’Oh! I’m thinking how blest you are in having parents who have instilled moral principles into your youthful bosom. You’d go and be poisoning all the paupers off, if you hadn’t been told that murder was a crime by your mother; you’d be thinking you were doing as you were bid, and quote old Gibson’s words when you came to be tried. “Please, my lord judge, they were not able to pay for my visits, and so I followed the rules of the profession as taught me by Mr. Gibson, the great surgeon at Hollingford, and poisoned the paupers."’
‘I can’t bear that scoffing way of his.’
’And I like it. If it wasn’t for the governor’s fun, and the tamarinds, and something else that I know of, I would run off to India. I hate stifling rooms, and sick people, and the smell of drugs, and the stink of pills on my hands;—faugh!’
One day, for some reason or other, Mr. Gibson came home unexpectedly. He was crossing the hall, having come in by the garden-door—the garden communicated with the stable-yard, where he had left his horse—when the kitchen door opened, and the girl who was underling in the establishment, came quickly into the hall with a note in her hand, and made as if she was taking it upstairs; but on seeing her master she gave a little start, and turned back as if to hide herself in the kitchen. If she had not made this movement, so conscious of guilt, Mr. Gibson, who was anything but suspicious, would never have taken any notice of her. As it was, he stepped quickly forwards, opened the kitchen door, and called out, ‘Bethia’ so sharply that she could not delay coming forwards.
‘Give me that note,’ he said. She hesitated a little.
‘It’s for Miss Molly,’ she stammered out.
‘Give it to me!’ he repeated more quietly than before. She looked as if she would cry; but still she kept the note tight held behind her back.
’He said as I was to give it into her own hands; and I promised as I would, faithful.’
‘Cook, go and find Miss Molly. Tell her to come here at once.’
He fixed Bethia with his eyes. It was of no use trying to escape: she might have thrown it into the fire, but she had not presence of mind enough. She stood immovable, only her eyes looked any way rather than encounter her master’s steady gaze. ‘Molly, my dear!’
‘Papa! I did not know you were at home,’ said innocent, wondering Molly.
‘Bethia, keep your word. Here is Miss Molly; give her the note.’
‘Indeed, Miss, I couldn’t help it!’
Molly took the note, but before she could open it, her father said,— ’That’s all, my dear; you need not read it. Give it to me. Tell those who sent you, Bethia, that all letters for Miss Molly must pass through my hands. Now be off with you, goosey, and go back to where you came from.’
‘Papa, I shall make you tell me who my correspondent is.’