The Schoolboy and The Wood-nymph

Briarmains being nearer than the Hollow, Mr. Yorke had conveyed his young comrade there. He had seen him laid in the best bed of the house, as carefully as if he had been one of his own sons. The sight of his blood, welling from the treacherously-inflicted wound, made him indeed the son of the Yorkshire gentleman’s heart. The spectacle of the sudden event; of the tall, straight shape prostrated in its pride across the road; of the fine southern head laid low in the dust; of that youth in prime flung at once before him pallid, lifeless, helpless—this was the very combination of circumstances to win for the victim Mr. Yorke’s liveliest interest.

No other hand was there to raise, to aid; no other voice to question kindly; no other brain to concert measures: he had to do it all himself. This utter dependence of the speechless, bleeding youth (as a youth he regarded him) on his benevolence, secured that benevolence most effectually. Well did Mr. Yorke like to have power, and to use it: he had now between his hands power over a fellow-creature’s life; it suited him.

No less perfectly did it suit his saturnine better-half; the incident was quite in her way and to her taste. Some women would have been terror-struck to see a gory man brought in over their threshold, and laid down in their hall in the ‘howe of the night.’ There, you would suppose, was subject-matter for hysterics. No; Mrs. Yorke went into hysterics when Jessy would not leave the garden to come to her knitting, or when Martin proposed starting for Australia, with a view to realize freedom and escape the tyranny of Matthew; but an attempted murder near her door—a half-murdered man in her best bed—set her straight, cheered her spirits, gave her cap the dash of a turban.

Mrs. Yorke was just the woman who, while rendering miserable the drudging life of a simple maid-servant, would nurse like a heroine a hospital full of plague patients. She almost loved Moore; her tough heart almost yearned towards him when she found him committed to her charge—left in her arms, as dependent on her as her youngest-born in the cradle. Had she seen a domestic, or one of her daughters, give him a draught of water or smooth his pillow, she would have boxed the intruder’s ears. She chased Jessy and Rose from the upper realm of the house; she forbade the housemaids to set foot in it.

Now, if the accident had happened at the Rectory gates, and old Helstone had taken in the martyr, neither Yorke nor his wife would have pitied him; they would have adjudged him rightly served for his tyranny and meddling. As it was, he became, for the present, the apple of their eye.

Strange! Louis Moore was permitted to come—to sit down on the edge of the bed, and lean over the pillow—to hold his brother’s hand, and press his pale forehead with his fraternal lips; and Mrs. Yorke bore it well. She suffered him to stay half the day there; she once suffered him to sit up all night in the chamber; she rose herself at five o’clock of a wet November morning, and with her own hands lit the kitchen fire, and made the brothers a breakfast, and served it to them herself. Majestically arrayed in a boundless flannel wrapper, a shawl, and her nightcap, she sat and watched them eat, as complacently as a hen beholds her chickens feed. Yet she gave the cook warning that day for venturing to make and carry up to Mr. Moore a basin of sago-gruel; and the housemaid lost her favour because, when Mr. Louis was departing, she brought him his surtout aired from the kitchen, and, like a ‘forward piece,” as she was, helped him on with it, and accepted in return a smile, a ‘Thank you, my girl,’ and a shilling. Two ladies called one day, pale and anxious, and begged earnestly, humbly, to be allowed to see Mr. Moore one instant. Mrs. Yorke hardened her heart, and sent them packing, not without opprobrium.

But how was it when Hortense Moore came? Not so bad as might have been expected; the whole family of the Moores really seemed to suit Mrs. Yorke so as no other family had ever suited her. Hortense and she possessed an exhaustless mutual theme of conversation in the corrupt propensities of servants. Their views of this class were similar: they watched them with the same suspicion, and judged them with the same severity. Hortense, too, from the very first showed no manner of jealousy of Mrs. Yorke’s attentions to Robert; she let her keep the post of nurse with little interference; and, for herself, found ceaseless occupation in fidgeting about the house, holding the kitchen under surveillance, reporting what passed there, and, in short, making herself generally useful. Visitors they both of them agreed in excluding sedulously

  By PanEris using Melati.

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