Page images

utmost rigour of the law to overtake him, and instinctively he turned round to ask his advice; but his friend was absent, and thus left to himself, he allowed his own inclinations to have the sway, and promised tu refrain from all further proceedings.

“Then, in that case," resumed Mr Inglefield, “you are free to take possession of Rockhart Hall and its appurtenances at once; and I should say, the sooner the better."

“Suppuse formal possession be taken the day after to-morrow, suggested Strickland. “Mr Rackreut will be able by that time to go, and deliver over all papers aud other things.”

“ I will instruct him to this, Mr Strickland," observed Ingle. field. “I must now say good-bye, having to consult with junior counsel, in a case which comes on to-morrow in the Second Division."

Henry was now at liberty to withdraw, and gladly joined Diamond and her father, who, along with Andrew, waited for him

[ocr errors]

in the passage.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

“Where is Richard ?” he asked, looking round in search of his friend,

“Guidness kens !" answered Andrew. “I saw him whisper a word in Ned's lug, and then mak a bolt oot o' the Coort, wi' Ned after him."

“Never mind,” remarked Mr Gray; "he will cast up in due time. Let us now make the best of our way to Newington, and convey to Alice the happy result of the trial.”

Sir Henry Rockhart, wad ye be pleased to offer yer arm to a humble leddy like Miss Hunter ?” asked Andrew, slily.

If Miss Hunter will do me the honour to take it,” replied Henry, drawing Diamond's arm within his own, and leading the Way out, followed by the two old happy hearts, which gazad upou. them with pride and joy.

Meanwhile Richard's sleepless spirit of revenge was preventing the late baronet from procuring the means of effecting his escape from the scurn and obloquy which had come upon him. Requesting Ned to wait at the entrance to the Bank, he ran up the steps, and hastily traversed the passage towards the telling-room, at the counter of which he perceived Rockhart and Dogwood standing the former busily engaged in filling up a check. proached, and unscrupulously looking over his shoulder, observed that it was for a sum of two thousand pounds.

He endorsed it, and tossing it to the clerk on the other side, said, in a voice of agitation, “In ten pound notes, with two hundred pounds in gold; and be quick, if you please.”

“ That is a forgery,” exclaimed Richard, in a deep voice, which made the clerk start. Rockbart turned round, and met the withering eyes of his son-iu-law, beneath the terrible glance of which he quailed.

Richard ap

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

“ Io what respect is it a forgery, Mr Everly?" inquired the clerk, who knew Richard.

“ Because this person is no longer baronet of Rockhart Hall,” answered the young man, deliberately. “The law has this day taken it from himn, and given it to the rightful heir. It will, therefore, be at your peril if you pay money to his signature."

The ex-baronet, baffled and mortified, turned away in rage. Richard followed, and overtaking him in the lobby, said, ruthlessly,

“ Now, Edward Rockhart, the murderer of my wife and child, the pitiless destroyer of my happiness, the hour of vengeance, so long watched for and waited for, is drawing on apace. By the corpse of my dead wife, I swore to accomplish the ruin of ber murderer-to mete out to bim the same measure of measureless cruelty which he poured on her defenceless head. That oath I have only lived to fulfil; and by the help of heaven or hell, it shall be performed. You are now in my power, even as she and I were then in yours. Expect no mercy-look only for retribution ; remember the awful words of your daughter's prophecy, and be assured that it shall be fulfilled to the letter. Farewell! when the final hour comes, you shall see me again."

He rushed on, with the look of an angel of wrath, and saw not that his trembling listener staggered, and would have fallen but for the supporting arms of Dogwood. Remorse and terror bad now come like an arrow to his heart-a barbed arrow, which could not be withdrawn, but must rankle and fester for ever. The terrible and unexpected reverse that had overtaken bim, when he deemed himself perfectly secure, and this burning intimation of vengeance, caused his dark soul to look in upon itself, and it shrank appalled at its own blackness. The time of retribution has indeed come. Long has this man set at nought justice and mercy, and the finer qualities of humanity. Long has be been familiar with pride and cruelty, and every fiendish act, and it seemed as if the violated laws of his moral being were to have no vindication; but these and their Creator are not to be so mocked. Conscience is awake now, and a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indig. nation accompanies its waking. It is very, very strange that the only words of that Book, called the Bible, which he can remember, and which lie before him in characters of fire, are these “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." Richard rushed into the street, where Ned stood waiting.

Now for the fulfilment of your promise, Ned,” he whispered hastily. Keep that man in view. Observe well his every action and experience; and when he gets hopelessly involved in difficulty, let me know."

“I understand, sir," replied Ned, with a god, “ You may safely trust to me,"

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

" Losh, man,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

* Here, then, is a check for fifty pounds. When you want more, you have only to send for it. Send all your letters to Netherton."

Thrusting the check into Ned's hand, Richard walked rapidly away, leaving the gamekeeper to discharge the singular mission which had been intrusted to him.

An hour later, Everly entered the parlour at Newington, where all the friends were assembled, Mrs Ford among the number.

• Preserve us a,' Mr Everly! we hae jist been wond'rin' what had come ower ye," exclaimed Andrew, as he appeared. ye've shurely walked fast; for yer face is as red as a carrot, and yer een are fit to loup oot o' yer

heed.” “Excuse me, friends; I had some business to do," said Richard, hastily.

Inquiries were bow made for Ned, who had been the lion of the day; and sorely disappointed were they all, when informed that he was engaged in a service for his master, which might detain him fur a long time.

“Hech! but he's a sly chield," observed Mrs Ford, - Little did I think o' what happened that day he cam first to Edinburgh: and him to speir sae very innocently, tae, fur Maister Stricklaud's office!"

Ye maun gie him a pension, Henry-ahem! I mean Sir Henry,” remarked Andrew. “ He's weel deservin' o't." "Nothing of the kind," interrupted Richard,

" He shall be my But what are your intended proceedings now, Henry?”. “Mr Strickland wants me to take formal possession the day after tu-morrow," answered the youth, rather timidly; for he expected Richard to reproach bim for consenting to drop further proceedings against his uncle.

“I am glad of this,” rejoined Richard. I mean to go out to Netherton ta-morrow. You had better go with me, and walk over to the Hall next day, to meet the lawyers. Dues Rackrent consent to deliver every thing up at once ?".

“Yes,” replied Henry, hesitatingly, • Both Mr Strickland and Mr Pennyfeather urged me to accept this offer, iustead of

“ Instead of pursuing the other party for fraud. I understand,". said Richard, frankly. “Had I been present, I would have counselled the same thing."

Henry was relieved. This was so different from what be expected; but he was not aware that Richard considered such a course to be the nearest road to vengeance,

On the second morning following the day of trial, Henry left Netherton, to go across the fields to Rockhart Hall, there to meet Mr Strickland and the other lawyer, and be put in possession of the estate. It may easily be imagined that his heart was filled with many swelling thoughts, and that a flood of strong, happy emotions


[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



was surging through it. Raised from obscurity, to be the representative of one of the most ancient and honourable families in Scotland, was an experience of no ordinary magnitude; and to a less equally-balanced mind, it might have proved a change too great to bear. But Henry was not to be thus thrown from his equilibrium. While fully alive to the greatness of his newly-gained position, his mind and heart had been too solidly educated to be unduly elated, or moved by feelings of vanity and pride. He calmly viewed the dignity and responsibility of the position he was about to occupy, and instinctively gathered up bis manhood to act in accordance therewith. Yet it must be confessed, that a peculiar sensation thrilled through his frame, when he leapt over the Netherton fence, and trod for the first time on his own land.

He had not as yet seen Rockhart Hall. He only knew the direction in which it lay, and trusted to make his way towards it through the fields. After crossing a grass enclosure, he came to a narrow cart-road, which did not seem to have been often used; for beyond the faint mark of a wheel-track, it was covered with clustering gowans. He hesitated whether to follow this road, or enter & footpath which opened through a gap in the fence on the other side. As the latter promised to take bim by a shorter road to his destination, he chose it, and crossing over, passed through the hedge into the adjoining field.

He had not gone many steps, when he heard a rough voice exclaim behind him,

“ Hilloa, sirrah! what are you doing there ? or where are you

Looking round, he perceived a big, ill-favoured man upon horseback, who had halted on the road, and was looking towards him with threatening gestures.

“Is it me to whom you are speaking, sir?" inquired Henry, calmly.

“ To be sure it is you," was the answer, in a bullying tone. " What are you doing in that field ?."

“I was merely intending to cross it, sir, as I supposed it led to Rockhart Hall.”

To cross it, fellow ! and how dare you cross a field, when you have a road to go by ?

“ I beg your pardon. There is a footpath here, and as I meant to keep it, I did not think I could do any harm."

“ Then I shall teach you very differently. The lands of Rockhart Hall are not to be rambled over by every strolling vagrant who chooses to go idle about the country. Come back at once to this road, unless you wish to find yourself inside the county jail.".

“ You might at least be civil,” observed Henry, walking quietly back to the road. “If I have erred, it is through ignorance; and I


[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]


am not aware that I have subjected myself to ungentlemanly

“How dare you answer me back in that way, sirrah ?" roared
the horseman, in a rage.

66 Do

know whom you are at present

“I must confess ignorance on that point," replied Henry, looking deliberately up at him.

“ Then know, sir, that I am Mr Rackrent, the factor on this estate. Now, perhaps, you will make an apology for your insulting language."

"I cannot see that I am required to make any apology," answered the youth.

Though you are the factor here, that gives you no right to treat a stranger in such an unconrteous manner; and as for admitting that I have used unbecoming language, I consider that I would have been warranted in speaking much more strongly."

Now, sirrah, you will give me your name," exclaimed the factor, choking with wrath. “I will teach you what it is to insult

You don't stir from this spot till you have given me your name."

“I have been called Smith," replied Henry, a smile flitting round his mouth,

“Ah! Smith, I dare say," returned the other, contemptuously.
" That's a very common alias. But I'll know you again, at ang
rate, and you'll not be out of the parish before I catch you."

Saying this, the factor set spurs to his horse, and galloped off.
“So this is the lawyer's brother 2" mused Henry, following him

"Well, our first interview does not augur favourably
for a long connection, I suppose I must keep to the road,

Henry sauntered on till he came to a cottage by the wayside.
It was not old, but, from obvious neglect, had been suffered to go,
greatly down. As he came near, an old man issued from the door,
dressed in his Sunday clothes, and proceeded leisurely along the
road, in the same direction as that in which Henry was going.

"A fine morning this, friend ?" said Henry, as he overtook him.
“A very braw mornin', sir," replied the man, touching his cap.
« Does this road lead to Rockhart Hall?"

“ Ay does it, sir. It tak's in by the back entrance.
gaun there, I can show ye the way; for I'm just gaun mysel'."

“O, thank you, I passed a footpath a little ago, but I suppose
it is illegal to go that way."

“No illegal, sir; but the factor winna let onybody, if he can help it. But it's a kirk-road, for a' that.”

5 Ah! indeed. Then I was right enough in taking it this morning, though the factor turned me back.'

“Ay, he wad sune dae that, either wi' a stranger or a tenant."

with his eye.


But if yer

« PreviousContinue »