All the rest of that day, Molly was depressed and not well. Having anything to conceal was so unusual—almost so unprecedented a circumstance with her that it preyed upon her in every way.

It was a nightmare that she could not shake off; she did so wish to forget it all, and yet every little occurrence seemed to remind her of it. The next morning’s post brought several letters; one from Roger for Cynthia; and Molly, letterless herself, looked at Cynthia as she read it, with wistful sadness. It appeared to Molly as though Cynthia should have no satisfaction in these letters, until she had told him what was her exact position with Mr. Preston; yet Cynthia was colouring and dimpling up, as she always did at any pretty words of praise, or admiration, or love. But Molly’s thoughts and Cynthia’s reading were both interrupted by a little triumphant sound from Mrs. Gibson, as she pushed a letter she had just received to her husband, with a—

“There! I must say I expected that!” Then, turning to Cynthia, she explained—“It is a letter from uncle Kirkpatrick, love. So kind, wishing you to go and stay with them, and help them to cheer up Helen. Poor Helen! I am afraid she is very far from well. But we could not have had her here, without disturbing dear papa in his consulting-room; and though I could have relinquished my dressing-room—he—well! so I said in my letter how you were grieved—you above all of us, because you are such a friend of Helen’s you know—and how you longed to be of use—as I am sure you do—and so now they want you to go up directly, for Helen has quite set her heart upon it.”

Cynthia’s eyes sparkled. “I shall like going,” said she—“all but leaving you, Molly,” she added, in a lower tone, as if suddenly smitten with some compunction.

“Can you be ready to go by the Bang-up to-night?” said Mr. Gibson; “for, curiously enough, after more than twenty years of quiet practice at Hollingford, I am summoned up to-day for the first time to a consultation in London tomorrow. I am afraid Lady Cumnor is worse, my dear.”

“You don’t say so? Poor dear lady! What a shock it is to me! I’m so glad I’ve had some breakfast. I could not have eaten anything.”

“Nay, I only say she is worse. With her complaint, being worse may only be a preliminary to being better. Don’t take my words for more than their literal meaning.”

“Thank you. How kind and reassuring dear papa always is! About your gowns, Cynthia?”

“Oh, they’re all right, mamma, thank you. I shall be quite ready by four o’clock. Molly, will you come with me and help me to pack? I wanted to speak to you, dear,” said she, as soon as they had gone upstairs. “It is such a relief to get away from a place haunted by that man; but I’m afraid you thought I was glad to leave you; and indeed I am not.” There was a little flavour of “protesting too much” about this; but Molly did not perceive it. She only said, “Indeed I did not. I know from my own feelings how you must dislike meeting a man in public in a different manner from what you have done in private. I shall try not to see Mr. Preston again for a long, long time, I’m sure. But, Cynthia, you haven’t told me one word out of Roger’s letter. Please, how is he? Has he quite got over his attack of fever?”

“Yes, quite. He writes in very good spirits. A great deal about birds and beasts, as usual, habits of natives, and things of that kind. You may read from there” (indicating a place in the letter) “to there, if you can. And I’ll tell you what, I’ll trust you with it, Molly, while I pack; and that shows my sense of your honour—not but what you might read it all, only you’d find the love-making dull; but make a little account of where he is, and what he is doing, date, and that sort of thing, and send it to his father.”

Molly took the letter down without a word, and began to copy it at the writing-table; often reading over what she was allowed to read; often pausing, her cheek on her hand, her eyes on the letter, and letting her imagination rove to the writer, and all the scenes in which she had either seen him herself, or in which her fancy had painted him. She was startled from her meditations by Cynthia’s sudden entrance into the drawing-room, looking the picture of glowing delight. “No one here? What a blessing! Ah, Miss

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