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- Capitola The Madcap - 4/61 -

Traverse prevented him, saying:

"Sir, in consideration of your age, which should be venerable, your position which should prove you honorable, and of this sacred house of mourning in which you stand, I have endeavored to meet all the insults you have offered me with forbearance. But, sir, I am here to defend my mother's rights and to protect her from insult! And I tell you plainly that you have affronted her for the very last time! One more word or look of insult leveled at Marah Rocke and neither your age, position nor this sacred roof shall protect you from personal chastisement at the hands of her son!"

Le Noir, who had listened in angry scorn, with many an ejaculation of contempt, now at the conclusion which so galled his pride, broke out furiously, with:

"Sir, you are a bully! If you were a gentleman I would call you out!"

"And I should not come if you did, sir! Dueling is unchristian, barbarous and abominable in the sight of God and all good men. For the rest you may call me anything you please; but do not again insult my mother, for if you do I shall hold it a Christian duty to teach you better manners," said Traverse, coolly taking his hat and walking from the room. He mounted his horse and stood ready to attend Clara to Staunton.

Colonel Le Noir ground his teeth in impotent rage, muttering;

"Take care, young man! I shall live to be revenged upon you yet for these affronts!" and his dastard heart burned with the fiercer malignity that he had not dared to meet the eagle eye, or encounter the strong arm of the upright and stalwart young man. Gnashing his teeth with ill-suppressed fury, he strode into the hall just as Mrs. Rocke and Clara, in her traveling dress, descended the stairs.

Clara threw her arms around Mrs. Rocke's neck, and, weeping, said:

"Good-by, dear, best friend--good-by! Heaven grant it may not be for long! Oh, pray for me, that I may be sent back to you!"

"May the Lord have you in His holy keeping, my child I shall pray until I hear from you!" said Marah, kissing and releasing her.

Colonel Le Noir then took her by the hand, led her out, and put her into the carriage.

Just before entering Clara had turned to take a last look at her old home--all, friends and servants, noticed the sorrowful, anxious, almost despairing look of her pale face, which seemed to ask:

"Ah, shall I ever, ever return to you, dear old home, and dear, familiar friends?"

In another instant she had disappeared within the carriage, which immediately rolled off.

As the carriage was heavily laden, and the road was in a very bad condition, it was a full hour before they reached the town of Staunton. As the carriage drew up for a few moments before the door of the principal hotel, and Colonel Le Noir was in the act of stepping out, a sheriff's officer, accompanied by Dr. Williams, approached, and served upon the colonel a writ of habeas corpus, commanding him to bring his ward, Clara Day, into court.

Colonel Le Noir laughed scornfully, saying:

"And do any of you imagine this will serve your purposes? Ha, ha! The most that it can do will be to delay my journey for a few hours until the decision of the judge, which will only serve to confirm my authority beyond all future possibility of questioning,"

"We will see to that," said Doctor Williams.

"Drive to the Court House!" ordered Colonel Le Noir.

And the carriage, attended by Traverse Rocke, Doctor Williams and the Sheriff's officer, each on horseback, drove thither.

And now, reader, I will not trouble you with a detailed account of this trial. Clara, clothed in deep mourning, and looking pale and terrified, was led into the court room on the arm of her guardian. She was followed closely by her friends, Traverse Rocke and Doctor Williams, each of whom whispered encouraging words to the orphan.

As the court had no pressing business on its hands, the case was immediately taken up, the will was read and attested by the attorney who had drawn it up and the witnesses who had signed it. Then the evidence of Doctor Williams and Doctor Rocke was taken concerning the last verbal instruction of the deceased. The case occupied about three hours, at the end of which the judge gave a decision in favor of Colonel Le Noir.

This judgment carried consternation to the heart of Clara and of all her friends.

Clara herself sank fainting in the arms of her old friend, the venerable Doctor Williams.

Traverse, in bitterness of spirit, approached and bent over her.

Colonel Le Noir spoke to the judge.

"I deeply thank your honor for the prompt hearing and equally prompt decision of this case, and I will beg your honor to order the Sheriff and his officers to see your judgment carried into effect, as I foresee violent opposition, and wish to prevent trouble."

"Certainly. Mr. Sheriff, you will see that Colonel Le Noir is put in possession of his ward, and protected in that right until he shall have placed her in security," said the judge.

Clara, on hearing these words, lifted her head from the old man's bosom, nerved her gentle heart, and in a clear, sweet, steady voice said:

"It is needless precaution, your honor; my friends are no law- breakers, and since the court has given me into the custody of my guardian, I do not dispute its judgment. I yield myself up to Colonel Le Noir."

"You do well, young lady," said the judge.

"I am pleased, Miss Day, to see that you understand and perform your duty; believe me, I shall do all that I can to make you happy," said Colonel Le Noir.

Clara replied by a gentle nod, and then, with a slight blush mantling her pure cheeks she advanced a step and placed herself immediately in front of the judge, saying:

"But there is a word that I would speak to your honor."

"Say on, young lady," said the judge.

And as she stood there in her deep mourning dress, with her fair hair unbound and floating softly around her pale, sweet face, every eye in that court was spellbound by her almost unearthly beauty. Before proceeding with what she was about to say, she turned upon Traverse a look that brought him immediately to her side.

"Your honor," she began, in a low, sweet, clear tone, "I owe it to Doctor Rocke here present, who has been sadly misrepresented to you, to say (what, under less serious circumstances, my girl's heart would shrink from avowing so publicly) that I am his betrothed wife- -sacredly betrothed to him by almost the last act of my dear father's life. I hold this engagement to be so holy that no earthly tribunal can break or disturb it. And while I bend to your honor's decision, and yield myself to the custody of my legal guardian for the period of my minority, I here declare to all who may be interested, that I hold my hand and heart irrevocably pledged to Doctor Rocke, and that, as his betrothed wife, I shall consider myself bound to correspond with him regularly, and to receive him as often as he shall seek my society, until my majority, when I and all that I possess will become his own. And these words I force myself to speak, your honor, both in justice to my dear lost father and his friend, Traverse Rocke, and also to myself, that hereafter no one may venture to accuse me of clandestine proceedings, or distort my actions into improprieties, or in any manner call in question the conduct of my father's daughter." And, with another gentle bow, Clara retired to the side of her old friend.

"You are likely to have a troublesome charge in your ward," said the sheriff apart to the colonel, who shrugged his shoulders by way of reply.

The heart of Traverse was torn by many conflicting passions, emotions and impulses; there was indignation at the decision of the court; grief for the loss of Clara, and dread for her future!

One instant he felt a temptation to denounce the guardian as a villain and to charge the judge with being a corrupt politician, whose decisions were swayed by party interests!

The next moment he felt an impulse to catch Clara up in his arms, fight his way through the crowd and carry her off! But all these wild emotions, passions and impulses he succeeded in controlling.

Too well he knew that to rage, do violence, or commit extravagance as he might, the law would take its course all the same.

While his heart was torn in this manner, Colonel Le Noir was urging the departure of his ward. And Clara came to her lover's side and said, gravely and sweetly:

"The law, you see, has decided against us, dear Traverse! Let us bend gracefully to a decree that we cannot annul! It cannot, at least, alter our sacred relations; nor can anything on earth shake our steadfast faith in each other; let us take comfort in that, and in the thought that the years will surely roll round at length and bring the time that shall reunite us."

"Oh, my angel-girl! My angel-girl! Your patient heroism puts me to the blush, for my heart is crushed in my bosom and my firmness quite gone!" said Traverse, in a broken voice.

"You will gain firmness, dear Traverse. 'Patient!' I patient! You should have heard me last night! I was so impatient that Doctor Williams had to lecture me. But it would be strange if one did not

Capitola The Madcap - 4/61

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