people’s good opinion—but it is me, and I cannot alter myself. You, Molly—all the people in the town—I haven’t the patience to live through the nine days’ wonder. I want to go away and be a governess.”

“But, my dear Cynthia—how soon Roger will be back—a tower of strength!”

“Has not mamma told you I have broken it all off with Roger? I wrote this morning. I wrote to his father. That letter will reach to-morrow. I wrote to Roger. If he ever receives that letter, I hope to be far away by that time; in Russia, may be.”

“Nonsense. An engagement like yours cannot be broken off, except by mutual consent. You’ve only given others a great deal of pain without freeing yourself. Nor will you wish it in a month’s time. When you come to think calmly, you’ll be glad to think of the stay and support of such a husband as Roger. You have been in fault, and have acted foolishly at first—perhaps wrongly afterwards; but you don’t want your husband to think you faultless?”

“Yes, I do,” said Cynthia. “At any rate, my lover must think me so. And it is just because I do not love him even as so light a thing as I could love, that I feel that I couldn’t bear to have to tell him I’m sorry, and stand before him, like a chidden child, to be admonished and forgiven.”

“But here you are, just in such a position before me, Cynthia!”

“Yes! but I love you better than Roger; I’ve often told Molly so. And I would have told you, if I hadn’t expected and hoped to leave you all before long. I should see if the recollection of it all came up before your mind; I should see it in your eyes; I should know it by instinct. I have a fine instinct for reading the thoughts of others, when they refer to me. I almost hate the idea of Roger judging me by his own standard, which wasn’t made for me, and graciously forgiving me at last.”

“Then I do believe it’s right for you to break it off,” said Mr. Gibson, almost as if he were thinking to himself. “That poor, poor lad! But it’ll be best for him too. And he’ll get over it. He has a good, strong heart. Poor old Roger!”

For a moment Cynthia’s wilful fancy stretched after the object passing out of her grasp—Roger’s love became for the instant a treasure; but, again, she knew that in its entirety of high undoubting esteem, as well as of passionate regard, it would no longer be hers; and, for the flaw which she herself had made, she cast it away, and would none of it. Yet often in after years, when it was too late, she wondered and strove to penetrate the inscrutable mystery of “what would have been.”

“Still, take till to-morrow before you act upon your decision,” said Mr. Gibson slowly. “What faults you have fallen into have been mere girlish faults at first—leading you into much deceit, I grant.”

“Don’t give yourself the trouble to define the shades of blackness,” said Cynthia bitterly. “I’m not so obtuse but what I know them all, better than any one can tell me. And, as for my decision, I acted upon it at once. It may be long before Roger gets my letter—but I hope he is sure to get it at last—and, as I said, I have let his father know; it won’t hurt him! Oh, sir! I think, if I had been differently brought up, I shouldn’t have had the sore angry heart I have now. No, don’t! I don’t want reasoning comfort. I can’t stand it. I should always have wanted admiration and worship, and men’s good opinion. Those unkind gossips! To visit Molly with their hard words! Oh, dear! I think life is very dreary.”

She put her head down on her hands; tired out, mentally as well as bodily. So Mr. Gibson thought. He felt as if much speech from him would only add to her excitement, and make her worse. He left the room, and called Molly, from where she was sitting, dolefully. “Go to Cynthia!” he whispered, and Molly went. She took Cynthia into her arms with gentle power, and laid her head against her own breast, as if the one had been a mother, and the other a child.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.