"Troubles never come alone"

Molly had her out-of-door things on, and she crept away, as she was bidden. She lifted her heavy weight of heart and body along till she came to a field, not so very far off,—where she had sought the comfort of loneliness ever since she was a child; and there, under the hedge-bank, she sate down, burying her face in her hands, and quivering all over as she thought of Cynthia’s misery, which she might not try to touch or assuage. She never knew how long she sate there; but it was long past lunch-time, when once again she stole up to her room. The door opposite was open wide—Cynthia had quitted the chamber. Molly arranged her dress and went down into the drawing-room. Cynthia and her mother sate there in the stern repose of an armed neutrality. Cynthia’s face looked made of stone, for colour and rigidity; but she was netting away, as if nothing unusual had occurred. Not so Mrs. Gibson; her face bore evident marks of tears, and she looked up and greeted Molly’s entrance with a faint smiling notice. Cynthia went on, as though she had never heard the opening of the door, or felt the approaching sweep of Molly’s dress. Molly took up a book—not to read, but to have the semblance of some employment which should not necessitate conversation.

There was no measuring the duration of the silence that ensued. Molly grew to fancy it was some old enchantment that weighed upon their tongues and kept them still. At length Cynthia spoke, but she had to begin again before her words came clear.

“I wish you both to know, that henceforward all is at an end between me and Roger Hamley.”

Molly’s book went down upon her knees; with open eyes and lips, she strove to draw in Cynthia’s meaning. Mrs. Gibson spoke querulously, as if injured.

“I could have understood this if it had happened three months ago—when you were in London; but now it’s just nonsense, Cynthia, and you know you don’t mean it!”

Cynthia did not reply; nor did the resolute look on her face change when Molly spoke at last.

“Cynthia—think of him! It will break his heart!”

“No!” said Cynthia, “it will not. But, even if it did, I cannot help it.”

“All this talk will soon pass away!” said Molly; “and, when he knows the truth from your own self”——

“From my own self he shall never hear it. I do not love him well enough to go through the shame of having to excuse myself—to plead that he will reinstate me in his good opinion. Confession may be — well! I can never believe it pleasant—but it may be an ease of mind if one makes it to some people—to some person—and it may not be a mortification to sue for forgiveness. I cannot tell. All I know is—and I know it clearly, and will act upon it inflexibly—that——” And here she stopped short.

“I think you might finish your sentence,” said her mother, after a silence of five seconds.

“I cannot bear to exculpate myself to Roger Hamley. I will not submit to his thinking less well of me than he has done—however foolish his judgment may have been. I would rather never see him again, for these two reasons. And the truth is, I do not love him. I like him, I respect him; but I will not marry him. I have written to tell him so. That was merely as a relief to myself, for when or where the letter will reach him—— And I have written to old Mr. Hamley. The relief is the one good thing come out of it all. It is such a relief to feel free again. It wearied me so to think of straining up to his goodness. “Extenuate my conduct!’ ” she concluded, quoting Mr. Gibson’s words. Yet, when Mr. Gibson came home, after a silent dinner, she asked to speak with him, alone, in his consulting-room; and there laid bare the exculpation of herself which she had given to Molly many weeks before. When she had ended, she said—

“And now, Mr. Gibson—I still treat you like a friend—help me to find some home far away, where all the evil talking and gossip mamma tells me of cannot find me and follow me. It may be wrong to care for

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