The dinner-bell rang, and Shirley rose.

‘Mr. Moore,’ she said, as she gathered up her silks, ‘have you heard from your brother lately? Do you know what he means by staying in town so long? Does he talk of returning?’

‘He talks of returning; but what has caused his long absence I cannot tell. To speak the truth, I thought none in Yorkshire knew better than yourself why he was reluctant to come home.’

A crimson shadow passed across Miss Keeldar’s cheek.

‘Write to him and urge him to come,’ she said. ‘I know there has been no impolicy in protracting his absence thus far. It is good to let the mill stand while trade is so bad; but he must not abandon the county.’

‘I am aware,’ said Louis, ‘that he had an interview with you the evening before he left, and I saw him quit Fieldhead afterwards. I read his countenance, or tried to read it. He turned from me. I divined that he would be long away. Some fine, slight fingers have a wondrous knack at pulverizing a man’s brittle pride. I suppose Robert put too much trust in his manly beauty and native gentlemanhood. Those are better off who, being destitute of advantage, cannot cherish delusion. But I will write, and say you advise his return.’

‘Do not say I advise his return, but that his return is advisable.’

The second bell rang, and Miss Keeldar obeyed its call.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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