‘Not till after Michaelmas.’ And then, continuing on his own thoughts, he added, ’And the worst is, she’s gone and perpetuated her own affected name by having her daughter called after her. Cynthia! One thinks of the moon, and the man in the moon with his bundle of faggots. I’m thankful you’re plain Molly, child.’
‘How old is she—Cynthia, I mean?’
’Ay, get accustomed to the name. I should think Cynthia Kirkpatrick was about as old as you are. She’s at school in France, picking up airs and graces. She’s to come home for the wedding, so you’ll be able to get acquainted with her then; though, I think, she’s to go back again for another half-year or so.’
Mr. Gibson believed that Cynthia Kirkpatrick was to return to England to be present at her mother’s wedding; but Mrs. Kirkpatrick had no such intention. She was not what is commonly called a woman of determination; but somehow what she disliked she avoided, and what she liked she tried to do, or to have. So although in the conversation, which she had already led to, as to the when and the how she was to be married, she had listened quietly to Mr. Gibson’s proposal that Molly and Cynthia should be the two bridesmaids, she had felt how disagreeable it would be to her to have her young daughter flashing out her beauty by the side of the faded bride, her mother; and as the further arrangements for the wedding became more definite, she saw further reasons in her own mind for Cynthia’s remaining quietly at her school at Boulogne.
Mrs. Kirkpatrick had gone to bed that first night of her engagement to Mr. Gibson, fully anticipating a speedy marriage. She looked to it as a release from the thraldom of keeping school—keeping an unprofitable school, with barely enough of pupils to pay for house-rent and taxes, food, washing, and the requisite masters. She saw no reason for ever going back to Ashcombe, except to wind up her affairs, and to pack up her clothes. She hoped that Mr. Gibson’s ardour would be such that he would press on the marriage, and urge her never to resume her school drudgery, but to relinquish it now and for ever. She even made up a very pretty, very passionate speech for him in her own mind; quite sufficiently strong to prevail upon her, and to overthrow the scruples which she felt that she ought to have, at telling the parents of her pupils that she did not intend to resume school, and that they must find another place of education for their daughters, in the last week but one of the midsummer holidays.
It was rather like a douche of cold water on Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s plans, when the next morning at breakfast Lady Cumnor began to decide upon the arrangements and duties of the two middle-aged lovers.
’Of course you can’t give up your school all at once, Clare. The wedding can’t be before Christmas, but that will do very well. We shall all be down at the Towers; and it will be a nice amusement for the children to go over to Ashcombe, and see you married.’