Farren, for his part, showed Mrs. Pryor only a very sulky brow. He knew when he was misjudged, and was apt to turn unmanageable with such as failed to give him his due.

The evening restored Caroline entirely to her mother, and Mrs. Pryor liked the evening, for then, alone with her daughter, no human shadow came between her and what she loved. During the day she would have her stiff demeanour and cool moments, as was her wont. Between her and Mr. Helstone a very respectful but most rigidly ceremonious intercourse was kept up. Anything like familiarity would have bred contempt at once in one or both these personages; but, by dint of strict civility and well-maintained distance, they got on very smoothly.

Towards the servants Mrs. Pryor’s bearing was not uncourteous, but shy, freezing, ungenial. Perhaps it was diffidence rather than pride which made her appear so haughty; but, as was to be expected, Fanny and Eliza failed to make the distinction, and she was unpopular with them accordingly. She felt the effect produced; it rendered her at times dissatisfied with herself for faults she could not help, and with all else dejected, chill and taciturn.

This mood changed to Caroline’s influence, and to that influence alone. The dependent fondness of her nursling, the natural affection of her child, came over her suavely; her frost fell away, her frigidity unbent, she grew smiling and pliant. Not that Caroline made any wordy profession of love—that would ill have suited Mrs. Pryor: she would have read therein the proof of insincerity—but she hung on her with easy dependence, she confided in her with fearless reliance. These things contented the mother’s heart.

She liked to hear her daughter say, ‘Mamma, do this.’ ‘Please, mamma, fetch me that.’ ‘Mamma, read to me.’ ‘Sing a little, mamma.’

Nobody else—not one living thing—had ever so claimed her services, so looked for help at her hand. Other people were always more or less reserved and stiff with her, as she was reserved and stiff with them; other people betrayed consciousness of, and annoyance at, her weak points: Caroline no more showed such wounding sagacity or reproachful sensitiveness now, than she had done when a suckling of three months old.

Yet Caroline could find fault. Blind to the constitutional defects that were incurable, she had her eyes wide open to the acquired habits that were susceptible of remedy. On certain points she would quite artlessly lecture her parent; and that parent, instead of being hurt, felt a sensation of pleasure in discovering that the girl dared lecture her; that she was so much at home with her.

‘Mamma, I am determined you shall not wear that old gown any more; its fashion is not becoming; it is too strait in the skirt. You shall put on your black silk every afternoon; in that you look nice; it suits you, and you shall have a black satin dress for Sundays—a real satin—not a satinet or any of the shams. And, mamma, when you get the new one, mind, you must wear it.’

‘My dear, I thought of the black silk serving me as a best dress for many years yet, and I wished to buy you several things.’

‘Nonsense, mamma: my uncle gives me cash to get what I want; you know he is generous enough; and I have set my heart on seeing you in a black satin. Get it soon and let it be made by a dressmaker of my recommending: let me choose the pattern. You always want to disguise yourself like a grandmother: you would persuade one that you are old and ugly—not at all! On the contrary, when well-dressed and cheerful, you are very comely indeed. Your smile is so pleasant, your teeth are so white, your hair is still such a pretty light colour. And then you speak like a young lady, with such a clear, fine tone, and you sing better than any young lady I ever heard. Why do you wear such dresses and bonnets, mamma, such as nobody else ever wears?’

‘Does it annoy you, Caroline?’

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