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MARY ANERLEY : A YORKSHIRE TALE.
So , ,
far so good. But that noble and exalted condition of the youthful
coarse maturity and tough experience, "calf-love,' superior as it is to words and reason, must be left to its own course. The settled resolve of a middle-aged man, with seven large-appetited children, and an eighth approaching the shores of light, while baby-linen too often transmitted betrays a transient texture, and hose has ripened into holes, and breeches verify their name, and a knock at the door knocks at the heart—the fixed resolution of such a man to strike a bold stroke, for the sake of his home, is worthier of attention than the flitting fancy of boy and girl, who pop upon one another, and skip through zig-zag vernal ecstasy, like the weathery dalliance of gnats.
Lieutenant Carroway had dealt and done with amorous grace and attitude, soaring rapture, and profundity of sigh, suspense (more agonising than suspension), despair, prostration, grinding of the teeth, the hollow and spectral laughter of a heart for ever broken, and all the other symptoms of an annual bill of vitality; and every new pledge of his affections sped him towards the pledge-shop. But never had he crossed that fatal threshold; the thought of his uniform and dignity prevailed; and he was not so mean as to send a child to do what the father was ashamed of.
So it was scarcely to be expected that even as a man he should sympathise deeply with the tender passion, and far less as a coastguardsman with the wooing of a smuggler. Master Robin Lyth, by this time, was in the contraband condition known to the authorities as love ; Carroway had found out this fact, but, instead of indulging in generous emotion, he made up his mind to nab him through it. For he reasoned as follows; and granting that reason has any business on such premises, the process does not seem amiss.
A man in love has only got one-eighth part of his wits at home, to govern the doings of his arms, legs, and tongue. A large half is occupied with his fancy, in all the wanderings of that creature, dreamy, flimsy, anchoring with gossamer, climbing the sky with steps of fog, cast into abysms (as great writers call it) by imaginary demons, and even at its best in a queer condition, pitiful, yet exceeding proud. A quarter of the mental power is employed in wanting to know what the other people think; an eighth part ought to be dwelling upon the fair distracting object; and only a small eighth can remain to attend to the business of the solid day. But, in spite of all this, such lads get on about as well as usual. If Bacchus has a protective power, Venus has no less of it, and possibly is more active, as behoves a female.
And surely it was a cold blooded scheme, which even the Revenu should have excised from an honest scale of duties, to catch a poor fellow in the meshes of love, because he was too sharp otherwise. This, however, was the large idea ripening in the breast of Carroway.
To-night I shall have him,' he said to his wife, who was inditing of softer things, her eighth confinement, and the shilling she had laid that it would be a boy this time; “the weather is stormy; yet the fellow makes love between the showers in a bare-faced way. old fool of a tanner knows it, and has no more right feeling than if he were a boy. Aha, my Robin, fine Robin as you are, I shall catch you piping with your Jenny Wren to-night!' The lieutenant shared the popular ignorance of simplest natural history.
• Charles, you never should have told me of it. Where is your feeling for the days gone by? And as for his coming between the showers, what should I have thought of you, if you had made a point of bringing your umbrella ? My dear, it is wrong. And I beg you, for my sake, not to catch him with his true love, but only with his tubs.
• Matilda, your mind is weakened by the coming trial of your nerves. I would rather have him with his tubs, of course; they would set us up for several years, and his silks would come in for your churching. But everything cannot be as we desire. And he carries large pistols, when he is not courting. Do you wish me to be shot, Matilda ?'
Captain Carroway, how little thought you have, to speak to me in that way! And I felt before dinner that I never should get over it. Oh, who would have the smugglers on her mind at such a time?'
My dear, I beg your pardon. Pray exert your strength of mind, and cast such thoughts away from you—or perhaps it will be a smuggler. And yet if it were, how much better it would pay!'
* Then I hope it will, Charles; I heartily hope it will be. It would serve you quite right to be snaring your own son, after snaring a poor youth through his sweetheart.'