Mr. Donne's Exodus

The next day Shirley expressed to Caroline how delighted she felt that the little party had gone off so well.

‘I rather like to entertain a circle of gentlemen,’ said she; ‘it is amusing to observe how they enjoy a judiciously concocted repast. For ourselves, you see, these choice wines and these scientific dishes are of no importance to us; but gentlemen seem to retain something of the naïveté of children about food, and one likes to please them—that is, when they show the becoming, decent self-government of our admirable Rectors. I watch Moore sometimes, to try and discover how he can be pleased; but he has not that child’s simplicity about him. Did you ever find out his accessible point, Caroline? You have seen more of him than I.’

‘It is not, at any rate, that of my uncle and Dr. Boultby,’ returned Caroline, smiling. She always felt a sort of shy pleasure in following Miss Keeldar’s lead respecting the discussion of her cousin’s character. Left to herself, she would never have touched on the subject; but when invited, the temptation of talking about him of whom she was ever thinking was irresistible. ‘But,’ she added, ‘I really don’t know what it is; for I never watched Robert in my life but my scrutiny was presently baffled by finding he was watching me.’

‘There it is!’ exclaimed Shirley. ‘You can’t fix your eyes on him but his presently flash on you. He is never, off his guard; he won’t give you an advantage; even when he does not look at you, his thoughts seem to be busy amongst your own thoughts, tracing your words and actions to their source, contemplating your motives at his ease. Oh, I know that sort of character, or something in the same style! It is one that piques me singularly—how does it affect you?’

This question was a specimen of one of Shirley’s sharp, sudden turns. Caroline used to be fluttered by them at first, but she had now got into the way of parrying these home-thrusts like a little Quakeress.

‘Pique you? In what way does it pique you?’ she said.

‘Here he comes!’ suddenly exclaimed Shirley, breaking off, starting up and running to the window. ‘Here comes a diversion. I never told you of a superb conquest I have made lately—made at those parties to which I can never persuade you to accompany me; and the thing has been done without effort or intention on my part, that I aver. There is the bell—and, by all that’s delicious! there are two of them. Do they never hunt, then, except in couples? You may have one, Lina, and you may take your choice; I hope I am generous enough. Listen to Tartar!’

The black-muzzled, tawny dog, a glimpse of which was seen in the chapter which first introduced its mistress to the reader, here gave tongue in the hall, amidst whose hollow space the deep bark resounded formidably. A growl, more terrible than the bark—menacing as muttered thunder—succeeded.

‘Listen!’ again cried Shirley, laughing. ‘You would think that the prelude to a bloody onslaught; they will be frightened, they don’t know old Tartar as I do; they are not aware his uproars are all sound and fury, signifying nothing.’

Some bustle was heard.

‘Down, sir—down!’ exclaimed a high-toned, imperious voice, and then came a crack of a cane or whip.

Immediately there was a yell—a scutter—a run—a positive tumult.

‘Oh! Malone! Malone!’

‘Down! down! down!’ cried the high voice.

‘He really is worrying them!’ exclaimed Shirley. ‘They have struck him; a blow is what he is not used to, and will not take.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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