Mary Anerley, by R. D. Blackmore

Chapter XVI

Discipline Asserted

As soon as his troublesome visitors were gone, the rector sat down in his deep arm-chair, laid aside his spectacles, and began to think. His face, while he thought, lost more and more of the calm and cheerful expression which made it so pleasant a face to gaze upon; and he sighed, without knowing it, at some dark ideas, and gave a little shake of his grand old head. The revenue officer had called his favorite pupil and cleverest parishioner “a felon outlaw;” and if that were so, Robin Lyth was no less than a convicted criminal, and must not be admitted within his doors. Formerly the regular penalty for illicit importation had been the forfeiture of the goods when caught, and the smugglers (unless they made resistance or carried fire-arms) were allowed to escape and retrieve their bad luck, which they very soon contrived to do. And as yet, upon this part of the coast, they had not been guilty of atrocious crimes, such as the smugglers of Sussex and Hampshire — who must have been utter fiends — committed, thereby raising all the land against them. Dr. Upround had heard of no proclamation, exaction, or even capias issued against this young free-trader; and he knew well enough that the worst offenders were not the bold seamen who contracted for the run, nor the people of the coast who were hired for the carriage, but the rich indwellers who provided all the money, and received the lion’s share of all the profits. And with these the law never even tried to deal. However, the magistrate-parson resolved that, in spite of all the interest of tutorship and chess-play, and even all the influence of his wife and daughter (who were hearty admirers of brave smuggling), he must either reform this young man, or compel him to keep at a distance, which would be very sad.

Meanwhile the lieutenant had departed in a fury, which seemed to be incapable of growing any worse. Never an oath did he utter all the way to the landing where his boat was left; and his men, who knew how much that meant, were afraid to do more than just wink at one another. Even the sailors of the collier schooner forbore to jeer him, until he was afloat, when they gave him three fine rounds of mock cheers, to which the poor Frenchman contributed a shriek. For this man had been most inhospitably treated, through his strange but undeniable likeness to a perfidious Briton.

“Home!” cried the officer, glowering at those fellows, while his men held their oars, and were ready to rush at them. “Home, with a will! Give way, men!” And not another word he spoke, till they touched the steps at Bridlington. Then he fixed stern eyes upon Cadman, who vainly strove to meet them, and he said, “Come to me in one hour and a half.” Cadman touched his hat without an answer, saw to the boat, and then went home along the quay.

Carroway, though of a violent temper, especially when laughed at, was not of that steadfast and sedentary wrath which chews the cud of grievances, and feeds upon it in a shady place. He had a good wife — though a little overclean — and seven fine-appetited children, who gave him the greatest pleasure in providing victuals. Also, he had his pipe, and his quiet corners, sacred to the atmosphere and the private thoughts of Carroway. And here he would often be ambitious even now, perceiving no good reason why he might not yet command a line-of-battle ship, and run up his own flag, and nobly tread his own lofty quarter-deck. If so, he would have Mrs. Carroway on board, and not only on the boards, but at them; so that a challenge should be issued every day for any other ship in all the service to display white so wholly spotless, and black so void of streakiness. And while he was dwelling upon personal matters — which, after all, concerned the nation most — he had tried very hard to discover any reason (putting paltry luck aside) why Horatio Nelson should be a Lord, and what was more to the purpose, an admiral, while Charles Carroway (his old shipmate, and in every way superior, who could eat him at a mouthful, if only he were good enough) should now be no more than a ‘long-shore lieutenant, and a Jonathan Wild of the revenue. However, as for envying Nelson, the Lord knew that he would not give his little Geraldine’s worst frock for all the fellow’s grand coat of arms, and freedom in a snuff-box, and golden shields, and devices, this, that, and the other, with Bona Robas to support them.

To this conclusion he was fairly come, after a good meal, and with the second glass of the finest Jamaica pine-apple rum — which he drank from pure principle, because it was not smuggled — steaming and scenting the blue curls of his pipe, when his admirable wife came in to say that on no account would she interrupt him.

“My dear, I am busy, and am very glad to hear it. Pish! where have I put all those accounts?”

“Charles, you are not doing any accounts. When you have done your pipe and glass, I wish to say a quiet word or two. I am sure that there is not a woman in a thousand —”

“Matilda, I know it. Nor one in fifty thousand. You are very good at figures: will you take this sheet away with you? Eight o’clock will be quite time enough for it.”

“My dear, I am always too pleased to do whatever I can to help you. But I must talk to you now; really I must say a few words about something, tired as you may be, Charles, and well deserving of a little good sleep, which you never seem able to manage in bed. You told me, you know, that you expected Cadman, that surly, dirty fellow, who delights to spoil my stones, and would like nothing better than to take the pattern out of our drawing-room Kidderminster. Now I have a reason for saying something. Charles, will you listen to me once, just once?”

“I never do anything else,” said the husband, with justice, and meaning no mischief.

“Ah! how very seldom you hear me talk; and when I do, I might just as well address the winds! But for once, my dear, attend, I do implore you. That surly, burly Cadman will be here directly, and I know that you are much put out with him. Now I tell you he is dangerous, savagely dangerous; I can see it in his unhealthy skin. Oh, Charles, where have you put down your pipe? I cleaned that shelf this very morning! How little I thought when I promised to be yours that you ever would knock out your ashes like that! But do bear in mind, dear, whatever you do, if anything happened to you, what ever would become of all of us? All your sweet children and your faithful wife — I declare you have made two great rings with your tumbler upon the new cover of the table.”

“Matilda, that has been done ever so long. But I am almost certain this tumbler leaks.”

“So you always say; just as if I would allow it. You never will think of simply wiping the rim every time you use it; when I put you a saucer for your glass, you forget it; there never was such a man, I do believe. I shall have to stop the rum and water altogether.”

“No, no, no. I’ll do anything you like. I’ll have a tumbler made with a saucer to it — I’ll buy a piece of oil-cloth the size of a foretop-sail — I’ll —”

“Charles, no nonsense, if you please: as if I were ever unreasonable! But your quickness of temper is such that I dread what you may say to that Cadman. Remember what opportunities he has, dear. He might shoot you in the dark any night, my darling, and put it upon the smugglers. I entreat you not to irritate the man, and make him your enemy. He is so spiteful; and I should be in terror the whole night long.”

“Matilda, in the house you may command me as you please — even in my own cuddy here. But as regards my duty, you know well that I permit no interference. And I should have expected you to have more sense. A pretty officer I should be if I were afraid of my own men! When a man is to blame, I tell him so, in good round language, and shall do so now. This man is greatly to blame, and I doubt whether to consider him a fool or a rogue. If it were not that he has seven children, as we have, I would discharge him this very night.”

“Charles, I am very sorry for his seven children, but our place is to think of our own seven first. I beg you, I implore you, to discharge the man; for he has not the courage to harm you, I believe, except with the cowardly advantage he has got. Now promise me either to say nothing to him, or to discharge him, and be done with him.”

“Matilda, of such things you know nothing; and I can not allow you to say any more.”

“Very well, very well. I know my duty. I shall sit up and pray every dark night you are out, and the whole place will go to the dogs, of course. Of the smugglers I am not afraid one bit, nor of any honest fighting, such as you are used to. But oh, my dear Charles, the very bravest man can do nothing against base treachery.”

“To dream of such things shows a bad imagination,” Carroway answered, sternly; but seeing his wife’s eyes fill with tears, he took her hand gently, and begged her pardon, and promised to be very careful, “I am the last man to be rash,” he said, “after getting so many more kicks than coppers. I never had a fellow under my command who would lift a finger to harm me. And you must remember, my darling Tilly, that I command Englishmen, not Lascars.”

With this she was forced to be content, to the best of her ability; and Geraldine ran bouncing in from school to fill her father’s pipe for him; so that by the time John Cadman came, his commander had almost forgotten the wrath created by the failure of the morning. But unluckily Cadman had not forgotten the words and the look he received before his comrades.

“Here I am, Sir, to give an account of myself,” he said, in an insolent tone, having taken much liquor to brace him for the meeting. “Is it your pleasure to say out what you mean?”

“Yes, but not here. You will follow me to the station.” The lieutenant took his favorite staff, and set forth, while his wife, from the little window, watched him with a very anxious gaze. She saw her husband stride in front with the long rough gait she knew so well, and the swing of his arms which always showed that his temper was not in its best condition; and behind him Cadman slouched along, with his shoulders up and his red hands clinched. And the poor wife sadly went back to work, for her life was a truly anxious one.

The station, as it was rather grandly called, was a hut, about the size of a four-post bed, upon the low cliff, undermined by the sea, and even then threatened to be swept away. Here was a tall flag-staff for signals, and a place for a beacon-light when needed, and a bench with a rest for a spy-glass. In the hut itself were signal flags, and a few spare muskets, and a keg of bullets, with maps and codes hung round the wall, and flint and tinder, and a good many pipes, and odds and ends on ledges. Carroway was very proud of this place, and kept the key strictly in his own pocket, and very seldom allowed a man to pass through the narrow doorway. But he liked to sit inside, and see them looking desirous to come in.

“Stand there, Cadman,” he said, as soon as he had settled himself in the one hard chair; and the man, though thoroughly primed for revolt, obeyed the old habit, and stood outside.

“Once more you have misled me, Cadman, and abused my confidence. More than that, you have made me a common laughing-stock for scores of fools, and even for a learned gentleman, magistrate of divinity. I was not content with your information until you confirmed it by letters you produced from men well known to you, as you said, and even from the inland trader who had contracted for the venture. The schooner Elizabeth, of Goole, disguised as a collier, was to bring to, with Robin Lyth on board of her, and the goods in her hold under covering of coal, and to run the goods at the South Flamborough landing this very night. I have searched the Elizabeth from stem to stern, and the craft brought up alongside of her; and all I have found is a wretched Frenchman, who skulked so that I made sure of him, and not a blessed anker of foreign brandy, nor even a forty-pound bag of tea. You had that packet of letters in your neck-tie. Hand them to me this moment —”

“If your Honor has made up your mind to think that a sailor of the Royal Navy —”

“Cadman, none of that! No lick-spittle lies to me; those letters, that I may establish them! You shall have them back, if they are right. And I will pay you a half crown for the loan.”

“If I was to leave they letters in your hand, I could never hold head up in Burlington no more.”

“That is no concern of mine. Your duty is to hold up your head with me, and those who find you in bread and butter.”

“Precious little butter I ever gets, and very little bread to speak of. The folk that does the work gets nothing. Them that does nothing gets the name and game.”

“Fellow, no reasoning, but obey me!” Carroway shouted, with his temper rising. “Hand over those letters, or you leave the service.”

“How can I give away another man’s property?” As he said these words, the man folded his arms, as who should say, “That is all you get out of me.”

“Is that the way you speak to your commanding officer? Who owns those letters, then, according to your ideas?”

“Butcher Hewson; and he says that you shall have them as soon as he sees the money for his little bill.”

This was a trifle too much for Carroway. Up he jumped with surprising speed, took one stride through the station door, and seizing Cadman by the collar, shook him, wrung his ear with the left hand, which was like a pair of pincers, and then with the other flung him backward as if he were an empty bag. The fellow was too much amazed to strike, or close with him, or even swear, but received the vehement impact without any stay behind him. So that he staggered back, hat downward, and striking one heel on a stone, fell over the brink of the shallow cliff to the sand below.

The lieutenant, who never had thought of this, was terribly scared, and his wrath turned cold. For although the fall was of no great depth, and the ground at the bottom so soft, if the poor man had struck it poll foremost, as he fell, it was likely that his neck was broken. Without any thought of his crippled heel, Carroway took the jump himself.

As soon as he recovered from the jar, which shook his stiff joints and stiffer back, he ran to the coast-guardsman and raised him, and found him very much inclined to swear. This was a good sign, and the officer was thankful, and raised him in the gravelly sand, and kindly requested him to have it out, and to thank the Lord as soon as he felt better. But Cadman, although he very soon came round, abstained from every token of gratitude. Falling with his mouth wide open in surprise, he had filled it with gravel of inferior taste, as a tidy sewer pipe ran out just there, and at every execration he discharged a little.

“What can be done with a fellow so ungrateful?” cried the lieutenant, standing stiffly up again; “nothing but to let him come back to his manners. Hark you, John Cadman, between your bad words, if a glass of hot grog will restore your right wits, you can come up and have it, when your clothes are brushed.”

With these words Carroway strode off to his cottage, without even deigning to look back, for a minute had been enough to show him that no very serious harm was done.

The other man did not stir until his officer was out of sight; and then he arose and rubbed himself, but did not care to go for his rummer of hot grog.

“I must work this off,” the lieutenant said, as soon as he had told his wife, and received his scolding; “I can not sit down; I must do something. My mind is becoming too much for me, I fear. Can you expect me to be laughed at? I shall take a little sail in the boat; the wind suits, and I have a particular reason. Expect me, my dear, when you see me.”

In half an hour the largest boat, which carried a brass swivel-gun in her bows, was stretching gracefully across the bay, with her three white sails flashing back the sunset. The lieutenant steered, and he had four men with him, of whom Cadman was not one, that worthy being left at home to nurse his bruises and his dudgeon. These four men now were quite marvellously civil, having heard of their comrade’s plight, and being pleased alike with that and with their commander’s prowess. For Cadman was by no means popular among them, because, though his pay was the same as theirs, he always tried to be looked up to; the while his manners were not distinguished, and scarcely could be called polite, when a supper required to be paid for. In derision of this, and of his desire for mastery, they had taken to call him “Boatswain Jack,” or “John Boatswain,” and provoked him by a subscription to present him with a pig-whistle. For these were men who liked well enough to receive hard words from their betters who were masters of their business, but saw neither virtue nor value in submitting to superior airs from their equals.

The Royal George, as this boat was called, passed through the fleet of quiet vessels, some of which trembled for a second visitation; but not deigning to molest them, she stood on, and rounding Flamborough Head, passed by the pillar rocks called King and Queen, and bore up for the North Landing cove. Here sail was taken in, and oars were manned; and Carroway ordered his men to pull in to the entrance of each of the well-known caves.

To enter these, when any swell is running, requires great care and experience; and the Royal George had too much beam to do it comfortably, even in the best of weather. And now what the sailors call a “chopping sea” had set in with the turn of the tide, although the wind was still off-shore; so that even to lie to at the mouth made rather a ticklish job of it. The men looked at one another, and did not like it, for a badly handled oar would have cast them on the rocks, which are villainously hard and jagged, and would stave in the toughest boat, like biscuit china. However, they durst not say that they feared it; and by skill and steadiness they examined all three caves quite enough to be certain that no boat was in them.

The largest of the three, and perhaps the finest, was the one they first came to, which already was beginning to be called the cave of Robin Lyth. The dome is very high, and sheds down light when the gleam of the sea strikes inward. From the gloomy mouth of it, as far as they could venture, the lapping of the wavelets could be heard all round it, without a boat, or even a balk of wood to break it. Then they tried echo, whose clear answer hesitates where any soft material is; but the shout rang only of hard rock and glassy water. To make assurance doubly sure, they lit a blue-light, and sent it floating through the depths, while they held their position with two boat-hooks and a fender. The cavern was lit up with a very fine effect, but not a soul inside of it to animate the scene. And to tell the truth, the bold invaders were by no means grieved at this; for if there had been smugglers there, it would have been hard to tackle them.

Hauling off safely, which was worse than running in, they pulled across the narrow cove, and rounding the little headland, examined the Church Cave and the Dovecote likewise, and with a like result. Then heartily tired, and well content with having done all that man could do, they set sail again in the dusk of the night, and forged their way against a strong ebb-tide toward the softer waters of Bridlington, and the warmer comfort of their humble homes.

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