“Granted before you name it. Am not I a bold woman?”

He smiled and bowed, but went straight on with his speech.

“Miss Eyre, who has been Molly’s governess—I suppose I must call her—for many years, writes to-day to say that one of the little nephews she took with her to Newport while Molly was staying here, has caught the scarlet fever.”

“I guess your request. I make it before you do. I beg for dear little Molly to stay on here. Of course Miss Eyre can’t come back to you; and of course Molly must stay here!”

“Thank you; thank you very much! That was my request.”

Molly’s hand stole down to his, and nestled in that firm, compact grasp.

“Papa!—Mrs. Hamley!—I know you’ll both understand me—but mayn’t I go home? I am very happy here; but— oh papa! I think I should like to be at home with you best.”

An uncomfortable suspicion flashed across his mind. He pulled her round, and looked straight and piercingly into her innocent face. Her colour came at his unwonted scrutiny, but her sweet eyes were filled with wonder, rather than with any feeling which he dreaded to find. For an instant he had doubted whether young red-headed Mr. Coxe’s love might not have called out a response in his daughter’s breast; but he was quite clear now.

“Molly, you’re rude to begin with. I don’t know how you’re to make your peace with Mrs. Hamley, I’m sure. And in the next place, do you think you’re wiser than I am; or that I don’t want you at home, if all other things were comfortable? Stay where you are, and be thankful!”

Molly knew him well enough to be certain that the prolongation of her visit at Hamley was quite a decided affair in his mind; and then she was smitten with a sense of ingratitude. She left her father, and went to Mrs. Hamley, and bent over her and kissed her; but she did not speak. Mrs. Hamley took hold of her hand, and made room on the sofa for her.

“I was going to have asked for a longer visit the next time you came, Mr. Gibson. We are such happy friends, are not we, Molly? and now that this good little nephew of Miss Eyre’s”——

“I wish he was whipped,” said Mr. Gibson.

“—has given us such a capital reason, I shall keep Molly for a real long visitation. You must come over and see us very often. There’s a room here for you always, you know; and I don’t see why you should not start on your rounds from Hamley every morning, just as well as from Hollingford.”

“Thank you. If you hadn’t been so kind to my little girl, I might be tempted to say something rude in answer to your last speech.”

“Pray say it. You won’t be easy till you have given it out, I know.”

“Mrs. Hamley has found out from whom I get my rudeness,” said Molly triumphantly. “It’s an hereditary quality.”

“I was going to say, that proposal of yours that I should sleep at Hamley was just like a woman’s idea—all kindness, and no common-sense. How in the world would my patients find me out, seven miles from my accustomed place? They’d be sure to send for some other doctor, and I should be ruined in a month.”

“Couldn’t they send on here? A messenger costs very little.”

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