‘What whim now?’ he asked. ‘Are you bewitched? What can you mean?’

‘I am not well, and need a change,’ she said.

He examined her. He discovered she had experienced a change, at any rate. Without his being aware of it, the rose had dwindled and faded to a mere snowdrop; bloom had vanished, flesh wasted; she sat before him drooping, colourless, and thin. But for the soft expression of her brown eyes, the delicate lines of her features, and the flowing abundance of her hair, she would no longer have possessed a claim to the epithet ‘pretty.’

‘What on earth is the matter with you?’ he asked. ‘What is wrong? How are you ailing?’

No answer, only the brown eyes filled, the faintly-tinted lips trembled.

‘Look out for a situation indeed! For what situation are you fit? What have you been doing with yourself? You are not well.’

‘I should be well if I went from home.’

‘These women are incomprehensible. They have the strangest knack of startling you with unpleasant surprises. To-day you see them bouncing, buxom, red as cherries, and round as apples; to-morrow they exhibit themselves effete as dead weeds, blanched and broken down. And the reason of it all? that’s the puzzle. She has her meals, her liberty, a good house to live in, and good clothes to wear, as usual. A while since that sufficed to keep her handsome and cheery, and there she sits now a poor, little, pale, puling chit enough. Provoking! Then comes the question, What is to be done? I suppose I must send for advice. Will you have a doctor, child?’

‘No, uncle; I don’t want one. A doctor could do me no good. I merely want change of air and scene.’

‘Well, if that be the caprice, it shall be gratified. You shall go to a watering-place. I don’t mind the expense; Fanny shall accompany you.’

‘But, uncle, some day I must do something for myself; I have no fortune. I had better begin now.’

‘While I live, you shall not turn out as a governess, Caroline. I will not have it said that my niece is a governess.’

‘But the later in life one makes a change of that sort, uncle, the more difficult and painful it is. I should wish to get accustomed to the yoke before any habits of ease and independence are formed.’

‘I beg you will not harass me, Caroline. I mean to provide for you. I have always meant to provide for you; I will purchase an annuity. Bless me! I am but fifty-five; my health, and constitution are excellent; there is plenty of time to save and take measures. Don’t make yourself anxious respecting the future. Is that what frets you?’

‘No, uncle; but I long for a change.’

He laughed. ‘There speaks the woman!’ cried he, ‘the very woman! A change! a change! Always fantastical and whimsical! Well, it’s in her sex.’

‘But it is not fantasy and whim, uncle.’

‘What is it, then?’

‘Necessity, I think. I feel weaker than formerly; I believe I should have more to do.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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