Shirley HTML version
22. Two Lives
Only half of Moore's activity and resolution had been seen in his defence of the
mill: he showed the other half (and a terrible half it was) in the indefatigable, the
relentless assiduity, with which he pursued the leaders of the riot. The mob, the
mere followers, he let alone: perhaps an innate sense of justice told him that men
misled by false counsel, goaded by privations, are not fit objects of vengeance,
and that he who would visit an even violent act on the bent head of suffering, is a
tyrant, not a judge. At all events, though he knew many of the number, having
recognised them during the latter part of the attack when day began to dawn, he
let them daily pass him on street and road without notice or threat.
The leaders he did not know. They were strangers: emissaries from the large
towns. Most of these were not members of the operative class: they were chiefly
'downdraughts,' bankrupts, men always in debt and often in drink - men who had
nothing to lose, and much - in the way of character, cash, and cleanliness - to
gain. These persons Moore hunted like any sleuth-hound; and well he liked the
occupation: its excitement was of a kind pleasant to his nature: he liked it better
than making cloth.
His horse must have hated these times, for it was ridden both hard and often: he
almost lived on the road, and the fresh air was as welcome to his lungs as the
policeman's quest to his mood: he preferred it to the steam of dye-houses. The
magistrates of the district must have dreaded him: they were slow, timid men; he
liked both to frighten and to rouse them. He liked to force them to betray a certain
fear, which made them alike falter in resolve and recoil in action - the fear,
simply, of assassination. This, indeed, was the dread which had hitherto
hampered every manufacturer - and almost every public man in the district.
Helstone alone had ever repelled it. The old Cossack knew well he might be
shot: he knew there was risk; but such a death had for his nerves no terrors: it
would have been his chosen - might he have had a choice.
Moore likewise knew his danger: the result was an unquenchable scorn of the
quarter whence such danger was to be apprehended. The consciousness that he
hunted assassins was the spur in his high-mettled temper's flank. As for fear, he
was too proud - too hard-natured - (if you will) - too phlegmatic a man to fear.
Many a time he rode belated over moors, moonlit or moonless as the case might
be, with feelings far more elate, faculties far better refreshed, than when safety
and stagnation environed him in the counting-house. Four was the number of the
leaders to be accounted for: two, in the course of a fortnight, were brought to bay
near Stilbro'; the remaining two it was necessary to seek further off: their haunts
were supposed to lie near Birmingham.
Meantime the clothier did not neglect his battered mill: its reparation was
esteemed a light task; carpenters' and glaziers' work alone being needed. The
rioters not having succeeded in effecting an entrance, his grim, metal darlings -
the machines - had escaped damage.
Whether, during this busy life - whether, while stern justice and exacting business
claimed his energies and harassed his thoughts - he now and then gave one