‘I should like her to see the place as it is just now; its brilliant cleanliness and perfect neatness are so much to your credit.’

‘It might benefit her in the way of example.’

‘It might and must; she ought to come.’

He went into the kitchen.

‘Sarah, delay tea half an hour.’

He then commissioned her to despatch Harry Scott to the Rectory, giving her a twisted note hastily scribbled in pencil by himself, and addressed ‘Miss Helstone.’

Scarcely had Sarah time to get impatient under the fear of damage to her toast, already prepared, when the messenger returned, and with him the invited guest.

She entered through the kitchen, quietly tripped up Sarah’s stairs to take off her bonnet and furs, and came down as quietly, with her beautiful curls nicely smoothed; her graceful merino dress and delicate collar all trim and spotless; her gay little work-bag in her hand. She lingered to exchange a few kindly words with Sarah, and to look at the new tortoise-shell kitten basking on the kitchen hearth, and to speak to the canary-bird, which a sudden blaze from the fire had startled on its perch; and then she betook herself to the parlour.

The gentle salutation, the friendly welcome, were interchanged in such tranquit sort as befitted cousins meeting; a sense of pleasure, subtle and quiet as a perfume, diffused itself through the room; the newly- kindled lamp burnt up bright; the tray and the singing urn were brought in.

‘I am pleased to come home,’ repeated Mr. Moore.

They assembled round the table. Hortense chiefly talked. She congratulated Caroline on the evident improvement in her health; her colour and her plump cheeks were returning, she remarked. It was true. There was an obvious change in Miss Helstone: all about her seemed elastic; depression, fear, forlornness, were withdrawn. No longer crushed, and saddened, and slow, and drooping, she looked like one who had tasted the cordial of heart’s ease, and been lifted on the wing of hope.

After tea Hortense went upstairs. She had not rummaged her drawers for a month past, and the impulse to perform that operation was now become resistless. During her absence the talk passed into Caroline’s hands; she took it up with ease; she fell into her best tone of conversation. A pleasing facility and elegance of language gave fresh charm to familiar topics; a new music in the always soft voice gently surprised and pleasingly captivated the listener; unwonted shades and lights of expression elevated the young countenance with character, and kindled it with animation.

‘Caroline, you look as if you had heard good tidings,’ said Moore, after earnestly gazing at her for some minutes.

‘Do I?’

‘I sent for you this evening that I might be cheered, but you cheer me more than I had calculated.’

‘I am glad of that. And I really cheer you?’

‘You look brightly, move buoyantly, speak musically.’

‘It is pleasant to be here again.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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