« AnteriorContinuar »
I hope that he was so, and I do believe it. But the wooden-legged sailors, old Joe and his son, who seem to have been employed by Mordacks, took him at his own word for a "miserable sinner "—which, as they told their master, no respectable man would call himself— and in the most business-like manner they set to to remove him to a better world; and now they have succeeded.'
'Poor man! After all, one must be rather sorry for him. If old Joe came stumping after me, for half an hour, I should have no interest in this life left.'
'My dear, they stumped after him the whole day long, and at night they danced a hornpipe outside his hut. He became convinced that the Prince of Evil was come, in that naval style, to fetch him, and he drank everything he could lay hands on, to fortify him for the contest. The end, as you know, was extremely sad for him, but highly satisfactory to them, I fear. They have signified their resolution to attend his funeral; and Mordacks has said, with unbecoming levity, that if they never were drunk before-which seems to me an almost romantic supposition-that night they shall be drunk, and no mistake.'
'All these things, my dear,' replied Mrs. Upround, who was gifted with a fine vein of moral reflection, are not as we might wish, if we ordered them ourselves. But still there is this to be said in their favour, that they have a large tendency towards righteousness.'
A TANGLE OF VEINS.
HUMAN resolution, energy, experience, and reason, in its loftiest form, may fight against the doctor; but he beats them all, maintains at least his own vitality, and asserts his guineas. Two more resolute men than Mr. Mordacks and Sir Duncan Yordas could scarcely be found in those resolute times; they sternly resolved to have no sort of doctor, and yet within three days they did have one, and, more than that, the very one they had positively vowed to abstain from.
Dr. Stirbacks let everybody know that he never cared two flips of his thumb for anybody. If anybody wanted him they must come and seek him, and be thankful if he could find time to hear their nonsense. For he understood not the system only, but also the nature of mankind. The people at the Thornwick did not want him -very good, so much the better for him and for them; because the more they wanted him, the less would he go near them. Tut-tuttut, he said; what did he want with crack-brained patients?
All this compelled him, with a very strong reluctance, to be dragged into that very place the very same day; and he saw that he was not come an hour too soon. Sir Duncan was lying in a bitterly cold room, with the fire gone out, and the spark of his life not very
far from following it. Mr. Mordacks was gone, for the day, upon business, after leaving strict orders that a good fire must be kept, and many other things attended to. But the chimney took to smoking, and the patient to coughing, and the landlady opened the window wide, and the fire took flight into the upper air. Sir Duncan hated nothing more than any fuss about himself. He had sent a man to Scarborough for a little chest of clothes, for his saddle-kit was exhausted; and having promised Mordacks that he would not quit the house, he had nothing to do, except to meditate and shiver.
Gil Beilby's wife Nell, coming up to take orders for dinner, 'got a dreadful turn' from what she saw, and ran down, exclaiming that the very best customer that ever drew their latch, was dead. Without waiting to think, the landlord sent a most urgent message for Dr. Stirbacks. That learned man happened to be round the corner, although he lived at Bempton; he met the messenger, cast to the winds all sense of wrong, and rushed to the succour of humanity.
That night, when the general factor returned, with the hunger excited by feeding the hungry, he was met at the door by Dr. Stirbacks, saying, 'Hush, my good sir,' before he had time to think of speaking. You!' cried Mr. Mordacks, having met this gentleman when Rickon Goold was near his last. You! Then it must be bad indeed!"
'It is bad; and it must have been all over, sir, but for my being providentially at the cheese-shop. I say nothing to wound any gentleman's feelings, who thinks that he understands everything: but our poor patient, with the very best meaning, no doubt, has been all but murdered.'
'Dr. Stirbacks, you have got him now; and of course you will make the best of him. Don't let him slip through your fingers, Doctor; he is much too good for that.'
'He shall not slip through my fingers,' said the little doctor, with a twinkle of self-preservation; 'I have got him, sir; and I shall keep him, sir; and you ought to have put him in my hands long ago.'
The sequel of this needs no detail. Dr. Stirbacks came three times a day, and without any disrespect to the profession, it must be admitted that he earned his fees. For Sir Duncan's case was a very strange one, and beyond the best wisdom of the laity. If that chill had struck upon him, when his spirit was as usual, he might have cast it off, and gone on upon his business. But coming, as it did, when the temperature of his heart was lowered by nip of disappointment, it went into him, as water on a duck's back is not cast away when his rump-gland is out of order.
'A warm room, good victuals, and cheerful society, these three are indispensable,' said Dr. Stirbacks to Mr. Mordacks, over whom he began to try to tyrannise; and admirable as you are, my good sir, I fear that your society is depressing. You are always in a fume to be doing something-a stew, I might say, without exaggeration-a wonderful pattern of an active mind. But in a case of illness we require No. 607 (No. cxxvII. n. s.)
the passive voice. Everything suggestive of rapid motion must be removed, and never spoken of. You are rapid motion itself, my dear sir. We get a relapse, every time you come in.'
'You want me out of the way. Very well. Let me know when you have killed my friend. friend. I suppose your office ends with that. I will come down, and see to his funeral.'
'Mr. Mordacks, you may be premature in such prevision. Your own may come first, sir. Look well at your eyes, the next time you shave; and I fear you will descry those radiant fibres in the iris which always co-exist with heart-disease. I can tell you fifty cases, if you have time to listen.'
'D-n your prognostics, sir!' exclaimed the factor rudely; but he seldom lathered himself thenceforth without a little sigh of selfregard. Now, Dr. Stirbacks,' he continued, with a rally, you may find my society depressing, but it is generally considered to be elevating; and that, sir, by judges of the highest order, and men of independent income. The head of your profession in the northern half of England, who takes a hundred guineas for every one you take, rejoices, sir-rejoices is not too strong a word to use-in my very humble society. Of course he may be wrong; but when he hears that Mr. Stirbacks, of Little Under-Bempton-is that the right address, sir?— speaks of my society as depressing
'Mr. Mordacks, you misunderstood my meaning. I spoke with no reference to you whatever, but of all male society as enervatingif you dislike the word "depressing "-relaxing, emollient, emasculating, from want of contradictory element: while I was proceeding to describe the need of strictly female society. The rector offers this; he was here just now. His admiration for you is unbounded. He desires to receive our distinguished patient, with the vast advantage of ladies' society, double-thick walls, and a southern aspect; if you should consider it advisable.'
Undoubtedly, I do. If the moving can be done without danger, and of that you are the proper judge, of course.'
Thus they composed their little disagreement, with mutual respect, and some approaches to goodwill; and Sir Duncan Yordas, being skilfully removed, spent his Christmas (without knowing much about it) in the best and warmest bed-room of the rectory. But Mordacks returned, as an honest man should do, to put the laurel and the mistletoe on his proper household gods. And where can this be better done than in that grand old city, York? But before leaving Flamborough, he settled the claims of business and charity, so far as he could see them, and so far as the state of things permitted.
Foiled as he was, in his main object, by the murder of the revenue officer, and the consequent flight of Robin Lyth, he had thoroughly accomplished one part of his task, the discovery of the 'Golconda's' fate, and the history of Sir Duncan's child. Moreover his trusty agents, Joe of the Monument and Bob his son, had relieved
him of one thorny care, by the zeal and skill with which they worked. It was to them a sweet instruction, to watch, encounter, and drink down a rogue, who had scuttled a ship, and even defeated them at their own weapons, and made a text of them to teach mankind. Dr. Upround had not exaggerated the ardour with which they discharged this duty.
But Mordacks still had one rogue on hand, and a deeper one than Rickon Goold. In the course of his visits to Bridlington Quay he had managed to meet John Cadman, preferring, as he always did, his own impressions to almost any other evidence. And his own impressions had entirely borne out the conviction of Widow Carroway. But he saw at once that this man could not be plied with coarse weapons, like the other worn-out villain. He reserved him, as a choice bit, for his own skill; and was careful not to alarm him yet. Only two things concerned him, as immediate in the matter-to provide against Cadman's departure from the scene, and to learn all the widow had to tell about him.
The widow had a great deal to say about that man; but had not said it yet, from want of power so to do. Mordacks himself had often stopped her, when she could scarcely stop herself; for until her health should be set up again, any stir of the mind would be dangerous. But now, with the many things provided for her, good nursing, and company, and the kindness of the neighbours (who zealously rushed in as soon as a stranger led the way), and the sickening of Tommy with the measles-which he had caught in the coal-cellar-she began to be started in a different plane of life, to contemplate the past as a golden age (enshrining a diamond statue of a revenue officer in full uniform), and to look upon the present as a period of steel, when a keen edge must be kept against the world for defence of all the little seed of diamonds.
Now the weather was milder, as it generally is at Christmas time, and the snow all gone, and the wind blowing off the land again, to the great satisfaction of both cod and conger. The cottage, which had looked such a den of cold and famine, with the blinds drawn down, and the snow piled up against the door, and not a single childnose against the glass, was now quite warm again, and almost as lively as if Lieutenant Carroway were coming home to dinner. The heart of Mr. Mordacks glowed with pride, as he said to himself that he had done all this; and the glow was reflected on the cheeks of Geraldine, as she ran out to kiss him, and then jumped upon his shoulder. For, in spite of his rigid aspect and stern nose, the little lass had taken kindly to him; while he admired her for eating candles.
'If you please, you can come in here,' said Jerry. Oh, don't knock my head against the door."
Mrs. Carroway knew what he was come for; and although she had tried to prepare herself for it, she could not help trembling a little. The factor had begged her to have some friend present, to
encourage her in so grievous an affair; but she would not hear of it, and said she had no friend.
Mr. Mordacks sat down, as he was told to do, in the little room sacred to the poor lieutenant, and faithful even yet to the pious memory of his pipe. When the children were shut out, he began to look around, that the lady might have time to cry. But she only found occasion for a little dry sob.
'It is horrible, very, very horrible,' she murmured with a shudder, as her eyes were following his; but for his sake I endure it.'
'A most sad and bitter trial, ma'am, as ever I have heard of. But you are bound to bear in mind, that he is looking down on you.'
'I could not put up with it, without the sense of that, sir. But I say to myself, how much he loved it; and that makes me put up with it.'
'I am quite at a loss to understand you, madam. We seem to be at cross purposes. I was speaking of-of a thing it pains me to mention; and you say how much he loved—-”
Dirt, sir, dirt. It was his only weakness. Oh, my darling Charles, my blessed, blessed Charley! Sometimes I used to drive him almost to his end, about it; but I never thought his end would come; I assure you I never did, sir. But now I shall leave everything, as he would like to see it—every table, and every chair, that he could write his name on it. And his favourite pipe with the bottom in it. That is what he must love to see, if the Lord allows him to look down. Only the children mustn't see it; for the sake of bad example.'
'Mrs. Carroway, I agree with you most strictly. Children must be taught clean ways, even while they revere their father. You should see my daughter Arabella, ma'am. She regards me with perfect devotion. Why? Because I never let her do the things that I myself do. It is the one true principle of government, for a nation, a parish, a household. How beautifully you have trained pretty Geraldine! I fear that you scarcely could spare her for a month, in the spring, and perhaps Tommy after his measles; but a visit to York would do them good, and establish their expanding minds, ma'am.'
Mr. Mordacks, I know not where we may be then. But anything that you desire is a law to us.'
'Well said! Beautifully said! But I trust, my dear madam, that you will be here. Indeed it would never do for you to go away. Or rather, I should put it thus-for the purposes of justice, and for other reasons also, it is most important that you should not leave this place. At least, you will promise me that, I hope? Unless, of course, unless you find the memories too painful. And even so, you might find comfort in some inland house, not far.'
Many people might not like to stop,' the widow answered simply; but to me it would be a worse pain, to go away. I sit, in the evening, by the window here. Whenever there is light enough to