Lady Harriet came to call on her old governess, the day after the arrival of the family at the Towers. Molly and Cynthia were out walking when she came—doing some errands for Mrs. Gibson, who had a secret idea that Lady Harriet would call at the particular time she did, and had a not uncommon wish to talk to her ladyship without the corrective presence of any member of her own family.

Mrs. Gibson did not give Molly the message of remembrance that Lady Harriet had left for her; but she imparted various pieces of news relating to the Towers with great animation and interest. The Duchess of Menteith and her daughter, Lady Alice, were coming to the Towers; would be there the day of the ball; would come to the ball; and the Menteith diamonds were famous. That was piece of news the first. The second was that ever so many gentlemen were coming to the Towers—some English, some French. This piece of news would have come first in order of importance, had there been much probability of their being dancing men, and, as such, possible partners at the coming ball. But Lady Harriet had spoken of them as Lord Hollingford’s friends, useless scientific men in all probability. Then, finally, Mrs. Gibson was to go to the Towers next day to lunch; Lady Cumnor had written a little note by Lady Harriet to beg her to come; if Mrs. Gibson could manage to find her way to the Towers, one of the carriages in use should bring her back to her own home in the course of the afternoon.

“The dear countess!” said Mrs. Gibson, with soft affection. It was a soliloquy, uttered after a minute’s pause, at the end of all this information.

And all the rest of that day her conversation had an aristocratic perfume hanging about it. One of the few books she had brought with her into Mr. Gibson’s house was bound in pink, and in it she studied, “Menteith, Duke of, Adolphus George,” &c., &c., till she was fully up in all the duchess’s connections, and probable interests. Mr. Gibson made his mouth up into a droll whistle when he came home at night, and found himself in a Towers atmosphere. Molly saw the shade of annoyance through the drollery; she was beginning to see it oftener than she liked, not that she reasoned upon it, or that she consciously traced the annoyance to its source; but she could not help feeling uneasy in herself when she knew that her father was in the least put out.

Of course a fly was ordered for Mrs. Gibson. In the early afternoon she came home. If she had been disappointed in her interview with the countess, she never told her woe, nor revealed the fact that, when she first arrived at the Towers, she had to wait for an hour in Lady Cumnor’s morning-room, uncheered by any companionship save that of her old friend, Mrs. Bradley, till suddenly, Lady Harriet coming in, she exclaimed—“Why, Clare! you dear woman! are you here all alone? Does mamma know?” And, after a little more affectionate conversation, she rushed to find her ladyship, who was perfectly aware of the fact, but too deep in giving the duchess the benefit of her wisdom and experience in trousseaux to be at all mindful of the length of time Mrs. Gibson had been passing in patient solitude. At lunch, Mrs. Gibson was secretly hurt by my lord’s supposing it to be her dinner, and calling out his urgent hospitality from the very bottom of the table, giving as a reason for it, that she must remember it was her dinner. In vain she piped out in her soft, high voice, “Oh, my lord! I never eat meat in the middle of the day; I can hardly eat anything at lunch.” Her voice was lost, and the duchess might go away with the idea that the Hollingford doctor’s wife dined early; that is to say, if her Grace ever condescended to have any idea on the subject at all; which presupposes that she was cognisant of the fact of there being a doctor at Hollingford, and that he had a wife, and that his wife was the pretty, faded, elegant-looking woman, sending away her plate of untasted food—food which she longed to eat, for she was really desperately hungry after her drive and her solitude.

And then after lunch there did come a tête-à-tête with Lady Cumnor, which was conducted after this wise:—

“Well, Clare! I am really glad to see you. I once thought I should never get back to the Towers; but here I am! There was such a clever man at Bath—a Doctor Snape—he cured me at last—quite set me up. I really think, if ever I am ill again, I shall send for him: it is such a thing to find a really clever medical man. Oh, by the way, I always forget you’ve married Mr. Gibson—of course he is very clever, and all

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