A Lover's Mistake

It was afternoon. Molly had gone out for a walk. Mrs. Gibson had been paying some calls. Lazy Cynthia had declined accompanying either. A daily walk was not a necessity to her as it was to Molly. On a lovely day, or with an agreeable object, or when the fancy took her, she could go as far as any one; but these were exceptional cases; in general, she was not disposed to disturb herself from her indoor occupations. Indeed, not one of the ladies would have left the house, had they been aware that Roger was in the neighbourhood; for they were aware that he was to come down but once before his departure, and that his stay at home then would be but for a short time, and they were all anxious to wish him good-bye before his long absence. But they had understood that he was not coming to the Hall until the following week, and therefore they had felt themselves at full liberty this afternoon to follow their own devices.

Molly chose a walk that had been a favourite with her ever since she was a child. Something or other had happened just before she left home that made her begin wondering how far it was right, for the sake of domestic peace, to pass over without comment the little deviations from right that people perceive in those whom they live with. Or whether, as they are placed in families for distinct purposes, not by chance merely, there are not duties involved in this aspect of their lot in life—whether by continually passing over failings their own standard is not lowered—the practical application of these thoughts being a dismal sort of perplexity on Molly’s part, as to whether her father was quite aware of her stepmother’s perpetual lapses from truth, and whether his blindness was wilful or not. Then she felt bitterly enough that, though she was as sure as could be that there was no real estrangement between her and her father, yet there were perpetual obstacles thrown in the way of their intercourse; and she thought, with a sigh, that, if he would but come in with authority, he might cut his way clear to the old intimacy with his daughter, and that they might have all the former walks and talks, and quips and cranks, and glimpses of real confidence once again: things that her stepmother did not value, yet which she, like the dog in the manger, prevented Molly’s enjoying. But, after all, Molly was a girl, not so far removed from childhood; and in the middle of her grave regrets and perplexities, her eye was caught by the sight of some fine ripe blackberries flourishing away, high up on the hedgebank among scarlet hips and green and russet leaves. She did not care much for blackberries herself; but she had heard Cynthia say that she liked them, and besides there was the charm of scrambling and gathering them; so she forgot all about her troubles, and went climbing up the banks, and clutching at her almost inaccessible prizes, and slipping down again triumphant, to carry them back to the large leaf which was to serve her as a basket. One or two of them she tasted, but they were as vapid to her palate as ever. The skirt of her pretty print gown was torn out of the gathers, and even with the fruit she had eaten “her pretty lips with blackberries were all besmeared and dyed;” when, having gathered as many and more than she could possibly carry, she set off home, hoping to escape into her room and mend her gown, before it had offended Mrs. Gibson’s neat eye. The frontdoor was easily opened from the outside, and Molly was out of the clear light of the open air and in the shadow of the hall, when she saw a face peep out of the dining-room before she quite recognised whose it was; and then Mrs. Gibson came softly out, sufficiently at least to beckon her into the room. When Molly had entered, Mrs. Gibson closed the door. Poor Molly expected a reprimand for her torn gown and untidy appearance, but was soon relieved by the expression of Mrs. Gibson’s face—mysterious and radiant.

“I’ve been watching for you, dear. Don’t go upstairs into the drawing-room, love! It might be a little interruption just now. Roger Hamley is there with Cynthia; and I’ve reason to think—in fact I did open the door unawares, but I shut it again softly, and I don’t think they heard me. Isn’t it charming? Young love, you know, ah, how sweet it is!”

“Do you mean that Roger has proposed to Cynthia?” asked Molly.

“Not exactly that. But I don’t know; of course I know nothing. Only I did hear him say, that he had meant to leave England without speaking of his love, but that the temptation of seeing her alone had been too great for him. It was symptomatic, was it not, my dear? And all I wanted was, to let him come to a crisis without interruption. So I’ve been watching for you, to prevent your going in and disturbing them.”

“But I may go to my own room, mayn’t I?” pleaded Molly.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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