‘But I could only tell half a tale, and my time is limited—I have not a moment to spare; hereafter I will make amends for delay by condour.’

‘But are you going home?’


‘Not to leave it any more to-night?’

‘Certainly not. At present, farewell to both of you!’

He would have taken Caroline’s hand and joined it in the same clasp in which he held Shirley’s, but somehow it was not ready for him; she had withdrawn a few steps apart: her answer to Moore’s adieu was only a slight bend of the head, and a gentle, serious smile. He sought no more cordial token: again he said, ‘Farewell!’ and quitted them both.

‘There—it is over!’ said Shirley, when he was gone. ‘We have made him bid us good-night, and yet not lost ground in his esteem, I think, Cary.’

‘I hope not,’ was the brief reply.

‘I consider you very timid and undemonstrative,’ remarked Miss Keeldar. ‘Why did you not give Moore your hand when he offered you his? He is your cousin; you like him. Are you ashamed to let him perceive your affection?’

‘He perceives all of it that interests him: no need to make a display of feeling.’

‘You are laconic: you would be stoical if you could. Is love, in your eyes, a crime, Caroline?’

‘Love a crime! No, Shirley—love is a Divine virtue; but why drag that word into the conversation? It is singularly irrelevant!’

‘Good!’ pronounced Shirley.

The two girls paced the green lane in silence. Caroline first resumed:

‘Obtrusiveness is a crime, forwardness is a crime, and both disgust: but love—no purest angel need blush to love! And when I see or hear either man or woman couple shame with love, I know their minds are coarse, their associations debased. Many who think themselves refined ladies and gentlemen, and on whose lips the word “vulgarity” is for ever hovering, cannot mention “love” without betraying their own innate and imbecile degradation. It is a low feeling in their estimation, connected only with low ideas for them.’

‘You describe three-fourths of the world, Caroline.’

‘They are cold, they are cowardly, they are stupid on the subject, Shirley! They never loved, they never were loved!’

‘Thou art right, Lina! And in their dense ignorance they blaspheme living fire, seraph-brought from a Divine altar.’

‘They confound it with sparks mounting from Tophet!’

The sudden and joyous clash of bells here stopped the dialogue by summoning all to the church.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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