She sat still, looking a little contumacious, and very much indisposed to stir. She was flushed with the fire; her dark hair had been more than once dishevelled by the morning wind that day; her attire was a light, neatly-fitting, but amply flowing dress of muslin; the shawl she had worn in the garden was still draped in a careless fold round her. Indolent, wilful, picturesque, and singularly pretty was her aspect—prettier than usual, as if some soft inward emotion—stirred who knows how?—had given new bloom and expression to her features.

‘Shirley—Shirley, you ought to go,’ whispered Caroline.

‘I wonder why!’

She lifted her eyes, and saw in the glass over the fireplace both Mr. Hall and Louis Moore gazing at her gravely.

‘If,’ she said, with a yielding smile—‘if a majority of the present company maintain that the De Walden Hall people have claims on my civility, I will subdue my inclinations to my duty. Let those who think I ought to go hold up their hands.’

Again consulting the mirror, it reflected a unanimous vote against her.

‘You must go,’ said Mr. Hall, ‘and behave courteously, too. You owe many duties to society. It is not permitted you to please only yourself.’

Louis Moore assented with a low ‘Hear! hear!’

Caroline, approaching her, smoothed her wavy curls, gave to her attire a less artistic and more domestic grace, and Shirley was put out of the room, protesting still, by a pouting lip, against her dismissal.

‘There is a curious charm about her,’ observed Mr. Hall, when she was gone. ‘And now,’ he added, ‘I must away, for Sweeting is off to see his mother, and there are two funerals.’

‘Henry, get your books; it is lesson-time,’ said Moore, sitting down to his desk.

‘A curious charm!’ repeated the pupil, when he and his master were left alone. ‘True. Is she not a kind of white witch?’ he asked.

‘Of whom are you speaking, sir?’

‘Of my cousin Shirley.’

‘No irrelevant questions. Study in silence.’

Mr. Moore looked and spoke sternly—sourly. Henry knew this mood; it was a rare one with his tutor, but when it came he had an awe of it; he obeyed.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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