The two girls met no living soul on their way back to the Rectory. They let themselves in noiselessly; they stole upstairs unheard; the breaking morning gave them what light they needed. Shirley sought her couch immediately, and, though the room was strange—for she had never slept at the Rectory before—and though the recent scene was one unparalleled for excitement and terror by any it had hitherto been her lot to witness, yet scarce was her head laid on the pillow ere a deep, refreshing sleep closed her eyes and calmed her senses.

Perfect health was Shirley’s enviable portion; though warm-hearted and sympathetic, she was not nervous; powerful emotions could rouse and sway without exhausting her spirit; the tempest troubled and shook her while it lasted, but it left her elasticity unbent, and her freshness quite unblighted. As every day brought her stimulating emotion, so every night yielded her recreating rest. Caroline now watched her sleeping, and read the serenity of her mind in the beauty of her happy countenance.

For herself, being of a different temperament, she could not sleep. The commonplace excitement of the tea-drinking and school-gathering would alone have sufficed to make her restless all night; the effect of the terrible drama which had just been enacted before her eyes was not likely to quit her for days. It was vain even to try to retain a recumbent posture; she sat up by Shirley’s side, counting the slow minutes and watching the June sun mount the heavens.

Life wastes fast in such vigils as Caroline had of late but too often kept; vigils during which the mind—having no pleasant food to nourish it, no manna of hope, no hived honey of joyous memories—tries to live on the meagre diet of wishes, and failing to derive thence either delight or support, and feeling itself ready to perish with craving want, turns to philosophy, to resolution, to resignation; calls on all these gods for aid—calls vainly, is unheard, unhelped, and languishes.

Caroline was a Christian; therefore in trouble she framed many a prayer after the Christian creed, preferred it with deep earnestness, begged for patience, strength, relief. This world, however, we all know, is the scene of trial and probation; and, for any favourable result her petitions had yet wrought, it seemed to her that they were unheard and unaccepted. She believed, sometimes, that God had turned His face from her. At moments she was a Calvinist, and, sinking into the gulf of religious despair, she saw darkening over her the doom of reprobation.

Most people have had a period or periods in their lives when they have felt thus forsaken; when, having long hoped against hope, and still seen the day of fruition deferred, their hearts have truly sickened within them. This is a terrible hour, but it is often that darkest point which precedes the rise of day—that turn of the year when the icy January wind carries over the waste at once the dirge of departing winter and the prophecy of coming spring. The perishing birds, however, cannot thus understand the blast before which they shiver; and as little can the suffering soul recognise, in the climax of its affliction, the dawn of its deliverance. Yet, let whoever grieves still cling fast to love and faith in God; God will never deceive, never finally desert him. ‘Whom He loveth, He chasteneth.’ These words are true, and should not be forgotten.

The household was astir at last; the servants were up; the shutters were opened below. Caroline, as she quitted the couch, which had been but a thorny one to her, felt that revival of spirits which the return of day, of action, gives to all but the wholly despairing or actually dying. She dressed herself, as usual, carefully, trying so to arrange her hair and attire that nothing of the forlornness she felt at heart should be visible externally; she looked as fresh as Shirley when both were dressed, only that Miss Keeldar’s eyes were lively and Miss Helstone’s languid.

‘To-day I shall have much to say to Moore,’ were Shirley’s first words; and you could see in her face that life was full of interest, expectation, and occupation for her. ‘He will have to undergo cross-examination,’ she added. ‘I dare say he thinks he has outwitted me cleverly. And this is the way men deal with women; still concealing danger from them; thinking, I suppose, to spare them pain. They imagined we little knew

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