‘But, mother, you are so frozen!’ expostulated Jessy. ‘Miss Helstone has never done you any harm. Why can’t you be kind to her? You sit so stiff, and look so cold, and speak so dry—what for? That’s just the fashion in which you treat Miss Shirley Keeldar, and every other young lady who comes to our house. And Rose, there, is such an aut—aut— I have forgotten the word, but it means a machine in the shape of a human being. However, between you, you will drive every soul away from Briarmains—Martin often says so.’

‘I am an automaton? Good! Let me alone, then,’ said Rose, speaking from a corner where she was sitting on the carpet, at the foot of a bookcase, with a volume spread open on her knee. ‘Miss Helstone, how do you do?’ she added, directing a brief glance to the person addressed, and then again casting down her gray, remarkable eyes on the book, and returning to the study of its pages.

Caroline stole a quiet gaze towards her, dwelling on her young, absorbed countenance, and observing a certain unconscious movement of the mouth as she read—a movement full of character. Caroline had tact, and she had fine instinct. She felt that Rose Yorke was a peculiar child, one of the unique. She knew how to treat her. Approaching quietly, she knelt on the carpet at her side, and looked over her little shoulder at her book. It was a romance of Mrs. Radcliffe’s—‘The Italian.’

Caroline read on with her, making no remark. Presently Rose showed her the attention of asking, ere she turned a leaf:

‘Are you ready?’ Caroline only nodded. ‘Do you like it?’ inquired Rose erelong.

‘Long since, when I read it as a child, I was wonderfully taken with it.’


‘It seemed to open with such promise, such foreboding of a most strange tale to be unfolded.’

‘And in reading it you feel as if you were far away from England: really in Italy, under another sort of sky—that blue sky of the South, which travellers describe.’

‘You are sensible of that, Rose?’

‘It makes me long to travel, Miss Helstone.’

‘When you are a woman, perhaps you may be able to gratify your wish.’

‘I mean to make a way to do so, if one is not made for me. I cannot live always in Briarfield. The whole world is not very large compared with creation. I must see the outside of our own round planet at least.’

‘How much of its outside?’

‘First this hemisphere where we live, then the other. I am resolved that my life shall be a life, not a black trance like the toad’s, buried in marble, nor a long, slow death like yours in Briarfield Rectory.’

‘Like mine! What can you mean, child?’

‘Might you not as well be tediously dying as for ever shut up in that glebe-house—a place that, when I pass it, always reminds me of a windowed grave? I never see any movement about the door; I never hear a sound from the wall; I believe smoke never issues from the chimneys. What do you do there?’

‘I sew, I read, I learn lessons.’

‘Are you happy?’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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