Domestic Diplomacy

The evening of the day on which Mr. Gibson had been to see the Squire, the three women were alone in the drawing-room, for Mr. Gibson had had a long round and was not as yet come in. They had had to wait dinner for him; and for some time after his return there was nothing done or said but what related to the necessary business of eating. Mr. Gibson was, perhaps, as well satisfied with his day’s work as any of the four; for this visit to the Squire had been weighing on his mind, ever since he heard of the state of things between Roger and Cynthia. He did not like the having to go and tell of a love-affair so soon after he had declared his belief that no such thing existed; it was a confession of fallibility which is distasteful to most men. If the Squire had not been of so unsuspicious and simple a nature, he might have drawn his own conclusions from the apparent concealment of facts, and felt doubtful of Mr. Gibson’s perfect honesty in the business; but, being what he was, there was no danger of such unjust misapprehension. Still Mr. Gibson knew the hot hasty temper he had to deal with, and had expected more violence of language than he really encountered; and the last arrangement by which Cynthia, her mother, and Molly—who, as Mr. Gibson thought to himself, and smiled at the thought, was sure to be a peace-maker, and a sweetener of intercourse—were to go to the Hall and make acquaintance with the Squire, appeared like a great success to Mr. Gibson, for achieving which he took not a little credit to himself. Altogether, he was more cheerful and bland than he had been for many days; and, when he came up into the drawing- room for a few minutes after dinner, before going out again to see his town-patients, he whistled a little under his breath, as he stood with his back to the fire, looking at Cynthia, and thinking that he had not done her justice when describing her to the Squire. Now this soft, almost tuneless whistling, was to Mr. Gibson what purring is to a cat. He could no more have done it with an anxious case on his mind, or when he was annoyed by human folly, or when he was hungry, than he could have flown through the air. Molly knew all this by instinct, and was happy without being aware of it, as soon as she heard the low whistle which was no music after all. But Mrs. Gibson did not like this trick of her husband’s; it was not refined, she thought, not even “artistic;” if she could have called it by this fine word, it would have compensated her for the want of refinement. To-night it was particularly irritating to her nerves; but, since her conversation with Mr. Gibson about Cynthia’s engagement, she had not felt herself in a sufficiently good position to complain.

Mr. Gibson began—“Well, Cynthia; I’ve seen the Squire to-day, and made a clean breast of it.”

Cynthia looked up quickly, questioning with her eyes; Molly stopped her netting to listen; no one spoke.

“You’re all to go there on Thursday to lunch; he asked you all, and I promised for you.”

Still no reply; natural, perhaps, but very flat.

“You’ll be glad of that, Cynthia, shan’t you?” asked Mr. Gibson. “It may be a little formidable; but I hope it will be the beginning of a good understanding between you.”

“Thank you!” said she, with an effort. “But—but won’t it make it public? I do so wish not to have it known or talked about, not till he comes back, or close upon the marriage.”

“I don’t see how it should make it public,” said Mr. Gibson. “My wife goes to lunch with my friend, and takes her daughters with her—there’s nothing in that, is there?”

“I am not sure that I shall go,” put in Mrs. Gibson. She did not know why she said it, for she fully intended to go all the time; but, having said it, she was bound to stick to it for a while; and, with such a husband as hers, the hard necessity was sure to fall upon her of having to find a reason for her saying. Then it came quick and sharp.

“Why not?” said he, turning round upon her.

“Oh, because—because I think he ought to have called on Cynthia first; I’ve that sort of sensitiveness I can’t bear to think of her being slighted because she is poor.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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