An Absent Lover returns

And now it was late June; and to Molly’s and her father’s extreme urgency in pushing, and Mr. and Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s affectionate persistency in pulling, Cynthia had yielded, and had gone back to finish her interrupted visit in London, but not before the bruit of her previous sudden return to nurse Molly had told strongly in her favour in the fluctuating opinion of the little town. Her affair with Mr. Preston was thrust into the shade; while every one was speaking of her warm heart. Under the gleam of Molly’s recovery everything assumed a rosy hue, as indeed became the time when actual roses were fully in bloom.

One morning, Mrs. Gibson brought Molly a great basket of flowers, that had been sent from the Hall. Molly still breakfasted in bed, but she had just come down, and was now well enough to arrange the flowers for the drawing-room, and, as she did so with these blossoms, she made some comments on each.

“Ah! these white pinks! They were Mrs. Hamley’s favourite flower; and so like her! This little bit of sweet briar, it quite scents the room. It has pricked my fingers, but never mind! Oh, mamma, look at this rose! I forget its name, but it is very rare, and grows up in the sheltered corner of the wall, near the mulberry- tree. Roger bought the tree for his mother with his own money when he was quite a boy; he showed it me, and made me notice it.”

“I daresay it was Roger who got it now. You heard papa say he had seen him yesterday.”

“No! Roger! Roger come home!” said Molly, turning first red, then very white.

“Yes. Oh, I remember you had gone to bed before papa came in, and he was called off early to tiresome Mrs. Beale. Yes, Roger turned up at the Hall the day before yesterday.”

But Molly leaned back against her chair, too faint to do more at the flowers for some time. She had been startled by the suddenness of the news. “Roger come home!”

It happened that Mr. Gibson was unusually busy on this particular day, and he did not come home till late in the afternoon. But Molly kept her place in the drawing-room all the time, not even going to take her customary siesta, so anxious was she to hear everything about Roger’s return, which as yet appeared to her almost incredible. But it was quite natural in reality; the long monotony of her illness had made her lose all count of time. When Roger left England, his idea was to coast round Africa on the eastern side until he reached the Cape, and thence to make what further journey or voyage might seem to him best in pursuit of his scientific objects. To Cape Town all his letters had been addressed of late; and there, two months before, he had received the intelligence of Osborne’s death, as well as Cynthia’s hasty letter of relinquishment. He did not consider that he was doing wrong in returning to England immediately, and reporting himself to the gentlemen who had sent him out, with a full explanation of the circumstances relating to Osborne’s private marriage and sudden death. He offered, and they accepted his offer, to go out again for any time that they might think equivalent to the five months he was yet engaged to them for. They were most of them gentlemen of property, and saw the full importance of proving the marriage of an eldest son, and installing his child as the natural heir to a long-descended estate. This much information, but in a more condensed form, Mr. Gibson gave to Molly, in a very few minutes. She sat up on her sofa, looking very pretty with the flush on her cheeks, and the brightness in her eyes.

“Well!” said she, when her father stopped speaking.

“Well! what?” asked he playfully.

“Oh! why, such a number of things! I’ve been waiting all day to ask you all about everything. How is he looking?’

“If a young man of twenty-four ever does take to growing taller, I should say that he was taller. As it is, I suppose it’s only that he looks broader, stronger—more muscular.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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