by her finger). Cynthia put her netting on one side, and looked at the writing. Suddenly her face turned scarlet, and then became of a deadly white. She looked at Molly, as if to gain courage from the strong serene countenance.

“It means—mamma, I may as well tell you at once—Mr. Henderson offered to me while I was in London, and I refused him.”

“Refused him—and you never told me, but let me hear it by chance! Really, Cynthia, I think you’re very unkind. And pray, what made you refuse Mr. Henderson? Such a fine young man, and such a gentleman! Your uncle told me he had a very good private fortune besides.”

“Mamma, do you forget that I have promised to marry Roger Hamley?” said Cynthia quietly.

“No! of course I don’t—how can I, with Molly always dinning the word ‘engagement’ into my ears? But really, when one considers all the uncertainties—and after all it was not a distinct promise—he seemed almost as if he might have looked forward to something of this sort.”

“Of what sort, mamma?” said Cynthia sharply.

“Why, of a more eligible offer. He must have known you might change your mind, and meet with some one you liked better: so little as you had seen of the world.” Cynthia made an impatient movement, as if to stop her mother.

“I never said I liked him better—how can you talk so, mamma? I’m going to marry Roger, and there’s an end of it. I will not be spoken to about it again.” She got up and left the room.

“Going to marry Roger! That’s all very fine. But who is to guarantee his coming back alive? And if he does, what have they to marry upon, I should like to know? I don’t wish her to have accepted Mr. Henderson, though I am sure she liked him; and true love ought to have its course, and not be thwarted; but she need not have quite finally refused him until—well, until we had seen how matters turn out. Such an invalid as I am too! It has given me quite a palpitation at the heart. I do call it quite unfeeling of Cynthia.”

“Certainly”—began Molly; but then she remembered that her stepmother was far from strong, and unable to bear a protest in favour of the right course without irritation. So she changed her speech into a suggestion of remedies for palpitation; and curbed her impatience to speak out her indignation at the contemplated falsehood to Roger. But when they were alone, and Cynthia began upon the subject, Molly was less merciful. Cynthia said—

“Well, Molly, and now you know all! I’ve been longing to tell you—and yet somehow I could not.”

“I suppose it was a repetition of Mr. Coxe?” said Molly gravely. “You were agreeable—and he took it for something more.”

“I don’t know,” sighed Cynthia. “I mean, I don’t know if I was agreeable or not. He was very kind—very pleasant—but I didn’t expect it all to end as it did. However, it’s of no use thinking of it.”

“No!” said Molly simply; for in her mind the pleasantest and kindest person in the world, put in comparison with Roger, was as nothing; he stood by himself. Cynthia’s next words,—and they did not come very soon—were on quite a different subject, and spoken in rather a pettish tone. Nor did she allude again in jesting sadness to her late efforts at virtue.

In a little while. Mrs. Gibson was able to accept the often-repeated invitation from the Towers to go and stay there for a day or two. Lady Harriet told her that it would be a kindness to Lady Cumnor to come and bear her company in the life of seclusion the latter was still compelled to lead; and Mrs. Gibson was flattered and gratified with a dim unconscious sense of being really wanted, not merely deluding herself into a pleasing fiction. Lady Cumnor was in that state of convalescence common to many invalids. The

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