Зображення сторінки

a whistle, yet at leisure to enjoy the whisper, the murmur, or even the sigh, of a genuine piece of sweet-hearting. Unjust as it may be, and hard, and truly narrow, there does exist in the human mind, or at least in the masculine half of it, a strong conviction that a man in love is a man in a scrape, in a hole, in a pitfall, in a pitiful condition, untrue for the moment to the brotherhood of man, and cast down among the inferior vessels. And instead of being sorry for him, those who are all right look down, and glory over him, with very ancient gibes. So these three men, instead of being touched at heart by soft confessions, laid hard bands to wrinkled noses.

• Mary, I vow to you, as I stand bere,' said Robin for the fiftieth time, leading her nearer to the treacherous hedge, as he pressed her trembling hand, and gazed with deep ecstasy into her truthful eyes, • I will live only to deserve you, darling. I will give up everything, and every body, in the world, and start afresh. I will pay king's duty upon every single tub; and set up in the tea and spirit line, with his Majesty's arms upon the lintel. I will take a large contract for the royal navy, who never gets anything genuine, and not one of them ever knows good from bad,

“That's a dirty lie, sir! In the king's name I arrest you !'

Lieutenant Carroway leaped before them, flourishing a long sword, and dancing with excitement, in this the supreme moment of his life. At the same instant three men came bursting through the hedge, drew hangers, and waited for orders. Robin Lyth, in the midst of his love, was so amazed that he stood like a boy under orders to be caned.

Surrender, sir! Down with your arms; you are my prisoner. Strike to his Majesty. Hands to your side, or I run you through like Jack Robinson ! Keep back, men. He belongs to me.'

But Carroway counted his chicks too soon ; or, at any rate, he overlooked a little chick. For while he was making fine passes (having learned the rudiments of swordsmanship beyond other British officers), and just as he was executing a splendid flourish, upon his bony breast lay Mary. She flung her arms round him, so that move he could not without grievously tearing her; and she managed, in a very wicked way, to throw the whole weight of two bodies on his wounded heel. A flash of pain shot up to his very sword, and down he went with Mary to protect him, or at any rate to cover him. His three men, like true Britons, stood in position, and waited for their officer to get up and give orders.

These three men showed such perfect discipline, that Robin was invited to knock them down, as if they had simply been three skittles in a row; he recovered his presence of mind and did it, and looking back at Mary, received signal to be off. Perceiving that his brave love would take no harm-for the tanner was come forth blustering loudly, and Mrs. Popplewell with shrieks and screams enough to prevent the whole Preventive Service-the free-trader kissed his hand to Mary, and was lost through the bushes, and away



'I TELL you, Captain Anerley, that she knocked me down. Your daughter there, who looks as if butter would not melt in her mouth, knocked down Commander Carroway, of his Majesty's Coast-guard, like a royal Bengal tiger, sir. I am not come to complain ; such an action I would scorn; and I admire the young lady for her spirit, sir. My sword was drawn, no man could have come near me; but before I could think, sir, I was lying on my back. Do you call that constitutional ?'

• Mary, lof, however could you think it—to knock down Captain Carroway?'

• Father, I never did. He went down of himself, because he was flourishing about so. I never thought what I was doing of at all. And with all my heart I beg his pardon. What right had you, sir, to come spying after me?'

This interview was not of the common sort. Lieutenant Carroway, in full uniform, was come to Anerley farm that afternoon; not for a moment to complain of Mary, but to do his duty, and to put things straight; while Mary had insisted upon going home at once from the hospitable house of Uncle Popplewell, who had also insisted upon going with her, and taking his wife to help the situation.

A council had been called immediately, with Mistress Anerley presiding; and before it had got beyond the crying stage, in marched the brave lieutenant.

Stephen Anerley was reserving his opinion—which generally means that there is none yet to reserve—but in his case there would be a great deal by-and-by. Master Popplewell bad made up his mind and his wife's, long ago, and confirmed it in the one-horse shay, while Mary was riding Lord Keppel' in the rear; and the mind of the tanner was as tough as good oak-bark. His premises had been intruded upon—the property which he had bought with his own money saved by years of honest trade, his private garden, bis ornamental bower, his wife's own pleasure-plot, at a sacred moment, invaded, trampled, and outraged by a scurvy preventive-man and his low crew! The first thing he had done to the prostrate Carroway was to lay hold of him by the collar, and shake his fist at him and demand his warrant--a magistrate's warrant, or from the Crown itself. The poor lieutenant having none to show, Then I will have the law of you, sir,' the tanner shouted, “if it costs me two hundred and fifty pounds. I am known for a man, sir, who sticks to his word; and my attorney is a genuine bull-dog.'

This had frightened Carroway more than fifty broadsides. Truly he loved fighting; but the boldest sailor bears away at prospect of an

vowed, until bedtime, satisfaction he would have; and never lost the sight of it, until he fell asleep.

Even now it was in his mind, as Carroway could see ; his eyebrows meant it, and his very surly nod, and the way in which he put his hands far down into his pockets. The poor lieutenant, being well aware that zeal had exceeded duty (without the golden amnesty of success), and finding out that Popplewell was rich and had no children, did his very best to look with real pleasure at him, and try to raise a loftier feeling in his breast than damages. But the tanner only frowned, and squared his elbows, and stuck his knuckles sharply out of both his breeches pockets. And Mrs. Popplewell, like a fat and most kind-hearted lady, stared at the officer, as if she longed to choke him.

• I tell you again, Captain Anerley,' cried the lieutenant, with his temper kindling, that no consideration moved me, sir, except that of duty. As for my spying after any pretty girls, my wife, who is now down with her eighth baby, would get up sooner than hear of it. If I intruded upon your daughter, so as to justify her in knocking me down, Captain Anerley, it was because-well I won't say, Mary, I won't say; we have all been young; and our place is to know better.'

• Sir, you are a gentleman,' cried Popplewell, with heat ; here is my hand, and you may trespass on my premises, without bringing any attorney.'

“ Did you say her eighth baby? Oh, Commander Carroway,' Mrs. Popplewell began to whisper, “what a most interesting situation! Oh, I see why you have such high colour, sir!'

• Madam, it is enough to make me pale. At the same time I do like sympathy; and my dear wife loves the smell of tan.'

We have retired, sir, many years ago, and purchased a property near the sea-side ; and from the front gate you must have seen—but ob, I forgot, captain, you came through the hedge, or at any rate down the row of kidney-beans!'

• I want to know the truth!' shouted Stephen Anerley, who had been ploughing through his brow into his brain, while he kept his eyes fixed upon his daughter's, and there found abashment, but no abasement; 'nought have I to do with any little goings on, or whether an action was a gentleman's or not. That question belongs to the regulars, I wand, or to the folk who have retired. Nobbut a farmer am I, in little business; but concerning of my children I will have my say. All of you tell me what is this about my Mary.'

As if he would drag their thoughts out of them, he went from one to another with a hard quick glance, which they all tried to shun; for they did not want to tell until he should get into a better frame of mind. And they looked at Mistress Anerley, to come forth and take his edge off; but she knew that when his eyes were so, to interfere was mischief. But Carroway did not understand the man.

• Come now, Anerley,' the bold lieutenant said ; "what are you hundred pounds twice over, and a hundred of my own-if so be I ever had it—than get little Mary into such a row as this. Why, Lord bless my heart, one would think that there was murder in a little bit of sweet-hearting! All pretty girls do it; and the plain ones too. Come and smoke a pipe, my good fellow, and don't terrify her.'

For Mary was sobbing in a corner by herself, without even her mother to come up and say a word.

My daughter never does it,' answered Stephen Anerley; my daughter is not like the foolish girls and women. My daughter knows her mind; and what she does she means to do. Mary, lof, come to your father, and tell him that everyone is lying of you. Sooner would I trust a single quiet word of yours, than a pile, as big as Flambro Head, sworn by all the world together against my little Mary.

The rest of them, though much aggrieved by such a bitter calumny, held their peace, and let him go with open arms towards his Mary. The farmer smiled, that his daughter might not have any terror of his public talk; and because he was heartily expecting her to come and tell him some trifle, and be comforted, and then go

for a good happy cry, while he shut off all her enemies.

But instead of any nice work of that nature, Mary Anerley arose and looked at the people in the room-which was their very best, and by no means badly furnished-and after trying to make out, as a very trifling matter, what their unsettled minds might be, her eyes came home to her father's, and did not flinch although they were so wet.

Master Anerley, once and for ever, knew that his daughter was gone from him. That a stronger love than one generation can have for the one before it-pure and devoted and ennobling as that love is —now had arisen, and would force its way. He did not think it out like that, for his mind was not strictly analytic-however his ideas were to that effect; which is all that need be said about them.

Every word of it is true,' the girl said gently; "father, I have done every word of what they say, except about knocking down Captain Carroway. I have promised to marry Robin Lyth-by-andby–when you agree to it.'

Stephen Anerley's ruddy cheeks grew pale, and his blue eyes glittered with amazement. He stared at his daughter till her gaze gave way; and then he turned to his wife, to see whether she had heard of it. •I told you so,' was all she said; and that tended little to comfort him. But he broke forth into no passion, as he might have done with justice and some benefit ; but turned back quietly and looked at his Mary, as if he were saying, once for all, 'Goodbye!'

• Oh, don't, father, don't l' the girl answered with a sob; revile me, or beat me, or do anything but that. That is more than I can

• Have I ever reviled you ? Have I ever beaten you ?’
Never, never once, in all


life. But I beg you—I implore of you—to do it now. Oh, father, perhaps I have deserved it!'

“You know best what you deserve. But no bad word shall you have of me. Only you must be careful for the future never to call me

66 father.”

The farmer forgot all his visitors, and walked, without looking at anybody, towards the porch. Then that hospitable spot reawakened his good manners; and he turned and smiled as if he saw them all sitting down to something juicy.

“My good friends, make yourselves at home,' he said ;'“the mistress will see to you, while I look round. I shall be back directly, and we will have an early supper.'

But when he got outside, and was alone with earth and sky, big tears arose into his brave blue eyes, and he looked at his ricks, and his workmen in the distance, and even at the favourite old horse that whinnied and came to have his white nose rubbed, as if none of them belonged to him ever any more. A' would sooner have heard of broken bank,' he muttered to himself and to the ancient horse;

fifty times sooner, and begin the world anew ; only to have Mary for a little child again.'

As the sound of his footsteps died away, the girl hurried out of the room, as if she was going to run after him; but suddenly stopped in the porch, as she saw that he scarcely even cared to feel the cheek of · Lightfoot,' who made a point of rubbing up his master's whiskers with it. "Better wait and let him come round,' thought Mary; 'I never did see him so put out.' Then she ran up the stairs to the window on the landing, and watched her dear father grow dimmer and dimmer, up the distance of the hill, with a bright young tear for every sad old step.




Can it be supposed that all this time Master Geoffrey Mordacks, of the city of York, land-agent, surveyor, and general factor, and maker and doer of everything whether general or particular, was spending his days in doing nothing, and his nights in dreaming? If so, he must have had a sunstroke, on that very bright day of the year, when he stirred up the minds of the washerwomen, and the tongue of Widow Precious. But Flamborough is not at all the place for sunstroke, although it reflects so much in whitewash; neither had Mordacks the head to be sunstruck, but a hard, impenetrable, wiry poll, as weatherproof as felt asphalted. At first sight almost everybody said that he must have been a soldier, at the time when soldiers were

« НазадПродовжити »