The fund prospered. By dint of Miss Keeldar’s example, the three Rectors’ vigorous exertions, and the efficient though quiet aid of their spinster and spectacled lieutenants, Mary Ann Ainley and Margaret Hall, a handsome sum was raised; and this, being judiciously managed, served for the present greatly to alleviate the distress of the unemployed poor. The neighbourhood seemed to grow calmer; for a fortnight past no cloth had been destroyed, no outrage on mill or mansion had been committed in the three parishes. Shirley was sanguine that the evil she wished to avert was almost escaped; that the threatened storm was passing over; with the approach of summer she felt certain that trade would improve—it always did; and then this weary war could not last for ever: peace must return one day; with peace what an impulse would be given to commerce!

Such was the usual tenor of her observations to her tenant, Gérard Moore, whenever she met him where they could converse, and Moore would listen very quietly—too quietly to satisfy her. She would then by her impatient glance demand something more from him—some explanation, or at least some additional remark. Smiling in his way, with that expression which gave a remarkable cast of sweetness to his mouth, while his brow remained grave, he would answer to the effect that himself, too, trusted in the finite nature of the war; that it was, indeed, on that ground the anchor of his hopes was fixed; thereon his speculations depended.

‘For you are aware,’ he would continue, ‘that I now work Hollow’s Mill entirely on speculation: I sell nothing; there is no market for my goods. I manufacture for a future day; I make myself ready to take advantage of the first opening that shall occur. Three months ago this was impossible to me; I had exhausted both credit and capital; you well know who came to my rescue; from what hand I received the loan which saved me. It is on the strength of that loan I am enabled to continue the bold game which, a while since, I feared I should never play more. Total ruin I know will follow loss, and I am aware that gain is doubtful; but I am quite cheerful: so long as I can be active, so long as I can strive, so long, in short, as my hands are not tied, it is impossible for me to be depressed. One year, nay, but six months of the reign of the olive, and I am safe; for, as you say, peace will give an impulse to commerce. In this you are right; but as to the restored tranquillity of the neighbourhood—as to the permanent good effect of your charitable fund—I doubt. Eleemosynary relief never yet tranquillized the working-classes—it never made them grateful; it is not in human nature that it should. I suppose, were all things ordered aright, they ought not to be in a position to need that humiliating relief; and this they feel; we should feel it were we so placed. Besides, to whom should they be grateful? To you—to the clergy, perhaps, but not to us mill-owners. They hate us worse than ever. Then, the disaffected here are in correspondence with the disaffected elsewhere; Nottingham is one of their head-quarters, Manchester another, and Birmingham a third. The subalterns receive orders from their chiefs: they are in a good state of discipline: no blow is struck without mature deliberation. In sultry weather, you have seen the sky threaten thunder day by day, and yet night after night the clouds have cleared, and the sun has set quietly; but the danger was not gone, it was only delayed; the long-threatening storm is sure to break at last. There is analogy between the moral and physical atmosphere.’

‘Well, Mr. Moore’ (so these conferences always ended), ‘take care of yourself. If you think that I have ever done you any good, reward me by promising to take care of yourself.’

‘I do. I will take close and watchful care. I wish to live, not to die. The future opens like Eden before me. And still, when I look deep into the shades of my paradise, I see a vision that I like better than seraph or cherub glide across remote vistas.’

‘Do you? Pray, what vision?’

‘I see—’

The maid came bustling in with the tea-things.

The early part of that May, as we have seen, was fine, the middle was wet; but in the last week, at change of moon, it cleared again. A fresh wind swept off the silver-white, deep-piled rain-clouds, bearing them,

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.