’Well, well, don’t go on arguing, it always gives me a headache, as Phoebe knows. I didn’t mean what I said, that’s enough, isn’t it? I’ll retract anything sooner than be reasoned with. Where were we before you began your arguments?’
‘About dear little Molly coming to pay us a visit,’ said Miss Phoebe.
’I should have asked you at first, only Coxe was so rampant with his love. I didn’t know what he might do, or how troublesome he might be both to Molly and you. But he has cooled down now. Absence has had a very tranquillizing effect, and I think Molly may be in the same town with him, without any consequences beyond a few sighs every time she’s brought to his mind by meeting her. And I’ve got another favour to ask of you, so you see it would never do for me to argue with you, Miss Browning, when I ought to be a humble suppliant. Something must be done to the house to make it all ready for the future Mrs. Gibson. It wants painting and papering shamefully, and I should think some new furniture, but I’m sure I don’t know what. Would you be so very kind as to look over the place, and see how far a hundred pounds will go? The dining-room walls must be painted; we’ll keep the drawing-room paper for her choice, and I’ve a little spare money for that room for her to lay out; but all the rest of the house I’ll leave to you, if you’ll only be kind enough to help an old friend.’
This was a commission which exactly gratified Miss Browning’s love of power. The disposal of money involved patronage of tradespeople, such as she had exercised in her father’s lifetime, but had had very little chance of showing since his death. Her usual good-humour was quite restored by this proof of confidence in her taste and economy, while Miss Phoebe’s imagination dwelt rather on the pleasure of a visit from Molly.
MOLLY GIBSON’S NEW FRIENDS
Time was speeding on; it was now the middle of August,—if anything was to be done to the house, it must be done at once. Indeed, in several ways Mr. Gibson’s arrangements with Miss Browning had not been made too soon. The squire had heard that Osborne might probably return home for a few days before going abroad; and, though the growing intimacy between Roger and Molly did not alarm him in the least, yet he was possessed by a very hearty panic lest the heir might take a fancy to the surgeon’s daughter; and he was in such a fidget for her to leave the house before Osborne came home, that his wife lived in constant terror lest he should make it too obvious to their visitor.