« НазадПродовжити »
well knew by this time, though seldom foreclosed by it now, as he had been, before he became a Danish citizen. He was sure that she had some good reason for her silence; and the next day he found that the girl who had left her home, through Cadman's villany, was akin, by her mother's side, to Mistress Precious. But he had another matter to discuss with her now, which caused him some misgivings, yet had better be faced manfully. In the safe philosophical distance of York from this strong landlady, he had (for good reasons of his own) appointed the place of meeting with Sir Duncan Yordas at the rival hostelry, the Inn of Thornwick. Widow Precious had a mind of uncommonly large type, so lofty and pure of all petty emotions, that if anyone spoke of the Thornwick Inn, even upon her back premises, her dignity stepped in and said— I can't abide the stinkin' naam o' un.'
Of this persistently noble regard of a lower institution Mr. Mordacks was well aware, and it gave him pause, in his deep anxiety to spare a tender heart, and maintain the high standard of his breakfast kidneys. “Madam,' he began; and then he rubbed his mouth with the cross-cut out of the jack-towel by the sink, newly set on table, to satisfy him for a dinner-napkin. “Madam, will you listen, while I make an explanation ?'
The landlady looked at him, with dark suspicions gathering.
'I am bound to meet a gentleman near Flamborough to-morrow, Mr. Mordacks continued, with the effrontery of guilt ; 'who will come from the sea. And, as it would not suit him to walk far inland, he has arranged for the interview at a poor little place, called the Thorny Wick, or the Stubby Wick, or something of that sort. thought it was due to you, madam, to explain the reason of my entering, even for a moment--'
Ah dawn't care. Sitha—they mah fettle thee there, if thow's fondhead enew.'
Without another word she left the room, clattering her heavy shoes at the door; and Mordacks foresaw a sad encounter on the morrow, without a good breakfast to 'fettle' him for it. in his nature to dread anything much, and he could not see where he had been at all to blame; but rather would he have taken ten per cent. off his old contract, than meet Sir Duncan Yordas, with the news he had to tell him.
One cause of the righteous indignation, felt by the good mother Tapsy, was her knowledge that nobody could land just now, in any cove under the Thornwick Hotel. With the turbulent snow-wind bringing in the sea, as now it had been doing for several days, even
he fishermen's cobles could not take the beach, much less any stranger craft. Mr. Mordacks was sharp; but an inland factor is apt to overlook such little facts marine.
Upon the following day he stood in the best room of the Thorn
with envy---and he saw the long billows of the ocean, rolling before the steady blowing of the salt-tongued wind, and the broad white valleys that between them lay, and the vaporous generation of great waves. They seemed to have little gift of power for themselves, and no sign of any heed of purport; only to keep at proper distance from each other, and threaten to break over, long before they meant to do it. But to see what they did, at the first opposition of reef, or crag, or headland bluff, was a cure for any delusion about them, or faith in their liquid benevolence. For spouts of wild fury dashed up into the clouds; and the shore, wherever any sight of it was left, weltered in a sadly frothsome state, like the chin of a Titan with a latherbrush at work.
Why, bless my heart!' cried the keen-eyed Mordacks; this is a check I never thought of. Nobody could land in such a surf as that, even if he had conquered all India. Landlord, do you mean to tell me any one could land? And if not, what's the use of your inn standing here?
Naw, sir, nawbody cud laun' joost neaw. Lee-ast waas, nut to ca’ fur naw yell to dry hissen.'
The landlord was pleased with his own wit—perhaps by reason of its scarcity-and went out to tell it in the tap-room while fresh; and Mordacks had made up his mind to call for something--for the good of the house and himself—and return with a sense of escape to his own inn; when the rough frozen road rang with vehement iron, and a horse was pulled up, and a man strode in. The landlord having told his own joke three times, came out with the taste of it upon
his lips ; but the stern dark eyes looking down into his, turned his smile into a frightened stare. He had so much to think of that he could not speak—which happens not only at Flamborough—but his visitor did not wait for the solution of his mental stutter. Without any rudeness, he passed the mooning host, and walked into the parlour, where he hoped to find two persons.
Instead of two, he found one only, and that one standing with his back to the door, and by the snow-flecked window, intent upon the drizzly distance of the wind-struck sea. The attitude and fixed regard were so unlike the usual vivacity of Mordacks, that the visitor thought there must be some mistake, till the other turned round and looked at him.
You see a defeated, but not a beaten man,' said the factor, to get through the worst of it. Thank you, Sir Duncan, I will not snake hands. My ambition was to do so, and to put into yours another hand, more near and dear to it. Sir, I have failed. It is open to you to call me by any hard name that may occur to you. That will do you good; be a hearty relief; and restore me rapidly to selfrespect, by arousing my anxiety to vindicate myself.'
• It is no time for joking; I came here to meet my son. Have you found him, or have you not?'
Sir Duncan sat down, and gazed steadfastly at Mordacks. His self-command had borne many hard trials; but the prime of his life was over now, and strong as he looked and thought himself, the searching wind had sought and found weak places in a sun-beaten frame. But no man would be of noble aspect, hy dwelling at all upon himself.
The quick intelligence of Mordacks—who was of smaller though admirable type-entered into these things at a flash. And throughout their interview, he thought less of himself and more of another than was at all habitual with him, or conducive to good work,
You must bear with a very heavy blow,' he said ; ' and it goes to my heart to have to deal it.'
Sir Duncan Yordas bowed, and said, “The sooner the better, my good friend.'
“I have found your son, as I promised you I would,' replied Mordacks, speaking rapidly; "healthy, active, uncommonly clever, a very fine sailor, and as brave as Nelson, of gallant appearance-as might be expected—enterprising, steadfast, respected, and admired, benevolent in private life, and a public benefactor. A youth of whom the most distinguished father might be proud. But—but?
• Will you never finish ?'
· But by the force of circumstances, over which he had no control, he became in early days a smuggler, and rose to an eminent rank in that profession.'
“I do not care two pice for that; though I should have been sorry if he had not risen.
“He rose to such eminence as to become the High Admiral of smugglers on this coast, and attain the honours of outlawry.'
I look upon that as a pity. But still we may be able to rescind it. Is there anything more against my son ? '
• Unluckily there is. A commander of the coast-guard has been killed in discharge of his duty; and Robin Lyth has left the country to escape a warrant.'
•What have we to do with Robin Lyth? I have heard of him everywhere-a villain and a murderer.'
God forbid that you should say so! Robin Lyth is your only son.'
The man whose word was law to myriads, rose without a word for his own case; he looked at his agent with a stern, calm gaze, and not a sign of trembling in his tall broad frame; unless, perhaps, his under-lip gave a little soft vibration to the grizzled beard, grown to meet the change of climate.
“Unhappily, so it is,' said Mordacks, firmly meeting Sir Duncan's eyes; 'I have proved the matter beyond dispute; and I wish I had better news for you.'
• I thank you, sir. You could not well have worse. I believe it upon your word alone. No Yordas ever get had pleasure of a son. The thing is quite just. I will order my horse.'
Aarge judicial mind. Do you ever condemn any stranger, upon rumour ? And will you, upon that, condemn your son ?'
Certainly not. I proceed upon my knowledge of the fate between father and son, in our race.' • That generally has been the father's fault.
In this case you are the father.'
Sir Duncan turned back, being struck with this remark. Then he sat down again ; which his ancestors had always refused to do, and had rued it. His nature was rugged as theirs ; but hardship, selfdiscipline, and knowledge of the world had shaped it. And he spoke very gently, with a sad faint smile.
'I scarcely see how, in the present case, the fault can be upon the father's side.'
*Not as yet, I grant you. But it would be so, if the father refused to hear out the matter, and joined in the general outcry against his son, without even having seen him, or afforded him a chance of selfdefence.'
'I am not so unjust, or unnatural, as that, sir. I have heard much about this—sad occurrence in the cave. There can be no question that the smugglers slew the officer. That--that very unfortunate young man may not have done it himself—I trust in God that he did not even mean it. Nevertheless, in the eye of the law, if he were present, he is as guilty as if his own hand did it. Can you contend that he was not present ?'
• Unhappily, I cannot. He himself admits it; and if he did not, it could be proved most clearly.'
• Then all that I can do,' said Sir Duncan, rising, with a heavy sigh, and a violent shiver caused by the chill of his long bleak ride,
is first to require your proofs, Mr. Mordacks, as to the identity of my child who sailed from India with this this unfortunate youth; then to give you a cheque for 5,000l., and thank you for skilful offices, and great confidence in my honour. Then I shall leave with you what sum you may think needful for the defence, if he is ever brought to trial. And probably after that-well, I shall even go back to end my life in India. Most Englishmen like to come home to do it. But for me, there is no temptation now.'
My proofs are not arranged yet, but they will satisfy you. I shall take no 5,000l. from you, Sir Duncan ; though strictly speaking I have earned it. But I will take one thousand, to cover past and future outlay, including the possibility of a trial. The balance I shall live to claim yet, I do believe; and you to discharge it, with great pleasure. For that will not be, until I bring you a son, not only acquitted, but also guiltless ; as I have good reason for believing him to be. But you do not look well ; let me call for something.'
• No, thank you. It is nothing; I am quite well; but not quite seasoned to my native climate yet. Tell me your reasons for believ
I cannot do that in a moment. You know what evidence is, a hundred times as well as I do. And in this cold room you must not stop. Sir Duncan, I am not a coddler, any more than you are. And I do not presume to dictate to you. But I am as resolute a man as yourself. And I refuse to go further with this subject until you are thoroughly warmed and refreshed.'
• Mordacks, you shall have your way,' said his visitor, after a heavy frown, which produced no effect upon the factor; "you are as kind-hearted as you are shrewd. Tell me, once more, what your conviction is; and I will wait for your reasons, till— till you are ready.
Then, sir, my settled conviction is, that your son is purely innocent of this crime; and that we shall be able to establish that.'
• God bless you for thinking so, my dear friend. I can bear a great deal; and I would do my duty. But I did love that boy's mother so.'
The general factor always understood his business; and he knew that no part of it compelled him now to keep watch upon the eyes of a stern proud man.
“Sir, I am your agent, and I magnify mine office,' he said, as he took
his hat to go forth. One branch of my duty is to fettle your horse ; and in Flamborough they fettle them on stale fish.' Mr. Mordacks strode, with a military tramp, and a loud shout for the landlord, who had finished his joke by this time, and was paying the penalties of reaction. 'Gil Beilby, thoo'st nobbut a fondhead, he was saying to himself. “Thoo mun hev thy lahtel jawk, thof it crack’th thy own pure back. For he thought that he was driving two great customers away, by the flashing independence of too brilliant a mind; and many clever people of his native place had told him so. Make a roaring fire in that room,' said Mordacks.
(To be continued.)