Two Lives

Only half of Moore’s activity and resolution had been seen in his defence of the mill; he showed the other half (and a terrible half it was) in the indefatigable, the relentless assiduity with which he pursued the leaders of the riot. The mob, the mere followers, he let alone; perhaps an innate sense of justice told him that men misled by false counsel, goaded by privations, are not fit objects of vengeance, and that he who would visit an even violent act on the bent head of suffering is a tyrant, not a judge. At all events, though he knew many of the number, having recognised them during the latter part of the attack, when day began to dawn, he let them daily pass him on street and road without notice or threat.

The leaders he did not know. They were strangers—emissaries from the large towns. Most of these were not members of the operative class; they were chiefly ‘downdraughts,’ bankrupts, men always in debt and often in drink—men who had nothing to lose, and much, in the way of character, cash, and cleanliness, to gain. These persons Moore hunted like any sleuthhound; and well he liked the occupation; its excitement was of a kind pleasant to his nature. He liked it better than making cloth.

His horse must have hated these times, for it was ridden both hard and often. He almost lived on the road, and the fresh air was as welcome to his lungs as the policeman’s quest to his mood; he preferred it to the steam of dye-houses. The magistrates of the district must have dreaded him: they were slow, timid men; he liked both to frighten and to rouse them. He liked to force them to betray a certain fear, which made them alike falter in resolve and recoil in action—the fear, simply, of assassination. This, indeed, was the dread which had hitherto hampered every manufacturer and almost every public man in the district. Helstone alone had ever repelled it. The old Cossack knew well he might be shot; he knew there was risk; but such a death had for his nerves no terrors: it would have been his chosen, might he have had a choice.

Moore likewise knew his danger; the result was an unquenchable scorn of the quarter whence such danger was to be apprehended. The consciousness that he hunted assassins was the spur in his high-mettled temper’s flank. As for fear, he was too proud—too hard-natured (if you will)—too phlegmatic a man to fear. Many a time he rode belated over moors, moonlit or moonless, as the case might be, with feelings far more elate, faculties far better refreshed, than when safety and stagnation environed him in the counting- house. Four was the number of the leaders to be accounted for; two, in the course of a fortnight, were brought to bay near Stilbro’; the remaining two it was necessary to seek further off: their haunts were supposed to lie near Birmingham.

Meantime the clothier did not neglect his battered mill; its reparation was esteemed a light task, carpenters’ and glaziers’ work alone being needed. The rioters not having succeeded in effecting an entrance, his grim metal darlings—the machines—had escaped damage.

Whether, during this busy life—whether, while stern justice and exacting business claimed his energies and harassed his thoughts—he now and then gave one moment, dedicated one effort, to keep alive gentler fires than those which smoulder in the fane of Nemesis, it was not easy to discover. He seldom went near Fieldhead; if he did, his visits were brief. If he called at the Rectory, it was only to hold conferences with the Rector in his study. He maintained his rigid course very steadily. Meantime the history of the year continued troubled; there was no lull in the tempest of War; her long hurricane still swept the Continent. There was not the faintest sign of serene weather; no opening amid ‘the clouds of battle dust and smoke’; no fall of pure dews genial to the olive; no cessation of the red rain which nourishes the baleful and glorious laurel. Meantime, Ruin had her sappers and miners at work under Moore’s feet, and whether he rode or walked—whether he only crossed his counting-house hearth, or galloped over sullen Rushedge—he was aware of a hollow echo, and felt the ground shake to his tread.

While the summer thus passed with Moore, how did it lapse with Shirley and Caroline? Let us first visit the heiress. How does she look? Like a love-lorn maiden, pale and pining for a neglectful swain? Does she sit the day long bent over some sedentary task? Has she for ever a book in her hand, or sewing on her knee, and eyes only for that, and words for nothing, and thoughts unspoken?

  By PanEris using Melati.

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