Foreshadows of Love Perils

If Squire Hamley had been unable to tell Molly who had ever been thought of as her father’s second wife, fate was all this time preparing an answer of a pretty positive kind to her wondering curiosity. But fate is a cunning hussy, and builds up her plans as imperceptibly as a bird builds her nest; and with much the same kind of unconsidered trifles. The first “trifle” of an event was the disturbance which Jenny (Mr. Gibson’s cook) chose to make at Bethia’s being dismissed. Bethia was a distant relation and protègée of Jenny’s, and she chose to say it was Mr. Coxe the tempter who ought to have “been sent packing,” not Bethia the tempted, the victim. In this view there was quite enough plausibility to make Mr. Gibson feel that he had been rather unjust. He had, however, taken care to provide Bethia with another situation, to the full as good as that which she held in his family. Jenny, nevertheless, chose to give warning; and, though Mr. Gibson knew full well from former experience that her warnings were words, not deeds, he hated the discomfort, the uncertainty, the entire disagreeableness, of meeting a woman at any time in his house, who wore a grievance and an injury upon her face as legibly as Jenny took care to do.

Down into the middle of this small domestic trouble came another, and one of greater consequence. Miss Eyre had gone with her old mother, and her orphan nephews and nieces, to the sea-side, during Molly’s absence, which was only intended at first to last for a fortnight. After about ten days of this time had elapsed, Mr. Gibson received a beautifully-written, beautifully-worded, admirably-folded, and most neatly-sealed letter from Miss Eyre. Her eldest nephew had fallen ill of scarlet fever, and there was every probability that the younger children would be attacked by the same complaint. It was distressing enough for poor Miss Eyre—this additional expense, this anxiety—the long detention from home which the illness involved. But she said not a word of any inconvenience to herself; she only apologised with humble sincerity for her inability to return at the appointed time to her charge in Mr. Gibson’s family; meekly adding, that perhaps it was as well, for Molly had never had the scarlet fever, and, even if Miss Eyre had been able to leave the orphan children to return to her employments, it might not have been a safe or a prudent step.

“To be sure not,” said Mr. Gibson, tearing the letter in two, and throwing it into the hearth, where he soon saw it burnt to ashes. “I wish I’d a five-pound house and not a woman within ten miles of me! I might have some peace then.” Apparently, he forgot Mr. Coxe’s powers of making mischief; but indeed he might have traced that evil back to the unconscious Molly. The martyr-cook’s entrance to take away the breakfast things, which she announced by a heavy sigh, roused Mr. Gibson from thought to action.

“Molly must stay a little longer at Hamley,” he resolved. “They’ve often asked for her, and now they’ll have enough of her, I think. But I can’t have her back here just yet; and so the best I can do for her is to leave her where she is. Mrs. Hamley seems very fond of her; and the child is looking happy, and stronger in health. I’ll ride round by Hamley to-day at any rate, and see how the land lies.”

He found Mrs. Hamley lying on a sofa placed under the shadow of the great cedar-tree on the lawn. Molly was flitting about her, gardening away under her directions; tying up the long sea-green stalks of bright budded carnations, snipping off dead roses.

“Oh! here’s papa!” she cried out joyfully, as he rode up to the white paling which separated the trim lawn and trimmer flower-garden from the rough park-like ground in front of the house.

“Come in—come here—through the drawing-room window,” said Mrs. Hamley, raising herself on her elbow. “We’ve got a rose-tree to show you that Molly has budded all by herself. We are both so proud of it.”

So Mr. Gibson rode round to the stables, left his horse there, and made his way through the house to the open-air summer-parlour under the cedar tree, where there were chairs, table, books, and tangled work. Somehow, he rather disliked asking for Molly to prolong her visit; so he determined to swallow his bitter first, and then take the pleasure of the delicious day, the sweet repose, the murmurous, scented air. Molly stood by him, her hand on his shoulder. He sate opposite to Mrs. Hamley.

“I’ve come here to-day to ask a favour,” he began.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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