HotFreeBooks.com
There is Sorrow on the Sea
by Gilbert Parker
Home - Random Browse

THERE IS SORROW ON THE SEA

By Gilbert Parker



I

"YORK FACTORY, HUDSON'S BAY, "23rd September, 1747.

"MY DEAR COUSIN FANNY,—It was a year last April Fool's Day, I left you on the sands there at Mablethorpe, no more than a stone's throw from the Book-in-Hand Inn, swearing that you should never see me or hear from me again. You remember how we saw the coast-guards flash their lights here and there, as they searched the sands for me? how one came bundling down the bank, calling, 'Who goes there?' You remember that when I said, 'A friend,' he stumbled, and his light fell to the sands and went out, and in the darkness you and I stole away: you to your home, with a whispering, 'God-bless-you, Cousin Dick,' over your shoulder, and I with a bit of a laugh that, maybe, cut to the heart, and that split in a sob in my own throat—though you didn't hear that.

"'Twas a bad night's work that, Cousin Fanny, and maybe I wish it undone, and maybe I don't; but a devil gets into the heart of a man when he has to fly from the lass he loves, while the friends of his youth go hunting him with muskets, and he has to steal out of the backdoor of his own country and shelter himself, like a cold sparrow, up in the eaves of the world.

"Ay, lass, that's how I left the fens of Lincolnshire a year last April Fool's Day. There wasn't a dyke from, Lincoln town to Mablethorpe that I hadn't crossed with a running jump; and there wasn't a break in the shore, or a sink-hole in the sand, or a clump of rushes, or a samphire bed, from Skegness to Theddlethorpe, that I didn't know like every line of your face. And when I was a slip of a lad-ay, and later too—how you and I used to snuggle into little nooks of the sand-hills, maybe just beneath the coast-guard's hut, and watch the tide come swilling in-water- daisies you used to call the breaking surf, Cousin Fanny. And that was like you, always with a fancy about everything you saw. And when the ships, the fishing-smacks with their red sails, and the tall-masted brigs went by, taking the white foam on their canvas, you used to wish that you might sail away to the lands you'd heard tell of from old skippers that gathered round my uncle's fire in the Book-in-Hand. Ay, a grand thing I thought it would be, too, to go riding round the world on a well-washed deck, with plenty of food and grog, and maybe, by-and-by, to be first mate, and lord it from fo'castle bunk to stern-rail.

"You did not know, did you, who was the coast-guardsman that stumbled as he came on us that night? It looked a stupid thing to do that, and let the lantern fall. But, lass, 'twas done o' purpose. That was the one man in all the parish that would ha' risked his neck to let me free. 'Twas Lancy Doane, who's give me as many beatings in his time as I him. We were always getting foul one o' t'other since I was big enough to shy a bit of turf at him across a dyke, and there isn't a spot on's body that I haven't hit, nor one on mine that he hasn't mauled. I've sat on his head, and he's had his knee in my stomach till I squealed, and we never could meet without back-talking and rasping 'gainst the grain. The night before he joined the coast-guardsmen, he was down at the Book-in-Hand, and 'twas little like that I'd let the good chance pass—I might never have another; for Gover'ment folk will not easy work a quarrel on their own account. I mind him sittin' there on the settle, his shins against the fire, a long pipe going, and Casey of the Lazy Beetle, and Jobbin the mate of the Dodger, and Little Faddo, who had the fat Dutch wife down by the Ship Inn, and Whiggle the preaching blacksmith. And you were standin' with your back to the shinin' pewters, and the great jug of ale with the white napkin behind you; the light o' the fire wavin' on your face, and your look lost in the deep hollow o' the chimney. I think of you most as you were that minute, Cousin Fanny, when I come in. I tell you straight and fair, that was the prettiest picture I ever saw; and I've seen some rare fine things in my travels. 'Twas as if the thing had been set by some one, just to show you off to your best. Here you were, a slip of a lass, straight as a bulrush, and your head hangin' proud on your shoulders; yet modest too, as you can see off here in the North the top of the golden-rod flower swing on its stem. You were slim as slim, and yet there wasn't a corner on you; so soft and full and firm you were, like the breast of a quail; and I mind me how the shine of your cheeks was like the glimmer of an apple after you've rubbed it with a bit of cloth. Well, there you stood in some sort of smooth, plain, clingin' gown, a little bit loose and tumblin' at the throat, and your pretty foot with a brown slipper pushed out, just savin' you from bein' prim. That's why the men liked you—you didn't carry a sermon in your waist-ribbon, and the Lord's Day in the lift o' your chin; but you had a smile to give when 'twas the right time for it, and men never said things with you there that they'd have said before many another maid.

"'Twas a thing I've thought on off here, where I've little to do but think, how a lass like you could put a finger on the lip of such rough tykes as Faddo, Jobbin, and the rest, keepin' their rude words under flap and button. Do you mind how, when I passed you comin' in, I laid my hand on yours as it rested on the dresser? That hand of yours wasn't a tiny bit of a thing, and the fingers weren't all taperin' like a simperin' miss from town, worked down in the mill of quality and got from graftin' and graftin', like one of them roses from the flower-house at Mablethorpe Hall—not fit to stand by one o' them that grew strong and sweet with no fancy colour, in the garden o' the Book-in-Hand. Yours was a hand that talked as much as your lips or face, as honest and white; and the palm all pink, and strong as strong could be, and warmin' every thread in a man's body when he touched it. Well, I touched your hand then, and you looked at me and nodded, and went musin' into the fire again, not seemin' to hear our gabble.

"But, you remember—don't you?—how Jobbin took to chaffin' of Lancy Doane, and how Faddo's tongue got sharper as the time got on, and many a nasty word was said of coast-guards and excisemen, and all that had to do with law and gover'ment. Cuts there were at some of Laney's wild doings in the past, and now and then they'd turn to me, saying what they thought would set me girdin' Lancy too. But I had my own quarrel, and I wasn't to be baited by such numskulls. And Lancy—that was a thing I couldn't understand—he did no more than shrug his shoulder and call for more ale, and wish them all good health and a hundred a year. I never thought he could ha' been so patient-like. But there was a kind of little smile, too, on his face, showin' he did some thinkin'; and I guessed he was bidin' his time.

"I wasn't as sharp as I might ha' been, or I'd ha' seen what he was waitin' for, with that quiet provokin' smile on his face, and his eyes smoulderin' like. I don't know to this day whether you wanted to leave the room when you did, though 'twas about half after ten o'clock, later than I ever saw you there before. But when my uncle come in from Louth, and give you a touch on the shoulder, and said: 'To bed wi' you, my lass,' you waited for a minute longer, glancin' round on all of us, at last lookin' steady at Lancy; and he got up from his chair, and took off his hat to you with a way he had. You didn't stay a second after that, but went away straight, sayin' good-night to all of us, but Lancy was the only one on his feet.

"Just as soon as the door was shut behind you, Lancy turned round to the fire, and pushed the log with his feet in a way a man does when he's think-in' a bit. And Faddo give a nasty laugh, and said:

"' Theer's a dainty sitovation. Theer's Mr. Thomas Doane, outlaw and smuggler, and theer's Mr. Lancy Doane his brother, coast-guardsman. Now, if them two should 'appen to meet on Lincolnshire coast, Lord, theer's a sitovation for ye—Lord, theer's a cud to chew! 'Ere's one gentleman wants to try 'is 'and at 'elpin' Prince Charlie, and when 'is Up doesn't amount to anythink, what does the King on 'is throne say? He says, "As for Thomas Doane, Esquire, aw've doone wi' 'im." And theer's another gentleman, Mr. Lancy Doane, Esquire. He turns pious, and says, "Aw'm goin' for a coast-guardsman." What does the King on his throne say? 'E says, 'Theer's the man for me.'"

But aw says, "Aw've doone, aw've doone wi' Mr. Lancy Doane, Esquire, and be damned to 'im!" He! he! Theer's a fancy sitovation for ye. Mr. Thomas Doane, Esquire, smuggler and outlaw, an' Mr. Lancy Doane, Esquire, coast-guardsman. Aw've doone. Ho! ho! That gits into my crop.'

"I tell you these things, Cousin Fanny, because I'm doubtin' if you ever heard them, or knew exactly how things stood that night. I never was a friend of Lancy Doane, you understand, but it's only fair that the truth be told about that quarrel, for like as not he wouldn't speak himself, and your father was moving in and out; and, I take my oath, I wouldn't believe Faddo and the others if they was to swear on the Bible. Not that they didn't know the truth when they saw it, but they did love just to let their fancy run. I'm livin' over all the things that happened that night—livin' them over to-day, when everything's so quiet about me here, so lonesome. I wanted to go over it all, bit by bit, and work it out in my head, just as you and I used to do the puzzle games we played in the sands. And maybe, when you're a long way off from things you once lived, you can see them and understand them better. Out here, where it's so lonely, and yet so good a place to live in, I seem to get the hang o' the world better, and why some things are, and other things aren't; and I thought it would pull at my heart to sit down and write you a long letter, goin' over the whole business again; but it doesn't. I suppose I feel as a judge does when he goes over a lot of evidence, and sums it all up for the jury. I don't seem prejudiced one way or another. But I'm not sure that I've got all the evidence to make me ken everything; and that's what made me bitter wild the last time that I saw you. Maybe you hadn't anything to tell me, and maybe you had, and maybe, if you ever write to me out here, you'll tell me if there's anything I don't know about them days.

"Well, I'll go back now to what happened when Faddo was speakin' at my uncle's bar. Lancy Doane was standin' behind the settle, leanin' his arms on it, and smokin' his pipe quiet. He waited patient till Faddo had done, then he comes round the settle, puts his pipe up in the rack between the rafters, and steps in front of Faddo. If ever the devil was in a man's face, it looked out of Lancy Doane's that minute. Faddo had touched him on the raw when he fetched out that about Tom Doane. All of a sudden Lancy swings, and looks at the clock.

"'It's half-past ten, Jim Faddo,' said he, 'and aw've got an hour an' a half to deal wi' you as a Lincolnshire lad. At twelve o'clock aw'm the Gover'ment's, but till then aw'm Lancy Doane, free to strike or free to let alone; to swallow dirt or throw it; to take a lie or give it. And now list to me; aw'm not goin' to eat dirt, and aw'm goin' to give you the lie, and aw'm goin' to break your neck, if I swing for it to-morrow, Jim Faddo. And here's another thing aw'll tell you. When the clock strikes twelve, on the best horse in the country aw'll ride to Theddlethorpe, straight for the well that's dug you know where, to find your smuggled stuff, and to run the irons round your wrists. Aw'm dealin' fair wi' you that never dealt fair by no man. You never had an open hand nor soft heart; and because you've made money, not out o' smugglin' alone, but out o' poor devils of smugglers that didn't know rightly to be rogues, you think to fling your dirt where you choose. But aw'll have ye to-night as a man, and aw'll have ye to-night as a King's officer, or aw'll go damned to hell.'

"Then he steps back a bit very shiny in the face, and his eyes like torchlights, but cool and steady. 'Come on now,' he says, 'Jim Faddo, away from the Book-in-Hand, and down to the beach under the sand-hills, and we'll see man for man—though, come to think of it, y 'are no man,' he said—'if ye'll have the right to say when aw'm a King's officer that you could fling foul words in the face of Lancy Doane. And a word more,' he says; 'aw wouldn't trust ye if an Angel o' Heaven swore for ye. Take the knife from the belt behind your back there, and throw it on the table, for you wouldn't bide by no fair rules o' fightin'. Throw the knife on the table,' he says, comin' a step forward.

"Faddo got on to his feet. He was bigger built than Lancy, and a bit taller, and we all knew he was devilish strong in his arms. There was a look in his face I couldn't understand. One minute I thought it was fear, and another I thought it was daze; and maybe it was both. But all on a sudden something horrible cunnin' come into it, and ugly too.

"'Go to the well, then, since ye've found out all about it,' he says, 'but aw've an hour and a half start o' ye, Lancy Doane.'

"'Ye've less than that,' says Lancy back to him, 'if ye go with me to the sands first.'

"At that my uncle stepped in to say a word for peacemakin', but Lancy would have none of it. 'Take the knife and throw it on the table,' he said to Faddo once more, and Faddo took it out and threw it down.

"'Come on, then,' Faddo says, with a sneerin' laugh; 'we'll see by daybreak who has the best o' this night's work,' and he steps towards the door.

"'Wait a minute,' says Lancy, gettin' in front of him. 'Now take the knife from your boot. Take it,' he says again, 'or aw will. That's like a man, to go to a fist fight wi' knives. Take it,' he said. 'Aw'll gi' ye till aw count four, and if ye doan't take it, aw'll take it meself. One!' he says steady and soft. 'Two!' Faddo never moved. 'Three!' The silence made me sick, and the clock ticked like hammers. 'Four!' he said, and then he sprang for the boot, but Faddo's hand went down like lightnin' too. I couldn't tell exactly how they clinched but once or twice I saw the light flash on the steel. Then they came down together, Faddo under, and when I looked again Faddo was lying eyes starin' wide, and mouth all white with fear, for Lancy was holding the knife-point at his throat. 'Stir an inch,' says Lancy, 'and aw'll pin ye to the lid o' hell.'

"Three minutes by the clock he knelt there on Faddo's chest, the knife- point touching the bone in's throat. Not one of us stirred, but just stood lookin', and my own heart beat so hard it hurt me, and my uncle steadyin' himself against the dresser. At last Lancy threw the knife away into the fire.

"'Coward!' he said. 'A man would ha' taken the knife. Did you think aw was goin' to gie my neck to the noose just to put your knife to proper use? But don't stir till aw gie you the word, or aw'll choke the breath o' life out o' ye.'

"At that Faddo sprung to clinch Laney's arms, but Laney's fingers caught him in the throat, and I thought surely Faddo was gone, for his tongue stood out a finger-length, and he was black in the face.

"'For God's sake, Lancy,' said my uncle, steppin' forward, 'let him go.'

"At that Lancy said: 'He's right enough. It's not the first time aw've choked a coward. Throw cold water on him and gi' 'im brandy.'

"Sure enough, he wasn't dead. Lancy stood there watchin' us while we fetched Faddo back, and I tell you, that was a narrow squeak for him. When he got his senses again, and was sittin' there lookin' as if he'd been hung and brought back to life, Lancy says to him: 'There, Jim Faddo, aw've done wi' you as a man, and at twelve o'clock aw'll begin wi' you as King's officer.' And at that, with a good-night to my uncle and all of us, he turns on his heels and leaves the Book-in-Hand.

"I tell you, Cousin Fanny, though I'd been ripe for quarrel wi' Lancy Doane myself that night, I could ha' took his hand like a brother, for I never saw a man deal fairer wi' a scoundrel than he did wi' Jim Faddo. You see, it wasn't what Faddo said about himself that made Laney wild, but that about his brother Tom; and a man doesn't like his brother spoken ill of by dirt like Faddo, be it true or false. And of Laney's brother I'm goin' to write further on in this letter, for I doubt that you know all I know about him, and the rest of what happened that night and afterwards."



"DEAR COUSIN FANNY, I canna write all I set out to, for word come to me, just as I wrote the last sentence above, that the ship was to leave port three days sooner than was fixed for when I began. I have been rare and busy since then, and I have no time to write more. And so 'twill be another year before you get a word from me; but I hope that when this letter comes you'll write one back to me by the ship that sails next summer from London. The summer's short and the winter's long here, Cousin Fanny, and there's more snow than grass; and there's more flowers in a week in Mablethorpe than in a whole year here. But, lass, the sun shines always, and my heart keeps warm in thinkin' of you, and I ask you to forgive me for any harsh word I ever spoke, not forgettin' that last night when I left you on the sands, and stole away like a thief across the sea. I'm going to tell you the whole truth in my next letter, but I'd like you to forgive me before you know it all, for 'tis a right lonely and distant land, this, and who can tell what may come to pass in twice a twelve month! Maybe a prayer on lips like mine doesn't seem in place, for I've not lived as parson says man ought to live, but I think the Lord will have no worse thought o' me when I say, God bless thee, lass, and keep thee safe as any flower in His garden that He watereth with His own hand. Write to me, lass: I love thee still, I do love thee.

"DICK ORRY."



II

THE BOOK-IN-HAND INN, MABLETHORPE, LINCOLNSHIRE. May-Day, 1749.

"DEAR COUSIN DICK,—I think I have not been so glad in many years as when I got your letter last Guy Fawkes Day. I was coming from the church where the parson preached on plots and treasons, and obedience to the King, when I saw the old postman coming down the road. I made quickly to him, I know not why, for I had not thought to hear from you, and before I reached him he held up his hand, showing me the stout packet which brought me news of you. I hurried with it to the inn, and went straight to my room and sat down by the window, where I used to watch for your coming with the fishing fleet, down the sea from the Dogger Bank. I was only a girl, a young girl, then, and the Dogger Bank was, to my mind, as far off as that place you call York Factory, in Hudson's Bay, is to me now. And yet I did not know how very far it was until our schoolmaster showed me on a globe how few days' sail it is to the Dogger Bank, and how many to York Factory.

"But I will tell you of my reading of your letter, and of what I thought. But first I must go back a little. When you went away that wild, dark night, with bitter words on your lips to me, Cousin Dick, I thought I should never feel the same again. You did not know it, but I was bearing the misery of your trouble and of another's also, and of my own as well; and so I said over and over again, Oh, why will men be hard on women? Why do they look for them to be iron like themselves, bearing double burdens as most women do? But afterwards I settled to a quietness which I would not have you think was happiness, for I have given up thought of that. Nor would I have you think me bearing trouble sweetly, for sometimes I was most hard and stubborn. But I lived on in a sort of stillness till that morning when, sitting by my window, I read all you had written to me. And first of all I must tell you how my heart was touched at your words about our childhood together. I had not thought it lay so deep in your mind, Cousin Dick. It always stays in mine; but then, women have more memories than men. The story of that night I knew; but never fully as you have told it to me in your letter. Of what happened after Lancy Doane left the inn, of which you have not written, but promised the writing in your next letter, I think I know as well as yourself. Nay, more, Cousin Dick. There are some matters concerning what followed that night and after, which I know, and you do not know. But you have guessed there was something which I did not tell you, and so there was. And I will tell you of them now. But I will take up the thread of the story where you dropped it, and reel it out.

"You left the inn soon after Lancy Doane, and James Faddo went then too, riding hard for Theddlethorpe, for he knew that in less than an hour the coast-guards would be rifling the hiding places of his smuggled stuff. You did not take a horse, but, getting a musket, you walked the sands hard to Theddlethorpe.

"I know it all, though you did not tell me, Cousin Dick. You had no purpose in going, save to see the end of a wretched quarrel and a smuggler's ill scheme. You carried a musket for your own safety, not with any purpose. It was a day of weight in your own life, for on one side you had an offer from the Earl Fitzwilliam to serve on his estate; and on the other to take a share in a little fleet of fishing smacks, of which my father was part owner. I think you know to which side I inclined, but that now is neither here nor there; and, though you did not tell me, as you went along the shore you were more intent on handing backwards and forwards in your mind your own affairs, than of what should happen at Theddlethorpe. And so you did not hurry as you went, and, as things happened, you came to Faddo's house almost at the same moment with Lancy Doane and two other mounted coast-guards.

"You stood in the shadow while they knocked at Faddo's door. You were so near, you could see the hateful look in his face. You were surprised he did not try to stand the coast-guards off. You saw him, at their bidding, take a lantern, and march with them to a shed standing off a little from the house, nearer to the shore. Going a roundabout swiftly, you came to the shed first, and posted yourself at the little window on the sea-side. You saw them enter with the lantern, saw them shift a cider press, uncover the floor, and there beneath, in a dry well, were barrels upon barrels of spirits, and crouched among them was a man whom you all knew at once—Laney's brother, Tom. That, Cousin Dick, was Jim Faddo's revenge. Tom Doane had got refuge with him till he should reach his brother, not knowing Lancy was to be coast-guard. Faddo, coming back from Mablethorpe, told Tom the coast-guards were to raid him that night; and he made him hide in this safe place, as he called it, knowing that Lancy would make for it.

"For a minute after Tom was found no man stirred. Tom was quick of brain and wit—would it had always been put, to good purposes!—and saw at once Faddo's treachery. Like winking he fired at the traitor, who was almost as quick to return the fire. What made you do it I know not, unless it was you hated treachery; but, sliding in at the open door behind the coast-guards, you snatched the lantern from the hands of one, threw it out of the open door, and, thrusting them aside, called for Tom to follow you. He sprang towards you over Faddo's body, even as you threw the lantern, and, catching his arm, you ran with him towards the dyke.

"'Ready for a great jump!' you said. 'Your life hangs on it.' He was even longer of leg than you. 'Is it a dyke?' he whispered, as the shots from three muskets rang after you. 'A dyke. When I count three, jump,' you answered. I have read somewhere of the great leap that one Don Alvarado, a Spaniard, made in Mexico, but surely never was a greater leap than you two made that night, landing safely on the other side, and making for the sea-shore. None of the coast guardsmen, not even Lancy, could make the leap, for he was sick and trembling, though he had fired upon his own brother. And so they made for the bridge some distance above, just as the faint moon slipped behind a cloud and hid you from their sight.

"That is no country to hide in, as you know well, no caves, or hills, or mazy coombes, just a wide, flat, reedy place, broken by open woods. The only refuge for both now was the sea. 'Twas a wild run you two made, side by side, down that shore, keeping close within the gloom of the sand-hills, the coast-guards coming after, pressing you closer than they thought at the time, for Tom Doane had been wounded in the leg. But Lancy sent one back for the horses, he and the other coming on; and so, there you were, two and two. 'Twas a cruel task for Lancy that night, enough to turn a man's hair grey. But duty was duty, though those two lads were more to each other than most men ever are. You know how it ended. But I want to go all over it just to show you that I understand. You were within a mile of Mablethorpe, when you saw a little fishing smack come riding in, and you made straight for it. Who should be in the smack but Solby, the canting Baptist, who was no friend to you or my uncle, or any of us. You had no time for bargaining or coaxing, and so, at the musket's mouth, you drove him from the boat, and pushed it out just as Lancy and his men came riding up. Your sail was up, and you turned the lugger to the wind in as little time as could be, but the coast-guardsmen rode after you, calling you to give in. No man will ever know the bitter trouble in Laney's heart when he gave the order to fire on you, though he did not fire himself. And you—do I not know, Cousin Dick, what you did? Tom Doane was not the man to fire at the three dark figures riding you down, not knowing which was his brother. But you, you understood that; and you were in, you said to yourself, and you'd play the game out, come what would. You raised your musket and drew upon a figure. At that moment a coast-guard's musket blazed, and you saw the man you had drawn on was Lancy Doane. You lowered your musket, and as you did a ball struck you on the wrist.

"Oh, I have thanked God a hundred times, dear Cousin Dick, that you fired no shot that night, but only helped a hunted, miserable man away, for you did get free. Just in the nick of time your sail caught the wind, and you steered for the open sea. Three days from that, Tom Doane was safe in the Low Country, and you were on your way back to Lincolnshire. You came by a fishing boat to Saltfleet Haven, and made your way down the coast towards Mablethorpe. Passing Theddlethorpe, you went up to Faddo's house, and, looking through the window, you saw Faddo, not dead, but being cared for by his wife. Then you came on to Mablethorpe, and standing under my window, at the very moment when I was on my knees praying for the safety of those who travelled by sea, you whistled like a quail from the garden below—the old signal. Oh, how my heart stood still a moment and then leaped, for I knew it was you! I went down to the garden, and there you were. Oh, but I was glad to see you, Cousin Dick!

"You remember how I let you take me in your arms for an instant, and then I asked if he was safe. And when you told me that he was, I burst into tears, and I asked you many questions about him. And you answered them quickly, and then would have taken me in your arms again. But I would not let you, for then I knew—I knew that you loved me, and, oh, a dreadful feeling came into my heart, and I drew back, and could have sunk upon the ground in misery, but that there came a thought of your safety! He was safe, but you—you were here, where reward was posted for you. I begged you to come into the house, that I might hide you there, but you would not. You had come for one thing, you said, and only one. An hour or two, and then you must be gone for London. And so you urged me to the beach. I was afraid we might be seen, but you led me away from the cottages near to the little bridge which crosses the dyke. By that way we came to the sands, as we thought unnoted. But no, who should it be to see us but that canting Baptist, Solby! And so the alarm was given. You had come, dear Cousin Dick, to ask me one thing—if I loved you? and if, should you ever be free to come back, I would be your wife? I did not answer you; I could not answer you; and, when you pressed me, I begged you to have pity on me and not to speak of it. You thought I was not brave enough to love a man open to the law. As if—as if I knew not that what you did came out of a generous, reckless heart. And on my knees— oh, on my knees—I ought to have thanked you for it! But I knew not what to say; my lips were closed. And just then shots were fired, and we saw the coast-guards' lights. Then came Lancy Doane stumbling down the banks, and our parting—our parting. Your bitter laugh as you left me has rung in my ears ever since.

"Do not think we have been idle here in your cause, for I myself went to Earl Fitzwilliam and told him the whole story, and how you had come to help Tom Doane that night. How do I know of it all? Because I have seen a letter from Tom Doane. Well, the Earl promised to lay your case before the King himself, and to speak for you with good eager entreaty. And so, it may be, by next time I write, there will go good news to you, and— will you then come back, dear Cousin Dick?

"And now I want to tell you what I know, and what you do not know. Tom Doane had a wife in Mablethorpe. He married her when she was but sixteen—a child. But she was afraid of her father's anger, and her husband soon after went abroad, became one of Prince Charlie's men, and she's never seen him since. She never really loved him, but she never forgot that she was his wife; and she always dreaded his coming back; as well she might, for you see what happened when he did come. I pitied her, dear Cousin Dick, with all my heart; and when Tom Doane died on the field of battle in Holland last year, I wept with her and prayed for her. And you would have wept too, man though you are, if you had seen how grateful she was that he died in honourable fighting and not in a smuggler's cave at Theddlethorpe. She blessed you for that, and she never ceases to work with me for the King's pardon for you.

"There is no more to say now, dear Cousin Dick, save that I would have you know I think of you with great desire of heart for your well-being, and I pray God for your safe return some day to the good country which, pardoning you, will cast you out no more.

"I am, dear Cousin Dick,

"Thy most affectionate Cousin,

"FANNY."

"Afterword—Dear Dick, my heart bursts for joy. Enclosed here is thy pardon, sent by the good Earl Fitzwilliam last night. I could serve him on my knees for ever. Dick, she that was Tom Doane's wife, she loves thee. Wilt thou not come back to her?

"In truth, she always loved thee. She was thy cousin; she is thy Fanny. Now thou knowest all."

THE END

Home - Random Browse