‘Oh!’ said Cynthia; ’you must not go and take me au grand serieux. I daresay I don’t mean what I say, but you see everything seems a dream at present. Still, I think the chances are equal—the chances for and against our marriage, I mean. Two years! it’s a long time; he may change his mind, or I may; or some one else may turn up, and say I’m engaged to him: what should you think of that, Molly? I’m putting such a gloomy thing as death quite on one side, you see; yet in two years how much may happen.’
‘Don’t talk so, Cynthia, please don’t,’ said Molly, piteously. ’One would think you did not care for him, and he cares so much for you!’
’Why, did I say I did not care for him! I was only calculating chances. I am sure I hope nothing will happen to prevent the marriage. Only, you know it may, and I thought I was taking a step in wisdom, in looking forward to all the evils that might befall. I am sure all the wise people I have ever known thought it a virtue to have gloomy prognostics of the future. But you’re not in a mood for wisdom or virtue, I see; so I’ll go and get ready for dinner, and leave you to your vanities of dress.’
She took Molly’s face in both her hands, before Molly was aware of her intention, and kissed it playfully. Then she left Molly to herself.
THE MOTHER’S MANOEUVRE
Mr. Gibson was not at home at dinner—detained by some patient, most probably. This was not an unusual occurrence; but it was rather an unusual occurrence for Mrs. Gibson to go down into the dining-room, and sit with him as he ate his deferred meal when he came in an hour or two later. In general, she preferred her easy-chair, or her corner of the sofa, upstairs in the drawing-room, though it was very rarely that she would allow Molly to avail herself of her stepmother’s neglected privilege. Molly would fain have gone down and kept her father company every night that he had these solitary meals; but for peace and quietness she gave up her own wishes on the subject.
Mrs. Gibson took a seat by the fire in the dining-room, and patiently waited for the auspicious moment when Mr. Gibson, having satisfied his healthy appetite, turned from the table, and took his place by her side. She got up, and with unaccustomed attention she moved the wine and glasses so that he could help himself without moving from his chair.
’There, now! are you comfortable? for I have a great piece of news to tell you!’ said she, when all was arranged.
‘I thought there was something on hand,’ said he, smiling. ’Now for it!’
‘Roger Hamley has been here this afternoon to bid us good-by.’
‘Good-by! Is he gone? I did not know he was going so soon!’ exclaimed Mr. Gibson.
‘Yes: never mind, that’s not it,’
’But tell me; has he left this neighbourhood? I wanted to have seen him.’