15. Mr. Donne's Exodus
The next day Shirley expressed to Caroline how delighted she felt that the little
party had gone off so well.
'I rather like to entertain a circle of gentlemen,' said she; 'it is amusing to observe
how they enjoy a judiciously concocted repast. For ourselves, you see, these
choice wines and these scientific dishes are of no importance to us; but
gentlemen seem to retain something of the naïveté of children about food, and
one likes to please them: that is, when they show the becoming, decent self-
government of our admirable rectors. I watch Moore sometimes, to try and
discover how he can be pleased; but he has not that child's simplicity about him.
Did you ever find out his accessible point, Caroline? You have seen more of him
'It is not, at any rate, that of my uncle and Dr. Boultby,' returned Caroline, smiling.
She always felt a sort of shy pleasure in following Miss Keeldar's lead respecting
the discussion of her cousin's character: left to herself, she would never have
touched on the subject; but when invited, the temptation of talking about him of
whom she was ever thinking was irresistible. 'But,' she added, 'I really don't know
what it is; for I never watched Robert in my life but my scrutiny was presently
baffled by finding he was watching me.'
'There it is!' exclaimed Shirley: 'you can't fix your eyes on him but his presently
flash on you. He is never off his guard: he won't give you an advantage: even
when he does not look at you, his thoughts seem to be busy amongst your own
thoughts, tracing your words and actions to their source, contemplating your
motives at his ease. Oh! I know that sort of character, or something in the same
style: it is one that piques me singularly - how does it affect you?'
This question was a specimen of one of Shirley's sharp, sudden turns: Caroline
used to be fluttered by them at first, but she had now got into the way of parrying
these home-thrusts like a little Quakeress.
'Pique you? In what way does it pique you?' she said.
'Here he comes!' suddenly exclaimed Shirley, breaking off, starting up and
running to the window. 'Here comes a diversion. I never told you of a superb
conquest I have made lately - made at those parties to which I can never
persuade you to accompany me; and the thing has been done without effort or
intention on my part: that I aver. There is the bell - and, by all that's delicious!
there are two of them. Do they never hunt, then, except in couples? You may
have one, Lina, and you may take your choice: I hope I am generous enough.
Listen to Tartar!'
The black-muzzled, tawny dog, a glimpse of which was seen in the chapter which
first introduced its mistress to the reader, here gave tongue in the hall, amidst
whose hollow space the deep bark resounded formidably. A growl, more terrible
than the bark - menacing as muttered thunder - succeeded.
'Listen!' again cried Shirley, laughing. 'You would think that the prelude to a
bloody onslaught: they will be frightened: they don't know old Tartar as I do: they
are not aware his uproars are all sound and fury, signifying nothing.'