Such is perhaps the summing-up of the news of the Hamleys, as contained in many bulletins. They always ended in some kind message to Molly.
Mrs. Gibson generally said, as a comment upon her husband’s account of Osborne’s melancholy,—
’My dear! why don’t you ask him to dinner here? A little quiet dinner, you know. Cook is quite up to it; and we would all of us wear blacks and lilacs;’ he couldn’t consider that as gaiety.’
Mr. Gibson took no more notice of these suggestions than by shaking his head. He had grown accustomed to his wife by this time, and regarded silence on his own part as a great preservative against long inconsequential arguments. But every time that Mrs. Gibson was struck by Cynthia’s beauty, she thought it more and more advisable that Mr. Osborne Hamley should be cheered up by a quiet little dinner-party. As yet no one but the ladies of Hollingford and Mr Ashton, the vicar—that hopeless and impracticable old bachelor—had seen Cynthia; and what was the good of having a lovely daughter, if there were none but old women to admire her?
Cynthia herself appeared extremely indifferent upon the subject, and took very little notice of her mother’s constant talk about the gaieties that were possible, and the gaieties that were impossible, in Hollingford. She exerted herself just as much to charm the two Miss Brownings as she would have done to delight Osborne Hamley, or any other young heir. That is to say, she used no exertion, but simply followed her own nature, which was to attract every one of those she was thrown amongst. The exertion seemed rather to be to refrain from doing so, and to protest, as she so often did, by slight words and expressive looks against her mother’s words and humours—alike against her folly and her caresses. Molly was almost sorry for Mrs. Gibson, who seemed so unable to gain influence over her child. One day Cynthia read Molly’s thought.
’I am not good, and I told you so. Somehow I cannot forgive her for her neglect of me as a child, when I would have clung to her. Besides, I hardly ever heard from her when I was at school. And I know she put a stop to my coming over to her wedding. I saw the letter she wrote to Madame Lefevre. A child should be brought up with its parents, if it is to think them infallible when it grows up.’
‘But though it may know that there must be faults,’ replied Molly, ’it ought to cover them over and try to forget their existence.’
’It ought. But don’t you see I have grown up outside the pale of duty and “oughts.” Love me as I am, sweet one, for I shall never be better.’
MRS GIBSON’S VISITORS