Wherein matters make some progress, but not much

Martin had planned well. He had laid out a dexterously concerted scheme for his private amusement; but older and wiser schemers than he are often doomed to see their finest spun projects swept to annihilation by the sudden broom of Fate—that fell housewife whose red arm none can control. In the present instance this broom was manufactured out of the tough fibres of Moore’s own stubborn purpose, bound tight with his will. He was now resuming his strength, and making strange head against Mrs. Horsfall. Each morning he amazed that matron with a fresh astonishment. First, he discharged her from her valet duties—he would dress himself; then he refused the coffee she brought him— he would breakfast with the family; lastly, he forbade her his chamber. On the same day, amidst the outcries of all the women in the place, he put his head out of doors. The morning after, he followed Mr. Yorke to his counting-house, and requested an envoy to fetch a chaise from the Red House Inn. He was resolved, he said, to return home to the Hollow that very afternoon. Mr. Yorke, instead of opposing, aided and abetted him. The chaise was sent for, though Mrs. Yorke declared the step would be his death. It came. Moore, little disposed to speak, made his purse do duty for his tongue; he expressed his gratitude to the servants and to Mrs. Horsfall by the chink of his coin. The latter personage approved and understood this language perfectly; it made amends for all previous contumacy. She and her patient parted the best friends in the world.

The kitchen visited and soothed, Moore betook himself to the parlour; he had Mrs. Yorke to appease— not quite so easy a task as the pacification of her housemaids. There she sat plunged in sullen dudgeon, the gloomiest speculations on the depths of man’s ingratitude absorbing her thoughts. He drew near and bent over her; she was obliged to look up, if it were only to bid him ‘avaunt.’ There was beauty still in his pale, wasted features; there was earnestness, and a sort of sweetness—for he was smiling—in his hollow eyes.

‘Good-bye!’ he said; and, as he spoke, the smile glittered and melted. He had no iron mastery of his sensations now; a trifling emotion made itself apparent in his present weak state.

‘And what are you going to leave us for?’ she asked; ‘we will keep you, and do anything in the world for you, if you will only stay till you are stronger.’

‘Good-bye!’ he again said; and added, ‘you have been a mother to me. Give your wilful son one embrace.’

Like a foreigner as he was, he offered her first one cheek, then the other. She kissed him.

‘What a trouble—what a burden I have been to you!’ he muttered.

‘You are the worst trouble now, headstrong youth!’ was the answer. ‘I wonder who is to nurse you at Hollow’s Cottage? Your sister Hortense knows no more about such matters than a child.’

‘Thank God! for I have had nursing enough to last me my life.’

Here the little girls came in—Jessy crying, Rose quiet, but grave. Moore took them out into the hall to soothe, pet, and kiss them. He knew it was not in their mother’s nature to bear to see any living thing caressed but herself; she would have felt annoyed had he fondled a kitten in her presence.

The boys were standing about the chaise as Moore entered it; but for them he had no farewell. To Mr. Yorke he only said:

‘You have a good riddance of me. That was an unlucky shot for you, Yorke; it turned Briarmains into a hospital. Come and see me at the cottage soon.’

He drew up the glass; the chaise rolled away. In half an hour he alighted at his own garden-wicket. Having paid the driver and dismissed the vehicle, he leaned on that wicket an instant, at once to rest and to muse.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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