‘There are not two opinions on that head,’ said Shirley, as she tied on her own bonnet, and then ran to fetch Caroline’s.

‘But what will Fanny and Eliza do? And if my uncle returns?’

‘Your uncle will not return yet; he has other fish to fry; he will be galloping backwards and forwards from Briarfield to Stilbro’ all day, rousing the magistrates in the court-house, and the officers at the barracks; and Fanny and Eliza can have in Joe Scott’s and the clerk’s wives to bear them company. Besides, of course, there is no real danger to be apprehended now: weeks will elapse before the rioters can again rally, or plan any other attempt; and I am much mistaken if Moore and Mr. Helstone will not take advantage of last night’s outbreak to quell them altogether; they will frighten the authorities of Stilbro’ into energetic measures. I only hope they will not be too severe—not pursue the discomfited too relentlessly.’

‘Robert will not be cruel, we saw that last night,’ said Caroline.

‘But he will be hard,’ retorted Shirley, ‘and so will your uncle.’

As they hurried along the meadow and plantation path to Fieldhead, they saw the distant highway already alive with an unwonted flow of equestrians and pedestrians, tending in the direction of the usually solitary Hollow. On reaching the Hall, they found the backyard gates open, and the court and kitchen seemed crowded with excited milk-fetchers—men, women, and children—whom Mrs. Gill, the housekeeper, appeared vainly persuading to take their milk-cans and depart. (It is, or was, by-the-by, the custom in the North of England for the cottagers on a country squire’s estate to receive their supplies of milk and butter from the dairy of the manor-house, on whose pastures a herd of milch kine was usually fed for the convenience of the neighbourhood. Miss Keeldar owned such a herd—all deep-dewlapped, Craven cows, reared on the sweet herbage and clear waters of bonnie Airedale, and very proud she was of their sleek aspect and high condition.) Seeing now the state of matters, and that it was desirable to effect a clearance of the premises, Shirley stepped in amongst the gossiping groups. She bade them goodmorning with a certain frank, tranquil ease—the natural characteristic of her manner when she addressed numbers, especially if those numbers belonged to the working-class; she was cooler amongst her equals, and rather proud to those above her. She then asked them if they had all got their milk measured out, and, understanding that they had, she further observed that she ‘wondered what they were waiting for, then.’

‘We’re just talking a bit over this battle there has been at your mill, mistress,’ replied a man.

‘Talking a bit! Just like you!’ said Shirley. ‘It is a queer thing all the world is so fond of talking over events. You talk if anybody dies suddenly; you talk if a fire breaks out; you talk if a mill-owner fails; you talk if he’s murdered. What good does your talking do?’

There is nothing the lower orders like better than a little downright good-humoured rating. Flattery they scorn very much; honest abuse they enjoy. They call it speaking plainly, and take a sincere delight in being the objects thereof. The homely harshness of Miss Keeldar’s salutation won her the ear of the whole throng in a second.

‘We’re no war nor some ’at is aboon us, are we?’ asked a man, smiling.

‘Nor a whit better. You that should be models of industry are just as gossip-loving as the idle. Fine, rich people that have nothing to do may be partly excused for trifling their time away; you, who have to earn your bread with the sweat of your brow, are quite inexcusable.’

‘That’s queer, mistress. Suld we never have a holiday because we work hard?’

Never!’ was the prompt answer; ‘unless,’ added the ‘mistress’ with a smile that half-belied the severity of her speech—‘unless you knew how to make a better use of it than to get together over rum and tea, if

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