learnt to long for her return, before a fortnight of her absence was over. She had had no idea that perpetual tête-à-têtes with Mrs. Gibson could, by any possibility, be so tiresome as she found them. Perhaps Molly’s state of delicate health, consequent upon her rapid growth during the last few months, made her irritable; but, really, often she had to get up and leave the room, to calm herself down after listening to a long series of words, more frequently plaintive or discontented in tone than cheerful, and which at the end conveyed no distinct impression of either the speaker’s thought or feeling. Whenever anything had gone wrong; whenever Mr. Gibson had coolly persevered in anything to which she had objected; whenever the cook had made a mistake about the dinner, or the housemaid broken any little frangible article; whenever Molly’s hair was not done to her liking, or her dress did not become her, or the smell of dinner pervaded the house, or the wrong callers came, or the right callers did not come—in fact, whenever anything went wrong—poor Mr. Kirkpatrick was regretted and mourned over, nay, almost blamed, as if, had he only given himself the trouble of living, he could have helped it.

“When I look back to those happy days, it seems to me as if I had never valued them as I ought. To be sure— youth, love—what did we care for poverty! I remember dear Mr. Kirkpatrick walking five miles into Stratford to buy me a muffin, because I had such a fancy for one after Cynthia was born. I don’t mean to complain of dear papa—but I don’t think—but perhaps I ought not to say it to you. If Mr. Kirkpatrick had but taken care of that cough of his; but he was so obstinate! Men always are, I think. And it really was selfish of him. Only, I daresay, he did not consider the forlorn state in which I should be left. It came harder upon me than upon most people, because I always was of such an affectionate, sensitive nature. I remember a little poem of Mr. Kirkpatrick’s, in which he compared my heart to a harpstring, vibrating to the slightest breeze.”

“I thought harpstrings required a pretty strong finger to make them sound,” said Molly.

“My dear child, you’ve no more poetry in you than your father. And as for your hair! it’s worse than ever. Can’t you drench it in water, to take those untidy twists and twirls out of it?”

“It only makes it curl more and more, when it gets dry,” said Molly, sudden tears coming into her eyes as a recollection came before her like a picture seen long ago and forgotten for years—a young mother watching and dressing her little girl; placing the half-naked darling on her knee, and twining the wet rings of dark hair fondly round her fingers, and then, in an ecstasy of fondness, kissing the little curly head.

The receipt of Cynthia’s letters made very agreeable events. She did not write often, but her letters were tolerably long when they did come, and very sprightly in tone. There was constant mention made of many new names, which conveyed no idea to Molly, though Mrs. Gibson would try and enlighten her by running commentaries like the following—

“Mrs. Green! ah, that’s Mr. Jones’s pretty cousin, who lives in Russell Square with the fat husband. They keep their carriage; but I’m not sure if it is not Mr. Green who is Mrs. Jones’s cousin. We can ask Cynthia, when she comes home. Mr. Henderson! to be sure—a young man with black whiskers, a pupil of Mr. Kirkpatrick’s formerly—or was he a pupil of Mr. Murray’s? I know they said he had read law with somebody. Ah, yes! they are the people who called the day after Mr. Rawson’s ball, and who admired Cynthia so much, without knowing I was her mother. She was very handsomely dressed indeed, in black satin; and the son had a glass eye, but he was a young man of good property. Coleman! yes, that was the name.”

No more news of Roger, until some time after Cynthia had returned from her London visit. She came back, looking fresher and prettier than ever, beautifully dressed, thanks to her own good taste and her cousins’ generosity, full of amusing details of the gay life she had been enjoying, yet not at all out of spirits at having left it behind her. She brought home all sorts of pretty and dainty devices for Molly: a neck-ribbon made up in the newest fashion, a pattern for a tippet, a delicate pair of tight gloves, embroidered as Molly had never seen gloves embroidered before, and many another little sign of remembrance during her absence. Yet somehow or other, Molly felt that Cynthia was changed in her relation to her. Molly

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