Mary Anerley, by R. D. Blackmore

Chapter XXXIII

Bearded in His Den

“What do you think of it by this time, Bowler?” Commander Nettlebones asked his second, who had been left in command afloat, and to whom they rowed back in a wrathful mood, with a good deal of impression that the fault was his, “You have been taking it easily out here. What do you think of the whole of it?”

“I have simply obeyed your orders, sir; and if I am to be blamed for that, I had better offer no opinion.”

“No, no, I am finding no fault with you. Don’t be so tetchy, Bowler. I seek your opinion, and you are bound to give it.”

“Well, then, sir, my opinion is that they have made fools of the lot of us, excepting, of course, my superior officer.”

“You think so, Bowler? Well, and so do I— and myself the biggest fool of any. They have charged our centre with a dummy cargo, while they run the real stuff far on either flank. Is that your opinion?”

“To a nicety, that is my opinion, now that you put it so clearly, sir.”

“The trick is a clumsy one, and never should succeed. Carroway ought to catch one lot, if he has a haporth of sense in him. What is the time now; and how is the wind?”

“I hear a church clock striking twelve; and by the moon it must be that. The wind is still from the shore, but veering, and I felt a flaw from the east just now.”

“If the wind works round, our turn will come. Is Donovan fit for duty yet?”

“Ten times fit, sir — to use his own expression. He is burning to have at somebody. His eyes work about like the binnacle’s card.”

“Then board him, and order him to make all sail for Burlington, and see what old Carroway is up to. You be off for Whitby, and as far as Teesmouth, looking into every cove you pass. I shall stand off and on from this to Scarborough, and as far as Filey. Short measures, mind, if you come across them. If I nab that fellow Lyth, I shall go near to hanging him as a felon outlaw. His trick is a little too outrageous.”

“No fear, commander. If it is as we suppose, it is high time to make a strong example.”

Hours had been lost, as the captains of the cruisers knew too well by this time. Robin Lyth’s stratagem had duped them all, while the contraband cargoes might be landed safely, at either extremity of their heat. By the aid of the fishing-boats, he had learned their manoeuvres clearly, and outmanoeuvred them.

Now it would have been better for him, perhaps, to have been content with a lesser triumph, and to run his own schooner, the Glimpse, further south, toward Hornsea, or even Aldbrough. Nothing, however, would satisfy him but to land his fine cargo at Carroway’s own door — a piece of downright insolence, for which he paid out most bitterly. A man of his courage and lofty fame should have been above such vindictive feelings. But, as it was, he cherished and, alas! indulged a certain small grudge against the bold lieutenant, scarcely so much for endeavoring to shoot him, as for entrapping him at Byrsa Cottage, during the very sweetest moment of his life. “You broke in disgracefully,” said the smuggler to himself, “upon my privacy when it should have been most sacred. The least thing I can do is to return your visit, and pay my respects to Mrs. Carroway and your interesting family,”

Little expecting such a courtesy as this, the vigilant officer was hurrying about, here, there, and almost everywhere (except in the right direction), at one time by pinnace, at another upon horseback, or on his unwearied though unequal feet. He carried his sword in one hand, and his spy-glass in the other, and at every fog he swore so hard that he seemed to turn it yellow. With his heart worn almost into holes, as an overmangled quilt is, by burdensome roll of perpetual lies, he condemned, with a round mouth, smugglers, cutters, the coast-guard and the coast itself, the weather, and, with a deeper depth of condemnation, the farmers, landladies, and fishermen. For all of these verily seemed to be in league to play him the game which school-boys play with a gentle-faced new-comer — the game of “send the fool further.”

John Gristhorp, of the “Ship Inn,” at Filey, had turned out his visitors, barred his door, and was counting his money by the fireside, with his wife grumbling at him for such late hours as half past ten of the clock in the bar, that night when the poor bilander ended her long career as aforesaid. Then a thundering knock at the door just fastened made him upset a little pyramid of pence, and catch up the iron candlestick.

“None of your roistering here!” cried the lady. “John, you know better than to let them in, I hope.”

“Copper coomth by daa, goold coomth t’naight-time,” the sturdy publican answered, though resolved to learn who it was before unbarring.

“In the name of the King, undo this door,” a deep stern voice resounded, “or by royal command we make splinters of it.”

“It is that horrible Carroway again,” whispered Mrs. Gristhorp. “Much gold comes of him, I doubt. Let him in if you dare, John.”

“‘Keep ma oot, if ye de-arr,’ saith he. Ah’ll awand here’s the tail o’ it.”

While Gristhorp, in wholesome fealty to his wife, was doubting, the door flew open, and in marched Carroway and all his men, or at least all save one of his present following. He had ordered his pinnace to meet him here, himself having ridden from Scarborough, and the pinnace had brought the jolly-boat in tow, according to his directions. The men had landed with the jolly-boat, which was handier for beach work, leaving one of their number to mind the larger craft while they should refresh themselves. They were nine in all, and Carroway himself the tenth, all sturdy fellows, and for the main of it tolerably honest; Cadman, Ellis, and Dick Hackerbody, and one more man from Bridlington, the rest a re-enforcement from Spurn Head, called up for occasion.

“Landlord, produce your best, and quickly,” the officer said, as he threw himself into the arm-chair of state, being thoroughly tired. “In one hour’s time we must be off. Therefore, John, bring nothing tough, for our stomachs are better than our teeth. A shilling per head is his Majesty’s price, and half a crown for officers. Now a gallon of ale, to begin with.”

Gristhorp, being a prudent man, brought the very toughest parts of his larder forth, with his wife giving nudge to his elbow. All, and especially Carroway, too hungry for nice criticism, fell to, by the light of three tallow candles, and were just getting into the heart of it, when the rattle of horseshoes on the pitch-stones shook the long low window, and a little boy came staggering in, with scanty breath, and dazzled eyes, and a long face pale with hurrying so.

“Why, Tom, my boy!” the lieutenant cried, jumping up so suddenly that he overturned the little table at which he was feeding by himself, to preserve the proper discipline. “Tom, my darling, what has brought you here? Anything wrong with your mother?”

“Nobody wouldn’t come, but me,” Carroway’s eldest son began to gasp, with his mouth full of crying; “and I borrowed Butcher Hewson’s pony, and he’s going to charge five shillings for it.”

“Never mind that. We shall not have to pay it. But what is it all about, my son?”

“About the men that are landing the things, just opposite our front door, father. They have got seven carts, and a wagon with three horses, and one of the horses is three colors; and ever so many ponies, more than you could count.”

“Well, then, may I be forever”— here the lieutenant used an expression which not only was in breach of the third commandment, but might lead his son to think less of the fifth —“if it isn’t more than I can bear! To be running a cargo at my own hall door!” He had a passage large enough to hang three hats in, which the lady of the house always called “the hall.” “Very well, very good, very fine indeed! You sons of”— an animal that is not yet accounted the mother of the human race —“have you done guzzling and swizzling?”

The men who were new to his orders jumped up, for they liked his expressions, by way of a change; but the Bridlington squad stuck to their trenchers. “Ready in five minutes, sir,” said Cadman, with a glance neither loving nor respectful.

“If ever there was an old hog for the trough, the name of him is John Cadman. In ten minutes, lads, we must all be afloat.”

“One more against you,” muttered Cadman; and a shrewd quiet man from Spurn Head, Adam Andrews, heard him, and took heed of him.

While the men of the coast-guard were hurrying down to make ready the jolly-boat and hail the pinnace, Carroway stopped to pay the score, and to give his son some beer and meat. The thirsty little fellow drained his cup, and filled his mouth and both hands with food, while the landlady picked out the best bits for him.

“Don’t talk, my son — don’t try to talk,” said Carroway, looking proudly at him, while the boy was struggling to tell his adventures, without loss of feeding-time; “you are a chip of the old block, Tom, for victualling, and for riding too. Kind madam, you never saw such a boy before. Mark my words, he will do more in the world than ever his father did, and his father was pretty well known in his time, in the Royal Navy, ma’am. To have stuck to his horse all that way in the dark was wonderful, perfectly wonderful. And the horse blows more than the rider, ma’am, which is quite beyond my experience. Now, Tom, ride home very carefully and slowly, if you feel quite equal to it. The Lord has watched over you, and He will continue, as He does with brave folk that do their duty. Half a crown you shall have, all for yourself, and the sixpenny boat that you longed for in the shops. Keep out of the way of the smugglers, Tom; don’t let them even clap eyes on you. Kiss me, my son; I am proud of you.”

Little Tom long remembered this; and his mother cried over it hundreds of times.

Although it was getting on for midnight now, Master Gristhorp and his wife came out into the road before their house, to see the departure of their guests. And this they could do well, because the moon had cleared all the fog away, and was standing in a good part of the sky for throwing clear light upon Filey. Along the uncovered ridge of shore, which served for a road, and was better than a road, the boy and the pony grew smaller; while upon the silvery sea the same thing happened to the pinnace, with her white sails bending, and her six oars glistening.

“The world goeth up, and the world goeth down,” said the lady, with her arms akimbo; “and the moon goeth over the whole of us, John; but to my heart I do pity poor folk as canna count the time to have the sniff of their own blankets.”

“Margery, I loikes the moon, as young as ever ye da. But I sooner see the snuff of our own taller, a-going out, fra the bed-curtings.”

Shaking their heads with concrete wisdom, they managed to bar the door again, and blessing their stars that they did not often want them, took shelter beneath the quiet canopy of bed. And when they heard by-and-by what had happened, it cost them a week apiece to believe it; because with their own eyes they had seen everything so peaceable, and had such a good night afterward.

When a thing is least expected, then it loves to come to pass, and then it is enjoyed the most, whatever good there is of it. After the fog and the slur of the day, to see the sky at all was joyful, although there was but a white moon upon it, and faint stars gliding hazily. And it was a great point for every man to be satisfied as to where he was; because that helps him vastly toward being satisfied to be there. The men in the pinnace could see exactly where they were in this world; and as to the other world, their place was fixed — if discipline be an abiding gift — by the stern precision of their commander in ordering the lot of them to the devil. They carried all sail, and they pulled six oars, and the wind and sea ran after them,

“Ha! I see something!” Carroway cried, after a league or more of swearing. “Dick, the night glass; my eyes are sore. What do you make her out for?”

“Sir, she is the Spurn Head yawl,” answered Dick Hackerbody, who was famed for long sight, but could see nothing with a telescope. “I can see the patch of her foresail.”

“She is looking for us. We are the wrong way of the moon. Ship oars, lads; bear up for her.”

In ten minutes’ time the two boats came to speaking distance off Bempton Cliffs, and the windmill, that vexed Willie Anerley so, looked bare and black on the highland. There were only two men in the Spurn Head boat — not half enough to manage her. “Well, what is it?” shouted Carroway.

“Robin Lyth has made his land-fall on Burlington Sands, opposite your honor’s door, sir. There was only two of us to stop him, and the man as is deaf and dumb.”

“I know it,” said Carroway, too wroth to swear. “My boy of eight years old is worth the entire boiling of you. You got into a rabbit-hole, and ran to tell your mammy.”

“Captain, I never had no mammy,” the other man answered, with his feelings hurt. “I come to tell you, sir; and something, if you please, for your own ear, if agreeable.”

“Nothing is agreeable. But let me have it. Hold on; I will come aboard of you.”

The lieutenant stepped into the Spurn Head boat with confident activity, and ordered his own to haul off a little, while the stranger bent down to him in the stern, and whispered.

“Now are you quite certain of this?” asked Carroway, with his grim face glowing in the moonlight, “I have had such a heap of cock and bulls about it. Morcom, are you certain?”

“As certain, sir, as that I stand here, and you sit there, commander. Put me under guard, with a pistol to my ear, and shoot me if it turns out to be a lie.”

“The Dovecote, you say? You are quite sure of that, and not the Kirk Cave, or Lyth’s Hole?”

“Sir, the Dovecote, and no other. I had it from my own young brother, who has been cheated of his share. And I know it from my own eyes too.”

“Then, by the Lord in heaven, Morcom, I shall have my revenge at last; and I shall not stand upon niceties. If I call for the jolly-boat, you step in. I doubt if either of these will enter.”

It was more than a fortnight since the lieutenant had received the attentions of a barber, and when he returned to his own boat, and changed her course inshore, he looked most bristly even in the moonlight. The sea and the moon between them gave quite light enough to show how gaunt he was — the aspect of a man who can not thrive without his children to make play, and his wife to do cookery for him.

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