‘There, Fred is ready for me; I must go. I’ll take one look to see what the spring has done in the south border, too, first.’

He quitted the room, and went out into the garden-ground behind the mill. A sweet fringe of young verdure and opening flowers—snowdrop, crocus, even primrose—bloomed in the sunshine under the hot wall of the factory. Moore plucked here and there a blossom and leaf, till he had collected a little bouquet; he returned to the parlour, pilfered a thread of silk from his sister’s work-basket, tied the flowers, and laid them on Caroline’s desk.

‘Now, good-morning.’

‘Thank you, Robert; it is pretty; it looks, as it lies there, like sparkles of sunshine and blue sky; good-morning.’

He went to the door, stopped, opened his lips as if to speak, said nothing, and moved on. He passed through the wicket and mounted his horse; in a second he had flung himself from the saddle again, transferred the reins to Murgatroyd, and re-entered the cottage.

‘I forgot my gloves,’ he said, appearing to take something from the side-table; then, as an impromptu thought, he remarked: ‘You have no binding engagement at home perhaps, Caroline?’

‘I never have: some children’s socks, which Mrs. Ramsden has ordered, to knit for the Jew’s basket; but they will keep.’

‘Jew’s basket be—sold! Never was utensil better named. Anything more Jewish than it—its contents, and their prices—cannot be conceived; but I see something, a very tiny curl, at the corners of your lip, which tells me that you know its merits as well as I do. Forget the Jew’s basket, then, and spend the day here as a change. Your uncle won’t break his heart at your absence?’

She smiled.

‘No.’

‘The old Cossack! I dare say not,’ muttered Moore. ‘Then stay and dine with Hortense, she will be glad of your company; I shall return in good time. We will have a little reading in the evening; the moon rises at half-past eight, and I will walk up to the Rectory with you at nine. Do you agree?’

She nodded her head, and her eyes lit up.

Moore lingered yet two minutes; he bent over Caroline’s desk and glanced at her grammar, he fingered her pen, he lifted her bouquet and played with it; his horse stamped impatient; Fred Murgatroyd hemmed and coughed at the gate, as if he wondered what in the world his master was doing.

‘Good - morning,’ again said Moore, and finally vanished.

Hortense, coming in ten minutes after, found, to her surprise, that Caroline had not yet commenced her exercise.


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