He entered the house.
It was afternoon, twilight yet out of doors—starless and moonless twilight; for though keenly freezing with a dry, black frost, heaven wore a mask of clouds congealed and fast locked. The mill-dam too was frozen. The Hollow was very still. Indoors it was already dark. Sarah had lit a good fire in the parlour; she was preparing tea in the kitchen.
"Hortense," said Moore, as his sister bustled up to help him off with his cloak, "I am pleased to come home."
Hortense did not feel the peculiar novelty of this expression coming from her brother, who had never before called the cottage his home, and to whom its narrow limits had always heretofore seemed rather restrictive than protective. Still, whatever contributed to his happiness pleased her, and she expressed herself to that effect.
He sat down, but soon rose again. He went to the window; he came back to the fire.
"This little parlour looks very clean and pleasant—unusually bright, somehow."
"It is true, brother; I have had the whole house thoroughly and scrupulously cleaned in your absence."
"Sister, I think on this first day of your return home you ought to have a friend or so to tea, if it were only to see how fresh and spruce you have made the little place."
"True, brother. If it were not late I might send for Miss Mann."
"So you might; but it really is too late to disturb that good lady, and the evening is much too cold for her to come out."
"How thoughtful in you, dear Gerard! We must put it off till another day."
"I want some one to-day, dear sister—some quiet guest, who would tire neither of us."
"An excellent person, they say; but she lives too far off. Tell Harry Scott to step up to the rectory with a request from you that Caroline Helstone should come and spend the evening with you."
"Would it not be better to-morrow, dear brother?"
"I should like her to see the place as it is just now; its brilliant cleanliness and perfect neatness are so much to your credit."
"It might benefit her in the way of example."
"It might and must; she ought to come."
He went into the kitchen.
"Sarah, delay tea half an hour." He then commissioned her to dispatch Harry Scott to the rectory, giving her a twisted note hastily scribbled in pencil by himself, and addressed "Miss Helstone."
Scarcely had Sarah time to get impatient under the fear of damage to her toast already prepared when the messenger returned, and with him the invited guest.
She entered through the kitchen, quietly tripped up Sarah's stairs to take off her bonnet and furs, and came down as quietly, with her beautiful curls nicely smoothed, her graceful merino dress and delicate collar all trim and spotless, her gay little work-bag in her hand. She lingered to exchange a few kindly words with Sarah, and to look at the new tortoise-shell kitten basking on the kitchen hearth, and to speak to the canary-bird, which a sudden blaze from the fire had startled on its perch; and then she betook herself to the parlour.
The gentle salutation, the friendly welcome, were interchanged in such tranquil sort as befitted cousins meeting; a sense of pleasure, subtle and quiet as a perfume, diffused itself through the room; the newly-kindled lamp burnt up bright; the tray and the singing urn were brought in.
"I am pleased to come home," repeated Mr. Moore.
They assembled round the table. Hortense chiefly talked. She congratulated Caroline on the evident improvement in her health. Her colour and her plump cheeks were returning, she remarked. It was true. There was an obvious change in Miss Helstone. All about her seemed elastic; depression, fear, forlornness, were withdrawn. No longer crushed, and saddened, and slow, and drooping, she looked like one who had tasted the cordial of heart's ease, and been lifted on the wing of hope.
After tea Hortense went upstairs. She had not rummaged her drawers for a month past, and the impulse to perform that operation was now become resistless. During her absence the talk passed into Caroline's hands. She took it up with ease; she fell into her best tone of conversation. A pleasing facility and elegance of language gave fresh charm to familiar topics; a new music in the always soft voice gently surprised and pleasingly captivated the listener; unwonted shades and lights of expression elevated the young countenance with character, and kindled it with animation.
"Caroline, you look as if you had heard good tidings," said Moore, after earnestly gazing at her for some minutes.
"I sent for you this evening that I might be cheered; but you cheer me more than I had calculated."
"I am glad of that. And I really cheer you?"
"You look brightly, move buoyantly, speak musically."
"It is pleasant to be here again."
"Truly it is pleasant; I feel it so. And to see health on your cheek and hope in your eye is pleasant, Cary; but what is this hope, and what is the source of this sunshine I perceive about you?"
"For one thing, I am happy in mamma. I love her so much, and she loves me. Long and tenderly she nursed me. Now, when her care has made me well, I can occupy myself for and with her all the day. I say it is my turn to attend to her; and I do attend to her. I am her waiting-woman as well as her child. I like—you would laugh if you knew what pleasure I have in making dresses and sewing for her. She looks so nice now, Robert; I will not let her be old-fashioned. And then, she is charming to talk to—full of wisdom, ripe in judgment, rich in information, exhaustless in stores her observant faculties have quietly amassed. Every day that I live with her I like her better, I esteem her more highly, I love her more tenderly."
"That for one thing, then, Cary. You talk in such a way about 'mamma' it is enough to make one jealous of the old lady."
"She is not old, Robert."
"Of the young lady, then."
"She does not pretend to be young."
"Well, of the matron. But you said 'mamma's' affection was one thing that made you happy; now for the other thing."
"I am glad you are better."
"I am glad we are friends."
"You and I?"
"Yes. I once thought we never should be."
"Cary, some day I mean to tell you a thing about myself that is not to my credit, and consequently will not please you."
"Ah, don't! I cannot bear to think ill of you."
"And I cannot bear that you should think better of me than I deserve."
"Well, but I half know your 'thing;' indeed, I believe I know all about it."
"You do not."
"I believe I do."
"Whom does it concern besides me?"
She coloured; she hesitated; she was silent.
"Speak, Cary! Whom does it concern?"
She tried to utter a name, and could not.
"Tell me; there is none present but ourselves. Be frank."
"But if I guess wrong?"
"I will forgive. Whisper, Cary."
He bent his ear to her lips. Still she would not, or could not, speak clearly to the point. Seeing that Moore waited and was resolved to hear something, she at last said, "Miss Keeldar spent a day at the rectory about a week since. The evening came on very wintry, and we persuaded her to stay all night."
"And you and she curled your hair together?"
"How do you know that?"
"And then you chattered, and she told you——"
"It was not at curling-hair time, so you are not as wise as you think; and, besides, she didn't tell me."
"You slept together afterwards?"
"We occupied the same room and bed. We did not sleep much; we talked the whole night through."
"I'll be sworn you did! And then it all came out—tant pis. I would rather you had heard it from myself."
"You are quite wrong. She did not tell me what you suspect—she is not the person to proclaim such things; but yet I inferred something from parts of her discourse. I gathered more from rumour, and I made out the rest by instinct."
"But if she did not tell you that I wanted to marry her for the sake of her money, and that she refused me indignantly and scornfully (you need neither start nor blush; nor yet need you prick your trembling fingers with your needle. That is the plain truth, whether you like it or not)—if such was not the subject of her august confidences, on what point did they turn? You say you talked the whole night through; what about?"
"About things we never thoroughly discussed before, intimate friends as we have been; but you hardly expect I should tell you?"
"Yes, yes, Cary; you will tell me. You said we were friends, and friends should always confide in each other."
"But you are sure you won't repeat it?"
"Not to Louis?"
"Not even to Louis. What does Louis care for young ladies' secrets?"
"Robert, Shirley is a curious, magnanimous being."
"I dare say. I can imagine there are both odd points and grand points about her."
"I have found her chary in showing her feelings; but when they rush out, river-like, and pass full and powerful before you—almost without leave from her—you gaze, wonder; you admire, and—I think—love her."
"You saw this spectacle?"
"Yes; at dead of night, when all the house was silent, and starlight and the cold reflection from the snow glimmered in our chamber, then I saw Shirley's heart."
"Her heart's core? Do you think she showed you that?"
"Her heart's core."
"And how was it?"
"Like a shrine, for it was holy; like snow, for it was pure; like flame, for it was warm; like death, for it was strong."
"Can she love? tell me that."
"What think you?"
"She has loved none that have loved her yet."
"Who are those that have loved her?"
He named a list of gentlemen, closing with Sir Philip Nunnely.
"She has loved none of these."
"Yet some of them were worthy of a woman's affection."
"Of some women's, but not of Shirley's."
"Is she better than others of her sex?"
"She is peculiar, and more dangerous to take as a wife—rashly."
"I can imagine that."
"She spoke of you——"
"Oh, she did! I thought you denied it."
"She did not speak in the way you fancy; but I asked her, and I would make her tell me what she thought of you, or rather how she felt towards you. I wanted to know; I had long wanted to know."
"So had I; but let us hear. She thinks meanly, she feels contemptuously, doubtless?"
"She thinks of you almost as highly as a woman can think of a man. You know she can be eloquent. I yet feel in fancy the glow of the language in which her opinion was conveyed."
"But how does she feel?"
"Till you shocked her (she said you had shocked her, but she would not tell me how) she felt as a sister feels towards a brother of whom she is at once fond and proud."
"I'll shock her no more, Cary, for the shock rebounded on myself till I staggered again. But that comparison about sister and brother is all nonsense. She is too rich and proud to entertain fraternal sentiments for me."
"You don't know her, Robert; and, somehow, I fancy now (I had other ideas formerly) that you cannot know her. You and she are not so constructed as to be able thoroughly to understand each other."
"It may be so. I esteem her, I admire her; and yet my impressions concerning her are harsh—perhaps uncharitable. I believe, for instance, that she is incapable of love——"
"Shirley incapable of love!"
"That she will never marry. I imagine her jealous of compromising her pride, of relinquishing her power, of sharing her property."
"Shirley has hurt your amour propre."
"She did hurt it; though I had not an emotion of tenderness, nor a spark of passion for her."
"Then, Robert, it was very wicked in you to want to marry her."
"And very mean, my little pastor, my pretty priestess. I never wanted to kiss Miss Keeldar in my life, though she has fine lips, scarlet and round as ripe cherries; or, if I did wish it, it was the mere desire of the eye."
"I doubt, now, whether you are speaking the truth. The grapes or the cherries are sour—'hung too high.'"
"She has a pretty figure, a pretty face, beautiful hair. I acknowledge all her charms and feel none of them, or only feel them in a way she would disdain. I suppose I was truly tempted by the mere gilding of the bait. Caroline, what a noble fellow your Robert is—great, good, disinterested, and then so pure!"
"But not perfect. He made a great blunder once, and we will hear no more about it."
"And shall we think no more about it, Cary? Shall we not despise him in our heart—gentle but just, compassionate but upright?"
"Never! We will remember that with what measure we mete it shall be measured unto us, and so we will give no scorn, only affection."
"Which won't satisfy, I warn you of that. Something besides affection—something far stronger, sweeter, warmer—will be demanded one day. Is it there to give?"
Caroline was moved, much moved.
"Be calm, Lina," said Moore soothingly. "I have no intention, because I have no right, to perturb your mind now, nor for months to come. Don't look as if you would leave me. We will make no more agitating allusions; we will resume our gossip. Do not tremble; look me in the face. See what a poor, pale, grim phantom I am—more pitiable than formidable."
She looked shyly. "There is something formidable still, pale as you are," she said, as her eye fell under his.
"To return to Shirley," pursued Moore: "is it your opinion that she is ever likely to marry?"
"She loves what I call sincerely."
"Did she say so?"
"I cannot affirm that she said so. No such confession as 'I love this man or that' passed her lips."
"I thought not."
"But the feeling made its way in spite of her, and I saw it. She spoke of one man in a strain not to be misunderstood. Her voice alone was sufficient testimony. Having wrung from her an opinion on your character, I demanded a second opinion of—another person about whom I had my conjectures, though they were the most tangled and puzzled conjectures in the world. I would make her speak. I shook her, I chid her, I pinched her fingers when she tried to put me off with gibes and jests in her queer provoking way, and at last out it came. The voice, I say, was enough; hardly raised above a whisper, and yet such a soft vehemence in its tones. There was no confession, no confidence, in the matter. To these things she cannot condescend; but I am sure that man's happiness is dear to her as her own life."
"Who is it?"
"I charged her with the fact. She did not deny, she did not avow, but looked at me. I saw her eyes by the snow-gleam. It was quite enough. I triumphed over her mercilessly."
"What right had you to triumph? Do you mean to say you are fancy free?"
"Whatever I am, Shirley is a bondswoman. Lioness, she has found her captor. Mistress she may be of all round her, but her own mistress she is not."
"So you exulted at recognizing a fellow-slave in one so fair and imperial?"
"I did; Robert, you say right, in one so fair and imperial."
"You confess it—a fellow-slave?"
"I confess nothing; but I say that haughty Shirley is no more free than was Hagar."
"And who, pray, is the Abraham, the hero of a patriarch who has achieved such a conquest?"
"You still speak scornfully, and cynically, and sorely; but I will make you change your note before I have done with you."
"We will see that. Can she marry this Cupidon?"
"Cupidon! he is just about as much a Cupidon as you are a Cyclops."
"Can she marry him?"
"You will see."
"I want to know his name, Cary."
"Is it any one in this neighbourhood?"
"Yes, in Briarfield parish."
"Then it is some person unworthy of her. I don't know a soul in Briarfield parish her equal."
"Impossible. I suppose she is under a delusion, and will plunge into some absurdity, after all."
"Do you approve the choice?" asked Moore.
"Then I am puzzled; for the head which owns this bounteous fall of hazel curls is an excellent little thinking machine, most accurate in its working. It boasts a correct, steady judgment, inherited from 'mamma,' I suppose."
"And I quite approve, and mamma was charmed."
"'Mamma' charmed—Mrs. Pryor! It can't be romantic, then?"
"It is romantic, but it is also right."
"Tell me, Cary—tell me out of pity; I am too weak to be tantalized."
"You shall be tantalized—it will do you no harm; you are not so weak as you pretend."
"I have twice this evening had some thoughts of falling on the floor at your feet."
"You had better not. I shall decline to help you up."
"And worshipping you downright. My mother was a Roman Catholic. You look like the loveliest of her pictures of the Virgin. I think I will embrace her faith and kneel and adore."
"Robert, Robert, sit still; don't be absurd. I will go to Hortense if you commit extravagances."
"You have stolen my senses. Just now nothing will come into my mind but les litanies de la sainte Vierge. Rose celeste, reine des anges!"
"Tour d'ivoire, maison d'or—is not that the jargon? Well, sit down quietly, and guess your riddle."
"But 'mamma' charmed—there's the puzzle."
"I'll tell you what mamma said when I told her. 'Depend upon it, my dear, such a choice will make the happiness of Miss Keeldar's life.'"
"I'll guess once, and no more. It is old Helstone. She is going to be your aunt."
"I'll tell my uncle; I'll tell Shirley!" cried Caroline, laughing gleefully. "Guess again, Robert; your blunders are charming."
"It is the parson—Hall."
"Indeed, no; he is mine, if you please."
"Yours! Ay, the whole generation of women in Briarfield seem to have made an idol of that priest. I wonder why; he is bald, sand-blind, gray-haired."
"Fanny will be here to fetch me before you have solved the riddle, if you don't make haste."
"I'll guess no more—I am tired; and then I don't care. Miss Keeldar may marry le grand Turc for me."
"Must I whisper?"
"That you must, and quickly. Here comes Hortense; come near, a little nearer, my own Lina. I care for the whisper more than the words."
She whispered. Robert gave a start, a flash of the eye, a brief laugh. Miss Moore entered, and Sarah followed behind, with information that Fanny was come. The hour of converse was over.
Robert found a moment to exchange a few more whispered sentences. He was waiting at the foot of the staircase as Caroline descended after putting on her shawl.
"Must I call Shirley a noble creature now?" he asked.
"If you wish to speak the truth, certainly."
"Must I forgive her?"
"Forgive her? Naughty Robert! Was she in the wrong, or were you?"
"Must I at length love her downright, Cary?"
Caroline looked keenly up, and made a movement towards him, something between the loving and the petulant.
"Only give the word, and I'll try to obey you."
"Indeed, you must not love her; the bare idea is perverse."
"But then she is handsome, peculiarly handsome. Hers is a beauty that grows on you. You think her but graceful when you first see her; you discover her to be beautiful when you have known her for a year."
"It is not you who are to say these things. Now, Robert, be good."
"O Cary, I have no love to give. Were the goddess of beauty to woo me, I could not meet her advances. There is no heart which I can call mine in this breast."
"So much the better; you are a great deal safer without. Good-night."
"Why must you always go, Lina, at the very instant when I most want you to stay?"
"Because you most wish to retain when you are most certain to lose."
"Listen; one other word. Take care of your own heart—do you hear me?"
"There is no danger."
"I am not convinced of that. The Platonic parson, for instance."
"Cyril Hall. I owe more than one twinge of jealousy to that quarter."
"As to you, you have been flirting with Miss Mann. She showed me the other day a plant you had given her.—Fanny, I am ready."
WRITTEN IN THE SCHOOLROOM.
Louis Moore's doubts respecting the immediate evacuation of Fieldhead by Mr. Sympson turned out to be perfectly well founded. The very next day after the grand quarrel about Sir Philip Nunnely a sort of reconciliation was patched up between uncle and niece. Shirley, who could never find it in her heart to be or to seem inhospitable (except in the single instance of Mr. Donne), begged the whole party to stay a little longer. She begged in such earnest it was evident she wished it for some reason. They took her at her word. Indeed, the uncle could not bring himself to leave her quite unwatched—at full liberty to marry Robert Moore as soon as that gentleman should be able (Mr. Sympson piously prayed this might never be the case) to reassert his supposed pretensions to her hand. They all stayed.
In his first rage against all the house of Moore, Mr. Sympson had so conducted himself towards Mr. Louis that that gentleman—patient of labour or suffering, but intolerant of coarse insolence—had promptly resigned his post, and could now be induced to resume and retain it only till such time as the family should quit Yorkshire. Mrs. Sympson's entreaties prevailed with him thus far; his own attachment to his pupil constituted an additional motive for concession; and probably he had a third motive, stronger than either of the other two. Probably he would have found it very hard indeed to leave Fieldhead just now.
Things went on for some time pretty smoothly. Miss Keeldar's health was re-established; her spirits resumed their flow. Moore had found means to relieve her from every nervous apprehension; and, indeed, from the moment of giving him her confidence, every fear seemed to have taken wing. Her heart became as lightsome, her manner as careless, as those of a little child, that, thoughtless of its own life or death, trusts all responsibility to its parents. He and William Farren—through whose medium he made inquiries concerning the state of Phoebe—agreed in asserting that the dog was not mad, that it was only ill-usage which had driven her from home; for it was proved that her master was in the frequent habit of chastising her violently. Their assertion might or might not be true. The groom and gamekeeper affirmed to the contrary—both asserting that, if hers was not a clear case of hydrophobia, there was no such disease. But to this evidence Louis Moore turned an incredulous ear. He reported to Shirley only what was encouraging. She believed him; and, right or wrong, it is certain that in her case the bite proved innocuous.
November passed; December came. The Sympsons were now really departing. It was incumbent on them to be at home by Christmas. Their packages were preparing; they were to leave in a few days. One winter evening, during the last week of their stay, Louis Moore again took out his little blank book, and discoursed with it as follows:—
* * * * *
"She is lovelier than ever. Since that little cloud was dispelled all the temporary waste and wanness have vanished. It was marvellous to see how soon the magical energy of youth raised her elastic and revived her blooming.
"After breakfast this morning, when I had seen her, and listened to her, and, so to speak, felt her, in every sentient atom of my frame, I passed from her sunny presence into the chill drawing-room. Taking up a little gilt volume, I found it to contain a selection of lyrics. I read a poem or two; whether the spell was in me or in the verse I know not, but my heart filled genially, my pulse rose. I glowed, notwithstanding the frost air. I, too, am young as yet. Though she said she never considered me young, I am barely thirty. There are moments when life, for no other reason than my own youth, beams with sweet hues upon me.
"It was time to go to the schoolroom. I went. That same schoolroom is rather pleasant in a morning. The sun then shines through the low lattice; the books are in order; there are no papers strewn about; the fire is clear and clean; no cinders have fallen, no ashes accumulated. I found Henry there, and he had brought with him Miss Keeldar. They were together.
"I said she was lovelier than ever. She is. A fine rose, not deep but delicate, opens on her cheek. Her eye, always dark, clear, and speaking, utters now a language I cannot render; it is the utterance, seen not heard, through which angels must have communed when there was 'silence in heaven.' Her hair was always dusk as night and fine as silk, her neck was always fair, flexible, polished; but both have now a new charm. The tresses are soft as shadow, the shoulders they fall on wear a goddess grace. Once I only saw her beauty, now I feel it.
"Henry was repeating his lesson to her before bringing it to me. One of her hands was occupied with the book; he held the other. That boy gets more than his share of privileges; he dares caress and is caressed. What indulgence and compassion she shows him! Too much. If this went on, Henry in a few years, when his soul was formed, would offer it on her altar, as I have offered mine.
"I saw her eyelid flitter when I came in, but she did not look up; now she hardly ever gives me a glance. She seems to grow silent too; to me she rarely speaks, and when I am present, she says little to others. In my gloomy moments I attribute this change to indifference, aversion, what not? In my sunny intervals I give it another meaning. I say, were I her equal, I could find in this shyness coyness, and in that coyness love. As it is, dare I look for it? What could I do with it if found?
"This morning I dared at least contrive an hour's communion for her and me; I dared not only wish but will an interview with her. I dared summon solitude to guard us. Very decidedly I called Henry to the door. Without hesitation I said, 'Go where you will, my boy; but, till I call you, return not here.'
"Henry, I could see, did not like his dismissal. That boy is young, but a thinker; his meditative eye shines on me strangely sometimes. He half feels what links me to Shirley; he half guesses that there is a dearer delight in the reserve with which I am treated than in all the endearments he is allowed. The young, lame, half-grown lion would growl at me now and then, because I have tamed his lioness and am her keeper, did not the habit of discipline and the instinct of affection hold him subdued. Go, Henry; you must learn to take your share of the bitter of life with all of Adam's race that have gone before or will come after you. Your destiny can be no exception to the common lot; be grateful that your love is overlooked thus early, before it can claim any affinity to passion. An hour's fret, a pang of envy, suffice to express what you feel. Jealousy hot as the sun above the line, rage destructive as the tropic storm, the clime of your sensations ignores—as yet.
"I took my usual seat at the desk, quite in my usual way. I am blessed in that power to cover all inward ebullition with outward calm. No one who looks at my slow face can guess the vortex sometimes whirling in my heart, and engulfing thought and wrecking prudence. Pleasant is it to have the gift to proceed peacefully and powerfully in your course without alarming by one eccentric movement. It was not my present intention to utter one word of love to her, or to reveal one glimpse of the fire in which I wasted. Presumptuous I never have been; presumptuous I never will be. Rather than even seem selfish and interested, I would resolutely rise, gird my loins, part and leave her, and seek, on the other side of the globe, a new life, cold and barren as the rock the salt tide daily washes. My design this morning was to take of her a near scrutiny—to read a line in the page of her heart. Before I left I determined to know what I was leaving.
"I had some quills to make into pens. Most men's hands would have trembled when their hearts were so stirred; mine went to work steadily, and my voice, when I called it into exercise, was firm.
"'This day week you will be alone at Fieldhead, Miss Keeldar.'
"'Yes: I rather think my uncle's intention to go is a settled one now.'
"'He leaves you dissatisfied.'
"'He is not pleased with me.'
"'He departs as he came—no better for his journey. This is mortifying.'
"'I trust the failure of his plans will take from him all inclination to lay new ones.'
"'In his way Mr. Sympson honestly wished you well. All he has done or intended to do he believed to be for the best.'
"'You are kind to undertake the defence of a man who has permitted himself to treat you with so much insolence.'
"'I never feel shocked at, or bear malice for, what is spoken in character; and most perfectly in character was that vulgar and violent onset against me, when he had quitted you worsted.'
"'You cease now to be Henry's tutor?'
"'I shall be parted from Henry for a while (if he and I live we shall meet again somehow, for we love each other) and be ousted from the bosom of the Sympson family for ever. Happily this change does not leave me stranded; it but hurries into premature execution designs long formed.'
"'No change finds you off your guard. I was sure, in your calm way, you would be prepared for sudden mutation. I always think you stand in the world like a solitary but watchful, thoughtful archer in a wood. And the quiver on your shoulder holds more arrows than one; your bow is provided with a second string. Such too is your brother's wont. You two might go forth homeless hunters to the loneliest western wilds; all would be well with you. The hewn tree would make you a hut, the cleared forest yield you fields from its stripped bosom, the buffalo would feel your rifle-shot, and with lowered horns and hump pay homage at your feet.'
"'And any Indian tribe of Blackfeet or Flatheads would afford us a bride, perhaps?'
"'No' (hesitating), 'I think not. The savage is sordid. I think—that is, I hope—you would neither of you share your hearth with that to which you could not give your heart.'
"'What suggested the wild West to your mind, Miss Keeldar? Have you been with me in spirit when I did not see you? Have you entered into my day-dreams, and beheld my brain labouring at its scheme of a future?'
"She had separated a slip of paper for lighting tapers—a spill, as it is called—into fragments. She threw morsel by morsel into the fire, and stood pensively watching them consume. She did not speak.
"'How did you learn what you seem to know about my intentions?'
"'I know nothing. I am only discovering them now. I spoke at hazard.'
"'Your hazard sounds like divination. A tutor I will never be again; never take a pupil after Henry and yourself; not again will I sit habitually at another man's table—no more be the appendage of a family. I am now a man of thirty; I have never been free since I was a boy of ten. I have such a thirst for freedom, such a deep passion to know her and call her mine, such a day-desire and night-longing to win her and possess her, I will not refuse to cross the Atlantic for her sake; her I will follow deep into virgin woods. Mine it shall not be to accept a savage girl as a slave—she could not be a wife. I know no white woman whom I love that would accompany me; but I am certain Liberty will await me, sitting under a pine. When I call her she will come to my loghouse, and she shall fill my arms.'
"She could not hear me speak so unmoved, and she was moved. It was right—I meant to move her. She could not answer me, nor could she look at me. I should have been sorry if she could have done either. Her cheek glowed as if a crimson flower through whose petals the sun shone had cast its light upon it. On the white lid and dark lashes of her downcast eye trembled all that is graceful in the sense of half-painful, half-pleasing shame.
"Soon she controlled her emotion, and took all her feelings under command. I saw she had felt insurrection, and was waking to empire. She sat down. There was that in her face which I could read. It said, I see the line which is my limit; nothing shall make me pass it. I feel—I know how far I may reveal my feelings, and when I must clasp the volume. I have advanced to a certain distance, as far as the true and sovereign and undegraded nature of my kind permits; now here I stand rooted. My heart may break if it is baffled; let it break. It shall never dishonour me; it shall never dishonour my sisterhood in me. Suffering before degradation! death before treachery!
"I, for my part, said, 'If she were poor, I would be at her feet; if she were lowly, I would take her in my arms. Her gold and her station are two griffins that guard her on each side. Love looks and longs, and dares not; Passion hovers round, and is kept at bay; Truth and Devotion are scared. There is nothing to lose in winning her, no sacrifice to make. It is all clear gain, and therefore unimaginably difficult.'
"Difficult or not, something must be done, something must be said. I could not, and would not, sit silent with all that beauty modestly mute in my presence. I spoke thus, and still I spoke with calm. Quiet as my words were, I could hear they fell in a tone distinct, round, and deep.
"'Still, I know I shall be strangely placed with that mountain nymph Liberty. She is, I suspect, akin to that Solitude which I once wooed, and from which I now seek a divorce. These Oreads are peculiar. They come upon you with an unearthly charm, like some starlight evening; they inspire a wild but not warm delight; their beauty is the beauty of spirits; their grace is not the grace of life, but of seasons or scenes in nature. Theirs is the dewy bloom of morning, the languid flush of evening, the peace of the moon, the changefulness of clouds. I want and will have something different. This elfish splendour looks chill to my vision, and feels frozen to my touch. I am not a poet; I cannot live with abstractions. You, Miss Keeldar, have sometimes, in your laughing satire, called me a material philosopher, and implied that I live sufficiently for the substantial. Certainly I feel material from head to foot; and glorious as Nature is, and deeply as I worship her with the solid powers of a solid heart, I would rather behold her through the soft human eyes of a loved and lovely wife than through the wild orbs of the highest goddess of Olympus.'
"'Juno could not cook a buffalo steak as you like it,' said she.
"'She could not; but I will tell you who could—some young, penniless, friendless orphan girl. I wish I could find such a one—pretty enough for me to love, with something of the mind and heart suited to my taste; not uneducated—honest and modest. I care nothing for attainments, but I would fain have the germ of those sweet natural powers which nothing acquired can rival; any temper Fate wills—I can manage the hottest. To such a creature as this I should like to be first tutor and then husband. I would teach her my language, my habits and my principles, and then I would reward her with my love.'
"'Reward her, lord of the creation—reward her!'" ejaculated she, with a curled lip.
"'And be repaid a thousandfold.'
"'If she willed it, monseigneur.'
"'And she should will it.'
"'You have stipulated for any temper Fate wills. Compulsion is flint and a blow to the metal of some souls.'
"'And love the spark it elicits.'
"'Who cares for the love that is but a spark—seen, flown upward, and gone?'
"'I must find my orphan girl. Tell me how, Miss Keeldar.'
"'Advertise; and be sure you add, when you describe the qualifications, she must be a good plain cook.'
"'I must find her; and when I do find her I shall marry her.'
"'Not you!' and her voice took a sudden accent of peculiar scorn.
"I liked this. I had roused her from the pensive mood in which I had first found her. I would stir her further.
"'Why doubt it?'
"'Yes, of course; nothing more evident than that I can and shall.'
"'The contrary is evident, Mr. Moore.'
"She charmed me in this mood—waxing disdainful, half insulting; pride, temper, derision, blent in her large fine eye, that had just now the look of a merlin's.
"'Favour me with your reasons for such an opinion, Miss Keeldar.'
"'How will you manage to marry, I wonder?'
"'I shall manage it with ease and speed when I find the proper person.'
"'Accept celibacy!' (and she made a gesture with her hand as if she gave me something) 'take it as your doom!'
"'No; you cannot give what I already have. Celibacy has been mine for thirty years. If you wish to offer me a gift, a parting present, a keepsake, you must change the boon.'
"'Take worse, then!'
"I now felt, and looked, and spoke eagerly. I was unwise to quit my sheet-anchor of calm even for an instant; it deprived me of an advantage and transferred it to her. The little spark of temper dissolved in sarcasm, and eddied over her countenance in the ripples of a mocking smile.
"'Take a wife that has paid you court to save your modesty, and thrust herself upon you to spare your scruples.'
"'Only show me where.'
"'Any stout widow that has had a few husbands already, and can manage these things.'
"'She must not be rich, then. Oh these riches!'
"'Never would you have gathered the produce of the gold-bearing garden. You have not courage to confront the sleepless dragon; you have not craft to borrow the aid of Atlas.'
"'You look hot and haughty.'
"'And you far haughtier. Yours is the monstrous pride which counterfeits humility.'
"'I am a dependant; I know my place.'
"'I am a woman; I know mine.'
"'I am poor; I must be proud.'
"'I have received ordinances, and own obligations stringent as yours.'
"We had reached a critical point now, and we halted and looked at each other. She would not give in, I felt. Beyond this I neither felt nor saw. A few moments yet were mine. The end was coming—I heard its rush—but not come. I would dally, wait, talk, and when impulse urged I would act. I am never in a hurry; I never was in a hurry in my whole life. Hasty people drink the nectar of existence scalding hot; I taste it cool as dew. I proceeded: 'Apparently, Miss Keeldar, you are as little likely to marry as myself. I know you have refused three—nay, four—advantageous offers, and, I believe, a fifth. Have you rejected Sir Philip Nunnely?'
"I put this question suddenly and promptly.
"'Did you think I should take him?'
"'I thought you might.'
"'On what grounds, may I ask?'
"'Conformity of rank, age, pleasing contrast of temper—for he is mild and amiable—harmony of intellectual tastes.'
"'A beautiful sentence! Let us take it to pieces. "Conformity of rank." He is quite above me. Compare my grange with his palace, if you please. I am disdained by his kith and kin. "Suitability of age." We were born in the same year; consequently he is still a boy, while I am a woman—ten years his senior to all intents and purposes. "Contrast of temper." Mild and amiable, is he; I—what? Tell me.'
"'Sister of the spotted, bright, quick, fiery leopard.'
"'And you would mate me with a kid—the millennium being yet millions of centuries from mankind; being yet, indeed, an archangel high in the seventh heaven, uncommissioned to descend? Unjust barbarian! "Harmony of intellectual tastes." He is fond of poetry, and I hate it——'
"'Do you? That is news.'
"'I absolutely shudder at the sight of metre or at the sound of rhyme whenever I am at the priory or Sir Philip at Fieldhead. Harmony, indeed! When did I whip up syllabub sonnets or string stanzas fragile as fragments of glass? and when did I betray a belief that those penny-beads were genuine brilliants?'
"'You might have the satisfaction of leading him to a higher standard, of improving his tastes.'
"'Leading and improving! teaching and tutoring! bearing and forbearing! Pah! my husband is not to be my baby. I am not to set him his daily lesson and see that he learns it, and give him a sugar-plum if he is good, and a patient, pensive, pathetic lecture if he is bad. But it is like a tutor to talk of the "satisfaction of teaching." I suppose you think it the finest employment in the world. I don't. I reject it. Improving a husband! No. I shall insist upon my husband improving me, or else we part.'
"'God knows it is needed!'
"'What do you mean by that, Mr. Moore?'
"'What I say. Improvement is imperatively needed.'
"'If you were a woman you would school monsieur, votre mari, charmingly. It would just suit you; schooling is your vocation.'
"'May I ask whether, in your present just and gentle mood, you mean to taunt me with being a tutor?'
"'Yes, bitterly; and with anything else you please—any defect of which you are painfully conscious.'
"'With being poor, for instance?'
"'Of course; that will sting you. You are sore about your poverty; you brood over that.'
"'With having nothing but a very plain person to offer the woman who may master my heart?'
"'Exactly. You have a habit of calling yourself plain. You are sensitive about the cut of your features because they are not quite on an Apollo pattern. You abase them more than is needful, in the faint hope that others may say a word in their behalf—which won't happen. Your face is nothing to boast of, certainly—not a pretty line nor a pretty tint to be found therein.'
"'Compare it with your own.'
"'It looks like a god of Egypt—a great sand-buried stone head; or rather I will compare it to nothing so lofty. It looks like Tartar. You are my mastiff's cousin. I think you as much like him as a man can be like a dog.'
"'Tartar is your dear companion. In summer, when you rise early, and run out into the fields to wet your feet with the dew, and freshen your cheek and uncurl your hair with the breeze, you always call him to follow you. You call him sometimes with a whistle that you learned from me. In the solitude of your wood, when you think nobody but Tartar is listening, you whistle the very tunes you imitated from my lips, or sing the very songs you have caught up by ear from my voice. I do not ask whence flows the feeling which you pour into these songs, for I know it flows out of your heart, Miss Keeldar. In the winter evenings Tartar lies at your feet. You suffer him to rest his head on your perfumed lap; you let him couch on the borders of your satin raiment. His rough hide is familiar with the contact of your hand. I once saw you kiss him on that snow-white beauty spot which stars his broad forehead. It is dangerous to say I am like Tartar; it suggests to me a claim to be treated like Tartar.'
"'Perhaps, sir, you can extort as much from your penniless and friendless young orphan girl, when you find her.'
"'Oh could I find her such as I image her! Something to tame first, and teach afterwards; to break in, and then to fondle. To lift the destitute proud thing out of poverty; to establish power over and then to be indulgent to the capricious moods that never were influenced and never indulged before; to see her alternately irritated and subdued about twelve times in the twenty-four hours; and perhaps, eventually, when her training was accomplished, to behold her the exemplary and patient mother of about a dozen children, only now and then lending little Louis a cordial cuff by way of paying the interest of the vast debt she owes his father. Oh' (I went on), 'my orphan girl would give me many a kiss; she would watch on the threshold for my coming home of an evening; she would run into my arms; she would keep my hearth as bright as she would make it warm. God bless the sweet idea! Find her I must.'
"Her eyes emitted an eager flash, her lips opened; but she reclosed them, and impetuously turned away.
"'Tell me, tell me where she is, Miss Keeldar!'
"Another movement, all haughtiness and fire and impulse.
"'I must know. You can tell me; you shall tell me.'
"'I never will.'
"She turned to leave me. Could I now let her part as she had always parted from me? No. I had gone too far not to finish; I had come too near the end not to drive home to it. All the encumbrance of doubt, all the rubbish of indecision, must be removed at once, and the plain truth must be ascertained. She must take her part, and tell me what it was; I must take mine and adhere to it.
"'A minute, madam,' I said, keeping my hand on the door-handle before I opened it. 'We have had a long conversation this morning, but the last word has not been spoken yet. It is yours to speak it.'
"'May I pass?'
"'No; I guard the door. I would almost rather die than let you leave me just now, without speaking the word I demand.'
"'What dare you expect me to say?'
"'What I am dying and perishing to hear; what I must and will hear; what you dare not now suppress.'
"'Mr. Moore, I hardly know what you mean. You are not like yourself.'
"I suppose I hardly was like my usual self, for I scared her—that I could see. It was right: she must be scared to be won.
"'You do know what I mean, and for the first time I stand before you myself. I have flung off the tutor, and beg to introduce you to the man. And remember, he is a gentleman.'
"She trembled. She put her hand to mine as if to remove it from the lock. She might as well have tried to loosen, by her soft touch, metal welded to metal. She felt she was powerless, and receded; and again she trembled.
"What change I underwent I cannot explain, but out of her emotion passed into me a new spirit. I neither was crushed nor elated by her lands and gold; I thought not of them, cared not for them. They were nothing—dross that could not dismay me. I saw only herself—her young beautiful form, the grace, the majesty, the modesty of her girlhood.
"'My pupil,' I said.
"'My master,' was the low answer.
"'I have a thing to tell you.'
"She waited with declined brow and ringlets drooped.
"'I have to tell you that for four years you have been growing into your tutor's heart, and that you are rooted there now. I have to declare that you have bewitched me, in spite of sense, and experience, and difference of station and estate. You have so looked, and spoken, and moved; so shown me your faults and your virtues—beauties rather, they are hardly so stern as virtues—that I love you—love you with my life and strength. It is out now.'
"She sought what to say, but could not find a word. She tried to rally, but vainly. I passionately repeated that I loved her.
"'Well, Mr. Moore, what then?' was the answer I got, uttered in a tone that would have been petulant if it had not faltered.
"'Have you nothing to say to me? Have you no love for me?'
"'A little bit.'
"'I am not to be tortured. I will not even play at present.'
"'I don't want to play; I want to go.'
"'I wonder you dare speak of going at this moment. You go! What! with my heart in your hand, to lay it on your toilet and pierce it with your pins? From my presence you do not stir, out of my reach you do not stray, till I receive a hostage—pledge for pledge—your heart for mine.'
"'The thing you want is mislaid—lost some time since. Let me go and seek it.'
"'Declare that it is where your keys often are—in my possession.'
"'You ought to know. And where are my keys, Mr. Moore? Indeed and truly I have lost them again; and Mrs. Gill wants some money, and I have none, except this sixpence.'
"She took the coin out of her apron pocket, and showed it in her palm. I could have trifled with her, but it would not do; life and death were at stake. Mastering at once the sixpence and the hand that held it, I demanded, 'Am I to die without you, or am I to live for you?'
"'Do as you please. Far be it from me to dictate your choice.'
"'You shall tell me with your own lips whether you doom me to exile or call me to hope.'
"'Go; I can bear to be left.'
"'Perhaps I too can bear to leave you. But reply, Shirley, my pupil, my sovereign—reply.'
"'Die without me if you will; live for me if you dare.'
"'I am not afraid of you, my leopardess. I dare live for and with you, from this hour till my death. Now, then, I have you. You are mine. I will never let you go. Wherever my home be, I have chosen my wife. If I stay in England, in England you will stay; if I cross the Atlantic, you will cross it also. Our lives are riveted, our lots intertwined.'
"'And are we equal, then, sir? are we equal at last?'
"'You are younger, frailer, feebler, more ignorant than I.'
"'Will you be good to me, and never tyrannize?'
"'Will you let me breathe, and not bewilder me? You must not smile at present. The world swims and changes round me. The sun is a dizzying scarlet blaze, the sky a violet vortex whirling over me.'
"I am a strong man, but I staggered as I spoke. All creation was exaggerated. Colour grew more vivid, motion more rapid, life itself more vital. I hardly saw her for a moment, but I heard her voice—pitilessly sweet. She would not subdue one of her charms in compassion. Perhaps she did not know what I felt.
"'You name me leopardess. Remember, the leopardess is tameless,' said she.
"'Tame or fierce, wild or subdued, you are mine.'
"'I am glad I know my keeper and am used to him. Only his voice will I follow; only his hand shall manage me; only at his feet will I repose.'
"I took her back to her seat, and sat down by her side. I wanted to hear her speak again. I could never have enough of her voice and her words.
"'How much do you love me?' I asked.
"'Ah! you know. I will not gratify you—I will not flatter.'
"'I don't know half enough; my heart craves to be fed. If you knew how hungry and ferocious it is, you would hasten to stay it with a kind word or two.'
"'Poor Tartar!' said she, touching and patting my hand—'poor fellow, stalwart friend, Shirley's pet and favourite, lie down!'
"'But I will not lie down till I am fed with one sweet word.'
"And at last she gave it.
"'Dear Louis, be faithful to me; never leave me. I don't care for life unless I may pass it at your side.'
"She gave me a change; it was not her way to offer the same dish twice.
"'Sir,' she said, starting up, 'at your peril you ever again name such sordid things as money, or poverty, or inequality. It will be absolutely dangerous to torment me with these maddening scruples. I defy you to do it.'
"My face grew hot. I did once more wish I were not so poor or she were not so rich. She saw the transient misery; and then, indeed, she caressed me. Blent with torment, I experienced rapture.
"'Mr. Moore,' said she, looking up with a sweet, open, earnest countenance, 'teach me and help me to be good. I do not ask you to take off my shoulders all the cares and duties of property, but I ask you to share the burden, and to show me how to sustain my part well. Your judgment is well balanced, your heart is kind, your principles are sound. I know you are wise; I feel you are benevolent; I believe you are conscientious. Be my companion through life; be my guide where I am ignorant; be my master where I am faulty; be my friend always!'
"'So help me God, I will!'"
* * * * *
Yet again a passage from the blank book if you like, reader; if you don't like it, pass it over:—
"The Sympsons are gone, but not before discovery and explanation. My manner must have betrayed something, or my looks. I was quiet, but I forgot to be guarded sometimes. I stayed longer in the room than usual; I could not bear to be out of her presence; I returned to it, and basked in it, like Tartar in the sun. If she left the oak parlour, instinctively I rose and left it too. She chid me for this procedure more than once. I did it with a vague, blundering idea of getting a word with her in the hall or elsewhere. Yesterday towards dusk I had her to myself for five minutes by the hall fire. We stood side by side; she was railing at me, and I was enjoying the sound of her voice. The young ladies passed, and looked at us; we did not separate. Ere long they repassed, and again looked. Mrs. Sympson came; we did not move. Mr. Sympson opened the dining-room door. Shirley flashed him back full payment for his spying gaze. She curled her lip and tossed her tresses. The glance she gave was at once explanatory and defiant. It said: 'I like Mr. Moore's society, and I dare you to find fault with my taste.'
"I asked, 'Do you mean him to understand how matters are?'
"'I do,' said she; 'but I leave the development to chance. There will be a scene. I neither invite it nor fear it; only, you must be present, for I am inexpressibly tired of facing him solus. I don't like to see him in a rage. He then puts off all his fine proprieties and conventional disguises, and the real human being below is what you would call commun, plat, bas—vilain et un peu mechant. His ideas are not clean, Mr. Moore; they want scouring with soft soap and fuller's earth. I think, if he could add his imagination to the contents of Mrs. Gill's bucking-basket, and let her boil it in her copper, with rain-water and bleaching-powder (I hope you think me a tolerable laundress), it would do him incalculable good.'
"This morning, fancying I heard her descend somewhat early, I was down instantly. I had not been deceived. There she was, busy at work in the breakfast-parlour, of which the housemaid was completing the arrangement and dusting. She had risen betimes to finish some little keepsake she intended for Henry. I got only a cool reception, which I accepted till the girl was gone, taking my book to the window-seat very quietly. Even when we were alone I was slow to disturb her. To sit with her in sight was happiness, and the proper happiness, for early morning—serene, incomplete, but progressive. Had I been obtrusive, I knew I should have encountered rebuff. 'Not at home to suitors' was written on her brow. Therefore I read on, stole now and then a look, watched her countenance soften and open as she felt I respected her mood, and enjoyed the gentle content of the moment.
"The distance between us shrank, and the light hoar-frost thawed insensibly. Ere an hour elapsed I was at her side, watching her sew, gathering her sweet smiles and her merry words, which fell for me abundantly. We sat, as we had a right to sit, side by side; my arm rested on her chair; I was near enough to count the stitches of her work, and to discern the eye of her needle. The door suddenly opened.
"I believe, if I had just then started from her, she would have despised me. Thanks to the phlegm of my nature, I rarely start. When I am well-off, bien, comfortable, I am not soon stirred. Bien I was—tres bien—consequently immutable. No muscle moved. I hardly looked to the door.
"'Good-morning, uncle,' said she, addressing that personage, who paused on the threshold in a state of petrifaction.
"'Have you been long downstairs, Miss Keeldar, and alone with Mr. Moore?'
"'Yes, a very long time. We both came down early; it was scarcely light.'
"'The proceeding is improper——'
"'It was at first, I was rather cross, and not civil; but you will perceive that we are now friends.'
"'I perceive more than you would wish me to perceive.'
"'Hardly, sir,' said I; 'we have no disguises. Will you permit me to intimate that any further observations you have to make may as well be addressed to me? Henceforward I stand between Miss Keeldar and all annoyance.'
"'You! What have you to do with Miss Keeldar?'
"'To protect, watch over, serve her.'
"'You, sir—you, the tutor?'
"'Not one word of insult, sir,' interposed she; 'not one syllable of disrespect to Mr. Moore in this house.'
"'Do you take his part?'
"'His part? oh yes!'
"She turned to me with a sudden fond movement, which I met by circling her with my arm. She and I both rose.
"'Good Ged!' was the cry from the morning-gown standing quivering at the door. Ged, I think, must be the cognomen of Mr. Sympson's Lares. When hard pressed he always invokes this idol.
"'Come forward, uncle; you shall hear all.—Tell him all, Louis.'
"'I dare him to speak—the beggar! the knave! the specious hypocrite! the vile, insinuating, infamous menial!—Stand apart from my niece, sir. Let her go!'
"She clung to me with energy. 'I am near my future husband,' she said. 'Who dares touch him or me?'
"'Her husband!' He raised and spread his hands. He dropped into a seat.
"'A while ago you wanted much to know whom I meant to marry. My intention was then formed, but not mature for communication. Now it is ripe, sun-mellowed, perfect. Take the crimson peach—take Louis Moore!'
"'But' (savagely) 'you shall not have him; he shall not have you.'
"'I would die before I would have another. I would die if I might not have him.'
"He uttered words with which this page shall never be polluted.
"She turned white as death; she shook all over; she lost her strength. I laid her down on the sofa; just looked to ascertain that she had not fainted—of which, with a divine smile, she assured me. I kissed her; and then, if I were to perish, I cannot give a clear account of what happened in the course of the next five minutes. She has since—through tears, laughter, and trembling—told me that I turned terrible, and gave myself to the demon. She says I left her, made one bound across the room; that Mr. Sympson vanished through the door as if shot from a cannon. I also vanished, and she heard Mrs. Gill scream.
"Mrs. Gill was still screaming when I came to my senses. I was then in another apartment—the oak parlour, I think. I held Sympson before me crushed into a chair, and my hand was on his cravat. His eyes rolled in his head; I was strangling him, I think. The housekeeper stood wringing her hands, entreating me to desist. I desisted that moment, and felt at once as cool as stone. But I told Mrs. Gill to fetch the Red-House Inn chaise instantly, and informed Mr. Sympson he must depart from Fieldhead the instant it came. Though half frightened out of his wits, he declared he would not. Repeating the former order, I added a commission to fetch a constable. I said, 'You shall go, by fair means or foul.'
"He threatened prosecution; I cared for nothing. I had stood over him once before, not quite so fiercely as now, but full as austerely. It was one night when burglars attempted the house at Sympson Grove, and in his wretched cowardice he would have given a vain alarm, without daring to offer defence. I had then been obliged to protect his family and his abode by mastering himself—and I had succeeded. I now remained with him till the chaise came. I marshalled him to it, he scolding all the way. He was terribly bewildered, as well as enraged. He would have resisted me, but knew not how. He called for his wife and daughters to come. I said they should follow him as soon as they could prepare. The smoke, the fume, the fret of his demeanour was inexpressible, but it was a fury incapable of producing a deed. That man, properly handled, must ever remain impotent. I know he will never touch me with the law. I know his wife, over whom he tyrannizes in trifles, guides him in matters of importance. I have long since earned her undying mother's gratitude by my devotion to her boy. In some of Henry's ailments I have nursed him—better, she said, than any woman could nurse. She will never forget that. She and her daughters quitted me to-day, in mute wrath and consternation; but she respects me. When Henry clung to my neck as I lifted him into the carriage and placed him by her side, when I arranged her own wrapping to make her warm, though she turned her head from me, I saw the tears start to her eyes. She will but the more zealously advocate my cause because she has left me in anger. I am glad of this—not for my own sake, but for that of my life and idol—my Shirley."
Once again he writes, a week after:—"I am now at Stilbro'. I have taken up my temporary abode with a friend—a professional man, in whose business I can be useful. Every day I ride over to Fieldhead. How long will it be before I can call that place my home, and its mistress mine? I am not easy, not tranquil; I am tantalized, sometimes tortured. To see her now, one would think she had never pressed her cheek to my shoulder, or clung to me with tenderness or trust. I feel unsafe; she renders me miserable. I am shunned when I visit her; she withdraws from my reach. Once this day I lifted her face, resolved to get a full look down her deep, dark eyes. Difficult to describe what I read there! Pantheress! beautiful forest-born! wily, tameless, peerless nature! She gnaws her chain; I see the white teeth working at the steel! She has dreams of her wild woods and pinings after virgin freedom. I wish Sympson would come again, and oblige her again to entwine her arms about me. I wish there was danger she should lose me, as there is risk I shall lose her. No; final loss I do not fear, but long delay——
"It is now night—midnight. I have spent the afternoon and evening at Fieldhead. Some hours ago she passed me, coming down the oak staircase to the hall. She did not know I was standing in the twilight, near the staircase window, looking at the frost-bright constellations. How closely she glided against the banisters! How shyly shone her large eyes upon me! How evanescent, fugitive, fitful she looked—slim and swift as a northern streamer!
"I followed her into the drawing-room. Mrs. Pryor and Caroline Helstone were both there; she has summoned them to bear her company awhile. In her white evening dress, with her long hair flowing full and wavy, with her noiseless step, her pale cheek, her eye full of night and lightning, she looked, I thought, spirit-like—a thing made of an element, the child of a breeze and a flame, the daughter of ray and raindrop—a thing never to be overtaken, arrested, fixed. I wished I could avoid following her with my gaze as she moved here and there, but it was impossible. I talked with the other ladies as well as I could, but still I looked at her. She was very silent; I think she never spoke to me—not even when she offered me tea. It happened that she was called out a minute by Mrs. Gill. I passed into the moonlit hall, with the design of getting a word as she returned; nor in this did I fail.
"'Miss Keeldar, stay one instant,' said I, meeting her.
"'Why? the hall is too cold.'
"'It is not cold for me; at my side it should not be cold for you.'
"'But I shiver.'
"'With fear, I believe. What makes you fear me? You are quiet and distant. Why?'
"'I may well fear what looks like a great dark goblin meeting me in the moonlight.'
"'Do not—do not pass! Stay with me awhile. Let us exchange a few quiet words. It is three days since I spoke to you alone. Such changes are cruel.'
"'I have no wish to be cruel,' she responded, softly enough. Indeed there was softness in her whole deportment—in her face, in her voice; but there was also reserve, and an air fleeting, evanishing, intangible.
"'You certainly give me pain,' said I. 'It is hardly a week since you called me your future husband and treated me as such. Now I am once more the tutor for you. I am addressed as Mr. Moore and sir. Your lips have forgotten Louis.'
"'No, Louis, no. It is an easy, liquid name—not soon forgotten.'
"'Be cordial to Louis, then; approach him—let him approach.'
"'I am cordial,' said she, hovering aloof like a white shadow.
"'Your voice is very sweet and very low,' I answered, quietly advancing. 'You seem subdued, but still startled.'
"'No—quite calm, and afraid of nothing,' she assured me.
"'Of nothing but your votary.'
"I bent a knee to the flags at her feet.
"'You see I am in a new world, Mr. Moore. I don't know myself; I don't know you. But rise. When you do so I feel troubled and disturbed.'
"I obeyed. It would not have suited me to retain that attitude long. I courted serenity and confidence for her, and not vainly. She trusted and clung to me again.
"'Now, Shirley,' I said, 'you can conceive I am far from happy in my present uncertain, unsettled state.'
"'Oh yes, you are happy!' she cried hastily. 'You don't know how happy you are. Any change will be for the worse.'
"'Happy or not, I cannot bear to go on so much longer. You are too generous to require it.'
"'Be reasonable, Louis; be patient! I like you because you are patient.'
"'Like me no longer, then; love me instead. Fix our marriage day; think of it to-night, and decide.'
"She breathed a murmur, inarticulate yet expressive; darted, or melted, from my arms—and I lost her."
Yes, reader, we must settle accounts now. I have only briefly to narrate the final fates of some of the personages whose acquaintance we have made in this narrative, and then you and I must shake hands, and for the present separate.
Let us turn to the curates—to the much-loved, though long-neglected. Come forward, modest merit! Malone, I see, promptly answers the invocation. He knows his own description when he hears it.
No, Peter Augustus; we can have nothing to say to you. It won't do. Impossible to trust ourselves with the touching tale of your deeds and destinies. Are you not aware, Peter, that a discriminating public has its crotchets; that the unvarnished truth does not answer; that plain facts will not digest? Do you not know that the squeak of the real pig is no more relished now than it was in days of yore? Were I to give the catastrophe of your life and conversation, the public would sweep off in shrieking hysterics, and there would be a wild cry for sal-volatile and burnt feathers. "Impossible!" would be pronounced here; "untrue!" would be responded there; "inartistic!" would be solemnly decided. Note well. Whenever you present the actual, simple truth, it is, somehow, always denounced as a lie—they disown it, cast it off, throw it on the parish; whereas the product of your own imagination, the mere figment, the sheer fiction, is adopted, petted, termed pretty, proper, sweetly natural—the little, spurious wretch gets all the comfits, the honest, lawful bantling all the cuffs. Such is the way of the world, Peter; and as you are the legitimate urchin, rude, unwashed, and naughty, you must stand down.
Make way for Mr. Sweeting.
Here he comes, with his lady on his arm—the most splendid and the weightiest woman in Yorkshire—Mrs. Sweeting, formerly Miss Dora Sykes. They were married under the happiest auspices, Mr. Sweeting having been just inducted to a comfortable living, and Mr. Sykes being in circumstances to give Dora a handsome portion. They lived long and happily together, beloved by their parishioners and by a numerous circle of friends.
There! I think the varnish has been put on very nicely.
Advance, Mr. Donne.
This gentleman turned out admirably—far better than either you or I could possibly have expected, reader. He, too, married a most sensible, quiet, lady-like little woman. The match was the making of him. He became an exemplary domestic character, and a truly active parish priest (as a pastor he, to his dying day, conscientiously refused to act). The outside of the cup and platter he burnished up with the best polishing-powder; the furniture of the altar and temple he looked after with the zeal of an upholsterer, the care of a cabinet-maker. His little school, his little church, his little parsonage, all owed their erection to him; and they did him credit. Each was a model in its way. If uniformity and taste in architecture had been the same thing as consistency and earnestness in religion, what a shepherd of a Christian flock Mr. Donne would have made! There was one art in the mastery of which nothing mortal ever surpassed Mr. Donne: it was that of begging. By his own unassisted efforts he begged all the money for all his erections. In this matter he had a grasp of plan, a scope of action quite unique. He begged of high and low—of the shoeless cottage brat and the coroneted duke. He sent out begging-letters far and wide—to old Queen Charlotte, to the princesses her daughters, to her sons the royal dukes, to the Prince Regent, to Lord Castlereagh, to every member of the ministry then in office; and, what is more remarkable, he screwed something out of every one of these personages. It is on record that he got five pounds from the close-fisted old lady Queen Charlotte, and two guineas from the royal profligate her eldest son. When Mr. Donne set out on begging expeditions, he armed himself in a complete suit of brazen mail. That you had given a hundred pounds yesterday was with him no reason why you should not give two hundred to-day. He would tell you so to your face, and, ten to one, get the money out of you. People gave to get rid of him. After all, he did some good with the cash. He was useful in his day and generation.
Perhaps I ought to remark that on the premature and sudden vanishing of Mr. Malone from the stage of Briarfield parish (you cannot know how it happened, reader; your curiosity must be robbed to pay your elegant love of the pretty and pleasing), there came as his successor another Irish curate, Mr. Macarthey. I am happy to be able to inform you, with truth, that this gentleman did as much credit to his country as Malone had done it discredit. He proved himself as decent, decorous, and conscientious as Peter was rampant, boisterous, and—— This last epithet I choose to suppress, because it would let the cat out of the bag. He laboured faithfully in the parish. The schools, both Sunday and day schools, flourished under his sway like green bay trees. Being human, of course he had his faults. These, however, were proper, steady-going, clerical faults—what many would call virtues. The circumstance of finding himself invited to tea with a Dissenter would unhinge him for a week. The spectacle of a Quaker wearing his hat in the church, the thought of an unbaptized fellow-creature being interred with Christian rites—these things could make strange havoc in Mr. Macarthey's physical and mental economy. Otherwise he was sane and rational, diligent and charitable.
I doubt not a justice-loving public will have remarked, ere this, that I have thus far shown a criminal remissness in pursuing, catching, and bringing to condign punishment the would-be assassin of Mr. Robert Moore. Here was a fine opening to lead my willing readers a dance, at once decorous and exciting—a dance of law and gospel, of the dungeon, the dock, and the "dead-thraw." You might have liked it, reader, but I should not. I and my subject would presently have quarrelled, and then I should have broken down. I was happy to find that facts perfectly exonerated me from the attempt. The murderer was never punished, for the good reason that he was never caught—the result of the further circumstance that he was never pursued. The magistrates made a shuffling, as if they were going to rise and do valiant things; but since Moore himself, instead of urging and leading them as heretofore, lay still on his little cottage-couch, laughing in his sleeve, and sneering with every feature of his pale, foreign face, they considered better of it, and after fulfilling certain indispensable forms, prudently resolved to let the matter quietly drop, which they did.
Mr. Moore knew who had shot him, and all Briarfield knew. It was no other than Michael Hartley, the half-crazed weaver once before alluded to, a frantic Antinomian in religion, and a mad leveller in politics. The poor soul died of delirium tremens a year after the attempt on Moore, and Robert gave his wretched widow a guinea to bury him.
* * * * *
The winter is over and gone; spring has followed with beamy and shadowy, with flowery and showery flight. We are now in the heart of summer—in mid-June—the June of 1812.
It is burning weather. The air is deep azure and red gold. It fits the time; it fits the age; it fits the present spirit of the nations. The nineteenth century wantons in its giant adolescence; the Titan boy uproots mountains in his game, and hurls rocks in his wild sport. This summer Bonaparte is in the saddle; he and his host scour Russian deserts. He has with him Frenchmen and Poles, Italians and children of the Rhine, six hundred thousand strong. He marches on old Moscow. Under old Moscow's walls the rude Cossack waits him. Barbarian stoic! he waits without fear of the boundless ruin rolling on. He puts his trust in a snow-cloud; the wilderness, the wind, and the hail-storm are his refuge; his allies are the elements—air, fire, water. And what are these? Three terrible archangels ever stationed before the throne of Jehovah. They stand clothed in white, girdled with golden girdles; they uplift vials, brimming with the wrath of God. Their time is the day of vengeance; their signal, the word of the Lord of hosts, "thundering with the voice of His excellency."
"Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?
"Go your ways. Pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth."
It is done. The earth is scorched with fire; the sea becomes "as the blood of a dead man;" the islands flee away; the mountains are not found.
In this year, Lord Wellington assumed the reins in Spain. They made him generalissimo, for their own salvation's sake. In this year he took Badajos, he fought the field of Vittoria, he captured Pampeluna, he stormed San Sebastian; in this year he won Salamanca.
Men of Manchester, I beg your pardon for this slight resume of warlike facts, but it is of no consequence. Lord Wellington is, for you, only a decayed old gentleman now. I rather think some of you have called him a "dotard;" you have taunted him with his age and the loss of his physical vigour. What fine heroes you are yourselves! Men like you have a right to trample on what is mortal in a demigod. Scoff at your ease; your scorn can never break his grand old heart.
But come, friends, whether Quakers or cotton-printers, let us hold a peace-congress, and let out our venom quietly. We have been talking with unseemly zeal about bloody battles and butchering generals; we arrive now at a triumph in your line. On the 18th of June 1812 the Orders in Council were repealed, and the blockaded ports thrown open. You know very well—such of you as are old enough to remember—you made Yorkshire and Lancashire shake with your shout on that occasion. The ringers cracked a bell in Briarfield belfry; it is dissonant to this day. The Association of Merchants and Manufacturers dined together at Stilbro', and one and all went home in such a plight as their wives would never wish to witness more. Liverpool started and snorted like a river-horse roused amongst his reeds by thunder. Some of the American merchants felt threatenings of apoplexy, and had themselves bled—all, like wise men, at this first moment of prosperity, prepared to rush into the bowels of speculation, and to delve new difficulties, in whose depths they might lose themselves at some future day. Stocks which had been accumulating for years now went off in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Warehouses were lightened, ships were laden; work abounded, wages rose; the good time seemed come. These prospects might be delusive, but they were brilliant—to some they were even true. At that epoch, in that single month of June, many a solid fortune was realized.
* * * * *
When a whole province rejoices, the humblest of its inhabitants tastes a festal feeling; the sound of public bells rouses the most secluded abode, as if with a call to be gay. And so Caroline Helstone thought, when she dressed herself more carefully than usual on the day of this trading triumph, and went, attired in her neatest muslin, to spend the afternoon at Fieldhead, there to superintend certain millinery preparations for a great event, the last appeal in these matters being reserved for her unimpeachable taste. She decided on the wreath, the veil, the dress to be worn at the altar. She chose various robes and fashions for more ordinary occasions, without much reference to the bride's opinion—that lady, indeed, being in a somewhat impracticable mood.
Louis had presaged difficulties, and he had found them—in fact, his mistress had shown herself exquisitely provoking, putting off her marriage day by day, week by week, month by month, at first coaxing him with soft pretences of procrastination, and in the end rousing his whole deliberate but determined nature to revolt against her tyranny, at once so sweet and so intolerable.
It had needed a sort of tempest-shock to bring her to the point; but there she was at last, fettered to a fixed day. There she lay, conquered by love, and bound with a vow.
Thus vanquished and restricted, she pined, like any other chained denizen of deserts. Her captor alone could cheer her; his society only could make amends for the lost privilege of liberty. In his absence she sat or wandered alone, spoke little, and ate less.
She furthered no preparations for her nuptials; Louis was himself obliged to direct all arrangements. He was virtually master of Fieldhead weeks before he became so nominally—the least presumptuous, the kindest master that ever was, but with his lady absolute. She abdicated without a word or a struggle. "Go to Mr. Moore, ask Mr. Moore," was her answer when applied to for orders. Never was wooer of wealthy bride so thoroughly absolved from the subaltern part, so inevitably compelled to assume a paramount character.
In all this Miss Keeldar partly yielded to her disposition; but a remark she made a year afterwards proved that she partly also acted on system. "Louis," she said, "would never have learned to rule if she had not ceased to govern. The incapacity of the sovereign had developed the powers of the premier."
It had been intended that Miss Helstone should act as bridesmaid at the approaching nuptials, but Fortune had destined her another part.
She came home in time to water her plants. She had performed this little task. The last flower attended to was a rose-tree, which bloomed in a quiet green nook at the back of the house. This plant had received the refreshing shower; she was now resting a minute. Near the wall stood a fragment of sculptured stone—a monkish relic—once, perhaps, the base of a cross. She mounted it, that she might better command the view. She had still the watering pot in one hand; with the other her pretty dress was held lightly aside, to avoid trickling drops. She gazed over the wall, along some lonely fields; beyond three dusk trees, rising side by side against the sky; beyond a solitary thorn at the head of a solitary lane far off. She surveyed the dusk moors, where bonfires were kindling. The summer evening was warm; the bell-music was joyous; the blue smoke of the fires looked soft, their red flame bright. Above them, in the sky whence the sun had vanished, twinkled a silver point—the star of love.
Caroline was not unhappy that evening—far otherwise; but as she gazed she sighed, and as she sighed a hand circled her, and rested quietly on her waist. Caroline thought she knew who had drawn near; she received the touch unstartled.
"I am looking at Venus, mamma. See, she is beautiful. How white her lustre is, compared with the deep red of the bonfires!"
The answer was a closer caress; and Caroline turned, and looked, not into Mrs. Pryor's matron face, but up at a dark manly visage. She dropped her watering-pot and stepped down from the pedestal.
"I have been sitting with 'mamma' an hour," said the intruder. "I have had a long conversation with her. Where, meantime, have you been?"
"To Fieldhead. Shirley is as naughty as ever, Robert. She will neither say Yes nor No to any question put. She sits alone. I cannot tell whether she is melancholy or nonchalant. If you rouse her or scold her, she gives you a look, half wistful, half reckless, which sends you away as queer and crazed as herself. What Louis will make of her, I cannot tell. For my part, if I were a gentleman, I think I would not dare undertake her."
"Never mind them. They were cut out for each other. Louis, strange to say, likes her all the better for these freaks. He will manage her, if any one can. She tries him, however. He has had a stormy courtship for such a calm character; but you see it all ends in victory for him. Caroline, I have sought you to ask an audience. Why are those bells ringing?"
"For the repeal of your terrible law—the Orders you hate so much. You are pleased, are you not?"
"Yesterday evening at this time I was packing some books for a sea-voyage. They were the only possessions, except some clothes, seeds, roots, and tools, which I felt free to take with me to Canada. I was going to leave you."
"To leave me? To leave me?"
Her little fingers fastened on his arm; she spoke and looked affrighted.
"Not now—not now. Examine my face—yes, look at me well. Is the despair of parting legible thereon?"
She looked into an illuminated countenance, whose characters were all beaming, though the page itself was dusk. This face, potent in the majesty of its traits, shed down on her hope, fondness, delight.
"Will the repeal do you good—much good, immediate good?" she inquired.
"The repeal of the Orders in Council saves me. Now I shall not turn bankrupt; now I shall not give up business; now I shall not leave England; now I shall be no longer poor; now I can pay my debts; now all the cloth I have in my warehouses will be taken off my hands, and commissions given me for much more. This day lays for my fortunes a broad, firm foundation, on which, for the first time in my life, I can securely build."
Caroline devoured his words; she held his hand in hers; she drew a long breath.
"You are saved? Your heavy difficulties are lifted?"
"They are lifted. I breathe. I can act."
"At last! Oh, Providence is kind! Thank Him, Robert."
"I do thank Providence."
"And I also, for your sake!" She looked up devoutly.
"Now I can take more workmen, give better wages, lay wiser and more liberal plans, do some good, be less selfish. Now, Caroline, I can have a house—a home which I can truly call mine—and now——"
He paused, for his deep voice was checked.
"And now," he resumed—"now I can think of marriage, now I can seek a wife."
This was no moment for her to speak. She did not speak.
"Will Caroline, who meekly hopes to be forgiven as she forgives—will she pardon all I have made her suffer, all that long pain I have wickedly caused her, all that sickness of body and mind she owed to me? Will she forget what she knows of my poor ambition, my sordid schemes? Will she let me expiate these things? Will she suffer me to prove that, as I once deserted cruelly, trifled wantonly, injured basely, I can now love faithfully, cherish fondly, treasure tenderly?"
His hand was in Caroline's still; a gentle pressure answered him.
"Is Caroline mine?"
"Caroline is yours."
"I will prize her. The sense of her value is here, in my heart; the necessity for her society is blended with my life. Not more jealous shall I be of the blood whose flow moves my pulses than of her happiness and well-being."
"I love you, too, Robert, and will take faithful care of you."
"Will you take faithful care of me? Faithful care! As if that rose should promise to shelter from tempest this hard gray stone! But she will care for me, in her way. These hands will be the gentle ministrants of every comfort I can taste. I know the being I seek to entwine with my own will bring me a solace, a charity, a purity, to which, of myself, I am a stranger."
Suddenly Caroline was troubled; her lip quivered.
"What flutters my dove?" asked Moore, as she nestled to and then uneasily shrank from him.
"Poor mamma! I am all mamma has. Must I leave her?"
"Do you know, I thought of that difficulty. I and 'mamma' have discussed it."
"Tell me what you wish, what you would like, and I will consider if it is possible to consent. But I cannot desert her, even for you. I cannot break her heart, even for your sake."
"She was faithful when I was false—was she not? I never came near your sick-bed, and she watched it ceaselessly."
"What must I do? Anything but leave her."
"At my wish you never shall leave her."
"She may live very near us?"
"With us—only she will have her own rooms and servant. For this she stipulates herself."
"You know she has an income, that, with her habits, makes her quite independent?"
"She told me that, with a gentle pride that reminded me of somebody else."
"She is not at all interfering, and incapable of gossip."
"I know her, Cary. But if, instead of being the personification of reserve and discretion, she were something quite opposite, I should not fear her."
"Yet she will be your mother-in-law?" The speaker gave an arch little nod. Moore smiled.
"Louis and I are not of the order of men who fear their mothers-in-law, Cary. Our foes never have been, nor will be, those of our own household. I doubt not my mother-in-law will make much of me."
"That she will—in her quiet way, you know. She is not demonstrative; and when you see her silent, or even cool, you must not fancy her displeased; it is only a manner she has. Be sure to let me interpret for her whenever she puzzles you; always believe my account of the matter, Robert."
"Oh, implicitly! Jesting apart, I feel that she and I will suit—on ne peut mieux. Hortense, you know, is exquisitely susceptible—in our French sense of the word—and not, perhaps, always reasonable in her requirements; yet, dear, honest girl, I never painfully wounded her feelings or had a serious quarrel with her in my life."
"No; you are most generously considerate, indeed, most tenderly indulgent to her; and you will be considerate with mamma. You are a gentleman all through, Robert, to the bone, and nowhere so perfect a gentleman as at your own fireside."
"A eulogium I like; it is very sweet. I am well pleased my Caroline should view me in this light."
"Mamma just thinks of you as I do."
"Not quite, I hope?"
"She does not want to marry you—don't be vain; but she said to me the other day, 'My dear, Mr. Moore has pleasing manners; he is one of the few gentlemen I have seen who combine politeness with an air of sincerity.'"
"'Mamma' is rather a misanthropist, is she not? Not the best opinion of the sterner sex?"
"She forbears to judge them as a whole, but she has her exceptions whom she admires—Louis and Mr. Hall, and, of late, yourself. She did not like you once; I knew that, because she would never speak of you. But, Robert——"
"Well, what now? What is the new thought?"
"You have not seen my uncle yet?"
"I have. 'Mamma' called him into the room. He consents conditionally. If I prove that I can keep a wife, I may have her; and I can keep her better than he thinks—better than I choose to boast."
"If you get rich you will do good with your money, Robert?"
"I will do good; you shall tell me how. Indeed, I have some schemes of my own, which you and I will talk about on our own hearth one day. I have seen the necessity of doing good; I have learned the downright folly of being selfish. Caroline, I foresee what I will now foretell. This war must ere long draw to a close. Trade is likely to prosper for some years to come. There may be a brief misunderstanding between England and America, but that will not last. What would you think if, one day—perhaps ere another ten years elapse—Louis and I divide Briarfield parish betwixt us? Louis, at any rate, is certain of power and property. He will not bury his talents. He is a benevolent fellow, and has, besides, an intellect of his own of no trifling calibre. His mind is slow but strong. It must work. It may work deliberately, but it will work well. He will be made magistrate of the district—Shirley says he shall. She would proceed impetuously and prematurely to obtain for him this dignity, if he would let her, but he will not. As usual, he will be in no haste. Ere he has been master of Fieldhead a year all the district will feel his quiet influence, and acknowledge his unassuming superiority. A magistrate is wanted; they will, in time, invest him with the office voluntarily and unreluctantly. Everybody admires his future wife, and everybody will, in time, like him. He is of the pate generally approved, bon comme le pain—daily bread for the most fastidious, good for the infant and the aged, nourishing for the poor, wholesome for the rich. Shirley, in spite of her whims and oddities, her dodges and delays, has an infatuated fondness for him. She will one day see him as universally beloved as even she could wish. He will also be universally esteemed, considered, consulted, depended on—too much so. His advice will be always judicious, his help always good-natured. Ere long both will be in inconvenient request. He will have to impose restrictions. As for me, if I succeed as I intend to do, my success will add to his and Shirley's income. I can double the value of their mill property. I can line yonder barren Hollow with lines of cottages and rows of cottage-gardens——"
"Robert! And root up the copse?"
"The copse shall be firewood ere five years elapse. The beautiful wild ravine shall be a smooth descent; the green natural terrace shall be a paved street. There shall be cottages in the dark ravine, and cottages on the lonely slopes. The rough pebbled track shall be an even, firm, broad, black, sooty road, bedded with the cinders from my mill; and my mill, Caroline—my mill shall fill its present yard."
"Horrible! You will change our blue hill-country air into the Stilbro' smoke atmosphere."
"I will pour the waters of Pactolus through the valley of Briarfield."
"I like the beck a thousand times better."
"I will get an Act for enclosing Nunnely Common, and parcelling it out into farms."
"Stilbro' Moor, however, defies you, thank Heaven! What can you grow in Bilberry Moss? What will flourish on Rushedge?"
"Caroline, the houseless, the starving, the unemployed shall come to Hollow's Mill from far and near; and Joe Scott shall give them work, and Louis Moore, Esq., shall let them a tenement, and Mrs. Gill shall mete them a portion till the first pay-day."
She smiled up in his face.
"Such a Sunday school as you will have, Cary! such collections as you will get! such a day school as you and Shirley and Miss Ainley will have to manage between you! The mill shall find salaries for a master and mistress, and the squire or the clothier shall give a treat once a quarter."
She mutely offered a kiss—an offer taken unfair advantage of, to the extortion of about a hundred kisses.
"Extravagant day-dreams," said Moore, with a sigh and smile, "yet perhaps we may realize some of them. Meantime, the dew is falling. Mrs. Moore, I shall take you in."
* * * * *
It is August. The bells clash out again, not only through Yorkshire, but through England. From Spain the voice of a trumpet has sounded long; it now waxes louder and louder; it proclaims Salamanca won. This night is Briarfield to be illuminated. On this day the Fieldhead tenantry dine together; the Hollow's Mill workpeople will be assembled for a like festal purpose; the schools have a grand treat. This morning there were two marriages solemnized in Briarfield church—Louis Gerard Moore, Esq., late of Antwerp, to Shirley, daughter of the late Charles Cave Keeldar, Esq., of Fieldhead; Robert Gerard Moore, Esq., of Hollow's Mill, to Caroline, niece of the Rev. Matthewson Helstone, M.A., rector of Briarfield.
The ceremony, in the first instance, was performed by Mr. Helstone, Hiram Yorke, Esq., of Briarmains, giving the bride away. In the second instance, Mr. Hall, vicar of Nunnely, officiated. Amongst the bridal train the two most noticeable personages were the youthful bridesmen, Henry Sympson and Martin Yorke.
I suppose Robert Moore's prophecies were, partially at least, fulfilled. The other day I passed up the Hollow, which tradition says was once green, and lone, and wild; and there I saw the manufacturer's day-dreams embodied in substantial stone and brick and ashes—the cinder-black highway, the cottages, and the cottage gardens; there I saw a mighty mill, and a chimney ambitious as the tower of Babel. I told my old housekeeper when I came home where I had been.
"Ay," said she, "this world has queer changes. I can remember the old mill being built—the very first it was in all the district; and then I can remember it being pulled down, and going with my lake-lasses [companions] to see the foundation-stone of the new one laid. The two Mr. Moores made a great stir about it. They were there, and a deal of fine folk besides, and both their ladies; very bonny and grand they looked. But Mrs. Louis was the grandest; she always wore such handsome dresses. Mrs. Robert was quieter like. Mrs. Louis smiled when she talked. She had a real, happy, glad, good-natured look; but she had een that pierced a body through. There is no such ladies nowadays."
"What was the Hollow like then, Martha?"
"Different to what it is now; but I can tell of it clean different again, when there was neither mill, nor cot, nor hall, except Fieldhead, within two miles of it. I can tell, one summer evening, fifty years syne, my mother coming running in just at the edge of dark, almost fleyed out of her wits, saying she had seen a fairish [fairy] in Fieldhead Hollow; and that was the last fairish that ever was seen on this countryside (though they've been heard within these forty years). A lonesome spot it was, and a bonny spot, full of oak trees and nut trees. It is altered now."
The story is told. I think I now see the judicious reader putting on his spectacles to look for the moral. It would be an insult to his sagacity to offer directions. I only say, God speed him in the quest!
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Pickwick Papers—II. CHARLES DICKENS.
Every year sees a new edition of "Pickwick," and the world still asks for more. It is one of the world's greatest romances of the road, where adventures fall to those who seek them. It is also a faithful and loving picture of an older England, from which we have travelled far to-day. We may become a wiser people, but we shall never again be so humorous.
Windsor Castle. HARRISON AINSWORTH.
The romances of Harrison Ainsworth need no advertisement. In this, as in his "Tower of London" and "Old St. Paul's," he has taken one of England's great historical sites, and woven around it an appropriate romance.
Peg Woffington. CHARLES READE.
"Peg Woffington" was the first of Charles Reade's romances, and was founded upon his comedy, "Masks and Faces." The story of the famous Irish actress who dazzled London in the eighteenth century, and with whom Garrick was in love, has been made the foundation of a charming romance.
Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character. Dean RAMSAY.
The only book of jests that has ever attained an honourable place in literature. Its wealth of genuine humour is a perpetual refutation of the old slander that Scots joke "wi' deeficulty."