« EelmineJätka »
me, and said, "My Lord, think me not obstinate, think me not undutiful ; but, when the happiness of our child is at stake, I must be firm, cost me what it will; and here I solemnly declare, that I never can consent to give our child to a man whom I cannot respect."
I saw the door close after Lady Roxeter, while I still hesitated whether I should call her back; and then, as if the moment of grace was past, I struck my hand on my forehead, and began to deplore my destiny as accursed ; while I had no one to blame but myself. I then called for refreshments, and a bottle of wine, which last I nearly emptied; after which, I walked out to look for my son Theodore; but, not finding him, I returned to the house, and tried to lounge away the few more hours till dinner time in reading a new publication which I found on the library table; but this would not do, though the book was an interesting one.
When it was getting dusk, and I was becoming quite impatient for the return of Theodore, a note was brought to me from the young man, to inform me that he had met with Lord Seaforth in his morning-airing, and that he had been engaged by him to dine at the RoxeterArms, the principal inn in the village; begging me to join the party, and hinting that he had some communications to make to me. The proposal suited the restless state I was in at the time; and I accordingly put on my hat and hastened to obey the summons;
bidding a servant to follow me, and desiring that Lady Roxeter should be told that I should not be at home to dinner.
When arrived at the Roxeter-Arms, I found the two young men in a state of high irritation ; for which Seaforth accounted to me by informing me that Theodore had been quarrelling violently with his brother about Laura's marriage; that he had accidentally met his two cousins in the park; that they were then at high words; and that he verily believed Theodore would have struck his brother, had he not interfered.
He added, that the gamekeeper and Thomas Jefferies had both been drawn to the place by the angry voices of my sons; that Theodore had invited Lord Bellamy to finish the quarrel in an honourable and gentlemanly way; but that Lord Bellamy had declined the challenge.
“And very properly, too,” I said, being exceedingly angry with Theodore, and really alarmed at the furious spirit which the young man had displayed in this affair. “Cannot you understand, Theodore," I said, “what the world would say, if you were to kill your elder brother ?"
Theodore burst out: he called Lord Bellamy a base, mean, despicable fellow, and used other outrageous expressions; scarcely controlling himself when the landlord came in.
"Hold your tongue!" I said, speaking in French ;“or, by heavens, I will deprive you of every shilling that Í can."
Theodore muttered something which I did not understand; and now I perceived, for the first time, that he had been drinking, and was in a state of considerable intoxication. I knew that it was useless to reason with a man in that condition; I therefore tried to turn the conversation into another channel, and succeeded till the cloth was withdrawn; when Lord Seaforth, filling a bumper, nodded to Theodore, and said, “Give us the toast you promised: what is it to be ?"
“Confusion to all elder brothers !" said Theodore; and, at the same instant, the waiter entered the room, to remove something from the side-table.
Lord Seaforth pretended to start at this toast as if it had not been the one he expected, and I became seriously angry; but, seeing the waiter's eye upon us, scarcely knew
what to do! I, however, reproved Theodore very sharply when the servant had left the room. On which the young man grew sullen; and, from that time, scarcely condescended even to answer his cousin when he addressed him.
"Well,” I remarked, after awhile, this is not particularly agreeable. We may as well return to the Hall. It can answer no end whatever for you to remain here, Lord Seaforth; there is no chance of our winning Lady Roxeter to your side by any forbearance on your part. I have had a hard battle to fight for you already, and she is as firm as a rock. But I think I should like you to try your own powers of persuasion with her; and if they do not answer, we must have recourse to other measures.” So saying, we rose and left the inn.
When entered within the gates of the shrubbery, a servant met us, and inquired if Lord Bellamy had been with us.
“No," I replied, “I have not seen him since the morning."
“My Lady is uneasy about him, my Lord," added the servant.
“What," I replied, (for I had been drinking too much as well as my son, although I could bear it better,) has little master broke away from the apron-string at last ? Well, we shall make something of him by and by;" and we walked on.
When we entered the Hall, I observed, that not only the butler, but the steward and one or two more persons were waiting there to see us enter; and the question was again put to us whether Lord Bellamy had been with us.
“ No," I replied, somewhat peevishly; "I have not seen him since the morning. How should I know where he is ?
Old Cicely then put her wrinkled face forward from behind some of the other servants, and, addressing Theodore, “Mr. Westfield,” she said, "do you know where your brother is ?»
Theodore answered with an oath, that he neither knew nor cared ; but Lord Seaforth, as I afterwards recollected, spoke not a word.
We were going forward to the library, when a confused noise behind us caused us to look round; and we heard a knocking at the outer door of the Hall, and several persons from without called at the same instant for admittance in a manner most urgent and terrific.
“It is as we thought,” said Cicely ; "I feared it would end in this way.'
I felt as if something terrible was about to take place. I was sobered in a moment, and stood looking at the door in a state of mind which God grant that none of my readers may ever realize. The folding-doors were both forced widely open by the servants within, who were all crowded round it. Mr. Helmly first appeared. His face was that of ashy paleness and horror. At the same time a sound was heard as of persons ascending the steps and bearing a heavy weight.
The next moment several men entered the hall; they were bearing a body, which seemed to be without life. — Theodore and I both recoiled, as if we had seen a serpent. To speak was past my power. I know not how Lord Seaforth was affected. As the horrible cortege advanced, the light of the lamps, suspended from the ceiling of the hall, flashed on the face of the inanimate body. It was that of my unhappy and injured son; it was poor Lord Bellanıy. There was some blood on his face—there was more on his dress. His hand, which had been laid on his breast, seemed much shattered.
No one could speak or give any direction respecting what was to be done but Mr. Helmly. «Fly for a surgeon !” he said: “take the fleetest horse in the stable ! life may not be quite gone. Lead on, lead on to the library sofa! Bring wine! right or wrong, some cordial must be forced down his throat !” And he walked on, while the bearers of the unhappy young man followed to the library.
Theodore was following, when I seized his arm and arrested his progress.
“Monster! villain! murderer!" I said, as I shook him violently; "tell me, wretched young man, when did you this ? and then take a knife and finish your work, by plunging it in your father's heart.”
“I did not do it, I did not do it, my father," he replied ;
as I live, I did not do it." And he threw himself on his knees before me.
“Wretch, you have murdered your brother!" I said, and I spurned him from me.
At that instant, a dreadful, an appalling shriek sounded through the hall; and, the next minute, Lady Roxeter appeared falling forward from the stairs, which she was in the act of descending, when my horrible words met her ear.
A female servant, who had followed her closely, caught her by her dress, and saved her fall; and she was borne away to her own chamber by others of the women who had come at the alarm of their companion's cries; there, as I afterwards learned, one fit followed another, till happily such a state of confusion and delirium ensued, as saved her for a length of time from a distinct sense of the misery of her condition. But the
sight of my once beloved, yes, and at that moment, still beloved Mary, fainting, perhaps dying in such a situation, could hardly add one agony more to the horrors of my condition, in that miserable, most miserable moment. Did my reader suppose that any thing I could have told him would have brought him to pity me? But surely at that crisis, vile as I had been, I was an object of pity.
As I before said, I spurned my son with my foot-I called him a murderer, a monster, a fiend, -I would hear none of his excuses- I would not hearken to his earnest asseverations of innocence-I was like one in a state of derangement—the blow had struck me in the most vulnerable part, and where least expected.-My poor son turned from me at length to his cousin, and applied to him to confirm his innocence.
“You can bear witness, Seaforth,” he said, " that after you had met me with my unhappy brother in the park, I never left you. I was with you from that time till the present moment. I could not have done this without being seen by you."
Lord Seaforth hesitated, the cold blooded villain hesitated, and then said, “ Undoubtedly, Westfield, I could swear to your having been with me, from the moment of your parting with your brother to the present instant, with the exception only of one half-hour, more or less, when you went, as you recollect, to the lodge, to send a person with a note to your father.”
“And to the lodge only I went,” said Theodore.
“And then,” I exclaimed, “you met_your brotherand then you did it! Begone, villain ! Disgrace of your noble family, begone, and be accursed as a second Cain!" and I raised my hand to strike him, but was arrested in the act by Lord Seaforth, who was obliged to use all his strength to restrain my violence.
“My father ! my father!" said Theodore, again kneeling before me, “I pity you, from my heart I pity you! but the time will come in which my innocence will be
"Your innocence, monster!" I said, attempting to strike him again : “who will believe your innocence ? Did you not but just now drink Perdition to all elder