would draw back from it; it might do good, she did not see how it could possibly do harm. So she gave her consent, and tried to conceal her distaste, which grew upon her even more as Cynthia hastily arranged the details.

“You shall meet him in the avenue leading from the park lodge up to the Towers. He can come in one way from the Towers, where he has often business—he has passkeys everywhere—you can go in, as we have often done, by the lodge—you need not go far.”

It did strike Molly that Cynthia must have had some experience in making all these arrangements; and she ventured to ask how he was to be informed of all this. Cynthia only reddened and replied, “Oh! never mind! He will only be too glad to come; you heard him say he wished to discuss the affair more; it is the first time the appointment has come from my side. If I can but once be free—oh, Molly, I will love you, and be grateful to you all my life!”

Molly thought of Roger, and that thought prompted her next speech.

“It must be horrible—I think I’m very brave—but I don’t think I could have—could have accepted even Roger, with a half-cancelled engagement hanging over me.” She blushed as she spoke.

“You forget how I detest Mr. Preston!” said Cynthia. “It was that, more than any excess of love for Roger, that made me thankful to be at least as securely pledged to some one else. He did not want to call it an engagement; but I did; because it gave me the feeling of assurance that I was free from Mr. Preston. And so I am! all but these letters. Oh! if you can but make him take back his abominable money, and get me my letters! Then we would bury it all in oblivion, and he could marry somebody else, and I would marry Roger, and no one would be the wiser. After all, it was only what people call ‘youthful folly.’ And you may tell Mr. Preston that, as soon as he makes my letters public, shows them to your father or anything, I’ll go away from Hollingford, and never come back.”

Loaded with many such messages, which she felt that she would never deliver, not really knowing what she should say, hating the errand, not satisfied with Cynthia’s manner of speaking about her relations to Roger, oppressed with shame and complicity in conduct which appeared to her deceitful, yet willing to bear all and brave all, if she could once set Cynthia in a straight path—in a clear space, and almost more pitiful to her friend’s great distress and possible disgrace, than able to give her that love which involves perfect sympathy: Molly set out on her walk towards the appointed place. It was a cloudy, blustering day; and the noise of the blowing wind among the nearly leafless branches of the great trees filled her ears, as she passed through the park-gates and entered the avenue. She walked quickly, instinctively wishing to get her blood up, and have no time for thought. But there was a bend in the avenue, about a quarter of a mile from the lodge; after that bend it was a straight line up to the great house, now emptied of its inhabitants. Molly did not like going quite out of sight of the lodge, and she stood facing it, close by the trunk of one of the trees. Presently, she heard a step coming on the grass. It was Mr. Preston. He saw a woman’s figure half-behind the trunk of a tree, and made no doubt that it was Cynthia. But when he came near, almost close, the figure turned round, and, instead of the brilliantly-coloured face of Cynthia, he met the pale, resolved look of Molly. She did not speak to greet him; but, though he felt sure from the general aspect of pallor and timidity that she was afraid of him, her steady grey eyes met his with courageous innocence.

“Is Cynthia unable to come?” asked he, perceiving that she expected him.

“I did not know you thought that you should meet her,” said Molly, a little surprised. In her simplicity she believed that Cynthia had named that it was she, Molly Gibson, who would meet Mr. Preston at a given time and place; but Cynthia had been too worldly-wise for that, and had decoyed him thither by a vaguely-worded note, which, while avoiding actual falsehood, led him to suppose that she herself would give him the meeting.

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