Mary Anerley, by R. D. Blackmore

Chapter XXXVII

Fact, or Factor

“Papa, I have brought you a wonderful letter,” cried Miss Janetta Upround, toward supper-time of that same night; “and the most miraculous thing about it is that there is no post to pay. Oh, how stupid I am! I ought to have got at least a shilling out of you for postage.”

“My dear, be sorry for your sins, and not for having failed to add to them. Our little world is brimful of news just now, but nearly all of it bad news. Why, bless me, this is in regular print, and it never has passed through the post at all, which explains the most astounding fact of positively naught to pay. Janetta, every day I congratulate myself upon such a wondrous daughter. But I never could have hoped that even you would bring me a letter gratis.”

“But the worst of it is that I deserve no credit. If I had cheated the postman, there would have been something to be proud of. But this letter came in the most ignominious way — poked under the gate, papa! It is sealed with a foreign coin! Oh, dear, dear, I am all in a tingle to know all about it. I saw it by the moonlight, and it must belong to me.”

“My dear, it says, ‘Private, and to his own hands.’ Therefore you had better go, and think no more about it. I confide to you many of my business matters: or at any rate you get them out of me: but this being private, you must think no more about it.”

“Darling papa, what a flagrant shame! The man must have done it with no other object than to rob me of every wink of sleep. If I swallow the outrage and retire, will you promise to tell me every word tomorrow? You preached a most exquisite sermon last Sunday about the meanness and futility of small concealments.”

“Be off!” cried the rector; “you are worse than Mr. Mordacks, who lays down the law about frankness perpetually, but never lets me guess what his own purpose is.”

“Oh, now I see where the infection comes from! Papa, I am off, for fear of catching it myself. Don’t tell me, whatever you do. I never can sleep upon dark mysteries.”

“Poor dear, you shall not have your rest disturbed,” Dr. Upround said, sweetly, as he closed the door behind her; “you are much too good a girl for other people’s plagues to visit you.” Then, as he saddled his pleasant old nose with the tranquil span of spectacles, the smile on his lips and the sigh of his breast arrived at a quiet little compromise. He was proud of his daughter, her quickness and power to get the upper turn of words with him; but he grieved at her not having any deep impressions, even after his very best sermons. But her mother always told him not to be in any hurry, for even she herself had felt no very profound impressions until she married a clergyman; and that argument always made him smile (as invisibly as possible), because he had not detected yet their existence in his better half. Such questions are most delicate, and a husband can only set mute example. A father, on the other hand, is bound to use his pastoral crook upon his children foremost.

“Now for this letter,” said Dr. Upround, holding council with himself; “evidently a good clerk, and perhaps a first-rate scholar. One of the very best Greek scholars of the age does all his manuscript in printing hand, when he wishes it to be legible. And a capital plan it is — without meaning any pun. I can read this like a gazette itself.”

“REVEREND AND WORSHIPFUL SIR— Your long and highly valued kindness requires at least a word from me, before I leave this country. I have not ventured into your presence, because it might place you in a very grave predicament. Your duty to King and State might compel you with your own hand to arrest me; and against your hand I could not strive. The evidence brought before you left no choice but to issue a warrant against me, though it grieved your kind heart to do that same. Sir, I am purely innocent of the vile crime laid against me. I used no fire-arm that night, neither did any of my men. And it is for their sake, as well as my own, that I now take the liberty of writing this. Failing of me, the authorities may bring my comrades to trial, and convict them. If that were so, it would become my duty as a man to surrender myself, and meet my death in the hope of saving them. But if the case is sifted properly, they must be acquitted; for no fire-arm of any kind was in my boat, except one pair of pistols, in a locker under the after thwart, and they happened to be unloaded. I pray you to verify this, kind sir. My firm belief is that the revenue officer was shot by one of his own men; and his widow has the same opinion. I hear that the wound was in the back of the head. If we had carried fire-arms, not one of us could have shot him so.

“It may have been an accident; I can not say. Even so, the man whose mishap it was is not likely to acknowledge it. And I know that in a court of law truth must be paid for dearly. I venture to commit to your good hands a draft upon a well-known Holland firm, which amounts to 78 pounds British, for the defense of the men who are in custody. I know that you as a magistrate can not come forward as their defender; but I beg you as a friend of justice to place the money for their benefit. Also especially to direct attention to the crew of the revenue boat and their guns.

“And now I fear greatly to encroach upon your kindness, and very long-suffering good-will toward me. But I have brought into sad trouble and distress with her family — who are most obstinate people — and with the opinion of the public, I suppose, a young lady worth more than all the goods I ever ran, or ever could run, if I went on for fifty years. By name she is Mistress Mary Anerley, and by birth the daughter of Captain Anerley, of Anerley Farm, outside our parish. If your reverence could only manage to ride round that way upon coming home from Sessions, once or twice in the fine weather, and to say a kind word or two to my Mary, and a good word, if any can be said of me, to her parents, who are stiff but worthy people, it would be a truly Christian act, and such as you delight in, on this side of the Dane-dike.

“Reverend sir, I must now say farewell. From you I have learned almost everything I know, within the pale of statutes, which repeal one another continually. I have wandered sadly outside that pale, and now I pay the penalty. If I had only paid heed to your advice, and started in business with the capital acquired by free trade, and got it properly protected, I might have been able to support my parents, and even be churchwarden of Flamborough. You always told me that my unlawful enterprise must close in sadness; and your words have proved too true. But I never expected anything like this; and I do not understand it yet. A penetrating mind like yours, with all the advantages of authority, even that is likely to be baffled in such a difficult case as this.

“Reverend sir, my case is hard; for I always have labored to establish peaceful trade; and I must have succeeded again, if honor had guided all my followers. We always relied upon the coast-guard to be too late for any mischief; and so they would have been this time, if their acts had been straightforward. In sorrow and lowness of fortune, I remain, with humble respect and gratitude, your Worship’s poor pupil and banished parishioner,

“ROBIN LYTH, of Flamborough.”

“Come, now, Robin,” Dr. Upround said, as soon as he had well considered this epistle, “I have put up with many a checkmate at your hands, but not without the fair delight of a counter-stroke at the enemy. Here you afford me none of that. You are my master in every way; and quietly you make me make your moves, quite as if I were the black in a problem. You leave me to conduct your fellow-smugglers’ case, to look after your sweetheart, and to make myself generally useful. By-the-way, that touch about my pleading his cause in my riding-boots, and with a sessional air about me, is worthy of the great Verdoni. Neither is that a bad hit about my Christianity stopping at the Dane-dike. Certes, I shall have to call on that young lady, though from what I have heard of the sturdy farmer, I may both ride and reason long, even after my greatest exploits at the Sessions, without converting him to free trade; and trebly so after that deplorable affair. I wonder whether we shall ever get to the bottom of that mystery. How often have I warned the boy that mischief was quite sure to come! though I never even dreamed that it would be so bad as this.”

Since Dr. Upround first came to Flamborough, nothing (not even the infliction of his nickname) had grieved him so deeply as the sad death of Carroway. From the first he felt certain that his own people were guiltless of any share in it. But his heart misgave him as to distant smugglers, men who came from afar freebooting, bringing over ocean woes to men of settlement, good tithe-payers. For such men (plainly of foreign breed, and very plain specimens of it) had not at all succeeded in eluding observation, in a neighborhood where they could have no honest calling. Flamborough had called to witness Filey, and Filey had attested Bridlington, that a stranger on horseback had appeared among them with a purpose obscurely evil. They were right enough as to the fact, although the purpose was not evil, as little Denmark even now began to own,

“Here I am again!” cried Mr. Mordacks, laying vehement hold of the rector’s hand, upon the following morning; “just arrived from York, dear sir, after riding half the night, and going anywhere you please; except perhaps where you would like to send me, if charity and Christian courtesy allowed. My dear sir, have you heard the news? I perceive by your countenance that you have not. Ah, you are generally benighted in these parts. Your caves have got something to do with it. The mind gets accustomed to them.”

“I venture to think, Mr. Mordacks, on the whole,” said the rector, who studied this man gently, “that sometimes you are rapid in your conclusions. Possibly of the two extremes it is the more desirable; especially in these parts, because of its great rarity. Still the mere fact of some caves existing, in or out of my parish, whichever it may be, scarcely seems to prove that all the people of Flamborough live in them. And even if we did, it was the manner of the ancient seers, both in the Classics, and in Holy Writ —”

“Sir, I know all about Elijah and Obadiah, and the rest of them. Profane literature we leave now for clerks in holy orders — we positively have no time for it. Everything begins to move with accelerated pace. This is a new century, and it means to make its mark. It begins very badly; but it will go on all the better. And I hope to have the pleasure, at a very early day, of showing you one of its leading men, a man of large intellect, commanding character, the most magnificent principles — and, in short, lots of money. You must be quite familiar with the name of Sir Duncan Yordas.”

“I fancy that I have heard or seen it somewhere. Oh, something to do with the Hindoos, or the Africans. I never pay much attention to such things.”

“Neither do I, Dr. Upround. Still somebody must, and a lot of money comes of it. Their idols have diamond eyes, which purity of worship compels us to confiscate. And there are many other ways of getting on among them, while wafting and expanding them into a higher sphere of thought. The mere fact of Sir Duncan having feathered his nest — pardon so vulgar an expression, doctor — proves that while giving, we may also receive: for which we have the highest warranty.”

“The laborer is worthy of his hire, Mr. Mordacks. At the same time we should remember also —”

“What St. Paul says per contra. Quite so. That is always my first consideration, when I work for my employers. Ah, Dr. Upround, few men give such pure service as your humble servant. I have twice had the honor of handing you my card. If ever you fall into any difficulty, where zeal, fidelity, and high principle, combined with very low charges —”

“Mr. Mordacks, my opinion of you is too high for even yourself to add to it. But what has this Sir Duncan Yorick —”

“Yordas, my dear sir — Sir Duncan Yordas — the oldest family in Yorkshire. Men of great power, both for good and evil, mainly, perhaps, the latter. It has struck me sometimes that the county takes its name — But etymology is not my forte. What has he to do with us, you ask? Sir, I will answer you most frankly. ‘Coram populo’ is my business motto. Excuse me, I think I hear that door creak. No, a mere fancy — we are quite ‘in camera.’ Very well; reverend sir, prepare your mind for a highly astounding disclosure.”

“I have lived too long to be astounded, my good sir. But allow me to put on my spectacles. Now I am prepared for almost anything.”

“Dr. Upround, my duty compels me to enter largely into minds. Your mind is of a lofty order — calm, philosophic, benevolent. You have proved this by your kind reception of me, a stranger, almost an intruder. You have judged from my manners and appearance, which are shaped considerably by the inner man, that my object was good, large, noble. And yet you have not been quite able to refrain, at weak moments perhaps, but still a dozen times a day, from exclaiming in the commune of your heart, ‘What the devil does this man want in my parish?’”

“My good sir, I never use bad language; and if I did my duty, I should now inflict —”

“Five shillings for your poor-box. There it is. And it serves me quite right for being too explicit, and forgetting my reverence to the cloth. However, I have coarsely expressed your thoughts. Also you have frequently said to yourself, ‘This man prates of openness, but I find him closer than any oyster.’ Am I right? Yes, I see that I am, by your bow. Very well, you may suppose what pain it gave me to have the privilege of intercourse with a perfect gentleman and an eloquent divine, and yet feel myself in an ambiguous position. In a few words I will clear myself, being now at liberty to indulge that pleasure. I have been here, as agent for Sir Duncan Yordas, to follow up the long-lost clew to his son, and only child, who for very many years was believed to be out of all human pursuit. My sanguine and penetrating mind scorned rumors, and went in for certainty. I have found Sir Duncan’s son, and am able to identify him, beyond all doubt, as a certain young man well known to you, and perhaps too widely known, by the name of Robin Lyth.”

In spite of the length of his experience of the world, in a place of so many adventures, the rector of Flamborough was astonished, and perhaps a little vexed as well. If anything was to be found out, in such a headlong way, about one of his parishioners, and notably such a pet pupil and favorite, the proper thing would have been that he himself should do it. Failing that, he should at least have been consulted, enlisted, or at any rate apprised of what was toward. But instead of that, here he had been hoodwinked (by this marvel of incarnate candor employed in the dark about several little things), and then suddenly enlightened, when the job was done. Gentle and void of self-importance as he was, it misliked him to be treated so.

“This is a wonderful piece of news,” he said, as he fixed a calm gaze upon the keen, hard eyes of Mordacks. “You understand your business, sir, and would not make such a statement unless you could verify it. But I hope that you may not find cause to regret that you have treated me with so little confidence.”

“I am not open to that reproach. Dr. Upround, consider my instructions. I was strictly forbidden to disclose my object until certainty should be obtained. That being done, I have hastened to apprise you first of a result which is partly due to your own good offices. Shake hands, my dear sir, and acquit me of rudeness — the last thing of which I am capable.”

The rector was mollified, and gave his hand to the gallant general factor. “Allow me to add my congratulations upon your wonderful success,” he said; “but would that I had known it some few hours sooner! It might have saved you a vast amount of trouble. I might have kept Robin well within your reach. I fear that he is now beyond it.”

“I am grieved to hear you say so. But according to my last instructions, although he is in strict concealment, I can lay hands upon him when the time is ripe.”

“I fear not. He sailed last night for the Continent, which is a vague destination, especially in such times as these. But perhaps that was part of your skillful contrivance?”

“Not so. And for the time it throws me out. I have kept most careful watch on him. But the difficulty was that he might confound my vigilance with that of his enemies; take me for a constable, I mean. And perhaps he has done so, after all. Things have gone luckily for me in the main; but that murder came in most unseasonably. It was the very thing that should have been avoided. Sir Duncan will need all his influence there. Suppose for a moment that young Robin did not do it —”

“Mr. Mordacks, you frighten me. What else could you suppose?”

“Certainly — yes. A parishioner of yours, when not engaged unlawfully upon the high seas. We heartily hope that he did not do it, and we give him the benefit of the doubt; in which I shared largely, until it became so manifest that he was a Yordas. A Yordas has made a point of slaying his man — and sometimes from three to a dozen men — until within the last two generations. In the third generation the law revives, as is hinted, I think, in the Decalogue. In my professional course a large stock of hereditary trail — so to speak — comes before me. Some families always drink, some always steal, some never tell lies because they never know a falsehood, some would sell their souls for a sixpence, and these are the most respectable of any —”

“My dear sir, my dear sir, I beg your pardon for interrupting you; but in my house the rule is to speak well of people, or else to say nothing about them.”

“Then you must resign your commission, doctor; for how can you take depositions? But, as I was saying, I should have some hope of the innocence of young Robin if it should turn out that his father, Sir Duncan, has destroyed a good many of the native race in India. It may reasonably be hoped that he has done so, which would tend very strongly to exonerate his son. But the evidence laid before your Worship and before the coroner was black — black — black.”

“My position forbids me to express opinions. The evidence compelled me to issue the warrant. But knowing your position, I may show you this, in every word of which I have perfect faith.”

With these words Dr. Upround produced the letter which he had received last night, and the general factor took in all the gist of it in less than half a minute.

“Very good! very good!” he said, with a smile of experienced benevolence. “We believe some of it. Our duty is to do so. There are two points of importance in it. One as to the girl he is in love with, and the other his kind liberality to the fellows who will have to bear the brunt of it.”

“You speak sarcastically, and I hope unfairly. To my mind, the most important facts are these — that poor Carroway was shot from behind, and that the smugglers had no fire-arms, except two pistols, both unloaded.”

“Who is to prove that, Dr. Upround? Their mouths are closed; and if they were open, would anybody believe them? We knew long ago that the vigilant and deservedly lamented officer took the deathblow from behind; but of that how simple is the explanation! The most intelligent of his crew, and apparently his best subordinate, whose name is John Cadman, deposes that his lamented chief turned round for one moment to give an order, and during that moment received the shot. His evidence is the more weighty because he does not go too far with it. He does not pretend to say who fired. He knows only that one of the smugglers did. His evidence will hang those six poor fellows, from the laudable desire of the law to include the right one. But I trust that the right one will be far away.”

“I trust not. If even one of them is condemned, even to transportation, Robin Lyth will surrender immediately. You doubt it. You smile at the idea. Your opinion of human nature is low. Mine is not enthusiastic. But I judge others by myself.”

“So do I,” Mr. Mordacks answered, with a smile of curious humor. And the rector could not help smiling too, at this instance of genuine candor. “However, not to go too deeply into that,” his visitor continued, “there really is one point in Robin’s letter which demands inquiry. I mean about the guns of the Preventive men. Cadman may be a rogue. Most probably he is. None of the others confirm, although they do not contradict him. Do you know anything about him?”

“Only villainy — in another way. Ho led away a nice girl of this parish, an industrious mussel-gatherer. And he then had a wife and large family of his own, of which the poor thing knew nothing. Her father nearly killed him; and I was compelled (very much against my will) to inflict a penalty. Cadman is very shy of Flamborough now. By-the-way, have you called upon poor Widow Carroway?”

“I thank you for the hint. She is the very person. It will be a sad intrusion; and I have put it off as long as possible. After what Robin says, it is most important. I hope that Sir Duncan will be here very shortly. He is coming from Yarmouth in his own yacht. Matters are crowding upon me very fast. I will see Mrs. Carroway as soon as it is decent. Good-morning, and best thanks to your Worship.”

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