‘And what is your reading, Miss Helstone, o’ these words o’ St. Paul’s?’

‘Hem! I—I account for them in this way: he wrote that chapter for a particular congregation of Christians, under peculiar circumstances; and besides, I dare say, if I could read the original Greek, I should find that many of the words have been wrongly translated, perhaps misapprehended altogether. It would be possible, I doubt not, with a little ingenuity, to give the passage quite a contrary turn—to make it say, “Let the woman speak out whenever she sees fit to make an objection”; “it is permitted to a woman to teach and to exercise authority as much as may be. Man, meantime, cannot do better than hold his peace,” and so on.’

‘That willn’t wash, miss.’

‘I dare say it will. My notions are dyed in faster colours than yours, Joe. Mr. Scott, you are a thoroughly dogmatical person, and always were. I like William better than you.’

‘Joe is well enough in his own house,’ said Shirley. ‘I have seen him as quiet as a lamb at home. There is not a better nor a kinder husband in Briarfield. He does not dogmatise to his wife.’

‘My wife is a hard-working, plain woman—time and trouble has ta’en all the conceit out of her; but that is not the case with you, young misses. And then you reckon to have so much knowledge; and i’ my thoughts it’s only superficial sort o’ vanities you’re acquainted with. I can tell—happen a year sin’—one day Miss Caroline coming into our counting-house when I war packing up summat behind t’ great desk, and she didn’t see me, and she brought a slate wi’ a sum on it to t’ maister. It were only a bit of a sum in practice, that our Harry would have settled i’ two minutes. She couldn’t do it: Mr. Moore had to show her how: and when he did show her, she couldn’t understand him.’

‘Nonsense, Joe!’

‘Nay, it’s no nonsense. And Miss Shirley there reckons to hearken to t’ maister when he’s talking ower trade, so attentive like, as if she followed him word for word, and all war as clear as a lady’s looking- glass to her een; and all ’t while she’s peeping and peeping out o’ t’ window to see if t’ mare stands quiet, and then looking at a bit of a splash on her riding-skirt, and then glancing glegly round at wer counting- house cobwebs and dust, and thinking what mucky folk we are, and what a grand ride she’ll have just i’ now ower Nunnely Common. She hears no more o’ Mr. Moore’s talk nor if he spake Hebrew.’

‘Joe, you are a real slanderer. I would give you your answer, only the people are coming out of church: we must leave you. Man of prejudice, good-bye; William, good-bye. Children, come up to Fieldhead to- morrow, and you shall choose what you like best out of Mrs. Gill’s store-room.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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