Resting her cheek on her forefinger, she waited to be told what circumstance.

‘It seems that Nunnely Priory is shut up; that the family are gone back to their place in —shire. It seems that the baronet—that the baronet—that Sir Philip himself has accompanied his mother and sisters.’

‘Indeed!’ said Shirley.

‘May I ask if you share the amazement with which I received this news?’

‘No, sir.’

Is it news to you?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘I mean — I mean,’ pursued Mr. Sympson, now fidgeting in his chair, quitting his hitherto brief and tolerably clear phraseology, and returning to his customary wordy, confused, irritable style; ‘I mean to have a thorough explanation. I will not be put off. I—I—shall insist on being heard; and on—on having my own way. My questions must be answered. I will have clear, satisfactory replies. I am not to be trifled with.’ (Silence.)

‘It is a strange and an extraordinary thing—a very singular—a most odd thing! I thought all was right: knew no other; and there—the family are gone!’

‘I suppose, sir, they had a right to go.’

Sir Philip is gone!’ (with emphasis).

Shirley raised her brows:

‘Bon voyage!’ said she.

‘This will not do: this must be altered, ma’am.’

He drew his chair forward; he pushed it back; he looked perfectly incensed, and perfectly helpless.

‘Come, come, now, uncle,’ expostulated Shirley, ‘do not begin to fret and fume, or we shall make no sense of the business. Ask me what you want to know; I am as willing to come to an explanation as you; I promise you truthful replies.’

‘I want—I demand to know, Miss Keeldar, whether Sir Philip has made you an offer?’

‘He has.’

‘You avow it?’

‘I avow it. But now, go on; consider that point settled.’

‘He made you an offer that night we dined at the Priory?’

‘It is enough to say that he made it. Go on.’

‘He proposed in the recess—in the room that used to be a picture-gallery—that Sir Monckton converted into a saloon?’

No answer.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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