with their company at tea on Thursday next. Miss Browning and Miss Phœbe will take it very kindly if Mr. Sheepshanks will join their little circle.”

Now for Mrs. Goodenough:

“Mrs. Goodenough’s respects to Mr. Sheepshanks, and hopes he is in good health. She would be very glad if he would favour her with his company to tea on Monday. My daughter, in Combermere, has sent me a couple of guinea-fowls, and Mrs. Goodenough hopes Mr. Sheepshanks will stay and take a bit of supper.”

No need for the dates of the days of the month. The good ladies would have thought that the world was coming to an end, if the invitation had been sent out a week before the party therein named. But not even guinea-fowls for supper could tempt Mr. Sheepshanks. He remembered the made-wines he had tasted in former days at Hollingford parties, and shuddered. Bread-and-cheese, with a glass of bitter beer, or a little brandy-and-water, partaken of in his old clothes (which had worn into shapes of loose comfort, and smelt strongly of tobacco), he liked better than roast guinea-fowl and birch-wine, even without throwing into the balance the stiff, uneasy coat, and the tight neckcloth and tighter shoes. So the ex-agent had been seldom, if ever, seen at the Hollingford tea-parties. He might have had his form of refusal stereotyped, it was so invariably the same.

“Mr. Sheepshanks’ duty to Miss Browning and her sister” (to Mrs. Goodenough, or to others, as the case might be). “Business of importance prevents him from availing himself of their polite invitation; for which he begs to return his best thanks.”

But now that Mr. Preston had succeeded, and come to live in Hollingford, things were changed.

He accepted every civility right and left, and won golden opinions accordingly. Parties were made in his honour, “just as if he had been a bride,” Miss Phœbe Browning said; and to all of them he went.

“What’s the man after?” said Mr. Sheepshanks to himself, when he heard of his successor’s affability, and sociability, and amiability, and a variety of other agreeable “ilities” from the friends whom the old steward still retained at Hollingford. “Preston’s not a man to put himself out for nothing. He’s deep. He’ll be after something solider than popularity.”

The sagacious old bachelor was right. Mr. Preston was “after” something more than mere popularity. He went wherever he had a chance of meeting Cynthia Kirkpatrick.

It might be that Molly’s spirits were more depressed at this time than they were in general; or that Cynthia was exultant, unawares to herself, in the amount of attention and admiration she was receiving, from Roger by day, from Mr. Preston in the evening—but the two girls seemed to have parted company in cheerfulness. Molly was always gentle, but very grave and silent. Cynthia, on the contrary, was merry, full of pretty mockeries, and hardly ever silent. When first she came to Hollingford, one of her great charms had been that she was such a gracious listener; now her excitement, whatever its cause, made her too restless to hold her tongue; yet what she said was too pretty, too witty, not to be a winning and sparkling interruption, eagerly welcomed by those who were under her sway. Mr. Gibson was the only one who observed this change, and reasoned upon it. “She’s in a mental fever of some kind,” thought he to himself. “She’s very fascinating, but I don’t quite understand her.”

If Molly had not been so entirely loyal to her friend, she might have thought this constant brilliancy a little tiresome, when brought into everyday life; it was not the sunshiny rest of a placid lake—it was rather the glitter of the pieces of a broken mirror, which confuses and bewilders. Cynthia would not talk quietly about anything now; subjects of thought or conversation seemed to have lost their relative value. There were exceptions to this mood of hers, when she sank into deep fits of silence, that would have been gloomy, had it not been for the never varying sweetness of her temper. If there was a little kindness to be done to either Mr. Gibson or Molly, Cynthia was just as ready as ever to do it; nor did she refuse to

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