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- Capitola The Madcap - 3/61 -
In the passage he met Mrs. Rocke.
"Dear Doctor Williams," said Mrs. Rocke, earnestly, "pray come up to poor Clara's room and speak to her, if you can possibly say anything to comfort her; she is weeping herself into a fit of illness at the bare thought of being, so soon after her dreadful bereavement, torn away from her home and friends."
"Tut! tut! no use in weeping! all will yet be right."
"You have persuaded that man to permit her to remain here, then?" said Marah, gladly.
"Persuaded him! no, nor even undertaken to do so! I never saw him before to-day, yet I would venture to say, from what I have now seen of him, that he never was persuaded by any agent except his own passions and interests, to any act whatever. No, I have endeavored to show him that we have law as well as justice on our side, and even now I am afraid I shall have to take the case before the Orphans' Court before I can convince him. He purposes removing Clara to-morrow morning. I will endeavor to see the Judge of the Orphans' Court to-night, take out a habeas corpus, ordering Le Noir to bring his ward into court, and serve it on him as he passes through Staunton on his way home."
"But is there no way of preventing him from taking Clara away from the house to-morrow morning."
"No good way. No, madam, it is best that all things should be done decently and in order. I advise you, as I shall also advise my young friends, Traverse and Clara, not to injure their own cause by unwise impatience or opposition. We should go before the Orphans' Court with the very best aspect."
"Come, then, and talk to Clara. She has the most painful antipathy to the man who claims the custody of her person, as well as the most distressing reluctance to leaving her dear home and friends; and all this, in addition to her recent heavy affliction, almost overwhelms the poor child," said Mrs. Rocke, weeping.
"I will go at once and do what I can to soothe her," said Doctor Williams, following Mrs. Rocke, who led him up to Clara's room.
They found her prostrate upon her bed, crushed with grief.
"Come, come, my dear girl, this is too bad! It is not like the usual noble fortitude of our Clara," said the old man, kindly taking her hand.
"Oh, Doctor, forgive--forgive me! but my courage must have been very small, for I fear it is all gone. But then, indeed, everything comes on me at once. My dear, dear father's death; then the approaching departure and expected long absence of Traverse! All that was grievous enough to bear; and now to be torn away from the home of my childhood, and from the friend that has always been a mother to me, and by a man, from whom every true, good instinct of my nature teaches me to shrink. I, who have always had full liberty in the house of my dear father, to be forced away against my will by this man, as if I were his slave!" exclaimed Clara, bursting into fresh tears of indignation and grief.
"Clara, my dear, dear girl, this impatience and rebellion is so unlike your gentle nature that I can scarcely recognize you for the mild and dignified daughter of my old friend. Clara, if the saints in heaven could grieve at anything, I should think your dear father would be grieved to see you thus!" said the old man in gentle rebuke that immediately took effect upon the meek and conscientious maiden.
"Oh! I feel--I feel that I am doing very wrong, but I cannot help it. I scarcely know myself in this agony of mingled grief, indignation and terror--yes, terror--for every instinct of my nature teaches me to distrust and fear that man, in whom my father must have been greatly deceived before he could have entrusted him with the guardianship of his only child."
"I think that quite likely," said the old man; "yet, my dear, even in respect to your dear father's memory, you must try to bear this trial patiently."
"Oh, yes, I know I must. Dear father, if you can look down and see me now, forgive your poor Clara, her anger and her impatience. She will try to be worthy of the rearing you have given her and to bear even this great trial with the spirit worthy of your daughter!" said Clara within her own heart; then, speaking up, she said: "You shall have no more reason to reprove me, Doctor Williams."
"That is my brave girl! That is my dear Clara Day! And now, when your guardian directs you to prepare yourself for your journey, obey him--go with him without making any objection. I purpose to arrest your journey at Staunton with a habeas corpus that he dare not resist, and which shall compel him to bring you into the Orphans' Court. There our side shall be heard, and the decision will rest with the judge."
"And all will be well! Oh, say that, sir! to give me the courage to act with becoming docility," pleaded Clara.
"I have not a doubt in this world that it will all be right, for, however Colonel Le Noir may choose to disregard the last wishes of your father, as attested by myself and young Rocke, I have not the least idea that the judge will pass them over. On the contrary, I feel persuaded that he will confirm them by sending you back here to your beloved home."
"Oh, may heaven grant it!" said Clara. "You do, indeed, give me new life."
"Yes, yes, be cheerful, my dear; trust in Providence and expect nothing short of the best! And now I dare not tarry longer with you, for I must see the Judge at his house this night. Good-by, my dear; keep up a good heart!" said the old man, cheerfully, pressing her hand and taking his leave.
Mrs. Rocke accompanied him to the hall door.
"My dear madam, keep up your spirits also for the sake of your young charge! Make her go to bed early! To-morrow, when she thinks she is about to be torn from you forever, remind her in her ear that I shall meet the carriage at Staunton with a power that shall turn the horses' heads."
And so saying, the worthy old gentleman departed.
As Marah Rocke looked after him, she also saw with alarm that Colonel Le Noir had mounted his horse and galloped off in the direction of Staunton, as if impelled by the most urgent haste.
She returned to the bedside of Clara, and left her no more that night. As the colonel did not return to supper, they, the family party, had their tea in Clara's room.
Late at night Mrs. Rocke heard Colonel Le Noir come into the house and enter his chamber.
Poor Clara slept no more that night; anxiety, despite of all her efforts, kept her wide awake. Yet, though anxious and wakeful, yet by prayer and endeavor she had brought her mind into a patient and submissive mood, so that when a servant knocked at her door in the morning with a message from Colonel Le Noir that she should be ready to set forth immediately after breakfast, she replied that she should obey him, and without delay she arose and commenced her toilet.
All the family met for the last time around the board. The party was constrained. The meal was a gloomy one. On rising from the table Colonel Le Noir informed his ward that his traveling carriage was waiting, and that her baggage was already on, and requested her to put on her bonnet and mantle, and take leave of her servants.
Clara turned to obey--Traverse went to her side and whispered:
"Take courage, dear love. My horse is saddled. I shall ride in attendance upon the carriage whether that man likes it or not; nor lose sight of you for one moment until we meet Williams with his habeas corpus."
"Nor even then, dear Traverse, nor even then! You will attend me to the court and be ready to take me back to this dear, dear home!" murmured Clara in reply.
"Yes, yes, dear girl! There, be cheerful," whispered the young man, as he pressed her hand and released it.
Colonel Le Noir had been a silent but frowning spectator of this little scene, and now that Clara was leaving the room, attended by Mrs. Rocke, he called the latter back, saying:
"You will be so kind as to stop here a moment, Mrs. Rocke and you also, young man."
The mother and son paused to hear what he should have to say.
"I believe it is the custom here in discharging domestics to give a month's warning, or in lieu of that, to pay a month's wages in advance. There, woman, is the money. You will oblige me by leaving the house to-day, together with your son and all your other trumpery, as the premises are put in charge of an agent, who will be here this afternoon, clothed with authority to eject all loiterers and intruders."
While the colonel spoke Marah Rocke gazed at him in a panic from which she seemed unable to rouse herself, until Traverse gravely took her hand, saying:
"My dear mother, let me conduct you from the presence of this man, who does not know how to behave himself toward women. Leave me to talk with him, and do you, dear mother, go to Miss Day, who I know is waiting for you."
Marah Rocke mechanically complied and allowed Traverse to lead her from the room.
When he returned he went up to Colonel Le Noir, and, standing before him and looking him full and sternly in the face, said, as sternly:
"Colonel Le Noir, my mother will remain here and abide the decision of the Orphans' Court; until that has been pronounced, she does not stir at your or any man's bidding!"
"Villain, out of my way!" sneered Le Noir, endeavoring to pass him.
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