Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Geoffrey should take, not the property alone, but also his second cousin, fair Calpurnia; though not without her full consent. Without the lady, he was not to have the land; and the lady's consent must be secured, before her father ceased to be a sound testator.

Now, if Calpurnia had been kept in ignorance of this arrangement, a man possessing the figure, decision, stature, self-confidence, and other high attributes of our Mordacks, must have triumphed in a week at latest. But with that candour, which appears to have been so strictly entailed in the family, Colonel Calpurnius called them in ; and there (in the presence of the testator, and of each other) they were fully apprised of this rather urgent call upon their best and most delicate emotions. And the worst of it was (from the gentleman's point of view), that the contest was unequal. The golden apples were not his to cast, but Atalanta's. The lady was to have the land, even without accepting love. Moreover he was fifty per cent. beyond her in age; and Hymen would make her a mamma, without invocation of Lucina. But highest and deepest woe of all, most mountainous of obstacles, was the lofty sky-line of his nose, inherited from the Roman. If the lady's corresponding feature had not corresponded-in other words, if her nose had been chubby, snub, or even Greek—his bold bridge must have served him well, and even shortened access to rosy lips, and tender heart. But, alas! the fair one's nose was also of the fine imperial type, truly admirable in itself, but (under one of nature's strictest laws) coy of contact with its own male expression. Love-whose joy, and fierce prank, is to buckle to the plated pole ill-matched forms and incongruous spirits-did not fail of her impartial freaks. Mr. Mordacks had to cope with his own kin; and found the conflict so severe, that not a breath of time was left him for anybody's business but his own.

If luck was against him in that quarter (although he would not own it yet), at York and Flamborough, it was not so. No crisis arose to demand his presence; no business went amiss, because of his having to work so hard at love. There came, as there sometimes does in matters pressing, tangled, and exasperating, a quiet period, a gentle lull, a halcyon time when the jaded brain reposes, and the heart may hatch her own mares'-nests. Underneath that tranquil spell lay fond Joe and Bob (with their cash to spend), Widow Precious (with her beer laid in), and Widow Carroway, with a dole at last extorted from the Government; while Anerley Farm was content to hearken the creak of waggon, and the ring of flail; and the rector of Flamborough once more rejoiced in the bloodless war that breeds good will.

For Sir Duncan Yordas was a fine chess-player, as many Indian officers of that time were; and now that he was coming to his proper temperature (after three months of barbed stab of cold, and the breach of the seal of the seventy-seventh phial of Dr. Stirbacks), in gratitude for that miraculous escape, he did his very best to please everybody. To Dr. Upround he was an agreeable and penetrative

companion; to Mrs. Upround, a gallant guest, with a story for every slice of bread and butter; to Janetta, a deity combining the perfections of Jupiter, Phœbus, Mars, and Neptune (because of his yacht), without any of their drawbacks; and to Flamborough, more largely speaking, a downright good sort of gentleman, combining a smoke with a chaw-so they understood cigars-and not above standing still sometimes, for a man to say some sense to him.

But before Mr. Mordacks left his client under Dr. Upround's care, he had done his best to provide that mischief should not come of gossip; and the only way to prevent that issue is to preclude the gossip. Sir Duncan Yordas, having lived so long in a large commanding way, among people who might say what they pleased of him, desired no concealment here, and accepted it unwillingly. But his agent was better skilled in English life, and rightly foresaw a mighty buzz of nuisance-without any honey to be brought home-from the knowledge of the public that the Indian hero had begotten the better-known apostle of free trade. Yet it might have been hard to persuade Sir Duncan to keep that great fact to himself, if his son had been only a smuggler, or only a fugitive from a false charge of murder. But that which struck him in the face, as soon as he was able to consider things, was the fact that his son had fled and vanished, leaving his underlings to meet their fate. The smuggling is a trifle,' exclaimed the sick man; our family never was law-abiding, and used to be large cattle-lifters; even the slaying of a man, in hot combat, is no more than I myself have done, and never felt the worse for it. But to run away, and leave men to be hanged, after bringing them into the scrape himself, is not the right sort of dishonour for a Yordas. If the boy surrenders, I shall be proud to own him. But until he does that, I agree with you, Mordacks, that he does not deserve to know who he is.'

This view of the case was harsh perhaps, and showed some ignorance of free-trade questions, and of English justice. If Robin Lyth had been driven, by the heroic view of circumstances, to rush into embrace constabular, would that have restored the other six men to family sinuosities? Not a chance of it. Rather would it treble the pangs of jail-where they enjoyed themselves-to feel that anxiety about their pledges to fortune, from which the free Robin relieved them. Money was lodged, and paid, as punctual as the Bank, for the benefit of all their belongings. There were times when the sailors grumbled a little, because they had no ropes to climb; but of any unfriendly rope impending they were too wise to have much fear. They knew that they had not done the deed; and they felt assured that twelve good men would never turn round in their box to believe it. Their captain took the same view of the case. He had very little doubt of their acquittal, if they were defended properly; and of that, a far wealthier man than himself, the Chancellor of the Exchequer of free-trade, Master Rideout, of Malton, would take good care, if the money left with Dr. Upround failed. The surrender of

Robin would simply hurt them, unless they were convicted; and in that case he would yield himself. Sir Duncan did not understand these points; and condemned his son unjustly. And Mordacks was no longer there to explain such questions, in his sharp clear way.

Being in this sadly disappointed state, and not thoroughly delivered from that renal chill (which the north-east wind, coming over the leather of his valise, had inflicted) this gentleman, like a long-pendulous grape, with the ventilators open, was exposed to the delicate insidious billing of little birds, that love something good. It might be wrong, indeed it must be wrong, and a foul slur upon fair sweet love, to insinuate that Indian gold, or rank, or renown, or vague romance, contributed towards what came to pass. Miss Janetta Upround, up to this time of her life, had laughed at all the wanton tricks of Cupid; and whenever the married women told her that her time would be safe to come, and then she might understand their behaviour,—they had always been ordered to go home, and do their washing. And this made it harder for her to be mangled by the very tribulation she had laughed at.

Short little sighs were her first symptom, and a quiet way of going up the stairs-which used to be a noisy process with her-and then a desire to know something of history, and a sudden turn of mind towards soup. Sir Duncan had a basin every day, at twelve o'clock; and Janetta had orders to see him do it, by strict institution of Stirbacks. Those orders she carried out with such zeal, that she even went so far as to blow upon the spoon; and she did look nice, while doing it. In a word as there is no time for manybeing stricken, she did her best to strike; as the manner of sweet women is.

Sir Duncan Yordas received it well. Being far on towards her futurity in years, and beyond her whole existence, in experience and size, he smiled at her ardour, and short vehemence to please him, and liked to see her go about; because she turned so lightly. Then the pleasant agility of thought began to make him turn to answer it; and whenever she had the best of him in words, her bright eyes fell, as if she had the worst. 'She doesn't even know that she is clever!' said the patient to himself, and she is the first person I have met with yet, who knows which side of the line Calcutta is!'

6

The manner of those benighted times was to keep from young ladies important secrets, which seemed to be no concern of theirs. Miss Upround had never been told what brought this visitor to Flamborough, and although she had plenty of proper curiosity, she never got any reward for it. Only four Flamburians knew that Sir Duncan was Robin Lyth's papa-or, as they would put it (having faster hold of the end of the stick next to them) that Robin Lyth was the son of Sir Duncan. And those four were, by force of circumstance, Robin Cockscroft, and Joan his wife, the rector, and the rectoress. Even Dr. Stirbacks (organically inquisitive as he was, and ill-content to sniff at any bottle with the cork tied down), by mastery of Mordacks,

and calm dignity of rector, was able to suspect a lot of things, but to be sure of none of them; and suspicion, according to its usual manner, never came near the truth at all. Miss Upround therefore had no idea, that if she became Lady Yordas, which she very sincerely longed to be, she would, by that event, be made the stepmother of a widely celebrated smuggler. While her Indian hero, having no idea of her flattering regard as yet, was not bound to enlighten her upon that point.

At Anerley Farm the like ignorance prevailed; except that Mistress Anerley, having a quick turn for romance, and liking to get her predictions confirmed, recalled to her mind (and recited to her husband, in far stronger language) what she had said, in the cloverblossom time, to the bravest man that ever lived, the lamented Captain Carroway. Captain Carroway's dauntless end, so thoroughly befitting his extraordinary exploits, for which she even had his own authority, made it the clearest thing in all the world, that every word she said to him must turn out Bible-true. And she had begged him— and one might be certain that he had told it, as a good man must, to his poor dear widow-not to shoot at Robin Lyth; because he would get a thousand pounds, instead of a hundred for doing it. She never could have dreamed to find her words come true so suddenly; but here was an Indian Prince come home, who employed the most pleasant-spoken gentleman; and he might know who it was he had to thank, that even in the cave, the Captain did not like to shoot that long-lost heir; and from this time out, there was no excuse for Stephen, if he ever laughed at anything that his wife said. Only on no account must Mary ever hear of it; for a bird in the hand was worth fifty in the bush; and the other gone abroad, and under accusation, and very likely born of a Red Indian mother. Whereas Harry Tanfield's father, George, had been as fair as a foal, poor fellow; and perhaps if the Church-books had been as he desired, he might have kept out of the churchyard, to this day.

'And me in it!' the farmer answered with a laugh—' dead for love of my wife, Sophy; as wouldn't a' been my wife, nor drawn nigh upon fi' pound this very week for feathers, fur, and ribbon-stuff! Well, well! George would a' come again, to think of it. How many times have I seen him go with a sixpence in the palm of 's hand, and think better of the King upon it, and worser of the poor chap, as were worn out, like the tail of it! Then back go the sixpence into George's breeches; and out comes my shilling, to the starving chap, on the sly, and never mentioned. But for all that, I think, like enow, old George mought a' managed to get up to heaven.'

'Stephen, I wish to hear nothing of that. The question concerns his family, not ours; as Providence has seen fit to arrange. Now what is your desire to have done with Mary? William has made his great discovery at last; and if we should get the 10,000l., nobody need look down on us.'

'I should like to see anyone look down on me,' Master Anerley

said, with his back set straight; 'a' mought do so once, but a' would be sorry afterwards. Not that I would hinder him of 's own way; only that he better keep out of mine. Sometimes, when you go thinking of your own ideas, you never seem to bear in mind, what my considerations be.'

'Because you cannot follow out the quickness of the way I think. You always acknowledge that, my dear.'

'Well, well. Quick churn spoileth butter. Like Willie with his perpetual motion. What good to come of it, if he hath found out? And a' might, if ever a body did, from the way he goeth jumping about for ever, and never hold fast to anything. A nice thing 'twould be for the fools to say, perpetual motion come from Anerley Farm.' 'You never will think any good of him, Stephen, because his mind comes from my side. But wait till you see the 10,000l.' That I will; and thank the Lord to live so long. But, to come to common sense,-how was Mary, and Harry, a carrying on this afternoon?'

6

'Not so very bad, father; and nothing good to speak of. He kept on very well from the corners of his eyes; but she never corresponded, so to speak-same as-you know.'

The same as you used to do, when you was young. Well, manners may be higher stylish now. Did he ask her about the hayrick?'

'That he did. Three or four times over; exactly as you said it to him. He knew that was how you got the upper hand of me, according to your memory, but not mine; and he tried to do it, the very same way; but the Lord makes a lot of change, in thirty years of time. Mary quite turned her nose up at any such riddle, and he pulled his spotted handkerchief out of that new hat of his; and the faggot never saw fit to heed even the colour of his poor red cheeks. Stephen, you would have marched off, for a week, if I had behaved to you so.'

And the right way too; I shall put him up to that. Long sighs only leads to turn-up noses. He plays too knuckle-down at it. You should go on with your sweetheart, very mild at first; just a feeling for her finger-tips; and emboldening of her to believe that you are frightened, and bringing her to peep at you, as if you was a blackbird, ready to pop out of sight. That makes 'em wonderful curious and eager, and sticks you into 'em, like prickly spinach. But you mustn't stop too long, like that. You must come out large, as a bull runs up to gate; and let them see that you could smash it, if you liked, but feel a goodness in your heart, that keeps you out of mischief. And then they comes up, and they says, "poor fellow!"' Stephen, I do not approve of such expressions, or any such low opinions. You may know how you went on. Such things may have answered once; because of your being-yourself, you know. But Mary, although she may not have my sense, must have her own opinions. And the more you talk of what we used to do-though I

« AnteriorContinuar »