‘I don’t know,’ said Molly. ’People say one ought, but I almost wish I had not heard it. Please, does he say anything else that I may hear?’
‘Oh, lovers’ letters are so silly, and I think this is sillier than usual,’ said Cynthia, looking over her letter again. ’Here’s a piece you may read, from that line to that,’ indicating two places. ’I have not read it myself for it looked dullish—all about Aristotle and Pliny—and I want to get this bonnet-cap made up before we go out to pay our calls.’
Molly took the letter, the thought crossing her mind that he had touched it, had had his hands upon it, in those far-distant desert lands, where he might be lost to sight and to any human knowledge of his fate; even now her pretty brown fingers almost caressed the flimsy paper with their delicacy of touch as she read. She saw references made to books, which, with a little trouble, would be accessible to her here in Hollingford. Perhaps the details and the references would make the letter dull and dry to some people, but not to her, thanks to his former teaching and the interest he had excited in her for his pursuits. But, as he said in apology, what had he to write about in that savage land, but his love, and his researches, and travels? There was no society, no gaiety, no new books to write about, no gossip in Abyssinian wilds.
Molly was not in strong health, and perhaps this made her a little fanciful; but certain it is that her thoughts by day and her dreams by night were haunted by the idea of Roger lying ill and untended in those savage lands. Her constant prayer, ’O my Lord! give her the living child, and in no wise slay it,’ came from a heart as true as that of the real mother in King Solomon’s judgment. ’Let him live, let him live, even though I may never set eyes upon him again. Have pity upon his father! Grant that he may come home safe, and live happily with her whom he loves so tenderly—so tenderly, O God.’ And then she would burst into tears, and drop asleep at last, sobbing.
MR KIRKPATRICK, Q.C.
Cynthia was always the same with Molly: kind, sweet-tempered, ready to help, professing a great deal of love for her, and probably feeling as much as she did for any one in the world. But Molly had reached to this superficial depth of affection and intimacy in the first few weeks of Cynthia’s residence in her father’s house; and if she had been of a nature prone to analyse the character of one whom she loved dearly, she might have perceived that, with all Cynthia’s apparent frankness, there were certain limits beyond which her confidence did not go; where her reserve began, and her real self was shrouded in mystery. For instance, her relations with Mr. Preston were often very puzzling to Molly. She was sure that there had been a much greater intimacy between them formerly at Ashcombe, and that the remembrance of this was often very galling