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The Rustication of Molly


.c.. "M_ [ALL RIGHTS RESERVED]. The Rustication of Molly BY J. DOUG ALL HElD, Author of In th, Grenadier Company," Mabei Vy tier's L over," &c. "Read the letter again, mamma." Mrs. Spencer did so, the two girls listening intently. As a letter writer, Hugh Spencer was not a success, Iat his meaning was at times rather difficult. On the present oc- casion, however, uis mother and sisters were able to make C, that he was coming from London on a In iday visit, and intended bringing with him his special office chum. The latter, James Go.. ;;r by name, was, to quote from Hugh's letter—" a "just splendid sort, only thirty-one, and with Sftpcn hundred a year of his own, in addition to his salary drawn from the office," while one at least of Hugh's rea- sons for bringing the unsuspecting Jim to Glasgow came cut in the opinion that he— Jim—was "just the sort of chap for Sarah— if only Molly is kept out of the way." Sarah's rather pretty nose rose in the air at tins' point, whereat the younger girl, Anne, smiled inahciouslv. Mrs. Spencer read on, the writer a'" M from subject to subject in his usual t > 0 fashioi;, and it was only when ma u the end of the letter that he again touched the topic having present in- terest for his mother and sisters. "Jim gets credit for being a bit of a bear," he wrote, "and I can't honestly call him a ladies' ma.n, but all the same he's a bit soft where women are concerned. I caught him with a photo of Molly the other evening-, one that I had carelessly left lying about, and the look on his face gave him away. He asked who she was, and I told him she was a girl I knew in Glas- gow. He didn't ask any more, nor, if he had, would I have told him much. I've no great liking for Miss Mellv, as you know he had tried to make love to her and been mercilessly repelled—"and am not disposed to further her fortunes. Let her marry one of her own sort-a, nobody. All the same, it will be no more than prudent to get her out of the way before we come. Send her down to Loehgoilhead, to that old housekeeper of her father's she's so fond of. An old gossip and a young flirt should make a good pair, especially at Glasgow Fair time; when the horny-handed and his womenfolk are on the rampage." So ended the reading of the letter, or at least so much of it as is needful for the de- Telopment of this story. And that the coarse- ness and petty vindictiveness of it should have failed to shock Hugh Spencer's mother and sisters conveys a sufficiently accurate ethical estimate of the whole Spencer family, whose watchword, first and last, was "ap- pearances." "Then what do you propose to do, mamma?" asked Sarah, after a momentary silence. "I am inclined to take Hugh's advice," was the reply. "It is unfortunate that youi brother and his friend should have taken their holiday at this time, but then office. routine possibly rendered that unavoidable. If they had only waited until next month we could all have gone to Arran together." Molly, too?" asked Anne, mischievously. "Certainly not," replied Mrs. Spencer, se- verely. "If in the way here in Glasgow, she would have been trebly so in f:Arran. But we need not talk of tuat; what disturbs me is that I see no wny of cscape from this dilemma short of tolling Hugh's advice, a thing in it. aelf distasteful." "Distasteful! in what way?" queried Anne, In surprise. MFJ, Spencer looked at the speaker like one praying for patience. "How dense AIT P,' Anne she said. "Do you not see tin1 li a member of our family circle going on for tit-,t-t is it comes to dUTing the Fair Week re- to some extent upon us as if we luv; some cc" tn C with the working c "Oh," said Anne, enlightened. "But I do not think you shonld let that worry you, nw-roma dear. Molly is not really in our circle, you know, and I don't think her ab- sence will be even noticcd." "I wish she had never come here at all- artful little cat," put in Sa-ah, with a viciousness of voice and expression infinitely more cat-like than anything poor Mclly had 6ver disnlayed in the whole nineteen years of her life. but Sarah and Anne, al- though both were in a languidly dol- lish way, had the i-11 comfortable feeling that they were simply "not in it" with Moily, of whom both were ferociously jealous, al- though that ugly passion found by no means the same manifestations in both. Sarah, being twenty-one, and consequently suffering more directly from comparison than her fif- teen years' old sister, took her revenge by ttethods of chilly condescension, veiled in- sinuation, and ceaseless huJt-finding- all conveyed in the politest terms. Sarah was nothing if not ladylike what she forgot, or < didn't know, was that it was better to be a lady inwardly than onlv like one outwardly heart deep or fine clothes deep; that's the difference. As for Anne, she had not yet got free from the tom-boy element that had dis- tinguished her earlier years, and in her jealousy took the form of rudeness, often on brutality.' Yet, unlike Sarah, she Was not altogether destitute of human feeling and a sense of justice, for time and again 80mc impulsive act of kindness, or unex- pected defence of the assailed Molly, brought a warm glow to the heart and tears to the ^es of the forlorn orphan, making her for- 8lve the cruelties of weeks and months. nne, in the opinion, of her mother and sister, was reprehensibly outspoken, and yet, .cause of that very quality, they were both ?? a afraid of her. .But to return from this necessary digrea-. siciti. Mrs. Spencer's agreement with Sarah's "Wish was instant and cordial, but, as she ex- plained, .she was in no way to blame for jr,'1'3 appearance among them three years oefore. I would have pr-evented it if I could," biit, as you know, your father, hue generally respecting, my wishes, could distressingly obstinate on occasion,. Your and hers were twin brothers, and when your uncle was on his death-bed it ^'W only natural, perhaps, that he should his brother to look after his motherless ori-V child. That was very,proper, and Would not have objected had your father .cou*ent to place her in some genteel in- i'Ution, or board her with some respectable a-nuy, instead of bringing her here. But insisted, and then when he died two years it was too late to make any change Moll iWOU'(? have talked. Of course, as aho 1 e^hty pounds a yeai of her own, hart PVit us to very little esp use; still, I rtj*her she had riot, been here, or, being |jB tllat some possible reason-' for sending deeday for good would arise; I do, in- I "Do yon know, I think some such reason is rising already," said Sarah, with an un- pleasant smile. "I believe Molly is learning typewriting, by way of finishing her equip- ment for the position of commercial corre- spondence clerk—or should it be clerkess?", "What?" gasped Mrs. Spencer, for once I ptnrtled out of her thousand-pounds-a-year dignity. Sarah repeated her statement, adding that she had heard her—Molly—say that she must have something to do. "Must she, indeed," said Mrs. Spencer angrily. "Well., that settles it; for on the very day on which she attempts to obtain such a situation, she walks out of this house. A correspondence clerk—a girl, too—resi- dent with w—as one of the family! The idea itself is an outrage. But I must attend to some accounts that ivarit checking. We can discuss this matter afterwards." She moved towards a writing-table as she spoke, and the two girls, taking the hint, left her to herself. The arrival of Hugh a day or two later brought something of a shock to those await- iui*" hiin. lite cab that had trundled him with his and Jim Gcwer's luggage from the station had barely stopped at the door be- fore it was seen that he was alone. The three women,, although greatly .^surprised, had to,restrain their impatience iJwil he had paid and dismissed -the cabman, xsien as he came up the steps, a stoutly-built young man of twenty-seven, with a round and rather flabby face of the "kiio-siing" type, he was be-- with is affecting the absent Jim. Oh, that's all right," he said, easily. Kg has vone down to Loehgoilhead, but will be with us this evening, or, at farthest, to-morrow." "Locii-" began Anne, with what in a man would have been a shout, but what in a young lady must be called an "excitedly musical tone." Before, however, she could enlighten the neighbourhood generally, her mother had placed a restraining hand on her arm. "Don't speak here," said Mrs. Spencer, glancing at the servants who were struggling with Hugh's boxes—he usually had three times as many as he needed. Come into the dining-room, all of you." She led the way thither, closed the door, and then turned to Hugh. Now, Hugh, explain," she said. "A few words will do that," he returned. ""When we left London, Jim undertook to get some important papers sighed by a mer- chant in Glasgow here. We left our traps at the station and drove to this man's house, only to find that he had gone down to his villa at Loehgoilhead. Then as the matter was urgent, Jim started for that delectable village at once, leaving me to go back for our traps and, of course, make his apologies to you. That's all—and I'll be hanged if I can see what you've got to make a fuss about." "We've got this to make a fuss about," said Sarah. "Acting on your advice, we sent Molly down to Lochgoilhead, and she's there now." Hugh stared aghast for a moment. What in thunder did you send her there for?" he demanded angrily. "And what on earth does Sarah mean by saying that you acted on my advice?" It was on your advice," said Mrs. Spen- cer. "Here are the very words of your letter: It will be no more than prudent to get her -that's Molly—'out of the way be- fore we come. Send her down to Lochgoil- head, to that old housekeeper of her father's that she's so fond of.' Well, we took that advice-unfortunately, as it now appears, and sent her down to Mrs. Lennox, with whom she is to stay for a month or six weeks." Yes, I remember now," said Hugh, in a tone of chagrin. "I did write that, but on my soul, I'd" clean forgotten. Well, we can't do anything1 to mend it now, though it is con- foundedly awkward." It is indeed awkward," assented Mrs. Spencer. "Mr. Gower'^Tosit to Loehgoil- head is only a flying one, certainly, but the place is so small that strangers—and you say he has been impressed by her photo?" So much impressed that I believe he has it in his pocket at this minute. I missed it after one of his visits last week, and have not seen it since. If he What the deuce are you laughing at?" this to Anne. "I'm laughing at the lot of you," replied Anne, coolly. "Instead of sending her down to a tiny place like Lochp-oilhead, where she'll be as kenspeckle—that's vulgar, but expressive—as kenspeckle as a white brick in a black wall, I'd have packed her off to Aunt Ella, in Perth. Safety in numbers, you know." "Spare your sarcasms, Anne," said Mrs. j Spencer, sharply. Then to Hugh—"would you think of going down?" after Jim?" he asked. i "Yes." t | bio; that would only make matters worse. j You see, he's a bit touchy in some ways, and if he got it into his head that I was trying shepherding tricks!—No, no; we must just wait till he comes up, and meanwhile hope j that Mrs. Lennox will keep her darling Miss I Molly indoors for this one day, at least." The hope was fervently expressed, but did not receive fulfilment. Mrs. Lennox from th3 first insisted that her young guest should spent as much of her time in the open air as possible, "to bring back her roses," she said, The only day excepted was the approaching Glasgow Fair Saturday, which annually lets f loose a substratum— in the moral sense—of I' her population of which Glasgow is in no way proud. On that day her kind old friend's wish was that Molly should confine herself to the cottage, or at most, its garden. But I Saturday was yet three days distant, and so Molly set out for her wonted walk immedi- ately after breakfast. She took the Hill's Glen-road, so that when Jim Gower struck into the same road some two hours later, it did not seem as if any Spencerian hopes whatever were likely to prevent him from meeting with Molly—provided he kept on walking long enough. He had been up to the vrood4iidden villa of the Glasgow merchant, only to find that that gentleman was at St. Catherines, on the other side of Hill's Glen, and was not expected back before three o'clock in the afternoon, whereupon Jim promptly started out to view thé famous glen, by way of filling in the intervening time. And as he pressed on up the mountain road, with his tall figure and firm, easy step, his face did not suggest that he was grieving over his compulsory stay in Lochgoilhead, due to the merchant's absence. So far from that being the case, he had forgotten the worthy man altogether, his mind being just then divided between adjuration of the scenery and thoughts of the girl with the lovely flower faice whose photo—well, borrowed—was even then in his pocket, the girl he had come to Scotland to meet, if that should be humanly possible, and of whom he did not even know the name. The friendship so loudfy trumpeted by Hugh Spencer had no existence so far as Gower was concerned. He did not like the I I other's horsey, doggy, and cardy ways. Lazy toleration was the most he had ever ex- tended to Spencer, and but for that photo he j would never have come north with him,, I patriotic Scot though he—Gower—was. I And then, just when he had become, so to speak, all photo, so far as his thoughts and longings went, he met the original Molly herself. Over the top of the rise in the road he was, ascending there suddenly appeared the face of a girl, to be instantly followed by a slender, graceful figure. It was the face in the photo, only more beautiful than any photo could have shown it. The blue eyes met his at once, and the look of mingled, alarm and relief in them startled and puzzled turn until, three or four paces farther bringing him to the crest of the rise, he ascertained the reason. Following the frightened girl at the distance of a few yards, and growling as it came, was a medium-sized dog of no deter- minate breed, while about thirty yards farther down the slope was hobbling forward one of those pests, half-hawker, half-mendi- cant, that infest country roada in summer. "What is the matter? Can I assist you?" asked Jim, as they met. "It's that man," she replied in shaken tones. "He was sitting by the roadside, tiiadq I as I passed, demanded money. His face frightened me, and I didn't stop. Then he called me nasty names and sent the dog after me." As she concluded, she glanced downward,, and, following the glance, Jim saw that her dainty serge skirt was torn in several places. All!" was all he said, and the sudden darkening of his face almost frightened the girl looking up at it. Then he put her gentiy but quickly aside, and sprang forward with; the leap of a panther, catching the still;' growling cur such a kick under the chest that it. itew into the air as if it had wings. When it came down again it showed no disposition to prolong the dispute, but fled, howling, after- its master, who was already in retreat. Jim glared after them for a moment or two, then j returned to Molly. "Quite an exhilarating little adventure, that," he observed cheerfully. "Brings back one's old footballing days. And now, as I presume your home is in the neighbourhood, you must" allow me to see you there." Molly's eyes widened a little. Words and tone were direct, almost brusque, and very far removed from the style of the average society man. Yet the girl instinctively felt that they wer.2 no product of rudeness, either inherent or other, but were simply the out- come of a nature too strong to be in syni- pathy with the artificial and conventional. Her reply, therefore, was not the declination which maidenly impulse first suggested, but a rather shy assent. They turned their faces towards the village, and wer,2 presently entertaining each other with that class of small talk which social rules impose on strangers unexpectedly thrown together. Molly, perhaps, got tne larger share of the conversation; but that was because her companion was so inteutiy watching the beautiful face beside him, and wondering why it was so sad in spite of its vivid play of expression. Another thing, too, kept him busy, and that was seeking an opportunity of letting her know who and what he was, preparatory to an attempt to solve the secret of her own identity. The chance came at length, and he was able to follow up some remark of. hers with an outwardly careless statement affecting his name, position, and a' few other items he thought might be of use. Not a little to his surprise and inward delight, the sudden lifting of Molly's long lashes revealed the look of almost recogni- tion in her eyes. "You have heard of me before?" he asked, forgetting in his eagerness that he was put- ting an, in the circumstances, embarrass- ingly direct question. "Oh, yes." replied Molly, colouring slightly under his gaze, "I have heard Hugh Spencer speak of you." "Theii—please pardon the question are you in any way related to Hugh Spencer?" "I am hie cousin—Mary Spencer." His cousin! And he had referred to her only as "a girl he knew, in Glasgow!" Jim Gower had not lived thirty-one years in the world for nothing, and began to suspect on the instant the nature of the reasons prompt- ing Hugh Spencer's very queer behaviour. Nor did he rest content with suspecting, for on rea-dung Rose Cottage he • was easily per-, suaded to enter it in compliance with the re- finest of the unaffectedly grateful Mrs. Len- nox, backed up as that was by the all uncon- Bcioub. and alsi. all-compelling, invitation iii Molly's eyes. And as Mrs. Lennox was even luore outspoken tn-ui be wa.) himself, lie learned much during the hours he spent in that cottage before the approach 01 three o'clock dragged him out of it and un the loch- side road to the merchant's villa. He stayed in the hotel that ni.fht, and in the morning tried to convince 'himself that it was his duty to go to Bose Cottage to in- quire for Molly—just to UH r.rc himk-lf that she had not suffered from the fright givers he r by the dog on the previous -day The trans- parent hypocrisy of the thing brought a twinkle to Mrs. Lennox's eyes, and when he filially set out to catch the steamer she ,L S laughed softly. "Eh, Miss Molly," quoth she, "it wadna hae maittered though we hadha gi'on M-iister Gower an invite to come back". He wad hae come without one; <linn n ye tliinK SftC f' But Molly h*d suddenly remembered that she wanted some roses for a sick girl, and was making for the garden with a face as red as any rose therein. There was 'a quiet wedding at Ro;e Cot- tage two months afterwards. Fiery, impul- sive Anne was bridesmaid, very r :eh to the disgust of the other members of' her family. They waald not go themselves, though in- vited, but they were to pre- vemt An.ne from going, and so had to make the best of it. But when the happy pair had set out on their honeymoon trip, Anne made a queer little confession. "Do you know, Mrs. Lennox," she said, "I'm as glad as if—as if I were as happy as Molly. I was jealous and ugly and wicked, but in my heart I always iiked her." Ihere no inuekle ugliness aboot ye," replied ]¡frs." Lennox, snihug at the bright young face. "Jealous} V> bad, an' so's un- liindness, but as for wickedness—lassie, as honest as daylicht, an' couldna be' really wicked if ye tried. Miss Molly aye said that aboot ye, an' noo I ken it's true." A saddsn something dimmed the bright- ness of Anne's eyes. "Jumping -up hastily "she kissed the speaker on the forehead and went out into the garden.

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