whole world; her unspoken deference— in short, all the unconscious ways she possessed by instinct of tickling the vanity of men. So, while Molly quietly repelled him, Cynthia drew him to her by her soft attractive ways, and his constancy fell before her charms. He was thankful that he had not gone too far with Molly, and grateful to Mr. Gibson for having prohibited all declarations two years ago; for Cynthia, and Cynthia alone, could make him happy. After a fortnight’s time, during which he had entirely veered round in his allegiance, he thought it desirable to speak to Mr. Gibson. He did so with a certain sense of exultation in his own correct behaviour in the affair, but at the same time feeling rather ashamed of the confession of his own changeableness which was naturally involved. Now, it so happened that Mr. Gibson had been unusually little at home during the fortnight that Mr. Coxe had ostensibly lodged at the George, but in reality had spent the greater part of his time at Mr. Gibson’s; so that he had seen very little of his former pupil, and on the whole he had thought him improved, especially after Molly’s manner had made her father pretty sure that Mr. Coxe stood no chance in that quarter. But Mr. Gibson was quite ignorant of the attraction which Cynthia had had for the young man. If he had perceived it, he would have nipped it in the bud pretty quickly; for he had no notion of any girl, even though only partially engaged to one man, receiving offers from others, if a little plain speaking could prevent it. Mr. Coxe had asked for a private interview; they were sitting in the old surgery, now called the consulting-room, but still retaining so much of its former self as to be the last place in which Mr. Coxe could feel himself at ease. He was red up to the very roots of his red hair, and kept turning his glossy new hat round and round in his fingers, unable to find out the proper way of beginning his sentence; so at length he plunged in, grammar or no grammar.

“Mr. Gibson, I dare say you’ll be surprised, I’m sure I am, at—at what I want to say; but I think it’s the part of an honourable man, as you said yourself, sir, a year or two ago, to—to speak to the father first, and as you, sir, stand in the place of a father to Miss Kirkpatrick, I should like to express my feelings, my hopes, or perhaps I should say wishes, in short”——

“Miss Kirkpatrick?” said Mr. Gibson, a good deal surprised.

“Yes, sir!” continued Mr. Coxe, rushing on now he had got so far. “I know it may appear inconstant and changeable, but I do assure you, I came here with a heart as faithful to your daughter as ever beat in a man’s bosom. I most fully intended to offer myself, and all that I had, to her acceptance before I left; but really, sir, if you had seen her manner to me every time I endeavoured to press my suit a little—it was more than coy, it was absolutely repellent, there could be no mistaking it— while Miss Kirkpatrick”——he looked modestly down, and smoothed the nap of his hat, smiling a little while he did so.

“While Miss Kirkpatrick”——repeated Mr. Gibson, in such a stern voice, that Mr. Coxe, landed esquire as he was now, felt as much discomfited as he used to do when he was an apprentice, and Mr. Gibson had spoken to him in a similar manner.

“I was only going to say, sir, that, so far as one can judge from manner, and willingness to listen, and apparent pleasure in my visits—altogether, I think I may venture to hope that Miss Kirkpatrick is not quite indifferent to me— and I would wait—you have no objection, have you, sir, to my speaking to her, I mean?” said Mr. Coxe, a little anxious at the expression on Mr. Gibson’s face. “I do assure you, I haven’t a chance with Miss Gibson,” he continued, not knowing what to say, and fancying that his inconstancy was rankling in Mr. Gibson’s mind.

“No! I don’t suppose you have. Don’t go and fancy it is that which is annoying me. You’re mistaken about Miss Kirkpatrick, however. I don’t believe she could ever have meant to give you encouragement!”

Mr. Coxe’s face grew perceptibly paler. His feelings, if evanescent, were evidently strong.

“I think, sir, if you could have seen her—I don’t consider myself vain, and manner is so difficult to describe. At any rate, you can have no objection to my taking my chance, and speaking to her.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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