’Molly, I was taken by surprise by this affair between Cynthia and Roger Hamley—if there’s anything more on the tapis let me know at once, honestly and openly. I know it’s an awkward question for you to reply to; but I would not ask it unless I had good reasons.’ He took her hand as he spoke. She looked up at him with clear, truthful eyes which filled with tears as she spoke. She did not know why the tears came; perhaps it was because she was not so strong as formerly.
’If you mean that you’re afraid that Osborne thinks of me as Roger thinks of Cynthia, papa, you are quite mistaken. Osborne and I are friends and nothing more, and never can be anything more. That’s all I can tell you.’
’It’s quite enough, little one. It’s a great relief. I don’t want to have my Molly carried off by any young man just yet; I should miss her sadly.’ He could not help saying this in the fulness of his heart just then, but he was surprised at the effect these few tender words produced. Molly threw her arms round his neck, and began to sob bitterly, her head lying on his shoulder. ‘There, there!’ said he, patting her on the back, and leading her to the sofa, ’that will do. I get quite enough of tears in the day, shed for real causes, not to want them at home, where, I hope, they are shed for no cause at all. There’s nothing really the matter, is there, my dear?’ he continued, holding her a little away from him that he might look in her face. She smiled at him through her tears; and he did not see the look of sadness which returned to her face after he had left her.
’Nothing, dear, dear papa—nothing now. It is such a comfort to have you all to myself—it makes me happy.’
Mr. Gibson knew all implied in these words, and felt that there was no effectual help for the state of things which had arisen from his own act. It was better for them both that they should not speak out more fully. So he kissed her, and said,—
’That’s right, dear! I can leave you in comfort now, and indeed I’ve stayed too long already gossiping. Go out and have a walk—take Cynthia with you, if you like. I must be off. Good-by, little one.’
His commonplace words acted like an astringent on Molly’s relaxed feelings. He intended that they should do so; it was the truest kindness to her; but he walked away from her with a sharp pang at his heart, which he stunned into numbness as soon as he could by throwing himself violently into the affairs and cares of others.
A FLUKE, AND WHAT CAME OF IT