr. Wharton to
the lady, who now stood pale and trembling beside him, and then
raising his voice as if to cover her retreat, he continued: "take
notice, Sir John Slingsby and all persons here present, that I charge
the noble lord there with the crime of bigamy in having intermarried
with Isabella Slingsby, his wife Charlotte Hay being still living, and
that I at once pronounce these things in the old woman's hands merely
forgeries got up between her and Viscount Lenham while he was staying
at the cottage of her son-in-law Stephen Gimlet, _alias_ Wolf. You
will act as you like, Sir John, but it is only a friendly part to say
that if you have any regard for your daughter you will separate her at
once from one who is not and cannot be her husband."

Thus saying he walked with a well-assured air to the door of the
church, neither turning to the right nor to the left, but the moment
he turned away Ned Hayward quitted the side of Mary Clifford, and
with a quick step followed the lawyer. He let him pass through the
churchyard and open the gate, but then going up to one of the
post-boys standing by Beauchamp's carriage, the young officer said,

"Lend me your whip one moment."

The man at once put it in his hand, and the next instant it was laid
over Mr. Wharton's shoulders some five or six times with rapid and
vigorous reiteration.

"I think the price is five pounds," said Ned Hayward, nodding his head
to the smarting and astounded attorney; "it is cheap, Mr. Wharton, and
perhaps I may require a little more at the same price. Good morning,"
and he re-entered the church, while the servants and post-boys gave a
grand shout, and Mr. Wharton sneaked away vowing vengeance for a
future day.



CHAPTER XLI.


"Come into the vestry," said Dr. Miles, in a low tone to Beauchamp,
"you have many things, my lord, to consider; and we have here the eyes
of a multitude upon us, the ears of a multitude around us."

"You had better go back to the park," said Sir John Slingsby, who had
overheard the good old rector's words, "there we can talk the matter
over at leisure."

"The register must first be signed," said Dr. Miles, gravely, "for
whatever be the result, the ceremony has been fully performed--come,
my lord. The circumstances are, undoubtedly, very painful; but it
seems to me they might have been much worse."

With slow steps and sad hearts the whole party followed; Isabella,
pale as death, looking down upon the ground, and Beauchamp with his
lip quivering and his brow contracted, but his step firm and regular,
as if the very intensity of his feelings had, after the first moment,
restored him all his energies. As they passed through the vestry-door
Isabella raised her eyes for an instant to his, and saw the deep
dejection which was written on his countenance. She touched his arm
gently to call his attention, and said, as he bent down his head,

"Do not be so sad, you have nothing to reproach yourself with."

"That is some consolation, dear girl," replied Beauchamp, in a low
voice, "but still I must be sad. How can it be otherwise, when I have
to part with you for a time even at the very moment I call you my
own?"

Isabella did not reply, but her cheek varied, first glowing warmly,
then becoming deadly pale again.

"Where is Ned Hayward?" exclaimed Sir John Slingsby, looking round,
"where the devil have you been, Ned?" he continued, seeing his young
friend coming in at the vestry-door.

"I have been horsewhipping Wharton," answered Ned Hayward, in an
indifferent tone; "but now, Lenham, what are you going to do in this
business?"

"To go to London directly," answered Beauchamp, "and bring this matter
to an issue at once."

"Pooh, the woman is not married to you at all!" cried Sir John
Slingsby, "the whole thing is a farce; still I think you are right."

"I am quite sure you are," said Ned Hayward, "and I will go with you,
if you will let me, Lenham. But first we must talk with good Widow
Lamb; examine these papers of hers accurately; ascertain exactly all
the circumstances and be prepared with every sort of evidence and
information. Cheer up, cheer up, my dear lord. Honour and
straightforward dealing always set these things right at last. Shall I
call in the old woman? she is standing out there by the vestry-door."

"By all means," said Dr. Miles, "it may be as well to make all these
inquiries here, and determine at once what is to be done. The crowd of
gaping idlers from Tarningham will disperse in the meantime--sit down
here, Isabella, and be firm, my child, God does not desert those who
trust and serve him."

While he was speaking, Ned Hayward had beckoned Widow Lamb and Stephen
Gimlet into the vestry, and Dr. Miles, taking the papers from the old
woman's hands, examined them carefully.

"The very appearance of these documents," he said, at length, "puts
the idea of forgery, or at least, recent forgery, quite out of the
question. No art could give all the marks of age which they present.
But we can have another and a better assurance, I believe, than the
mere look of the papers--"

"But what are they, what are they, doctor?" asked Sir John Slingsby,
"I have not yet heard the exact import of either."

Isabella moved nearer to the clergyman while he explained, and all
other eyes were fixed eagerly upon him.

"This first and most important document," he said, "purports to be
what is called in Scotland the marriage lines of Archibald Graham,
student in divinity, and Charlotte Hay, the daughter of Thomas Hay, of
Green-bank, deceased, within the precincts of Holyrood--which means, I
suppose, that he died in debt. The paper--I have seen such before--is
tantamount to a marriage-certificate in England. The marriage appears
to have been celebrated in one of the parishes of Edinburgh, and I
have lately had cause to know that very accurate registers are kept in
that city, so that the authenticity of the document can be ascertained
beyond all doubt."

"But the date, the date?" cried Beauchamp.

"The date is the 4th February, 18--," said Dr. Miles, "just thirteen
years ago last February."

"Nearly two years before the execution of their villanous scheme
against me," said the young nobleman; "so far, at least, all is
satisfactory, but what is the other paper?"

"Hardly less important," replied Dr. Miles, whose eye had been running
over the contents while he conversed, "but it will require some
explanation. I would read it aloud, but that some of the terms are
more plain and straightforward than ladies' ears are accustomed to
hear. It is signed Archibald Graham, however, dated five years ago,
and addressed to David Lamb, who died in Tarningham some two years
back. He speaks of his wife Charlotte, and tells his cousin that he
hears she is still living in adultery with Captain Moreton. He says
that as her seducer's property is somewhere in this neighbourhood she
is most likely not far distant, and begs David Lamb to seek her out,
and beseech her, upon Christian principles, to quit her abandoned
course of life. The good man--and he seems a really good man--says
further, that although he can never receive or see her again, he is
ready to share his small stipend with her in order that she may not be
driven by poverty to a continuance in vice; but he seems to have been
ignorant of her pretended marriage with Lord Lenham--at least, he
makes no allusion to it."

"That was because he never knew it, Sir," said Widow Lamb; "I beg
pardon for speaking, but the way it all happened was this. Old Mr. Hay
had spent all he had and had taken to Holyrood to avoid his creditors.
Archy Graham, who was then studying divinity in Edinburgh, had been
born not far from Green-bank, and finding out Mr. Hay, was very kind
to him and his daughter. Though he was not very rich himself--for he
was only the son of a farmer well to do--he often gave the old laird
and the young lady a dinner when they could have got one nowhere else,
and when Mr. Hay was taken ill and dying, he was with him every day
comforting him. He paid the doctors, and found them food and every
thing. When the old man died the young lady was left without any means
of support. At first she thought of teaching, for she had learned all
kinds of things in other times, but people were not very fond of her,
for she had always been too gay for the Scotch folks, and there was
something flighty in her way that was not liked. It was need, not love
or gratitude either, I believe, that made her marry poor Archy Graham.
Soon after he got the parish of Blackford, and went there to have the
manse ready, leaving his wife in Edinburgh. He was only gone six
weeks, but he never saw her again, for when he came back to take her
to her new home, he found that she had been receiving the visits of a
very gay gentleman for some time, and had, in the end, gone away with
him in a phæton about a week before he arrived. Eight or nine months
after that a gay young lady came to stay on a visit at old Miss
Moreton's, with whom my poor husband David Lamb was greeve, or what
you call steward in England. I had gone down with her as her maid, and
had married the steward about eight years before, for my poor girl
Mary was then about seven years old. We saw this Miss Hay, as she
called herself, very often, but never thought she was the runaway wife
of my husband's cousin. Indeed, we knew little of the story till long
after. Captain Moreton was generally at his aunt's house, though he
often went away to England, and we all said he was going to marry the
pretty young lady, if they were not married already, as some thought.
But then he brought down his cousin Mr. St. Leger with him, and soon
after we heard of the marriage by consent when Mr. St. Leger had drank
too much, and about his going away in haste to England, and we all
said that it was a great shame, though we did not know it was as bad
as it was. About four months after old Miss Moreton died, and one day
the captain came down in great haste to my husband and told him a long
story about his being on the point of selling the property; but that
he would take good care, he said, that David Lamb should not be out of
employment, for his father, the Honourable Mr. Moreton, would take him
as steward if he would go up to Turningham directly. My husband said
it would be better for him to stay on the ground till Miss Moreton's
estate was sold, but the captain seemed in a great hurry to get us
off, for he said that his father was very anxious to have a Scotch
bailiff as they farmed so well, and he promised all kinds of things,
so that what with one persuasion or another we were away in a week to
Edinburgh, to take ship there for England. There we met with Archy
Graham, who afterwards came to visit us, and he and my husband had a
long talk about his unfortunate marriage, all of which I heard
afterwards; but David Lamb was a man of very few words, and he did not
mention to his cousin any thing about our having seen his wife at old
Miss Moreton's, though it seems the minister was even then going down
there to try and separate her from Captain Moreton, for he had found
by that time who it was that took her away, and it was because he had
written, several letters to the gentleman, and threatened to come
himself directly, that the captain was in such a hurry to get us away
to England."

"I do not understand why your husband did not tell the whole truth,"
said Dr. Miles, gravely, "it might have saved great mischief, Mrs.
Lamb."

"I know that, Sir," replied the widow, "but there are great
differences in the way men think of such things. I asked my husband
afterwards why he did not mention all about the marriage with Mr. St.
Leger, but he said he wanted to hear more about it before he opened
his mouth to any one; that he was not sure they had set up this law
marriage as a real marriage at all; and that it might be only a sort
of joke, so that if he spoke he might do more mischief than was
already done. I knew him to be a very prudent, thoughtful man, very
sparing, too, of his words, and it was not for me to blame or oppose
him."

"Very true, Mrs. Lamb, very true," said Dr. Miles.

"Well, your reverence," continued the widow, "he did try to hear more
of the business as soon as he had time to think of any thing but
himself and his own affairs; for, poor man, when he came here he found
that old Mr. Moreton had no occasion for a bailiff at all; and knew
nothing at all about him. We were going back to Scotland, again, after
having spent a mint of money in coming up to London and then down
here; but my husband fell ill of rheumatic fever, and for six months
was confined nearly to his bed. All--or almost all that we had saved
was gone, and we had to try for a livelihood here as we best could. We
did better than might have been expected for some time, and David made
many inquiries in regard to his cousin's wife and her second marriage
with Mr. St. Leger; but he only heard that the young gentleman was
travelling, and that they had certainly never lived together. Then
came the letter from Archy Graham; and my husband, whose health was
failing, consulted me about it, and I said, that at all events, it was
a pity Mr. St. Leger or Lord Lenham, as he was by that time, should
not know all the truth, for no one could tell how needful it might be
for him to prove that he was never really married to Charlotte Hay,
and David wrote back to his cousin, asking him to send him up proofs
of his marriage with the lady. So that brought up the marriage lines,
and I have kept them and the first letter ever since my husband's
death."

"And is Archibald Graham still living?" asked Beauchamp, who had been
listening with painful attention.

"He was living not two years ago," answered Widow Lamb; "for he wrote
to me at the time of my husband's death, and sent me up ten pounds to
help me. Poor David had not neglected what he thought of doing, when
he asked for the proofs; but we could hear nothing of you, my lord.
You had been very kind to my poor boy, and I always put my husband in
mind of the business, so that he wrote to you once, I know, saying
that he had important information for you if you could come to
Tarningham."

"I recollect," said Lord Lenham, "such a letter followed me into
Italy; but I did not recollect the name, and thought it but a trick of
that unhappy woman."

"Well, my lord, the case seems very clear," said Doctor Miles; "but
your immediate conduct in this business may require some
consideration. Perhaps we had better all go up to the park and talk
the matter over with Sir John at leisure."

"No, my dear Sir," answered Beauchamp in a firm tone, "my conduct is
already decided. If you please, we will just walk to your house for a
few minutes, I dare say all the people are gone by this time. Come,
Isabella, there will be peace for us yet, dear one;" and he gave his
arm to his bride, who drew down her veil to hide the tears that were
in her eyes.

All the party moved forward but Sir John Slingsby, who lingered for a
moment, and laid his hand kindly upon the widow's arm. "You are a good
woman, Mrs. Lamb," said the old baronet, "a very good woman; and I am
much obliged to you. Go up to the park, Mrs. Lamb, and take the little
boy with you. I'll come up and talk to you by-and-by; but mind you
tell the housekeeper to take good care of the little man, and give him
a hunch of bride-cake. I don't think there will be much eaten in the
house by any one else. You go up too, Ste, and wait till I come."

When Sir John followed to the rectory, which was somewhat slowly, he
found the rest of the party in the rector's drawing-room. Now the
house was built upon a plan not uncommon, and very convenient for
studious bachelors like Dr. Miles. The drawing-room on the right side
of the entrance hall opened by folding doors into a library, which
formed a right angle with it running along the back front of the
house--for houses have contradictions as well as human beings, and I
may add many a man has a back front to his character as well as many a
house. The library occupied one-half of that side, the dining-room the
other half; the offices all the left of the entrance hall and the
staircase the centre.

Beauchamp, at the moment of the baronet's entrance, was speaking to
Dr. Miles and Ned Hayward in the bay window, Isabella was seated at
some distance, with her hand in her aunt's, and Mary Clifford was
leaning tenderly over her. But the position of all parties was soon
changed.

"The sooner the better, then," said Dr. Miles, in answer to something
Beauchamp had said, and turning away, the young nobleman approached
Isabella, and took her hand, saying, "Speak with me one moment, love."

Isabella rose, and her husband led her into the library, and thence to
the dinning-room, leaving the doors open behind him. "Dearest
Isabella," he said, "forgive me for all the terrible pain I have
caused you--but you know it was that I was deceived, and that for the
world I would not have inflicted such distress upon you
intentionally."

"Oh, I know it, I know it," said the poor girl, her tears flowing
fast.

"But out of evil springs good, dear Isabel," continued Beauchamp, "by
this day's misery and anxiety, I trust we have purchased peace and
happiness for the future. Yet for me, my beloved, remains one more
painful effort. Till the decision of the law is pronounced upon all
the circumstances of this case, I must leave you, dear girl. No
happiness that your society can give me must induce me to place you in
a doubtful position. I must leave you, then, my dear Isabella, my
bride, my wife, even here almost at the steps of the altar; but I go
to remove every obstacle to our permanent reunion, and I trust in a
very few weeks to clasp you to my heart again, mine beyond all
doubt--mine for ever. I knew not, dear girl--I hardly knew till now,
how dearly, how passionately, I loved you, but I find from the
difficulty of parting with you, from the agony of this moment, what it
is to love with the whole heart. That very love, however, requires me
to go. Therefore, for a short, a very short, time, farewell, my love;"
and he threw his arms around her, and pressed one kiss upon her lips.

"Oh, do not go, do not go yet," said Isabella, clinging to him. "Oh, I
was so happy this morning, Henry, I felt quite oppressed with it. I am
sure there is a dizziness of the heart as well as of the brain--but
now I shall go home and weep all day!"

"Nay, do not do that, dear girl," said Beauchamp, "for our parting is
but for a short time, beloved. Every one judges that I am right in
going. Do not let me think my Isabella thinks otherwise, do not render
more bitter what is bitter enough already, by a knowledge that you are
suffering more than is needful. Cheer thee, my Isabella, cheer thee,
and do not give way to grief and apprehension, when our fate is
lightened of half of its weight, by the certainty, the positive
certainty, that there is no serious barrier between us."

"I will try," said Isabella, "I will try; and I believe you are right,
but still this is all very sad," and the tears poured down her face
afresh.

When Beauchamp came forth, however, Isabella came with him, and was
calmer; but she would not trust herself to speak till he was gone. The
parting was then soon over. Ned Hayward, called up the carriage, gave
some directions regarding his own baggage to Sir John Slingsby's
servants, and bade farewell to Mary Clifford and the rest. Beauchamp
once more pressed Isabella's hand in his, and hurrying out sprang into
his carriage, Ned Hayward followed, and one of the post-boys,
approaching the side after a servant had shut the door, touched his
hat, and asked, "Will you go by Winterton or Buxton's inn, my lord?"

"By Winterton," answered Beauchamp, mechanically, and in another
minute the carriage was rolling on.

For about twenty minutes Sir John Slingsby remained talking with Dr.
Miles, and then the party which had set out from Tarningham Park, so
happy and so gay, not two hours before, returned sad and desolate.
Even the old baronet's good spirits failed him, but his good humour
did not; and while Isabella retired with Mary to her own room, he
called Widow Lamb and Stephen Gimlet into his library, after having
assured himself that the little boy was taken good care of by the
housekeeper, he repeated his sage commendation of the old woman's
conduct, saying "You are a good woman, Widow Lamb, a very good woman,
and you have rendered very excellent service to us all this day. Now I
am not so rich as I could wish to be just now; but I can tell you what
I can do, and what I will do, Widow Lamb. Stephen, here, has his
cottage as keeper. It is a part of his wages at present; but I might
die, you know, or the property might be sold, Widow Lamb, and then
those who came in might turn him out. Now I'll give you a lease of the
cottage and the little garden, and the small field at the side--they
call it the six acres field, though there are but five acres and two
roods, and the lease shall run for your two lives. You may put in the
little man's life too, if you like; and the rent shall be crown a
year, Widow Lamb. I'll have it done directly. I'll write to Bacon to
draw the lease this minute," and down sat Sir John Slingsby to his
library table.

"I beg your pardon, Sir," said Stephen Gimlet, approaching with a
respectful bow, "but I think it would be better not to give the lease
just yet, though I am sure both I and Goody Lamb are very much
obliged; but you recollect what that bad fellow, attorney Wharton,
said about the papers being forged, and if you were to give us any
thing just now, he would declare we were bribed; for he is a great
rascal, Sir, as I heard this morning."

"You are right, yon are quite right, Stephen," replied Sir John
Slingsby; "and Wharton is a great rascal. I am glad that Ned Hayward
horsewhipped him; I dare say he did it well, for he is a capital
fellow, Ned Hayward, and always liked horsewhipping a scoundrel from a
boy. But what was it you overheard this morning, Stephen? I hope you
were not eavesdropping, Ste. That is not right, you know."

"Not I, Sir John," answered the gamekeeper, "but I could not help
hearing. I'll tell you how it all was in a minute. Yesterday morning I
was coming over here with the papers which Goody Lamb gave me for Lord
Lenham; but I took a bit of a stroll first, and just when I was close
upon Chandleigh Heath, Captain Moreton jumped out of a hedge upon me
in front, and young Harry Wittingham pinioned my arms behind, and
before I could do any thing for myself, they had a rope tight round my
elbows, and got me away to the lone cottage, where they shut me up in
a room with bars to the windows, and kept me there all day and all
last night. I did not sleep much, and I did not eat much, though the
captain crammed some bread into my mouth, and gave me a pail of water,
out of which I was obliged to drink like a horse; but they never
untied my arms. However, I heard a good deal of going about, and a
carriage-wheels, and some time after--it must have been twelve or one
o'clock at night--there was a great ringing at the bell, and people
talking, and I heard young Wittingham's voice, and then some one
galloped away on horseback. But nobody came to let me out, and I sat
and looked at the day dawning, wondering when all this would come to
an end. I looked long enough, however, before I saw a living soul,
though about six I heard people moving in the house. About an hour
after I saw poor Billy Lamb out of the window, creeping about in the
garden as if he was on the look out for something, and I put my foot
to one of the panes of glass, and started it in a minute. That was
signal enough for the good lad, and he ran up and put his face to the
window, whispering to me to make no noise, for Captain Moreton had
just come in in a gig, and had met Mr. Wharton at the door, and they
were both in the drawing-room together. I was not going to stay there,
however, like a rat in a trap a minute longer than needful; so as soon
as I found that Bill had his knife in his pocket, I made him put his
arm through the broken pane, and cut the cords round my elbows. I then
got his knife to open the door, but the one I came in by was bolted as
well as locked, so I couldn't get out that way. But there was another
door at the side, and I forced the lock back there soon enough. That
let me into the dining-room which had two doors too. Through one of
them I could hear people talking loud, and the other was locked. I
could not manage to open it, and though I had a great longing to go in
and give Captain Moreton a good hiding, yet as they were two to one,
and I was half-starved, I thought it might not turn out well, and
stayed quiet where I was. Then I heard them talking, and Wharton said
he could hang the captain; and I thought it very likely. But the
captain said to do that would put nothing in Wharton's pocket, and he
had better take his _post obit_, as he called it, for five thousand
pounds, which would give him a chance of something, and come over with
him to Winterton, and keep the lady quiet if she would go to the
church. There was a good deal of dirty haggling about it, but I made
out that the woman whom he called Charlotte was going to be at the
wedding, and that she had a great spite at his lordship, and I guessed
all about the rest from what Goody Lamb had told me. So as soon as
they had gone off in the gig together, which was not more than two or
three minutes after, I walked out through the drawing-room,
half-scared the servant girl into fits, and came away to little
Tarningham church, sending Billy Lamb up to my cottage. That is the
whole story, Sir."

The old baronet commended his keeper highly, and vaticinated that
attorney Wharton would be hanged some day, in which, however, he was
mistaken, for that gentleman lived and prospered; and his tombstone
assures the passer by that he died universally regretted and
respected!

The day passed heavily at Tarningham Park, and Isabella remained all
the morning in her own room. It was a very bitter cup that she had to
drink; for to apprehension and disappointment was added another
painful sensation. To her it was inexpressibly distressing to be made
the talk of the common public, She had felt that the very announcement
of her marriage in the public newspapers, the gazing crowd in the
church, the spectacle and the rumour in fact which attend such events,
were any thing but pleasant. But now to be the topic of conversation,
the object of tales and rumours, to be pitied, commiserated, perhaps
triumphed over--be even slandered, added deeply to all she suffered
both on Beauchamp's account and her own. However, she made a great
effort to conquer at least the natural expression of her feelings. She
knew that her father, her aunt, her cousin, all felt deeply for her,
and she was resolved to cause them as little pain as possible by the
sight of her own. She washed away all traces of tears, she calmed her
look, she strove not to think of her mortification, and at the
dinner-hour she went down with a tranquil air. Her room was on the
side of the house opposite to the terrace, and the principal entrance,
but she had to pass the latter in her way to the drawing-room. As she
did so, she saw a carriage and post-horses at the door, and as she
approached the drawing-room she heard a voice loved and well-known.
She darted forward and entered the room. Beauchamp and Captain Hayward
were both there, as well as her father and Mary Clifford. The very
effort to conquer her own feelings had exhausted her strength, and joy
did what sorrow had not been able to do. Ere she had taken two steps
forward she wavered, and ere Beauchamp could reach her, had fallen
fainting to the ground.



CHAPTER XLII.


With bitter disappointment at his heart, with the dark shadow which
had hung so long over his existence, turning all the rosy hopes of
life to the leaden gray of the grave, now returned after a brief
period of brighter expectations; with the cup of joy snatched from his
hand at the very moment he was raising it to his lips, Beauchamp
leaned back in his carriage, and gave himself up for a few minutes to
deep and sorrowful meditation. He remembered well when first the
feeling of love was springing up in his heart towards Isabella
Slingsby; that upon mature consideration of his fate he had determined
to crush it in the bud, to batter down the fountain of sweet waters,
which he feared some malific power would turn to poison, and never
attempt to link the fate of that dear girl to his sorrowful one, even
by the gentle tie of mutual affection; and now he almost regretted
that he had not kept his resolution. It is true, circumstances had
changed; it is true, there were good hopes that the evil star of his
destiny seemed likely to sink, and a brighter one rise; but yet a mind
long accustomed to disappointment and sorrow, can with difficulty be
brought to listen to the voice of hope without having the warning
tongue of fear at the same time. All seemed to promise well; for the
removal of that heavy weight which had oppressed his heart, kept down
his energies, crushed love and joy, and left him nought in life but
solitude and disappointment, and despair. But still his experience of
the past taught him to expect so little from the future, that he dared
not indulge in one vision of relief, and although he had used the
words of hope to Isabella, he could not apply the balm to his own
wound.

Ned Hayward sat beside him quietly, and let him think for about ten
minutes; and he did so for two reasons. In the first place, he knew
that it was very vain to offer consolation so soon after a bitter
mortification had been received; and, in the next place, he did not
wish to rouse his companion from the reverie till they had passed
Tarningham Park; for he judged that the sight of scenes, associated in
memory with happy hopes now removed afar, would only add poignancy to
disappointment. However, when the park was passed (and the four horses
went at a very rapid rate), he commenced the conversation in a way the
most likely to lead Beauchamp's mind from the more painful points of
his situation, to fix them upon those more favourable.

"Of course, Lenham," he said, with an abruptness that made his
companion start, "before you act even in the slightest particular, you
will consult some counsel learned in the law. This seems a case in
which, with management, you have the complete command over your own
fate; but proper where a few false steps might be very detrimental, so
far, at least, as delay in the determination of the affair for some
months."

"I know not, my dear Hayward," answered Lord Lenham, "how this may
turn out; but circumstances have rendered me, once the most hopeful
and light-hearted of human beings, the most desponding. I have a sort
of impression upon me, that the result will not be so favourable as
you anticipate. I have to oppose long practised cunning and the most
unscrupulous use of every means, however base and wrong. I must
remember, too, that this business has been long plotting, and, depend
upon it, that nothing which a perverted human mind could do to
obliterate every trace of this former marriage, has been left undone.
Depend upon it the conspiracy has been going on for some time, and
that the concealment of this woman's existence has been intentional
and systematic. In fact nothing could be more artful, nothing more
base, but nothing more evidently pre-arranged than all the steps which
they have taken within the last two or three months. Even on the very
sale of her goods, which took place in Paris about a month ago, it was
announced by public advertisement that they had been the property of
the late Charlotte Hay, Lady Lenham. I am afraid neither I nor any
lawyer, however shrewd, will be found equal to encounter this woman,
whose cunning and determination I never knew matched."

"She seems a precious virago indeed," said Ned Hayward; "but never you
fear, my dear lord. I don't setup to be a Solomon, but there's a maxim
which I established when I was very young, and which I have seen break
down very much less frequently than most of his proverbs that will go
in your favour, if we but manage properly. It is this: 'Rogues always
forget something.' Depend upon it it will hold good in this instance.
Indeed we see that it has; for these good folks forget completely the
marriage certificate in the hands of Goody Lamb. Doubtless that
certificate will be easily verified, so as to put its authenticity
beyond all doubt; then nothing will remain but to prove the existence
of your predecessor in the fair lady's affections at a period
subsequent to her pretended marriage with yourself."

"That may be difficult to do," said Beauchamp.

"Not in the least," cried Ned Hayward. "He has written to the good old
widow within two years, it seems. Of course they will try to shake her
testimony, and, though I don't think that can be done, we must be
prepared with other witnesses. Now you and I don't in the least doubt
the old woman's story, and if that story is true, her husband's
cousin, this fair lady's husband, was living, and the clergyman of a
place called Blackford, not two years ago. Every body in his parish
will know whether this is true or not, and a Scotch minister's life is
not usually so full of vicissitudes as to admit the possibility of a
difficulty in identifying that Archibald Graham, of Blackford, was the
husband of Charlotte Hay."

"You should have been a lawyer, Hayward," said Beauchamp, with a faint
smile, "at all events, you prove a very excellent counsellor for my
hopes against my fears."

"A lawyer! Heaven forefend!" exclaimed Ned Hayward, laughing; "a
soldier is a much better thing, Lenham; aye, and I believe when he
knows his profession, more fit to cope with a lawyer than almost any
one else. It is always his business to mark well every point of his
position, to guard well every weak part; and then, having taken all
his precautions, he advances straightforward at the enemy's works,
looking sharp about him that he be not taken in flank, and he is
almost sure to carry the field if his cause be good, his heart strong,
and his army true."

Such conversation was not without its effect upon Beauchamp's mind.
Hope is the next thing to happiness, and hope returned, becoming every
moment more and more vigorous from the cheerful and sanguine character
of his companion. At length Ned Hayward looked out at the window,
exclaiming,

"Here we are coming to Winterton, I suppose, where we change horses.
Devil take those post-boys, if they go at that rate through the crowd
they will be over some fellow or another."

"Crowd," said Beauchamp, and he too put his head to the window.

The little solitary inn at Winterton-cum-Snowblast was on the side of
the road next to Ned Hayward, but when Lord Lenham, leaning forward,
looked out, he saw some forty or fifty people, principally country
folks, ostlers, and post-boys collected round the door of the house.
There was a sprinkling of women amongst the various groups, into which
they had fallen, and in the midst appeared a common post-chaise with
the horses out, while a man on horseback was seen riding away at a
jolting canter.

"There's something the matter here," said Beauchamp, "I will tell one
of the servants to ask."

As he spoke the chaise dashed on towards the inn-door, and Ned
Hayward's prediction of the consequences likely to ensue had nearly
been verified, for so eagerly were many persons in the crowd engaged
in conversation, that they did not change their position until the
last moment, and then a general scattering took place, which in its
haste and confusion had well-nigh brought more than one man or woman
under the feet of the leaders.

"Horses on," cried the wheel post-boy, as he drove up, speaking to the
ostler of the inn, whose natural predilection for post-horses called
his attention to the carriage sooner than that of any other person in
the crowd.

"We ha'n't got two pair in," he said, in reply, "without that pair
which is just off the shay; we been obliged to send off one this
minute to the magistrates about all this here business."

"What is the matter, my man?" said Ned Hayward, out of the
carriage-window, "what business is it you are talking of?"

"I had better call master, Sir," said the ostler, pulling the brim of
his old hat with a somewhat renitent look, as if he did not like to
answer the question; "he'll be here in a minute."

"This seems something strange," said Beauchamp, "we had better get out
and see. Open the door, Harrison."

The servant, who was standing with his hand upon the silver knob of
the carriage-door, instantly did as he was ordered, and threw down the
steps with a degree of vehemence customary to lackeys and serviceable
to coach makers. Ned Hayward being next to the door got out first, and
as he put his right foot to the ground, the landlord of the inn came
up, bowing low to the first occupant of a carriage which had two
servants behind and a coronet on the panel. The bow would have been
much more moderate to a simple yellow post-chaise.

"What is the matter here, landlord? Has any accident happened?"

"Why, yes, my lord," replied the landlord, supposing our friend to be
the proprietor of the vehicle, "a terrible accident, too--that is to
say not exactly, either--for it is clear enough the thing was done on
purpose by some one, who, it is not for me to say till the magistrates
come."

"But what is it? what is it?" said Beauchamp, who followed; "you seem
to be very mysterious."

"Why, you see, my lord," replied the landlord, who thought he could
not be far wrong in honouring both gentlemen with the same title,
"it's an awkward business, and one does not like to say much, but the
gentleman's got his throat cut that's certain, and whether he did it
himself or whether the lady did it for him seems a question. All I can
say is, I saw him sound asleep on the sofa five minutes before she
came back. He had a glass of brandy-and-water and two fried eggs just
after she went away with attorney Wharton, and seemed quite in his
right mind then, only a little tired with sitting up so late last
night and getting up so early this morning--but you don't seem well,
Sir," he continued, seeing Beauchamp turn a look to the countenance of
Ned Hayward, with a cheek that had become as pale as death--"had not
you better come in and take something?"

"Presently, presently," said Beauchamp, "go on--what were you saying?"

"Nothing, Sir, but that the lady seems dreadfully wild, and I can't
help thinking she's out of her mind--I always did for that matter."

"Is the gentleman dead?" asked Beauchamp, in a low tone.

"No, Sir, not quite dead," said the landlord, "and the surgeon is a
sewing up of his throat, but it is no good I'm sure, for the room is
all in a slop of blood."

"Do you know his name?" said Beauchamp.

"Why, Captain Moreton, I believe, Sir," said the landlord; "I've heard
so, I don't know it for certain."

"I will go in and see him," said the young nobleman, and he added,
seeing a look of hesitation on the landlord's countenance, "I am his
first cousin, Sir, my name is Lord Lenham."

The announcement removed all doubt upon the good man's mind, and
Beauchamp and Ned Hayward walked forward into the inn guided by the
landlord. He conducted them at once upstairs to the rooms which had
been occupied by Captain Moreton and Charlotte Hay. At one of the
doors on the landing-place they saw a man standing with his arms
folded on his chest, but the landlord led them past to the room in
front of the house, first entering quietly himself. It was a ghastly
and horrible scene which presented itself when Beauchamp and Ned
Hayward could see into the room. The floor, the carpet, the sofa, were
literally drenched with gore, and even the white window-curtains were
spotted with dark-red drops. On the sofa, with an old white-headed man
and a younger one leaning over him, was the tall, powerful frame of
Captain Moreton. His face was as pale as death, his eyes sunk in his
head, with a livid-blue colour spreading all round them. His temples
seemed as if they had been driven in; the features were pinched and
sharp; the eyelids closed; and the only sign of life apparent was a
slight spasmodic movement of the muscles of the face, when the hand of
the surgeon gave him pain in the operation he was busily performing.
Two or three other persons were in the room, amongst whom was the
landlord's wife, but they all kept at a distance, and the man himself
advanced to the surgeon's side, and whispered a word in his ear.

"Presently, presently," said the old gentleman, "it will be done in a
minute," but Captain Moreton opened his eyes and turned them round in
the direction of the door. It is probable that he did not see his
cousin for they closed again immediately, but nevertheless his lips
moved as if he fain would have said something. Beauchamp did not
advance till the old surgeon raised his head, and the young man who
was assisting him took his hands from the patient's arms. Then,
however, Lord Lenham moved forward, and in a low tone asked the
medical man the extent of the injury. At the same moment Ned Hayward,
judging that his presence there was useless if not inconvenient,
advanced to a door at the further side of the room, saying to a person
whom he instantly judged to be the mistress of the house,

"I think we had all better go in here for a minute or two."

"The lady is in there, Sir," said the landlady, "we have put somebody
in to watch her, for Heaven knows what she may do next."

Nevertheless, Ned Hayward, who thought that perhaps some information
valuable to his friend might be obtained, opened the door to go in;
but the sight he beheld made him suddenly pause, though it had none of
those very striking and horrible objects which were presented by the
chamber he was just quitting. Yet there was something still, quiet,
and awful about its dark features, which perhaps affected the mind
still more. The room was a bedroom with one window and a door, which
Captain Hayward easily distinguished as that at which he had seen a
man standing on the outside. On the end of the bed sat Charlotte Hay,
dressed exactly as he had seen her in the church, and nearer to him
appeared a strong dull-looking young man seated in a chair with a
constable's staff in his hand. The unhappy woman's position was calm
and easy, and she sat perfectly motionless, with her high colour
unchanged, her hands resting clasped together on her knee, her head
slightly bent forward, and her eye with the peculiar dull glassy film
over it, which we have already mentioned more than once, fixed
earnestly upon the floor. She seemed in deep thought but yet not the
thought of intelligence, but rather the dreamy, idle, vacant pondering
of mental imbecility. There was an indefinable something that to the
eye at once distinguished her state from that of deep reflection, and
a curl of the lip, not quite a smile, yet resembling one, seemed to
mark out the idiot. The shutters of one of the two windows were
closed, so that the room was in a sort of half-light, yet on the spot
to which the gaze of Charlotte Hay seemed attached the sunshine was
streaming gaily, and the contrast between her fate, her prospects, her
history, and the warm, pure light of Heaven, was more painful than the
harmonising gloom of the dungeon could have been.

When the door was opened by Ned Hayward, though it creaked as
inn-doors will do, upon its hinges, she took not the slightest notice;
indeed, she seemed unconscious of every thing, but the constable who
had been placed to watch her rose and advanced towards the door to say
that nobody could have admission there.

"When the justices come, Sir," he said, addressing the young officer
in a low tone, "they can do as they like, but nobody shall speak with
her till then."

As he uttered these words he heard a slight sound and turned his head,
but he turned it too late. Charlotte Hay had instantly taken advantage
of his eyes being withdrawn. She was already near the window, which
was partly open, and as he darted across to lay hold of her she threw
it up and with one leap sprang out. Ned Hayward instantly closed the
door that no sound might reach the other room, and ran forward to the
young man's side, who stood with his head leaning out and his eyes
gazing down below. The house was built on a slight slope, so that the
back was a story higher than the front, yet the height from the window
to the stable-yard could not be more than twenty feet. But the court
was paved with large irregular stones, and there lay the form of
Charlotte Hay still, motionless, and silent. No groan reached the ears
of those who looked down from above--not even a quiver of the limbs
was to be seen. Some of the men in the yard were running up in haste,
and the young officer and the constable hurried down. It mattered
little, however, whether they went fast or slow, for when they reached
the yard they found three men lifting a corpse. Ned Hayward gazed upon
that countenance where fierce and untameable passions had nearly
obliterated mere beauty of feature, but no trace of passion was there
now. All was mournfully calm, and though the eyelids moved once up and
down, there was nought in the eyes when they were for an instant
displayed but the glassy stare of death. The bonnet, which was still
upon her head, was dented in at the top, and a small red stain in the
white silk showed where the blood was issuing slowly forth from some
hidden wound received in the fall.

They carried her slowly into the house, and placed her on a sofa in
what was called the parlour, while Ned Hayward ran up stairs to call
down the surgeon. When he opened the door, the elderly man whom we
have mentioned was washing his hands at the table, and Beauchamp was
seated by the sofa on which his cousin lay, bending down his ear to
catch the faint words of the wounded man, who seemed speaking to him
eagerly.

The surgeon raised his eyes as the door opened, and perceiving the
sign which Ned Hayward made him to come out, dried his hands in haste
and went to the door.

"You must come down directly," said the young officer, "the unhappy
woman has thrown herself out of the window, and though I believe all
human aid is vain, yet it is necessary that some surgeon should see
her at once."

The old man nodded his head with a grave look, returned for his
instruments which were on the table, and then followed down to the
parlour. He paused a moment by the side of the sofa, and gazed upon
the face of Charlotte Hay with a thoughtful air, then placed his hand
upon the wrist for a few seconds, withdrew it, and said aloud,

"I can be of no use here--life is extinct. I will examine the head,
however," and taking off the bonnet and cap he pointed with his finger
to a spot on the back of the skull, where the dark brown hair was
matted and dabbled, saying, "Look there! I cannot make a new brain!"

Ned Hayward turned away with a slight shudder, for though he had faced
death many a time himself, and had seen men fall dead or wounded by
his side, he had never beheld a woman subject to the fate which man is
accustomed to brave.

"This is a terrible business altogether, Sir," said the surgeon,
following the young officer to the window, "do you know any thing of
it?"

"Nothing," replied Captain Hayward, "except that I believe the unhappy
woman was mad, for her conduct through life was that of a person
hardly sane. Do you think Captain Moreton likely to live?"

"Three or four hours, perhaps," replied the surgeon, "certainly not
more. She did her work very resolutely and with a strong hand. The
hemorrhage cannot be entirely stopped; he has already lost an awful
quantity of blood, and he will sink gradually."

"Then yon think that there is no doubt of her hand having done the
deed?" asked Ned Hayward.

But the surgeon would not exactly commit himself as far as that.

"He did not do it himself," was the reply, "that is quite impossible.
The wound is from left to right, and drawn so far round that he could
not have inflicted it with his own hand. He must have been lying on
the sofa, too, when it was done--probably asleep, for the stroke of
the razor was carried beyond the neck of the victim, and cut the
horse-hair cover through and through. The gentleman upstairs with him
is his cousin, I believe?"

"I believe so," answered Ned Hayward, "but I am not acquainted with
your patient, and therefore cannot say exactly."

The next moment steps were heard coming down, and Beauchamp and the
landlord entered the parlour.

"Will you have the goodness to go up to Captain Moreton, Sir," said
the young nobleman, addressing the surgeon, before he saw what the
room contained, "the bleeding from the throat has recommenced and
nearly suffocates him. Hayward, I must stay till this is over," he
continued, as the old gentleman hurried away, but then his eyes fell
upon the sofa, and he caught Ned Hayward's arm and grasped it tight
without uttering a word. For a moment or two he stood motionless as if
turned into stone by the sight before him, and then walking slowly up
to the side of the corpse, he gazed long and earnestly upon the face.
His feelings must have been strange during that long, silent pause.
There before him lay the being who had been the bane of his peace
during all the early brighter years of life; the woman who, without
ever having obtained the slightest hold of those affections by which
the heart when they are misplaced is usually most terribly tortured,
had by one infamous and daring act acquired the power of embittering
every moment of his existence. The long, dreadful consequences of one
youthful error were at end, the dark cloud was wafted away, the heavy
chain broken. He was free! but by what horrible events was his
liberation accomplished! What a price of blood and guilt had they who
had enthralled him paid for their temporary triumph ending in complete
defeat! He could not but feel that by the death of that woman sunshine
was restored to his path, and yet pain and horror at the means of his
restoration to light and happiness quelled every sensation of
rejoicing. Mingled as almost all human feelings are, perhaps never did
man's heart experience such mixed emotions.

After what seemed a long time to give to any contemplation, he turned
towards Captain Hayward, inquiring in a low tone,

"How did this happen, Hayward, and when?"

"A few minutes ago," replied his friend; "the constable who was
watching her came to the door to speak with me, and taking advantage
of his back being turned she threw herself out of the window. Perhaps,
Lenham," he continued, with that good feeling which always in matters
of deep interest sprang up through the lighter things of Ned Hayward's
character--"perhaps it is better that this is as it is. The act was
undoubtedly committed in a state of mind which rendered her
irresponsible for her own conduct. Had she survived, her fate might
have been more terrible, considering another deed in regard to which
it might have been difficult to prove her insanity."

"God's will be done," said Beauchamp, "that unhappy man is in no fit
state to die, and yet I fear death is rapidly approaching. All his
hatred of myself seems to have given place to the implacable desire of
vengeance against this poor tool of his own schemes. He says that
there is no doubt that she committed the act; that he was sleeping on
the sofa, having sat up late last night and risen early this morning,
and suddenly found a hand pressed upon his eyes and a sharp instrument
drawn furiously across his throat. He started up crying for help, and
beheld the wretched woman with the razor in her hand, laughing, and
asking if he would ever betray her secret again. It is, in truth, a
terrible affair; but I fear his deposition must be taken, and if he is
to be believed she must have been perfectly sane."

"I wonder if she was ever perfectly sane?" said Ned Hayward, "from all
I have heard I should doubt it--but here comes one of the magistrates,
I suppose, or the coroner."

It proved to be the former, and the worthy justice first entered the
parlour and examined the corpse of Charlotte Hay as it still remained
stretched upon the sofa. Country justices will have their jests upon
almost all subjects, and though he did it quietly, the gentleman in
question could not refrain from saying, after looking at the body for
a moment,

"Well, we are not likely to obtain any information from this lady, so
we had better see the other person, who is capable of being more
communicative. Which is the way, landlord? Have this room cleared and
the door locked till the coroner can come, he will take the evidence
in this case. I must get, if possible, the deposition of the gentleman
whom you say is dying."

Thus saying, with the landlord leading the way and Beauchamp, Ned
Hayward, and one or two others following, he walked slowly upstairs
and entered the room where Captain Moreton lay. The surgeon was
bending over him and holding his head up on his left-arm. But the
moment the old man heard the bustle of many feet, he waved his
right-hand as if to forbid any one to approach. Every body paused for
an instant, and in the midst of the silence that ensued an awful and
very peculiar sound was heard, something like that made by a horse
taking a draught of water, but not so long and regular. It ceased,
began again, ceased; and the surgeon laid Captain Moreton's hand down
upon the sofa-cushion and looked round.

The magistrate instantly advanced, saying,

"I must take the gentleman's deposition, Mr. Abbot."

"You come a little too late, Sir," said the surgeon, "he will make no
more depositions now."

It was, indeed, as he said. Captain Moreton had just expired, and all
that remained for the magistrate, who was soon joined by one of his
worshipful brethren, was to gain all the information that could be
obtained from the persons in the house regarding the deaths of
Charlotte Hay and her paramour. Beauchamp and Ned Hayward answered the
questions which were addressed to them, but entered into no
unnecessary details. The rest of those who were called upon to give
evidence or volunteered it, were much more garrulous, and as the two
gentlemen remained to hear the whole depositions they were detained
for some hours at Winterton.

When all was at length over, and Lord Lenham and Ned Hayward stood
before the inn-door, they gazed at each other for a moment or two
without speaking. At length Beauchamp's servant came up from the side
of the carriage, which was ordered some time before, was already
before the house, and inquired, in a commonplace tone,

"Where shall I tell them to drive, my lord?"

There was a momentary look of hesitation in the young nobleman's face,
but the next instant he answered in a decided tone,

"To Tarningham Park," and turning to his friend as soon as they were
once more in the vehicle, he said with a sigh,

"I will at least carry her the tidings, Hayward, and then--"

He paused, and Ned Hayward asked, in his usual cheerful tone,

"And what then, Lenham?"

"Once more on the way to London," said Beauchamp, adding gravely but
firmly, "there must not be a doubt in her mind as to the validity of
her marriage. I know how one drop of such bitterness can poison the
whole cup of joy; but tell me, Hayward," he continued, in a more
cheerful tone, "when is your own marriage to take place? You have told
me nothing of it yet, but you must not suppose that my eyes have been
shut either yesterday or this morning."

"I did not mention it because I imagined that you had enough to think
of, Lenham," answered Ned Hayward, "not from either want of frankness
or want of regard, believe me. But to answer your question--the day is
not yet fixed. Mrs. Clifford has consented much more readily than I
expected, Sir John when he heard of it was over-joyous, and Mary's two
guardians, knowing that their power is soon coming to an end, have
determined to use it leniently. Heaven only knows when we first became
acquainted, about three months ago by the side of Mrs. Clifford's
carriage, I little thought therein was my future bride. Had I known
that I stood in peril of love, and that with an heiress, too, I
believe I should have turned my horse's head and galloped all
the way back to London. Nay more, there has not been a day
during the last month, till about a fortnight ago, that finding
myself in imminent danger, I have not been ready to depart, but
circumstances--circumstances, my dear Lenham, those chains of adamant
kept me here, till one day, without at all intending it. I told the
dear girl I loved her, and she bade me stay, so I had nothing to do
but to obey, und now I think in three weeks more, thoughtless Ned
Hayward will be the husband of the sweetest and loveliest girl in the
world."

"With one exception," said Beauchamp, smiling; "and one of the best
husbands in the world will he make her. But one thing more let me say,
Hayward; as little as you thought of finding marriage on your onward
path when first we met, so little did I think of finding friendship,
as little did I hope for or even wish it; and yet there is nought on
earth I value more than yours except the love of her I love best.
Should the sage lawyers have a doubt as to the validity of my marriage
with Isabella, should they even think it better that the ceremony be
repeated, with the fair lady's leave we will choose the same day, and
stand at the altar like brothers as we have been to one another for
some time past."



CHAPTER XLIII.
Sweeping out the Ball-room.


Beauchamp and Isabella were left alone together for a few minutes
before dinner, for Sir John Slingsby and the rest of the party were
considerate. She lay upon the sofa still weak from the effects of the
fainting fit, into which she had fallen, and Beauchamp sat beside her,
holding her hand in his. He had told her all that had happened, gently
and kindly, not dwelling upon dark and horrible particulars, but
showing her simply that the aspect of their fate was altered. He then
went on to tell her his plans, informing her that it was his intention
that night to set off once more for London, in order to ascertain by
the best legal opinions he could obtain, whether their marriage was
really valid, and, in case of finding, that there was even a doubt on
the subject, to have the ceremony performed again; but Isabella
changed all his purposes.

"Beauchamp," she said, for thus she still always called him, "I think
I know you love me, and will not refuse me a request. It is this: Do
not go to London at all; do not make any inquiries about the validity
of our marriage. Look upon it as invalid, and let it be renewed. In a
few weeks, a very few weeks, Mary is going to give her hand to your
friend Captain Hayward. Let us wait till then, and go with them to the
altar. There may be some painful circumstances to me, some painful
memories. I do not love to be made the subject of conversation and
gossip, and in the church the scene of this morning will come terribly
back to my mind; but in the meantime you will be with me everyday, and
that will compensate for a great deal."

So it was arranged, and in six weeks from that time the two cousins
were united to the men whom they loved. Difficulties and dangers have
their interest in telling; calm and tranquil happiness has too few
incidents for record. Ned Hayward and Mary took up their abode with
Mrs. Clifford, and the fair bride had never any cause to repent that
she had discovered in her husband something deeper, finer, nobler than
those who had given him the name of thoughtless Ned Hayward. Certainly
there were some changes came over him. He was as cheerful, as
sunshiny, as frank and ready as ever; but he was not quite so fond of
fishing, shooting, and hunting. He liked a quiet walk or ride with
Mary better. He found out for himself a new employment also, and
devoted a great part of his time to the regulation of Sir John
Slingsby's affairs, easily gaining his old friend's consent, upon the
plea that he wanted occupation. His rapid perception of the bearings
of all things submitted to him, his strong good sense and quick
resolute decision, soon brought those affairs into a very different
condition from that in which he found them; and Sir John Slingsby
found, that by proper regulation, with an income diminished by the
careless extravagance of many years, he had really more to spend than
when his revenue was nominally much larger.

Isabella and Beauchamp were as happy as the reader has already judged
they would be. He was looked upon by his acquaintances as a grave and
somewhat stern man; but Isabella had reason to know, that in domestic
life he was cheerful, gentle, and kind; for it was only in the
heartless bustle and senseless chatter of ordinary society that there
came over him a shadow from the long consequences of one only error.

We have but few other characters to dispose of. Mr. Wharton's history
has already been told. Mr. Bacon did much better in life than might
have been expected. Although he was an honest man, he met with a
tolerable degree of success, strange to say. Aiding Ned Hayward in the
regulation of Sir John Slingsby's affairs, he became in the end a sort
of agent or law-steward to the baronet. Beauchamp, who bought the
Moreton property in the end, employed him in the same capacity; and
two other gentlemen in the country finding that matters throve in his
hands, made him their agent also. He never gave them any cause to
complain, and derived a very comfortable income from the exercise of
this branch of his profession; but, what is far more extraordinary, in
no instance did the property of his employers pass from them to him.

Stephen Gimlet in course of time became the head keeper to Sir John
Slingsby, was well to do in the world, and gave his boy a very good
education. Widow Lamb lived for nearly ten years after the events
which have been lately detailed, and she had the happiness of seeing
her poor boy William, by kind assistance given when most needed, and
judiciously directed when given, rise from the station in which we
first found him to be, at six-and-twenty years of age, the landlord of
the White Hart at Tarningham; and often on a summer's evening, when
there was not much to do in the place, he would stand at his inn-door,
and thinking over all the strange events he had seen in his youth with
a melancholy feeling of the difference between himself and other men,
he would whistle the plaintive melodies of which he was so fond in
boyhood, as if imagination carried him altogether away into the realms
of memory.

There is but one other character, perhaps, that deserves any mention;
and, though his career was brief, we may speak of it more at large.
Harry Wittingham took possession of his father's large property with
title undisputed. A pompous funeral excited half-an-hour's wondering
admiration in the people of Tarningham when the old gentleman was
committed to the grave; and for some short time hopes were entertained
even by wise and experienced persons, that young Wittingham would
change his mode of life, become more regular and careful in his
conduct, and cast away the vices and follies that had disgraced him.
For a fortnight he remained almost entirely at home examining papers,
looking into affairs, and showing no small talents for business. A
number of small sums, lent out by Mr. Wittingham on interest, were
called in rather sharply, and some considerable purchases of land were
made, showing a disposition on the part of the young gentleman to
become a county proprietor. His reputed wealth, as is always the case
in England, whatever a man's character may be, procured him a good
deal of attention. People of high respectability and good fortune,
especially where there were two or three unmarried daughters, called
and left their cards; but Harry Wittingham's chief visitor and
companion was his friend Mr. Granty, and two or three county gentlemen
of the same stamp, who wore leather breeches and top-boots, rode
handsome horses, and sported a red coat in the hunting season. The
establishment kept up by old Mr. Wittingham was greatly increased,
even within a month after his death. There were two more grooms in the
stables, two more footmen in the hall, but this was no sign of
extravagance, for the property could well afford it, or even more; but
yet there was a sort of apparent uneasiness of manner, an occasional
gloom, an irritability upon very slight occasions, upon which neither
prosperity nor the indulgence of long thwarted tastes had any effect;
and Mr. Granty himself, in conversation with a friend, thought fit to
wonder what the devil Harry Wittingham would have, for he seemed never
contented, although he possessed as good a fortune as any man in the
county.

At length Harry Wittingham gave a dinner party, and fixed it, without
any knowledge of the coincidence, upon the very same day when Mary
Clifford bestowed her hand upon Ned Hayward. When he discovered that
such was the case some short time before the party met, he became very
much irritated and excited, but pride would not permit him to put the
dinner off, and his friends assembled at the hour named. Seven persons
appeared punctually as the clock struck the hour, and shortly after
descended to the dining-room, where delicacies and even rarities were
provided in abundance, with the choicest wines that could be procured
from any quarter. The soup was turtle, brought expressly from London;
but Harry Wittingham himself did not taste it. He ate a good deal of
fish, however, and asked several persons to drink wine, but it
appeared as if he determined to keep his head cool, for he merely
bowed over his glass and put it down. Mr. Granty, who well knew his
old habits, was surprised at his abstemiousness, and thought it hardly
fair, for he had himself determined to have a glorious night of it at
the expense of Harry Wittingham's cellar, and such conduct in the host
seemed likely to chill the drinking propensities of his guests.

"Come, Wittingham," he cried at length, "let us have a glass of
champagne together."

"With all my heart," answered his entertainer, and the champagne was
poured out.

"Now, Wittingham, drink fair," said Mr. Granty, laughing; "for hang
me, if you have tasted a drop to-day--this way, at one draught."

"With all my heart," answered Harry Wittingham, and raised his glass.
He held it to his lips for a moment, and then with a sudden and very
apparent effort, drank the wine, but a sort, of convulsive spasm
instantly spread over his whole face; it was gone in a moment however,
and as if to conceal it, he said something sharply to his butler about
the wine not being good. "It was corked," he said; and Mr. Granty
laughing, cried,

"Try another bottle."

Another bottle was brought, and the glasses filled all round. Harry
Wittingham raised his with the rest, but instantly set it down again,
and pushed it away from him, murmuring with a haggard look, "I can't!"

As may be easily expected, this very peculiar conduct had its effect
upon his guests. The party was a dull one, and broke up early, every
one remarking, that Mr. Wittingham tasted not one drop of all the many
wines that circulated round his table.

When every one was gone, he rang the bell sharply, and told the
servant to go for Mr. Slattery.

"Tell him to come directly, I do not feel well."

In ten minutes more the surgeon was in the house, felt his pulse,
looked at his tongue, asked a few questions, and then said with a
smile,

"A little fever!--a little fever! I will send you a cooling draught,
and all will be quite right to-morrow, I dare say."

"Don't send me a draught," said Harry Wittingham, "I can't drink it."

"Oh, it shall be as good as wine," said Mr. Slattery.

"Good or bad, it does not matter," answered the young gentleman,
staring somewhat wildly in his face; "I tell you I can't drink it--I
drink not at all--I hate the very thought of drinking."

Another quick, short spasm crossed his countenance as he spoke; and
Mr. Slattery, sitting down beside him with a somewhat dubious
expression of countenance, hemmed for a moment or two, and then said,

"Why, what can one give you then? But tell me a little more of the
symptoms you feel," and he put his hand upon the pulse again. "Have
you any headache?"

"No," answered Harry Wittingham, "I have a sort of burning in my
throat."

"Great irritation of stomach?" said Mr. Slattery, in a solemn tone.
"Have you met with any accident lately? Run a nail into your hand or
foot, or any thing of that kind?"

"No," answered Harry Wittingham, "but a damned dog bit me just above
the heel six weeks ago, and it is not quite well yet."

"Let me look at the wound," said Mr. Slattery, "it may be producing
irritation."

The shoe and stocking were soon removed, and Mr. Slattery perceived
four distinct marks of a dog's fangs in the tendon and muscles of
Harry Wittingham's leg. At each there was a round lump raised above
the skin, and from two of them a small, sharply-defined red line was
running up the leg towards the body.

Mr. Slattery bled him largely immediately, and telling him he dared
say he would be quite well in two or three days, returned home, and
sent off a man on horseback to the county town for a bottle of the
Ormskirk medicine. The Ormskirk medicine arrived; but instead of being
well in two or three days, in not much more than a week after Harry
Wittingham was in his grave.



THE END.



---------------------------------
PRINTING OFFICE OF THE PUBLISHER.





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