“I don’t see how he could help it. When he came to see her after his return, she was already engaged to Mr. Henderson—he had come down that very day,” said Molly, with perhaps more heat than the occasion required.

“My poor head!” said Mrs. Gibson, putting her hands up to her head. “One may see you’ve been stopping with people of robust health, and—excuse my saying it, Molly, of your friends—of unrefined habits: you’ve got to talk in so loud a voice. But do remember my head, Molly. So Roger has quite forgotten Cynthia, has he? Oh! what inconstant creatures men are! He will be falling in love with some grandee next, mark my words! They are making a pet and a lion of him, and he’s just the kind of weak young man to have his head turned by it all, and to propose to some fine lady of rank, who would no more think of marrying him than of marrying her footman.”

“I don’t think it is likely,” said Molly stoutly. “Roger is too sensible for anything of the kind.”

“That’s just the fault I’ve always found with him; sensible and cold-hearted! Now, that’s a kind of character which may be very valuable, but which revolts me. Give me warmth of heart, even with a little of that extravagance of feeling which misleads the judgment, and conducts into romance. Poor Mr. Kirkpatrick! That was just his character. I used to tell him that his love for me was quite romantic. I think I have told you about his walking five miles in the rain to get me a muffin once when I was ill?”

“Yes!” said Molly. “It was very kind of him.”

“So imprudent, too! Just what one of your sensible, cold-hearted, commonplace people would never have thought of doing! With his cough and all!”

“I hope he didn’t suffer for it?” replied Molly, anxious at any cost to keep off the subject of the Hamleys, upon which she and her stepmother always disagreed, and on which she found it difficult to keep her temper.

“Yes, indeed he did! I don’t think he ever got over the cold he caught that day. I wish you had known him, Molly. I sometimes wonder what would have happened, if you had been my real daughter, and Cynthia dear papa’s, and Mr. Kirkpatrick and your own dear mother had all lived. People talk a good deal about natural affinities. It would have been a question for a philosopher.” She began to think on the impossibilities she had suggested.

“I wonder how the poor little boy is!” said Molly, after a pause, speaking out her thought.

“Poor little child! When one thinks how little his prolonged existence is to be desired, one feels that his death would be a boon.”

“Mamma! what do you mean?” asked Molly, much shocked. “Why, every one cares for his life as the most precious thing! You have never seen him! He is the bonniest, sweetest little fellow that can be! What do you mean?”

“I should have thought that the Squire would have desired a better-born heir than the offspring of a servant— with all his ideas about descent and blood and family. And I should have thought that it was a little mortifying to Roger—who must naturally have looked upon himself as his brother’s heir—to find a little interloping child, half-French, half-English, stepping into his shoes!”

“You don’t know how fond they are of him—the Squire looks upon him as the apple of his eye.”

“Molly! Molly! pray don’t let me hear you using such vulgar expressions. When shall I teach you true refinement —that refinement which consists in never even thinking a vulgar, commonplace thing! Proverbs and idioms are never used by people of education. ‘Apple of his eye!’ I am really shocked.”

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