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MARY ANERLEY: A YORKSHIRE TALE.
BOUT a month after Sir Duncan's marriage, when he and his bride were in London, with the lady's parents come to help in the misery of outfit, a little boy ran through a field of wheat, early in the afternoon, and hid himself in a blackthorn hedge, to see what was going on at Anerley. Nothing escaped him, for his eyes were sharp, being of true Danish breed. He saw Captain Anerley trudging up the hill, with a pipe in his mouth, to the bean-field, where three or four men were enjoying the air, without any of the greedy gulps produced by too great exertion of the muscles; then he saw the mistress of the house throw wide a lattice, and shake out a cloth for the birds, who skipped down from the thatch by the dozen instantly; and then he saw Mary with a basket and a wooden measure, going round the corner of the house, and clucking, for the fowls to rally from their scratching-places. These came zealously, with speed of leg and wing, from straw-rick, threshing-floor, double-hedge, or mixen; and following their tails, the boy slipped through the rickyard, and tossed a note to Mary, with a truly Flamburian delivery.
Although it was only a small-sized boy, no other than the heir of the Cod-fish,' a brighter rose flew into Mary's cheeks than the master-cock of all the yard could show, upon comb, or wattle. Contemptuous of twopence, which Mary felt for, the boy disappeared like a rabbit; and the fowls came, and helped themselves to the tailwheat, while their mistress was thinking of her letter. It was short and sweet—at least in promise-being no more than these few words -Darling, the dyke where first we met, an hour after sunset.'
Mary never doubted that her duty was to go; and at the time appointed she was there, with firm knowledge of her own mind, being now a loving and reasonable woman. It was just a year since she had saved the life of Robin; and patience, and loneliness, and opposition had enlarged and ennobled her true and simple heart. No lord in the land need have looked for a purer or sweeter example of maidenhood than this daughter of a Yorkshire farmer was, in her simple dress, and with the dignity of love. The glen was beginning to bestrew itself with want of light, instead of shadows; and bushy places thickened with the imperceptible growth of night. Mary went on, with excitement deepening, while sunset deepened into dusk; and the colour of her clear face flushed and fleeted, under the anxious touch of love, as the tint of a delicate finger-nail with any pressure varies. But not very long was she left in doubt.
'How long you have been! And, oh, where have you been? And how much longer will you be?' Among many other words, and doings, she insisted chiefly on these points.
'I am a true-blue, as you may see, and a warrant officer already,' he said, with his old way of smiling at himself; when the war begins again (as it must-please God!—before many weeks are over) I shall very soon get my commission, and go up. I am quite fit already to command a frigate.'
Mary was astonished at his modesty; she thought that he ought to be an admiral at least, and so she told him; however, he knew better.
"You must bear in mind,' he replied, with a kindly desire to spare her feelings, that until a change for the better comes, I am under disadvantages. Not only as an outlaw-which has been upon the whole a comfort-but as a suspected criminal, with warrant against him, and reward upon him. Of course I am innocent; and everybody knows it, or at least I hope so-except the one who should have known it best.'
'I am the person who should know it best of all,' his true love answered, with some jealousy; 'explain yourself, Robin, if you please.'
'No Robin, so please you; but Mr. James Blyth, captain of the foretop, then coxswain of the barge, and now master's mate of H. M. ship of the line "Belleisle." But the one who should have trusted me, next to my own love, is my father Sir Duncan Yordas.'
'How you are talking! You have such a reckless way. A warrant officer, an arrant criminal? And your father, Sir Duncan Yordas, that very strange gentleman, who could never get warm! Oh, Robin, you always did talk nonsense, when-whenever I would let you. But you should not try to make my head go round.'
'Every word of it is true,' the young sailor answered, applying a prompt remedy for vertigo; it had been clearly proved to his knowledge, long before the great fact was vouchsafed to me, that I am the only son of Sir Duncan Yordas, or, at any rate, his only son for the present. The discovery gratified him so little, that he took speedy measures to supplant me.'
'The very rich gentleman from India,' said Mary, that married Miss Upround lately; and her dress was all made of spun diamonds, they say, as bright as the dew in the morning. Oh, then you will have to give me up; Robin, you must give up me!'
Clasping her hands, she looked up at him with courage, keeping down all sign of tears. She felt that her heart would not hold out long; and yet she was prouder than to turn away. Speak,' she said; "it is better to speak plainly; you know that it must be so.'
'Do I? why?' Robin Lyth asked calmly, being well contented to prolong her doubts; that he might get the benefit thereafter.
'Because you belong to great people; and I am just a farmer's daughter, and no more; and quite satisfied to remain so. Such things
'A little while ago you were above me, weren't you? When I was nobody's son, and only a castaway, with a nickname.'
"That has nothing to do with it. We must take things exactly as we find them, at the time.'
'And you took me, as you found me at the time; only that you made me out so much better. Mary, I am not worthy of you. What has birth to do with it? And so far as that goes, yours is better; though mine may seem the brighter. In every other way you are above me. You are good, and I am wicked. You are pure, and I am careless. You are sweet, and I am violent. In truth alone, can I ever vie with you; and I must be a pitiful scoundrel, Mary, if I did not even try to do that, after all that you have done for me.'
'But,' said Mary, with her lovely eyes gleaming with the glittering shade of tears, 'I like you very much to do it—but not exactly as a duty, Robin.'
"You look at me like that, and you talk of duty! Duty, dutythis is my duty; I should like to be discharging it for ever and a day.'
'I did not come here for ideas of this kind,' said Mary, with her lips as red as pyracanthine berries; 'free-trade was bad enough; but the Royal Navy worse, it seems. Now, Robin dear, be sensible; and tell me what I am to do.'
'To listen to me, and then say whether I deserve what my father has done to me. He came back from India—as you must understand -with no other object in life, that I can hear of (for he had any quantity of money), than to find out me, his only child, and the child of the only wife he ever could put up with. For twenty years he had believed me to be drowned; when the ship he sent me home in, to be educated, was supposed to have foundered with all hands. But something made him fancy that I might have escaped; and as he could not leave India then, he employed a gentleman of York, named Mordacks, to hunt out all about it. Mordacks, who seems to be a wonderful man, and most kindhearted to everybody, as poor Widow Carroway says of him, with tears, and as he testifies of himself-he set to work, and found out in no time all about me, and my ear-rings, and my crawling from the cave that will bear my name, they say; and more things than I have time to tell. He appointed a meeting with Sir Duncan Yordas, here at Flamborough, and would have brought me to him, and everything might have been quite happy. But in the meanwhile that horrible murder of poor Carroway came to pass; and I was obliged to go into hiding, as no one knows better than you, my dear. My father (as I suppose I must call him), being bound, as it seems that they all are, to fall out with their children, took a hasty turn against me at once. Mordacks (whom I saw last week, trusting myself to his honour) tells me that Sir Duncan would not have cared twopence about my free-trade work, and so on; or even about my having killed the officer in fair conflict, for he is used to that. But he never will forgive me for absconding, and leaving my fellows, as he
puts it, to bear the brunt. He says that I am a dastard, and a skulk, and unworthy to bear the name of Yordas.'
'What a wicked, unnatural man he must be!' cried Mary; 'he deserves to have no children.'
'No; I am told that he is a very good man, but stiff-necked and disdainful. He regards me with scorn, because he knows no better. He may know our laws, but he knows nothing of our ways, to suppose that my men were in any danger. If I had been caught while the stir was on, a gibbet on the cliff would have been set up, even before my trial- such is the reward of eminence-but no Yorkshire jury would turn round in the box, with those poor fellows before them. "Not guilty, my lord," was on their tongues before he had finished charging them.'
'Oh, I am so glad! They have been acquitted, and you were there to see it!'
'To be sure. I was in the court, as Harry Ombler's father. Mr. Mordacks got it up; and it told on the jury, even more than could have been expected. Even the judge wiped his eyes, as he looked at me, for they say he has a scapegrace son; and Harry was the only one of all the six in danger, according to the turn of the evidence. My poor eyes have scarcely come round yet, from the quantity of sobbing that I had to do, and the horrible glare of my goggles. And then I had a crutch that I stumped with, as I sighed, so that all the court could hear me; and whenever I did it, all the women sighed too, and even the hardest hearts were moved. Mr. Mordacks says
that it was capital.'
'Oh, but Robin, how shocking; though you make me laugh! If the verdict had been otherwise-oh, what then?'
'Well, then, Harry Ombler had a paper in his hand, done in printing letters by myself, because he is a very tidy scholar, and signed by me; the which he was to read, before receiving sentence, saying that Robin Lyth himself was in York town, and would surrender to that court, upon condition that mercy should be warranted to the prisoners.'
'And you would have given yourself up? And without consulting me about it!'
'Bad, I admit,' Robin answered with a smile; but not half so bad as to give up you-which you calmly proposed just now, dear heart. However, there is no need for any trouble now, except that I am forced to keep out of sight, until other evidence is procured. Mordacks has taken to me, like a better father, mainly from his paramount love of justice, and of daring gallantry, as he calls it.'
'So it was, and ten times more; heroic self-devotion is a much more proper term.'
Now don't,' said Robin; if you make me blush, you may guess what I shall do to hide it-carry the war into the sweet land of the enemy. But truly, my darling, there was very little danger. And I am up for a much better joke this time. My august Roman father, No. 609 (No. cxxix. n. s.)
who has cast me off, sails as a very great Indian gun, in a ship of the line, from Spithead, early in September. The "Belleisle" is being paid off now, and I have my certificate, as well as lots of money. Next to his lass, every sailor loves a spree; and mine, instead of emptying, shall fill the locker. With this disgusting peace on, and no chance of prize-money, and plenty in their pockets for a good spell ashore, blue-jackets will be scarce when Sir Duncan Yordas sails. If I can get a decent berth, as a petty officer, off I go for Calcutta, and watch (like the sweet little cherub that sits up aloft) for the safety of my dear papa and mamma, as the Frenchmen are teaching us to call them. What do you think of such filial de
'It would be a great deal more than he deserves,' Mary answered, with sweet simplicity; but what could you do, if he found out who you are?'
'Not the smallest fear of that, my dear. I have never had the honour of an introduction. My new step-mother, who might have been my sweetheart, if I had not seen somebody a hundred times as good, a thousand times as gentle, and a million times as lovely——' Oh, Robin, do leave off such very dreadful stories! I saw her in the church; and she looked beautiful.'
Fine feathers make fine birds. However, she is well enough in her way; and I love her father. But for all that, she has no business to be my step-mother; and of course it was only the money that did it. She has a little temper of her own, I can assure you; and I wish Sir Duncan joy of her, when they get among mosquitoes. But, as I was going to say, the only risk of my being caught is from her sharp eyes. Even of that there is not much danger; for we common sailors need not go within hail of those grandees, unless it comes to boat-work. And even if Miss Janetta-I beg her pardon, Lady Yordas-should chance to recognise me, I am sure she would never tell her husband. No, no, she would be too jealous; and for fifty other reasons. She is very cunning-let me tell you.'
'Well,' cried Mary, with a smile of wisdom, I hope that I may never live to be a step-mother. The way those poor things get abused
"You would have more principle, I should hope, than to marry anybody after me. However, I have told you nearly all my news; and in a few minutes I must be off. Only two things more. In the first place, Mordacks has taken a very great fancy to me, and has turned against my father. He, and Widow Carroway, and I, had a long talk after the trial; and we all agreed that the murder was committed by a villain called John Cadman, a sneak and a skulk, whom I knew well as one of Carroway's own men. Among other things, they chanced to say that Cadman's gun was missing, and that the poor widow can swear to it. I asked if anyone had searched for it; and Mordacks said no, it would be hopeless. I told them that, if I were only free to show myself, and choose my time, I would lay