Molly was silent. There was a great deal of truth in what Cynthia was saying; and yet a great deal of falsehood. For, through all this long forty-eight hours, Molly had loved Cynthia dearly; and had been more weighed down by the position the latter was in than Cynthia herself. She also knew—but this was a second thought following on the other— that she had suffered much pain in trying to do her best in this interview with Mr. Preston. She had been tried beyond her strength; and the great tears welled up into her eyes, and fell slowly down her cheeks.
‘Oh! what a brute I am,’ said Cynthia, kissing them away. ’I see—I know it is the truth, and I deserve it—but I need not reproach you.’
‘You did not reproach me!’ said Molly, trying to smile. ’I have thought some of what you said—but I do love you dearly—dearly, Cynthia—I should have done just the same as you did.’
‘No, you would not. Your grain is different, somehow.’
All the rest of that day Molly was depressed and not well. Having anything to conceal was so unusual—almost so unprecedented a circumstance with her that it preyed upon her in every way.
It was a nightmare that she could not shake off; she did so wish to forget it all, and yet every little occurrence seemed to remind her of it. The next morning’s post brought several letters; one from Roger for Cynthia, and Molly, letterless herself, looked at Cynthia as she read it, with wistful sadness; it appeared to Molly as though Cynthia should have no satisfaction in these letters, until she had told him what was her exact position with Mr. Preston; yet Cynthia was colouring and dimpling up as she always did at any pretty words of praise, or admiration, or love. But Molly’s thoughts and Cynthia’s reading were both interrupted by a little triumphant sound from Mrs. Gibson, as she pushed a letter she had just received to her husband, with a,—
‘There! I must say I expected that!’ Then, turning to Cynthia, she explained,—’It is a letter from uncle Kirkpatrick, love. So kind, wishing you to go and stay with them, and help them to cheer up Helen; poor Helen! I am afraid she is very far from well. But we could not have had her here, without disturbing dear papa in his consulting-room; and, though I could have relinquished my dressing-room—he—well! so I said in my letter how you were grieved—you above all of us, because you are such a friend of Helen’s, you know—and how you longed to be of use,—as I am sure you do—and so now they want you to go up directly, for Helen has quite set her heart upon it.’
Cynthia’s eyes sparkled. ‘I shall like going,’ said she,—’all but leaving you, Molly,’ she added, in a lower tone, as if suddenly smitten with some compunction.
‘Can you be ready to go up by the “Bang-up” to-night?’ said Mr Gibson, ’for, curiously enough, after more than twenty years of quiet practice at Hollingford, I am summoned up to-day for the first time to a consultation in London, to-morrow. I am afraid Lady Cumnor is worse, my dear.’