Mrs. Pryor

While Shirley was talking with Moore, Caroline rejoined Mrs. Pryor upstairs. She found that lady deeply depressed. She would not say that Miss Keeldar’s hastiness had hurt her feelings; but it was evident an inward wound galled her. To any but a congenial nature she would have seemed insensible to the quiet, tender attentions by which Miss Helstone sought to impart solace; but Caroline knew that, unmoved or slightly moved as she looked, she felt, valued, and was healed by them.

‘I am deficient in self-confidence and decision,’ she said at last. ‘I always have been deficient in those qualities; yet I think Miss Keeldar should have known my character well enough by this time, to be aware that I always feel an even painful solicitude to do right, to act for the best. The unusual nature of the demand on my judgment puzzled me, especially following the alarms of the night. I could not venture to act promptly for another; but I trust no serious harm will result from my lapse of firmness.’

A gentle knock was here heard at the door; it was half-opened.

‘Caroline, come here,’ said a low voice.

Miss Helstone went out; there stood Shirley in the gallery, looking contrite, ashamed, sorry as any repentant child.

‘How is Mrs. Pryor?’ she asked.

‘Rather out of spirits,’ said Caroline.

‘I have behaved very shamefully, very ungenerously, very ungratefully to her,’ said Shirley. ‘How insolent in me to turn on her thus for what, after all, was no fault, only an excess of conscientiousness on her part. But I regret my error most sincerely. Tell her so, and ask if she will forgive me.’

Caroline discharged the errand with heartfelt pleasure. Mrs. Pryor rose, came to the door. She did not like scenes; she dreaded them, as all timid people do. She said falteringly:

‘Come in, my dear.’

Shirley did come in with some impetuosity. She threw her arms round her governess, and while she kissed her heartily, she said:

‘You know you must forgive me, Mrs. Pryor. I could not get on at all if there was a misunderstanding between you and me.’

‘I have nothing to forgive,’ was the reply. ‘We will pass it over now, if you please. The final result of the incident is, that it proves more plainly than ever how unequal I am to certain crises.’

And that was the painful feeling which would remain on Mrs. Pryor’s mind: no effort of Shirley’s or Caroline’s could efface it thence. She could forgive her offending pupil, not her innocent self.

Miss Keeldar, doomed to be in constant request during the morning, was presently summoned down- stairs again. The Rector called first. A lively welcome and livelier reprimand were at his service; he expected both, and, being in high spirits, took them in equally good part.

In the course of his brief visit, he quite forgot to ask after his niece: the riot, the rioters, the mill, the magistrates, the heiress, absorbed all his thoughts, to the exclusion of family ties. He alluded to the part himself and curate had taken in the defence of the Hollow.

‘The vials of pharisaical wrath will be emptied on our heads for our share in this business,’ he said; ‘but I defy every calumniator. I was there only to support the law, to play my part as a man and a Briton, which characters I deem quite compatible with those of the priest and Levite, in their highest sense. Your tenant, Moore,’ he went on, ‘has won my approbation. A cooler commander I would not wish to

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