Making Friendship

Mr. Gibson believed that Cynthia Kirkpatrick was to return to England to be present at her mother’s wedding; but Mrs. Kirkpatrick had no such intention. She was not what is commonly called a woman of determination; but somehow what she disliked she avoided, and what she liked she tried to do, or to have. So although in the conversation, which she had already led to, as to the when and the how she was to be married, she had listened quietly to Mr. Gibson’s proposal that Molly and Cynthia should be the two bridesmaids, still she had felt how disagreeable it would be to her to have her young daughter flashing out her beauty by the side of the faded bride, her mother; and, as the further arrangements for the wedding became more definite, she saw further reasons in her own mind for Cynthia’s remaining quietly at her school at Boulogne.

Mrs. Kirkpatrick had gone to bed that first night of her engagement to Mr. Gibson, fully anticipating a speedy marriage. She looked to it as a release from the thraldom of keeping school—keeping an unprofitable school, with barely pupils enough to pay for house-rent and taxes, food, washing, and the requisite masters. She saw no reason for ever going back to Ashcombe, except to wind up her affairs, and to pack up her clothes. She hoped that Mr. Gibson’s ardour would be such that he would press on the marriage, and urge her never to resume her school drudgery, but to relinquish it now and for ever. She even made up a very pretty, very passionate speech for him in her own mind; quite sufficiently strong to prevail upon her, and to overthrow the scruples which she felt she ought to have, at telling the parents of her pupils that she did not intend to resume school, and that they must find another place of education for their daughters, in the last week but one of the midsummer holidays.

It was rather like a douche of cold water on Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s plans, when the next morning at breakfast Lady Cumnor began to decide upon the arrangements and duties of the two middle-aged lovers.

“Of course you can’t give up your school all at once, Clare. The wedding can’t be before Christmas, but that will do very well. We shall all be down at the Towers; and it will be a nice amusement for the children to go over to Ashcombe, and see you married.”

“I think—I am afraid—I don’t believe Mr. Gibson will like waiting so long; men are so impatient under these circumstances.”

“Oh, nonsense! Lord Cumnor has recommended you to his tenants, and I’m sure he wouldn’t like them to be put to any inconvenience. Mr. Gibson will see that in a moment. He’s a man of sense, or else he wouldn’t be our family doctor. Now, what are you going to do about your little girl? Have you fixed yet?”

“No. Yesterday there seemed so little time, and when one is agitated it is so difficult to think of anything. Cynthia is nearly eighteen, old enough to go out as a governess, if he wishes it, but I don’t think he will. He is so generous and kind.”

“Well! I must give you time to settle some of your affairs to-day. Don’t waste it in sentiment; you’re too old for that. Come to a clear understanding with each other; it will be for your happiness in the long run.”

So they did come to a clear understanding about one or two things. To Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s dismay, she found that Mr. Gibson had no more idea than Lady Cumnor of her breaking faith with the parents of her pupils. Though he really was at a serious loss as to what was to become of Molly, till she could be under the protection of his new wife at her own home, and though his domestic worries teased him more and more every day, he was too honourable to think of persuading Mrs. Kirkpatrick to give up school a week sooner than was right for his sake. He did not even perceive how easy the task of persuasion would be; with all her winning wiles, she could scarcely lead him to feel impatience for the wedding to take place at Michaelmas.

“I can hardly tell you what a comfort and relief it will be to me, Hyacinth, when you are once my wife—the mistress of my home—poor little Molly’s mother and protector; but I wouldn’t interfere with your previous engagements for the world. It wouldn’t be right.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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