make the matter worse, the church-door had re-opened, and the aisles were filling; patter, patter, patter, a hundred little feet trotted in. It was the Sunday-scholars. According to Briarfield winter custom, these children had till now been kept where there was a warm stove, and only led into church just before the Communion and Sermon.

The little ones were settled first, and at last, when the boys and the younger girls were all arranged— when the organ was swelling high, and the choir and congregation were rising to uplift a spiritual song—a tall class of young women came quietly in, closing the procession. Their teacher, having seen them seated, passed into the Rectory-pew. The French-gray cloak and small beaver bonnet were known to Martin; it was the very costume his eyes had ached to catch. Miss Helstone had not suffered the storm to prove an impediment; after all, she was come to church. Martin probably whispered his satisfaction to his hymn-book; at any rate, he therewith hid his face two minutes.

Satisfied or not, he had time to get very angry with her again before the sermon was over; she had never once looked his way; at least, he had not been so lucky as to encounter a glance.

‘If,’ he said—‘if she takes no notice of me; if she shows I am not in her thoughts, I shall have a worse, a meaner opinion of her than ever. Most despicable would it be to come for the sake of those sheep- faced Sunday scholars, and not for my sake, or that long skeleton Moore’s.’

The sermon found an end; the benediction was pronounced; the congregation dispersed: she had not been near him.

Now, indeed, as Martin set his face homeward, he felt that the sleet was sharp, and the east wind cold.

His nearest way lay through some fields; it was a dangerous, because an untrodden way; he did not care; he would take it. Near the second stile rose a clump of trees; was that an umbrella waiting there? Yes; an umbrella held with evident difficulty against the blast; behind it fluttered a French-gray cloak. Martin grinned as he toiled up the steep encumbered field, difficult to the foot as a slope in the upper realms of Etna.

There was an inimitable look in his face when, having gained the stile, he seated himself coolly thereupon, and thus opened a conference which, for his own part, he was willing to prolong indefinitely.

‘I think you had better strike a bargain; exchange me for Mrs. Pryor.’

‘I was not sure whether you would come this way, Martin; but I thought I would run the chance; there is no such thing as getting a quiet word spoken in the church or churchyard.’

‘Will you agree? Make over Mrs. Pryor to my mother, and put me in her skirts?’

‘As if I could understand you! What puts Mrs. Pryor into your head?’

‘You call her “mamma,” don’t you?’

‘She is my mamma.’

‘Not possible—or so inefficient, so careless a mamma I should make a five times better one. You may laugh, I have no objection to see you laugh; your teeth—I hate ugly teeth; but yours are as pretty as a pearl necklace, and a necklace of which the pearls are very fair, even, and well-matched too.’

‘Martin, what now? I thought the Yorkes never paid compliments?’

‘They have not done till this generation; but I feel as if it were my vocation to turn out a new variety of the Yorke species. I am rather tired of my own ancestors; we have traditions going back for four ages —tales of Hiram, which was the son of Hiram, which was the son of Samuel, which was the son of John, which was the son of Zerubbabel Yorke. All, from Zerubbabel down to the last Hiram, were such as you

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page 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.