A Crisis

Mrs. Kirkpatrick had been reading aloud till Lady Cumnor fell asleep, the book rested on her knee, just kept from falling by her hold. She was looking out of the window, not seeing the trees in the park, nor the glimpses of the hills beyond, but thinking how pleasant it would be to have a husband once more—some one who would work, while she sate at her elegant ease in a prettily-furnished drawing-room; and she was rapidly investing this imaginary bread-winner with the form and features of the country surgeon, when there was a slight tap at the door, and almost before she could rise, the object of her thoughts came in. She felt herself blush, and she was not displeased at the consciousness. She advanced to meet him, making a sign towards her sleeping ladyship.

“Very good,” said he, in a low voice, casting a professional eye on the slumbering figure; “can I speak to you for a minute or two in the library?”

“Is he going to offer?” thought she, with a sudden palpitation, and a conviction of her willingness to accept a man whom, an hour before, she had simply looked upon as one of the category of unmarried men with whom matrimony was possible.

He was only going to make one or two medical inquiries; she found that out very speedily, and considered the conversation as rather flat to her, though it might be instructive to him. She was not aware that he finally made up his mind to propose, during the time that she was speaking—answering his questions in many words, but he was accustomed to winnow the chaff from the corn; and her voice was so soft, her accent so pleasant, that it struck him as particularly agreeable after the broad country accent he was perpetually hearing. Then the harmonious colours of her dress, and her slow and graceful movements, had something of the same soothing effect upon his nerves that a cat’s purring has upon some people’s. He began to think that he should be fortunate if he could win her, for his own sake. Yesterday he had looked upon her more as a possible stepmother for Molly; to-day he thought of her more as a wife for himself. The remembrance of Lord Cumnor’s letter gave her a very becoming consciousness; she wished to attract, and hoped that she was succeeding. Still they only talked of the countess’s state for some time; then a lucky shower came on. Mr. Gibson did not care a jot for rain, but just now it gave him an excuse for lingering.

“It’s very stormy weather,” said he.

“Yes, very. My daughter writes me word, that for two days last week the packet could not sail from Boulogne.”

“Miss Kirkpatrick is at Boulogne, is she?”

“Yes, poor girl; she is at school there, trying to perfect herself in the French language. But, Mr. Gibson, you must not call her Miss Kirkpatrick. Cynthia remembers you with so much—affection, I may say. She was your little patient when she had the measles here four years ago, you know. Pray call her Cynthia; she would be quite hurt at such a formal name as Miss Kirkpatrick from you.”

“Cynthia seems to me such an out-of-the-way name; only fit for poetry, not for daily use.”

“It is mine,” said Mrs. Kirkpatrick, in a plaintive tone of reproach. “I was christened Hyacinth, and her poor father would have her called after me. I’m sorry you don’t like it.”

Mr. Gibson did not know what to say. He was not quite prepared to plunge into the directly personal style. While he was hesitating, she went on—

“Hyacinth Clare! Once upon a time I was quite proud of my pretty name; and other people thought it pretty, too.”

“I’ve no doubt”—Mr. Gibson began; and then stopped.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.