Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers
most agreeable men in the world: they put all our young knife-
grinders and scissor merchants to shame.’ It seemed to me that Mr.
St. John’s under lip protruded, and his upper lip curled a moment.
His mouth certainly looked a good deal compressed, and the lower
part of his face unusually stern and square, as the laughing girl
gave him this information. He lifted his gaze, too, from the daisies,
and turned it on her. An unsmiling, a searching, a meaning gaze it
was. She answered it with a second laugh, and laughter well
became her youth, her roses, her dimples, her bright eyes.
As he stood, mute and grave, she again fell to caressing Carlo.
‘Poor Carlo loves me,’ said she. ‘He is not stern and distant to his
friends; and if he could speak, he would not be silent.’ As she
patted the dog’s head, bending with native grace before his young
and austere master, I saw a glow rise to that master’s face. I saw his
solemn eye melt with sudden fire, and flicker with resistless
emotion. Flushed and kindled thus, he looked nearly as beautiful
for a man as she for a woman. His chest heaved once, as if his large
heart, weary of despotic constriction, had expanded, despite the
will, and made a vigorous bound for the attainment of liberty. But
he curbed it, I think, as a resolute rider would curb a rearing steed.
He responded neither by word nor movement to the gentle
advances made him.
‘Papa says you never come to see us now,’ continued Mis Oliver,
‘You are quite a stranger at Vale Hall. He is alone this evening, and
not very well: will you return with me and visit him?’ ‘It is not a
seasonable hour to intrude on Mr. Oliver,’ answered St. John.
‘Not a seasonable hour! But I declare it is. It is just the hour when
papa most wants company: when the works are closed and he has
no business to occupy him. Now, Mr. Rivers, do come. Why are
you so very shy, and so very sombre?’ She filled up the hiatus his
silence left by a reply of her own.
‘I forgot!’ she exclaimed, shaking her beautiful curled head, as if
shocked at herself. ‘I am so giddy and thoughtless! Do excuse me.
It had slipped my memory that you have good reasons to be
indisposed for joining in my chatter. Diana and Mary have left
you, and Moor House is shut up, and you are so lonely. I am sure I
pity you. Do come and see papa.’ ‘Not to-night, Miss Rosamond,
not to-night.’ Mr. St. John spoke almost like an automaton: himself
only knew the effort it cost him thus to refuse.
‘Well, if you are so obstinate, I will leave you; for I dare not stay
any longer: the dew begins to fall. Good evening!’ She held out her
hand. He just touched it. ‘Good evening!’ he repeated, in a voice
low and hollow as an echo. She turned, but in a moment returned.