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my life upon finding it, if thrown away (as it most likely was) in some part of that unlucky cave. Mordacks caught at this idea, and asked me a number of questions, and took down my answers; for no one else knows the cave as I do. I would run all risks myself, and be there to do it, if time suited. But only certain tides will serve, even with the best of weather; and there may be no such tide for months—I mean, tide, weather, and clear water combined, as they must be for the job. Therefore I am not to wait, but go about my other business, and leave this to Mordacks, who loves to be captain of everything. Mr. Mordacks talked of a diving-bell, and some. great American inventions; but nothing of the kind can be used there, nor even grappling-irons. The thing must not be heard of even, until it has been accomplished. Whatever is done, must be done by a man who can swim, and dive, as I can; and who knows the place almost as well. I have told him where to find the man, when the opportunity comes for it; and I have shown my better father, Robin Cockscroft, the likely spot. So now I have nothing more to do with that.'
'How wonderfully you can throw off cares!' his sweetheart answered softly; but I shall be miserable till I know what happens. Will they let me be there? Because I understand so much about tides, and I can hold my tongue.'
That you have shown right well, my Mary; but your own sense will tell you that you could not be there. Now one thing morehere is a ring not worthy-although it is the real stuff--to go upon your precious hand; yet allow me to put it on-no, not there, upon your wedding finger. Now do you know what that is for?'
'For me, I suppose,' she answered, blushing with pleasure and admiration; but it is too good, too beautiful, too costly.'
'Not half good enough. Though, to tell you the truth, it cannot be matched easily; any more than you can. But I know where to get those things. Now promise me to wear it, when you think of me; and the one habit will confirm the other. But the more important part is this, and the last thing for me to say to you. Your father still hates my name, I fear. Tell him every word I have told you; and perhaps it will bring him half-way round. Sooner, or later, he must come round; and the only way to do it, is to work him slowly. When he sees in how many ways I have been wronged, and how beautifully I have borne it all, he will begin to say to himself-"Now this young man may be improving." But he never will say, "He hath no need of it."
I should rather think not, you conceited Robin; or whatever else I am to call you now. But I bargain for one thing-whatever may happen, I shall never call you anything else but Robin. you, and you look well with it. Yordas indeed, or whatever it may be
'No bargain is valid without a seal-' &c., &c. In the old, but ever vivid way, they went on, until they were forced to part, at the
very lips of the house itself, after longing lingerings. The air of the fields was sweet with summer fragrance, and the breath of night: the world was ripe with soft repose, whose dreams were hope and happiness; and the heaven spread some gentle stars, to show mankind the way to it. Then a noble perfume strewed the ambient air with stronger presence; as the farmer, in his shirt-sleeves, came, with a long clay pipe, and grumbled, 'Wherever is our Mary, all this time?'
NICHOLAS THE FISH.
FIVE hundred years ago there was a great Italian swimmer, even greater than our Captain Webb; inasmuch as he had, what the wags of the age unjustly ascribe to our hero, that is to say, web-toes and fingers. This capable man could, if history be true, not only swim for a week without ceasing (reassuring solid nature, now and then, by a gulp of live fish), but also could expand his chest so considerably, that it held enough air for a day's consumption. Fortified thus, he explored Charybdis, and all the Liparic whirlpools, and could have found Cadman's gun anywhere, if it had only been there. But at last the sea had its revenge upon him, through the cruel insistence of his king.
No man so amphibious has since arisen, through the unfathomed tide of time. But a swimmer and diver of great repute was now living not far from Teesmouth. That is to say, he lived there, whenever the state of the weather, or the time of year, stranded him in dry misery. Those who have never come across a man of this description might suppose that he was happy and content at home with his wife and growing family, assuaging the brine in the delightful manner commended by Hero to Leander. But, alas! it was not so at all. The temper of the man was very slow to move, as generally happens with deep-chested men; and a little girl might lead him with her finger on the shore; and he liked to try to smell land-flowers, which in his opinion were but weeds. But if a man cannot control his heart, in the very middle of his system, how can he hope to command his skin, that unscientific frontier of his frame?
Nicholas the Fish,' as his neighbours (whenever, by coming ashore, he had such treasures) contemptuously called him, was endowed from his birth with a peculiar skin, and by exercise had improved it. Its virtue was excessive thickness-such as a writer should pray for-protected also by powerful hairiness, largely admired by those with whom it is restricted to the head.
Unhappily for Nicholas, the peremptory poises of nature struck a line with him; and this was his line of flotation. From perpetual usage, this was drawn, obliquely indeed, but as definitely as it is
upon a ship of uniform displacement, a yacht for instance, or a manof-war. Below that line, scarcely anything could hurt him; but above it he was most sensitive, unless he were continually wetted; and the flies, and the gnats, and many other plagues of England, with one accord pitched upon him, and pitched into him, during his short dry intervals, with a bracing sense of saline draught. Also the sun, and the wind, and even the moon, took advantage of him, when unwetted.
This made his dry periods a purgatory to him; and no sooner did he hear from Mr. Mordacks of a promising job under water, than he drew breath enough for a ten-fathom dive, and bursting from long despair, made a great slap at the flies beneath his collar-bone. The sound was like a drum which two men strike; and his wife, who was devoted to him, hastened home from the adjoining parish, with a sad presentiment of parting. And this was speedily verified; for the champion swimmer, and diver, set forth that very day for Bempton Warren, where he was to have a private meeting with the general factor.
Now it was a great mistake to think-as many people at this time did, both in Yorkshire and Derbyshire-that the gulf of connubial cares had swallowed the great Roman hero, Mordacks. Unarmed, and even without his gallant roadster to support him, he had leaped into that Curtian lake, and had fought a good fight at the bottom of it. The details are highly interesting, and the chronicle might be useful; but, alas! there is no space left for it. It is enough, and a great thing too, to say that he emerged triumphant, reduced his wife into very good condition, and obtained the due mastery of her estates, and lordship of the household.
Refreshed and recruited by the home campaign, and having now a double base for future operations-York city, with the fosse of Ouse in the east, and Pretorian Hill, Derbyshire, westward-Mordacks returned, with a smack of lip more dry than amontilladissimo, to the strict embrace of business. So far as the needs of the body were concerned, he might have done handsomely without any business; but. having no flesh fit to weigh against his mind, he gave preference to the latter. Now the essence of his nature was to take strong views; not hastily-if he could help it-nor through narrow aspect of prejudice, but with power of insight (right, or wrong) and stern fixity thereafter. He had kept his opinion about Sir Duncan Yordas much longer than usual pending, being struck with the fame of the man, and his manner, and generous impulsive nature. All these he still admired, but felt that the mind was far too hasty; and to put it in his own strong way, that Sir Duncan (whatever he might be in India) had been but a fool in England. Why had he cast away his claim on Scargate, and foiled the factor's own pet scheme for a great triumph over the lawyers? And why condemn his only son, when found with such skill and at heavy expense, without even hearing both sides of the tale? Last, but not least, what induced him to marry, when
amply old enough to know better, a girl, who might be well enough in her way, but had no family estate to bring, was shrewdly suspected of a cutting tongue, and had more than once been anything but polite to Geoffrey Mordacks?
Although this gentleman was not a lawyer, and indeed bore a tyrannous hate against that gentle and most precious class, he shared the solicitor's just abhorrence of the word 'farewell,' when addressed to him by anyone of good substance. He resolved that his attentions should not cease, though undervalued for the moment, but should be continued to the son and heir-whose remainder in tail subsisted still, though it might be hard to substantiate-and when his cousin Lancelot should come into possession, he might find a certain factor to grapple him. Mr. Mordacks hated Lancelot, and had carried out his banishment with intense enjoyment, holding him, as in a wrenchhammer, all the way, silencing his squeaks with another turn of screw, and as eager to crack him as if he were a nut, the first that turns auburn in September.
This being the condition of so powerful a mind, facts very speedily shaped themselves thereto, as they do when the power of an eminent orator lays hold of them, and crushes them, and they cannot even squeak. Or even as a still more eminent 'bus-driver, when the street is blocked and there seems to be no room for his own thumb, yet (with a gentle whistle, and a wink) solves the jostling stir and bulk, makes obstructive traffic slide, like an eddy obsequious, beside him, and behind, and comes forth as the first of an orderly procession towards the public-house of his true love.
Now if anything, beyond his own convictions, were wanted to set this great agent upon action, soon it was found in York summer assizes, and the sudden inrush of evidence, which-no matter how a case has been prepared-gets pent up always for the bar and bench. Then Robin Lyth came with a gallant dash, and offered himself as a sacrifice, if needful; which proved both his courage and his common sense in waiting till duty demanded him. Mordacks was charmed with this young man, not only for proving his own judgment right, but also for possessing a quickness of decision, akin to his own, and having smack of illegality.
With vigour, thus renewed by many interests and motives, the general and generous factor kept his appointment in Bempton Warren. Since the distressing, but upon the whole desirable decease of that poor Rickon Goold, the lonely hut, in which he breathed his last, had not been by any means a popular resort. There were said to be things heard, seen, and felt, even in the brightest summer day, which commended the spot to the creatures that fear mankind, but like their spectres. The very last of all to approach it now would have been the two rollicking tars, who had trodden their wooden-legged watch around it. Nicholas the Fish was superstitious also, as it behoved him well to be; but having heard nothing of the story of the
place, and perceiving no gnats in the neighbourhood, he thankfully took it for his short dry spells.
Mr. Mordacks met him, and the two men were deeply impressed with one another. The diver admired the sharp, terse style, and definite expression of the factor; while the factor enjoyed the large ponderous roll and suggestive reservations of the diver. For this was a man who had met great beings, and faced mighty wonders in deep places; and he thought of them more than he liked to say, because he had to get his living.
Nothing could be settled to a nicety between them, not even as to pounds, shillings, and pence. For the nature of the job depended wholly upon the behaviour of the weather: and the weather must be not only at its best, but also sitting meekly in the right direction, at the right moment of big spring-tide. The diver was afraid that he might ask too little; and the factor disliked the risk of offering too much, and possibly spoiling thereby a noble nature. But each of them realised (to some extent) the honesty of the other; and neither of them meant to be unreasonable.
'Give and take, is what I say,' said the short man with the monstrous chest, looking up at the tall man with the Roman nose; 'live and let live. Ah, that's it!'
Mr. Mordacks would have said Right you are,' if that elegant expression had been in vogue; but as that brilliance had not yet risen, he was content to say 'Just so.' Then he added, 'Here you have everything you want. Madam Precious will send you twice a day, to the stone at the bottom of the lane, a gallon of beer, and victuals in proportion. Your duty is to watch the tides and weather, keep your boat going, and let me know; and here I am, in half an hour.'
Calpurnia Mordacks was in her duty now, and took her autumn holiday at Flamborough. And though Widow Precious felt her heart go pit-a-pat at first sight of another Mrs. Mordacks, she made up her mind, with a gulp, not to let this cash go to the Thornwick. As a woman she sighed; but as a landlady she smiled, and had visions of hoisting a flag on her roof.
When Mordacks, like a victorious general, conqueror of this Danish town, went forth for his evening stroll to see his subjects, and be saluted, a handsome young sailor came up from the cliffs, and begged to have a few quiet words with him. Say on, my lad; all my words are quiet,' replied the general factor. Then this young man up and told his tale, which was all in the well-trodden track of mankind. He had run away to sea, full of glorious dreams-valour, adventure, heroism, rivers of Paradise, and lands of heaven. Instead of that, he had been hit upon the head, and in places of deeper tenderness, frequently roasted, and frozen yet more often, basted with brine when he had no skin left, scorched with thirst, and devoured by creatures whose appetites grew dainty when his own was ravening.
"Excellent youth,' Mr. Mordacks said; your tale might move a