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by poachers, their depredations now increased to an alarming extent, and the gamekeepers were obliged to be continually on the alert. One memorable night we were all assembled in the drawing-rooms, amusing ourselves with music, conversation, and portfolios of prints, when some one remarked that Lord Montford had taken no share in the pursuits of the evening. He was inquired after, but he and Philip Neville had left the room some time before ; and George Neville, on being interrogated, owned that his brother and Lord Montford had gone to join the gamekeepers in an expedition of discovery, since they flattered themselves that they had received a sure clue to the detection of the principal author of the late misdemeanours. Mrs. Neville (I suppose, to contrast her maternal anxiety with my coldness and indifference) burst into tears, and said that she was persuaded her dear Philip would be murdered. Lord Ellerton appeared seriously discomposed.
“I know Montford's eagerness and impetuosity,” he said ; "he will be foremost in any contest, and perhaps be a severe sufferer.”
George Neville, on being interrogated, mentioned the spot to which they had been directed, and contirmed my fears by naming Hammond as the man who had been cited as the ringleader in the affair. Lord Ellerton, Mr. Neville, and a few more of the gentlemen, left the house in quest of the fugitives, and I remained pale, nervous, and gasping, and feeling all the agitation in reality which Mrs. Neville, I was persuaded, only assumed for the occasion. In about an hour a bustle in the hall announced the return of the gentlemen. We descended to the hall to satisfy our anxiety; they all looked sad and sorrowful. The dead body of Hammond was borne in by the gamekeepers, and Lord Montford followed, wan, trembling, and dejected. It appeared that several of the poachers were detected by the party, and Hammond, as the ringleader, was seized hold of by Dawson, the head gamekeeper; the others escaped, pursued by the under gamekeepers and Philip Neville, and Dawson called to Lord Montford to assist him in securing the struggling Hammond. At that moment, however, Hammond levelled a blow at Dawson, which struck him to the ground, and he took to flight. Lord Montford followed, and came up with him; they grappled together for a moment, when Hammond raised his arm, and Lord Montford perceived by the light of the moon that he held a knife in his hand. Lord Montford, feeling that his life was at stake, instantly drew forth a pistol, and his aim was so secure that his adversary fell dead on the ground. The rest of Lord Montford's companions, and the party who had left the house in search of them, now appeared about the same time, and the agitated young man, shuddering with horror, and leaning on the arm of Lord Ellerton, returned to the house. I take shame to myself when I own that I felt relieved at hearing that Hammond was actually dead, and that no disclosures could take place through his means. Lord Montford seemed overwhelmed with that consternation natural to a young and ingenuous mind at the reflection of having taken away the life of a fellow-creature, even in self-defence. Lord Ellerton kindly reasoned with and reassured him, and the gentlemen were all gathering round him, and saying something consolatory on the subject, when Ruth Hammond rushed through the open door into the hall, and threw herself upon the body of her husband.
“Yes, weep,” she said, passionately addressing Lord Montford, weep for the murder you have committed, but you cannot know the thousandth part of the cause you have for tears: you have slain your father! He to whom you owed your existence now lies bleeding by the hand of his son, sent with all his sins upon his head into the presence of the God he has offended.”
“ Poor woman, she is raving !” said Lord Ellerton compassionately ; “ do not attend to her, my son.
As he spoke, he motioned to Philip Neville to lead his cousin from the hall; and Lord Montford, absolutely stupified by the events of the night, offered no resistance.
“ Your son!” repeated Ruth Hammond, contemptuously ; " believe it not. Mine are not the ravings of insanity ; sudden anguish has caused me to break the vow that I have kept for years through poverty, and shame, and trials, and I will maintain the truth of my words. Ask your proud lady yonder to confirm them ; she who, by dint of bribery, won my sweet babe from me six-and-twenty years ago ; but a curse rested with her gold; peace and hope departed from me since that vile barter took place - she has felt no sting--she has known no reproach—she has revelled in pomp and luxury, undiscovered and unsuspected; but the day of reckoning has at last arrived, and I charge her to disprove my accusation."
“A very extraordinary business, indeed,” said Mr. Neville, drily ; " and I am quite of opinion that this good woman shows no signs of insanity.”
“ You must be as insane as herself, if you can entertain a doubt of it," said Lord Ellerton, indignantly.
Why does not Lady Ellerton speak, and declare her innocence ?" asked Mr. Neville. My dear Isabel,” said my
husband, “it is almost an insult to ask you to vindicate yourself from the accusations of a lunatic ; but as my brother appears to think that she will best be silenced by such a measure, I wish you would distinctly assure her that you are unconscious of what she is alluding to."
I attempted to speak, but my voice was choked with agitation, and I remained silent.
“ See,” said Ruth Hammond, triumphantly, “she does not, she cannot deny that she has stolen my blessed babe from me, and hardened his heart, and taught him to despise the poor, till he has raised his hand against his own father ;-she cannot, in the presence of the dead, command her tongue to contradict the words of the widowed wife and desolate mother whom she has ruined.”
I burst into tears, and several of the guests who were present exchanged wondering glances with each other.
“ This is worse than I supposed,” said the earl, angrily ; “ you are right, Neville, in saying that this woman is not insane ; she is giving way to her spirit of revenge by making a deliberate attack on the character of Lady Ellerton, which shall not pass unpunished.”
"I agree with you, my dear brother," whispered Mr. Neville in his most insinuating tone, “and with your leave I will myself take this
woman into the library, and by a little skilful cross-questioning, doubt not that I shall soon get her to contradict herself, and to entreat our pardon for her unwarrantable conduct.”
He went up to Ruth Hammond, whispered a few words to her, and she readily followed him, her eyes gleaming with malicious triumph as she passed me. I now prepared myself for the worst, for I knew that my cause was in the hands of an inveterate enemy, who, instead of cross-questioning and intimidating my accuser, would be likely, by every art of persuasion, to extract from her the most minute proofs of my crime. “ Let us leave the hall,” said Lord Ellerton, impatiently ;
have stayed here too long." He led me to my boudoir, and entreated me to command my feelings. 66 Were it not for the one awful event of this night," said he, “I should really be disposed to smile at you, Isabel, for appearing so overcome by such absurd aspersions." I buried my face in my hands, and he playfully continued—“Well, if affairs come to the worst, and all the world seems disposed to conclude our poor Montford to be a changeling, you must apply to your kind friend, Lady Barlow, to be a witness in your favour. I think she will be able to state from her own recollection that yours was no fictitious confinement, and also to quote the testimony of her good old father (who certainly must have been a competent judge) to the same effect.”
0, how his words agonised me!
“Will you not go and see how Lord Montford is ?" I inquired, with the hope of being left to solitude. No, dear Isabel,” he replied, “I will stay with
Montford is not alone-his cousins are with him, and I doubt not he will soon become sensible that an act, committed so decidedly and palpably in defence of his own life, cannot be imputed to him as a crime. Montford has a strong mind; so have you, naturally, Isabel, but circumstances have weakened your nerves, and impaired your spirits. I myself, I fear, have not always shown the attention to your feelings that I ought to have done ; but, believe me, I have ever esteemed and respected you as a high-principled and excellent woman."
“You are too kind, too trusting,” I murmured.
“ Nay," he replied, “I give very little proof of my trust in you by disbelieving so preposterous an accusation; it has not a shadow of plausibility attached to it. I doubt not my brother has already brought this woman to shame and repentance.
At this moment a servant entered to inform the earl that Mr. Neville requested his presence in the library, and he departed, saying he was very glad of the summons, and tenderly embraced me. I felt that it was his last embrace, and that henceforth he would recoil from me with horror and detestation : the long-dreaded storm had at length
devoted head. “Oh, Aubrey-my beloved Aubrey !” I wildly exclaimed, “could your sainted spirit look down upon your poor mother, how, even in the midst of bliss, would you feel for her agony !".
I sank on my knees, and tried to ask the pardon and support of God, but I was unable to command words. I arose, and lay down on the sofa ; lights appeared to flash before me, reproachful
burst upon my
faces to smile derision on me, and mocking voices to repeat over and over each circumstance and each aggravation of my sin; presently the illusion disappeared, and anticipation began to unite with retrospection in inflicting punishment on I thought of the despair and horror of my husband, of the ruin and misery of Lord Montford, of the triumph of the Nevilles, and of the contumely of the world; but I thought on one fact more terrible than each and all of them, that I deserved them—that I was guilty. Cases have been known, in which criminals executed on strong circumstantial evidence have died protesting their innocence, and that innocence has afterwards, by some unexpected discovery, been brought to light. I thought on them with envy. « Oh, to be like them !" I exclaimed to have the consciousness of innocence while suffering under unjust aspersions-to hear the revilings of man, feeling that God, in his own good time, will prove their revilings to have been unfounded! Oh! it is a great and glorious privilege to be free from gross crime in the eyes of our God—to be able to turn from false earthly witnesses to appeal to an all-seeing Witness in heaven. Had I but that blessed stay, how nobly would I sustain the insults of kindred and friends, imprisonment, destitution, even a shameful death itself--but such a consciousness can, alas ! never, never be mine."
Time passed on-no one came to me. I was parched with that terrible thirst usually the companion of excitement and apprehension. I rang the bell for a glass of water; one of the under housemaids brought it to me, and as she set it down, she said, with a forward freedom, very unlike her usual respectful deference
“ Dear me, my lady, what a sad piece of work there is in the house! I am sure I would not be in your place for the world. Mr. Neville has just been calling the servants together, and telling us that you
have imposed Ruth Hammond's child upon us for our young lord.”
I only answered her by inquiring whether Ruth Hammond was still in the library.
“ No," she replied ; “ Mr. Neville has got out of her all he wanted to know, and she is now with the housekeeper, crying, and taking on at a sad rate; but, to be sure, one can't wonder at it. Poor thing ! it must be a hard trial for a woman to think that she has sold her own child, and got her husband murdered by him.”
MEMOIRS OF A CADET.1
The next night we arrived at Berhampore, but too late to go ashore; and thus ended my first trip on the Ganges, or Hooghly, or Cossimbazar river, for it is known by all these names.
Milden had principally occupied himself in the study of Hindostanee. I also had applied myself to the same pursuit, pretty well for me ; but being of a more locomotive and fidgetty disposition than my companion, I made much slower progress than he. Horsman and Speering, too, had studied, but more leisurely; and instead of books, had principally consulted their servants ; so that their acquirements were not of the most courtly character.
Our budgerow had been brought to, a short distance below the European hospital, and a little above the flag-staff, under the shade of some tall trees. Those who are acquainted with Berhampore will at once recognise the spot. At ten o'clock on the morning after our arrival we made our bow to the adjutant of the regiment to which we were for the present to remain attached. This was lieutenant Harley, a gentlemanly man, who kindly escorted us to the house of our commandant, Lieutenant-Colonel Cooly. “ You'll find him an odd fish," said our conductor, “ but you must not mind him.”
We found his highness seated at table, having had his breakfast, with a hooka-snake in his hand, and a sneaker of tea placed beside him. He scarcely deigned to notice us, until he had asked his adjutant some questions respecting a recruit who was about to be introduced, and he then desired us to sit down. As we had not been by any means accustomed to the presence of so high and mighty a personage, we expressed ourselves humbly grateful, and did as we were told.
After some seconds of terrific silence, I was thus addressed by the great man, I suppose because I was the nearest to him : 6. Your
name is Milden, I think.”
No, sir,” answered I, “ my name is Thornel ; “ this gentleman is Mr. Milden.”
“ Well, it don't signify-how many days have you been on the river ?"
“ Eight or nine, sir," I replied.
“ You must have loitered in Calcutta ; your names have been on our rolls for three weeks.”
“ We only remained there a month, sir, by permission of the adjutant-general,” observed Milden.
“ Hum !”
A service-letter was here brought in, which Colonel Cooly opened and read. “ How's this, Harley ?” said he, peevishly; was it not in orders, only last week, that the officer of the day should personally wait on me with his report ? Write to Mr. Figgins, and request his reasons for flying in the face of orders so lately issued.”
“ I can tell you myself, sir," responded his staff-officer; “he is on station-duty at the main guard to-day.”
? Continued from vol. xxi. p. 224.