“I was very unlucky,” said he. “I wanted to get near you last night, but it was quite impossible. You were so busy talking to Mr. Watson, until Sir Charles Morton came and carried you off—with such an air of authority! Have you known him long?”

Now, this was not at all the manner in which Roger had predetermined that he would speak of Sir Charles to Molly; but the words came out in spite of himself.

“No! not long. I never saw him before I came here— on Tuesday. But Lady Harriet told him to see that I did not get tired, for I wanted to come down; but you know I have not been strong. He is a cousin of Lady Harriet’s, and does all she tells him to do.”

“Oh! he’s not handsome; but I believe he’s a very sensible man.”

“Yes! I should think so. He is so silent, though, that I can hardly judge.”

“He bears a very high character in the county,” said Roger, willing now to give him his full due.

Molly stood up.

“I must go upstairs,” she said; “I only sate down here for a minute or two, because Lady Harriet bade me.”

“Stop a little longer,” said he. “This is really the pleasantest place; this basin of water-lilies gives one the idea, if not the sensation, of coolness; besides—it seems so long since I saw you, and I’ve a message from my father to give you. He is very angry with you.”

“Angry with me!” said Molly in surprise.

“Yes! He heard that you had come here for change of air; and he was offended that you hadn’t come to us—to the Hall, instead. He said that you should have remembered old friends!”

Molly took all this quite gravely, and did not at first notice the smile on his face.

“Oh! I am so sorry,” said she. “But will you please tell him how it all happened? Lady Harriet called the very day when it was settled that I was not to go to”— Cynthia’s wedding, she was going to add, but she suddenly stopped short, and, blushing deeply, changed the expression —“go to London, and she planned it all in a minute, and convinced mamma and papa, and had her own way. There was really no resisting her.”

“I think you will have to tell all this to my father yourself, if you mean to make your peace. Why can you not come on to the Hall when you leave the Towers?”

To go in the cool manner suggested from one house to another, after the manner of a royal progress, was not at all according to Molly’s primitive home-keeping notions. She made answer—

“I should like it very much, some time. But I must go home first. They will want me more than ever now”—

Again she felt herself touching on a sore subject, and stopped short. Roger became annoyed at her so constantly conjecturing what he must be feeling on the subject of Cynthia’s marriage. With sympathetic perception, she had discerned that the idea must give him pain; and perhaps she also knew that he would dislike to show the pain; but she had not the presence of mind or ready wit to give a skilful turn to the conversation. All this annoyed Roger, he could hardly tell why. He determined to take the metaphorical bull by the horns. Until that was done, his footing with Molly would always be insecure; as it always is between two friends, who mutually avoid a subject to which their thoughts perpetually recur.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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