Molly found out, to her dismay, that the plan was for her to return with Lord Cumnor and Lady Harriet, when they went back to the Towers in the evening. In the meantime, Lord Cumnor had business to do with Mr. Preston; and, after the happy couple had driven off on their week’s holiday tour, she was to be left alone with the formidable Lady Harriet. When they were by themselves after all the others had been thus disposed of, Lady Harriet sate still over the drawing-room fire, holding a screen between it and her face, but gazing intently at Molly for a minute or two. Molly was fully conscious of this prolonged look, and was trying to get up her courage to return the stare, when Lady Harriet suddenly said—

“I like you—you are a little wild creature, and I want to tame you. Come here, and sit on this stool by me. What is your name? or what do they call you?—as North-country people would express it.”

“Molly Gibson. My real name is Mary.”

“Molly is a nice, soft-sounding name. People in the last century weren’t afraid of homely names; now we are all so smart and fine: no more ‘Lady Bettys’ now. I almost wonder they haven’t re-christened all the worsted and knitting-cotton that bears her name. Fancy Lady Constantia’s cotton, or Lady Anna-Maria’s worsted!”

“I didn’t know there was a Lady Betty’s cotton,” said Molly.

“That proves you don’t do fancy-work! You’ll find Clare will set you to it, though. She used to set me at piece after piece: knights kneeling to ladies; impossible flowers. But I must do her the justice to add that, when I got tired of them, she finished them herself. I wonder how you’ll get on together?”

“So do I!” sighed out Molly, under her breath.

“I used to think I managed her, till one day an uncomfortable suspicion arose that all the time she had been managing me. Still it’s easy work to let oneself be managed; at any rate till one wakens up to the consciousness of the process, and then it may become amusing, if one takes it in that light.”

“I should hate to be managed,” said Molly indignantly. “I’ll try and do what she wishes for papa’s sake, if she’ll only tell me outright; but I should dislike to be trapped into anything.”

“Now I,” said Lady Harriet, “am too lazy to avoid traps; and I rather like to remark the cleverness with which they’re set. But then, of course, I know that, if I choose to exert myself, I can break through the withes of green flax with which they try to bind me. Now, perhaps, you won’t be able.”

“I don’t quite understand what you mean,” said Molly.

“Oh, well—never mind; I daresay it’s as well for you that you shouldn’t. The moral of all I have been saying is, ‘Be a good girl, and suffer yourself to be led, and you’ll find your new stepmother the sweetest creature imaginable.’ You’ll get on capitally with her, I make no doubt. How you’ll get on with her daughter is another affair; but I daresay very well. Now we’ll ring for tea; for I suppose that heavy breakfast is to stand for our lunch.”

Mr. Preston came into the room just at this time, and Molly was a little surprised at Lady Harriet’s cool manner of dismissing him, remembering as she did how Mr. Preston had implied his intimacy with her ladyship, the evening before at dinner-time.

“I cannot bear that sort of person,” said Lady Harriet, almost before he was out of hearing; “giving himself airs of gallantry towards one to whom his simple respect is all his duty. I can talk to one of my father’s labourers with pleasure, while with a man like that underbred fop I am all over thorns and nettles. What is it the Irish call that style of creature? They’ve some capital word for it, I know. What is it?”

“I don’t know—I never heard it,” said Molly, a little ashamed of her ignorance.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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