"She can not be so bad," thought Humphrey, as Patience and Clara quitted the room without the least noise. Shortly afterward the intendant came up into the room and offered his hand to Humphrey, who pretended not to see it, and did not take it. "He has got Arnwood: that is enough for him," thought Humphrey; "but my hand in friendship he shall not receive."
"I tell you that I had a strong suspicion of it, my dear child, first, from the noble appearance, which no forest garb could disguise; but what gave me further conviction was, that when at Lymington I happened to fall in with one Benjamin, who had been a servant at Arnwood, and interrogated him closely.
The life of a king and many other lives were in jeopardy, and the orphans remained at Arnwood, still under the care of their elderly relation, at the time that our history commences.
We want very few things in this world that is, we really want very few things, although we wish and sigh for many. You have health and spirits, which are the greatest blessings in life. Who would believe, to look at you all, that you were the same children that I brought away from Arnwood? You were then very different from what you are now.
But here is a property without an heir; the whole family perished in the flames of Arnwood! There is no living claimant! It must be given to somebody, or remain with the Government. This property, therefore, and this property only, out of all sequestrated, I selected; as I felt that, in obtaining it, I did harm to no one. I have been offered others, but have refused them.
I would accept of this, and this only; and that is the reason why my applications have hitherto been attended with no success. I trust you believe me, Edward, in what I assert?" "First answer me one question, Mr Heatherstone. Suppose it were proved that the whole of the family did not, as it is supposed, perish at the conflagration of Arnwood?
James Southwold, thou knowest well the mansion of Arnwood?" "I know well my way to all the offices below the buttery, the cellar, and the kitchen; but I can not say that I have ever been into the apartments of the upper house." "That it needeth not; if thou canst direct us to the lower entrance it will be sufficient."
"There is no cause for further concealment, Patience; I have only to regret that I was not more explicit sooner. I have long suspected, and have since been satisfied, that Edward Armitage is Edward Beverley, who, with his brother and sisters, were supposed to have been burnt to death at Arnwood." Patience removed her handkerchief from her face, and looked at her father with astonishment.
Jacob replied that the children were there, and a few servants, and he was about to mention Miss Judith Villiers, when a thought struck him he might save the old lady. "You are going to Arnwood, I know," said Jacob, "and I have heard who you are in search of. Well, Southwold, I'll give you a hint.
"No, sir, I was brought up at Arnwood. I was playmate of the children of Colonel Beverley." "Educated with them?" "Yes, for as far as my willfulness would permit, the chaplain was always ready to give me instruction." "Where were you when Arnwood was burned down?" "I was at the cottage at that time," replied Edward, grinding his teeth and looking wildly.