She whispered; Robert gave a start, a flash of the eye, a brief laugh; Miss Moore entered, and Sarah followed behind, with information that Fanny was come. The hour of converse was over.

Robert found a moment to exchange a few more whispered sentences; he was waiting at the foot of the staircase, as Caroline descended after putting on her shawl.

‘Must I call Shirley a noble creature now?’ he asked.

‘If you wish to speak the truth, certainly.’

‘Must I forgive her?’

‘Forgive her? Naughty Robert! Was she in the wrong, or were you?’

‘Must I at length love her downright, Cary?’

Caroline looked keenly up, and made a movement towards him, something between the loving and the petulant.

‘Only give the word, and I’ll try to obey you.’

‘Indeed, you must not love her; the bare idea is perverse.’

‘But then she is handsome, peculiarly handsome; here is a beauty that grows on you; you think her but graceful, when you first see her; you discover her to be beautiful when you have known her for a year.’

‘It is not you who are to say these things. Now, Robert, be good.’

‘O, Cary, I have no love to give. Were the goddess of beauty to woo me, I could not meet her advances: there is no heart which I can call mine in this breast.’

‘So much the better; you are a great deal safer without: good-night.’

‘Why must you always go, Lina, at the very instant when I most want you to stay?’

‘Because you most wish to retain when you are most certain to lose.’

‘Listen; one other word. Take care of your own heart; do you hear me?’

‘There is no danger.’

‘I am not convinced of that; the Platonic parson, for instance.’

‘Who? Malone?’

‘Cyril Hall; I owe more than one twinge of jealousy to that quarter.’

‘As to you, you have been flirting with Miss Mann; she showed me the other day a plant you had given her. Fanny, I am ready.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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