Mary Anerley, by R. D. Blackmore

Chapter XV

Caught at Last

While these little things were doing thus, the coast from the mouth of the Tees to that of Humber, and even the inland parts, were in a great stir of talk and work about events impending. It must not be thought that Flamborough, although it was Robin’s dwelling-place — so far as he had any — was the principal scene of his operations, or the stronghold of his enterprise. On the contrary, his liking was for quiet coves near Scarborough, or even to the north of Whitby, when the wind and tide were suitable. And for this there were many reasons which are not of any moment now.

One of them showed fine feeling and much delicacy on his part. He knew that Flamborough was a place of extraordinary honesty, where every one of his buttons had been safe, and would have been so forever; and strictly as he believed in the virtue of his own free importation, it was impossible for him not to learn that certain people thought otherwise, or acted as if they did so. From the troubles which such doubts might cause, he strove to keep the natives free.

Flamburians scarcely understood this largeness of good-will to them. Their instincts told them that free trade was every Briton’s privilege; and they had the finest set of donkeys on the coast for landing it. But none the more did any of them care to make a movement toward it. They were satisfied with their own old way — to cast the net their father cast, and bait the hook as it was baited on their good grandfather’s thumb.

Yet even Flamborough knew that now a mighty enterprise was in hand. It was said, without any contradiction, that young Captain Robin had laid a wager of one hundred guineas with the worshipful mayor of Scarborough and the commandant of the castle, that before the new moon he would land on Yorkshire coast, without firing pistol or drawing steel, free goods to the value of two thousand pounds, and carry them inland safely. And Flamborough believed that he would do it.

Dr. Upround’s house stood well, as rectories generally contrive to do. No place in Flamborough parish could hope to swindle the wind of its vested right, or to embezzle much treasure of the sun, but the parsonage made a good effort to do both, and sometimes for three days together got the credit of succeeding. And the dwellers therein, who felt the edge of the difference outside their own walls, not only said but thoroughly believed that they lived in a little Goshen.

For the house was well settled in a wrinkle of the hill expanding southward, and encouraging the noon. From the windows a pleasant glimpse might be obtained of the broad and tranquil anchorage, peopled with white or black, according as the sails went up or down; for the rectory stood to the southward of the point, as the rest of Flamborough surely must have stood, if built by any other race than armadillos. But to see all those vessels, and be sure what they were doing, the proper place was a little snug “gazebo,” chosen and made by the doctor himself, near the crest of the gully he inhabited.

Here upon a genial summer day — when it came, as it sometimes dared to do — was the finest little nook upon the Yorkshire coast for watching what Virgil calls “the sail-winged sea.” Not that a man could see round the Head, unless his own were gifted with very crooked eyes; but without doing that (which would only have disturbed the tranquillity of his prospect) there was plenty to engage him in the peaceful spread of comparatively waveless waters. Here might he see long vessels rolling, not with great misery, but just enough to make him feel happy in the firmness of his bench, and little jolly-boats it was more jolly to be out of, and faraway heads giving genial bobs, and sea-legs straddled in predicaments desirable rather for study than for practice. All was highly picturesque and nice, and charming for the critic who had never got to do it.

“Now, papa, you must come this very moment,” cried Miss Janetta Upround, the daughter of the house, and indeed the only daughter, with a gush of excitement, rushing into the study of this deeply read divine; “there is something doing that I can not understand. You must bring up the spy-glass at once and explain. I am sure that there is something very wrong.”

“In the parish, my dear?” the rector asked, with a feeble attempt at malice, for he did not want to be disturbed just now, and for weeks he had tried (with very poor success) to make Janetta useful; for she had no gift in that way.

“No, not in the parish at all, papa, unless it runs out under water, as I am certain it ought to do, and make every one of those ships pay tithe. If the law was worth anything, they would have to do it. They get all the good out of our situation, and they save whole thousands of pounds at a time, and they never pay a penny, nor even hoist a flag, unless the day is fine, and the flag wants drying. But come along, papa, now. I really can not wait; and they will have done it all without us.”

“Janetta, take the glass and get the focus. I will come presently, presently. In about two minutes — by the time that you are ready.”

“Very well, papa. It is very good of you. I see quite clearly what you want to do; and I hope you will do it. But you promise not to play another game now?”

“My dear, I will promise that with pleasure. Only do please be off about your business.”

The rector was a most inveterate and insatiable chess-player. In the household, rather than by it, he was, as a matter of lofty belief, supposed to be deeply engaged with theology, or magisterial questions of almost equal depth, or (to put it at the lowest) parochial affairs, the while he was solidly and seriously engaged in getting up the sound defense to some Continental gambit. And this, not only to satisfy himself upon some point of theory, but from a nearer and dearer point of view — for he never did like to be beaten.

At present he was laboring to discover the proper defense to a new and slashing form of the Algaier gambit, by means of which Robin Lyth had won every game in which he had the move, upon their last encounter. The great free-trader, while a boy, had shown an especial aptitude for chess, and even as a child he had seemed to know the men when first, by some accident, he saw them. The rector being struck by this exception to the ways of childhood — whose manner it is to take chess-men for “dollies,” or roll them about like nine-pins — at once included in the education of “Izunsabe,” which he took upon himself, a course of elemental doctrine in the one true game. And the boy fought his way up at such a pace that he jumped from odds of queen and rook to pawn and two moves in less than two years. And now he could almost give odds to his tutor, though he never presumed to offer them; and trading as he did with enlightened merchants of large Continental sea-ports, who had plenty of time on their hands and played well, he imported new openings of a dash and freedom which swallowed the ground up under the feet of the steady-going players, who had never seen a book upon their favorite subject. Of course it was competent to all these to decline such fiery onslaught; but chivalry and the true love of analysis (which without may none play chess) compelled the acceptance of the challenge, even with a trembling forecast of the taste of dust.

“Never mind,” said Dr. Upround, as he rose and stretched himself, a good straight man of threescore years, with silver hair that shone like silk; “it has not come to me yet; but it must, with a little more perseverance. At Cambridge I beat everybody; and who is this uncircumcised — at least, I beg his pardon, for I did myself baptize him — but who is Robin Lyth, to mate his pastor and his master? All these gambits are like a night attack. If once met properly and expelled, you are in the very heart of the enemy’s camp. He has left his own watch-fires to rush at yours. The next game I play, I shall be sure to beat him.”

Fully convinced of this great truth, he took a strong oak staff and hastened to obey his daughter. Miss Janetta Upround had not only learned by nature, but also had been carefully taught by her parents, and by every one, how to get her own way always, and to be thanked for taking it. But she had such a happy nature, full of kindness and good-will, that other people’s wishes always seemed to flow into her own, instead of being swept aside. Over her father her government was in no sort constitutional, nor even a quiet despotism sweetened with liberal illusions, but as pure a piece of autocracy as the Continent could itself contain, in the time of this first Napoleon.

“Papa, what a time you have been, to be sure!” she exclaimed, as the doctor came gradually up, probing his way in perfect leisure, and fragrant still of that gambit; “one would think that your parish was on dry land altogether, while the better half of it, as they call themselves — though the women are in righteousness the better half a hundredfold —”

“My dear, do try to talk with some little sense of arithmetic, if no other. A hundredfold the half would be the unit multiplied by fifty. Not to mention that there can be no better half —”

“Yes, there can, papa, ever so many; and you may see one in mamma every day. Now you put one eye to this glass, and the half is better than the whole. With both, you see nothing; with one, you see better, fifty times better, than with both before. Don’t talk of arithmetic after that. It is algebra now, and quod demonstrandum.”

“To reason with the less worthy gender is degeneration of reason. What would they have said in the Senate-house, Janetta? However, I will obey your orders. What am I to look at?”

“A tall and very extraordinary man, striking his arms out, thus and thus. I never saw any one looking so excited; and he flourishes a long sword now and again, as if he would like to cut everybody’s head off. There he has been going from ship to ship, for an hour or more, with a long white boat, and a lot of men jumping after him. Every one seems to be scared of him, and he stumps along the deck just as if he were on springs, and one spring longer than the other. You see that heavy brig outside the rest, painted with ten port-holes; well, she began to make sail and run away, but he fired a gun — quite a real cannon — and she had to come back again and drop her colors. Oh, is it some very great admiral, papa? Perhaps Lord Nelson himself; I would go and be seasick for three days to see Lord Nelson. Papa, it must be Lord Nelson.”

“My dear, Lord Nelson is a little, short man, with a very brisk walk, and one arm gone. Now let me see who this can be. Whereabout is he now, Janetta?”

“Do you see that clumsy-looking schooner, papa, just behind a pilot-boat? He is just in front of her foremast — making such a fuss —”

“What eyes you have got, my child! You see better without the glass than I do with it. — Oh, now I have him! Why, I might have guessed. Of course it is that very active man and vigilant officer Lieutenant Carroway.”

“Captain Carroway from Bridlington, papa? Why, what can he be doing with such authority? I have often heard of him, but I thought he was only a coast-guard.”

“He is, as you say, showing great authority, and, I fear, using very bad language, for which he is quite celebrated. However, the telescope refuses to repeat it, for which it is much to be commended. But every allowance must be made for a man who has to deal with a wholly uncultivated race, and not of natural piety, like ours.”

“Well, papa, I doubt if ours have too much, though you always make the best of them. But let me look again, please; and do tell me what he can be doing there.”

“You know that the revenue officers must take the law into their own hands sometimes. There have lately been certain rumors of some contraband proceedings on the Yorkshire coast. Not in Flamborough parish, of course, and perhaps — probably, I may say — a long way off —-”

“Papa dear, will you never confess that free trade prevails and flourishes greatly even under your own dear nose?”

“Facts do not warrant me in any such assertion. If the fact were so, it must have been brought officially before me. I decline to listen to uncharitable rumors. But however that matter may be, there are officers on the spot to deal with it. My commission as a justice of the peace gives me no cognizance of offenses — if such there are — upon the high seas. Ah! you see something particular; my dear, what is it?”

“Captain Carroway has found something, or somebody, of great importance. He has got a man by the collar, and he is absolutely dancing with delight. Ah! there he goes, dragging him along the deck as if he were a cod-fish or a conger. And now, I declare, he is lashing his arms and legs with a great thick rope. Papa, is that legal, without even a warrant?”

“I can hardly say how far his powers may extend, and he is just the man to extend them farther. I only hope not to be involved in the matter. Maritime law is not my province.”

“But, papa, it is much within three miles of the shore, if that has got anything to do with it. My goodness me! They are all coming here; I am almost sure that they will apply to you. Yes, two boat-loads of people, racing to get their oars out, and to be here first. Where are your spectacles, dear papa? You had better go and get up the law before they come. You will scarcely have time, they are coming so fast — a white boat and a black boat. The prisoner is in the white boat, and the officer has got him by the collar still. The men in the white boat will want to commit him, and the men in the black boat are his friends, no doubt, coming for a habeas corpus —”

“My dear, what nonsense you do talk! What has a simple justice of the peace —”

“Never mind that, papa; my facts are sound — sounder than yours about smuggling, I fear. But do hurry in, and get up the law. I will go and lock both gates, to give you more time.”

“Do nothing of the kind, Janetta. A magistrate should be accessible always; and how can I get up the law, without knowing what it is to be about — or even a clerk to help me? And perhaps they are not coming here at all. They may be only landing their prisoner.”

“If that were it, they would not be coming so, but rowing toward the proper place, Bridlington Quay, where their station-house is. Papa, you are in for it, and I am getting eager. May I come and hear all about it? I should be a great support to you, you know. And they would tell the truth so much better!”

“Janetta, what are you dreaming of? It may even be a case of secrecy.”

“Secrecy, papa, with two boat-loads of men and about thirty ships involved in it! Oh, do let me hear all about it!”

“Whatever it may be, your presence is not required, and would be improper. Unless I should happen to want a book; and in that case I might ring for you.”

“Oh, do, papa, do! No one else can ever find them. Promise me now that you will want a book. If I am not there, there will be no justice done. I wish you severely to reprimand, whatever the facts of the case may be, and even to punish, if you can, that tall, lame, violent, ferocious man, for dragging the poor fellow about like that, and cutting him with ropes, when completely needless, and when he was quite at his mercy. It is my opinion that the other man does not deserve one bit of it; and whatever the law may be, papa, your duty is to strain it benevolently, and question every syllable upon the stronger side.”

“Perhaps I had better resign, my dear, upon condition that you shall be appointed in the stead of me. It might be a popular measure, and would secure universal justice.”

“Papa, I would do justice to myself — which is a thing you never do. But here, they are landing; and they hoist him out as if he were a sack, or a thing without a joint. They could scarcely be harder with a man compelled to be hanged tomorrow morning.”

“Condemned is what you mean, Janetta. You never will understand the use of words. What a nice magistrate you would make!”

“There can be no more correct expression. Would any man be hanged if he were not compelled? Papa, you say the most illegal things sometimes. Now please to go in and get up your legal points. Let me go and meet those people for you. I will keep them waiting till you are quite ready.”

“My dear, you will go to your room, and try to learn a little patience. You begin to be too pat with your own opinions, which in a young lady is ungraceful. There, you need not cry, my darling, because your opinions are always sensible, and I value them very highly; but still you must bear in mind that you are but a girl.”

“And behave accordingly, as they say. Nobody can do more so. But though I am only a girl, papa, can you put your hand upon a better one?”

“Certainly not, my dear; for going down hill, I can always depend on you.”

Suiting the action to the word, Dr. Upround, whose feet were a little touched with gout, came down from his outlook to his kitchen-garden, and thence through the shrubbery back to his own study, where, with a little sigh, he put away his chess-men, and heartily hoped that it might not be his favorite adversary who was coming before him to be sent to jail. For although the good rector had a warm regard, and even affection, for Robin Lyth, as a waif cast into his care, and then a pupil wonderfully apt (which breeds love in the teacher), and after that a most gallant and highly distinguished young parishioner — with all this it was a difficulty for him to be ignorant that the law was adverse. More than once he had striven hard to lead the youth into some better path of life, and had even induced him to “follow the sea” for a short time in the merchant service. But the force of nature and of circumstances had very soon prevailed again, and Robin returned to his old pursuits with larger experience, and seamanship improved.

A violent ringing at the gate bell, followed by equal urgency upon the front door, apprised the kind magistrate of a sharp call on his faculties, and perhaps a most unpleasant one. “The poor boy!” he said to himself —“poor boy! From Carroway’s excitement I greatly fear that it is indeed poor Robin. How many a grand game have we had! His new variety of that fine gambit scarcely beginning to be analyzed; and if I commit him to the meeting next week, when shall we ever meet again? It will seem as if I did it because he won three games; and I certainly was a little vexed with him. However, I must be stern, stern, stern. Show them in, Betsy; I am quite prepared.”

A noise, and a sound of strong language in the hall, and a dragging of something on the oil-cloth, led up to the entry of a dozen rough men, pushed on by at least another dozen.

“You will have the manners to take off your hats,” said the magistrate, with all his dignity; “not from any undue deference to me, but common respect to his Majesty.”

“Off with your covers, you sons of”— something, shouted a loud voice; and then the lieutenant, with his blade still drawn, stood before them.

“Sheathe your sword, Sir,” said Dr. Upround, in a voice which amazed the officer.

“I beg your Worship’s pardon,” he began, with his grim face flushing purple, but his sword laid where it should have been; “but if you knew half of the worry I have had, you would not care to rebuke me. Cadman, have you got him by the neck? Keep your knuckles into him, while I make my deposition.”

“Cast that man free, I receive no depositions with a man half strangled before me.”

The men of the coast-guard glanced at their commander, and receiving a surly nod, obeyed. But the prisoner could not stand as yet; he gasped for breath, and some one set him on a chair.

“Your Worship, this is a mere matter of form,” said Carroway, still keeping eyes on his prey; “if I had my own way, I would not trouble you at all, and I believe it to be quite needless. For this man is an outlaw felon, and not entitled to any grace of law; but I must obey my orders.”

“Certainly you must, Lieutenant Carroway, even though you are better acquainted with the law. You are ready to be sworn? Take this book, and follow me.”

This being done, the worthy magistrate prepared to write down what the gallant officer might say, which, in brief, came to this, that having orders to seize Robin Lyth wherever he might find him, and having sure knowledge that said Robin was on board of a certain schooner vessel, the Elizabeth, of Goole, the which he had laden with goods liable to duty, he, Charles Carroway, had gently laid hands on him, and brought him to the nearest justice of the peace, to obtain an order of commitment.

All this, at fifty times the length here given, Lieutenant Carroway deposed on oath, while his Worship, for want of a clerk, set it down in his own very neat handwriting. But several very coaly-looking men, who could scarcely be taught to keep silence, observed that the magistrate smiled once or twice; and this made them wait a bit, and wink at one another.

“Very clear indeed, Lieutenant Carroway,” said Dr. Upround, with spectacles on nose. “Good Sir, have the kindness to sign your deposition. It may become my duty to commit the prisoner, upon identification. Of that I must have evidence, confirmatory evidence. But first we will hear what he has to say. Robin Lyth, stand forward.”

“Me no Robin Lyth, Sar; no Robin man or woman,” cried the captive, trying very hard to stand; “me only a poor Francais, make liberty to what you call — row, row, sweem, sweem, sail, sail, from la belle France; for why, for why, there is no import to nobody.”

“Your Worship, he is always going on about imports,” Cadman said, respectfully; “that is enough to show who he is.”

“You may trust me to know him,” cried Lieutenant Carroway. “My fine fellow, no more of that stuff! He can pass himself off for any countryman whatever. He knows all their jabber, Sir, better than his own. Put a cork between his teeth, Hackerbody. I never did see such a noisy rogue. He is Robin Lyth all over.”

“I’ll be blest if he is, nor under nayther,” cried the biggest of the coaly men; “this here froggy come out of a Chaise and Mary as had run up from Dunkirk. I know Robin Lyth as well as our own figure-head. But what good to try reason with that there revenue hofficer?”

At this, all his friends set a good laugh up, and wanted to give him a cheer for such a speech; but that being hushed, they were satisfied with condemning his organs of sight and their own quite fairly.

“Lieutenant Carroway,” his Worship said, amidst an impressive silence, “I greatly fear that you have allowed zeal, my dear Sir, to outrun discretion. Robin Lyth is a young, and in many ways highly respected, parishioner of mine. He may have been guilty of casual breaches of the laws concerning importation — laws which fluctuate from year to year, and require deep knowledge of legislation both to observe and to administer. I heartily trust that you may not suffer from having discharged your duty in a manner most truly exemplary, if only the example had been the right one. This gentleman is no more Robin Lyth than I am.”

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31