The Story of a Lie, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Chapter IX— In which the Liberal Editor Re-Appears as ‘Deus Ex Machina’

IT was perhaps a week later, as old Mr. Naseby sat brooding in his study, that there was shown in upon him, on urgent business, a little hectic gentleman shabbily attired.

‘I have to ask pardon for this intrusion, Mr. Naseby,’ he said; ‘but I come here to perform a duty. My card has been sent in, but perhaps you may not know, what it does not tell you, that I am the editor of the THYMEBURY STAR.’

Mr. Naseby looked up, indignant.

‘I cannot fancy,’ he said, ‘that we have much in common to discuss.’

‘I have only a word to say — one piece of information to communicate. Some months ago, we had — you will pardon my referring to it, it is absolutely necessary — but we had an unfortunate difference as to facts.’

‘Have you come to apologise?’ asked the Squire, sternly.

‘No, sir; to mention a circumstance. On the morning in question, your son, Mr. Richard Naseby — ’

‘I do not permit his name to be mentioned.’

‘You will, however, permit me,’ replied the Editor.

‘You are cruel,’ said the Squire. He was right, he was a broken man.

Then the Editor described Dick’s warning visit; and how he had seen in the lad’s eye that there was a thrashing in the wind, and had escaped through pity only — so the Editor put it — ‘through pity only sir. And oh, sir,’ he went on, ‘if you had seen him speaking up for you, I am sure you would have been proud of your son. I know I admired the lad myself, and indeed that’s what brings me here.’

‘I have misjudged him,’ said the Squire. ‘Do you know where he is?’

‘Yes, sir, he lies sick at Thymebury.’

‘You can take me to him?’

‘I can.’

‘I pray God he may forgive me,’ said the father.

And he and the Editor made post-haste for the country town.

Next day the report went abroad that Mr. Richard was reconciled to his father and had been taken home to Naseby House. He was still ailing, it was said, and the Squire nursed him like the proverbial woman. Rumour, in this instance, did no more than justice to the truth; and over the sickbed many confidences were exchanged, and clouds that had been growing for years passed away in a few hours, and as fond mankind loves to hope, for ever. Many long talks had been fruitless in external action, though fruitful for the understanding of the pair; but at last, one showery Tuesday, the Squire might have been observed upon his way to the cottage in the lane.

The old gentleman had arranged his features with a view to self-command, rather than external cheerfulness; and he entered the cottage on his visit of conciliation with the bearing of a clergyman come to announce a death.

The Admiral and his daughter were both within, and both looked upon their visitor with more surprise than favour.

‘Sir,’ said he to Van Tromp, ‘I am told I have done you much injustice.’

There came a little sound in Esther’s throat, and she put her hand suddenly to her heart.

‘You have, sir; and the acknowledgment suffices,’ replied the Admiral. ‘I am prepared, sir, to be easy with you, since I hear you have made it up with my friend Dick. But let me remind you that you owe some apologies to this young lady also.’

‘I shall have the temerity to ask for more than her forgiveness,’ said the Squire. ‘Miss Van Tromp,’ he continued, ‘once I was in great distress, and knew nothing of you or your character; but I believe you will pardon a few rough words to an old man who asks forgiveness from his heart. I have heard much of you since then; for you have a fervent advocate in my house. I believe you will understand that I speak of my son. He is, I regret to say, very far from well; he does not pick up as the doctors had expected; he has a great deal upon his mind, and, to tell you the truth, my girl, if you won’t help us, I am afraid I shall lose him. Come now, forgive him! I was angry with him once myself, and I found I was in the wrong. This is only a misunderstanding, like the other, believe me; and with one kind movement, you may give happiness to him, and to me, and to yourself.’

Esther made a movement towards the door, but long before she reached it she had broken forth sobbing.

‘It is all right,’ said the Admiral; ‘I understand the sex. Let me make you my compliments, Mr. Naseby.’

The Squire was too much relieved to be angry.

‘My dear,’ said he to Esther, ‘you must not agitate yourself.’

‘She had better go up and see him right away,’ suggested Van Tromp.

‘I had not ventured to propose it,’ replied the Squire. ‘LES CONVENANCES, I believe — ’

‘JE M’EN FICHE,’ cried the Admiral, snapping his fingers. ‘She shall go and see my friend Dick. Run and get ready, Esther.’

Esther obeyed.

‘She has not — has not run away again?’ inquired Mr. Naseby, as soon as she was gone.

‘No,’ said Van Tromp, ‘not again. She is a devilish odd girl though, mind you that.’

‘But I cannot stomach the man with the carbuncles,’ thought the Squire.

And this is why there is a new household and a brand-new baby in Naseby Dower House; and why the great Van Tromp lives in pleasant style upon the shores of England; and why twenty-six individual copies of the THYMEBURY STAR are received daily at the door of Naseby House.

This web edition published by:

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University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30