Page images
PDF
EPUB

wicked London set got hold of him, and fleeced and ruined him, and he could not bear up against it.”

“ Died of it?" questioned the stranger.

“He killed himself,” interrupted Farmer Lee, in a low tone. “He threw himself off one of the London bridges one night. Westminster, wasn't it, Reuben?”

“How deplorable!” said the stranger, after a pause. “Was he buried here? Can you

show me his grave ?" “He was never found, sir,” answered Reuben. “His hat was, but his body was not. The tide carried it away."

“ And so the Grange passed to Oscar Dalrymple ?”

“ Yes," said Farmer Lee. “He married the eldest daughter, Selina, Mr. Charles's sister. And something not pleasant was up about them. They went to London, and Mrs. Oscar got into debt, and her husband brought her back here : and since then he has been an awful landlord, grinding us all down to powder. I rent under him.”

“Oscar Dalrymple was always a grasping man.”

“ Ah, sir, but you have no conception what he is now," returned Mr. Lee; "there's not a more cruel tyrant going. We are most of us to be turned out next week from the farms that have sheltered us all our lives; that we have spent our savings upon and improved to what they are. And—as you know the place, sir, you must remember some poor cottages on the common."

“ Very well.”

“ He has taken it in his head to build finer in their places, but the poor labourers would not go out, for there was no other low-rented hovels for them to turn to. So he pulled the roofs off, and forced them out, and they are living in barns, without any better shelter. These are the men that are making the disturbance in-doors now. Then Thomsbut it's of no use troubling a stranger with these details. He's playing Old Nick over us, sir, and

nothing less. It was a fatal night for us that took Mr. Charles."

“ You would have been better off under him, you think ?”

“ Think!” indignantly cried the farmer. “I'd give the half of what I have saved, for the sake of myself and those around me, if Mr. Charles was squire now," he added, in a burst of generosity. 66 We have never called this one squire ; not a man on the estate.”

“ Did Mr. Charles owe much in this neighbourhood when he died ?” “Nothing at all.” “Does he owe you nothing ?”

« Me!" echoed Farmer Lee. - Not he. I had sent some money to him just before it happened, and I did fear there was something wrong about that: in short, I thought it was lost; but it was returned to me afterwards, all safe."

“Do you know,” cried the stranger, after a pause of consideration, “ it appears

you assume too easily the fact of Charles Dal. rymple's death. He may be alive. His body was never found, you

This hypothesis was instantly attacked by Farmer Lee and Reuben. If Mr. Charles was alive, where could he be? where could he have dis

to me that

say."

appeared to, and where could he have stopped ? No, no; he was dead, beyond all doubt.

“ I must still maintain my opinion—that there is no certainty about it. Indeed, I think the chances are that he is alive.”

“Then perhaps you'll enjoy your opinion in private,” cried Farmer Lee. “For to talk in that senseless manner only makes us feel the fact of his death more sharply."

“What if I tell you I met him abroad, since the period you mention as having been that of his death ?” continued the stranger.

There was a dead pause. Reuben breathed heavily. “Oh, don't tamper with us !” he cried out; “if my dear young master's alive, let me know it. Perhaps he is alive : perhaps he's near us : perhaps he came down with you to-night!"

The stranger unwound a shawl-handkerchief, in which his voice and chin had been muffled, raised his hat from his brows, and advanced from under the shade cast by the stable wall

, into the moonlight. “Reuben ! John Lee! do I look anything like him?" Farmer Lee and Charles Dalrymple had to support the old man. His knees bent, his strength went from him, and they thought he would have fainted: the joy of recognising his young master, raised—as it indeed seemed—from a six years grave, was too much for him. Tears partially relieved him, and he sobbed like a child.

“But it's magic,” uttered the farmer, when he had wrung Charles's hand as if he would wring it off, "it's nothing less. Dead, yet alive!"

“I never was dead,” smiled Charles. “The night when I found myself irretrievably ruined, a rogue as well as a madman—"

“ Hold there, sir,” sobbed Reuben : “a rogue you never were."

“I was, Reuben. Lee, ruined myself, I staked that night at the gaming-table the money I held of yours : staked it and lost it. When

wandered down to Westminster-bridge afterwards, and hung over it, the thought was in my heart to take the leap into the river, and into futurity, as my uncle had done before me. A young man, who came past, pulled me back, and indignantly asked what I meant by hanging there. To that circumstance I believe I owe my preservation.”

“Your hat was found in the Thames and brought back to me next day,” interrupted poor, bewildered, happy Reuben.

“ It blew off into the river; it was one of the windiest nights I ever was out in, save at sea,” answered Charles. “In the morning I pledged my watch and ring, both valuable, disguised myself in rough clothes, and went to Liverpool, and on board a packet bound for America. There I have been working honestly for my bread, as a clerk; and my cousin's death, which I saw in the papers, has brought me back.”

“Ay, you are the heir to Dalrymple now, Mr. Charles ; and poor Sir Charles is on his last legs, we hear,” cried Mr. Lee. you know it, sir "

“I know, perhaps, more than you do," returned Charles. “I come from Dalrymple now: I went straight there on my arrival."

“ But how could you be alive all this while, and never tell us, Mr. Charles ?” pleaded Reuben. “ It was cruel, sir."

“Reuben, I literally dared not. I dreaded the consequences of my fraud-the money I had used of yours,

Lee. The fear of being prose

“ Did

cuted as a criminal was always upon me. I had just saved up enough to replace that, when I learnt my cousin's death, and that I was consequently the heir to Dalrymple. I knew that fact would enable me to make arrangements for my other debts, and I came to England.”

“Mr. Lee! Mr. Lee !" suddenly cried the excited Reuben, “he is your landlord now, not that screw that has been acting it, and you won't get turned out. I never thought of that.”

“ I have been thinking of nothing else,” said the farmer, ingenuously. “ You'll not turn me out, Mr. Charles ?”

“No, that I will not,” laughed Charles, “and those who are already out shall go back again. But I fear I shall be obliged to turn somebody out of the Grange.

How was the news to be conveyed to Mrs. Dalrymple ? Reuben said he should break down if he attempted it, and do more harm than good. Farmer Lee hit upon the brightest scheme: that Isabel Lynn should be taken into their confidence, and that she should break it to Mrs. Dal. rymple.

So they fetched out Isabel, and certainly managed to startle and confuse her. Farmer Lee opened the conference by telling her, with an uncomfortably mysterious air, that a dead man was come to life again, who was asking to see her, and Isabel's thoughts flew to a poor labourer, who had died, really died, that morning in the neighbourhood. When she was hopelessly and thoroughly mystified, Charles emerged from his hidingplace behind the stables, and they introduced him as Mr. Charles Dal. rymple, just returned from abroad, which did not tend to mend matters; at least, until her shock of startled surprise was over.

She undertook the difficult task of preparing his mother and sister, and Charles gave her his arm to accompany her by a circuitous path to the front entrance. Never had she accepted any arm with feelings so strange: one moment in a whirlpool of happiness, the next believing she must be walking familiarly with a resuscitated ghost.

“ Isabel,” he said, “this is more than I deserve.”
Your coming back ?"
“Not that. My coming back to find you."
“Did you think I should be dead, as you were ?"
“Something worse than dead. Married. I have found

you,

have I not,” he murmured—“ found

you “ Charles! When you know you formally gave me up, as soon as you came into the Grange !" “Ay, in one of my hot-headed impulses: because I had vowed a vow father that

my

mother should remain mistress of the Grange, and I could not see my way clear to keep her there and marry you. It was that, the losing you, which drove me to recklessness. Oh, Isabel

, I have bought experience dearly! To find you Isabel Lynn is indeed more than I deserve. I have never forgotten you; I have loved you dearly up to this, my return; let it be again with us, as of old: you promised then to be my wife; promise it now."

She burst into tears: her feelings were too highly strung, her joy too great, to retain composure longer; and she turned and leaned her head upon him for support, he bending fondly over her to catch her whisper :

“Yes, Charles, if you so will it."

for

my own ?

to my

They were in danger of forgetting Isabel's task, but she soon quitted him and entered the house. Mrs. Dalrymple and Selina were alone in the oak parlour, frightened and trembling, whilst the master of the Grange, the ostensible master, stood cold and unbending in the great hall, his refractory dependents hemming him in and setting forth their wrongs, to which he turned worse than a deaf ear.

Not very long did Charles Dalrymple wait. He saw his mother and sister emerge from the house, Isabel urging them on and talking eagerly, probably assuring them that her marvellous news was no fable. Next Charles was clasped in his mother's arms, and in a few minutes Mr. Lee and Reuben came up : a happier group has rarely assembled under the night stars.

«Ho there! make way!" And they drew aside as six mounted police dashed up the avenue, who, quitting their horses, entered the house.

“ What will be the end of this riot!" uttered Selina Dalrymple, clasping her hands.

Perhaps the better way to end it will be for me to show myself,” said Charles.

“Yes, yes,” eagerly acquiesced Farmer Lee; “let us go in, all in a body. Mr. Charles, I wish we had a good painter here to take down the looks when you discover yourself.”

Selina,” whispered her brother, “I cannot help displacing Oscar from the Grange. I am sorry, for your sake, but”

“I am glad," interrupted Selina—" so glad! If you knew, Charles, how miserable and ashamed Oscar's rule has made me, you would know that I speak truth in saying I shall rejoice to see him supplanted at the Grange."

“ But I was going to say, my dear, that a good income shall be secured to you, under your control, so that there shall be no more pinching in your household.”

“How have you heard about the pinching ?" .
“I have heard many things at Dalrymple. I went there first.”
The constables were standing in the hall

, ready to act, whilst the men urged that they had done nothing to be took up for; they had only come to speak to Mr. Dalrymple, and they didn't know as there was no law

“ You break the law when you use threats to a man in his own house."

“We haven't used no threats : we want a answer from Mr. Dalrymple ; whether he's a going to force us to lodge under the wind and rain, or whether he'll find us roofs to put our bodies in, in place o' them he have destroyed. He told us to go to the workus; but he knows that if we go there we lose all chance o' getting our living, and shall never have a home for our families again."

I can no longer make room for you on my ground, either as tenants or labourers," haughtily spoke up Oscar. "You may take yourselves entirely away, if you don't like the workhouse."

“We won't say nothing about marcy,” savagely cried Dyke, “but is there justice ? Hands off, Mr. Constable, I'm a doing nothing yet.”

“ Yes there is justice,” interrupted a voice, which thrilled through the very marrow of Oscar Dalrymple, as Charles advanced, and took his place

again that.

“ Yes, your

by the side of the Honourable Mr. Cleveland, who started back in positive fright. “Oscar, you know me, I see; gentlemen, some of you know me: I am Charles Dalrymple, and have returned to claim my own."

Was it a spectre from the grave? Many of them looked as if they feared so: and Oscar Dalrymple’s impassible face was moved now to a face of rage and horror, as he gradually backed against the wall behind him.

"I find you have all thought me dead," proceeded Charles, whilst Mr. Cleveland seized upon him, and signs of awaking recognition and delight arose on various countenances, “ but I am not dead, and I never have been; I have simply been abroad. I got into debt and difficulties, my friends, and was afraid to stay in my own country, but now that the difficulties are over, I have come amongst you again.

The faces would have been a group for a David Wilkie: pity, as Farmer Lee said, that one was not there.

“Of course the Grange has been mine throughout," went on Charles, "and my brother-in-law has not been the legal owner : consequently, whatever acts he may have ordered, performed, or sanctioned, relating to the estate, are NULL and void."

“He's the squire!" burst forth the room; “our own young squire's come home again, and our troubles are over! Good luck to the ship that brought him!”

Charles laughed and turned to his poorer dependents. troubles shall be over. I hear that there has been dissatisfaction; and, perhaps, oppression. I can only say that I will set everything to rights : those tenants who have received a notice to quit may burn it, and those who have been actually driven forth shall be reinstalled.”

“ But, dear good young master,” called out Dyke, in a desponding voice, “the roofs be all off ourn, and the walls pretty well levelled with the ground.”

“ I will build them up again for you, Dyke, stronger than ever,” said Charles, heartily; "here's my hand upon it. Constables, I think you will not be wanted here."

Not only Dyke, but the whole multitude, en masse, pressed forward to clasp Charles Dalrymple’s hands; and so hard and earnest were the pressures, that Charles was almost tempted to cry for quarter.

“I do not believe it is Charles Dalrymple," burst forth Oscar, in his mortification and rage. “ Who is to convince me that it is not an impostor?"

"I can certify that it is really Charles Dalrymple," said Mr. Cleveland, with a suppressed smile: “he is not so changed as to render recognition uncertain. There's no mistaking his handsome face.”.

“I can certify that it is my dear lost son,” added Mrs. Dalrymple, through her tears.

“ And I and Mr. Lee can swear to it,” cried Reuben. “I wish we were all as sure of heaven."

“Oscar, you know me well enough,” said Charles. 66 Let us be friends. I have not come home to sow discord, but peace and good-will. I cannot permit you to continue here at the Grange, for my mother must come back again and be mistress in her old home. Unless she would like you and Selina to remain with her, her guests: but whether so or not, an

« PreviousContinue »