What I have got to do, before all other things, is to trace out the meaning of this paper, for the sake of the Good Name that has no one else to put it right. And still for the sake of the Good Name, and my father's memory, not a word of this writing must be breathed to my mother, or to Kitty, or to any human creature. You agree in this?"
"I don't know what they'll think of us below," said the captain, "but for certain I can't oppose it. Now, as to tracing. How will you do?"
They both, as by consent, bent over the paper again, and again carefully puzzled out the whole of the writing.
"I make out that this would stand, if all the writing was here, 'Inquire among the old men living there, for'--some one. Most like, you'll go to this village named here?" said the captain, musing, with his finger on the name.
"Yes! And Mr. Tregarthen is a Cornishman, and--to be sure!--comes from Lanrean."
"Does he?" said the captain quietly. "As I ain't acquainted with him, who may he be?"
"Mr. Tregarthen is Kitty's father."
"Ay, ay!" cried the captain. "Now you speak! Tregarthen knows this village of Lanrean, then?"
"Beyond all doubt he does. I have often heard him mention it, as being his native place. He knows it well."
"Stop half a moment," said the captain. "We want a name here. You could ask Tregarthen (or if you couldn't I could) what names of old men he remembers in his time in those diggings? Hey?"
"I can go straight to his cottage, and ask him now."
"Take me with you," said the captain, rising in a solid way that had a most comfortable reliability in it, "and just a word more first. I have knocked about harder than you, and have got along further than you. I have had, all my sea-going life long, to keep my wits polished bright with acid and friction, like the brass cases of the ship's instruments. I'll keep you company on this expedition. Now you don't live by talking any more than I do. Clench that hand of yours in this hand of mine, and that's a speech on both sides."
Captain Jorgan took command of the expedition with that hearty shake. He at once refolded the paper exactly as before, replaced it in the bottle, put the stopper in, put the oilskin over the stopper, confided the whole to Young Raybrock's keeping, and led the way down-stairs.
But it was harder navigation below-stairs than above. The instant they set foot in the parlour the quick, womanly eye detected that there was something wrong. Kitty exclaimed, frightened, as she ran to her lover's side, "Alfred! What's the matter?" Mrs. Raybrock cried out to the captain, "Gracious! what have you done to my son to change him like this all in a minute?" And the young widow--who was there with her work upon her arm--was at first so agitated that she frightened the little girl she held in her hand, who hid her face in her mother's skirts and screamed. The captain, conscious of being held responsible for this domestic change, contemplated it with quite a guilty expression of countenance, and looked to the young fisherman to come to his rescue.
"Kitty, darling," said Young Raybrock, "Kitty, dearest love, I must go away to Lanrean, and I don't know where else or how much further, this very day. Worse than that--our marriage, Kitty, must be put off, and I don't know for how long."
Kitty stared at him, in doubt and wonder and in anger, and pushed him from her with her hand.
"Put off?" cried Mrs. Raybrock. "The marriage put off? And you going to Lanrean! Why, in the name of the dear Lord?"
"Mother dear, I can't say why; I must not say why. It would be dishonourable and undutiful to say why."
"Dishonourable and undutiful?" returned the dame. "And is there nothing dishonourable or undutiful in the boy's breaking the heart of his own plighted love, and his mother's heart too, for the sake of the dark secrets and counsels of a wicked stranger? Why did you ever come here?" she apostrophised the innocent captain. "Who wanted you? Where did you come from? Why couldn't you rest in your own bad place, wherever it is, instead of disturbing the peace of quiet unoffending folk like us?"
"And what," sobbed the poor little Kitty, "have I ever done to you, you hard and cruel captain, that you should come and serve me so?"
And then they both began to weep most pitifully, while the captain could only look from the one to the other, and lay hold of himself by the coat collar.