Louis Moore

Louis Moore was used to a quiet life. Being a quiet man, he endured it better than most men would; having a large world of his own in his own head and heart, he tolerated confinement to a small, still corner of the real world very patiently.

How hushed is Fieldhead this evening! All but Moore—Miss Keeldar, the whole family of the Sympsons, even Henry—are gone to Nunnely. Sir Philip would have them come—he wished to make them acquainted with his mother and sisters, who are now at the Priory. Kind gentleman as the Baronet is, he asked the tutor, too; but the tutor would much sooner have made an appointment with the ghost of the Earl of Huntingdon to meet him and a shadowy ring of his merry men under the canopy of the thickest, blackest, oldest oak in Nunnely Forest. Yes, he would rather have appointed tryst with a phantom abbess or a mist-pale nun among the wet and weedy relics of that ruined sanctuary of theirs, mouldering in the core of the wood. Louis Moore longs to have something near him to-night, but not the boy-baronet, nor his benevolent but stern mother, nor his patrician sisters, nor one soul of the Sympsons.

This night is not calm: the equinox still struggles in its storms. The wild rains of the day are abated. The great single cloud disparts and rolls away from heaven—not passing and leaving a sea all sapphire, but tossed buoyant before a continued, long-sounding, high-rushing moonlight tempest. The moon reigns glorious, glad of the gale—as glad as if she gave herself to his fierce caress with love. No Endymion will watch for his goddess to-night. There are no flocks out on the mountains, and it is well, for to-night she welcomes Æolus.

Moore, sitting in the schoolroom, heard the storm roar round the other gable and along the hall-front. This end was sheltered. He wanted no shelter; he desired no subdued sounds or screened position.

‘All the parlours are empty,’ said he. ‘I am sick at heart of this cell.’

He left it and went where the casements, larger and freer than the branch-screened lattice of his own apartment, admitted unimpeded the dark-blue, the silver-fleeced, the stirring and sweeping vision of the autumn night-sky. He carried no candle, unneeded was lamp or fire: the broad and clear, though cloud- crossed and fluctuating, beam of the moon shone on every floor and wall.

Moore wanders through all the rooms—he seems following a phantom from parlour to parlour. In the oak-room he stops. This is not chill, and polished, and fireless like the salon; the hearth is hot and ruddy, the cinders tingle in the intense heat of their clear glow. Near the rug is a little work-table, a desk upon it, a chair near it.

Does the vision Moore has tracked occupy that chair? You would think so, could you see him standing before it. There is as much interest now in his eye, and as much significance in his face, as if in this household solitude he had found a living companion, and was going to speak to it.

He makes discoveries. A bag—a small, satin bag—hangs on the chair-back. The desk is open, the keys are in the lock. A pretty seal, a silver pen, a crimson berry or two of ripe fruit on a green leaf, a small, clean, delicate glove—these trifles at once decorate and disarrange the stand they strew. Order forbids details in a picture—she puts them tidily away—but details give charm.

Moore spoke.

‘Her mark,’ he said. ‘Here she has been—careless, attractive thing!—called away in haste, doubtless, and forgetting to return and put all to rights. Why does she leave fascination in her footprints? Whence did she acquire the gift to be heedless, and never offend? There is always something to chide in her, and the reprimand never settles in displeasure on the heart; but, for her lover or her husband, when it had trickled awhile in words, would naturally melt from his lips in a kiss. Better pass half an hour in remonstrating with her than a day in admiring or praising any other woman alive. Am I muttering—soliloquizing? Stop that!’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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