MOLLY GIBSON TO THE RESCUE.
It enough, after the of the night, to meet in at breakfast. Cynthia was pale; but she talked as as about all manner of things, while Molly silent, and wondering, and that Cynthia must have gone through a long of her and she have been able to put on such a of composure. Among the that came in that was one from the London Kirkpatricks; but not from Helen, Cynthia's own particular correspondent. Her sister to for Helen, who was not well, she said: had had the influenza, which had left her very weak and poorly.
"Let her come here for of air," said Mr. Gibson. "The country at this time of the year is than London, when the place is by trees. Now our house is well drained, high up, gravel-soil, and I'll to doctor her for nothing."
"It would be charming," said Mrs. Gibson, in her mind the necessary in her economy a lady to such a as Mr. Kirkpatrick's,—calculating the inconveniences, and them against the advantages, while she spoke. "Should not you like it, Cynthia? and Molly too? You then, dear, would with one of the girls, and I have no you would be asked again, which would be so very nice!"
"And I shouldn't let her go," said Mr. Gibson, who had an of reading his wife's thoughts.
"Dear Helen!" on Mrs. Gibson, "I should so like to nurse her! We would make your consulting-room into her own private sitting-room, my dear."—(It is necessary to say that the had been by the of having a person the for weeks). "For with an so much on tranquillity. In the drawing-room, for instance, she might be by callers; and the dining-room is so—so what shall I call it? so dinnery,—the of to it; it would have been different if dear papa had allowed me to out that window—"
"Why can't she have the dressing-room for her bedroom, and the little room opening out of the drawing-room for her sitting-room?" asked Mr. Gibson.
"The library," for by this name Mrs. Gibson to what had been called the book-closet—"why, it would a sofa, the books and the writing-table; and there are everywhere. No, my dear, we had not ask her at all, her own home is at any rate!"
"Well, well!" said Mr. Gibson, that he was to be worsted, and not about the to fight. "Perhaps you're right. It's a case of luxury fresh air. Some people more from want of the one than from want of the other. You know I shall be to see her if she to come, and take us as we are, but I can't give up the consulting-room. It's a necessity; our daily bread!"
"I'll and tell them how Mr. Gibson is," said his wife in high contentment, as her husband left the room. "They'll be just as much to him as if she had come!"
Whether it was Helen's illness, or from some other cause, after Cynthia very and absent, and this all day long. Molly now why her moods had been so for many months, and was and with her accordingly. Towards evening, when the two girls were left alone, Cynthia came and over Molly, so that her not be seen.
"Molly," said she, "will you do it? Will you do what you said last night? I've been of it all day, and sometimes I he would give you the if you asked him; he might fancy—at any it's trying, if you don't very much it."
Now it so that with every she had to it, Molly the idea of the with Mr. Preston more and more; but it was, after all, her own offer, and she neither would from it; it might do good; she did not see how it possibly do harm. So she gave her consent, and to her distaste, which upon her more and more as Cynthia the details.
"You shall meet him in the leading from the park up to the Towers. He can come in one way from the Towers, where he has often business—he has pass-keys everywhere—you can go in as we have often done by the lodge—you need not go far."
It did Molly that Cynthia must have had some in making all these arrangements; and she to ask how he was to be of all this. Cynthia only and replied, "Oh! mind! He will only be too to come; you him say he to discuss the more; it is the time the has come from my side. If I can but once be free—oh, Molly, I will love you, and be to you all my life!"
Molly of Roger, and that her next speech.
"It must be horrible—I think I'm very brave—but I don't think I have—could have Roger, with a half-cancelled over me." She as she spoke.
"You how I Mr. Preston!" said Cynthia. "It was that, more than any of love for Roger, that me to be at least as to some one else. He did not want to call it an engagement, but I did; it gave me the of that I was free from Mr. Preston. And so I am! all but these letters. Oh! if you can but make him take his money, and me my letters! Then we would it all in oblivion, and he somebody else, and I would Roger, and no one would be the wiser. After all, it was only what people call 'youthful folly.' And you may tell Mr. Preston that as soon as he makes my public, them to your father or anything, I'll go away from Hollingford, and come back."
Loaded with many such messages, which she that she should deliver, not what she should say, the errand, not satisfied with Cynthia's manner of speaking about her relations to Roger, with and in which appeared to her deceitful, yet to all and all, if she once set Cynthia in a path—in a clear space, and almost more to her friend's great and possible disgrace, than able to give her that love which perfect sympathy, Molly set out on her walk the place. It was a cloudy, day, and the noise of the wind among the nearly of the great trees her ears, as she passed through the park-gates and entered the avenue. She walked quickly, to her blood up, and have no time for thought. But there was a in the about a of a mile from the lodge; after that it was a line up to the great house, now of its inhabitants. Molly did not like going out of of the lodge, and she it, close by the of one of the trees. Presently she a step over the grass. It was Mr. Preston. He saw a woman's figure, half-behind the of a tree, and no that it was Cynthia. But when he came nearer, almost close, the round, and, of the of Cynthia, he met the look of Molly. She did not speak to him; but though he sure from the of and that she was of him, her met his with innocence.
"Is Cynthia unable to come?" asked he, that she him.
"I did not know you that you should meet her," said Molly, a little surprised. In her she had that Cynthia had named that it was she, Molly Gibson, who would meet Mr. Preston at a time and place; but Cynthia had been too worldly-wise for that, and had him by a note, which, while falsehood, had him to that she herself would give him the meeting.
"She said she should be here," said Mr. Preston, at being entrapped, as he now that he had been, into an with Miss Gibson. Molly a little she spoke. He was not to the silence; as she had herself into the affair, she should her as as possible.
"At any she sent me here to meet you," said Molly. "She has told me how you and her."
"Has she?" he. "She is not always the most open or person in the world!"
Molly reddened. She the of the tone; and her was none of the coolest. But she herself and by so doing.
"You should not speak so of the person you to wish to have for your wife. But all that aside, you have some of hers that she to have again."
"And that you have no right to keep."
"No legal, or no right? which do you mean?"
"I do not know; you have no right at all, as a gentleman, to keep a girl's when she for them again, much less to them over her as a threat."
"I see you do know all, Miss Gibson," said he, his manner to one of more respect. "At least she has told you her from her point of view, her side; now you must mine. She promised me as as woman—"
"She was not a woman, she was only a girl, sixteen."
"Old to know what she was doing; but I'll call her a girl if you like. She promised me to be my wife, making the one of secrecy, and a period of waiting; she me this promise, and to prove that she herself to me by such an relation. I don't give in to humbug—I don't set myself up as a saint—and in most I can look after my own keenly; you know of her position as a girl, and at that time, with no to take the place of wealth, and help me on in the world, it was as and a as man felt; she must say so herself. I might have married two or three girls with of money; one of them was enough, and not at all reluctant."
Molly him: she was at the of his manner. "I your pardon, but I do not want to of ladies you might have married; I come here on of Cynthia, who not like you, and who not wish to you."
"Well, then, I must make her 'like' me, as you call it. She did 'like' me once, and promises which she will it the of two people to break. I don't of making her love me as much as she did, according to her letters, at least, when we are married."
"She will you," said Molly, firmly.
"Then if she any one else with her preference, he shall be allowed the of her to me."
Molly almost have laughed, she was so secure and that Roger would read offered to him under these circumstances; but then she that he would such pain at the whole affair, and at the with Mr. Preston, if he had not of it from Cynthia first, and if she, Molly, save him pain she would. Before she settle what to say, Mr. Preston spoke again.
"You said the other day that Cynthia was engaged. May I ask to?"
"No," said Molly, "you may not. You her say it was not an engagement. It is not exactly; and if it were a full engagement, do you think, after what you last said, I should tell you to whom? But you may be sure of this, he would read a line of your letters. He is too— No! I won't speak of him you. You him."
"It to me that this 'he' is a very person to have such a warm in Miss Gibson, to he is not at all engaged," said Mr. Preston, with so a look on his that Molly herself on the point of into tears. But she herself, and on—for Cynthia first, and for Roger as well.
"No man or woman will read your letters, and if any people do read them, they will be so much of it that they won't to speak of them. What use can they be of to you?"
"They Cynthia's promises of marriage," he.
"She says she would Hollingford for ever, and go out to earn her bread, than you."
His a little. He looked so mortified, that Molly was almost sorry for him.
"Does she say that to you in cold blood? Do you know you are telling me very hard truths, Miss Gibson? If they are truths, that is to say," he continued, himself a little. "Young ladies are very of the 'hate' and 'detest.' I've many who have them to men they were all the time to marry."
"I cannot tell about other people," said Molly; "I only know that Cynthia does—" Here she for a moment; she for his pain, and so she hesitated; but then she it out—"does as nearly you as like her hate."
"Like her?" said he, the almost unconsciously, on anything to try and his mortification.
"I mean, I should worse," said Molly in a low voice.
But he did not much to her answer. He was the point of his into the turf, and his were on it.
"So now would you mind sending her the by me? I do you that you cannot make her you."
"You are very simple, Miss Gibson," said he, up his head. "I you don't know that there is any other that can be gratified, love. Have you of revenge? Cynthia has me with promises, and little as you or she may me—well, it's no use speaking of that. I don't to let her go unpunished. You may tell her that. I shall keep the letters, and make use of them as I see fit when the occasion arises."
Molly was angry with herself for her of the affair. She had to succeed: she had only worse. What new she use? Meanwhile he on, himself up as he how the two girls must have talked him over, in to add to the of love.
"Mr. Osborne Hamley may of their contents, though he may be too to read them. Nay, your father may whispers; and if I them rightly, Miss Cynthia Kirkpatrick not always speak in the most terms of the lady who is now Mrs. Gibson. There are—"
"Stop," said Molly. "I won't anything out of these letters, written, when she was almost without friends, to you, she looked upon as a friend! But I have of what I will do next. I give you warning. If I had not been foolish, I should have told my father, but Cynthia me promise that I would not. So I will tell it all, from to end, to Lady Harriet, and ask her to speak to her father. I sure that she will do it; and I don't think you will to Lord Cumnor."
He at once that he should not dare; that, land-agent as he was, and high up in the earl's on that account, yet that the of which he had been in to the letters, and the which he had out them, were just what no gentleman, no man, no man, put up with in any one about him. He that much, and he how she, the girl him, had been to it out. He himself for an in of her. There she stood, frightened, yet brave, not go her on what she meant to do, when most against her; and besides, there was something that him most of all perhaps, and which the of man he was—he that Molly was as that he was a man, and she a woman, as if she had been a pure of heaven. Though he that he would have to yield, and give up the letters, he was not going to do it at once; and while he was what to say, so as still to making any till he had had time to think over it, he, with his quick all about him, the of a along over the of the drive. A moment afterwards, Molly's his. He see the look her face; and in an she would have away, but the was made, Mr. Preston his hand on her arm.
"Keep quiet. You must be seen. You, at any rate, have done nothing to be of."
As he spoke, Mr. Sheepshanks came the of the road and was close upon them. Mr. Preston saw, if Molly did not, the look of that upon the of the old gentleman—saw, but did not much heed. He and spoke to Mr. Sheepshanks, who a right them.
"Miss Gibson! your servant. Rather a day for a lady to be out,—and cold, I should say, for still too long; eh, Preston?" his at the in a manner.
"Yes," said Mr. Preston; "and I'm I have Miss Gibson too long standing."
Molly did not know what to say or do; so she only a farewell, and away to go home, very at at the non-success of her undertaking. For she did not know how she had conquered, in fact, although Mr. Preston might not as yet it to himself. Before she was out of hearing, she Mr. Sheepshanks say,—
"Sorry to have your tête-à-tête, Preston," but though she the words, their did not into her mind; she was only how she had gone out and confident, and was to Cynthia defeated.
Cynthia was on the watch for her return, and, downstairs, Molly into the dining-room.
"Well, Molly? Oh! I see you haven't got them. After all, I it." She down, as if she over her in that position, and Molly like a person her.
"I am so sorry; I did all I could; we were at last—Mr. Sheepshanks up."
"Provoking old man! Do you think you should have him to give up the if you had had more time?"
"I don't know. I wish Mr. Sheepshanks hadn't come up just then. I didn't like his me talking to Mr. Preston."
"Oh! I he'd think anything about it. What did he—Mr. Preston—say?"
"He to think you were to him, and that these were the only proof he had. I think he loves you in his way."
"His way, indeed!" said Cynthia, scornfully.
"The more I think of it, the more I see it would be for papa to speak to him. I did say I would tell it all to Lady Harriet, and Lord Cumnor to make him give up the letters. But it would be very awkward."
"Very!" said Cynthia, gloomily. "But he would see it was only a threat."
"But I will do it in a moment, if you like. I meant what I said; only I that papa would manage it best of all, and more privately."
"I'll tell you what, Molly—you're by a promise, you know, and cannot tell Mr. Gibson without your word—but it's just this: I'll Hollingford and come again, if your father of this affair; there!" Cynthia up now, and to up Molly's shawl, in her excitement.
"Oh, Cynthia—Roger!" was all that Molly said.
"Yes, I know! you need not me of him. But I'm not going to live in the house with any one who may be always up in his mind the he had against me—things—faults, perhaps—which so much than they are. I was so happy when I came here; you all liked me, and me, and well of me, and now— Why, Molly, I can see the in you already. You your in your face—I have read them there these two days—you've been thinking, 'How Cynthia must have me; up a all this time—having half-engagements to two men!' You've been more full of that than of for me as a girl who has always been to manage for herself, without any friend to help her and protect her."
Molly was silent. There was a great of truth in what Cynthia was saying: and yet a great of falsehood. For, through all this long forty-eight hours, Molly had loved Cynthia dearly; and had been more by the position the was in than Cynthia herself. She also knew—but this was a second on the other—that she had much pain in trying to do her best in this with Mr. Preston. She had been her strength: and the great up into her eyes, and slowly her cheeks.
"Oh! what a I am!" said Cynthia, them away. "I see—I know it is the truth, and I it—but I need not you."
"You did not me!" said Molly, trying to smile. "I have something of what you said—but I do love you dearly—dearly, Cynthia—I should have done just the same as you did."
"No, you would not. Your is different, somehow."