Shirley seeks to be saved by works

‘Of course I know he will marry Shirley,’ were her first words when she rose in the morning. ‘And he ought to marry her; she can help him,’ she added firmly. ‘But I shall be forgotten when they are married,’ was the cruel succeeding thought. ‘Oh, I shall be wholly forgotten! And what—what shall I do when Robert is taken quite from me? Where shall I turn? My Robert! I wish I could justly call him mine; but I am poverty and incapacity. Shirley is wealth and power; and she is beauty, too, and love—I cannot deny it. This is no sordid suit; she loves him —not with inferior feelings; she loves, or will love, as he must feel proud to be loved. Not a valid objection can be made. Let them be married, then; but afterwards I shall be nothing to him. As for being his sister, and all that stuff, I despise it. I will either be all or nothing to a man like Robert; no feeble shuffling or false cant is endurable. Once let that pair be united, and I will certainly leave them. As for lingering about, playing the hypocrite, and pretending to calm sentiments of friendship, when my soul will be wrung with other feelings, I shall not descend to such degradation, As little could I fill the place of their mutual friend as that of their deadly foe; as little could I stand between them as trample over them. Robert is a first-rate man —in my eyes; I have loved, do love, and must love him. I would be his wife, if I could; as I cannot, I must go where I shall never see him. There is but one alternative—to cleave to him as if I were a part of him, or to be sundered from him wide as the two poles of a sphere. Sunder me, then, Providence. Part us speedily.’

Some such aspirations as these were again working in her mind late in the afternoon, when the apparition of one of the personages haunting her thoughts passed the parlour window. Miss Keeldar sauntered slowly by; her gait, her countenance wearing that mixture of wistfulness and carelessness which, when quiescent, was the wonted cast of her look and character of her bearing. When animated, the carelessness quite vanished, the wistfulness became blent with a genial gaiety, seasoning the laugh, the smile, the glance, with a unique flavour of sentiment, so that mirth from her never resembled ‘the crackling of thorns under a pot.’

‘What do you mean by not coming to see me this afternoon, as you promised?’ was her address to Caroline as she entered the room.

‘I was not in the humour,’ said Miss Helstone, very truly.

Shirley had already fixed on her a penetrating eye.

‘No,’ she said; ‘I see you are not in the humour for loving me; you are in one of your sunless, inclement moods, when one feels a fellow-creature’s presence is not welcome to you. You have such moods. Are you aware of it?’

‘Do you mean to stay long, Shirley?’

‘Yes; I am come to have my tea, and must have it before I go. I shall take the liberty, then, of removing my bonnet without being asked.’

And this she did, and then stood on the rug with her hands behind her.

‘A pretty expression you have in your countenance,’ she went on, still gazing keenly, though not inimically, rather indeed pityingly, at Caroline. ‘Wonderfully self-supported you look, you solitude-seeking wounded deer. Are you afraid Shirley will worry you if she discovers that you are hurt, and that you bleed?’

‘I never do fear Shirley.’

‘But sometimes you dislike her; often you avoid her. Shirley can feel when she is slighted and shunned. If you had not walked home in the company you did last night, you would have been a different girl to- day. What time did you reach the Rectory?’

‘By ten.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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