Mary Anerley, by R. D. Blackmore

Chapter XLVI

Stumped Out

“I think, my dear, that you never should allow mysterious things to be doing in your parish, and everybody full of curiosity about them, while the only proper person to explain their meaning is allowed to remain without any more knowledge than a man locked up in York Castle might have. In spite of all the weather, and the noise the sea makes, I feel quite certain that important things, which never have any right to happen in our parish, are going on here, and you never interfere; which on the part of the rector, and the magistrate of the neighborhood, to my mind is not a proper course of action. I am sure that I have not the very smallest curiosity; I feel very often that I should have asked questions, when it has become too late to do so, and when anybody else would have put them at the moment, and not had to be sorry afterward.”

“I understand that feeling,” Dr. Upround answered, looking at his wife for the third cup of coffee to wind up his breakfast as usual, “and without hesitation I reply that it naturally arises in superior natures. Janetta, you have eaten up that bit of broiled hake that I was keeping for your dear mother!”

“Now really, papa, you are too crafty. You put my mother off with a wretched generality, because you don’t choose to tell her anything; and to stop me from coming to the rescue, you attack me with a miserable little personality. I perceive by your face, papa, every trick that rises; and without hesitation I reply that they naturally arise in inferior natures.”

“Janetta, you never express yourself well.” Mrs. Upround insisted upon filial respect. “When I say ‘well,’ I mean — Well, well, well, you know quite well what I mean, Janetta.”

“To be sure, mamma, I always do. You always mean the very best meaning in the world; but you are not up to half of papa’s tricks yet.”

“This is too bad!” cried the father, with a smile.

“A great deal too bad!” said the mother, with a frown. “I am sure I would never have asked a word of anything, if I could ever have imagined such behavior. Go away, Janetta, this very moment; your dear father evidently wants to tell me something. Now, my dear, you were too sleepy last night; but your peace of mind requires you to unburden itself at once of all these very mysterious goings on.”

“Well, perhaps I shall have no peace of mind unless I do,” said the rector, with a slight sarcasm, which missed her altogether; “only it might save trouble, my dear, if you would first specify the points which oppress your — or rather I should say, perhaps, my mind so much.”

“In the first place, then,” began Mrs. Upround, drawing nearer to the doctor, “who is that highly distinguished stranger who can not get away from the Thornwick Inn? What made him come to such a place in dreadful weather; and if he is ill, why not send for Dr. Stirbacks? Dr. Stirbacks will think it most unkind of you; and after all he did for dear Janetta. And then, again, what did the milkman from Sewerby mean by the way he shook his head this morning, about something in the family at Anerley Farm? And what did that most unaccountable man, who calls himself Mr. Mordacks — though I don’t believe that is his name at all —”

“Yes, it is, my dear; you never should say such things. He is well known at York, and for miles around; and I entertain very high respect for him.”

“So you may, Dr. Upround. You do that too freely; but Janetta quite agrees with me about him. A man with a sword, that goes slashing about, and kills a rat, that was none of his business! A more straightforward creature than himself, I do believe, though he struts like a soldier with a ramrod. And what did he mean, in such horrible weather, by dragging you out to take a deposition in a place even colder than Flamborough itself — that vile rabbit-warren on the other side of Bempton? Deposition of a man who had drunk himself to death — and a Methodist too, as you could not help saying.”

“I said it, I know; and I am ashamed of saying it. I was miserably cold, and much annoyed about my coat.”

“You never say anything to be ashamed of. It is when you do not say things that you should rather blame yourself. For instance, I feel no curiosity whatever, but a kind-hearted interest, in the doings of my neighbors. We very seldom get any sort of excitement; and when exciting things come all together, quite within the hearing of our stable bell, to be left to guess them out, and perhaps be contradicted, destroys one’s finest feelings, and produces downright fidgets.”

“My dear, my dear, you really should endeavor to emancipate yourself from such small ideas.”

“Large words shall never divert me from my duty. My path of duty is distinctly traced; and if a thwarting hand withdraws me from it, it must end in a bilious headache.”

This was a terrible menace to the household, which was always thrown out of its course for three days when the lady became thus afflicted.

“My first duty is to my wife,” said the rector. “If people come into my parish with secrets, which come to my knowledge without my desire, and without official obligation, and the faithful and admirable partner of my life threatens to be quite unwell —”

“Ill, dear, very ill — is what would happen to me.”

“— then I consider that my duty is to impart to her everything that can not lead to mischief.”

“How could you have any doubt of it, my dear? And as to the mischief, I am the proper judge of that.”

Dr. Upround laughed in his quiet inner way; and then, as a matter of form, he said, “My dear, you must promise most faithfully to keep whatever I tell you as the very strictest secret.”

Mrs. Upround looked shocked at the mere idea of her ever doing otherwise; which indeed, as she said, was impossible. Her husband very nearly looked as if he quite believed her; and then they went into his snug sitting-room, while the maid took away the breakfast things.

“Now don’t keep me waiting,” said the lady.

“Well, then, my dear,” the rector began, after crossing stout legs stoutly, “you must do your utmost not to interrupt me, and, in short — to put it courteously — you must try to hold your tongue, and suffer much astonishment in silence. We have a most distinguished visitor in Flamborough setting up his staff at the Thornwick Hotel.”

“Lord Nelson! I knew it must be. Janetta is so quick at things.”

“Janetta is too quick at things; and she is utterly crazy about Nelson. No; it is the famous Sir Duncan Yordas.”

“Sir Duncan Yordas! Why, I never heard of him.”

“You will find that you have heard of him when you come to think, my dear. Our Harry is full of his wonderful doings. He is one of the foremost men in India, though perhaps little heard of in this country yet. He belongs to an ancient Yorkshire family, and is, I believe, the head of it. He came here looking for his son, but has caught a most terrible chill, instead of him; and I think we ought to send him some of your rare soup.”

“How sensible you are! It will be the very thing. But first of all, what character does he bear? They do such things in India.”

“His character is spotless; I might say too romantic. He is a man of magnificent appearance, large mind, and lots of money.”

“My dear, my dear, he must never stay there. I shudder to think of it, this weather. A chill is a thing upon the kidneys always. You know my electuary; and if we bring him round, it is high time for Janetta to begin to think of settling.”

“My dear!” said Dr. Upround; “well, how suddenly you jump! I must put on my spectacles to look at you. This gentleman must be getting on for fifty!”

“Janetta should have a man of some discretion, somebody she would not dare to snap at. Her expressions are so reckless, that a young man would not suit her. She ought to have some one to look up to; and you know how she raves about fame, and celebrity, and that. She really seems to care for very little else.”

“Then she ought to have fallen in love with Robin Lyth, the most famous man in all this neighborhood.”

“Dr. Upround, you say things on purpose to provoke me when my remarks are unanswerable. Robin Lyth indeed! A sailor, a smuggler, a common working-man! And under that terrible accusation!”

“An objectionable party altogether; not even desirable as a grandson. Therefore say nothing more of Janetta and Sir Duncan.”

“Sometimes, my dear, the chief object of your existence seems to be to irritate me. What can poor Robin have to do with Sir Duncan Yordas?”

“Simply this. He is his only son. The proofs were completed, and deposited with me for safe custody, last night, by that very active man of business, Geoffrey Mordacks, of York city.”

“Well!” cried Mrs. Upround, with both hands lifted, and a high color flowing into her unwrinkled cheeks; “from this day forth I shall never have any confidence in you again. How long — if I may dare to put any sort of question — have you been getting into all this very secret knowledge? And why have I never heard a word of it till now? And not even now, I do believe, through any proper urgency of conscience on your part, but only because I insisted upon knowing. Oh, Dr. Upround, for shame! for shame!”

“My dear, you have no one but yourself to blame,” her husband replied, with a sweet and placid smile. “Three times I have told you things that were to go no further, and all three of them went twenty miles within three days. I do not complain of it; far less of you. You may have felt it quite as much your duty to spread knowledge as I felt it mine to restrict it. And I never should have let you get all this out of me now, if it had been at all incumbent upon me to keep it quiet.”

“That means that I have never got it out of you at all. I have taken all this trouble for nothing.”

“No, my dear, not at all. You have worked well, and have promised not to say a word about it. You might not have known it for a week at least, except for my confidence in you.”

“Much of it I thank you for. But don’t be cross, my dear, because you have behaved so atrociously. You have not answered half of my questions yet.”

“Well, there were so many, that I scarcely can remember them. Let me see: I have told you who the great man is, and the reason that brought him to Flamborough. Then about the dangerous chill he has taken; it came through a bitter ride from Scarborough; and if Dr. Stirbacks came, he would probably make it still more dangerous. At least so Mordacks says; and the patient is in his hands, and out of mine; so that Stirbacks can not be aggrieved with us. On the other hand, as to the milkman from Sewerby. I really do not know why he shook his head. Perhaps he found the big pump frozen. He is not of my parish, and may shake his head without asking my permission. Now I think that I have answered nearly all your questions.”

“Not at all; I have not had time to ask them yet, because I feel so much above them. But if the milkman meant nothing, because of his not belonging to our parish, the butcher does, and he can have no excuse. He says that Mr. Mordacks takes all the best meanings of a mutton-sheep every other day to Burlington.”

“I know he does. And it ought to put us to the blush that a stranger should have to do so. Mordacks is finding clothes, food, and firing for all the little creatures poor Carroway left, and even for his widow, who has got a wandering mind. Without him there would not have been one left. The poor mother locked in all her little ones, and starved them, to save them from some quite imaginary foe. The neighbors began to think of interfering, and might have begun to do it when it was all over. Happily, Mordacks arrived just in time. His promptitude, skill, and generosity saved them. Never say a word against that man again.”

“My dear, I will not,” Mrs. Upround answered, with tears coming into her kindly eyes. “I never heard of anything more pitiful. I had no idea Mr. Mordacks was so good. He looks more like an evil spirit. I always regarded him as an evil spirit; and his name sounds like it, and he jumps about so. But he ought to have gone to the rector of the parish.”

“It is a happy thing that he can jump about. The rector of the parish can not do so, as you know; and he lives two miles away from them, and had never even heard of it. People always talk about the rector of a parish as if he could be everywhere and see to everything. And few of them come near him in their prosperous times. Have you any other questions to put to me, my dear?”

“Yes, a quantity of things which I can not think of now. How it was that little boy — I remember it like yesterday — came ashore here, and turned out to be Robin Lyth; or at least to be no Robin Lyth at all, but the son of Sir Duncan Yordas. And what happened to the poor man in Bempton Warren.”

“The poor man died a most miserable death, but I trust sincerely penitent. He had led a sad, ungodly life, and he died at last of wooden legs. He was hunted to his grave, he told us, by these wooden legs; and he recognized in them Divine retribution, for the sin of his life was committed in timber. No sooner did any of those legs appear — and the poor fellow said they were always coming — than his heart began to patter, and his own legs failed him, and he tried to stop his ears, but his conscience would not let him.”

“Now there!” cried Mrs. Upround; “what the power of conscience is! He had stolen choice timber, perhaps ready-made legs.”

“A great deal worse than that, my dear; he had knocked out a knot as large as my shovel-hat from the side of a ship home bound from India, because he was going to be tried for mutiny upon their arrival at Leith, it was, I think. He and his partners had been in irons, but unluckily they were just released. The weather was magnificent, a lovely summer’s night, soft fair breeze, and every one rejoicing in the certainty of home within a few short hours. And they found home that night, but it was in a better world.”

“You have made me creep all over. And you mean to say that a wretch like that has any hope of heaven! How did he get away himself?”

“Very easily. A little boat was towing at the side. There were only three men upon deck, through the beauty of the weather, and two of those were asleep. They bound and gagged the waking one, lashed the wheel, and made off in the boat wholly unperceived. There was Rickon Goold, the ringleader, and four others, and they brought away a little boy who was lying fast asleep, because one of them had been in the service of his father, and because of the value of his Indian clothes, which his ayah made him wear now in his little cot for warmth. The scoundrels took good care that none should get away to tell the tale. They saw the poor Golconda sink with every soul on board, including the captain’s wife and babies; then they made for land, and in the morning fog were carried by the tide toward our North Landing. One of them knew the coast as well as need be; but they durst not land until their story was concocted, and everything fitted in to suit it. The sight of the rising sun, scattering the fog, frightened them, as it well might do; and they pulled into the cave, from which I always said, as you may now remember, Robin must have come — the cave which already bears his name.

“Here they remained all day, considering a plausible tale to account for themselves, without making mention of any lost ship, and trying to remove every trace of identity from the boat they had stolen. They had brought with them food enough to last three days, and an anker of rum from the steward’s stores; and as they grew weary of their long confinement, they indulged more freely than wisely in the consumption of that cordial. In a word, they became so tipsy that they frightened the little helpless boy; and when they began to fight about his gold buttons, which were claimed by the fellow who had saved his life, he scrambled from the side of the boat upon the rock, and got along a narrow ledge, where none of them could follow him. They tried to coax him back; but he stamped his feet, and swore at them, being sadly taught bad language by the native servants, I dare say. Rickon Goold wanted to shoot him, for they had got a gun with them, and he feared to leave him there. But Sir Duncan’s former boatman would not allow it; and at dark they went away and left him there. And the poor little fellow, in his dark despair, must have been led by the hand of the Lord through crannies too narrow for a man to pass. There is a well-known land passage out of that cave; but he must have crawled out by a smaller one, unknown even to our fishermen, slanting up the hill, and having outlet in the thicket near the place where the boats draw up. And so he was found by Robin Cockscroft in the morning. They had fed the child with biscuit soaked in rum, which accounts for his heavy sleep and wonderful exertions, and may have predisposed him for a contraband career.”

“And perhaps for the very bad language which he used,” said Mrs. Upround, thoughtfully. “It is an extraordinary tale, my dear. But I suppose there can be no doubt of it. But such a clever child should have known his own name. Why did he call himself ‘Izunsabe’?”

“That is another link in the certainty of proof. On board that unfortunate ship, and perhaps even before he left India, he was always called the ‘Young Sahib,’ and he used, having proud little ways of his own, to shout, if anybody durst provoke him, ‘I’se young Sahib, I’se young Sahib;’ which we rendered into ‘Izunsabe.’ But his true name is Wilton Bart Yordas, I believe, and the initials can be made out upon his gold beads, Mr. Mordacks tells me, among heathen texts.”

“That seems rather shocking to good principles, my dear. I trust that Sir Duncan is a Christian at least; or he shall never set foot in this house.”

“My dear, I can not tell. How should I know? He may have lapsed, of course, as a good many of them do, from the heat of the climate, and bad surroundings. But that happens mostly from their marrying native women. And this gentleman never has done that, I do believe.”

“They tell me that he is a very handsome man, and of most commanding aspect — the very thing Janetta likes so much. But what became of those unhappy sadly tipsy sailors?”

“Well, they managed very cleverly, and made success of tipsiness. As soon as it was dark that night, and before the child had crawled away, they pushed out of the cave, and let the flood-tide take them round the Head. They meant to have landed at Bridlington Quay, with a tale of escape from a Frenchman; but they found no necessity for going so far. A short-handed collier was lying in the roads; and the skipper, perceiving that they were in liquor, thought it a fine chance, and took some trouble to secure them. They told him that they had been trying to run goods, and were chased by a revenue boat, and so on. He was only too glad to be enabled to make sail, and by dawn they were under way for the Thames; and that was the end of the Golconda.”

“What an awful crime! But you never mean to tell me that the Lord let those men live and prosper?”

“That subject is beyond our view, my dear. There were five of them, and Rickon Goold believed himself the last of them. But being very penitent, he might have exaggerated. He said that one was swallowed by a shark, at least his head was, and one was hanged for stealing sheep, and one for a bad sixpence; but the fate of the other (too terrible to tell you) brought this man down here, to be looking at the place, and to divide his time between fasting, and drinking, and poaching, and discoursing to the thoughtless. The women flocked to hear him preach, when the passion was upon him; and he used to hint at awful sins of his own, which made him earnest. I hope that he was so, and I do believe it. But the wooden-legged sailors, old Joe and his son, who seem to have been employed by Mordacks, took him at his own word for a ‘miserable sinner’— which, as they told their master, no respectable man would call himself — and in the most business-like manner they set to to remove him to a better world; and now they have succeeded.”

“Poor man! After all, one must be rather sorry for him. If old Joe came stumping after me for half an hour, I should have no interest in this life left.”

“My dear, they stumped after him the whole day long, and at night they danced a hornpipe outside his hut. He became convinced that the Prince of Evil was come, in that naval style, to fetch him; and he drank everything he could lay hands on, to fortify him for the contest. The end, as you know, was extremely sad for him, but highly satisfactory to them, I fear. They have signified their resolution to attend his funeral; and Mordacks has said, with unbecoming levity, that if they never were drunk before — which seems to me an almost romantic supposition — that night they shall be drunk, and no mistake.”

“All these things, my dear,” replied Mrs. Upround, who was gifted with a fine vein of moral reflection, “are not as we might wish if we ordered them ourselves. But still there is this to be said in their favor, that they have a large tendency toward righteousness.”

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