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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat Will He Do With It - Book 11 - Chapter 2
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What Will He Do With It - Book 11 - Chapter 2 Post by :SwingWinger Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :970

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What Will He Do With It - Book 11 - Chapter 2

BOOK XI CHAPTER II

AN OFFERING TO THE MANES.

Three sides of Waife's cottage were within Lady Montfort's grounds; the fourth side, with its more public, entrance, bordered the lane. Now, as he thus sate, he was startled by a low timid ring at the door which opened on the lane. Who could it be?--not Jasper! He began to tremble. The ring was repeated. One woman-servant composed all his establishment. He heard her opening the door--heard a low voice; it seemed a soft, fresh, young voice. His room-door opened, and the woman, who of course knew the visitor by sight and name, having often remarked him on the grounds with Lady Montfort and Sophy, said, in a cheerful tone, as if bringing good news, "Mr. Lionel Haughton."

Scarcely was the door closed--scarcely the young man in the room, before, with all his delightful, passionate frankness, Lionel had clasped Waife's reluctant hand in both his own, and, with tears in his eyes, and choking in his voice, was pouring forth sentences so loosely knit together that they seemed almost incoherent; now a burst of congratulation--now a falter of condolence--now words that seemed to supplicate as for pardon to an offence of his own--rapid transitions from enthusiasm to pity, from joy to grief--variable, with the stormy April of a young, fresh, hearty nature.

Taken so wholly by surprise, Waife, in vain attempting to appear cold and distant, and only very vaguely comprehending what the unwelcome visitor so confusedly expressed, at last found voice to interrupt the jet and gush of Lionel's impetuous emotion, and said as drily as he could: "I am really at a loss to conceive the cause of what appears to be meant as congratulations to me and reproaches to yourself, Mr.--, Mr. Haugh--;" his lips could not complete the distasteful name.

"My name shocks you--no wonder," said Lionel, deeply mortified, and bowing down his head as he gently dropped the old man's hand. "Reproaches to myself!--Ah, sir, I am here as Charles Haughton's son!"

"What!" exclaimed Waife, "you know? How could you know that Charles Haughton--"

LIONEL (interrupting).--"I know. His own lips confessed his shame to have so injured you."

WAIFE.--"Confessed to whom?"

LIONEL.--"To Alban Morley. Relieve me, my father's remorse was bitter; it dies not in his grave, it lives in me. I have so longed to meet with William Losely."

Waife seated himself in silence, shading his face with one hand while with the other he made a slight gesture, as if to discourage or rebuke farther allusion to ancient wrong. Lionel, in quick accents, but more connected meaning, went on--

"I have just come from Mr. Darrell, where I and Colonel Morley (here Lionel's countenance was darkly troubled) have been staying some days. Two days ago I received this letter from George Morley, forwarded to me from London. It says--let me read it: 'You will rejoice to learn that our dear Waife'--pardon that name."

"I have no other--go on."

"'Is once more with his grandchild.'" (Here Lionel sighed heavily--sigh like Sophy's.) "'You will rejoice yet more to learn that it has pleased Heaven to allow me and another witness, who, some years ago, had been misled into condemning Waife, to be enabled to bear incontrovertible testimony to the complete innocence of my beloved friend; nay, more--I say to you most solemnly, that in all which appeared to attest guilt, there has been a virtue, which, if known to Mr. Darrell, would make him bow in reverence to that old man. Tell Mr. Darrell so from me; and add, that in saying it, I express my conviction of his own admiring sympathy--for all that is noble and heroic.'"

"Too much-this is too, too much," stammered out Waife, restlessly turning away; "but--but, you are folding up the letter. That is all?--he does not say more? he does not mention any one else?--eh?--eh?"

"No, sir; that is all."

"Thank Heaven! He is an honourable man! Yet he has said more than he ought--much more than he can prove, or than I--" he broke off, and abruptly asked--"How did Mr. Darrell take these assertions? With an incredulous laugh--eh?--'Why, the old rogue had pleaded guilty!'"

"Sir, Alban Morley was there to speak of the William Losely whom he had known; to explain, from facts which he had collected at the time, of what nature was the evidence not brought forward. The motive that induced you to plead guilty I had long guessed; it flashed in an instant on Guy Darrell; it was not mere guess with him! You ask me what he said? This: 'Grand nature! George is right! and I do bow my head in reverence!'"

"He said that?--Guy Darrell? On your honour, he said that?"

"Can you doubt it? Is he not a gentleman?" Waife was fairly overcome.

"But, sir," resumed Lionel, "I must not conceal from you, that though George's letter and Alban Morley's communications sufficed to satisfy Darrell, without further question, your old friend was naturally anxious to learn a more full account, in the hope of legally substantiating your innocence. He therefore despatched by the telegraph a request to his nephew to come at once to Fawley. George arrived there yesterday. Do not blame him, sir, that we share his secret."

"You do? Good heavens! And that lawyer will be barbarous enough to--but no--he has an interest in not accusing of midnight robbery his daughter's husband; Jasper's secret is safe with him. And Colonel Morley--surely his cruel nephew will not suffer him to make me--me, with one foot in the grave--a witness against my Lizzy's son!"

"Colonel Morley, at Darrell's suggestion, came with me to London; and if he does not accompany me to you, it is because he is even now busied in finding out your son, not to undo, but to complete the purpose of your self-sacrifice. 'All other considerations,' said Guy Darrell, 'must be merged in this one thought--that such a father shall not have been in vain a martyr.' Colonel Morley is empowered to treat with your son on any terms; but on this condition, that the rest of his life shall inflict no farther pain, no farther fear on you. This is the sole use to which, without your consent, we have presumed to put the secret we have learned. Do you pardon George now?"

Waife's lips murmured inaudibly, but his face grew very bright; and as it was raised upwards, Lionel's ear caught the whisper of a name--it was not Jasper, it was "Lizzy."

"Ah! why," said Lionel, sadly, and after a short pause, "why was I not permitted to be the one to attest your innocence--to clear your name? I, who owed to you so vast an hereditary debt! And now--dear, dear Mr. Losely--"

"Hush! Waife!--call me Waife still!--and always."

"Willingly! It is the name by which I have accustomed myself to love you. Now, listen to me. I am dishonoured until at least the mere pecuniary debt, due to you from my father, is paid. Hist! Hist!--Alban Morley says so--Darrell says so. Darrell says, 'he cannot own me as kinsman till that debt is cancelled.' Darrell lends me the means to do it; he would share his kinsman's ignominy if he did not. Before I could venture even to come hither, the sum due to you from my father was repaid. I hastened to town yesterday evening--saw Mr. Darrell's lawyer. I have taken a great liberty--I have invested this sum already in the purchase of an annuity for you. Mr. Darrell's lawyer had a client who was in immediate want of the sum due to you; and, not wishing permanently to burthen his estate by mortgage, would give a larger interest by way of annuity than the public offices would; excellent landed security. The lawyer said it would be a pity to let the opportunity slip, so I ventured to act for you. It was all settled this morning. The particulars are on this paper, which I will leave with you. Of course the sum due to you is not exactly the same as that which my father borrowed before I was born. There is the interest--compound interest; nothing more. I don't understand such matters; Darrell's lawyer made the calculation--it must be right."

Waife had taken the paper, glanced at its contents, dropped it in confusion, amaze. Those hundreds lent, swelled into all those thousands returned! And all methodically computed--tersely--arithmetically-down to fractions. So that every farthing seemed, and indeed was, his lawful due. And that sum invested in an annuity of L500 a year--income which, to poor Gentleman Waife, seemed a prince's revenue!

"It is quite a business-like computation, I tell you, sir; all done by a lawyer. It is indeed," cried Lionel, dismayed at Waife's look and gesture. "Compound interest will run up to what seems a large amount at first; every child knows that. You can't deny Cocker and calculating tables, and that sort of thing. William Losely, you cannot leave an eternal load of disgrace on the head of Charles Haughton's son."

"Poor Charlie Haughton," murmured Waife. "And I was feeling bitter against his memory--bitter against his son. How Heaven loves to teach us the injustice that dwells in anger! But--but--this cannot be. I thank Mr. Darrell humbly--I cannot take his money."

"It is not his money--it is mine; he only advances it to me. It costs him really nothing, for he deducts the L500 a year from the allowance he makes me. And I don't want such an absurd allowance as I had before going out of the Guards into the line--I mean to be a soldier in good earnest. Too much pocket-money spoils a soldier--only gets one into scrapes. Alban Morley says the same. Darrell, too, says, 'Right; no gold could buy a luxury--like the payment of a father's debt!' You cannot grudge me that luxury--you dare not--why? because you are an honest Man."

"Softly, softly, softly," said Waife. "Let me look at you. Don't talk of money now--don't let us think of money! What a look of your father! 'Tis he, 'tis he whom I see before me. Charlie's sweet bright playful eyes--that might have turned aside from the path of duty--a sheriff's officer! Ah! and Charlie's happy laugh, too, at the slightest joke! But THIS is not Charlie's--it is all your own (touching, with gentle finger, Lionel's broad truthful brow). Poor Charlie, he was grieved--you are right--I remember."

"Sir," said Lionel, who was now on one knee by Waife's chair--"sir, I have never yet asked man for his blessing--not even Guy Darrell. Will you put your hand on my head? and oh! that in the mystic world beyond us, some angel may tell Charles Haughton that William Losely has blessed his son!"

Solemnly, but with profound humility--one hand on the Bible beside him, one on the young soldier's bended head--William Losely blessed Charles Haughton's son--and; having done so, involuntarily his arms opened, and blessing was followed by embrace.

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