“Thank you, my own love. How good you are! So many men would think only of their own wishes and interests! I’m sure the parents of my dear pupils will admire you—will be quite surprised at your consideration for their interests.”

“Don’t tell them, then. I hate being admired. Why shouldn’t you say it is your wish to keep on your school till they’ve had time to look out for another?”

“Because it isn’t,” said she, daring all. “I long to be making you happy; I want to make your home a place of rest and comfort to you; and I do so wish to cherish your sweet Molly, as I hope to do, when I come to be her mother. I can’t take virtue to myself which doesn’t belong to me. If I have to speak for myself, I shall say, ‘Good people, find a school for your daughters by Michaelmas—for after that time I must go and make the happiness of others.’ I can’t bear to think of your long rides in November—coming home wet at night, with no one to take care of you. Oh! if you leave it to me, I shall advise the parents to take their daughters away from the care of one whose heart will be absent. Though I couldn’t consent to any time before Michaelmas—that wouldn’t be fair or right, and I’m sure you wouldn’t urge me—you are too good.”

“Well, if you think that they will consider we have acted uprightly by them, let it be Michaelmas with all my heart. What does Lady Cumnor say?”

“Oh! I told her I was afraid you wouldn’t like waiting, because of your difficulties with your servants, and because of Molly—it would be so desirable to enter on the new relationship with her as soon as possible.”

“To be sure, so it would. Poor child! I’m afraid the intelligence of my engagement has rather startled her.”

“Cynthia will feel it deeply, too,” said Mrs. Kirkpatrick, unwilling to let her daughter be behind Mr. Gibson’s in sensibility and affection.

“We will have her over to the wedding! She and Molly shall be bridesmaids,” said Mr. Gibson, in the unguarded warmth of his heart.

This plan did not quite suit Mrs. Kirkpatrick: but she thought it best not to oppose it, until she had a presentable excuse to give, and perhaps also some reason would naturally arise out of future circumstances; so at this time she only smiled, and softly pressed the hand she held in hers.

It is a question whether Mrs. Kirkpatrick or Molly wished the most for the day to be over which they were to spend together at the Towers. Mrs. Kirkpatrick was rather weary of girls as a class. All the trials of her life were connected with girls in some way. She was very young when she first became a governess, and had been worsted in her struggles with her pupils, in the first place she ever went to. Her elegance of appearance and manner, and her accomplishments, more than her character and acquirements, had rendered it easier for her than for most to obtain good “situations;” and she had been absolutely petted in some; but still she was constantly encountering naughty or stubborn, or over-conscientious, or severe-judging, or curious and observant girls. And again, before Cynthia was born, she had longed for a boy, thinking it possible that if some three or four intervening relations died, he might come to be a baronet; and instead of a son, lo and behold it was a daughter! Nevertheless, with all her dislike to girls in the abstract as “the plagues of her life” (and her aversion was not diminished by the fact of her having kept a school for “young ladies” at Ashcombe), she really meant to be as kind as she could be to her new step-daughter, whom she remembered principally as a black-haired, sleepy child, in whose eyes she had read admiration of herself. Mrs. Kirkpatrick accepted Mr. Gibson principally because she was tired of the struggle of earning her own livelihood; but she liked him personally—nay, she even loved him in her torpid way, and she intended to be good to his daughter, though she felt as if it would have been easier for her to have been good to his son.

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