Case of Domestic Persecution

Martin, having known the taste of excitement, wanted a second draught; having felt the dignity of power, he loathed to relinquish it. Miss Helstone—that girl he had always called ugly, and whose face was now perpetually before his eyes, by day and by night, in dark and in sunshine—had once come within his sphere; it fretted him to think the visit might never be repeated.

Though a schoolboy, he was no ordinary schoolboy; he was destined to grow up an original. At a few years’ later date he took great pains to pare and polish himself down to the pattern of the rest of the world, but he never succeeded; a unique stamp marked him always. He now sat idle at his desk in the grammar-school, casting about in his mind for the means of adding another chapter to his commenced romance; he did not yet know how many commenced life-romances are doomed never to get beyond the first—or, at most, the second chapter. His Saturday half-holiday he spent in the wood with his book of fairy legends, and that other unwritten book of his imagination.

Martin harboured an irreligious reluctance to see the approach of Sunday. His father and mother— while disclaiming community with the Establishment —failed not duly, once on the sacred day, to fill their large pew in Briarfield Church with the whole of their blooming family. Theoretically, Mr. Yorke placed all sects and churches on a level; Mrs. Yorke awarded the palm to Moravians and Quakers, on account of that crown of humility by these worthies worn; neither of them was ever known, however, to set foot in a conventicle.

Martin, I say, disliked Sunday, because the morning service was long, and the sermon little usually to his taste; this Saturday afternoon, however, his woodland musings disclosed to him a new-found charm in the coming day.

It proved a day of deep snow: so deep, that Mrs. Yorke, during breakfast, announced her conviction that the children, both boys and girls, would be better at home, and her decision that, instead of going to church, they should sit silent for two hours in the backparlour, while Rose and Martin alternately read a succession of sermons—John Wesley’s Sermons: John Wesley, being a Reformer and an Agitator, had a place both in her own and her husband’s favour.

‘Rose will do as she pleases,’ said Martin, not looking up from the book which, according to his custom then and in after life, he was studying over his bread and milk.

‘Rose will do as she is told, and Martin too,’ observed the mother.

‘I am going to church.’

So her son replied, with the ineffable quietude of a true Yorke, who knows his will, and means to have it, and who, if pushed to the wall, will let himself be crushed to death, provided no way of escape can be found, but will never capitulate.

‘It is not fit weather,’ said the father.

No answer. The youth read studiously; he slowly broke his bread and sipped his milk.

‘Martin hates to go to church, but he hates still more to obey,’ said Mrs. Yorke.

‘I suppose I am influenced by pure perverseness?’

‘Yes, you are.’

‘Mother, I am not.’

‘By what, then, are you influenced?’

‘By a complication of motives, the intricacies of which I should as soon think of explaining to you as I should of turning myself inside out to exhibit the internal machinery of my frame.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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