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I should not have been silent so long, could I have made up my mind to what would have been best for my brother. And this is certain, that had I been convinced that he really meant to injure me, nothing should ever have forced me to have said that he was standing near me when I received the shot. But proceed, Sir, and put your questions; I am ready to answer them.”
“What was your motive, Lord Bellamy,” said Dr. Simpson, "for climbing the steep path in the park, when you had parted from your brother and Lord Seaforth ?
“I wished to keep my brother in sight," answered my eldest son.
“I heard him very boisterous with my cousin; and I feared the consequences, knowing that he was not himself.”
“What do you mean by not himself;" said Dr. Simp
“That he had drunk much, and was intoxicated," said Lord Bellamy.
“What! at that hour of the morning ?" asked Dr. Simpson.
"I am sorry to say, Sir," replied Theodore, blushing violently," that I have long been in the habit of drinking in a morning: it was a habit I acquired at the university in Germany; we all did it there, and it has increased upon me of late.”
“As all bad habits do,” said the doctor. “Did you know this to be a fact, Lord Bellamy ?"
I did, Sir," replied my eldest son. “Favour me, Mr. Westfield, by informing me what liquor you have been accustomed to take in this way," said Dr. Simpson.
“Brandy-and-water, Sir," replied Theodore, with a downcast look; “ and sometimes neat brandy.'
“Indeed!” said Dr. Simpson; "then I no longer wonder that your own brains were affected, and that you almost succeeded in scattering those of your brother, on the eventful day of which we are speaking. However, upon the whole, I would rather hear of this brandy-business than something worse."
I then recollected that I had observed something extraordinary in Theodore's manner when I had met him
in the shrubbery; but he certainly then was by no means what I should have called intoxicated. I therefore asked Lord Bellamy if he could give any account of his brother having become more inebriated after I had parted from him.
“Ỹes, Sir," replied my eldest son; "after we had parted from you, my brother went into the house and called for brandy-and-water, and Morris expostulated with him: on which, from a sort of bravado, he took more than he probably would have done. He was quite intoxicated when he came out into the air again."
“This is all true, Sir," said Theodore, addressing me; "I believe it all perfectly true; but I was not sensible of it at the time."
“ And so, knowing that your brother was not himself when you parted from him in the park,” said Dr. Simpson, you followed in the same direction which he had taken, Lord Bellamy, and, when the young gentlemen were on the knoll, you were in the path below? Did they see you ?"
“I thought they did,” said Lord Bellamy; "they looked towards me several times; but I was often hid from them by the bushes.”
“Did they cross directly over the knoll ?” asked Dr. Simpson; or did they pass on immediately ?"
They loitered some time on the knoll,” replied Lord Bellamy; “ during which time I leaned my back against the mountain-ash to rest myself. I had almost resolved to speak to them, not wishing to seem a spy upon their actions. They both had fowling pieces; and Lord Sea. forth fired at a bird which sprang from the woods in a contrary direction to the place where I stood.”
"You acted very imprudently, Lord Bellamy," said Dr. Simpson, “in thus creeping about the woods near to two young sportsmen, one of whom you knew to be intoxicated."
“I did, Sir,” replied Lord Bellamy; “I know that I did very wrong; but I was so much below them, that I hardly conceived that I could be hurt by them. But I am no sportsman myself; I never entered into the subject; and was not so much aware of my imprudence as another person might have been."
“Well, you stood under the tree, and saw Lord Seaforth fire: what happened next ?".
“I heard Lord Seaforth say, We have had enough for one day; let us go to the inn; I begin to feel hungry;' and the next minute a bird flew over the woods towards the mountain-ash: At the same instant, I saw Theodore's piece levelled in the direction where I stood. Lord Seaforth was behind him; and I heard him say, 'Lower! lower !' and the next moment I fell; and knew no more till I found myself in this room, and awoke to the horrible conviction that my brother had sought my life.”
Dr. Simpson then turned to Theodore, but did not speak.
“I have little to say, Dr. Simpson,” said the young man. “I remember Seaforth pointing out the bird to me which flew over the knoll; I also remember him saying that the bird had settled in the tree; and this also I recollect, that he gave my piece a sort of jerk just as it was going off
, by which the direction of the shot was considerably lowered; and that he said something about its being an accident; and that he then hurried me immediately off to the inn, saying that he had seen the bird fly off unhurt: but I can recollect no more; and, indeed, I hardly know whether what I have now stated is correct. And now," he added, “my dear father and mother, I have told all I have to tell. If my story does not bear the impress of truth, I have nothing more to plead on my behalf; I must throw myself on your pity; and will bear what I have so richly deserved by my former bad conduct; the contempt and hatred of all
“O my brother! my Theodore !" exclaimed Lord Bellamy, extending his arms towards him, “let me at least prove to you that I believe you innocent. Let us here at this moment commence a friendship never to be interrupted; let who will doubt, I am now convinced that you never designed to hurt me."
The two brothers then met in a warm and cordial embrace.
The conviction of Theodore's innocence seemed at that moment to rush to every heart; while Dr. Simpson kept
rubbing his hands, and saying, “I knew that the world had not got hold of the right villain, or, I should say, of any villain at all; I knew that my brave boy here was no murderer; though I hardly knew how to set about unravelling the mystery. He has been the cat's paw of one of the most artful men that ever breathed. Think you, my Lord, what a fine thing it would have been for Lord Seaforth to have married the sister, and got one brother hanged for murdering the other : or, even suppose that murder could not have been proved against Mr. Westfield, yet there would have been a pretty windfall to Lady Laura in the case of the death of her elder brother—the whole, instead of a part, of her mother's property. Mark you not now, Lord Roxeter, the dark spirit which has woven this web, in which you were all well nigh entangled ? But see you not, Mr. Westfield, the horrors of intoxication? Had you not been infatuated by brandy, you surely could not have been persuaded to have scattered death with such a random stroke. Had the aim been a few inches higher, your brother would have been a corpse. The smallest shot on the temple, or in the brain, would have done the work past all recovery. But we must see the foul fiend dislodged. My Lord, you will surely not delay the act of ejecting Lord Seaforth from his quarters at Hartlands? But stop!” he added; " we must see Lady Laura safe first.”
Thus the good old gentleman went on; while we, the more interested persons, could only weep and embrace each other : and surely, at that time, such a reconciliation took place as has not often taken place on earth.
A few hours added our sweet Laura and Mr. Helmly to our party; and then, indeed, it was complete; and our happiness was scarcely augmented by hearing that Lord Seaforth was gone off town in a chariot-andfour.
We ate no dinner that day; but, in the evening, we all met again in the library, to partake of the refreshing infusion of the oriental herb. And there, extended on a couch by the side of Lord Bellamy's bed, Mr. Helmly and my family being present, I once again implored the pardon of Lady Roxeter for all my past offences against her. I thanked her, in words as expressive as I could
select, for her long and patient endurance of my ill treatment. I confessed, even in the presence of my son, the error into which I had fallen in allowing other confidants to interpose between me and my wife. I was not so much misled, I observed, by strangers of the other sex, as I was by a female in whom I had been accustomed to place my entire confidence. All my misery began through listening to my sister, and being guided by her ; in consulting her respecting things that ought to have been only agitated between me and my wife. “I was always jealous, from a boy, as well as I can remember," I added, addressing my sons, “of female influence-of what I vulgarly called petticoat government; and, by reason of this jealousy, I habitually resisted the proper influence of a virtuous wife; while, at the same time, I was blindly led by any other woman who chose to undertake the management of me. And this I believe to be more or less the case with all men who have the same kind of jealousy which I possessed; for the same weakness which makes a man resist the virtuous and pure influence of good women, leaves him subject to those who are evil: and hence it is often found, that a man who has, throughout life, railed at the whole female sex, is, in his old age, governed by his servant-maid. For the Almighty has so arranged the economy of his providence as to give most influence to that portion of the human race which are physically the weakest; and thus there are few, if any, men existing, who are not more or less biassed by the females with whom they associate. Hence the vast importance, my sons, of associating with virtuous women.”
“And the amazing responsibility,” added Lady Roxeter, “which hereby attaches to our sex. How much it pleases us in younger years, my Laura, when we observe the effects of our personal and acquired accomplishments on the other sex! and when, in after-life, we find similar effects produced by our engaging manners, and the agreeableness of our conversation! and yet how few of us consider that this influence which we possess over the other sex is a talent for which we shall be accountable before the tribunal of a just God : O may we render it subservient to the advancement of the divine