and he would probably have been mortified if he could have known how many of his patients were solely biassed in sending for him, by the fact that he was employed at the Towers. Something of this sort must have been contemplated in the low scale of payment adopted long ago by the Cumnor family. Of itself the money he received for going to the Towers would hardly have paid him for horse-flesh; but then, as Lady Cumnor in her younger days worded it—

“It is such a thing for a man just setting up in practice for himself to be able to say he attends at this house!”

So the prestige was tacitly sold and paid for; but neither buyer nor seller defined the nature of the bargain.

On the whole, it was as well that Mr. Gibson spent so much of his time from home. He sometimes thought so himself, when he heard his wife’s plaintive fret or pretty babble over totally indifferent things, and perceived of how flimsy a nature were all her fine sentiments. Still, he did not allow himself to repine over the step he had taken; he wilfully shut his eyes and waxed up his ears to many small things that he knew would have irritated him, if he had attended to them; and, in his solitary rides, he forced himself to dwell on the positive advantages that had accrued to him and his through his marriage. He had obtained an unexceptionable chaperon, if not a tender mother, for his little girl; a skilful manager of his previously disorderly household; a woman who was graceful and pleasant to look at for the head of his table. Moreover, Cynthia reckoned for something on the favourable side of the balance. She was a capital companion for Molly; and the two were evidently very fond of each other. The feminine companionship of the mother and daughter was agreeable to him as well as to his child—when Mrs. Gibson was moderately sensible and not over-sentimental, he mentally added; and then he checked himself, for he would not allow himself to become more aware of her faults and foibles by defining them. At any rate, she was harmless, and wonderfully just to Molly for a stepmother. She piqued herself upon this indeed, and would often call attention to the fact of her being unlike other women in this respect. Just then sudden tears came into Mr. Gibson’s eyes, as he remembered how quiet and undemonstrative his little Molly had become in her general behaviour to him; but how once or twice, when they had met upon the stairs, or were otherwise unwitnessed, she had caught him and kissed him—hand or cheek—in a sad passionateness of affection. But in a moment he began to whistle an old Scotch air he had heard in his childhood, and which had never recurred to his memory since; and five minutes afterwards he was too busily treating a case of white swelling in the knee of a little boy, and thinking how to relieve the poor mother, who went out charring all day, and had to listen to the moans of her child all night, to have any thought for his own cares, which, if they really existed, were of so trifling a nature compared to the hard reality of this hopeless woe.

Osborne came home first. He returned, in fact, not long after Roger had gone away; but he was languid and unwell, and, though he did not complain, he felt unequal to any exertion. Thus a week or more elapsed before any of the Gibsons knew that he was at the Hall; and then it was only by chance that they became aware of it. Mr. Gibson met him in one of the lanes near Hamley; the acute surgeon noticed the gait of the man as he came near, before he recognised who it was. When he overtook him he said—

“Why, Osborne, is it you? I thought it was an old man of fifty loitering before me! I didn’t know you had come back.”

“Yes,” said Osborne, “I’ve been at home nearly ten days. I daresay I ought to have called on your people, for I made a half-promise to Mrs. Gibson to let her know as soon as I returned; but the fact is, I’m feeling very good-for-nothing—this air oppresses me; I could hardly breathe in the house, and yet I’m already tired with this short walk.”

“You’d better get home at once; and I’ll call and see you, as I come back from Rowe’s.”

“No, you mustn’t on any account!” said Osborne hastily; “my father is annoyed enough about my going from home, so often, he says, though I hadn’t been from it for six weeks. He puts down all my languor to my having been away—he keeps the purse-strings, you know,” he added, with a faint smile, “and I’m

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