« AnteriorContinuar »
headed Duncombe's papers had got into the hands of Mordacks. Of that, however, Mr. Jellicorse had no idea.
Sir Duncan Yordas, I will meet you as you come,' he said, with his good fresh-coloured face as honest as the sun, when the clouds roil off. It is an unusual step on my part, and perhaps irregular. But rather than destroy the prospect of a friendly compromise, I will strain a point, and candidly admit that there is an instrument open to an interpretation, which might, or might not, be in your favour.'
'That I knew long ago, and more than that. My demand is—to see it, and to satisfy myself.'
'Under the circumstances, I am half inclined to think that I should be disposed to allow you that privilege, if the document were in my possession.'
Now, Mr. Jellicorse,' Sir Duncan answered, showing his temper in his eyes alone; how much longer will you trifle with me? Where is that deed?'
Mr. Jellicorse drew forth his watch, took off his spectacles, and dusted them carefully with a soft yellow handkerchief; then restored them to their double sphere of usefulness, and perused, with some diligence, the time of day. By the law which compels a man to sneeze, when another man sets the example, Sir Duncan also drew forth his watch.
'I am trying to make my reply as accurate,' said the lawyer, beginning to enjoy the position as a man, though not quite as a lawyer, as accurate as your candour and confidence really deserve, Sir Duncan. The box, containing that document, to which you attach so much importance (whether duly, or otherwise, is not for me to say, until Counsel's opinion has been taken on our side), considering the powers of the horse, that box should be about Stormy Gap, by this time. A quarter to four by me. What does your watch say,
'The deed has been sent for, post-haste, has it? And you know for what purpose?'
'You must draw a distinction between the deed, and the box containing it, Sir Duncan. Or, to put it more accurately, betwixt that deed, and its casual accompaniments. It happens to be among very old charters, which happen to be wanted, for certain excellent antiquarian purposes. Such things are not in my line, I must confess, although so deeply interesting. But a very learned man seems to have expressed
'Rubbish! Excuse me; but you are most provoking. You know, as well as I do, that robbery is intended; and you allow yourself to be made a party to it.'
This was the simple truth; and the lawyer, being (by some strange inversion of professional excellence) honest at the bottom, was deeply pained at having such words used as, to, for, about, or, in anywise, concerning him.
'I think, Sir Duncan, that you will be sorry,' he answered with
much dignity, for employing such language, where it cannot be resented. Your father was a violent man; and we all expect violence of your family.'
There is no time to go into that question now. If I have wronged you, I will beg your pardon. A very few hours will prove how that is. How, and by whom, have you sent the box?'
Mr. Jellicorse answered, rather stiffly, that his clients had sent a trusty servant, with a light vehicle, to fetch the box; and that now he must be half-way towards home.
'I shall overtake him,' said Sir Duncan, with a smile; I have a good horse, and I know the short cuts. Hoofs without wheels go a yard to a foot, upon such rocky collar-work.
Without another word except 'Good-bye,' Sir Duncan Yordas left the house, walked rapidly to the inn, and cut short the dinner his good horse was standing up to. In a very few minutes he was on Tees bridge, with his face towards the home of his ancestors.
It may be supposed that neither his thoughts, nor those of the lawyer, were very cheerful. Mr. Jellicorse was deeply anxious as to the conflict which might ensue, and as to the figure his fair fame might cut if this strange transaction should be exposed, and calumniated by evil tongues. In these elderly days, and with all experience, he had laid himself open-not legally perhaps, but morally-to the heavy charge of connivance at a felonious act, and even some contribution towards it. He told himself vainly that he could not help it; that the documents were in his charge, only until he was ordered to give them up; and that it was no concern of his, to anticipate what might become of them. His position had truly been difficult; but still, he might have escaped from it with clearer conscience. His duty was to cast away drawing-room manners, and warn Miss Yordas that the document she hated so was not her own to deal with, but belonged (in equity at least) to those who were entitled under it; and that to take advantage of her wrongful possession, and destroy the foe, was a crime; and, more than that, a shabby one. The former point might not have stopped her; but the latter would have done so, without fail; for her pride was equal to her daring. But poor Mr. Jellicorse had felt the power of a will more resolute than his own, and of grand surroundings, and exalted style; and his desire to please had confused, and thereby overcome, his perception of the right. But now these reflections were all too late; and the weary brain found comfort only in the shelter of its nightcap.
If a little slip had brought a very good man to unhappiness, how much harder was it for Sir Duncan Yordas, who had committed no offence at all! No Yordas had ever cared a tittle for tattle-to use their own expression-but deeper mischief than tattle must ensue, unless great luck prevented it. The brother knew well that his sister inherited much of the reckless self-will which had made the name almost a by-word; and which had been master of his own life, until
large experience of the world, and the sense of responsible power curbed it. He had little affection for that sister left-for she had used him cruelly, and even now was embittering the injury-but he still had some tender feeling for the other, who had always been his favourite. And though cut off, by his father's act, from due headship of the family, he was deeply grieved, in this more enlightened age, to expose their uncivilised turbulence.
Therefore, he spurred his willing horse against the hill, and up the many-winding ruggedness of road; hoping at every turn to descry in the distance the vehicle carrying that very plaguesome box. If his son had been there, he might have told him on the ridge of Stormy Gap (which commanded high and low, rough and smooth, dark and light, for miles ahead), that Jordas was taking the final turn, by the furthest gleam of the water-mist, whence the stone-road laboured up to Scargate. But Sir Duncan's eyes-though as keen as an eagle's while young-had now seen too much of the sun, to make out that grey atom, gliding in the sunset haze.
Upon the whole, it was a lucky thing that he could not overtake the car; for Jordas would never have yielded his trust, while any life was in him; and Sir Duncan having no knowledge of him, except as a boy of all work about the place, might have been tempted to use a sword, without which no horseman then rode there. Or failing that, a struggle between two equally resolute men must have followed, with none at hand to part them.
When the horseman came to the foot of the long steep pull, leading up to the stronghold of his race, he just caught a glimpse of the car turning in, at the entrance of the courtyard. They have half an hour's start of me,' he thought, as he drew up behind a rock, that the house might not descry him; if I ride up in full view, I hurry the mischief. Philippa will welcome me, with the embers of my title. She must not suspect that the matter is so urgent. Nobody shall know that I am coming. For many reasons, I had better try the private road below the Scarfe.'
JORDAS, without suspicion of pursuit, had allowed no grass to grow under the feet of Marmaduke, on the homeward way. His orders were, to use all speed; to do as he had done at the lawyer's private door; and then, without baiting his horse, to drive back, reserving the nose-bag for some very humpy halting-place. There is no such man, at the present time of day, to carry out strict orders, as the dogman was; and the chance of there ever being such an one again diminishes by very rapid process. Marmaduke, as a horse, was of equal quality, reasoning not about his orders, but about the way to do them.
There was no special emergency now, so far as my lady Philippa knew; but the manner of her mind was, to leave no space between a resolution and its execution. This is the way to go up in the world, or else to go down abruptly; and to her the latter would have been far better, than to halt between two opinions. Her plan had been shaped and set last night; and, like all great ideas, was the simplest of the simple. And Jordas, who had inklings of his own, though never admitted to confidence, knew how to carry out the outer part.
"When the turbot comes,' she said to Welldrum, as soon as her long sight showed her the trusty Jordas beginning the home ascent, 'it is to be taken first out of the car, and to my sister's sitting-room; the other things Jordas will see to. I may be going for a little walk. But you will at once carry up the turbot; Mrs. Carnaby's appetite is delicate.'
The butler had his own opinion upon that interesting subject. But in her presence it must be his own. Any attempt at enlargement of her mind, by exchange of sentiment-such as Mrs. Carnaby permitted, and enjoyed-would have sent him flying down the hill, pursued by square-toed men prepared to add elasticity to velocity. Therefore, Welldrum made a leg in silence, and retreated; while his mistress prepared for her intended exploit. She had her beaver hat and mantle ready by the shrubbery door-as a little quiet postern of her own was called-and in the heavy standing-desk, or 'secretary,' of her private room she had stored a flat basket, or frail, of stout flags, with a heavy clock-weight inside it.
'Much better to drown the wretched thing, than burn it,' she had been saying to herself; especially at this time of year, when fires are weak, and tell-tale. And parchment makes such a nasty smell; Eliza might come in, and suspect it. But the Scarfe is a trusty confidant.'
Mistress Yordas, while sure that her sister (having even more than herself at stake) would approve, and even applaud, her scheme, was equally sure that it must be kept from her, both for its own sake, and for hers. And the sooner it was done, the less the chance of disturbing poor Eliza's mind.
The Scarfe is a deep pool, supposed to have no bottom (except perhaps in the very bowels of the earth), upon one of the wildest headwaters of the Tees. A strong mountain-torrent, from a desolate ravine, springs forth with great ferocity, and sooner than put up with any more stabs from the rugged earth, casts itself on air. For a hundred and twenty feet the water is bright, in the novelty and the power of itself, striking out freaks of eccentric flashes, and even little sun-bows in fine weather. But the triumph is brief; and a heavy retribution, created by its violence, awaits below. From the tossing turmoil of the fall, two white volumes roll away, with a clash of waves between them, and sweeping round the craggy basin meet (like a snowy wreath) below, and rush back, in coiling eddies flaked with foam. All the middle is dark deep water, looking on the watch for something to suck down.
What better duty, or more pious, could a hole like this perform, than that of swallowing up a lawyer; or, if no such morsel offered, then at least a lawyer's deeds? Many a sheep had been there engulfed, and never saluted by her lambs again; and although a lawyer by no means is a sheep (except in his clothing, and his eyes perhaps), yet his doings appear upon the skin thereof, and enhance its value more than drugs of Tyre. And it is to be feared that some fleeced clients will not feel the horror which they ought to feel at the mode pursued by Mistress Yordas in the delivery of her act and deed.
She came down the dell, from the private grounds of Scargate, with a resolute face and a step of strength. The clock-weight, that should know time no more, was well embosomed in the old deed-poll, and all stitched firmly in the tough brown frail, whose handles would help for a long strong cast. Towering crags, and a ridge of jagged scaurs, shut out the sunset; while a thicket of dwarf oak, and the never-absent bramble, aproned the yellow dugs of shale with brown. In the middle was the caldron of the torrent, called the 'Scarfe,' with the sheer trap-rock, which is green in the sunlight, like black night brooding over it; while a snowy wreath of mist (like foam exhaling) circled round the basined steep, or hovered above the chasm.
Miss Yordas had very staunch nerves; but still, for reasons of her own, she disliked this place, and never came near it for pleasure's sake; although in dry summers, when the springs were low, the fury of the scene passed into grandeur, and even beauty. But a Yordas (long ago gone to answer for it) had flung a man, who plagued him with the law, into this hole. And what was more disheartening, although of less importance, a favourite maid of this lady, upon the exile of her sweetheart, hearing that his feet were upside down to hers, and that this hole went right through the earth, had jumped into it, in a lonely moment, instead of taking lessons in geography. Philippa Yordas was as brave as need be; but now her heart began to creep, as coldly as the shadows crept.
For now she was out of sight of home, and out of hearing of any sound, except the roaring of the force. The Hall was half a mile away, behind a shoulder of thick-ribbed hill; and it took no sight of this torrent until it became a quiet river, by the downward road. 'I must be getting old,' Miss Yordas thought; or else this path is much rougher than it used to be. Why, it seems to be getting quite dangerous! It is too bad of Jordas, not to see to things better. My father used to ride this way sometimes. But how could a horse get along here now?'
There used to be a bridle-road from the grounds of Scargate to a ford below the force, and northward thence towards the Tees; or by keeping down stream, and then fording it again, a rider might hit upon the Middleton road, near the rock that warned the public of the bloodhounds. This bridle-road kept a safe distance from the cliffs overhanging the perilous Scarfe; and the only way down to a view of