’Well! there’s no harm in it, I’m sure. Did you hear him say that, though he did not like to leave his father alone just at present, yet that when his brother Roger came back from Cambridge, he should feel more at liberty? It was quite as much to say, “If you will ask me to dinner then, I shall be delighted to come.” And chickens will be so much cheaper, and cook has such a nice way of boning them, and doing them up with forcemeat. Everything seems to be falling out so fortunately. And Molly, my dear, you know I won’t forget you. By-and-by, when Roger Hamley has taken his turn at stopping at home with his father, we will ask him to one of our little quiet dinners.’
Molly was very slow at taking this in; but in about a minute the sense of it had reached her brain, and she went all over very red and hot; especially as she saw that Cynthia was watching the light come into her mind with great amusement.
’I’m afraid Molly isn’t properly grateful, mamma. If I were you, I wouldn’t exert myself to give a dinner-party on her account. Bestow all your kindness upon me.’
Molly was often puzzled by Cynthia’s speeches to her mother; and this was one of these occasions. But she was more anxious to say something for herself; she was so much annoyed at the implication in Mrs. Gibson’s last words.
’Mr. Roger Hamley has been very good to me; he was a great deal at home when I was there, and Mr. Osborne Hamley was very little there: that was the reason I spoke so much more of one than the other. If I had—if he had,’—losing her coherence in the difficulty of finding words,—’I don’t think I should. Oh, Cynthia, instead of laughing at me, I think you might help me to explain myself!’
Instead, Cynthia gave a diversion to the conversation.
’Mamma’s paragon gives me an idea of weakness. I can’t quite make out whether it is in body or mind. Which is it, Molly?’
’He is not strong, I know; but he is very accomplished and clever. Every one says that,—even papa, who doesn’t generally praise young men. That made the puzzle the greater when he did so badly at college.’
’Then it’s his character that is weak. I’m sure there’s weakness somewhere; but he’s very agreeable. It must have been very pleasant, staying at the Hall.’
‘Yes; but it’s all over now.’
‘Oh, nonsense!’ said Mrs. Gibson, wakening up from counting the stitches in her pattern. ’We shall have the young men coming to dinner pretty often, you’ll see. Your father likes them, and I shall always make a point of welcoming his friends. They can’t go on mourning for a mother for ever. I expect we shall see a great deal of them; and that the two families will become very intimate. After all, these good Hollingford people are terribly behindhand, and I should say, rather commonplace.’