Molly Gibson to the Rescue

It seemed strange enough, after the storms of the night, to meet in smooth tranquillity at breakfast. Cynthia was pale; but she talked as quietly as usual about all manner of different things, while Molly sate silent, watching and wondering, and becoming convinced that Cynthia must have gone through a long experience of concealing her real thoughts and secret troubles, before she could have been able to put on such a semblance of composure. Among the letters that came in that morning was one from the London Kirkpatricks; but not from Helen, Cynthia’s own particular correspondent. Her sister wrote to apologise for Helen, who was not well, she said: had had the influenza, which had left her very weak and poorly.

“Let her come down here for a change of air,” said Mr. Gibson. “The country at this time of the year is better than London, except when the place is surrounded by trees. Now our house is well drained, high up, gravel-soil, and I’ll undertake to doctor her for nothing.”

“It would be charming,” said Mrs. Gibson, rapidly revolving in her mind the changes necessary in her household economy before receiving a young lady accustomed to such a household as Mr. Kirkpatrick’s—calculating the consequent inconveniences, and weighing them against the probable advantages, even while she spoke. “Should not you like it, Cynthia? and Molly too? You then, dear, would become acquainted with one of the girls, and I have no doubt you would be asked back again, which would be so very nice!”

“And I shouldn’t let her go,” said Mr. Gibson, who had acquired an unfortunate facility of reading his wife’s thoughts.

“Dear Helen!” went on Mrs. Gibson, “I should so like to nurse her! We would make your consulting- room into her own private sitting-room, my dear.”—(It is hardly necessary to say that the scales had been weighed down by the inconveniences of having a person behind the scenes for several weeks.) “For with an invalid so much depends on tranquillity. In the drawing-room, for instance, she might constantly be disturbed by callers; and the dining-room is so—so what shall I call it? so dinnery,—the smell of meat never seems to leave it; it would have been different, if dear papa had allowed me to throw out that window”——

“Why can’t she have the dressing-room for her bedroom, and the little room opening out of the drawing- room for her sitting-room?” asked Mr. Gibson.

“The library?”—for by this name Mrs. Gibson chose to dignify what had formerly been called the book- closet—“why, it would hardly hold a sofa, besides the books and the writing-table; and there are draughts everywhere. No, my dear, we had better not ask her at all; her own home is comfortable, at any rate!”

“Well, well!” said Mr. Gibson, seeing that he was to be worsted, and not caring enough about the matter to show fight. “Perhaps you’re right. It’s a case of luxury versus fresh air. Some people suffer more from want of the one than from want of the other. You know I shall be glad to see her, if she likes to come and take us as we are; but I can’t give up the consulting-room. It’s a necessity and daily bread!”

“I’ll write and tell them how kind Mr. Gibson is,” said his wife, in high contentment, as her husband left the room. “They’ll be just as much obliged to him as if she had come.”

Whether it was from Helen’s illness, or some other cause, after breakfast Cynthia became very flat and absent, and this lasted all day long. Molly understood now why her moods had been so changeable for many months, and was tender and forbearing with her accordingly. Towards evening, when the two girls were left alone, Cynthia came and stood over Molly, so that her face could not be seen.

“Molly,” said she, “will you do it? Will you do what you said last night? I’ve been thinking of it all day, and sometimes I believe he would give you back the letters if you asked him; he might fancy—at any rate it’s worth trying, if you don’t very much dislike it.”

Now it so happened that, with every thought she had given to it, Molly disliked the idea of the proposed interview with Mr. Preston more and more; but it was, after all, her own offer, and she neither could nor

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