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- Wives and Daughters - 130/139 -

could see that he had very good feeling; and he is very handsome, and very much attached to her.'

'So was Roger. However, I must confess I shall only be too glad to have her married. She is a girl who will always have some love-affair on hand, and will always be apt to slip through a man's fingers if he does not look sharp; as I was saying to Roger--'

'You have seen him, then, since he was here?'

'Met him in the street.'

'How was he?'

'I don't suppose he had been going through the pleasantest thing in the world; but he'll get over it before long. He spoke with sense and resignation, and did not say much about it; but one could see that he was feeling it pretty sharply. He's had three months to think it over, remember. The squire, I should guess, is showing more indignation. He is boiling over, that any one should reject his son! The enormity of the sin never seems to have been apparent to him till now, when he sees how Roger is affected by it. Indeed, with the exception of myself, I don't know one reasonable father; eh, Molly?'

Whatever else Mr. Henderson might be, he was an impatient lover; he wanted to marry Cynthia directly--next week--the week after. At any rate before the long vacation, so that they could go abroad at once. Trousseaux, and preliminary ceremonies, he gave to the winds. Mr Gibson, generous as usual, called Cynthia aside a morning or two after her engagement, and put a hundred-pound note into her hands.

'There! that's to pay your expenses to Russia and back. I hope you'll find your pupils obedient.'

To his surprise, and rather to his discomfiture, Cynthia threw her arms round his neck and kissed him.

'You are the kindest person I know,' said she; 'and I don't know how to thank you in words.'

'If you tumble my shirt-collars again in that way, I'll charge you for the washing. Just now, too, when I'm trying so hard to be trim and elegant, like your Mr. Henderson.'

'But you do like him, don't you?' said Cynthia, pleadingly. 'He does so like you.'

'Of course. We are all angels just now, and you are an arch-angel. I hope he'll wear as well as Roger.'

Cynthia looked grave. 'That was a very silly affair,' she said. 'We were two as unsuitable people--'

'It has ended, and that's enough. Besides, I've no more time to waste; and there is your smart young man coming here in all haste.'

Mr. and Mrs. Kirkpatrick sent all manner of congratulations; and, in a private letter, assured Mrs. Gibson that her ill-timed confidence about Roger should be considered as quite private. For as soon as Mr Henderson had made his appearance in Hollingford, she had written a second letter, entreating them not to allude to anything she might have said in her first; which she said was written in such excitement on discovering the real state of her daughter's affections, that she had hardly known what she had said, and had exaggerated some things, and misunderstood others; all that she did know now was, that Mr. Henderson had just proposed to Cynthia, and was accepted, and that they were as happy as the day was long, and ('excuse the vanity of a mother,') made a most lovely couple. So Mr and Mrs. Kirkpatrick wrote back an equally agreeable letter, praising Mr. Henderson, admiring Cynthia, and generally congratulatory; insisting into the bargain that the marriage should take place from their house in Hyde Park Street, and that Mr. and Mrs. Gibson and Molly should all come up and pay them a visit. There was a little postscript at the end. 'Surely you do not mean the famous traveller, Hamley, about whose discoveries all our scientific men are so much excited. You speak of him as a young Hamley, who went to Africa. Answer this question, pray, for Helen is most anxious to know.' This P.S. being in Helen's handwriting. In her exultation at the general success of everything, and desire for sympathy, Mrs. Gibson read parts of this letter to Molly; the postscript among the rest. It made a deeper impression on Molly than even the proposed kindness of the visit to London.

There were some family consultations; but the end of them all was that the Kirkpatrick invitation was accepted. There were many small reasons for this, which were openly acknowledged; but there was one general and unspoken wish to have the ceremony performed out of the immediate neighbourhood of the two men whom Cynthia had previously--rejected; that was the word now to be applied to her treatment of them. So Molly was ordered and enjoined and entreated to become strong as soon as possible, in order that her health might not prevent her attending the marriage. Mr. Gibson himself, though he thought it his duty to damp the exultant anticipations of his wife and her daughter, was not at all averse to the prospect of going to London, and seeing half-a-dozen old friends, and many scientific exhibitions, independently of the very fair amount of liking which he had for his host, Mr. Kirkpatrick, himself.



The whole town of Hollingford came to congratulate and inquire into particulars. Some indeed--Mrs. Goodenough at the head of this class of malcontents--thought that they were defrauded of their right to a fine show by Cynthia's being married in London. Even Lady Cumnor was moved into action. She, who had hardly ever paid calls 'out of her own sphere,' who had only once been to see 'Clare' in her own house,--she came to congratulate after her fashion. Maria had only just time to run up into the drawing-room, one morning, and say,--

'Please, ma'am, the great carriage from the Towers is coming up to the gate, and my lady the Countess is sitting inside.' It was but eleven o'clock, and Mrs. Gibson would have been indignant at any commoner who had ventured to call at such an untimely hour, but in the case of the Peerage the rules of domestic morality were relaxed.

The family 'stood at arms,' as it were, till Lady Cumnor appeared in the drawing-room; and then she had to be settled in the best chair, and the light adjusted before anything like conversation began. She was the first to speak; and Lady Harriet, who had begun a few words to Molly, dropped into silence.

'I have been taking Mary--Lady Cuxhaven--to the railway station on this new line between Birmingham and London,' and I thought I would come on here, and offer you my congratulations. Clare, which is the young lady?'--putting up her glasses, and looking at Cynthia and Molly, who were dressed pretty much alike. 'I did not think it would be amiss to give you a little advice, my dear,' said she, when Cynthia had been properly pointed out to her as bride elect. 'I have heard a good deal about you; and I am only too glad, for your mother's sake,--your mother is a very worthy woman, and did her duty very well while she was in our family--I am truly rejoiced, I say, to hear that you are going to make so creditable a marriage. I hope it will efface your former errors of conduct--which, we will hope, were but trivial in reality--and that you will live to be a comfort to your mother,--for whom both Lord Cumnor and I entertain a very sincere regard. But you must conduct yourself with discretion in whatever state of life it pleases God to place you, whether married or single. You must reverence your husband, and conform to his opinion in all things. Look up to him as your head, and do nothing without consulting him.'--It was as well that Lord Cumnor was not amongst the audience; or he might have compared precept with practice.--'Keep strict accounts; and remember your station in life. I understand that Mr--' looking about for some help as to the name she had forgotten--'Anderson--Henderson is in the law. Although there is a general prejudice against attorneys, I have known of two or three who were very respectable men; and I am sure Mr. Henderson is one, or your good mother and our old friend Gibson would not have sanctioned the engagement.'

'He is a barrister,' put in Cynthia, unable to restrain herself any longer. 'Barrister-at-law.'

'Ah, yes. Attorney-at-law. Barrister-at-law. I understand without your speaking so loud, my dear. What was I going to say before you interrupted me? When you have been a little in society you will find that it is reckoned bad manners to interrupt. I had a great deal more to say to you, and you have put it all out of my head. There was something else your father wanted me to ask--what was it, Harriet?'

'I suppose you mean about Mr. Hamley!'

'Oh, yes! we are intending to have the house full of Lord Hollingford's friends next month, and Lord Cumnor is particularly anxious to secure Mr. Hamley.'

'The squire?' asked Mrs. Gibson in some surprise. Lady Cumnor bowed slightly, as much as to say, 'If you did not interrupt me I should explain.'

'The famous traveller--the scientific Mr. Hamley, I mean. I imagine he is son to the squire. Lord Hollingford knows him well; but when we asked him before, he declined coming, and assigned no reason.'

Had Roger indeed been asked to the Towers and declined? Mrs. Gibson could not understand it. Lady Cumnor went on,--

'Now this time we are particularly anxious to secure him, and my son Lord Hollingford will not return to England until the very week before the Duke of Atherstone is coming to us. I believe Mr. Gibson is very intimate with Mr. Hamley; do you think he could induce him to favour us with his company?'

And this from the proud Lady Cumnor; and the object of it Roger Hamley, whom she had all but turned out of her drawing-room two years ago for calling at an untimely hour; and whom Cynthia had turned out of her heart. Mrs. Gibson was surprised, and could only murmur out that she was sure Mr. Gibson would do all that her ladyship wished.

'Thank you. You know me well enough to be aware that I am not the person, nor is the Towers the house, to go about soliciting guests. But in this instance I bend my head; high rank should always be the first to honour those who have distinguished themselves by art or science.'

'Besides, mamma,' said Lady Harriet, 'papa was saying that the Hamleys have been on their land since before the Conquest; while we only came into the county a century ago; and there is a tale that the first

Wives and Daughters - 130/139

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