Mrs. Gibson's Little Dinner

All this had taken place before Roger’s first meeting with Molly and Cynthia at the Miss Brownings’, and the little dinner on the Friday at Mr. Gibson’s, which followed in due sequence.

Mrs. Gibson intended the Hamleys to find this dinner pleasant; and they did. Mr. Gibson was fond of the two young men, both for their parents’ sake and their own, for he had known them since boyhood; and to those whom he liked Mr. Gibson could be remarkably agreeable. Mrs. Gibson really gave them a welcome—and cordiality in a hostess is a very becoming mantle for any other deficiencies there may be. Cynthia and Molly looked their best, which was all the duty Mrs. Gibson absolutely required of them, as she was willing enough to take her full share in the conversation. Osborne fell to her lot, of course, and for some time he and she prattled on with all the ease of manner and commonplaceness of meaning which go far to make the “art of polite conversation.” Roger, who ought to have made himself agreeable to one or the other of the young ladies, was exceedingly interested in what Mr. Gibson was telling him of a paper on comparative osteology, in some foreign journal of science which Lord Hollingford was in the habit of forwarding to his friend the country surgeon. Yet, every now and then while he listened, he caught his attention wandering to the face of Cynthia, who was placed between his brother and Mr. Gibson. She was not particularly occupied with attending to anything that was going on; her eyelids were carelessly dropped, as she crumbled her bread on the tablecloth, and her beautiful long eyelashes were seen on the clear tint of her oval cheek. She was thinking of something else; Molly was trying to understand with all her might. Suddenly Cynthia looked up, and caught Roger’s gaze of intent admiration too fully for her to be unaware that he was staring at her. She coloured a little; but, after the first moment of rosy confusion at his evident admiration of her, she flew to the attack, diverting his confusion at thus being caught, to the defence of himself from her accusation.

“It is quite true!” she said to him. “I was not attending: you see I don’t know even the A B C of science. But please don’t look so severely at me, even if I am a dunce!”

“I didn’t know—I didn’t mean to look severely, I am sure,” replied he, not knowing well what to say.

“Cynthia is not a dunce either,” said Mrs. Gibson, afraid lest her daughter’s opinion of herself might be taken seriously. “But I have always observed that some people have a talent for one thing and some for another. Now Cynthia’s talents are not for science and the severer studies. Do you remember, love, what trouble I had to teach you the use of the globes?”

“Yes; and I don’t know longitude from latitude now; and I’m always puzzled as to which is perpendicular and which is horizontal.”

“Yet, I do assure you,” her mother continued, rather addressing herself to Osborne, “that her memory for poetry is prodigious. I have heard her repeat the ‘Prisoner of Chillon’ from beginning to end.”

“It would be rather a bore to have to hear her, I think,” said Mr. Gibson, smiling at Cynthia, who gave him back one of her bright looks of mutual understanding.

“Ah, Mr. Gibson, I have found out before now that you have no soul for poetry; and Molly there is your own child. She reads such deep books—all about facts and figures; she’ll be quite a blue-stocking by- and-by.”

“Mamma,” said Molly, reddening, “you think it was a deep book, because there were the shapes of the different cells of bees in it! but it was not at all deep. It was very interesting.”

“Never mind, Molly,” said Osborne. “I stand up for blue-stockings.”

“And I object to the distinction implied in what you say,” said Roger. “It was not deep, ergo, it was very interesting. Now, a book may be both deep and interesting.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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