Willow Eyre

by Maureen 'Plagiarize Much?' Wynn
Copyright © 1997

Hey, I've found the trick to break my writer's block - steal wholesale from better writers! (eg) Thanks to Kiki for this particular inspiration; no one else is to blame, and certainly not Charlotte Brontë (who is now spinning, along with Miss Austin and Mr. Chaucer).

He had a dark face, with stern yet kindly features and a wide brow; his eyes and gathered eyebrows looked ireful and thwarted just now; he was past youth, but had not reached middle-age; perhaps he might be forty-five. Willow felt no fear of him, and but little shyness. Had he been a handsome, heroic-looking young gentleman, she should not have dared to stand thus questioning him, and offering her services unasked. She had hardly ever seen a handsome youth; never in her life spoken to one, aside from the odd vowel sounds. She had a reverence and homage for beauty, elegance, gallantry; but had she met those qualities incarnate in masculine shape, she should have felt instinctively that they neither had nor could have sympathy with anything in her, and should have shunned them as one would fire, lightning, or vampires.

"I cannot think of leaving you, sir, at so late an hour, in this solitary lane, till I see you are fit to mount your, um, vehicle."

Giles (for such was his name) looked at Willow when she said this; he had hardly turned his eyes in her direction before.

"I should think you ought to be at home yourself," said he, "if you have a home in this neighbourhood: where do you come from?"

"From just below; and I am not at all afraid of being out late when it is moonlight: I will run over to Sunnydale for you with pleasure, if you wish it: indeed, I am going there to post a letter."

"You live just below - do you mean at that house with the hedges?" pointing to Rosenberg Hall, on which the moon cast a hoary gleam, bringing it out distinct and pale from the woods, that, by contrast with the western sky, now seemed one mass of shadow.

"Yes, sir."

"Whose house is it?"

"The Rosenbergs."

"You are not a servant at the hall, of course. You are—" Giles stopped, running his eye over Willow's dress, which, as usual, was quite simple: a black merino cloak, a black beaver bonnet; neither of them half fine enough for a lady's-maid. He seemed puzzled to decide what she was; she helped him with this determination.

"I am the governess."

"Ah, the governess!" he repeated; "deuce take me, if I had not forgotten! The governess!" and again her raiment underwent scrutiny. In two minutes he rose from the stile: his face expressed pain when he tried to move.

"I cannot commission you to fetch help," he said; "but you may help me a little yourself, if you will be so kind."

"Oh, yes, sir!'

"You have not an umbrella that I can use as a stick?"

"No, but perhaps I can venture into the woods and find a branch or stake, I mean stick, that might support you?"

"You are not afraid?"

Willow should have been afraid to enter the woods when alone, but when told to do it, she was disposed to obey. She put down her muff on the stile, and went up to the verge of the trees; she endeavoured to find a stout stick, but the ground was bare; She made effort on effort, though in vain: meantime, the traveller waited and watched for some time, and at last he laughed.

"I see," he said, "the mountain will never be brought to Mahomet, so all you can do is to aid Mahomet to go to the mountain; I must beg of you to come here."

Willow came to his side. "Excuse me," he continued: "necessity compels me to make you useful." He laid a heavy hand on her shoulder, and leaning on her with some stress, limped to his vehicle. Having once caught the door handle, he mastered it directly and sprang to his seat; grimacing grimly as he made the effort, for it wrenched his sprain.

"Now," said he, releasing his under lip from a hard bite, "just hand me my book; it lies there under the hedge."

Willow sought it and found it, returning the leather-clad volume to its owner.

"Thank you; now make haste with the letter to Sunnydale, and return as fast as you can."

A touch of an eager foot made his vehicle bound away; it vanished quickly down the lane.

    'Like heath that, in the wilderness,
      The wild wind whirls away.'

Willow took up her muff and walked on. The incident had occurred and was gone for her: it was an incident of no moment, no romance, no interest in a sense; yet it marked with change one single hour of a monotonous life. Her help had been needed and claimed; she had given it eagerly: She was pleased to have done something; trivial, transitory though the deed was, it was yet an active thing, and she was weary of an existence all passive. The new face, too, was like a new picture introduced to the gallery of memory; and it was dissimilar to all the others hanging there: firstly, because it was masculine; and, secondly, because it was dark, strong, and stern.

She had it still before her when she entered Sunnydale, and slipped the letter into the post-office; She saw it as she walked fast down-hill all the way home, glancing all the while over her shoulder, for she felt somehow that the tenor of the evening had changed. The atmosphere itself seemed to hang somehow heavier upon her shoulders in response to the events of the evening. Something was different; she was unsure what exactly had changed, but she faced the future with an excited anticipation that she had not experienced formerly. Anticipation, but somewhat of a dread also accompanied her; accompanied her all the way down the lane and to the door of her domicile.

to be continued??

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