An Evening Out
One fine summer day that Caroline had spent entirely alone (her uncle being at Whinbury), and whose long, bright, noiseless, breezeless, cloudless hours (how many they seemed since sunrise!) had been to her as desolate as if they had gone over her head in the shadowless and trackless wastes of Zahara, instead of in the blooming garden of an English home, she was sitting in the alcove, her task of work on her knee, her fingers assiduously plying the needle, her eyes following and regulating their movements, her brain working restlessly, when Fanny came to the door, looked round over the lawn and borders, and, not seeing her whom she sought, called out:
A low voice answered:
It issued from the alcove, and thither Fanny hastened, a note in her hand, which she delivered to fingers that hardly seemed to have nerve to hold it. Miss Helstone did not ask whence it came, and she did not look at it; she let it drop amongst the folds of her work.
Joe Scotts son, Harry, brought it, said Fanny.
The girl was no enchantress, and knew no magic spell, yet what she said took almost magical effect on her young mistress. She lifted her head with the quick motion of revived sensation; she shot, not a languid, but a life-like, questioning glance at Fanny.
Harry Scott! Who sent him?
He came from the Hollow.
The dropped note was snatched up eagerly; the seal was broken; it was read in two seconds. An affectionate billet from Hortense, informing her young cousin that she was returned from Wormwood Wells; that she was alone to-day, as Robert was gone to Whinbury market, that nothing would give her greater pleasure than to have Carolines company to tea; and, the good lady added, she was sure such a change would be most acceptable and beneficial to Caroline, who must be sadly at a loss, both for safe guidance and improving society, since the misunderstanding between Robert and Mr. Helstone had occasioned a separation from her meilleure amie, Hortense Gerard Moore. In a postscript she was urged to put on her bonnet and run down directly.
Caroline did not need the injunction; glad was she to lay by the childs brown holland slip she was trimming with braid for the Jews basket to hasten upstairs, cover her curls with her straw bonnet, and throw round her shoulders the black silk scarf, whose simple drapery suited as well her shape as its dark hue set off the purity of her dress and the fairness of her face; glad was she to escape for a few hours the solitude, the sadness, the nightmare of her life; glad to run down the green lane sloping to the Hollow, to scent the fragrance of hedge-flowers sweeter than the perfume of moss-rose or lily. True, she knew Robert was not at the cottage, but it was delight to go where he had lately been; so long, so totally separated from him, merely to see his home, to enter the room where he had that morning sat, felt like a reunion. As such, it revived her, and then Illusion was again following her in Perimask: the soft agitation of wings caressed her cheek, and the air, breathing from the blue summer sky, bore a voice which whispered:
Robert may come home while your are in his house; and then, at least, you may look in his faceat least, you may give him your hand: perhaps, for a minute, you may sit beside him.
Silence! was her austere response; but she loved the comforter and the consolation.
Miss Moore probably caught from the window the gleam and flutter of Carolines white attire through the branchy garden-shrubs, for she advanced from the cottage porch to meet her. Straight, unbending,
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