Mr. Yorke knew everyone, and was known by everyone for miles round, yet his intimate acquaintances were very few. Himself thoroughly original, he had no taste for what was ordinary: a racy, rough character, high or low, ever found acceptance with him; a refined, insipid personage, however exalted in station, was his aversion. He would spend an hour any time in talking freely with a shrewd workman of his own, or with some queer, sagacious old woman amongst his cottagers, when he would have grudged a moment to a commonplace fine gentleman, or to the most fashionable and elegant, if frivolous, lady. His preferences on these points he carried to an extreme, forgetting that there may be amiable and even admirable characters amongst those who cannot be original. Yet he made exceptions to his own rule. There was a certain order of mind, plain, ingenuous, neglecting refinement, almost devoid of intellectuality and quite incapable of appreciating what was intellectual in him, but which, at the same time, never felt disgust at his rudeness, was not easily wounded by his sarcasm, did not closely analyze his sayings, doings, or opinions, with which he was peculiarly at ease, and, consequently, which he peculiarly preferred. He was lord amongst such characters. They, while submitting implicitly to his influence, never acknowledged, because they never reflected on, his superiority; they were quite tractable, therefore, without running the smallest danger of being servile; and their unthinking, easy, artless insensibility was as acceptable, because as convenient, to Mr. Yorke as that of the chair he sat on, or of the floor he trod.

It will have been observed that he was not quite uncordial with Mr. Moore: he had two or three reasons for entertaining a faint partiality to that gentleman. It may sound odd, but the first of these was that Moore spoke English with a foreign, and French with a perfectly pure, accent, and that his dark, thin face, with its fine though rather wasted lines, had a most anti-British and anti-Yorkshire look. These points seem frivolous, unlikely to influence a character like Yorke’s, but the fact is, they recalled old, perhaps pleasurable, associations: they brought back his travelling, his youthful days. He had seen, amidst Italian cities and scenes, faces like Moore’s; he had heard, in Parisian caf\da\es and theatres, voices like his. He was young then, and when he looked at and listened to the alien he seemed young again.

Secondly, he had known Moore’s father, and had had dealings with him. That was a more substantial, though by no means a more agreeable, tie; for, as his firm had been connected with Moore’s in business, it had also, in some measure, been implicated in its losses.

Thirdly, he had found Robert himself a sharp man of business. He saw reason to anticipate that he would, in the end, by one means or another, make money, and he respected both his resolution and acuteness, perhaps, also, his hardness. A fourth circumstance which drew them together was that of Mr. Yorke being one of the guardians of the minor on whose estate Hollow’s Mill was situated, consequently Moore, in the course of his alterations and improvements, had frequent occasion to consult him.

As to the other guest now present in Mr. Yorke’s parlour, Mr. Helstone, between him and his host there existed a double antipathy, the antipathy of nature and that of circumstances. The freethinker hated the formalist; the lover of liberty detested the disciplinarian. Besides, it was said that in former years they had been rival suitors of the same lady.

Mr. Yorke, as a general rule, was, when young, noted for his preference of sprightly and dashing women: a showy shape and air, a lively wit, a ready tongue, chiefly seemed to attract him. He never, however, proposed to any of these brilliant belles, whose society he sought. And all at once he seriously fell in love with, and eagerly wooed, a girl who presented a complete contrast to those he had hitherto noticed—a girl with the face of a Madonna; a girl of living marble, stillness personified. No matter that, when he spoke to her, she only answered him in monosyllables; no matter that his sighs seemed unheard, that his glances were unreturned, that she never responded to his opinions, rarely smiled at his jests, paid him no respect and no attention; no matter that she seemed the opposite of everything feminine he had ever, in his whole life, been known to admire. For him Mary Cave was perfect, because somehow, for some reason—no doubt he had a reason—he loved her.

Mr. Helstone, at that time curate of Briarfield, loved Mary, too, or, at any rate, he fancied her. Several others admired her, for she was beautiful as a monumental angel; but the clergyman was preferred for

  By PanEris using Melati.

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