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Yet he could not disguise from himself the fact, that a great difficulty lay in his path. He had no clue to the young widow's residence. Her letter to Ringuld was dated from Edinburgh; but no street, no number was given, and to discover her, in such circumstances, was almost a hopeless matter. And truly he found it so;
after year passed on, and no trace could be had of those lié so earnestly sought. Yet the knowledge that such an one lived, and that he had the means to prove his right to the estate, rested over the gloomy soul of Sir Edward like a shadow, and gave to his repulsive character a still more repulsive cast.
The Rockhart estate adjoined another property of about the same size, called Netherton, possessed by a Mr Everly. This gentleman and Sir Edward being neighbours, were on a friendly footing; and between the son of the former and the daughter of the latter there grew an ardent attachment, and, with the consent of both parents, their union was contemplated.
At this time, an election touk place in the county. It was hotly contested, and two fierce parties were formed. Unhappily, Sir Edward and Mr Everly took opposite sides; and as both were violent partisans, and tbe leaders of the factions they espoused, it came to pass that they were estranged from each other. The coolness increased during the time of the canvass; and as the feeling was in proportion to the keenness of the contest, it became intiamed in the hearts of both, into a deep-rooted hatred, only half suppressed.
The smouldering fire broke fiercely and uncontrollably forth at the hustings. It was the duty of the two proprietors to propose the candidates, and in doing so it was hardly possible to avoid personalities. That day, bitter words, taunts, and insults were thrown by the one to the other; and at night, when the affair was over, they separated mortal foes.
Both being passionate, vengeful, and implacable men, this breach could never be healed; and both parents sternly commanded their children to have no further intercourse with each other. Richard Everly, proud, generous and high-spirited, remonstrated with his father; but he was haughtily commanded to hold liis peace, and warned that if he dared to disobey, bis heaviest curse should descend
The young man turned away without making any reply. He had promised to meet Fanny Rockhart that night in her father's park, and he kept his engagement. He found Fanny sitting at the foot of the trysting-tree, weeping bitterly. She, too, had been commanded to break off her intimacy with Richard, and threatened with the heaviest penalty if she dared to disobey.
He approached and sat down by her side, gently placing his arm around her. She was too much overcome to speak, but with a
gesture of wild grief threw herself on his breast, and sobbed vehe-
“I know the cause of your grief, Fanny," said the young man, in
“And must we then be separated ?" cried the fair girl, looking up with an expression of agony in her eyes.
“Not so; why should we?” asked her lover, with a smile half tender, half bitter. “We are not children, to be commanded thus."
“But 0, Richard, my father is so cruel and passionate; and he threatened me with his heaviest vengeance if I disobeyed him.”
“ And you would rather give me up than disregard such a despotic and iniquitous injunction ?" said her lover, in a reproachful voice.
“ No, no; do not think so," replied Fanny, wounded by the
chuice? It is cruel, Richard, to doubt me thus.”
"Never," replied Fanny, determinedly. “But wbat is to be
“ Then, Fanny, it is high time we took the matter into our own hands," said Richard, speaking with firm dignity.
Fanny looked at him inquiringly. She did not comprehend his meaning.
“ Listen, Fanny," continued her betrothed. “ This breach between your father and mine cannot be perpetual, and nothing would be so calculated to heal it as our union. Let us flee, and be joined together in wedlock. Then, when the two families are thus connected, the feud will be terminated.”
The trembling girl listened with pleasure to her lover's words. Had she dared to give heed to the voice of reason, she would have doubted such a result, for well she knew her father's implacable nature, But the vision which opened before her imagination banished the darker though more substantial prospect, and she shut it out from her sight.
“Will you dare this for my sake?” she exclaimed, with sparkling
and an animated voice.
She spoke not, but, with a blush and a sigh, laid her head gently on his bosom.
That night the lovers parted, resolving to flee together.
Puor Fanny! she had no one to counsel her in the emergency, Her mother had been dead for some years—chased into the restful grave by the cruelty and neglect of her husband. So, taking counsel of her own heart, she resolved to risk all, and become the wife of Richard Everly.
They were married, and the rage of the two fathers knew no bounds. Mr Everly swore to see his son no more, and he faithfully kept bis vath. Sir Edward, more diabolical in his nature, not only cast his daughter for ever off, but sought with fiendish malice to persecute and torture them. Nor did the opportunity fail.
Finding that there was no hope of forgiveness from their parents, the
young folks tried to earn a livelihood for themselves. But, alas ! their chance of doing so was small. Their former course of life unfitted them for a battle in the world; and day by day they sank farther into the depths of poverty. Several debts were contracted, individually small, but comparatively great in the aggregate, and no prospect appeared of ever being able to pay them.
All this was carefully watched by the relentless Sir Edward; and when he found that they were hopelessly involved, he bought up the debts, and cast Richard into prison. He had been lying there for months when our story opens; and though the most heart-rending appeals had been made to both parents, they were ineffectual.
Reduced at length to the extreme of want and emaciation, and seeing their darling boy perishing of hunger, the proud spirit of Richard consented that Fanny should go to her father once more, and
pray for relief. Had he been the only sufferer, he would have died rather than ask, not mercy, but justice from his vindictive persecutor; but when he saw his weakened Fanny, supporting in her feeble arms their little son at the point of death, he could hold out no longer, but suffered her to go.
TUE VAIN APPEAL.
Tue baronet was, as we have said, walking backwards and forwards in his magnificent room, with a troubled brow and lowering looks. He had been thiuking of his brother's child, and reflecting on the painful fact, that at any moment he might turn up, with the proof of legitimacy in his hand. The humiliation attending such a result as this, was not to be thought of : besides, he would be mado
penniless; for though he had lived much within his income, he knew he would be liable for the full amount for the past twenty years.
He sat down at an open desk, took from it two papers, and scanned them anxiously. They were the letters he had discovered in the bureau. When residing at Rockhart Hall, he kept these papers in the recess ere he found them; bu so fearful was he of their falling into the hands of another, that when he came to town he invariably brought them with him, and kept them under lock and key in his own apartment. An hundred times was he on the point of destroying them; but from some feeling, unaccountable in a man so unscrupulous, he had not done su.
He looked at them, as he had done thousands of times before, and continued his gloomy meditations.
His reflections were suddenly broken by the opening of the door of the apartment, and, looking round, he beheld his daughter. Her altered appearance; her wan, shrunken face; her hollow eyes, in which hunger dwelt; and her tottering frame, would have touched any heart but his.
He strode hurriedly to the middle of the apartment, and drawing himself up, and folding his arms on his breast, awaited her approach.
Staggering along the floor, she reached his feet, at which she kuelt; and clasping her hands, exclaimed, in a voice of agony,
“Mercy, father! mercy for my husband and child !"
A grim smile of triumph gathered on the repulsive features of the heartless wretch, as he looked down upon the pleading form of his child.
“ You have come again, have you ?” he said, unmoved. " Have I not told you before, that you need expect no mercy from me?”
No, no; do not say so. You cannot see your daughter at your feet in an agony of woe, and remain indifferent !”
“ Indifferent! ha, ha! not indifferent: it is a sight I love to see. Listen, Fanny. You were told the consequences of marrying that man-my bitter curse, and heaviest reveuge. You chose to risk those consequences, and you must bear them. You, therefore, plead in vain.”
· But, my boy, he is dying of hunger, father; think of that-of hunger. He at least is innocent.
He never disobeyed you.
0 have mercy, for his sake!"
“Never, since I can reach his parents' hearts through his agonies. Let him die. That will be the first blow. Then you will follow. I can see you are far gone already. That will be another torture to his spirit. Then he will lie in that cell till he rot-dying and suffering inch by inch, till the last drop of the cup is drained, and my revenge complete. Ha, ha! the most satisfying revenge is in my power, and I will exact it to the uttermost. Now, go; quit my sight for ever, with my curse upon your head."
* Mercy! mercy!" shrieked the wretched Fanny.
“ It is vain; you speak tv one who knows it not. Rise, I say, and be gone."
"I will not rise till you hear my prayer,” she exclaimed, frantically, and clasped him firmly by the knees.
He made towards the bell-pull, dragging her with him along the floor, and rung the bell violently, when his startled valet answered the summops.
Dogwood, take this woman away,” thundered Sir Edward. * For mercy's sake, do not be so cruel,” cried Fanny, in tones which might bave melted the heart of the veriest fiend. "I ask no pity for myself; but, О take compassion on my innocent boy !"
“Do you hear, idiot? drag her bence," roared the baronet, furiously
The valet advanced, and would have removed her, but she clung tenaciously to her father's knees, and he could only do so by using a violence which even he would have shuddered to perpetrate.
“Quit your hold, base, rebellious girl," hissed her enraged parent, with passion-distorted features.
“Never, never, till you grant my prayer. Give me, at least, a crust of bread, for my poor child. He is starving starving.”
“Let him starve," returned the wretch, with concentrated fury and triumph. 6 Will you
foot ?" A wild, unearthly light leapt into the mother's eyes; and starting up, she bent upon her father a look before which his guilty spirit quailed. Like some wierd prophetess she stood; her form drawn up to more than its wonted height, and her bosom heaving and dilating with the doom she was abont to pronounce.
“ The hour of prayer and mercy are alike past,” she exclaimed, in a hollow, awful voice. “I plead no more; even a mother's voice is hushed for her child. But the curtain of the future rises before
dark fate is revealed! Hear it, ruthless man; hear your own daughter unfold your destiny. A terrible vengeance awaits this day's monstrous crime! The same pitiless ear you have lent to my prayer, shall be accorded to yours in the hour of your utmost need. The same measure you have meted to others, shall be meted unto you again. Rich and prosperous as you now are, poverty and want shall overtake you; and when your hungry lips open in a cry for aid, they will open in vain. Farewell for ever! A life of misery is your portion; a death of hopeless agony shall be
She turned to quit the room; but ere she reached the door, fell senseless to the ground.
“Away with her!" shouted the baronet, as every limb quivered with rage and fear.